Did you ever look at season one Daenerys Targaryen, dirt smeared across her cheeks in the midst of turmoil, and wonder how she still looked like an ethereal goddess? Surely if we were also prisoners of the Khalasar (a totally normal predicament we often find ourselves in), our brows wouldn't be nearly as impressive as hers. Still, the same holds true for most television shows—despite hours on set, various plot twists and turns, as well as an almost-too-real ever-increasing television definition, actors and actresses still turn out with their makeup completely unscathed and without so much as a pore showing.
That, my friends, is thanks to the magic of television makeup—and the artists behind it.
Rebecca Perkins, former television show makeup artist for hit shows like Law & Order SVU and 30 Rock, as well as founder of SheSpoke, says that the world of television show makeup is one that requires a hefty supply of elbow grease and detemination: "You know how stars always look perfect even when they're standing in the rain or how there is never a drop of sweat even if they're a cop busting perps in the heat of the summer? Well, that’s because every time the director yells ‘CUT!’ someone like me runs in with blotting papers, sponges, brushes, and various tools to move that hair and makeup back into perfect place.
TV shows aren’t usually meant to mimic cinéma vérité, lest audiences get distracted by realistic sweat and runny mascara." That being said, Perkins has shared some of her top behind-the-scenes tips with us so you can become your own makeup artist and look amazing, no matter the adverse conditions or how long you need it to stay put.
Perkins tells us that the executives at Law & Order SVU didn't want anyone to be able to tell what season they shot the show in once it aired, so even if it was July, the actors would be in pants and a leather jacket for the episode's winter release so the viewer didn't automatically think it was a re-run. That's when Perkins would step in with the blotting sheets.
"Feel free to set your makeup with powder at the beginning of the day, but in the hot months, leave the compact at home in lieu of blotting paper. They mop up sweat and shine but won’t compound more makeup, resulting in dreaded paste face. I personally love the Alcone Blotting Sheets ($9)," says Perkins. Even after a 14-hour day on set running around in winter clothes in the dead of summer, Perkins says these would help Detective Benson look "fresh and smoldering."
"When starting your makeup, prime your lids with a great concealer. Not just any concealer will do. Amazing Cosmetics Amazing Concealer ($28) is the best I have found to even out the lid and give shadow something to stick to so it will stay all day. I once did a test on Mariska [Hargitay] where I only primed one of her eyes. By lunch, I had to completely re-do the eye I left unprimed while the other was perfectly intact!" Some people may be inclined replace concealer with eyeshadow primer, but you can even do both if you really want your makeup to stick.
Have you ever applied a sultry red lipstick just to notice that it was smeared outside of your natural lip line, Ronald McDonald–style? Perkins has the (unconventional) answer: shaving cream. "Barbasol ($2) is a super concentrated formula that can remove fake blood stains as well as red lipstick transfers. For most other color lipsticks, we can use a sponge with a bit of creme concealer on it to lift the transferred makeup up and away. This not only lifts the redness of leftover lipstick pigment, it deposits a bit of correcting tone at the same time," she explains.
To avoid needing to grab the shaving cream or the concealer (or whichever makeup remover you choose), go matte. Perkins says that whenever there would be a kiss-heavy scene, a matte red would be her color of choice. "Matte reds are by far the longest-lasting lip colors. For some reason, that red doesn't want to move. So even if you're afraid of the high-maintenance touching-up required for a bold lip, remember that reds actually tend to last much longer."
Says Perkins, "Set your makeup with a makeup setting spray with SPF and then get a travel size spray like Supergoop Defense Refresh ($28) to carry with you for SPF re-application throughout the day that won’t mess up your makeup."
She cautions not to wait until it's too late, though, to refresh your makeup. "At lunch, give yourself a spray of a mist that has glycine in it. This will revive your makeup and wake up anything that has dulled or dried throughout the day. Use a concealer brush to smooth out under your eye without applying more makeup." It's good to stay on top of things, otherwise your makeup might not be fixable.
Perkins also gave us advice on how to cover up blemishes, something TV makeup artists do remarkably well. "Make sure you use a concealer that exactly matches your skin," she advises. "With a brush, place it on top of the blemish and blend out. Then using a shadow brush, press well matched pressed powder flat onto the blemish. Keeping it matte will reduce the texture of the pimple as well as the discoloration."