Sometimes I get a craving for something artificial—something not very good and probably bad for me, that I once thought was a fad but has stubbornly sustained. No, not froyo. (Except sometimes froyo.) I'm talking about reality TV. There are new ones to keep up with every day, each outfitted in a distinct beauty wardrobe. On competitive dating reality shows, the living situation—whether or not the love interest cohabitates with contestants—informs the makeup strategy. Some shows are mostly shot indoors, while others use sandy beaches to set the mood. The past few months have left me with a reality TV toothache (just considering a rewatch of Love Island is a new personal low), but it’s also gotten me to think about the beauty products I might bring if I ever became a contestant. What would be my beauty strategy? Could I use makeup to gain favor in the house? Here’s what I’d pack to win on...
Conventional Dating Shows
The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, Flavor of Love, Rock of Love, A Shot At Love with Tila Tequila
The name of the game: 20+ contestants vie for the love (?) and attention of one suitor, culminating in several elimination ceremonies with a formal dress code. In addition, contestants should prepare for one-on-one time and several uncomfortable group dates that might require a midday quick change. And, though contestants aren’t allowed to leave the house, they can give handlers cash to refresh their beauty supply.
What they brought: Former Bachelorette Hannah Brown told ITG that contestants have to do their own hair and makeup—including on black tie nights. She brought a full-coverage Nars foundation, longwear primer, and water-resistant mascara. Other staples include false lashes (extensions won’t last the optimistic 42-day filming schedule), setting spray, powder, and a small makeup mirror that lights up.
What I’d bring: I’d go hard on the skincare, considering most of the time I’d be hanging around the mansion with no suitor in sight. The Ziip is getting packed, as is the terrifyingly-hued AHA + BHA peel from The Ordinary and my favorite Biologique Recherche moisturizer that smells like cat food. For dates and cocktail parties, a Temptu would provide full-coverage that stands up to hot lights and still looks natural. And a lip stain like Holika Holika’s Water Drop Tint Bomb or Victoria Beckham’s Bitten paired with a shiny clear lip oil is makeout-proof. Or! Swap the lip oil for Glossier’s Birthday Balm to stand out from the competition. Who’s to say tasting like dessert isn’t a shortcut to a first impression rose? A true waterproof mascara will last through the inevitable meltdown when I don’t receive it.
Poolside Dating Shows
Bachelor in Paradise, Love Island, Too Hot To Handle, Are You The One, Temptation Island
The name of the game: A separate category than regular dating, because while you’re still competing for love (???), now you’re on a beach. The wardrobe is mainly bathing suits, and even the formal events are a little more casual. Plus, instead of living separate from the object of your lust, you share a house, and oftentimes a bed. Consistently keeping up a made up face is nearly impossible. On Love Island, a manicurist and hair stylist come for touch ups every few weeks. As for the others, they’re on their own—and often in locations too remote for handlers to easily access a drugstore.
What they brought: I could sleuth out a few crowd favorites in the most recent Love Island season bathroom. Strewn about were Beautyblenders, Tangle Teezers, a Naked Heat palette, a value sized Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate, Maybelline Tattoo Brow, Nyx liquid lipstick, GHD straightening irons, and a whole lot of Tropical Batiste dry shampoo.
What I’d bring: The biggest beauty change I’d make to the status quo is lessening the makeup during the day—I mean, it’s the beach! I’d really only need sheer coverage with SPF like Bareminerals’ Complexion Rescue or Ilia’s Super Serum Skin Tint. A tinted SPF lip balm that could double as cheek color and a dewy concealer like Kosas’ (just in case!) round out a poolside look. While extensions are a no-go (they’d fall out too quickly), prepping with a lash lift and tint, so I can forgo mascara as much as possible, feels like the move. And mixing a few drops of Isle of Paradise’s self tanner into my moisturizer at night means I’ll look pleasantly sunkissed sans bronzer. Other key swaps: pimple cream for clear hydrocolloids, hairspray for beach wave spray, and long acrylics for a comprehensive nail care kit.
Isolation Reality Shows
The Circle and Love is Blind
The name of the game: You’re basically in quarantine. You don’t have anyone to impress IRL, but you’ve got to remember that you still have an audience—thousands of viewers will steal a glimpse of your day-three sweats and isolation breakouts, if you choose to go that way.
What they brought: It’s a mixed bag. On The Circle, some contestants went all-out with their beauty, and others seemed to not give beauty a second thought. We know Joey came prepared. He brought a mask, a Clarisonic, a full daily routine… PLUS a hair routine that’s already more extensive than mine. Meanwhile, Karyn used her isolation to catfish, and remained makeup free.
What I’d bring: You’re telling me I can’t bring anything for entertainment, but I can bring a whole bag of beauty products? If the past two months have taught me anything, I’m bringing a hair bleach kit, Babyfoot, a really good body scrub, a really luxurious body lotion, like six hair masks, and a suite of colored eyeliners. May as well master the graphic eye while I compete for cash on TV.
Group Living Reality Shows
Big Brother, The Real World, Terrace House, Summer House, Bad Girls Club, Jersey Shore
The name of the game: It isn’t seduction—while you might be living with members of your desired sex, you’re just trying to get along here! Or maybe stir up some drama. Either way, the cameras are on 24/7, so you should probably keep up a realistic and consistent look.
What they brought: Surprisingly, none of these shows seem to feature any bathroom shots. I have no idea what they brought.
What I’d bring: Maybe you’re not here to make friends. That’s fine! But I am—so I’m bringing out the big guns. Everything becomes a palette with colors to suit everyone. Maybe some Pat McGrath shadow? Or, no—Fenty. It has to be Fenty. Everyone loves Rihanna! Add in a Dior highlighter palette and I’m the most popular member of the house. What else is fun? Lots of nail colors, masks, a face steamer??? Please be my friend.
Friends, Family, And Work Life Reality Shows
The Real Housewives, Vanderpump Rules, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, The Hills
The name of the game: Classic reality TV is different from all the other
social experiments game shows above because the cameras aren’t on all the time. So really, it’s more fantasy than reality. The seasoned stars know to look good for whatever short interaction producers have lined up in their storyline, whether that’s meeting at someone’s house and inexplicably leaving after two minutes, or dinner at a banquet table with several easily flingable cocktails.
What they brought: As Carole Radziwill explained in her Top Shelf, you don’t really need your own products. “The first season of RHONY, I did my own makeup, [but now] I work with a makeup artist so I have one less thing to worry about,” she told ITG. But she also noted the power players in a ready-for-TV makeup look are HD foundation, brow gel, and some false lashes.
What I’d bring: If I have enough money to be a Real Housewife (or otherwise Person Of Interest), I can afford a daily glam team. I'm not bringing anything.
That's my take—what's yours? Would you go all-in with lashes, or keep it natural? To self-tan or not to self tan? Let's continue discussing in the comments.
Photo via ITG