A Real-Life Mermaid’s Waterproof Beauty Secrets

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Photo: Matthew Addison

Linden Wolbert is the world’s most well-known professional mermaid (yes, this is a thing). She makes her living appearing in photo shoots, music videos, and at parties, diving as low as 100 feet below the surface wearing a 35-pound hydrodynamic tail. She can hold her breath for up to five minutes and signs her emails “Best Fishes.”

It may seem implausible that someone who spends so much time underwater would have any kind of an enduring beauty look. But, Wolbert says, she's figured out exactly what makeup lasts on long days in the pool. As summer approaches and, with it, makeup-terrorizers like sweat, chlorine, and that disgusting air-conditioner drizzle you never seem to be able to avoid, the Cut asked Wolbert to share how she uses beauty to transform from human into sea siren and about her life as a mermaid. Read on to learn about her beauty routine, tips and tricks, stance on sushi, and favorite waterproof mascara.

How did you acquire your tail? Is it functional?
My silicone mermaid tail is one of a kind: It fits like a glove and is a 35-pound, nonmechanical, custom-made prosthetic appendage that was designed with Allan Holt, a Hollywood special-effects expert. It took seven months to create. While we were making it, I was wondering, “Have I made a huge mistake? Will this work?” And when I finally got into the tail and experienced the sheer power and beauty of it — it was a truly magical day!

How did you refine your mermaid beauty routine?
When I started out, I heard about this wonderful place in North Hollywood called Frends Beauty Supply. They had every single cosmetic under the sun. I went in and said, “Hey, guys! I’m a mermaid. Do you have any advice about underwater products?” My test run for products is always the shower or swimming laps in the pool. I’ve tried it all. I still shop there for all my mermaid needs!

Was Ariel a big beauty inspiration for you?
My mom is my beauty inspiration. She was the first one to help me choose and apply my makeup naturally and tastefully. Ariel has red hair and a very different complexion from me. But as a child, I saw her as a splendid character in a cartoonlike way. Daryl Hannah in Splash was also a huge inspiration. In that film, she was very fresh faced. To me, that’s the essence of a mermaid — a beautiful one who is natural and fresh. The salt cleans and keeps her skin pure. She has a gorgeous glow from the sun and the sea.

How do you prep your skin for a water performance?
Last summer I was invited to do a waterproof-makeup tutorial with beauty guru Michelle Phan for her YouTube channel. Michelle is so sweet, and she introduced me to some amazing products that I have implemented into my routine. I now use the Clarisonic Mia 2 every day, and my skin is incredibly smooth and free of break-outs. I love it!

The first step for application after showering: sunscreen! This is incredibly important since I’m in the sun and water all the time. I use SkinCeuticals Physical Fusion UV Defense SPF 50 on my face. It is waterproof, sheer, and blends beautifully into my skin. I can be in the pool midday for four hours and will not get sunburned. It’s a miracle product! Protection from the sun is something all mermaids should be concerned with.

All the chemicals in pool water can be very drying to skin. A good moisturizer acts as a nice barrier. I love Dermalogica — I use their Intensive Moisture Balance moisturizer. On top of that, I use powder to set. I love Clinique. I use their Gentle Light Powder to give me a little color on top of my moisturizer. The shade I use changes throughout the year depending on how tan I am.

Do you buy mostly waterproof makeup?
I’ve used waterproof makeup, and there are waterproof setting sprays that you mist onto your face, but [using one] just made my face really sticky. It exaggerated any not-smooth textures. I actually wear any makeup I wish, waterproof or not! The trick is not touching my face at ALL. That’s a challenge when I’m in chlorinated pools or salt water; it can burn and sting, but you just learn to deal with it. The only waterproof thing I use is mascara.

Which waterproof mascara stands the test of chlorine and water?
I’ve tried just about every waterproof mascara brand out there, from the most to the least expensive. And the best is L’Oréal Paris’s Voluminous Waterproof Building Mascara in Black Brown. And oddly, the Carbon Black color of this brand totally runs and smears in water. The Black Brown does not! It’s the only one that stays on and doesn’t do crazy clumping; and it lengthens incredibly. People often ask what type of false lashes I use ... it’s just me, folks! Don’t make the mistake of using false lashes in the water. They fall off every time!

To find the best mascara, I went to Rite Aid and Walgreens and bought every single brand of mascara that was waterproof. Shortly thereafter, I did an underwater shoot and [the makeup artist] said, “Time for mascara!” And she pulled out L’Oréal Paris’s Voluminous Waterproof Building Mascara! I was like, “You have the right one!” And she said, “It’s the only kind that stays on!” Proof!

What color cosmetics do you use?
I use a lip liner. The trick is I don’t use regular lipstick; I just apply the lip liner (Revlon in Sienna) directly to my lips over a thin coat of Chap Stick. I put a lip gloss (Milani Crystal Gloss) on top of the lip liner. It stays on if I don’t touch it. I use a very nude, natural color with some shimmer.

And for all eyeliners, I use Urban Decay 24/7 Glide-On Eye Pencil. (Thanks, Michelle Phan!) For my eyeshadow, which usually consists of sparkly browns, golds, and browns to highlight my blue-green eyes, I use Physicians Formula's Shimmer Strips. I add a dash of shimmering purple to accent the colors of my tail and seashells. I do use a bronzer sometimes on my face and body (to highlight) called Lorac TANtalizing Body Bronzing Luminizer. It smells of vanilla. It's divine!

How do you protect your hair from the drying effects of chlorine?
I condition my hair a LOT. My favorite is Aveeno Active Naturals Pure Renewal Conditioner. It has sea kelp — as a mermaid, I like that. I love how it smells. If I use too heavy of a conditioner, it tends to weigh down my wave. Occasionally, I’ll do a coconut oil treatment, which consists of me slathering my hair in coconut oil while it's in a bun and doing things around the house for a few hours, then I rinse, and voilà! Happy, shiny hair!                                     

Do you see being a mermaid as more of a lifestyle choice or an occupation?
It’s a little bit of both. Being in the water is my lifestyle, but being a mermaid is my passion. My purpose in life is to help spread the message of ocean conservation and exploration to children. Creating my free web series for kids about the ocean, Mermaid Minute, on my YouTube channel, takes up much of my time. But mermaid-ing is omnipresent. It makes up most everything in my day, from working on my website, to staying in good physical shape, to looking and feeling good, to the length of my hair. I even play the harp! I speak in mermaid puns ... it drives my friends nuts!

But how far do you take it? For example, do you eat sushi?
I’m a proponent of sustainable fishing and [against] by-catch. I do eat fish and know where it comes from. I do my research — I’ve been known to leave sushi restaurants whose menus are either untrue or mislabeled, and will write a letter to that restaurant that says, “Here are the facts about what you’re doing. No one I know, including myself, will come to your restaurant until it’s changed.” I believe in “Act locally, think globally.”

How does being a mermaid affect your dating life?
I have a wonderful merman (boyfriend). He is a scuba diver and free diver who grew up on the coast. We love the water and enjoy the ocean together whenever we can. He is my safety diver for lots of my events, and loves to film in the water, too. Lucky me!

As a professional mermaid, you must get some strange requests. What are some of the weirdest requests you’ve gotten?
I get everything from adorable cute messages from children to “Do you do bachelor parties?” and other things. I’m a classy, G-rated children’s mermaid. I politely tell them, “I don’t think I’m suited for your event.”

I recently surprised an ill little girl in Scotland for the Rays of Sunshine children’s charity, by swimming out of Loch Lomond and chatting with her on the shoreline. It was amazing. I also granted a wish for a little boy named Marcus with the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He dreamed of becoming a merman, and I appeared magically in the tank as he came through the local aquarium with his family. These events are real life-changers for the giver and the recipient.

What about any strange in-person encounters?
People are generally very respectful. Although at a party one time, I took a break from the pool and was sitting in the hot tub in my tail. A very intoxicated man walked over and sat in the hot tub next to me in a full suit and tie and put his arm around me without missing a beat! He was escorted away by security. But it was the funniest thing — you have to have some gumption to strut right into the water like that! I once did an event for a children’s charity at the Playboy Mansion, but there were no children there, much to my chagrin. Not really my scene!

How long do you plan to be a mermaid?
I will be a mermaid for as long as I possibly can! Of course, no one wants to look at a wrinkly, old mermaid, so I guess eventually I’ll have to retire to my grotto for good and learn to knit scarves and blankets out of kelp.