The first thing I learned while watching the Netflix series "Orange is the New Black": Be thankful for bathroom stalls with doors. The dramedy, about a waspy New Yorker who gets busted for being a drug mule and ends up behind bars, is packed with teachable moments and covers the gamut of jailhouse clichés (Lesbians! Contraband! Shifty guards!), but what really stuck out was the inmates' undeniable ingenuity -- these women are the reigning queens of DIY. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade ... and when prison gives you maxi pads, make flip-flops (or upgrade to duct tape if you're fashion forward). Stole a screwdriver? Fashion a makeshift dildo!
These impressive MacGyver-like skills also play a big roll in the inmates' beauty routines behind bars. Who needs a Chubby Stick when you have Kool-Aid and Vaseline? But how much of this magical DIY-ing actually happens in real prisons? (And can I really use these prison beauty tricks the next time I'm broke and/or stranded?). I talked to the show's head makeup artist, Michal Bigger, and Angelina DeAngelis, head hairstylist, to find out.
Along with the challenge of making lead actress Taylor Schilling look sallow, ("I mess that poor girl up -- she's totally unrecognizable. She deserves an Emmy for that alone," Bigger laments), Bigger and DeAngelis work with the show's writers to make sure the inmates' beauty regimen stays true to real life. This can mean anything from adding frizz to an extra's keratin-straightened hair, or boning up on the knock-off beauty products inmates whip up behind bars. So along with the critical life lessons one learns from the show (note to self: don't insult prison cook first day in prison), a beauty junkie can also pick up some impressive DIY tricks from these women.
Ready to channel your inner beauty MacGyver? Click ahead to learn 8 bare bones beauty hacks from behind bars.
Colored Pencils = Eyeliner
A minimum security prison commissary stocks generic eyeliner, but it's an expensive luxury. Many inmates make do with colored pencils, and no, they don't run sharpened pencils across their lash line (*cringe*). According to Bigger, prisoners soak the pencil in water for two minutes to soften it up, then line their eyes as you would with your prestige liner. If you're more into that bold, liquid-liner look, you could also pull a Taylor Swift and line your eyes with a Sharpie ... but even T-Swift doesn't recommend it (and neither do we.)
Crystal Light = Lip and Cheek Stain
A quality lip and cheek stain is a true makeup bag gem, but if you're still riding the Crystal Light train, you're already a step closer to having the best backup. Although the show features a quick shot of Kool-Aid being used for lip color, Bigger and DeAngelis note that other powdered drink mixes, like Crystal Light, achieve a more subtle look. Half a packet poured onto some petroleum jelly will get you glossy lips and flushed cheeks in a range of pinks. The upside: This prison hack is so delicious you'll want to eat your lip gloss. The downside: You'll eat all of your lip gloss.
Beverages = Hair Dye
DeAngelis says the monotony of prison life is a major catalyst for inmates to get radical ... with their hair. "Everybody enjoys the change. I just read an interview about a woman who said 'Well, hell, I'm just going to cut my hair off, because why not? It grows back and I want to look different. Guys like long hair, but I'm in a female prison now. Might as well do something different!'"
But inmates don't always have the funds to make it to the prison beauty salon for a new cut. The next logical option? Switching up hair color. DeAngelis says the old-fashioned "Sun-In" technique is popular: streaking hair with lemon juice and soaking up the sun for highlights or concentrating the juice on the ends for a more ambitious ombre look. For all-over color, blondes darken their shade with black tea, and brunettes can enrich their color's tone with the same strong brew.
For temporary color, DeAngelis says prisoners use cherry juice, Kool-Aid -- even erasers.
"Any kind of waxy product that you can melt down will stain," she notes. In this case, that stain will be of the pink variety and won't leave your hair feeling the smoothest, but it is a great alternative for women with darker hair.
Pencil = Curling Iron
If they haven't saved up enough to earn a trip to the prison beauty salon, DeAngelis says inmates use pencils to bring out their natural curls, winding small sections of damp hair around the writing utensil. For prisoners with stick-straight hair, beachy waves can be achieved behind bars by simply braiding damp hair and letting it dry overnight. Remove the braid and voila!