Wearing makeup in prison has been more of a topic of conversation since the TV series, Orange is the New Black came on the scene. Makeup and hair have played a pivotal role on the show since the very beginning. From Piper's distressed tresses, and Sophia’s many attempts to feminize her looks and numerous inmates expressing their individuality through improvising with whatever they had on had to achieve their desired looks. Now most prisons’ are not like what you see on Orange is the New Black, and they have limited access to hair products as well as makeup, and they’re only way is make do with that they can get their hands on which is a lot less than the ladies on TV.
Makeup creativity called “fake-up” has become a phenomenon, and women have found fascinating ways in using whatever is available to them to create bronzers, lipstick, glosses, and other cosmetic products. They use food, household products, and many that you would probably wouldn't even think of to use. Here are 16 fascinating facts about makeup in prison from what they are using, to why they wear it and more. Some of them are somewhat surprising!
Behind bars, women inmates can actually find a handful of makeup in the commissary. It’s rare to find powder foundations or liquid concealer, but at times they can find products like mascara and eyeliner. When these items are available to them, they make sure to stock up and have at least six months of whatever they do find so they won't run out. There will be months in some commissaries where there aren’t any makeup items at all, and they have to make their own mascara, which many do by melting black shoe polish which is a trick that women have been using for decades.
Who doesn’t love a sparkly eye? For the most part, everyone likes a little shine now and again, and that everyone includes women inmates. Unfortunately, they have to create their own sparkly eyeshadow and how they pull off this beauty DIY trick is that they take two glittery birthday cards and they rub them both together. Once they are done collecting all of the excess sparkles, they apply it to their eyelid over a base of Vaseline. Voila! Seems like a bit much just for eye shadow, but this is all these ladies have in lockup. Now with this hack, they can make shimmery shadows whenever they can get their hands on greeting cards.
In prison, ladies aren’t using coffee grounds to make a cup of coffee. They are using it in many ways such as an exfoliant, but when it comes to makeup women are making their own foundation. They take the coffee grounds and mix it with a face cream or lotion. Inmates then blend the dry java with the moisturizer until they achieve the shade that will match their skin tones, and add more coffee if they want it darker and more lotion if they want it lighter. Interestingly enough this is one of the safest products to use in your face. Coffee is packed with antioxidants which help protects your skin from any free radical damage.
The ladies in prison don’t have access to make-up brushes, so instead, they use whatever they can find lying around. One of the easiest things for them to attain is a cleaning sponge. It definitely does the trick for them when they are applying the liquid foundation they've concocted. The sponge also comes in handy when they are blending in those coffee grounds that they use for countering their face. You just cut out a regular household sponge in half, wet it a little, (using the soft side of the sponge of course) and then apply the foundation. It’s not a desirable option, but for the prisoners, it works!
This common household item has managed to become a staple in the beauty routines of women in prison. Many of them use baby power to set their make-up once they are done applying it. Nonly does it help with keeping your makeup intact; it also works to absorb any excess oil that aid in keeping them looking too dewy. Some even use baby powder it to make their eyelashes look fuller since they don't have access to false lashes. With either commissary mascara or homemade mascara, they dust their eyelashes with baby powder, and it acts as a primer.
Among the prisoners, this is one of the most popular “fake-up” techniques. For these women, creativity is the key when it comes to wearing make-up in prison and this one totally checks that box. Since in the commissary blush isn't something they get too often or not at all for some the ladies take to newspapers and magazines to achieve the fake rosy glow.
They look for ads that have bright pink in them, and they would first put baby powder on their hands and then run the ad on their cheekbones, and it is like sheer blush. The inmates find that the T-mobile ads are the best ones to use for that perfect pink. This method could be hazardous to the ladies faces, but they operate on a basis where they will use whatever they can.
When inmates want lipgloss, they use a Kool-aid packet and some Vaseline to get the pouty lip they want. They mix in some cherry or strawberry Kool-Aid mix or any other red/pink colored beverage mix they have access to, and with any kind of petroleum jelly they heat up a little of it and then mix them both together. They stir until it’s pretty much dissolved, and after letting the mixture cool down for a bit they’ve got fabulous lip color. This is also a technique that is used by moms outside of prison as a fun DIY beauty hack to try with their young daughters. Who knew!
Many people question the reason why prisoners need to wear make-up since they’re not going anywhere or don’t have anyone to impress. Others argue that self-care and makeup are essential for prisoners to feel normal and worthy while they’re in jail. Many women who are locked up like wearing make-up because they want to still look and feel pretty like they did before they got arrested. They don't want that part of their lives to change just because they are not apart of the outside world anymore. They had a daily routine of putting make-up on when they had freedom, and don’t want to lose that part of themselves just because they are in prison.
Inmates use an assortment of candy to create a lip stain because these sweet treats are readily accessible to them. For instance, they take M&M shells and soak them in hot water, and then the women dab the blended color onto their lips, and they've got instant lip color. When they use the peanut M&M’s take the leftover nuts and crush into a spoonful of face cream and make a facial mask. 2 for 1!
Other candies that are popular amongst the prisoners to use to add a little color to their lips are skittles and red sourballs. It seems like any brightly colored candy will work for this DIY makeup hack.
Many of the ladies in prison will just eat pigment foods like a beet or cherries to leave them with their desired red-stained lips. If they want more of a long-lasting look, they will crush some beets or cherries up, and then they will apply it to their dry lips. After that, they will follow up with some petroleum jelly that makes the color last longer, and many of the prisoners say this is one of the more uncomplicated make-up techniques they perform because vegetables and fruit are more easily to get ahold of than other products they need for other DIY hacks.
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In prison it’s against the rules to alter your appearance with makeup that’s dramatic, but when inmates rebel many corrections officers simply look the other way. They aren’t necessarily spending their days hunting down inmates’ stashed makeup. They only crack down on inmates that use specific beauty practices that they deem threatening. Like if a prisoner receives a letter that contains smeared makeup or has lipstick on it. This is considered contraband and is taken away immediately before the inmate even gets a hold of it. That’s because they know that sometimes this contraband can contain LSD or traces of other drugs.
Some of the women will do whatever it takes to achieve their look. They will actually break open a colored pencil, crush it into powder, and then mix it into a club of baby powder. After combining the two, they dab it on their eyelids. Inmates can easily get their hands on colored pencils so even though this may not be a safe beauty hack the ladies will still use the colored pencils because of their accessibility. Some will also take a colored pencil and melt it to use it as an eyeliner as well. So they’re getting two make up products out of these pencils.
Just like with colored pencils inmates will take a crayon, and melt it just enough so that the tip is gentle enough for them to use it on their eyes. This option may be the only possibility for these ladies in prison, but Crayola has come out and made a statement saying that their products are not safe to used as an eyeliner, or suitable for makeup. That includes both their crayons as well as the colored pencils they sell. Desperate times call for desperate measures, but it’s sad to think that these women could be putting their lives in jeopardy.
It’s safe to say that the women inmates at HM Prison Drake Hall in England has it the best. Back in 2017 women prisoners won the right to wear more make-up in jail. More lipstick, mascara, and foundation was sold in their commissary after they won the battle. After asking prison chiefs to up the amount, they offered in the commissary the ladies e we able to choose from 75 comsetic products that were for sale. They also won the privilege to work at the prison’s beauty salon. Yea that’s right; they have a beauty salon. I guess there is a prison out there like the one portrayed on the show Orange Is The New Black. Must be nice!
Image: iStock / Werhane
Many inmates use a pencil for their make-up needs, because of this an item they always have accessibility to. It’s quite fascinating to learn that they use it for eyeliner and to brow liner and in some instances lip liner. (That last look takes up back to the ’90s) The trick for this method is to add water to the tip of the pencil, and that helps glide across your skin. One would think that this could be toxic, but a company called pencil.com issued a statement a year ago stating “the core is made of non-toxic graphite and doesn’t contain lead.” Well, that’s good to know.
In some prisons, you can wear nail polish, but the inmates who are allowed to are not going to easily be able to get their hands on nail polish remover. So when these ladies are tired of scraping off the nail polish, they use deodorant spray. Fascinating right? All you have to do is take some spray deodorant and spray right on the polish, and wipe forcefully off with a napkin and there you have it. All gone! Body spray is a go-to for getting nail polish off because they can easily grab some from the commissary if they don’t already have some in their cell.