Kate Hogan
August 10, 2012 01:00 PM

Michael Sohn/AP

We thought we’d seen it all these Olympic gamescrazy country nail art, golden scrunchies — and then, synchronized swimming happened.

Watching these women compete earlier in the week, we suddenly had lots of questions. Why do they wear makeup? How does it stay on? And what on earth is in their hair?

Luckily, U.S. Olympic duet member Mariya Koroleva, who, with partner Mary Killman, competed earlier this week, was nice enough to talk us through the process.

“Wearing makeup allows the judges and the audience to see our faces better when we are swimming, because we are so far away,” she explains to PEOPLE. “It also adds to the overall presentation of the routine.”

Since the judges can see when a swimmer’s makeup is running, the competitors rely on some heavy-duty products that they know will stay in place. “I love Diorshow mascara. Never fails,” Koroleva says. “For my face I like to use Clinique and for our eyes we have been using Eye Max Studio products.”

Though the synchronized swimmers can’t wear stand-out nail polish, like their lap-swimming counterparts — “Nails must be kept natural during the competition, and they do check to make sure we are not wearing any jewelry, as well,” Koroleva says — they can have some fun with their hair. But how do they keep it in place?

“Knox gelatin,” Koroleva reveals. “You put your hair in a bun, mix the gelatin with hot water and then paint it onto the hair. Then we put a headpiece over the bun to match the swimsuit, and that completes the look!” And now you know. Tell us: Which Olympic sport have you loved watching the most this year?

–Kate Hogan


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