Dancing With the Stars' head makeup artist Zena Shteysel dishes all the behind-the-scenes dirt on faking abs, Spray Tan Sundays and exactly how many lashes each lady needs

Courtesy Zena Shteysel

Sure, we love the fun routines and elaborate costumes, but in our opinion, the most amazing thing about Dancing With the Stars is how the contestants’ makeup stays so perfect, no matter how much they sweat.

Zena Shteysel, who has won an Emmy for her work on the celeb dance competition, gave us a peek behind the red velvet curtain, sharing everything from backstage photos of her inspiration collages (above) for this season’s competitors to exactly how spray-tanned the male contestants get — not to mention which stay-put products she and her team use for the show.

Getting that golden glow: First and foremost, the contestants need a good foundation for their look, which means attending Shteysel’s “Spray Tan Sundays.” At the beginning, she says, some contestants are resistant to the tan (she uses South Seas SkinCare spray tanning solution and their Island Glow Body Bronzer), but soon they warm up to it.

“They see that the reason that they’re doing it is because of … these costumes that they’re wearing,” she says. “[When] they’re scantily clad, they’re like, ‘Bring on the spray tan!'”

And that goes double for the guys. “We’ll do some abs, we’ll carve that out if they’re wearing, like, no shirt or an open shirt,” she dishes. “We get lots of requests for that.”

Creating inspiration boards: “It always begins with production sending [my team of eight makeup artists] notes on the wardrobe colors,” Shteysel says. “Then Monday … we’ll see the actual wardrobe and take photos, then come down to the makeup department and translate [the look].”

Translating means that the makeup artists create collages for the dancers to see (examples above). “We’ll go through makeup ideas from the internet and magazines, and we’ll literally cut pictures out and create a collage on a piece of construction paper,” Shteysel says; for example, “different eyes, one with liner, one with pink eye shadow, or a good smoky eye. It’s really visual for them to see.”

Next up, makeup: Makeup artists then get to go to town, adding up to three pairs of Ardell lashes per lady and wrestling the guys into makeup. “Some of them can be quite resistant,” Shteysel shares. “They’ll be like, ‘I’m a man, I don’t get makeup on.’ But we need to still de-shine and powder them!”

All of DWTS‘ artists use Shteysel’s Z Palette to keep their makeup easily on hand. And that makeup arsenal includes Stila‘s All Day Foundation, Long Wear Lipsticks and Waterproof Eyeliner (“We really love that Stila,” she says.
“It really does stay throughout all the rehearsals.”) She also goes for Tarte’s LipSurgence pencils (dancer Sharna wore Fiery last week) and Make Up Forever‘s pigmented shadows (Zendaya’s lids were done up in Navy Blue 60, Turquoise Matte 72 and Yellow 2).

And when all is said and done, Shteysel sends contestants to their trailers with a pack of Comodynes to wipe all that makeup off. Tell us: What do you think of the makeup looks on Dancing With the Stars? Who are you rooting for this season?

–Alex Apatoff, reporting by Catherine Kast