Skincare: 6 Ways Cosplayers Can Get Picture Perfect Skin

Good skincare is critically important, and this is the WORST time of year for skin maintenance due to a bunch of stuff, so I wanted to talk about how to get your skin looking fabulous, especially since I’ve been ill October through December and need to get back into my full skincare routine. If your skin is already fabulous, you may want to skip this post.

I recently saw a cosplay pic that I cannot show you because it’s to do with a secret project that my husband cannot know about yet. Now there’s more chance of hell freezing over than of him actually reading my blog, but just on the off-chance that he accidentally lands here on an internet search, I’m not going to tell you what the costume was. Let’s just imagine it was a Jessica Rabbit costume cosplay.
All you need to know was that, through the side of the amazingly detailed and accurate dress, there was one very miserable looking, red, pimply, washed out leg poking through what should have been a revealing and sexy split.

It got me thinking that perhaps, when people are doing a cosplay, when someone’s taken the time, expense and effort to make a costume of a well-known character FROM SCRATCH, perhaps buying a £5 pot of skin lotion, drinking a glass of water and fixing their skin wouldn’t go amiss.

*OK, I’m sold, how can I sort my skin out so it looks awesome with my costume and hair?*

1. Get some moisturizer. There’s loads of expensive ones out there, but anything’s better than nothing. There’s myths about parabens, BPA and silocones if you want to buy into scaremongering (literally, it costs a fortune to avoid these; don’t waste your time or cash), if not, go for something cheap that smells nice. You are going to moisturize every time you have a shower.

2. Does this costume show your bare legs? Do some leg toning exercises! Cassey Ho has some fabulous leg toning workouts at Blogilates that don’t require any equipment. I have been using her workouts now for over 2 years and they’re a fast way to get into shape for anything where you need to look your best. Exercise tends to make all of you look good for a variety of reasons.

3. Eat well. More fruit, more vegetables (think half the plate), more protein (to make new skin cells), less crap. Look for foods rich in vitamin K such as kale and broccoli, which will get rid of redness under the skin, as well as foods with vitamin E which stimulates glowing, healthy skin (and eat your vitamin E foods such as avocado about 4 hours apart from the vitamin K foods, otherwise they compete for absorption which is why multivitamins containing both E and K are a waste of time).

4. Exfoliate. This removes the dead skin cells so the newer, nicer ones can shine out, and according to Elle MacPherson it’s the best way to stay looking young well into your 50’s.

5. If all else fails, use fake tan (or gradual tanner, AVOID THESE IF IT’S A WHITE COSTUME), foundation for your face, and dance tights. You might want those last two anyway, especially if you’re cosplaying a caucasian character from before the 1990s or anyone from any musical, as they almost all wear Capezio dance tights in the shade ‘light suntan’ or ‘suntan’ (I’ve worked in the ents industry in various jobs, the Capezio tights are industry standard).

6. Make sure you get enough sleep, drink enough water: These two make everyone roll their eyes but it’s true! You may need to do these both long-term if you need to fix chronic dehydration and sleep loss, so an extra pint today will help you in the long run, but it’s not a quick fix, it’s a lifestyle habit. If you have chronic insomnia, do what you can and focus on everything else.

Barring acne or infections (which require treatment from a doctor or dermatologist), if you want movie-star beautiful skin all year round, rather than for a one-off event, do those 6 things all the time. If you want your skin to look shit, do the opposite for many many years then complain a lot about how some people are just blessed with good skin.

If you want to make this a year-round goal, to really get your skin looking fabulous, make some time to sunbathe for a few hours a week during summer (less for your face, as too much sunbathing causes premature ageing), as a bit of sun will stimulate your vitamin D synthesis, melanin production (in the skin) and it rebalances your serotonin/melatonin production, which will all make you look fabulous (actually, the serotonin/melatonin won’t, but bringing this into balance properly will help get you to sleep which WILL make you look your best). That way, you’ll be ready for cosplay, fancy dress, and dressing up, all year round. Just do it safely; we all know the rules of sunbathing right?

Why do I say all this specifically targetted to cosplayers? Well, people seem to understand that a character is the product of their costume, hair and makeup, but the skin tone and transparency is also very important. If your skin’s showing red patches and veins through all over it, and you’re trying to look like, oh, I don’t know, let’s pretend (again) that we’re talking about Jessica Rabbit; let’s say you want to be the sexiest woman in Toon Town (or whatever, I can’t tell you the real costume I was looking at but you get the gist), you need to fix your diet to improve the skin from the inside and start moisturising to help the skin from the outside.
This is true of all cosplays, and it’s what most real leading actors do who have a long career (I know, I’ve worked with many), so why not make it a routine?

It really doesn’t matter what size you are, whether your eyes or ear shape match the character, whether you tracked down the *exact* shade of eyeshadow used in the original film/series/whatevs, what does matter is getting your skin to look like it deserves to wear the costume which you just spent days, months or years making. Everything else can be worked around or fixed with makeup.

If you look at the most successful cosplayers, the ones on the lists of best cosplay, they’re not size 0, they’re not 34GG of the breasts, they generally don’t innately look like the character, but the reason we find them visually pleasing is because they look vital, radiant and larger than life… which is generally something they share with the characters they portray.

It’s not complicated, you don’t need expensive or time consuming rituals to look good, just follow these steps and you too can score a perfect 10 for your cosplay.

Wrecked your hair with bleach? Fix it!

Hair: How to fix hair that’s turned to chewing gum

Your hair was this colour, now it's stretchy and ruined?  I have the answer.
Your hair was this colour, now it’s stretchy and ruined? I have the answer.

You’ve washed the bleach off, you’ve conditioned, you’ve looked in the mirror. It might not even be a particularly light shade of blonde. Somehow, your hair has become super-stretchy and doesn’t flex back into shape again very well when you run your fingers through it.

This is NOT going to help if your hair is coming out in clumps. The only thing that’ll help there is a pair of scissors. Sorry, but you need to be honest with yourself about the current state of your hair before you do this.

If your hair is worrying you with its poor condition, but isn’t actually breaking apart yet, this tutorial is for you.

Firstly, I’ve got some bad news for you: You are probably not going to be able to stay completely blonde. At this stage, you have almost completely bleached the core out of your hair. It’s unstable, and isn’t going to withstand staying in this state for long. Think long and hard (but not for too long) about whether you need to follow this tutorial or whether a deep conditioning treatment will help.

Is this method for you?

1. When you last washed your hair, how many hours did it take to dry?

2. When your hair is wet, does it stretch then stay stretched after you let go of it, only returning to its shape gradually, if at all?

3. Have you bleached your hair in any of the following ways (or more than one of these):

a) Left the dye on for far too long?

b) Used a 40 vol peroxide with a bleach on light blonde hair?

c) Didn’t wash the bleach out properly before drying or straightening (flatironing)?

d) Bleached it too many times in a relatively short time period (more than 3 over 2 weeks, depending which products you used)?

e) Bleached it too many times over a longer time period (three times or more per month for more than three months)?

f) Used a product not intended for hair e.g. bleached with kitchen bleach, toilet bleach, household bleach etc even just once?

g) Used blonding/lightening spray on light blonde bleached hair?

If you answered yes to any of the statements in question 3, and your hair is taking more than 3 hours to dry after washing, and it’s stretching as described in question 2, you need this tutorial.

Disclaimer: I am not at your house assessing the state of your hair, nor do I know the state of your scalp. This is your judgement call, but if your hair is wrecked anyway, and your only other option is to cut it off, this might be a helpful last resort. Obviously, like with any dying process, this could make your hair worse, and you may have to do this several times over a period of months to get a colour to stick.

1. Get your hair dry, carefully.
If your hair isn’t dry right now, get your hairdryer and blow dry it on a low setting. Once your hair is dry it’s in a more stable condition. For now.

2. Put longer hair in a gentle plait, until you’re ready to work with it.

This method is used to protect hair extensions at night time, and is equally useful for your own hair when it’s damaged like this. It will help avoid that pesky tangling that constantly happens to over-bleached hair.

3. Decide how dark you can stand to go.

Look through the shades of hair dye that are available (don’t buy any yet), and decide on a level of darkness. The darker you go, the stronger your hair will be, but it will take longer to get it there.

4. Buy the reddest permanent dye you can find, that is not darker than the shade of brown you picked in step 3. If you are choosing between two shades of red, ignore the box and choose the darkest. This is because most of this red will wash out in a couple of weeks, tops. Don’t choose anything weird or unusual, this is not a good time to experiment. I used the auburn shades of Nice ‘N’ Easy when I did this. Don’t expect the colour to come out as strong as it does on the box, you will probably have to repeat this a few times.

5. Make sure you’ve waited at least a week since you last bleached/toned/coloured your blonde hair, and follow the instructions to apply your darker shade.  While you’re waiting to colour, treat your damaged hair like antique silk.

6. When you rinse, expect most of it to go down the drain. Your hair will come out a mousey colour, probably with patches that are redder than other bits. If this bothers you, now would be a good time to bring back the bandanna or crack out a hat or headscarf.

7. Use that conditioner that came with the dye. Leave it on for twice as long as it says, and at least 10 minutes.

8. Dry very carefully, don’t rub when you towel dry and don’t use the full heat from the hairdryer.

9. Repeat this process every 2-3 weeks (don’t do it any more regularly than this) until the colour sticks inside your hair.

10. Congratulations, you have just artificially re-created the core of your hair, using artificial pigment molecules. Your hair will be stronger now, although it won’t be the way it was before you dyed it. I found when I did this several years ago, that when I tried to bleach it a year later, it was still not in a suitable condition (luckily I did a test strand because I was NOT ready for that jelly that my strand test turned into), however, it did buy enough time for roots to grow through so I could at least sport a lovely bob 18 months after I wrecked my hair, without having to cut it all off before that time. Try to take better care of it, it’s still very fragile underneath.

When I wrecked my hair, it took about 6 months to get it to hold this colour.
When I wrecked my hair, it took about 6 months to get it to hold this colour.

Caring for long hair

Caring for long hair:

The best advice I have ever been given about caring for long hair is this:

“Treat your hair like your grandmother’s best antique lace.”

Obviously we don’t want to put it in a drawer and dry it flat, or only use it at Christmas, but there is a lot of wisdom and insight in this quote.

Your hair is, really truly, as delicate as antique lace. It is dead from the moment it leaves your head. Not only that, but it is barely anchored to your scalp, and it’s relatively easy to pull out any individual hairs.

I was told by a friend that (biological) male hair roots are deeper than roots of (biological) female hair. Perhaps that explains why there are so many rock gods still sporting trouser-length hair thirty years after their prime! Women’s hair tends to be finer, too – the individual hair shafts are slightly thinner than in men’s hair.

Ways to care for long hair and help it grow faster:

Massage, gently: I have been told by a hairdressing guru that the reason that men get receding and thinning hair (apart from genetics) is because they stimulate their hair follicles less. Since this guru is now retired, still sporting an amazing mop of hair, I would be inclined to believe him. Women, who statistically are more likely to choose to have longer hair than men, tend to poke and prod at their hair with brushing, straightening, massaging the shampoo and conditioner in; all this activity keeps the hair follicles stimulated. I did an experiment last year, where I massaged my hair twice a day for a month. It grew two inches in thirty days. I didn’t do anything else differently, such as changing my diet, so this really can work. One thing I’ve been warned against is over-stimulation – massaging too roughly or too often can have the opposite effect, as it causes an abrasive action that harms the hairs near the scalp, which will lead to more hair loss, so make sure to only do this in moderation.

Wash weekly (unless you eat oily fish): To keep your hair in its best condition, you should reduce the frequency of washing. Daily hair washing is reserved for owners of a number two buzz cut, and hair shampoo sales reps; it says “suitable for daily use” on your shampoo, not “use daily.” The key word is suitable – it means the product is gentle and won’t cause a product build up as quickly, it doesn’t mean you truly ought to use it daily (unlike moisturizer, which you should definitely use every day). Your hair produces natural oils, and by washing them away too much, you not only strip the hair of its protection (which means you need to use more oils you bought from the beauty store – hey, who’s really cashing in on this “wash your hair daily” rubbish? The hair product companies), but you also cause a negative feedback loop – your scalp detects that it feels too dry (un-oily, not non-wet) and ramps up oil production, which you promptly wash away, and it keeps on going. After a couple of weeks of feeling like your hair is super-greasy, it will settle down to a less aggressive oil production schedule. Also washing less frequently means that when you brush your hair, the oil gets further down the shaft to where it is needed – the ends of your hair. This will make your hair look stronger, shinier and less brittle. But if you eat an oily fish, wash your hair the same day, because that smells nasty!

Brush carefully: Remember the antique lace? Be very gentle, like you’re trying to brush the tail of a baby squirrel. Or something else super-delicate. Start at the ends of your hair; grasp your hair part-way down to support the strands, so all the pull of the brush doesn’t rip any hair out, and gently brush the ends. When the ends are totally tangle free, move up inch by inch, until your hair is detangled carefully. This minimizes hair breakage and loss (think about how a lever works – this is the same, if you put force on a long hair it’s got more chances to break than if you put the same force on a shorter hair) because there is less force being put upon your hair’s shafts.

Choose your brush carefully: I didn’t believe the first ten people who told me this, but the eleventh? I listened. Get thee a Tangle Teezer! Don’t get a cheap knock off, don’t get something with a similar sounding name that looks totally different, the brand is Tangle Teezer and it’s an investment in your hair. Even with a Tangle Teezer, I would still brush as outlined above. I know some people just drag them through from root to tip but obviously if you care about your hair, you need to use brushing techniques and good brushes that will minimize damage – a brush on its own won’t fix your hair, but when you use it properly, it gives less breakage than a plastic vent brush (my previous preferred type). I keep hearing amongst older hair growers that boar bristles are good, but I can’t really recommend them because a) I’ve never tried them and b) they come from a dead animal, and you’re rubbing that through your hair! Ewww! Before I get a plethora of snarky emails about hair products, they have this list on the side of the packet called “ingredients,” and because I used to be a chemistry teacher, I actually know what those long words mean and where they come from, most of them are synthetic by-products of the petroleum fractional distillation process (think Vaseline, mineral oil, and anything ending in “-ane” or “-ene”) if they’re really long words, and the industry is leaning more towards animal-free products these days anyway, so no, I don’t inadvertently put dead animal crap on my hair. If you want to know the real meaning of “all-natural” I’ve got an article here: What Is All Natural?

Take supplements: Obviously before changing your diet and exercise routine, consult a doctor blah blah blah, but seriously, I saw loads of people recommending omega 3 fish oil, so I was all like “can’t I use omega 3 non-fish oil?” The internet didn’t know, so I bought some omega complex linseed oil from the supermarket, nothing fancy, and tried it for 2 months. It accelerated my hair growth by about 50%, so I’m going to be possibly the first person on the internet to say through anecdotal evidence that the vegan sources of omega complex are good for your hair. If I’d bought a more expensive, cold pressed refined whatnot, it probably would have worked better because it would have been more concentrated in the amino acids which are a large part of why this works (amino acids are building blocks of protein, which is what hair is made of – that’s exactly what keratin is, it’s a protein). You need very specific amino acids to achieve faster hair growth, hence my uncertainty as to whether the flaxseed would work or not, but it did so yay.

Exercise: See above about doctors. Exercise increases your metabolism, meaning that if you eat right and exercise, those building blocks will get to where they need to be faster, which will mean you’re ready for more of them sooner. Don’t overdo it though – over-exercise, particularly coupled with under-eating (or INAPPROPRIATE eating) can cause hair loss, eek!

Minimise stress: So easy to say, so hard to do. Most of us wouldn’t ever be stressed if we had a choice about it; don’t get me wrong, I know it’s unrealistic to say “remove all stressors from your life.” What you can do, though, is change the way you manage that stress. For example, meditation, kundalini yoga, mindfulness, exercise, inspiring and calming music, and of course, making time for things you enjoy. I have a big list of planned articles, and stress management is on the list.

Consider whether your contra^ptive pill is causing hair loss: I won’t start on all the things that the pill can cause that most people aren’t warned about, because obviously it has some amazing benefits – regulating your cycle, clearing up acne, boob growth, oh and I guess stopping you from getting pregnant! If you’ve got one that works for you for mood swings, PMS, PMDD or any other life improving reason, keep it, it can take forever to end up on the right pill, and that process can be stressful. I do not advocate stopping medication if it’s doing the job and helping you in some way. However, if you’re just using it for pregnancy worries, and you haven’t really looked around, it might be worth considering an alternative method because the pill sometimes causes hair loss which stops long hair from looking as long as it really is, and thinner hair is more prone to breakage because there are less individual strands to disperse the forces from everyday life.

Use coconut oil: I’ve seen a lot of different sites touting a plethora of different oils, but if you like your hair to stay icy-pale, use coconut oil; I have tried two brands of argan oil (one courtesy of a gift, the other a freebie) and I’ve used extra virgin olive oil (it was The Last Big Thing, based on the anecdotes of a woman who lived to be 117 years old, who attributed this to lack of stress and lots of olives and olive oil, so it obviously became a health fad but it’s gone out of fashion now, probably because they can make more money selling you some other oil that isn’t as readily available in the supermarket); while they both do the job well enough, the problem is that they are coloured oils, and while the inherent colour might not be the thing doing it, something in these oils definitely makes my hair yellow/orange after I use them. I have tracked this over time and it’s definitely the oils that do it – argan oil is the worst for this. I think it’s something to do with the antioxidant properties, which, if you are a bleach blonde, you will probably know are what makes hair orange, e.g. if it’s gone green (from being oxidised in the sun by UV light) you use tomatoes or tomato ketchup to fix it (antioxidants), but if it’s not green, the antioxidants in tomatoes/ketchup make hair orange. So instead of them, use coconut oil, it’s colourless and doesn’t react with the hair colour molecules, which is my kind of protective oil. I buy mine from Sainsbury’s, the Lucy Bee brand, I’ve had it for a year and I’m only halfway through a jar. You can also get it from Amazon or Holland and Barrett. Make sure it’s got all the right labels that float your boat – pure, cold pressed, extra-virgin, and whatnot, so you’re satisfied with it. Someone recently raised a concern about whether it was watered down if it doesn’t specifically say “pure” on it. Nope, it’ll all be coconut if that’s what the ingredients say (do check them). Also, look up the coconut oil bleaching method (just type that into youtube) if you want to try it – I can’t recommend because I haven’t done it myself, but it certainly looks interesting.

Plaiting your hair/using protective styles: I got this from Afro-Caribbean hairstyling sites, basically a protective style is one you can put your hair into that protects it from traction and friction in everyday life, so a plait (or a set of plaits) would be a protective style, a ponytail would not because it leaves the individual strands vulnerable to the entire world. This is particularly sound advice at bedtime. Do be careful with how you tie off your plait though – a very tight hairband can cause traction alopecia, which nobody wants!

Silk Pillow/night cap: I bought a couple of scarves for outside, a silk pillow for at home, and a night cap for if I am away. I found silk to be helpful; it reduces friction compared to cotton so your hair doesn’t get stuck on the pillow, and it’s also got bizarre chemical properties (chemical as in, the fundamental chemistry of silk, I’m not saying it’s got “bad chemicals” in it) that cause it to interact with anything that touches it, mean it can help with healing your skin and protecting your hair.

Snag Free Bobbles: Hairbands that don’t have metal clasps have reduced hair damage and split ends when I tie off a plait. They’re more expensive than regular ones; get a good feel of the connecting glue before you buy, as some of the cheaper ones have thick, sharp glue splodges where they connect, which is almost as bad as the metal bits on regular bobbles. I like Scunci brand.

And finally, the things that didn’t work:

1. Biotin: This was my biggest disappointment, and an expensive mistake. I found it to be not only useless for my hair, but also caused my skin to break out, left me irritable and moody, and basically had a caffeine effect on me – super energized an hour afterwards, then in tears twelve hours later from exhaustion and over-blowing some silly problem. This one was definitely not for me, which I was really disappointed about because I heard such good things. My biotin was only 500 micrograms per tablet, I tried various different doses (800 should be optimal according to one study, 5000 according to another study) and just had to write it off as a bad job. I decided any hair growth effects from the supplements were probably being reversed by the stress they were causing me by unseating my emotions, resulting in a net gain of zero. I even tried them alongside other B vitamins, as suggested by a handful of reviewers on Amazon, and that didn’t make any difference either. I guess my biotin levels are naturally as high as they’re going to get.

2. Nope, it was actually just the biotin. Every other piece of info I’ve ever read on hair growth and caring for long hair has been pretty helpful.