Imagine you’re going to be a contestant on The Bachelor. (Just go with us here.) Now, we know you’re here for the right reasons, of course. But that doesn’t mean you’re not a little nervous about appearing on TV in front of millions of viewers — viewers who are going to dissect (and, sadly, hate-tweet) your every move, makeup malfunction, and bad hair day.
And it’s the worst for the women who appear on The Bachelor franchise. We already know that they spend way more than men to compete in the series, and a large chunk of that comes down to some seriously intense beauty prep and maintenance. And while such unrealistic beauty standards may seem outdated, so does the idea of competing with 25 women to win the heart of a mediocre-at-best man. But, hey, we keep watching it.
We decided to consult some of our favorite former Bachelor contestants to find out exactly what they did and just how much they spent — from the cocktail parties to paradise. (Spoiler alert: It’s even crazier than you’d think.)
“What didn’t I do before I left for the show?” exclaims former contestant Whitney Bischoff, who made it all the way on her season, getting engaged to (and later breaking it off with) Iowa farmer Chris Soules. “I got highlights, lash extensions, a gel manicure, and a supply of high-definition makeup… But I had the most anxiety about how I was going to go without my weekly spray tans. After my farewell spray tan, I bought about four bottles of St. Tropez.”
Ashley Iaconetti — the Kardashian-lookalike who was also on Chris’ season, as well as Bachelor In Paradise — went into her episodes equally prepared. “I threaded my entire face and got lash extensions. You have to make sure they’re really glued on and that they have more density to them than normal,” she says. “And then, of course, my nails, a HydraFacial, and fresh Botox.”
But perhaps no one is better prepared beauty-wise than a contestant making her third appearance on a Bachelor franchise. Jaclyn Swartz, who followed up her time on Ben Flajnik’s season with stints on Bachelor Pad and Bachelor In Paradise, started out a minimalist. “For The Bachelor, I really didn’t do much — I cared more about my clothes,” she says. “Didn’t pencil in my eyebrows. Didn’t know how to use a curling iron. Thought fake lashes were trashy. Never used foundation, primer, concealer, or setting powder. That all changed when I saw myself on TV. You bet your ass I learned how to do makeup immediately.”
Four years later, Swartz seriously upped her game for her time on Paradise. “I invested in lash extensions, a personal trainer five days a week for the eight weeks leading up to the show, dermaplaning — which I swear by — and a fresh head of blonde,” she says. “I also waxed, brought way more makeup, and embraced makeup trends like contouring.”
Let’s just say that showing up with one measly, travel-size cosmetics bag is an amateur move. The truly devoted bring beauty luggage. “I brought a duffel bag full of toiletries, and then a huge makeup suitcase,” says Ashley I. Others were even more legendary. “Emily Maynard showed up to the house with trunks of stuff,” recalls Ashley Spivey, a contestant on Brad Womack’s season. “They tell you that you are allowed two to three suitcases total, but I brought six,” says Jaclyn.
And while that may seem extreme, it makes more sense when you consider that these women are veritable prisoners for weeks on end (prisoners in a luxe Malibu mansion, but still). There are no Amazon Prime orders or field trips to the mall if you run out of concealer or shampoo. That said, the women report that you can slip some cash to a kindhearted production assistant to run an errand for you — within reason. “If you run out of deodorant, no big. But brow pencil? You’re screwed! They definitely aren’t running to a Sephora,” says Jaclyn. “I was so paranoid about running out of my brow pencil in Mexico that I brought four just in case.”
All of that doesn’t come cheap. Most of the women say it’s easy to drop $1,000 on beauty-related expenses alone before filming even starts. And that’s a fairly conservative estimate. When you add up all the salon appointments, workout classes, mass product stock-ups, and everything else, Jaclyn estimates her glam total was more like $5,000. “Equinox is expensive, man,” she says.
The wallet-busting expenses are extra-frustrating considering this is hardly a burden shared by dudes when the tables are turned on Bachelorette seasons. “The guys don’t have to do anything, and they don’t have to spend money on anything beauty-related,” says Ashley I.
But being a contestant does come with some serious perks. “When you make it past the first night on The Bachelor, you get a surprise swag bag,” says Jaclyn. “It was full of bathing suits, OPI nail polishes, makeup, Kai products, Rich & Skinny jeans, Wildfox tees, and the Sultra Bombshell wand, which I still use to this day and am obsessed with. It creates the most perfect waves.”
But perhaps the best beauty gift contestants get is the kick-ass professional lighting. “The lighting on The Bachelor is really great and makes you need a lot less makeup than you think you do,” says Ashley I. “Their lighting team does the most fantastic job in the entire world. They make us all look airbrushed.”
Simply put, sharing the bathroom sucks. There are only four showers in the entire mansion, although one has two showerheads, so the ladies would occasionally double up. “When there are that many girls and not a lot of time or space, desperate times call for desperate measures,” says Whitney.
And while the lighting used for filming may be fantastic, the bathroom lighting is notoriously crappy. “You have bad lighting in the mansion, for sure, and there’s, like, seven mirrors in the entire place,” says Ashley I. “I used a little mirror outside on the balcony for natural light. I liked my alone time and not having to fight for a mirror.” (Many women told us that a lighted makeup mirror is the must-have beauty item to bring to the mansion.)
To top it all off, it’s hot AF in there. “There is no AC in the mansion, because of sound quality, and it was super-hot when we were there,” says Ashley S. “Couple that with 25 girls using their blowdryers and hair tools and the production lighting, and I was a sweaty, greasy mess all of the time.”
With the 24-7 possibility of being filmed — even while lounging around the house — many of the women felt pressure to be constantly camera-ready. “I did my hair more times in that eight to nine weeks than I have in my entire life — I am still dealing with the damage I did to it,” says Whitney. “And, of course, knowing you are going to be on national television, anytime you passed a mirror, you would do a double take, hair check, quick powder, and reapply your lipstick.”
Others took a more relaxed approach. “In the mansion, I didn’t care if I went the entire day without foundation or makeup, because [Chris] wasn’t there all the time,” says Ashley I. “I thought, Am I going to be devastated for America to see me without makeup on? Not really.” Ashley S. had a similar experience. “I did full hair and makeup for about three days before I gave up,” she says. “Some mornings, you get up so early or you are so hungover that you don’t care one bit what all of America will think about your morning face. I regretted this decision later.”
With so much primping and camera time, there are bound to be a few lessons learned. Take lash extensions. They’re everything on TV. But they don’t last forever — and certainly not all the way to the final four. “The only beauty emergency I’ve had on the show is lashes,” says Ashley I. “In Paradise, with the humidity, the constant sweating, the saltwater, and the pool water, they fall off way quicker than they would at home.” The secret, she says, is to pack extra false-lash strips for when the extensions start to fall out. That, or pay a P.A. to run out and get you a box — or 20 — of them. “I basically bought the entire store out of falsies once my lash extensions started to fall out,” says Whitney.
Bronzed skin can be risky business, too. “I had a week off before I flew to Bali, so I went to a spray-tan booth in L.A. Huge mistake,” says Whitney. “I looked like an orange crayon.”
Yet despite the heat, the lack of mirrors, and the whole dating-the-same-dude thing, apparently all was forgiven when it came to beauty. The contestants may not like sharing a potential future fiancé, but when it comes to getting ready, most are more than happy to share their products — and their skills. “Almost every girl on my season was more than generous with makeup, clothes, and hair products,” says Ashley S. “Michelle Money was basically doing every girl’s hair, every rose ceremony. She and Emily taught me so much. I can never repay them for all the hair tricks, tanning tips, and good makeup they let me use.”
Contestants from other seasons had similar experiences. “The other girls borrowed my contour tools, specifically the Smashbox contouring sticks,” says Ashley I. “And I’m definitely a makeup girl, so other girls would ask me for help. I remember contouring Jillian, and doing Whitney’s and Mackenzie’s brows.” Luckily, others returned the favor. “I’m not very good with my hair,” Ashley I. says. “So if I needed help with my clip-in extensions — they’re good for updos for rose ceremonies — other girls were there to help me. They did braids and really high, [Princess] Jasmine-like ponytails, incorporating my extensions, for me.”
Of course, that benevolence didn’t always come across in the final edits. “For the one-on-one date I went on with Ed, I had 20 minutes to get ready,” says Jaclyn. “Thank god Blakeley helped me with my makeup. And this was after I called her an old lady and a psycho in an interview.”