Braving the Frozen Tundra: Tips for Surviving Cold Weather Sets Like a Boss

It’s January and it’s cold. The Midwest and Northeast have had particularly cold winters this year and we’re only half-way through the season. For those artists who work in film and commercial, winter exteriors are a real thing and knowing how to prepare is key to staying safe, healthy, and happy. Today, let’s talk about tips for keeping yourself and your products warm on cold weather sets.

There are two things to worry about when working exterior shoots during the winter: keeping your body and appendages warm and keeping your products from stiffening up or becoming non-functional.

Protecting Your Products

Most of your work is going to be done in a trailer or other climate-controlled (mostly, but not always and sometimes with a loose definition of “climate-controlled”) environment like a trailer or studio space. What we need to worry about are the items you need to take to set with you for last looks and touch ups. Temperature-sensitive liquids that you would, realistically, take to set are: bloods, adhesives, foundations, concealers, lip products, mascaras, and maybe some other random creams like brow pomades or cheek stains. Some of these products will seize up in cold temps or become unusable (I’m looking at you Pros-Aide). Others will stiffen up and become hard to work with, like foundations or concealers that are wax-based (RCMA, Cinema Secrets, Roque Cozzette, etc).

When RCMA foundations get cold (like when you leave them in your car), the wax solidifies and this can happen.  They won’t be pretty, anymore, but they aren’t ruined.  Just warm them up a bit and give them a good stir.  


To prevent this from happening, you need one of these:

Behold, the Dad Lunchbox!  This thermal bag will keep your cream products toast warm in the winter and cool in the summer!

and some of these:

Hand warmers are your friends.

This combo keeps your products at just the right temperature to stay well-behaved and happy.

What should you do if your product has already gotten too cold? If it’s liquid latex or Pros-Aide, it may not be salvageable. Pros-Aide, in particular is useless after it’s frozen. However, if your foundations, lip products, concealers, or any other cream/gel/liquid has stiffened up or is starting to solidify, you can always warm them up with one of these!

A mini hair dryer helps thaw out your products, among other things!

Be careful, though — it only takes a couple of seconds to take an eyeliner or lip pencil from almost toasty to liquid pouring out of the pencil. Like when you put butter in the microwave to soften ….

The Oatmeal

Protecting Your Parts

The biggest issue with exterior shoots is protecting yourself. You might not think that 40 degrees is cold, because we are rarely just standing outside in that temperature.

Forty degree is cold when you’re standing still for hours outside.  

Thirty is when you start to re-think your career choices. Perhaps a career in medical transcription from DeVry would have been better?

Twenty is grueling and you start to think about quitting.

Everything below 20 is just a struggle to survive and do your job at the same time.

Here are some absolutely necessary items/tactics to get through winter exteriors without freezing to death:

Dress in Thin Layers:

Let’s back up — you need a warm coat. One that is engineered for cold weather exposure and to retain body heat. This is a given. Aside from that, you need to dress in layers to keep warm but not get too hot. You wouldn’t think you’d get hot in sub-zero temps, but if you start moving around in your bulky layers, you can start to sweat, which becomes a problem when that sweat gets cold and you can’t get it off of you. Now, you’ll be cold forever in your damp, chilly layers. So, thin layers are key! Thermal underwear, tights, three pairs of socks (and extras to change into when they get sweaty and wet).

♪ ♫ All the single ladies, all the single ladies … ♫ ♪

 Thin layers also help prevent this from happening, which would make working difficult and also make using the bathroom harder than it should be.

Get Warmers In Bulk:

Hand warmers. Heated insoles. Body Warmers. Toe Warmers. These are your friends. We’ve already covered how hand warmers can protect your products. Now, let’s think about all the places we can put a hand warmer to keep yourself and your talent comfy. Comfy talent = a better day for you. 🙂

Body, hand, and toe warmers are a life saver for winter exterior shoots.  

Protect Your Face:

Remember when your mom was all like, “Put on your hat!” and you were like, “I’m gonna look like a dork!”? Well, I look like a straight up dork on winter exterior sets and I do not care because my ears and the tip of my nose will still be in tact when I go home. 

There’s a whole bunch of mom-myths about losing 30-80% of our body heat through out heads. That’s not really true — the reason we seem to lose body heat through our heads when we’re outside in the cold because all of our other parts are wearing clothes. It’s no different than wearing a sleeveless shirt or shorts in the winter. In those cases, you’d lose body heat through your naked arms and legs. Make sense?

So, wear a hat. Not a cute headband that covers your ears. A hat.

No lie, this is the exact winter hat that I wear to set.  


Picks or it didn’t happen.  This was from 2015 when we shot on a farm in December and were grateful that it was a balmy 20 degrees outside vs the -12 before windchill the week earlier.  

Or, you can help yourself out even further by wearing something that protects your face …. like a legit ski mask or balaclava (which I spelled as baklava – a delicious Mediterranean treat several times in writing this post). A balaclava essentially a ski mask that covers your mouth to protect you from breathing in the cold. Some come with ventilators to prevent condensation collecting in the fabric from your breath. These really do help, even if you do look like a ninja or a character from Star Wars.

Ninja status achieved.  Chapped lips averted.  You can get this sexy winterwear here
This one is a little more casual.  
This one looks like you live in a post-apocalypse society where the air is too toxic to breathe and the Resistance lives underground …. but your breath won’t make your balaclava all damp and stuff around your mouth so …. might be worth it.


If you’re shooting winter exteriors during the day and everything is covered in snow, you NEED sunglasses. Otherwise, you’re a squinty mess with a headache by lunch AND crows feet in 20 years.

Pair them with the balaclava and scare your neighbors!


Not Ugg boots. Real boots. Two pairs, if you can swing it, in case the first pair get wet. Hunter boots are great — get the wool inserts to keep your piggies warm. Sorel makes great waterproof boots that are warm.

Waterproof boots are a must.  

Flip-Top Mittens:

These keep your fingers warm and reduce the chances you’ll lose one.

Flip-top mittens have many advantages over gloves and are my jam. Here’s the short list:

1) your fingers stay warmer because they get to hang out together. Add in a hand warmer and everyone is toasty!

2) you won’t have to take it off to step in, so you’re not likely to lose it

3) I repeat, you won’ t have to take it off to work!


Because what is worse than being cold? Being cold and wet.

Skin Protectant:

Aquaphor, Weleda Skin Food, Badger Balm, etc. are all good options for protecting your skin. Even wrapped up in 20 layers, the winter air and dryness of indoor heating can wreak havoc on your skin. For lips, anything from Vaseline to La Mer’s $60 lip balm will work to protect your lips as long as you don’t lick them!

Do not lick them.

How do you survive winter exterior shoots? Let us know in the comments! Subscribe for more tips, tricks, news, and trends with Multimedia Makeup Academy!



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