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The concept I have is merfolk that don't breath underwater and preserve a very human appearance from the waist up.

  1. I need to keep human (or at least very human-like) hair, skin, and eyesight in them.

  2. Hearing and olfactory sense should be prioritised to life above water, through it would be nice if it worked to some extent in the sea.

  3. I just need the hair to look somewhat pretty with long silk hair, not bald or with messed up hair.

    I'm aware that hair makes drag as does the human shape in general and that is fine, so it should swim fine anyhow, right?

  4. Breath holding: it would also be preferred if they could hold their breath for long periods of time like dolphin's 8 to 10 minutes, rather than the human average of 2 minutes.

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    $\begingroup$ What's your question? $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Sep 29 '18 at 13:57
  • $\begingroup$ Each point had already been answered in the the somehow. $\endgroup$ – Renan Sep 29 '18 at 14:47
  • $\begingroup$ very oily hair will work, otters are hairy after all. $\endgroup$ – John Sep 29 '18 at 14:51
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    $\begingroup$ "I just need the hair to look somewhat pretty with long silk hair, not bald or with messed up hair." You're not designing an actual human-fish chimera using crisper, so just assert "her hair was was so silky beautiful as she arose from the water". $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Sep 29 '18 at 18:40
  • $\begingroup$ My question is basically how to make it look human (like a classic mermaid) as soon as it gets out of the water instead of something that spends a lot of its time inside water and how to make it believable/realistic. I should add (and should probably edit the question to include this) that it did not evolved in to its current form but magically made to have those caracteristics. It also do not have any innate and cannot use magic. $\endgroup$ – Flarion Sep 30 '18 at 0:01
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Mustelids fulfill most of your criteria.

otter

Otters and mink are comfortable in and out of the water. Both are famous for their beautiful fur which you should be able to adapt for your merfolk. I do think flowing Little Mermaid hair would realistically be a mess for anything that swam regularly but you could have them braid their hair most of the time or otherwise keep it out of the way. Otter and mink are also both regularly anthropomorphized and so lend themselves to a jumping off point for story telling,

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    $\begingroup$ I guess the hair became the focus of the answers here, and i dont mind, it is one of my biggest headaches. I like the idea of them braiding theyr hair but i'm still worried about how it would affect the hair, wouldnt it make a mess of it when/if they need to release it? Mitigating the effects of salt water and constant tension would be adding more problem in my point of view, i'm current playing with the idea of manually oiling the hair but it still seems insuficient. $\endgroup$ – Flarion Sep 30 '18 at 0:21
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    $\begingroup$ Water animals with fur have greasy fur and it does ok in the salt. Your mermaids can have greasy hair. Re releasing it - have that never happen. The mermaids have dreadlocks and they stay dreadlocks. A dozen thick dreadlocks trailing behind you when you swim should be fine. $\endgroup$ – Willk Sep 30 '18 at 2:17
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I think if they had short/ braided hair, it wouldn't be a problem and little arm/body hair would help. Larger better underwater eyes or echolocation would also likely be helpful. Animals that live in the sea can't hear very well since sound travels so easily through water. Whales got around that by adding additional fat around the skull and ear canal, which slowed sound down. If you have something like that to a mermaid, it will help them hear underwater, but only muffle land noises a little.

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  • $\begingroup$ That trivia about whales hearing was very interresting thanks! Though is it possible to apply it without it not looking human? Same goes for echolocation, i would think you do need to have specialized hearing and a way to vocalize suitable frequences to do so, woundt that cause deformations in the skull and throat? $\endgroup$ – Flarion Sep 30 '18 at 0:27
  • $\begingroup$ The whale thing would likely add something near their ears. Echolocation actually wouldn't do much. humans can already do a form of it. check out smithsonianmag.com/innovation/… $\endgroup$ – user55812 Oct 1 '18 at 21:06

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