If you’ve read any of he Hunger Games books, you’ll know that Katniss’s prep team gets her to a state of “beauty base zero” before they start on the extravagant hair, makeup, and outfits. It means that she is cleaned up, scars are healed, all unwanted hair is removed, nails are filed, and anything else necessary to make her camera ready. She’s natural, but perfected. As nice as all that sounds, I don’t have a prep team or a bathtub of skin-healing goo, so I’ve had to take a bit of a different approach to get my hair, skin, and nails to my own beauty base zero. I’ll take the extra work in exchange for not having to fight to the death in an arena, kthanks.
I’m in love with Katniss’s makeup in this scene from Catching Fire. / Photo from the official trailer, found on TorontoSun
Makeup can work miracles, and you can hire the greatest makeup artists and hairstylists in the world, but you’ll definitely be happier with the results if you can manage to bump up your beauty regimen a bit before the wedding. Here are some of the tips I’ve discovered, in order to make the most of all those products I love to talk about so much.
Be gentle with your hair! Use a heat protector, minimize the amount of heat styling and teasing that you do, be careful when brushing out knots, and never use a brush on wet hair, gently use a comb instead. Many brides try to grow their hair out for the wedding day so that a stylist will have the most amount of length to work with, but don’t forget about getting your hair trimmed! Although it seems counter-intuitive, getting a trim will help you reach your length faster. It doesn’t make your hair grow at a quicker rate, but because you cut off split ends your hair is less likely to split higher up the shaft. This makes your hair overall grow out longer, as well as making it healthier and easier to manage. So don’t neglect some trims even if you’re trying to grow your hair out! While you’re at it, ask your stylist to give you a hair glazing, to make your hair nice and shiny (or you can try this DIY method!).
A trim with highlights. She didn’t lose much length, but gained so much body and shape! / Photo found on Hair Addiction Salon on Yelp
Personally, my hair has been pretty long for years, so I haven’t worried too much about the length, but I have found that my hair got really dried out recently. So I have been focusing on adding some moisture back into my locks and getting it to a healthy place. I’ve been using some products from the Living Proof line—I probably could find a cheaper option, but with limited time I just decided to go for something that promised to work! I will report that it works really well (especially the “restore” and “full” formulas), and my hair is in a much better condition now. But soon after the wedding, I’ll be on the lookout to find a cheaper alternative, for sure! As for maintenance, I put some subtle highlights in about two months ago so that I would have some dimension in my updo, and I just plan to get a trim soon to keep everything really fresh! Remember, if you can’t achieve the look you want with your own hair, look into clip-in extensions for an easy boost to your style.
With face products, everyone is going to be different, and it might take some time to find out what works for you. In general, I’ve found that less is more successful with my skin, and I suggest just adding in products a little at a time to see what works. I’d be wary of anything that comes in a big kit or promises too much too fast. Your skin might not need everything in a kit, and you need to be realistic with your expectations of what it can do. In general, you want to have products to protect (SPF), cleanse, exfoliate, and moisturize.
What, you don’t wash your face like this either? / Photo from Healthier Moms
I use a primer that has SPF every day (MAC Color Correcing Primer in Neutralize), which helps protect against the harmful rays of the sun and the formation of lines and wrinkles. Wearing SPF daily is also the number one way to diminish your acne scarring and hyper-pigmentation. It takes time, but it’s worth it when you don’t have to use as much foundation and concealer anymore!
To cleanse, I use these cloths from CVS (I actually prefer the store brand to the Olay ones), because I can take off face and eye makeup all at once, and it’s really quick and thorough. If I’m feeling like cleansing a bit more, I use my Clarisonic Mia and a cleanser that contains tea tree oil (I find this one in the organic/healthy section of my supermarket) to help keep breakouts at bay. I know a lot of people are on the fence about the Clarisonic, so here are my general thoughts. Does it give you instantly better skin and everyone should use one? No. Do I like mine and think it’s good for deep cleansing and exfoliation? Yes.
Exfoliation is necessary to remove dead skin skills and allow for healthy cell turnover, which creates a softer, more even complexion. If you use a physical exfoliator, make sure the scrub isn’t too abrasive! A more effective way of exfoliating is with chemical exfoliator, like the dirt cheap Alpha Hydroxy Face Cream, which is available at Walgreens. If you’d like to do some research on AHAs, BHAs, or retinol, there’s a lot of info out there to find the right one for you. I’ll just say it’s very important that you protect your skin every day with a sunscreen if you’re using one of these treatments, as it makes your skin more susceptible to damage!
Search around for masks or serums that are made for your skin type, or contain ingredients you know your skin reacts well to. I have had some success with vitamin C and rose products, and I really enjoy the Korres Wild Rose + Vitamin C Sleeping Facial to really moisturize my skin and give it a natural glow. I also think it has helped with clearing up my acne scarring.
If you’re interested in DIY face peels (not as scary as it sounds!), check out the site Makeup Artist’s Choice. Their at-home peels are very affordable and very effective, just be sure to do plenty of research to ensure you’re getting the right product for your skin and issues, and that you follow the directions exactly.
There are some ways to improve the condition of your skin that don’t require buying any additional products at all: the easiest tip—always wash your makeup off at night! And don’t pick at your skin or pop pimples! It’ll create a scar or spread the bacteria—it’s just easier to let it be. There’s a great pictorial of how to reduce the size of your pimple here on The Beauty Department (which has a plethora of knowledge on all types of beauty-related topics, compiled by Lauren Conrad and her beauty team), and I’ve tried that before and it does work. If you’ve got an especially stubborn bump, I’ve found that PersaGel 10 can make it go away, but be careful with it. The gel will bleach the heck out of pillows and clothing if you wear it while you’re sleeping! I’ve also found a diluted solution of tea tree oil (5–10%) used as a toner to be helpful with calming down bumps.
You might want to conduct little experiments to find the root cause of your pimples, redness, or dryness. It might just be your foundation causing you to break out, or you might need to cut out dairy. Don’t do anything drastic and give your changes enough time to be effective. Your skin can’t improve overnight! If you have bigger concerns, you should visit with a dermatologist.
Be observant to what is coming in contact with your skin throughout the day. Clean your cell phone often with disinfecting wipes, and try not to hold it right up against your cheek when talking. It’s germ central! And try not to touch your face too much, as it could also spread bacteria. Use a separate towel to dry your face, keep your pillow case clean, and be sure to tie your hair on top of your head if you sleep with wet hair. These tips also apply to problems with bacne—residue of shampoo, conditioner, and hair products are usually the culprit there! If you have those small bumps on the back of your upper arms, that might be something separate (keratosis pilaris), and it is genetic and should be treated differently. And this sounds really gross, but I found it to be helpful, so I’ll put it out there: Don’t let toothpaste foam build up around your mouth/chin. The whitening or flavoring ingredients could cause irritation in your skin and cause you to break out there, too. Once I stopped allowing myself to froth at the mouth like Old Yeller while brushing my teeth, I saw a drastic drop in the number of clogged pores on my chin.
My biggest suggestion would be to just start taking care of your skin better at least six months out from your wedding day. Then you’ll be able to find what works for you, and hopefully see some improvement in any issues that you have! This also will give you time to figure out if you want to seek out any professional facials or treatments, just in case your DIY attempts aren’t cutting it.
I’m thinking nude/pinkish, opaque polish for the day of. / Photo via Huffington Post of Sienna Miller’s nails
I wrote lots (and lots) about nail care in my previous post, so you can check out lots of info there! In general, I have been trying to keep polish on my nails as often as I can so that I don’t bite at them, and keeping up with moisturizing throughout the day and before bed. I carry a nail file with me so that I’m not tempted to pick at any rough edges. If you think you don’t have time for DIY manicures, check out a quick drying top coat (Sally Hansen Insta Dri and Seche Vite are my top picks). You’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to fit a little polish change into your schedule!
Honestly, I thought I would have been more diligent at this point to have my nails in better shape, but time has been slipping away and stress has been increasing (both in work world and wedding world), and my poor nails have suffered from it. So do as I say, not as I do, dear readers, and treat your hands with kindness! I plan to get a gel manicure the day before the wedding so that there are no chances of smudges, and hopefully it will last throughout our trip to Hawaii.
For anything else that you deem necessary—waxing, eyebrow shaping, teeth whitening (this kit is cheap, doesn’t cause irritation, and makes a difference after one use), eyelash growth serums, etc., just start early enough to allow yourself a little time for trial and error. You don’t want to freak out your skin or overpluck your eyebrows too close to the wedding day!
Benefits of drinking water, from A Fab Life
Finally, drink lots of water. It helps your hair, skin, and nails, and makes you healthy all around! I keep a giant cup at my desk with a straw, and I make myself refill it several times a day. If you don’t like drinking water, add some sliced fruit, mint, or cucumbers to it to give it a flavor. Listen to your body telling you that it is thirsty—you’re probably craving water more often than you think! Respond to that craving and you’ll reap the benefits internally and externally. A well-balanced, healthy diet is important as well, but I can’t claim to be an expert there—so drink water!
I hope some of these tips help you along if you’re trying to get into a better beauty routine in preparation for the wedding! I know that writing all of this out is making me conscious of how I’m treating my body for the next few weeks. Be sure to leave any tips that you have found to be helpful in the comments! I’m off to drink a big cup of water and apply some hand cream!