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Better Than Botox!
10 Beauty Blunders -- Solved!
By Lisa Kovalovich

1. Wrong Lipstick Shade

Q: I have been searching for the perfect nude lipstick and thought I found it in the drugstore. But when I got it home, the shade looked terrible on my skin! Is there any way to salvage it?

A: Drugstores are great places to buy cosmetics. The prices are cheap, they offer a wide range of brands and shades, and they're less intimidating than a department store counter. But the downside is that you can't try on colors, so you risk ending up in the predicament you describe. The good news is that you probably can salvage your lipstick purchase! Here's how: Become a cosmetics artist. Professional makeup artists rarely use one lipstick shade on its own. Instead, they mix two or more colors to create the perfect effect. You can do this in several ways: Apply your "off" lipstick first, and add another color on top. Reverse and apply a deeper shade first, then top with the not-quite-right shade. Or blend a few colors on the back of your hand until you achieve a good result, then apply the newly mixed shade with a lip brush. Try blending your nude with a berry or deeper brown color to make it work for you. Alter the shade with lip liner. Wearing your nude lipstick with a colored lip liner can also change its shade for the better. Experiment with a red, salmon, or chocolate liner, applying it to the whole lip, and then slicking the lipstick on top. Add some gloss. Perhaps your lipstick shade actually works with your skin tone, but its texture is what you find objectionable. In that case, try wearing lip gloss with a bit of shimmer over the lipstick to give it a sexier finish.

If you try the above ideas and you're still not happy with the lipstick shade, you have a final option: Return it. Many drugstores accept cosmetics returns, even if you've used a product. Check with a manager for your store's policy.

2. Fried Hair

Q: The last time I was at the salon, my stylist used a flat iron to make my hair super straight and smooth. I loved the look so much, I bought one myself and have used it daily for two months. The problem is that now, my hair is dry, damaged, and brittle! How can I make my hair healthy again?

A: Flat irons give amazingly smooth effects, but they can cause serious damage and dryness. To help nurse your hair back to health, begin by getting a trim. Often, the ends show the most damage, and when trimmed off, locks look healthier immediately . Next, swear off daily shampoo, or switch to a shampoo designed for dry, damaged hair. Stock up on a rich, restorative conditioner, and use it daily, even when you don't shampoo. For extra moisture, use a weekly conditioning mask. Finally, go easy on heated appliances, including your flat iron and blow dryer. Both generate high heat, which causes damage to the hair. If you must use these appliances every day, keep them on the coolest settings and don't allow them to rest on one area of hair for more than a few seconds.

3. Clumpy Lashes

Q: My lashes are very light, so I need to use mascara. But when I put it on, I'm left with clumps and stuck-together globs. Are there any application tricks that will give me a more natural effect?

A: When asked what cosmetic item they can't live without, most women say mascara. That's because it can make your eyes look wider, clearer, and prettier with just a flick of a wand. Here, some tips on getting a flawless -- not clumpy -- application:
  • Keep mascara fresh. A good guideline is to use mascara for three months, then toss it. Not only will buying a new tube after three months minimize your chances of eye infections and irritation (which can occur if you use old mascara), it will also help nix clumps, since mascara can become thick and gloppy -- and transfer clumps onto your lashes -- when it's old.
  • Wipe off excess. When you remove the mascara wand from the tube, use a clean tissue to gently wipe off any globs of product (there's usually one at the very tip of the brush). Cleaning away these clumps means that they won't wind up on your lashes.
  • Allow the wand to "air dry" for a moment. Some makeup artists say that allowing the product on the brush to dry a bit before applying it helps the mascara go on smoother.
  • Sweep from lash base to tip. Use one motion to move the wand from the base of your lashes to the tips.
  • Allow coat one to dry before applying coat two. Applying another coat before the first coat has dried is likely to cause clumps. Instead, give each coat a minute to dry before adding another.
  • Comb through lashes to finish. No matter how expertly you apply mascara, you can still end up with clumps sometimes. Use a plastic eyelash brush (found in drugstores, usually coupled with a brow brush) to separate lashes.

4. Chapped Skin

Q: Ever since the weather has gotten colder, my skin has been chapped and super-dry. What can I do to make my face healthy and supple again?

A: Changing seasons can wreak havoc on the skin, causing it to become greasier or drier depending on the temperature. Winter, in particular, presents specific problems: namely, dryness from heated indoor air, and chapping from windy, icy weather. That's why it's a great idea to modify your skincare routine when the weather gets colder. Begin by switching to a creamy, nonstripping cleanser; Prescriptives Comfort Cleanser ($21) and Cetaphil ($6.85) are good choices. Use your cleanser to remove makeup and wash away dirt at night; you can simply rinse skin with warm water in the morning. Avoid postcleansing toners, which can strip the skin of its natural protective oils. Next, add a richer moisturizer to your regimen. Look for an oil-free cream formula, which is a bit heavier -- and more hydrating -- than a lotion. If your skin is very oily, stick to a lotion. Finally, treat very dry or chapped areas with a healing balm, which is thicker and more occlusive (read: doesn't let out moisture) than a cream or lotion. Good choices: Weleda Everon Face Balm ($9.95) and Bobbi Brown Extra Moisturizing Balm ($75). If your skin is painfully chapped or begins to crack, see a dermatologist.

5. Botched Bangs

Q: On an impulse, I let my stylist cut bangs. But now I hate them! What can I do?

A: A totally new look can be tempting, especially when you're caught up in the excitement of sitting in your stylist's chair. And while an impulse change can be good, sometimes it's not quite what you expected, such as with your bangs. The great news is that while you can't take the bangs back, you can make them more manageable. To start, head back to the salon and discuss your dissatisfaction with your stylist or the salon manager. Your stylist can add more layers to the bangs, or use a razor to thin the hair, giving it a wispy look. Another option: Cutting layers into the pieces around your face, so the bangs blend into your style better. If the thought of cutting into your bangs even more makes you nervous, your best bet is to camouflage them as you grow them out. To do this, you need two indispensable tools: A strong-hold hair product and a hair accessory. Use a pomade, firm-hold styling gel, or wax to slick bangs straight back, or smooth them to the side. Then, keep them in place with a headband, discreet barrette, or scarf. Experiment with different accessories to suit different outfits and moods.

6. Cakey Foundation

Q: I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror at work and was horrified to see that my foundation looked cakey and mask-like! How can I get a more natural look?

A: Foundation application can be tricky, and if you don't get it just right, you wind up with the too-made-up look you describe. Surprisingly, getting it just right is easy if you know the tricks:

Trick #1: Find the right formula. Use your skin type to choose. For instance, if you have very oily skin, an oil-free, matte formula will work best for you. If your skin is on the drier side, a cream or whipped moisturizing formula is your best bet. Using a foundation that works against your skin type -- a moisturizing foundation on oily skin, for example -- can cause base to cake or flake.

Trick #2: Find the perfect shade. Foundation is one product worthy of a splurge: If possible, go to a department store cosmetics counter to buy your base. The makeup artists who staff cosmetics counters are trained to match foundation to skin, and the better your base matches, the more natural it will look. Two great foundation brands: Prescriptives and Bobbi Brown.

Trick #3: Prep your skin. If your skin isn't in good shape to start, there's no way your foundation can look good. Begin with freshly washed skin to give the foundation a clean base. If you tend to be dry, apply a light moisturizer after you wash. And if your skin is excessively oily, apply a mattifying solution to skin. Allow these products about 10 minutes to sink in before applying foundation.

Trick #4: Apply with a brush. This relatively new type of makeup brush makes applying base easy, clean (no foundation-covered fingers), and allows you to blend more effectively than any other application method. Use a cotton swab to dot foundation on forehead, cheeks, chin, and down nose. Then blend the foundation downward and out toward your hairline with the foundation brush. Use a cosmetic sponge to buff the edges of your foundation. Finally, top with loose powder to lock foundation in place.

7. Overplucked Brows

Q: I accidentally overplucked one eyebrow -- now my brows are uneven and one has a bald spot! What can I do?

A: Tweezing can be tricky, and even the best home-pluckers can take off too much sometimes. To make your brows look their best as you wait for them to grow in, try these tips:

Tip 1: Retire your tweezers (temporarily). Plucking to make your other brow even invites disaster. Give your over-tweezed brow several weeks to grow in before wielding the tweezers again.

Tip 2: Fill in with a pencil. It's easy to camouflage a bald spot in the brow with an eyebrow pencil. Choose one in a shade that matches your brows; note that brows are often ashy in color (not warm or red, unless you're a redhead). Sharpen to a point, then gently soften the tip by rolling it onto the back of your hand. Use short, upward strokes to apply pencil to the bald spot and across the whole brow. Fill in the other brow with pencil to keep things even.

Tip 3: Set with brow powder. Your pencil will last longer if you lock it into place with powder applied on top (this helps you avoid having half your brow smudge off during the day!). Use a powder that matches your brow pencil, and apply with a stiff-bristled brush in the same upward strokes you used to apply your pencil.

Tip 4: Consider a professional plucking. As your sparse brow grows in, you may want to seek the help of a brow expert at a salon or spa. She can tweeze and wax your brows into a natural, polished shape; all you have to do is pluck away strays as they grow in.

8. Disappearing Lipstick

Q: I apply lipstick every morning, but after one cup of coffee, it's gone. How can I make my lipstick really last?

A: Fading, feathering lipstick is a challenge for many women. But there are steps you can take to keep yours in place longer. Begin by choosing the right formula. Creamy, glossy formulas contain lots of emollient ingredients, which make them likely to smear off. Matte or opaque formulas contain fewer emollients, so they have more staying power. Once you've chosen a longer-wearing formula, pick a lip liner that matches your lipstick shade. Next, it's time to apply. First slick on a thin coat of lip balm and give it about ten minutes to absorb. When lips feel soft but no longer moist from balm, line them all the way around. Then fill in the entire lip with pencil, too. Lip pencil acts as a magnet, keeping your lipstick locked in place longer. Next, apply your lipstick. You'll get the best result by applying with a lip brush, but straight from the tube will do, too. Blot lips by placing a tissue over them and gently pressing the tissue with your fingers. Now, place a clean tissue against your lips and using a fluffy powder brush, dust translucent powder over the tissue. The powder is fine enough to sift through the tissue, leaving the lightest color-locking layer on your lips. Finish by applying one last coat of lipstick and gently blotting with another tissue. This application technique should dramatically increase your lipstick's stay-on time!

9. Concealer That Won't Blend

Q: I bought a new concealer to hide my dark circles, but when I wear it, it makes the skin under my eyes look wrinkled and dry. Help!

A: Concealer can work miracles on dark circles and other skin blemishes. But achieving a flawless result requires some work. To get perfect undereye coverage, try these tricks:
  • Begin with eye cream. Because the skin under the eyes is naturally drier than that on the rest of the face, it usually needs a moisture boost. This extra moisture actually makes concealer glide on more smoothly, too. Allow eye cream to sink into skin for at least 10 minutes before applying coverup.
  • Use a brush. Applying concealer with a finger or straight from the tube is messy and gets product where you don't really need it. A brush allows you to apply precisely, which means concealer will go only where you need it.
  • Go sparingly. Too much concealer is worse than none at all, because it settles into even the finest lines and gives a conspicuous, caked-on look. Start with just a tiny bit of concealer; add more only if dark circles are still visible after your first application.
  • Be gentle when blending. If you rub concealer into skin to blend, you'll wind up simply wiping the product right off. Instead, use your middle finger to pat in concealer.
  • Check your formula. If the above tricks don't work, you may want to switch to a creamier concealer formula, such as a liquid applied with a wand.

10. Yellow Nails

Q: I've been wearing dark polish for a few months, but recently decided to give my nails a break and go natural. The problem is my nails now look yellow! How can I fix this?

A: The same pigments that make nail polish shades so deep and beautiful can also stain your nails. After wearing dark polish for a long time, this staining can be quite noticeable, giving nails a yellow cast. To help restore them to their healthier pink color, try these four steps:
  • Buff. A fine-grade nail buffer actually smoothes away the top stained layers of the nail. Caution: Buff only once a week, as doing so too often can eventually weaken your nails.
  • Soak. Fill a small bowl with fresh lemon juice and soak nails in it for about 10 minutes. Lemon juice acts as a mild, natural bleach to remove stains.
  • Massage. Stimulating blood flow to the cuticle and nail bed can help restore your nails' natural pinkness. Smooth a cuticle cream into nails and cuticles twice a day and massage for several minutes.
  • Protect. If you plan to polish again, be sure to use a base coat every time. Base coat forms a shield over the nail, so dark polish pigments can't be absorbed as easily.

Scooby Doo, where are you?