How to Plan and Start a Wedding Beauty Regimen

The ultimate beauty checklist for brides-to-be.

woman getting makeup done

Photo by Laurken Kendall

You've made it through the fun part of your engagement (admit it: You loved snapping all those ring selfies), and now it's time to get into the nitty-gritty of looking fantastic on your big day. We're talking about your wedding beauty regimen because right now is the perfect excuse to give it a makeover so that you can have the best hair, skin, and nails of your life as you make your way down the aisle.

In addition to your wedding checklist, you have another set of to-dos to conquer before you say "I do," but luckily this checklist is tons more fun than deciding where your feuding cousins should sit. Starting (or revamping) a wedding beauty regimen is a great way to practice some self-care, giving you the opportunity to de-stress ahead of your nuptials. And of course, each step will aid you in perfecting your wedding-day look, from smoothing your skin to strengthening your hair.

"To a certain extent, everyone wants to look like a supermodel on a daily basis, but we may not have the drive to act on it," says New York-based dermatologist Dendy Engelman, who helped Sofia Vergara prep for her wedding day. "A wedding date gives you a deadline, and forces you to start making a move." The clock is ticking and it's time to start checking things off your wedding beauty plan leading up to the big day.

Below, eight things to consider when getting your bridal beauty routine in order.

01 of 08

Skin

woman skin

GETTY IMAGES / Sofia Polukhina

Manage Stress

From the top of your head to the tips of your toes, there's no end to the beauty bummers headed your way if you don't get your wedding-planning stress under control. On the complexion front, says NYC dermatologist Dendy Engelman, "Many inflammatory conditions, including eczema, psoriasis, and keratosis pilaris, may be at least partially caused by stress. As stress weakens the immune system, chronic inflammation worsens."

Excess anxiety can also disrupt your sleep, which in turn can lead to a gray, decidedly un-bridal complexion. The fix? Do what you can to chill out, whether that means hitting a yoga class after work or guided meditation apps such as Headspace and Omvana.

When: 1 year out

Set Up an Appointment With Your Dermatologist

There are two key reasons to get a derm in your corner early on: One, they can assess your complexion's current state way better than you and your trusty magnifying mirror. And two, they can help you devise a strategy for achieving your dream-skin goals, be it softening pesky forehead wrinkles or zapping acne. "Some treatments take time—up to several months—and you certainly want a game plan," says Engelman.

When: 1 year out

Consider Laser Hair Removal

There's no better excuse than your wedding (and honeymoon) to treat yourself to laser hair removal. Is it a splurge? Yes, but it will be so worth it when shaving your armpits and legs is the last thing on your mind. Depending on where you go, sessions can range from $200 to $350, and "planning should be done 9 to 12 months before the wedding, as it typically takes six sessions spaced six weeks apart to see permanent results," says Christian Karavalos, owner of Romeo & Juliette Laser Hair Removal Spa in NYC.

When: 1 year out

Decide If Retinol Is Right for You

Derived from vitamin A, retinol increases cell turnover, unclogs pores, boosts collagen, and helps diminish hyperpigmentation. The prescription version, aka retinoid, is even more powerful. Still, as great as they are, both retinol and prescription-strength retinoids can cause redness and peeling at the outset, and even a possible uptick in acne before all those benefits kick in. "I recommend patients start with a nonprescription retinol for at least four to eight weeks before progressing to a prescription retinoid," says Engelman. "Their skin will tolerate it better."

When: 9 months out

Visit an Aesthetician for Regular Facials

Find a reputable aesthetician in your area to help keep skin in tip-top shape. In your initial chat with a prospective aesthetician, make sure you address your goals and needs—don't be afraid to speak up. "Look for someone who's a good listener," says NYC facialist Joanna Vargas. "Old-school facialists would dictate your care. These days the best ones work with your budget, your goals, and your skin." Don't go overboard with the treatments either, because flare-ups post-facials are likely. "I would never want a bride to get a treatment with a new facialist close to her wedding date," she says.

When: 9 months out

Exfoliate and Follow Up With a Brightening Serum

As dead cells accumulate on the skin, they interfere with light reflection giving it a dull appearance, explains NYC-based dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner. The solution: Regular exfoliation paired with a brightening serum to give you the best lit-from-within glow on your wedding day. "Regular exfoliation removes dead cells to improve radiance and can enhance the absorption of skin brightening products through the skin," he explains. "I recommend exfoliating once per week initially, and advancing to twice per week after a month or so if you can tolerate it."

When: 5 months out

Skip the Wine and Get to Juicing

Because vino is such a world-class dehydrator, capillary breaker, and radiance robber, downing endless glasses is one of the biggest crimes against complexion brides-to-be commit, says Vargas. If it's too hard to part ways with your wine, at least cutback and substitute that Bordeaux with liquefied leafy greens—especially during the few months leading up to your wedding. "Green juice is great for skin because it's oxygenating and contains vital minerals to help stimulate the lymphatic system and drain out puffiness," says Vargas. "One a day is great."

When: 3 months out

02 of 08

Body

woman in towel

GETTY IMAGES / Jerome Tisne

Nourish Your Skin Starting in the Shower

"Most women don’t realize that your skincare routine truly starts in the shower and that using a gentle cleanser is key," explains dermatologist Dr. Mona Gohara. "I recommend Dove Body Wash, which is sulfate-free, made with 100 percent gentle cleansers and provides softer, smoother skin after just one shower." She recommends gently patting skin dry instead of rubbing and applying lotion within minutes of getting out of the shower to lock in moisture before it evaporates. Get in the habit of doing this for beautiful skin from head to toe come your wedding day.

When: 1 year out

Pay Attention to Your Décolletage

Not only is it a notorious sun-magnet, but the décolletage is also prone to wrinkling for another reason, says Beverly Hills dermatologist Dr. Harold Lancer: tissue-thin skin. "The skin of the neck and chest has a very different structure than that of the face and body," he says. "The décolletage is an area with significantly less 'fat padding' and is generally more delicate than facial skin." Translation: You might need to put some extra effort in there. Start with an OTC retinol product, and move on to prescription if your derm deems it necessary.

When: 1 year out for retinol; 6 months out for Rx retinoid

Use a Humidifier to Keep Skin Happy and Healthy

Keratosis pilaris (KP for short) is caused by excess keratin, which forms a plug at the site of a hair follicle. "Unfortunately we don't know what triggers the buildup of keratin," says Engelman, who notes that KP often affects people with other skin conditions, like eczema. Triggers can include cold temperatures (resulting in a lack of moisture in the air), hormonal changes, food allergies, and a bride's arch-nemesis—stress. While there's no cure for KP, Engelman says you can treat the symptoms by exfoliating with a product like DermaDoctor KP Duty Scrub, ($46), to unplug the trapped keratin and dead skin cells that cause the bumps. "Introducing moisture to the air via a humidifier can also help."

When: 9 months out

Get Into Dry Brushing

Clocking in at under $20, a body brush might be one of the best engagement beauty investments you make. According to Engelman, dry-brushing yields major skin benefits, including exfoliation and increased blood circulation (i.e. a healthy glow). From an overall wellness standpoint, it also revs up the flow of lymph, the all-important fluid that whisks toxins out of our systems. "Lymph relies on muscle movement to pass through the body, so if you're not an active person, dry-brushing is a wonderful tool to rid the body of waste," Engelman notes. "There's real science behind it, and it really works when you commit to it." Start with three dry-brushing sessions per week, building up to daily, and make sure to slather on some type of moisturizer afterward. "I love to do it before the shower," says Engelman, "and then hydrate with body oils before toweling off."

When: 6 months out

Glow Up Skin With a Spray Tan

Expert Sophie Evans recommends getting a trial spray tan before your dress fitting to figure out if you want to go darker or lighter before the big day. "A week before the big day, start exfoliating your skin in preparation for your spray tan." Pricing can range anywhere from $50 in a salon to $250 for house calls.

When: At your dress fitting and 2 days before your wedding

03 of 08

Hair

woman combing hair

GETTY IMAGES / Ariel Skelley

Keratin Treatment 101

There's just no getting around the fact that chemical straightening exacts a hefty health toll on your strands. Making matters worse? A dizzying array of options, from Brazilian Blowout Original Solution to Japanese straightening. "There are so many different keratin treatments and relaxers today," says colorist and salon owner Sharon Dorram. "I suggest trying out the process months in advance to be sure it works for you."

When: 9 months out for sampling a straightening treatment

Come Up With a Color Game Plan

The general rule of thumb for big-day color shifts—whether you're going lighter or darker—is to stay within two shades of your natural hue. But no matter what color you want, planning is imperative. "You should start planning your hair color as soon as you know how your hair will be styled for the wedding," says Stephanie Brown, colorist at IGK Salon in NYC. Bring inspiration photos to your colorist of choice and be clear about your hair goals. You should also plan to get your hair touched up 7 to 10 days before the wedding to ensure it looks its best. "You want to have enough time to know you like the final color in case you need to change anything," she notes.

When: 6 months out for test driving initial color; 10 days out for your last pre-wedding touch-up

Shampoo Less Often (Yes, Really)

As great as H20 is for you internally (it hydrates and debloats, so drink up), when it comes to hair, water won't do those pricey highlights or rich faux brunette any favors. "Over-shampooing lifts, dulls, and fades hair color," says Dorram. "I always suggest shampooing no more than three to four times a week. The best is to rinse hair and use a mild detangler in between shampoos."

When: 6 months out

Don't Skip Conditioner

Color or no color, this is the time to lavish extra TLC on your locks. You can head to the salon for a deep conditioning treatment or you can DIY it, by slathering wet hair with your mega-hydrator of choice. For home use, Dorram suggests a few drops of vitamin E oil mixed into your conditioner or hair mask of choice. "We generally make a conditioning plan built around the wedding date," Dorram says. "If the hair is in bad shape, we suggest weekly or biweekly treatments."

When: 3 months out (earlier if hair is damaged)

Personalize Your Hair Style

Celebrity hairstylist George Kyriakos, who has 25-plus years of experience says, "You want a timeless look—an elevated version of yourself. If you never wear your hair up because you hate your ears, don't let anyone talk you into that." Translation: Steer clear of those over-the-top Instagram updos and oversized hair accessories and go with a hairstyle that feels natural to you when you do your hair trials.

When: 2 months out

Give Extensions a Go

If your natural hair is lacking in the volume department or your hairstyle of choice requires some extra length, look into trying hair extensions. "Extensions help create a variety of styles, stay put all day long through photos and dancing, and make hair look like the best version of your normal style," says Edward Tricomi, co-founder and stylist at Warren-Tricomi Salons. It takes about a month to order the hair so he recommends going in for a consultation at least two months ahead of the wedding date. "If you are doing permanent extensions, I would have them put in a week or two ahead of the wedding and for clip-ins, a week before is fine."

When: 2 months for consultation and 1 week before the wedding

04 of 08

Makeup

makeup layout

UNSPLASH

Invest in a Satin-Finish Foundation

Give a big round of applause to satin-finish foundation, a universally flattering formula. "Satin has a luminosity, and makes the skin look pretty," says mega makeup mogul Sonia Kashuk. "You want that little bit of glow and dewiness that you don't get with a matte formula. But at the same time, you don't want too much shimmer. Satin gives the kind of balance that's most reminiscent of natural skin."

When: 1 year out

Refine Your Makeup Stash 

"Those pictures need to transcend time," she notes. "If you're not a big makeup-wearer, don't just do it for your wedding day. Wear what you normally wear, but refine it," she says. "You can even just add a lash to do something special. No one will ever realize you're in false lashes. The point is to stay away from anything too extreme, or obvious."

When: 3 to 6 months out

Skip Mascara, Try Lash Extensions

Afraid the waterproof mascara just won't cut it on the big day? Consider lash extensions. Clementina Richardson, founder of Envious Lashes in NYC, says "Lash extensions are great for brides who don't want to worry about having beautiful lashes from the rehearsal dinner through the honeymoon." She also adds that they look great in photographs. "Since eyelash extensions are placed individually on existing lashes, no matter how close up the camera is, they will appear natural." Richardson recommends getting your first full set a few weeks out to test drive them and to return three to four days before the wedding for a fill-in. "When you go back, you can make changes to your previous look," she says.

When: 3 weeks out, and 3 days out for a touch-up

Steer Clear of Heavy Contouring

Although contouring can be flattering when done right, Kashuk recommends proceeding with caution for your big day. "When you have severe contrast, the face doesn't match up to the rest of the body." To optimize the technique, opt for a sheer, blendable cream formula. "There's a way to contour in a more natural way, using see-through, transparent textures," she explains. "Add just a hint of depth under the cheekbones. Very subtle, very sheer."

When: Day-of

Balance Is Key

"My biggest piece of advice for brides is to stay away from extremes of any kind," Kashuk notes. "Nothing should jump, so that means no overly strong anything. It's about balance and softness. Want to rock a red lip for your wedding? Okay. But keep the lip line soft and undefined."

When: Day-of

05 of 08

Brows

woman eyebrows

GETTY IMAGES / HDesert

Put the Tweezers Down

We've all been guilty of over-plucking, but now is the time to seriously put the tweezers down and give up the threading and waxing. Why? When you over-pluck, you lose all of your natural arch shape, which can change your facial expression altogether. "Every bride needs a good aesthetician to whip those brows into shape before the big day," says Jared Bailey, Benefit Cosmetics global brow expert. "For a classic approach to brow-shaping, you want to find brows that fit your face—brows should be a mirror of your facial features. That’s how they start to bring balance to the entire face and eyes."

When: 1 year out

Invest in the Perfect Brow Arsenal

"The only thing that comes second to finding the perfect dress for the big day is finding the perfect brow wardrobe," says Bailey. "You need to look for quality products to prevent things like a makeup meltdown or flaky gels." He says now is the time to invest in highly pigmented, long-wear brow products that don’t flake or budge. After all, you'll be taking pictures nonstop this year. Bailey's tip when color-matching your brow arsenal: "Be sure to choose a shade that mimics the same color as your brow hair—that’s key to making the product blend in effortlessly."

When: 1 year out

Try Microblading

If your brows are so sparse that they need serious help or you've been dying to try microblading, consider doing it two months out. With microblading, you can achieve your dream natural brows without worrying about sweat or water getting in the way of beautiful brows. "They will need a week to heal initially and then you have to go in for a touch-up four to six weeks after," says Eyebrow Doctor founder Piret Aava. So the whole process calls for (you guessed it) planning ahead. "Do your research before you get microblading," advises Aava. "You want to make sure you go to someone who has a good reputation and does work that looks natural."

When: 2 months out

06 of 08

Teeth

bride smiling

GETTY IMAGES / Sjale

Time to Go to the Dentist

A gorgeous smile starts with healthy gums and teeth. You can also use this time to talk to your dentist about teeth whitening or investing in braces or clear aligners. If a crooked smile has you down, the wedding might be a good excuse to pony up for Invisalign and finally achieve a perfectly straight smile. Invisalign Express gets you the perfect smile in six months and will run you up to $4,000.

When: 1 year to 6 months out

Use Straws to Drink Red Wine and Coffee

You might love Merlot, but Merlot doesn't love your pearly whites. "If you want white teeth for your wedding, you have to give up red wine," says Dr. Marc Lowenberg of LLK Dentistry in NYC. "Because it's a liquid, it seeps into your enamel and darkens your teeth in a way that, even if you get them cleaned, they're not going to get lighter. You'll have to get them bleached. And if you're a wine addict, you need to drink it through a straw, as ridiculous as that sounds." If you get them whitened, then use a straw when drinking coffee, too.

When: 6 months out, or after your first in-office bleaching

 Invest in Tooth Whitening

If you want to amp up your smile, consider splurging on professional-grade tooth whitening. These days a whitening treatment can be done in-office in under 1 hour and comes with convenient take-home whitening trays, depending on the level of stains. You can easily whiten your teeth four to six shades and results last for up to a year.

When: 1 month out

Schedule a Cleaning Before the Big Day

Unlike red wine, which gives your teeth a nice little bath of hard-to-dislodge color, most food and drink stains fall into the surface category and are easily scrubbed-off in an appointment with your hygienist. Be it berries, coffee, or marinara sauce, says Lowenberg, "anything that will stain a white blouse will stain your teeth." It's wise to follow up that first dentist appointment with another follow-up cleaning a few weeks out for a truly flawless smile.

When: 2 weeks out

07 of 08

Nails

nails

GETTY IMAGES /Dmytro Duda

Oil Up Your Nails Every Day

Nail artist Tom Bachik says the best thing you can do for your nails is to keep them hydrated. "When they dry out they become brittle, leading to chips and cracks," he says. "Keep nails flexible and strong by using an oil on your cuticles nightly before bed." Get into the habit of applying oil on each nail before bed every night to ensure beautiful ring-selfie hands year-round.

When: 1 year out

Don't Forget Your Hands

Nails are important, but so are your hands. Amy Ling, founder of Sundays Nail Studio in NYC recommends using a gentle scrub weekly and following it up with a generous amount of lotion and cuticle oil. "Apply sunscreen to the back of each hand to protect [the] skin," she adds.

When: 1 year out

Invest in Regular Manicures

Treat yourself to a professional manicure every few weeks leading up to your wedding to ensure your hands and nails are in tip-top shape. "Getting a regular manicure is a good way to care for cuticles, nourish nails, and relax your mind," says Ling.

When: 3 months out

Go for Neutrals

As much as we love nail art, save it for the bachelorette party and the honeymoon. You don't want anything taking away from your natural beauty on your wedding day. You can still have fun, but keep it neutral for the best look. "Like the red carpet, I believe wedding nails should be timeless, classic, and elegant," says Bachik. "That doesn't mean brides can't have a little personal style. But keep the art simple and the colors tonal. Nails should be the perfect accessories to complete your look, not compete with it."

When: 2 to 3 days out

08 of 08

Health

woman happy

GETTY IMAGES / Westend61

Sleep Is Everything

As an Equinox Fitness Global Personal Trainer of the Year and founder of Team Awesome LLC, Ed Gemdjian is immersed in all the latest fitness findings. So when he says sleep is now considered the third pillar of health—along with a sound diet and lots of exercise—it's time to hit the sack. "Sleep is important for so many reasons," he says. "We produce the highest amounts of natural HGH (human growth hormone) while we sleep, which is responsible for regenerating and creating new cells of all our body tissues—skin, muscle, hair. When we sleep, it's the only time our brain can repair and reorganize. And the relaxed breathing state during sleep reduces stress by calming our central nervous system." Less stress means lowered production of cortisol, the fight or flight hormone that tells our bodies to hang onto every ounce of fat it can for survival.

When: 1 year out

Stick to Healthy Eating Habits

"I've seen deprivation crash diets backfire time and time again," says registered dietician Brooke Alpert. "Because you're basically starving yourself, you're going to break down and binge, regaining the weight you lost and feeling bad about yourself." Not to mention how cranky and miserable you'll be in this highly social period of your life. Alpert recommends you aim to have a healthy (sugar-free) meal or snack every three to four hours.

When: 1 year out

Plan Your Meals and Workouts

If you're lucky enough to have a trainer on the wedding payroll alongside the planner, caterer, and florist, it can be easy to slack off between appointments on the days you're not training together. "At Equinox, we provide our clients with specific strategies to follow on their own, just as much as when they're training with us," says Gemdjian. "Taking ownership can be very empowering, and improved self-esteem can go a long way when planning a wedding." Another reason to flex your self-discipline muscles? You'll build habits that last through your honeymoon and beyond.

When: 9 months out

Work Your Upper Body

Upper-body strength training should be incorporated into your workouts leading up to your wedding. "Working out your upper back and chest is not just muscle-defining, but it will help your posture," says certified trainer Holly Roser. "We look down at our phones all day and hunch over our laptops, which tightens up our chest muscles." Roser guides her bridal clients through an upper body-chiseling program that includes rows, deltoid flys, and low-seated rows. She also lasers in on the triceps muscles with dips, cable pull-downs, and push-ups.

When: 6 months out

Limit Your Sugar Intake

Is it easy? No, especially if you've got a major sweet tooth. But the list of beauty goodies—not to mention the positive mental state—from kicking it to the curb is virtually endless, says Alpert. "For brides-to-be, removing sugar will help keep skin clear, plump, and fresh-looking," she adds. "And even more important, for anyone coping with guest lists, seating charts, and in-laws, limiting sugar intake can help control stress levels and keep you more even-keeled and clear-minded."

When: 3 to 6 months out

Lay Off the Booze

Hopefully, you're already slashing your sugar intake. Now it's time to boot liquor, too. "The top areas for sugar and alcohol storage on our bodies is in right around our hips and lower belly," says Roser. "Alcohol metabolizes as estrogen, and estrogen loves making a home for itself in our lower abdominal area."

When: 1 month out

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