You wouldn't walk down the aisle with a sagging hemline—why wear a ragged fringe at your fingertips? To prevent roughness, push your cuticles back regularly with a towel after showering or soaking, but leave the nipping and paring to a manicurist—she'll be careful to remove only the dead skin, says Julie Serquinia, owner of Paint Shop nail spa in Beverly Hills. And condition the area by moisturizing with a cuticle cream or oil at least twice daily; Serquinia recommends Creative Nail Design's Solar Oil.
Break this nervous habit now! Try rubbing your nails with a few drops of tangerine oil dissolved in canola or grapeseed oil, suggests Serquinia. The fruity addition actually has an unpleasant taste that may ward you away from your fingers. A more appealing alternative: Wear a polish too pretty to ruin.
If discolored nails threaten to spoil your pale pastel paint job or French manicure, you can always go faux. But if you want to really jettison the jaundice—not just cover it up—take a hiatus from polish, advises Serquinia; your nails will be whiter in six weeks. Or try an old-fashioned brightening remedy: Rub lemon pulp into the nail bed or soak fingers in warm, soapy water garnished with lemon slices.
Want to add some backbone to brittle or peeling nails? Nurse them back to health with biweekly manicures, making sure to file in one direction to avoid further damaging your already fragile nails. Apply a nail strengthener as a base coat—Serquinia recommends QTICA Natural Nail Growth Stimulator—and add a new layer every other day.
For pearly whites that live up to the name, head to the dentist's office or whitening center for power bleaching, suggests Steven R. Fox, D.D.S., a cosmetic dentist in New York City. Once a peroxide mixture is applied to the teeth, they're exposed to light in a painless, one-visit procedure that can lighten up to ten shades. To keep your smile dazzling, wear the custom-made trays and bleaching gel you're sent home with every one to three months. You can also maintain that gleam with whitening strips, paint-on gel, or toothpaste, says Fox. But don't expect these over-the-counter products to do any more than that. Without professional bleaching, they'll only lighten superficial stains like coffee and wine.
Beauty note: Transparent Crest Whitestrips, worn twice daily for two weeks, will give your smile a six-month boost.
Your dentist can contour mildly slanted or chipped teeth with a diamond burr. More dramatic reshaping requires either bonding or laminates, says Fox. The simplest option is bonding, coating the tooth with resins that are then light-activated to adhere. The procedure takes one visit, is cheaper than laminates, albeit not as long-lasting, and the color is not as natural-looking. If permanence and greater shade-control are your goals, go for the two-visit laminates, porcelain veneers that are fabricated in a laboratory after an impression of your teeth is taken.
Add straightening balm while your hair is wet, says Joelle, senior stylist at Avon Salon & Spa in New York City. Then blow-dry before applying a medium-to-firm styling gel. Finish with a spritz of hair spray. And don't touch, otherwise you'll break up the gel. To show off your curls, add hydrating serum, then let hair dry naturally, using your fingers to separate it into ringlets.
Yes, you can wear curly hair short—just ask your stylist to layer a bit from underneath. Lay off the bangs—a much prettier way to frame your visage is soft, gradual contouring around the face. If you've got thick hair, leave the top layers longer to add needed weight. Finer hair is best snipped into shorter layers, giving it more volume.
A Sliding Updo
If you've got fine hair, follow these steps to keep a French twist from flopping before the first dance. Use a volumizing shampoo but skip the conditioner, says Joelle—it makes your hair limp. After blow-drying, set in rollers for at least 30 minutes, applying a medium-hold spray. Back-comb at the roots for extra stability, then create your updo, pin in place, and finish with spray. Do a trial-run well before the wedding to test your style's staying power.
Flyaway Baby Hairs
Subdue those pesky wisps by blow-drying around the hairline with a one-inch-diameter round brush. Then apply a firm-hold hair spray.
Returning to Your Original Color
If you're within a few shades of your natural hair color, you can revert to the real you by using a low- or non-peroxide gloss or glaze that's close to your original tone. Both of them fill in and seal off damaged cuticles while adding shine, says Joelle. If the change is radical—you've gone blond and want to go back to brunette—consult with your colorist. To continue the healing process, use restorative shampoos and conditioners to help restructure dull, broken hair.
Editor's picks: J.F. Lazartigue's Micro-Pearl Shampoo for Dry Hair ($32) and Vita-Cream with Milk Proteins ($43).
Should a major blemish suddenly appear, call your dermatologist. A cortisone injection will shrink it within 24 hours. Is your doctor AWOL? Arielle Kauvar, M.D., a cosmetic dermatologist in New York City, recommends Neutrogena's On-the-Spot Acne Patch; worn overnight, it visibly reduces any redness or swelling.
Consult your doctor to determine the best way to lighten them, says Dr. Kauvar. If pigmentation is causing the problem, bleaching creams can help, but even prescription-strength medicines take at least six weeks to work. A quicker fix—but considerably more expensive—is laser treatment. One visit alone can produce a 70-percent improvement, says Dr. Kauvar.
Beauty note: Banish under-eye shadows with Clinque's Airbrush Concealer, an oil-free formula that masks imperfections ($18.50).
Lobster skin? Treat the condition like any acute burn, says Dr. Kauvar: Apply cold compresses, take aspirin or ibuprofen to relieve pain and reduce swelling, and smooth on a gentle moisturizer like Lubriderm Skin Therapy Moisturizing Lotion to help prevent peeling.
Fat freckles and beauty marks will fade quickly with in-office chemical peels, says Dr. Kauvar. Any irritation should clear within a week or two. For lighter discoloration, use acid-based toners and moisturizers that gradually lighten skin over several weeks. And always wear sunblock.
Editor's pick: Peter Thomas Roth's Glycolic Acid 10% Moisturizer.
OTHER BEAUTY PROBLEMS
Leave flakes where they belong: snowfalls. It's as easy as shampooing frequently with products that contain selenium sulfide, pyrithione zinc, tar, or salicylic acid. For fast results—within a week—alternate brands with different active ingredients every time you step into the shower, and let the lather sit on your scalp for 10 to 15 minutes (set a timer) before rinsing.
With fewer oil glands than other areas of the skin, the elbow is naturally drier. The perfect prep for your prop? Moisturizers with peeling agents that hydrate while eliminating dead skin cells.
Editor's pick: Kiss My Face Peaches & Creme Moisturizer ($4).
Use an antibacterial cleanser in those areas where dampness is likely to accumulate—the perfect stomping grounds for nose-raising microbes, says Mary Lupo, M.D., a dermatologist and associate clinical professor of dermatology at Tulane University in New Orleans. Don't forget to wear an antiperspirant to reduce wetness (Dr. Lupo recommends Ban Beautifully Smooth). If you're a super sweater, try an absorptive powder such as Zeasorb.
Toenail Fungus (Onychomycosis)
Cover up discolored, thickened nails with a swipe of pretty opaque polish. Antifungal creams can't penetrate the nail plate to get through to the infected tissue, so ask your dermatologist for an oral prescription. Nails take a long time to absorb medication, so expect treatment to last at least three months.
Food particles trapped between your teeth can cause odor, so be sure to floss after every meal. Just as important are twice-yearly professional cleanings. Finally, every time you brush, stick out your tongue and scrape it all the way to the back—this frees the sulfur compounds that are the most common source of bad breath.
Editor's pick: Aquafresh Floss 'N' Cap toothpaste ($3).
If a smooth bikini line is your wedding-night wish, nothing but laser hair removal is going to straighten out the problem. You'll see a 50 percent improvement with only two treatments.