If you want to support a lonely friend, consider the following recommendations from those who've been there.
Although almost every human being in history has been lonely, most of us aren't so great at helping someone else through it. Robert Weiss, PhD, the godfather of research in the field, thinks that's because once loneliness abates, amnesia sets in. Having forgotten the intensity of their own experience, many people cavalierly offer advice that would have sent them over the edge—"Be more outgoing!" or "Chin up!"—to others still struggling. Here are a few reminders...
A Small Gesture A lonely person's pity meter is a finely tuned instrument. There is no greater kindness than not extending an overly magnanimous invitation that makes her feel like the neighborhood charity case. A small gesture—an offhand invitation to lunch—is often a better antidote.
Dinner and A Movie Some people are so debilitated by loneliness that they can hardly discuss it (or anything else). Inviting a friend to a concert or movie will give you something to talk about over dinner.
Prescription for Success Offer to accompany her to a medical appointment. One study found that doctors said they treat socially isolated people less well than patients with supportive families, and they've seen other health practitioners do the same.
Try Not to Cancel Try not to reschedule plans or cancel at the last minute. Lonely people tend to see social engagements as life buoys in a long week; canceling can leave them feeling unmoored.
Checking In Leave a message. A voicemail or e-mail can make her feel she hasn't been forgotten.
Reality Check Since research shows that the lonely tend to remember more details about their social encounters and often interpret remarks and nonverbal messages negatively, you might give her a different interpretation of her officemates' behavior or be her reality check at a party.
She's Not Your Wingman Do not abandon her at the buffet! Dragging your friend to a party might seem like a good idea—she'll get out of the house and meet people—but throwing your friend into a clutch of cheese-straw-wielding revelers by herself while you catch up with other guests is almost guaranteed to leave her feeling worse than before.
Help Her Find Her Place of Comfort Remind your friend that doing things alone—going to a movie, eating out—is hard for a lot of people, especially the first time. You might take her to the coffee shop that gives you a sense of community when you're on your own and volunteer to help find a place in her neighborhood.
Invitation Is Welcome If you're part of a couple, don't let that stop you from inviting your single friend to join the two of you for dinner or a Saturday outing to Ikea. One O editor says that in her post-divorce despair, some of her happiest, least fraught times were with her married friends who just asked her to show up, plop down on the sofa, drink a little wine and stay for dinner.
The Technique: No product can tighten pores, but makeup primers that contain silicone (like Clarins Instant Smooth Perfecting Touch) make them appear smaller by laying down a thin film on the skin. When you apply foundation, it sticks to that smooth surface, rather than settling into (and accentuating) pores. Boehmer prefers to use powder foundations (try Max Factor Powdered Foundation or Cover FX Mineral Powder Foundation) on skin with more noticeable pores, which tends to be oily. (We also like Per-fékt Skin Perfection Gel, a silky primer with oil absorbers and a slight tint that can double as a sheer foundation.) Avoid light-reflecting foundations, which can draw attention to pore size.
The Tool Kit: Thick concealer (the kind in a pot or compact) that matches your skin and has yellow undertones to counteract redness; sheer loose powder; small brush with a straight, firm tip (slightly larger than an eyeliner brush).
The Technique: Before you begin, accept your limits: You can only camouflage the redness of a pimple; try to disguise the bump itself, and you'll end up with a mound of noticeable concealer. Use a brush to dot the concealer (we like Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage) directly on top of the blemish; then dip a small puff or another brush in translucent powder and pat it over the spot to set the concealer and leave a smooth finish. (Benefit Bluff Dust, a yellow-tinged sheer powder, comes with a velour puff.)
The Tool Kit: Concealer (a touch lighter than your skin tone, with peach or gold tones to brighten darkness); brush; powder and/or cream foundation (that matches your skin).
The Technique: For isolated dark spots, just dot the concealer on top with a thin brush and pat with your finger to blend the edges. Then use a large brush to apply a fine layer of powder foundation over the whole face. This will help set the concealed patches and even out your complexion. (The very dry skinned should choose a liquid or cream foundation instead.) If you have more significant sun damage and need to cover larger patches, Boehmer recommends starting with a sheer liquid foundation all over the face, and then blending a heavier cream foundation over darker areas.
The Tool Kit: Soothing ointment; Q-tips; concealer; sheer lip gloss.
The Technique: Before you cover the sore, dab on an ointment like Aquaphor to protect it. No topical treatment has been shown to significantly shorten the life span of a cold sore (only a prescription oral medication, like Valtrex, can do that, if you pop a pill at the first tingle), but it's important to keep it moist while it heals. Next, dab on a concealer that matches the skin around your lips. To avoid contaminating your makeup, use a Q-tip (makeup artist Mally Roncal coats it with a little Vaseline first so it glides more easily over the inflamed area)—and don't double-dip. And you know how if you don't want people staring at your butt, you wouldn't put a big bow on it? Skip the bright lipstick and go for a sheer rosy gloss (again, using a clean Q-tip). Have fun with color on your eyes instead—which can draw attention away from that sore spot.
The Tool Kit:Light lip liner; lipstick; sheer gloss.
The Technique: First, how not to plump up your lips: by drawing on new ones. It's okay to trace slightly above the lip line, says makeup artist Paula Dorf, but only with a very light pencil. (She uses her own peachy pink Enhancer Baby Eyes to define the lip line, or try Cargo The Reverse Lipliner.) Stick to pale lipstick colors as well. Anything too dark makes the mouth look smaller. A dab of glimmery gloss on the center of the lips (both top and bottom) will also have a mild pout-enhancing effect. And a note on lip plumpers: Most use irritating agents like cinnamon to increase blood flow to the lips. If you can bear the "tingling" (we prefer the more accurate term: "burning"), slick them on before you apply any color. The results are temporary, though, and far from bee-stung.
A Bad Haircut
The Tool Kit: Headband; hot rollers or curling iron; patience.
The Technique: Nothing makes hair grow faster. Your only recourse after an unfortunate cut is to wait for it to grow out (at a rate of about an eighth to a half inch every month). Until then, experiment with new textures. "Awkward layers are more apparent on straight hair," says hairstylist Gretchen Monahan, who recommends using hot rollers or a large barrel curling iron to create waves. If the problem is heavy bangs or harsh layers around the face, invest in a few headbands. (We like wide stretch designs, like the ones by hairstylist Eva Scrivo that come in suede and cotton faille, or Goody's linen version—more city sleek than Sandra Dee.)
The Tool Kit: Volumizing shampoo and mousse; comb; baby powder.
The Technique: When a dye job's overdue, extra body at the roots can hide the evidence. Use a volumizing shampoo (and use it often—when roots are oily, they look even darker), confine conditioner to your ends, and work a volumizing mousse through damp hair. Zigzagging your part also keeps hair from lying too flat against the head and accentuating a line of demarcation. Powder (regular white talc works if you're blonde; Bumble and Bumble makes aerosol tinted versions for brunettes and redheads) can help blend roots as well. Monahan recommends shaking or spraying a bit along your part, then using your fingertips to work it in. (For a more lasting at-home root fix, Clairol Nice 'n Easy Root Touch-up kit now comes in 16 shades, all calibrated to match faded haircolor.)
The Tool Kit: Red-based concealer (or lipstick); thick concealer and/or powder foundation that matches your skin tone; translucent loose powder.
The Technique: Once you've banged into that coffee table (again), it'll take at least a week for the violet-blue souvenir to fade away. While you're waiting it out: Makeup artist Scott Barnes recommends dabbing a bit of red-tone concealer (or even just red lipstick) on top of the bruise to cancel out the purple, setting that with translucent powder, and then smoothing on a concealer or heavier foundation that matches your skin tone (try MAC Face and Body). Be sure to pat the concealer around the bruise, softening the edges so it disappears into the surrounding skin. To keep the color in place, Roncal swirls a large brush into powder foundation and then presses it over the area before swiping it back and forth to remove the excess. And a self-tanner warning: While it works camouflaging magic on many other imperfections, it darkens a bruise. So before bronzing, smooth a bit of Vaseline over it to block the color.
The Tool Kit: Self-tanner; self-tanner; more self-tanner.
The Technique: For some reason, bronzed dimpled thighs are less conspicuous than pasty whites ones—"but the last thing you want to do is get a tan and break down collagen, making the problem even worse," says Lupo, who recommends self-tanner instead. For an added slimming effect, Barnes makes the outer and inner thighs a bit darker. Coat them with self-tanner first (spray formulas, such as ModelCo Tan Airbrush in a Can, are easier to control than lotions), let it dry for about 15 minutes, and then go over the whole leg. Roncal finishes with a layer of shimmer cream (like Smashbox Body Lights Glowing Lotion), which can help blur bumps and lumps.
The Tool Kit: Self-tanner or body bronzer; body concealer; sheer loose powder.
The Technique: If the squiggles are relatively light, a coat of self-tanner will be enough to camouflage them. (For a slow—and streakproof—buildup, try Vaseline Intensive Care Healthy Body Glow Lotion.) A leg bronzer will also mask veins or broken capillaries—and wash off at the end of the day. (Yves Saint Laurent Make-Up Leg Mousse imparts both a veil of color and a cooling sensation.) When you want more serious coverage, Roncal recommends blending a concealer on top of veins, painting the makeup on with a brush, and then distributing it evenly with your fingers. (Choose something pretty heavy, like Dermablend Leg & Body Cover Crème, when concealing anything off your face.) A few pats of translucent powder will set the color, but you'll still want to avoid water sports and games of footsie for the rest of the day.
Stretch Marks and Scars
The Tool Kit: Thick concealer; translucent loose powder; pearly cream.
The Technique: Stretch marks and scars are usually very smooth in texture, so look for a heavy, full-coverage concealer (like water-resistant CoverBlend by Exuviance Corrective Leg & Body Makeup SPF 18) that won't slide away—and don't moisturize the area beforehand. Match the concealer to the darker color around the scar or stretch mark; anything too light will just make it look worse, says Dorf. Use a brush to pat the makeup over the mark in thin layers, and set it with loose powder. If a scar is depressed, try dabbing a pearly cream (like Nars the Multiple in Copacabana) on top. It'll reflect light off the area and make it appear less noticeable.