You know that little voice that relentlessly berates you whenever you look in the mirror, the one that makes you wince every time your appearance falls short of some impossible ideal? Enough! Cut that inner tyrant down to size with these five ideas.
Don't use a magnifying mirror, except for tweezing your brows. If you've ever studied your face in one, you probably don't need an explanation as to why it's not a great idea. But Francesca Fusco, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York City, offers a few good reasons. A magnifier will make you focus on things that can't be seen with the naked eye, so what's the point of knowing they're there? Also, because everything on your face looks wildly out of proportion in a magnifying mirror, you may get inappropriate ideas about what you actually need. For example, a woman focusing on the little lines above her upper lip might say "Supersize me" to the doctor holding the collagen. (And that, O Best Beloved, is how the lady got her trout lips.)
Don't use fluorescent lightbulbs around the bathroom mirror. They emit a flat, white, harsh light that makes everyone look as if she were sick. Better: halogen bulbs with a glass frost filter—MR16 are good ones, says New York City lighting designer Ira Levy, because they emit a clean, even light. In general, the prettiest, most flattering light is warm, incandescent, and dimmable.
Don't participate in any kind of skin analysis that involves a machine. By using a probe on your face, these devices (often found in department stores) measure pore size, oil levels, dryness, the number and depth of wrinkles, etc., and give you a printed readout, including bar graphs, on the condition of your skin. For some reason—could it have to do with marketing?—the news is never "Nothing could possibly enhance your flawless complexion."
Avoid being lit from below—unless you want to scare the heck out of your kids. You know those little canisters of lights that sit on the floor and shine up into a room? Move away from them. Light, in nature, comes from above, and so we're accustomed to seeing the world this way, points out Stephen Dantzig, author of Lighting Techniques for Fashion and Glamour Photography. But light that's shining directly down on your face can be equally unflattering (which is why it's imperative to inform the paparazzi that you must not be photographed outside at high noon on a sunny day). Balanced lighting—for example, one ceiling light directly centered over the bathroom sink and one on either side—will eliminate unflattering shadows, says Levy.
Don't compare yourself to women you see in magazines or movies. If you had 15 handlers making sure your hair and makeup were perfect, you'd look pretty glamorous, too.