1. Should I let a manicurist cut my cuticles?
Dermatologists say no, but what an eyesore! The cuticle protects the nail as it grows; when you cut it, you run the risk of deforming the nail. But we see your point. Loretta Ciraldo, MD, a dermatologist in Miami, suggests having your manicurist push back your cuticles for the first few visits; then, if you feel that she has been very conscientious and careful, ask her to gently trim only the dried-out part of the cuticle.
2. Should I shave or wax my legs?
Shaving is much less expensive, but you have to do it every two to three days; full leg waxing at a salon can cost anywhere from $40 to $100, but you can typically wait almost a month between repeats. And if your hair is very coarse, shaving may cause razor bumps (a.k.a. pseudofolliculitis barbae), which occur when newly cut strands of hair curl in on themselves and grow into the skin. So if you can afford it, wax.
3. Is it harmful to wash my hair every day?
No. "You wash your face every day, and your hair encounters the same amount of dirt," says trichologist Philip Kingsley, who points out that a clean, flake-free scalp will lead to thicker and stronger hair. If your hair is very dry, try using a conditioner made for dry, damaged hair, along with a leave-in conditioner. One caveat: The combination of washing and then using a blow-dryer or flatiron daily can damage hair, so limit your use of heated tools to every other or every third day. And a clarification: The idea that you need to rotate your hair products for your hair to be its healthiest is a myth. "If you're constantly changing brands, you'll probably just get confused about which ones worked best for you," says Kingsley. "Think of how you would describe your hair [fine, limp, dry, thick, oily], and then find good corresponding products and stick with them."
4. What's the best kind of blow-dryer?
If you want to dry your hair quickly without damaging it, invest in an ionic dryer that's between 1,500 and 1,800 watts, says New York City hairstylist Patrick Melville. (One of his favorites is the very lightweight FHI Heat Nano Weight Pro 1800, $150.) And buy one that comes with a nozzle attachment, which will prevent you from holding the dryer too close to your hair.
5. What's the most effective anti-aging product I can buy?
A broad-spectrum sunscreen. Avobenzone and Mexoryl (chemical absorbers) are most effective against UVA rays, while zinc oxide and titanium dioxide (physical blockers) will shield against UVA and UVB rays. Try Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock SPF 55 or Nia 24 Sun Damage Prevention SPF 30. If you already have sun damage (wrinkles, age spots, thin skin), you should also buy a serum or cream that contains high levels of scientifically studied ingredients such as retinol; vitamins C, B3, and B5; and glycolic acid. And use it religiously; treating aging skin takes months to years, not days.
Arianne Cohen is a Manhattan-based writer and author of The Tall Book (Bloomsbury)
Additional reporting by Brooke Kosofsky Glassberg and Kate Sandoval.
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From the September 2008 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine
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