I've tried everything—from at-home chemical peels to in-office laser treatments—in an effort to eliminate blemishes. I've slathered every cream on my face and sampled lipstick in every shade available in a deluxe box of Crayola crayons since I've been tall enough to swipe it from my mother's bathroom cabinets. And although I interview beauty experts for a living, I still find myself staring into the mirror with black shadow smudged beneath my eyes, or engaged in a battle with dry patches on my arms and legs.
So this week, I asked the pros for some help refining my ways.
Day 1: Ponytail Addiction
I come from a long line of women who don't know how to wield a curling iron or do a French braid, so I consider it not entirely my fault that I've never learned to do either. In fact, my mother used to pay my best friend in the first grade (who happened to be especially gifted with a brush) a dollar a week to do my hair before the morning bell rang. Let's just say that I'm better at describing how to create beachy waves or a sophisticated updo than actually doing either one. The one style I have mastered over the years, however, is the ponytail. The problem: I rely on it every day (and night), which has resulted in a ring of flyaways where I secure my hair tie. Even worse, I pull my wet hair immediately into a high pony as soon as I get out of the shower to prevent water from dripping down my back.
The fix: Ruben Colon, senior stylist at the Sally Hershberger Downtown Salon in New York City, says the ponytail isn't necessarily a bad idea, but the way that I go about it is. Hair should be about 80 percent dry before pulling it up to avoid breakage, and a wide, cotton-and-elastic-blend hair band (like Emi-Jay hair ties, $11 for five) is gentler than the thin elastics I normally double up on to make the tail extra tight. Using a dab of pomade or smoothing cream before styling will also provide a barrier between hair and the elastic. And since I usually stumble into bed right after a shower (normally with a ponytail still intact), a soft scrunchie is best for nighttime. "It's like pajamas for your hair," he says.
While Ruben's advice won't necessarily kick my hair habit (let's face it, this style quickly gets everything out of my face and off my neck), it will lessen the damage.
Day 2: Frida Kahlo–Worthy Brows
"Hypervigilant" is the word I'd use to describe my obsession with my eyebrows. Ever since I overplucked them in high school (and spent years waiting for my left arch to catch up to my right), I've been filling them in with a pencil. And although I've refined my ways with the tweezers, I haven't mastered how to color them in or what shade to use to make my brows look naturally full but not overdone. I tend to pick up any brunette pencil and start creating the hairlike strokes I've been instructed to make by so many makeup artists. But recently, I did a double take in the ladies' room—the chocolate-colored pencil I'd used on my arches was too intense for my light brown hair.
The fix: Eyebrow specialist Maribeth Madron says that for a softer look brunettes should opt for a brow pencil that is one to two shades lighter than their hair color. (If you're a blonde, a color that matches the darkest tone in your hair looks best.) Then fill them in (using those hairlike strokes) starting in the center of your arch—not the inner corner, which can make brows look drawn on. Finish by blending the color through the hair with a clean mascara wand.
Next: How to prevent makeup from sticking to your glasses