Quick: You've just been invited to the White House for dinner tomorrow, but your nails are a wreck, your skin is dull, and you have a pimple the size of a planet! What do you do? Below, experts weigh in on recovering from typical beauty misfortunes quickly and healthfully so you can look and feel your best every day--and, especially, when a special occasion arises.
Here's what to do if:
You wake up with a pimple so big it has its own zip code. Do not--we repeat--do not pop it. "You can cause more damage with your fingers and fingernails with the pressure of squeezing out the contents than you can by simply letting it go through its natural process," says Dawn Davis, a dermatologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Plus, she adds, popping a zit makes it more likely to become infected. The best thing to do is wash your face with a mild soap, and apply an oil-free moisturizer, she says. "You can also apply a damp, warm compress for a few minutes to try to open up the pore on its own to help expedite its own evacuation," she says. Afterward, Davis recommends treating the pimple with an over-the-counter acne product that contains benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Need to cover the spot fast? Go for a hypoallergenic concealer.
You slept in your makeup and now your skin looks sallow. Dawn DaLuise, owner of Dawn DaLuise Skin Refinery in Los Angeles, says sleeping in makeup is toxic for your skin. "When we sleep is when our skin rejuvenates and heals. The pores open during our sleep, and if they're swallowing dirt and perspiration and makeup, that's going to invade the pores for quite some time."
OK, OK, we know you shouldn't sleep in makeup, but if it happens, DaLuise suggests using a face scrub, which polishes your skin by removing dirt from pores. Davis adds that applying a moisturizer with ascorbic acid (vitamin C) may help brighten dull skin.
Your skin is dry enough to sand the walls. Cool weather can take a toll on skin. "It's not only the temperature that's important, but it's also the fact that the humidity drops during the fall and winter," Davis says, "and the wind will especially dry out the skin." To keep your dewy glow, you must moisturize, so Davis suggests stocking up on an over-the-counter hypoallergenic lotion or cream, and consider using a humidifier in your bedroom. Also be sure to cover up before heading outside.
For dry hands and feet, apply a thick cream before going to bed, and cover them in white cotton socks. "The sock helps slow the evaporation of the product and helps the hands and feet stay moister longer," Davis says. White cotton socks are perfect, she adds, because they're cheap, soft, dye-free, and allow your skin to breathe.
Your cuticles are a mess. Frayed, dry cuticles? You're not alone."A lot of people complain about their cuticles ... but they're there for a purpose," says Nadine Ferber, co-owner of Tenoverten nail salon in Manhattan. These tiny strips of skin serve as your nails' protective barriers, preventing bacteria from causing infections. Many people cut their cuticles, which eliminates that protection and makes them more likely to split and look worse, Ferber says.
Care for your cuticles by gently pushing them down toward the nail, Ferber says. Cuticle pens or orangewood sticks, which may be found online or at beauty stores, work better than metal tools, she says. Make sure to hydrate cuticles, too, with cuticle oil or even olive or argon oils.
Oops. You chipped a nail. "Just file it down," Ferber says. And don't worry about filing across from each direction, she adds. It's more important to study the grit of the file to make sure it's not too rough for your hands.
Your eyes are as swollen as a prize fighter's. Puffy eyes can result from sleeping on one's stomach, which may cause fluids to move toward the head, says Davis. Try snoozing on your back, with your head elevated on a few pillows, she suggests. Applying a cool, damp compress to the eyes for several minutes may also help. If these things don't do the trick, your puffy eyes may be caused by something else, like hay fever, she adds.
Your eyes are red and irritated. Allergies may be the culprit for red, dry eyes, but so could poor eye care. "The risk of an eye infection increases dramatically when you sleep in contact lenses," says Jack Prince, an optometrist at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Changing your contacts as directed is extremely important, but if you do fall asleep with them in, Prince recommends removing them as soon as possible and giving your eyes a rest--perhaps by sporting glasses for the day. "When in doubt, take the contacts out," he says.
Makeup may also damage your eyes. For sensitive eyes, consider avoiding lash-lengthening mascaras that include more fibers. These, along with oil-based makeups, are more likely to stick to your lenses, Prince says. Instead, opt for hypoallergenic, water-based makeups. Also, avoid applying liner to your inner eyelid, sleeping in eye makeup, and not regularly replacing your eye makeup--all practices that can cause infection.
You have an ingrown hair: Usually rearing their ugly red bumps on underarms and along bikini lines, ingrown hairs occur when a hair becomes twisted under the skin, DaLuise says. Instead of digging for the hair, she suggests gently rubbing a soft loofah against the grain of the hairs about once a week. "It's a gentle form of exfoliation that helps the pore open," she says, "and when the hair begins to grow, it can find its way naturally through the pore opening."