Help me bring back my sparkle!
March 2, 2012 7:01 AM   Subscribe

When have you been told ... "hey, are you doing something different? You look great!"

I think I'm suffering from the winter blues. For the past few weeks, I've been crabby and easily frustrated - possibly some SAD, or hormonal, or work-stress related. I just feel ... "blech." You know? My hair looks dull, my skin looks dull, my back is hurting and my posture is poor, I feel out of touch with my muscles/body ...

So, I'm looking for some quick and effective ideas to put the "oomph" back in my system. Subtle differences is fine - I'm not doing this for anybody or any health reason other than simply feeling "out-of-touch" and a bit drab. My requirements: must take LESS than 15 minutes a day and preferably free or cheap.

Ideas I've been toying around with: stretching exercises, posture work, meditation, skin-brushing, shoe insoles, installing a water-softener, getting a vitamin-D indoor light, regular massages ... I'd be open to anything as long as it makes me feel a difference in my body, or skin, or hair, or what-have-you.

Basically, I'm asking if you've ever made a change in your (physical) life that people start asking you if you've lost weight, or been on vacation, or gotten your hair cut, etc, because they notice that you're slightly different in a sparkly kind of way. Make sense?

As I said above, I appear to be easily frustrated and irritable, so I'd also like to know how long after employing your technique did you start to see results, and specifically what results you saw. I'd like to make just one small change and, depending on how it makes me feel, possibly make other small changes later on.
posted by athena2255 to Health & Fitness (38 answers total) 131 users marked this as a favorite
I started doing pushups and pullups every morning (that's it, and not even that many at first) and within a month people were asking me if I was working out. My mood improved, there was a noticeable bounce to my step that lasts through lunchtime.

It's free, it takes me about 20 minutes to do and I do it in between cups of coffee in the morning. The best thing about it is you don't have to go to a gym so you never have an excuse not to do it (other than if you're hung over). It's really made a difference in my mood and physique.
posted by nathancaswell at 7:08 AM on March 2, 2012 [5 favorites]

Get a couple of your favorite outfits tailored so they really fit you. Also, a proper bra fitting can do wonders, or so I am lead to understand.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:09 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best thing I do for my skin is Queen Helene mint julep mask-makes me glowy the next couple days. For my hair Oribe Royal Blowout (I totally thought this was scammy, but I now have truly gorgeous hair every single day, who knew). For my posture-crunches and planks every day which are easily done in 15 minutes each morning. Oh and comfortable shoes---I like softspots-inexpensive and crazy comfy.

Also--in the winter, I use a lot of eyedrops. Not visine, but rewetting drops I guess---they restore the sparkle and also just feel good and awakening when I am tired in the mid afternoon. For best results, keep them in the fridge--slightly chilled they feel even better on tired eyes.

I would consider all of these to have basically instant results---you'll see and feel a difference in like a couple days or sooner.
posted by supercapitalist at 7:10 AM on March 2, 2012 [10 favorites]

Here are some that have worked for me: getting a good haircut, getting highlights (even really subtle), wearing colors that look really good on you (check out seasonal color analysis for ideas of colors that will look good on you -makes a HUGE difference, check out that link for one explanation, but you can google some self-assessment quizzes), smiling more (spend a day smiling at everyone you see!)
posted by beyond_pink at 7:11 AM on March 2, 2012

Eyebrow tweezing. $8 and walk-in at most salons. Ask for a natural line, "just clean up my natural brow line, please". Your whole face will seem brighter, more open and refreshed.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:18 AM on March 2, 2012 [12 favorites]

In the days before I started using the gym, when I was badly out of shape, I started doing stomach crunches three or four times a day. Each session took less than five minutes. Still overweight, but with better posture and carriage. Lots of positive comments.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 7:22 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh right, you also wanted to know how soon afterwards it got noticed: About two or three weeks.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 7:24 AM on March 2, 2012

I have done nothing worthwhile that took only 15 minutes per day, except maybe one thing:

Fish oil. In the long run I have noticed it helped my skin look "better" to others and it improved my mood overall as well. And i'm pretty sure I can take my fish oil in less than 15 minutes.

If I had longer hair I'm sure it would have made my hair look shinier as well. I have heard that fish oil is added to the food of many show animals to improve the lustre of their coats.

Theraputic dosage is about 1-1.5 g EACH of EPA/DHA per day, which could end up being a ton of pills if you buy the super cheap 180/120 capsules. I use the higher quality ones that are something around 320/220 EPA/DHA so it's only about 6-8 caps a day.
posted by some loser at 7:29 AM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

I receieved a deep tissue massage along with some reiki and the very next day my co-workers noticed my walk and attitude. They kept asking "wow, you seem so chill, what did you do?"
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 7:33 AM on March 2, 2012

I started parting my hair on the opposite side that I usually do, and had numerous "you look great, what's different?" comments.
posted by kimdog at 7:37 AM on March 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

More expensive shampoo/conditioner. Additional benefit of no added time to the routine.
posted by shownomercy at 7:37 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

All of the above suggestions, and all of your own are fantastic - I've been complimented in just that way recently:

*after a brisk dog walk where I snorgled other people's puppies
*after properly blow-drying my hair with the good boar bristle brush
*after a few good sleeps over a long weekend
*hiding this one in here - after some extremely private "me time"
*after I curled my hair into a retro style
*when I could switch back to wearing polished leather boots and shoes instead of rubber boots due to our mild weather
*whenever I wear colour next to my face, instead of my usual black (even if it's just a scarf)
*whenever I wear an interesting necklace, even if I'm wearing crappy clothing otherwise
posted by peagood at 7:38 AM on March 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

First, the 15-minutes-a-day-or-less ideas:

* Seek out and obtain a really, really awesome-smelling soap or shower gel. Use it daily.

* Seek out and obtain a really, really awesome perfume. Wear it daily.

* Seek out and obtain incredibly sexy underwear. Wear it.

None of that will be obvious, but YOU will either get that jolt of "wow this smells awesome" every morning, or every time you wave your hand by your face, or you will get that jolt of "heh, if you all only knew what my underwear looks like" now and then through the day, and that will give you a tiny lift.

And now, a couple of "longer-than-15-minutes-but-you-can-just-do-it-once-a-week" ideas:

* pick one evening to give yourself a homemade spa night.

No, don't walk away - I know it sounds like this takes a while and is fussy, but we're talking just once a week, and it also involves you just sort of chilling out while all this goes on, and there ain't nothing wrong with that. There are also TONS of cheap beauty treatment things you can do with just the stuff in your kitchen - some of them just involve one ingredient, and it's probably something you already have. For instance:
Honey (if you're blond) or molasses (if you're darker-haired) makes a great conditioning hairpack. Just give your hair a quick wash first, towel-dry it just so you're not dripping, then get a good half a cup of whatever and slather it all through your hair. Put a shower cap on (so you're not dripping sticky goo all over), and wait a half hour; then wash it out.

Mashed-up avocado or mashed-up banana also make great hair packs. So does mayonaise.

For a skin scrub: a big handful of cornmeal. If you have dry skin, try mixing the cornmeal with mayonaise. For a fancier scrub, go with a cup of olive oil mixed with enough salt or sugar to make a paste. The cornmeal works well for your face as well, or use a mix of ground oatmeal and ground almonds.

For a face mask: beaten egg mixed with oatmeal and ground almonds. Mix, slather on your face, wait about ten minutes.

For bath fanciness - a big envelope of powdered dry milk. Or mix the milk half-and-half with Epsom salts. Or - slice up a couple lemons or a couple other citrus fruits and just dump them right in.
Pick one night, mix up a couple of these and do them. This kind of thing also involves "chilling out" as well, which is also going to be good for you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:39 AM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

I changed my hair color to a more natural, flattering shade, and I started wearing makeup on a regular basis (nothing extreme, just eyeliner, mascara and lipstick).

The response was almost immediate.
posted by Lucinda at 7:43 AM on March 2, 2012

I would suggest a 15 minute jog every morning or evening, preferably outside in the fresh air, preferably in a quiet, green environment. If you're not a runner, don't kill yourself. Make it easy or eas-ish. Running greatly improves circulation, which will help your skin immensely (I look 10 years younger after running... very red in the face, but it's definitely a younger face :) ), and will help basically everything else you complain about: mood, posture, energy levels, etc.

I also notice that I feel better if I drink Emergen-C every morning.
posted by Ender's Friend at 7:44 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I know you said 15 minutes a day and free or cheap, but I have felt really good from getting my hair professionally highlighted during the winter blahs... so maybe the cost is spread out over more days? :D

Depending on what your hair looks like normally, it will give it just a little bit more oomph, shininess, brightness, whatever. I don't normally dye my hair, and in fact I enjoy the grays that I have. I also didn't intend to keep up with the dyeing cycle that peopel usually get into, such that I'd have to keep doing it. I was able to just let it grow out because it wasn't too dramatic. Then, about a year later, I got it done again.

You could also do this with some sort of Manic Panic-esque color.
posted by Madamina at 7:45 AM on March 2, 2012

This sounds like nothing, but it is awesome: Do plank.

Day one, set a timer on the floor and go for 30 seconds. Try to do it 3 times. Day two, do 45 seconds x 3. Then a minute. See if you can get up to 3 minutes.

Try it! It stokes the fire inside. If I feel like garbage, I do a plank and I feel much better.
posted by dobie at 8:00 AM on March 2, 2012 [11 favorites]

I think I got a small humidifier for $20-$30, and it makes a HUGE difference in how I look during the winter. My skin is smoother, brighter, and better-feeling. It takes to makeup better, too. And I noticed these changes after the first night.

Coming home from work and putting a warm or cold compress on my eyes helps me to switch from work to evening mode, and it wakes me up a bit. Plus, if you lie on the couch and drink a cocktail while you do it, you get to feel like Don Draper. It's another immediate effect thing.

The three biggest things that have garnered compliments were switching over to Nars Orgasm blush, curling my hair (I'm sure straightening would have the same effect,) and running.

I'll second yoga (in most cities, there are pay-what-you-can classes; otherwise, youtube!), massage, and fish oil.
posted by punchtothehead at 8:04 AM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Someone I was dating once got lip injections and I asked them that very question. They said that yes, they had changed something, but refused to say what. I was fully debriefed months later after they had worn off (for science).

I'm not saying go do that, because apparently it hurts like hell. I'm just saying that this is something that genuinely caused me to issue a confused genuine compliment. I had no idea what was different, only that it was good.

Fake eyelashes have also provoked this reaction from me.
posted by Feel the beat of the rhythm of the night at 8:07 AM on March 2, 2012

Smile more =)
posted by amazingstill at 8:10 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Using highlighter on my cheekbones. I don't wear a ton of makeup daily (foundation, blush and eyeshadow, and sometimes mascara), but the addition of highlighter caused strangers and coworkers alike to comment on how great I looked. It'll take a little bit of practice to get it blended right, but it's a super-easy way to look immediately pretty x1000.

(If it matters, I use the highlighting eyeshadow in one of my three-color eyeshadow sets--it doesn't have to be anything fancy!)
posted by mchorn at 8:16 AM on March 2, 2012

Try vitamin D supplements. It makes a difference if you're somewhere there's not much sun in the winter (or possibly, even if there is --- lots of folks with 9-5 office jobs don't see much sun even if it's out!).

Seriously. I'm much less cranky if I remember to take the vitamin D.
posted by leahwrenn at 8:38 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I love and concur amazingstill's suggestion: smile more. Aside from that, a few things that will quickly get you noticed is the very intention of taking care of yourself--it changes your entire semblance.

Try these few things.

1. Drink more water. This will hydrate your skin, clear out toxins in your body, give you better digestions and make you feel great.

2. Use jojoba oil instead of a moisturizer on your face and hands soon after you shower. This oil is the most similar to your own skin oils and will give you a youthful appearance. Let is soak in a bit or else you'll be a bit shiny. Wipe off with a cotton ball.

3. Do yoga. Yoga will improve your posture and make you look your best and increase circulation in your body that gives you that healthy glow.
posted by i_wear_boots at 8:39 AM on March 2, 2012

Having great sex after a long time without it.
posted by mollymayhem at 8:57 AM on March 2, 2012

Any HIIT. Exerting myself with HIIT for just 15-20 minutes is so energizing and brightening and I feel so much better that people notice.

Also yoga - other people noticed my improved posture at first, but now I do it even though I'm the only one who notices how much better I feel (and that's A-Ok!).
posted by ldthomps at 9:07 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: To i_wear_boots, or anyone else that embarked on a water-drinking craze: how long after increasing your water consumption did you notice a marked difference in your skin/hair/digestion? I don't think I'm under-hydrated (and I pee about 8 times a day) but it's usually got flavoring/carbonation/caffeine or whatnot in it.

To amazingstill: you've heard the idea, "smile, fake being happy, people will think you ARE happy, they will treat you nicer, and eventually you will ACTUALLY be happier?" That's kind of what I'm going for, but my job in law enforcement makes it really difficult to smile sometimes, (as well as being inappropriate in certain situations). So I'm looking for things that will cue that thought of: wow, she looks energetic, and put-together, and lively, and fully engaged, and in control ... and then hopefully I WILL become all of those things. Make sense?
posted by athena2255 at 9:07 AM on March 2, 2012

I've been in the same spot as you, I think. Most of these have a pyschological impact for me (make me feel calmer/ more put together/ in control) which makes me feel better about myself and more prone to smiling around, as well as some having an asethetic impact for the 'making people notice' thing.

- Find some invigorating yoga poses and other stretches for the morning, and some more calming ones for the evening. I love doing Child's pose in the evening for example. Try to relax your mind during the 15 minutes you're doing stretches. I've found this helps quieten my head down for a good night's sleep (result!), or help me get into a good frame for the day ahead (also result!). Crunches and planks have been mentioned upthread, these are awesome. The timeframe on impact is a few weeks I would think.

- +1 for eyebrow shape. It takes little time, is not expensive and definitely scores high on the result you're looking for (and it's immediate). I've noticed that if I have growing out eyebrows that i've been too lazy/busy to get sorted I start feeling like I look more drab/crumpled than I 'used to'. And I just have a brow tidy-up as crush-onastick mentions. If you've got the eyelashes that would benefit from an eyelash tint, I'd suggest that too.

- either get a quick manicure, or do one at home. Buff your nails. Get some lovely smelling hand cream to use regularly through the day. I like not having scrappy nails, but have crap nails and am crap at nail care so I have just a basic manicure and then keep it up myself for a while till I have to go get a professional to sort it out. If you type a lot it's nice to see your hands looking good, and will likely result in you feeling less blah which might bring on a few more smiles from yourself.

- Sinus rinse! I always feel brighter and clearer in my head after this, and I think it helps my eyes look less tired. I am currently theorising that it helps reduce the mega undereye circles I have, though have no idea if science would back me up on it.

- For sure on the eyedrops thing. Particularly if you're in dry conditions.

- Being outside during the part of your day that has good sunlight, go for a stroll. Try to see some plants and flowers, this perks me up. Even florists cheer me up on a crappy winter day. SAD lamps are expensive so I've not made any suggestions there.

- The others have mentioned doing hair treatments and the like, do those! A new way of doing hair has certainly been commented when I've done it. I've no idea what kind of hair you have (and am totally not the right person to be giving styling advice), but perhaps consider changing how you style at home.

- fish oil is good if you've not got a lot of that already in your diet.

- get a very good chapstick, and use it a bunch. I have had recent success with a combo of chapstick (blistex chapstick thingie) and tainted lip treatment (somewhere between a chapstick and a lipstick). It helps lift my face up a bit as I'm quite pale, and don't wear lipstick generally. That's had a positive response and is immediate and inexpensive. I think I'm using Sugar Rose brand, but there appear to be a ton on the market.

- drink lots of water, and don't drink too much caffeine. That helped my skin look less sallow, took a while to be noticeable but I like not having as much caffeine in my diet now

- don't be cold. When I'm cold I know that I hunch up, I look taciturn and like I'm frowning all the time. It's because I'm fricking cold. So, good socks, good scarf, beanie, gloves, whatever you can do not to be cold. When I'm at a good comfort level I know that I stand better, I walk better and I'm appear more approachable. I realise this makes me sound like a miserable bastard.
posted by pymsical at 9:33 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

My friends and I call this a "sprucing" - every once and a while a girl needs one. The trick is to do TWO things. So, you can get a manicure AND a haircut. Or get your eyebrows done AND go have the ladies at MAC choose a new lipstick for you. Or get some new shoes AND a new purse. I think part of the benefit is the feeling of indulgence you get from doing both things at once.
posted by jrichards at 9:51 AM on March 2, 2012 [6 favorites]

I'm sure not what you're looking for, but as a data point I almost always get told this when I'm doing nothing different at all.
posted by cmoj at 10:14 AM on March 2, 2012

You so, so very much need a humidifier, vitamin D and fish oil. Don't forget to moisturize your face and body every day.

Hair highlights get immediate results and grow out easily for the summer. Try different color eyeshadow. None of this will cut into your 15 minutes.

First cut for your 15 daily minutes: GET OUTSIDE. Take a five minute walk outside at lunch everyday, even if it's crappy, cold, or raining. You only have to do five minutes, but you will be astounded at the difference it makes in your skin, your attitude, and your posture if you think about striding out straight and tall. After that, think about stretches during your break (another five.) Arching your back and standing up every hour or so makes the day seem less wearing. Take your last five minutes at home in the evening to do something nice: light a candle in the bath, do deep breathing (good for posture and skin,) try a facial masque.

If you can get to the gym twice a week for at least a half hour, or do a couple half hour walks, this would be excellent. You need to get OUT of the house to do this. Being in a different environment is a stimulus that kicks you out of the blah house rut.

Yes, law enforcement can be a bear, but the smiling thing is a good idea. Try and make a habit of sitting up straight and greeting everyone with a smile or at least a pleasant inquiring expression.

Some of this can be put into a daily reminders on your computer--The reminder to walk a lunch, hourly reminders to stretch a bit and to smile or to take a drink. Something like the motivational quotes of the day email would only take seconds to view, and might perk you up.
posted by BlueHorse at 11:13 AM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Washing my hair and face less often depending on season--paying attention and listening to it as opposed to just washing them every day/multiple times a day out of routine--has made a big difference in how raggedy the ends of my hair get, how shiny and full of bounce, how glowy and less irritated/dry, etc. Bonus, it means some days of the week my shower takes fives seconds instead of 10 minutes.
posted by ifjuly at 11:34 AM on March 2, 2012

Clarifying shampoo. One of those things I thought was nonsense until I started using it. I use it once every other week, but YMMV depending on how dry your hair is (oilier hair can handle it more often). Immediately afterwards, people start complimenting my hair and I feel like I stepped out of some shiny, bouncy hair commercial.
posted by equipoise at 12:59 PM on March 2, 2012

Anything involving strenuous physical activity should work, jogging, HIIT, or whatever. Particularly if you do it first thing in the morning.

But if you really want to change how you feel or how you project yourself, limiting your role in it to 15 minutes per day isn't the most efficient way.
posted by coolguymichael at 1:40 PM on March 2, 2012

I hate yoga, but Bikram yoga twice a week for a month made my already nice skin *perfect* and my whole body felt detoxified. It was noticed by all within a week.

When I feel like this I buy some new clothes and find the best food I can afford that isn't carb-heavy. Fresh juices, salads and dried fruit, nuts as well as seasonal vegetables really make me happy. Like I bought a big take-out tub full of locally-sourced roasted squash and root vegetables from the health food store a few times this winter and it made me feel *so* much better.

Going to the farmer's market and getting a chunk of maple candy is a favorite treat of mine. Just having a bit of really excellent dark chocolate can make a difference.

Also, cardio helps a lot. Just gets the blood flowing, makes me happy. When I jolt myself out of SAD-land with cardio a couple of times a week I'd say it gets me compliments immediately.
posted by devymetal at 3:54 PM on March 2, 2012

New glasses.

Dyed hair.
posted by lollusc at 7:30 PM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Realizing that it's worth it to pay more for a good haircut. I have curly, frizzy hair that befuddles all but the best hairdressers.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:44 AM on March 3, 2012

Crest Whitestrips.
posted by ladybird at 4:38 AM on March 5, 2012

About three weeks ago I started going to the gym for 45 minutes at 6:30 every morning and then having a green smoothie for breakfast. Within a week I had people telling me that I was looking great, even though I hadn't lost weight or inches or anything. I think people took notice because my new routine means that:

- I have time to blow-dry and straighten my hair in the morning (before I used to just roll out of bed 30 minutes before I needed to be at work and put it in a ponytail)
- I have time to actually put together an outfit (and I'm energized enough by the time that I get to that point in my morning that I'm not lazy about it)
- I'm drinking a TON more water
- I have more energy throughout the day
- The situps and back exercises I'm doing at the gym are making my posture better
- Sweating in the morning + increased water intake is making my skin look great
- I'm feeling pretty dang self-satisfied about it!

I also started taking vitamin D, but I'm not sure if that's doing much or if my recent feel-great change is because of everything else. So basically, my advice boils down to: get up earlier and exercise.
posted by drycleanonly at 5:17 PM on March 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

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