Cue makeover montage
June 13, 2012 10:01 AM   Subscribe

I am just terrible at being a lady. All the usual Beauty Stuff, stuff that it seems like everyone else was either born knowing or learned as teenagers, is a giant mystery to me. I need, like, a checklist or something for being a presentable-looking grownup.

Here is the degree of attractiveness incompetence we're dealing with:

1) I haven't owned a hairbrush for years, because the one I'd had since I was a teenager broke and I was completely overwhelmed by all the different kinds of hairbrushes out there. I combed my hair with a rubber comb that used to be my dad's and called it good. I have your typical very straight, very thick Asian hair, and it's not very exciting, but I would like it to be!

2) My feet and hands are sandpapery disasters. I get manicures once in a while when my hands have to be decent-looking for work but don't have the budget or the time to go more frequently. So what should I do regularly to keep them at a general level of non-grossness?

3) I still use baby shampoo and Ivory soap, because I have no idea if I need lactic acid scrubs or fish protein shine or whatever. How do you choose the right "product" for you?

4) Don't even get me started on makeup. I have a mineral powder I wear sometimes when I'm blotchy, and have some eyeshadows I experiment with, and lip balm. But I don't know where to go from there to develop a look or system I like and can do easily, and to experiment with new things. Usually I think I look silly with makeup on, but I think it's just because I don't know what I'm doing.

5) Generally I do okay with clothes and shoes, and am trying to get better about fixing/getting rid of stuff that's broken or ripped rather than continuing to wear it. But I still have trouble with remembering to look at myself before I leave the house—not to preen, but to check that all my tags are in (all my tags are always sticking out!) and I'm not lopsided or untucked somewhere. I recently discovered how awesome full silk slips are under dresses, how they smooth you out and make things not clingy—are there other clothing tips I should try?

Basically, there's nothing I'm trying to solve, exactly—I'm lucky enough to have generally clear skin and I try not to stress too much about he shape and size and strength of my body. I just want to be polished and presentable all the time, and to know how to feel really confident and cute when I want to.

Executive summary: Can you tell me your beauty/maintenance routine, both for everyday and special use? What are the things you do from day to day, or week to week, that keep you looking good? And who/where do I turn to to find more of this stuff out for myself?
posted by peachfuzz to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (57 answers total) 122 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Super basic and obvious - wash yourself/your hair as often as you need to to not leave a greasy smear on things when you touch them.

More specific - gently exfoliate with a gritty exfoliating scrub (not one with any kind of anti-acne stuff though) any body part you plan to shave before you shave it.

For everything else, I am basically as much in the dark as you are, alas.

OH ALSO maybe use a scrubby exfoliator on your hands and feet?
posted by elizardbits at 10:17 AM on June 13, 2012

Best answer: Get your eyebrows professionally waxed on a regular basis. The value of a well-shaped brow line coupled with light eyeliner and mascara should never be underestimated.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 10:21 AM on June 13, 2012 [10 favorites]

Best answer: You don't need much! it's ok to be all over the place with this stuff! You don't really need crazy soaps and shampoos, and if what you have works for you, keep using it. (I still use the dove soap I grew up with, so you're not alone in that). The next time you get your hair cut ask the stylist what store brands they would recommend- they're working with your hair, they've got a good idea of what will actually be effective.

The easiest fix will be your hands/feet- for your hands, keep moisturizer on your work desk. every time you sit down at your desk, use some moisturizer (I like unscented ones) This alone will help make you feel a little more pulled together as your hands get smoother. (and it really doesn't take long!) Same thing for your feet- moisturize before getting into bed- make it a part of your nighttime routine. Manicures/pedicures will get the worst of the foot stuff into shape, and moisturizing will seriously help make up the difference.

As to make up- I've had good luck getting a variety of makeovers at sephora, macy's, nordstorms. I'd go on weekend morning, before the crowds, and just tell the make up assistant what I need a "look" for: ie "I need something to wear to work in the morning- give me 3 products that will make me look somewhat human". or "I need to figure out a way to make my eyes pop, can you teach me to do that with 2 products?" and have them show you exactly what they are doing. Since I usually specify no more than 2-3 products, I don't end up coated in stuff, and can generally figure out what they did to make me look good and can practice at home with drugstore make up.

Get your eyebrows waxed/threaded every other month, and keep them somewhat clean with tweezers in between, it's amazing how much having a clean brow will make your face look polished.

Simple hack to makeing clothing awesome, get good bras. Ones that fit. Metafilter had a pretty awesome guide to bras a week or so ago.
posted by larthegreat at 10:23 AM on June 13, 2012 [8 favorites]

Best answer: 1) Plenty of people only ever comb their hair! Even ladies! I think probably a brush is not going to make your hair more exciting, that's going to take a new cut and some styling products.

2) Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream (available at your mass-market retailer of choice) for my hands, Lush Fair Trade Foot Lotion (and cotton socks) for my feet, Lush Lemony Flutter Cuticle Butter for extra-dry spots on both.

3) I use the cheapest shampoo and conditioner in the store and whatever kind of soap smells OK, because I find I generally can't tell the difference. I only shampoo about three times a week, and I avoid products with silicones, but I have completely different hair than you. I have been working through the same giant bottle of Whole Foods store brand body lotion for like a year and a half.

4) I am also still figuring out makeup (at 34) but I love Jane Marie's tutorials on The Hairpin. I started with the eyebrow tutorial and it was... surprisingly revelatory. I play around in front of the mirror one or two evenings a week. The makeup has started to look normal, even good! Right now my day look is tinted moisturizer (Laura Mercier), simple eye makeup (sometimes from the drugstore, sometimes Sephora/department store brands - I like to get a palette that tells you what color to put where, and then if I get bored I start to experiment), and tinted lip balm or lip gloss.

Today I am wearing GREEN EYESHADOW to WORK! And I don't feel self-conscious! It's so weird! Getting half-decent eye makeup brushes really helped me develop my routine (and when I say half-decent, I mean "the fanciest brushes at Rite Aid").

For a long time I was a "only on special occasions" makeup person, and I would half-ass it then and it wouldn't come out the way I wanted, or I would just forget to put it on. Now I just play with makeup at home sometimes, and I plan out how I'm going to do my makeup for a wedding or party or whatever just like I plan my outfit. I'll even do trial runs. I often look RIDICULOUS, and I do not yet have the balls to wear liquid eyeliner outside of my apartment.

Oh, another thing that has helped with makeup was watching lots of RuPaul's Drag Race. That is not the look I aspire to, but it is an impressive display of what is possible in the world of makeup.

5) I cannot help you here. I routinely make it all the way to my office before I realize that I've got toothpaste on my shirt or something. Maybe put a mirror right near the door you go out in the morning? (But I go out the kitchen door! It would be really weird to have a full-length mirror in the kitchen!)
posted by mskyle at 10:25 AM on June 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Heh... I'm forty-five and haven't worn makeup, except on the very rare occasion, since high school. elizardbits is right, as long as you're clean and your hair is brushed, you're good to go. Anything else is extra.

If you *really* want to know where to start, go to a highly recommended beauty school and ask them. They're teaching their students what to do so they can use you as their model. Don't go to a beauty salon that's trying to push products, they'll just try to sell you something.

Good luck.
posted by patheral at 10:26 AM on June 13, 2012

Best answer: 1. I'm fairly anti-hairbrushes most of the time. You need a good wide-toothed comb for combing your hair when it's wet or for detangling. You MAYBE need a fine-toothed comb (I like the black kind with a long skinny tail) if you have bangs that need to be put in place or if you want to backcomb or flat iron your hair. If you have really long hair and a greasy scalp, a boar bristle paddle brush can be a nice investment for redistributing the scalp oils, but only use it every once in a while. In short, what you really need for day-to-day hair styling are combs. Buy the widest tooth one you can find at the drugstore and get a fine-toothed one while you're at it. It doesn't hurt to have around.

2. Moisturize. Every day. Multiple times per day, if possible. Find a moisturizer you like and buy several bottles of it. Keep one bottle in your bathroom, one bottle by your bed, one bottle by any sink where you regularly wash your hands, and a bottle at your desk at work. Apply lotion to your hands throughout the day, rubbing gently around the nailbed and cuticles to keep them soft. Apply lotion to your feet immediately after you bathe and towel-dry your skin. For bonus points, apply to your feet at night and cover with a pair of socks while you sleep. I really like the Curel lotions because they don't have a strong scent and they are thick without being slimy/slippery.

To keep the sandpapery callouses at bay, get a foot file. I just use cheapy ones from the drugstore but, no joke, you can get diamond encrusted fancy ones at Sephora if you want to go all the way. Take a bath once a week where you soak your feet for 5 minutes, then scrub scrub scrub with the foot file, soak for another 5 minutes, and then scrub again. If you do this every week you'll definitely notice an improvement. And MOISTURIZE AFTER.

Final idea: if you live in a place that has one, go to a Korean spa and get a full body scrub. The scrub ladies wear these crazy abrasive mitts and just scrub the crap out of you until your skin feels like a baby. It's great in a hurts-so-good way.

3. This is hard to say without knowing your hair and skin type. Do you know your hair and skin type? If you have dry skin (and it sounds like you might from the sandpaper description), you probably don't want to use bar soap unless it's something really mild like Dr Bronners castille soap. I'd recommend a shower gel instead. In terms of shampoo, again it depends on your hair type. I have lots and lots of really fine hair and have found that Kevin Murphy angel wash/rinse work well for that. Occasionally I switch it up when I'm feeling cheap and use the Suave Professionals smoothing stuff in the silver/orange bottle. The Suave Professionals line is actually quite fantastic despite the cheap price tag, and there are tons of different formulas for different hair types, so maybe grab a few and see which works best for you?

4. Makeup is personal preference. If you feel comfortable without it or with just doing a little, don't worry about it! Spend your money elsewhere. I'm a lot like you in that I never really learned how to do most of this stuff when I was younger and I don't really have time these days to experiment too wildly. I just stick with simple things that make me look polished: mascara, gel eyeliner in a purple-grey shade, a little bit of shimmery neutral shadow on the lids, some mineral makeup to even things out and lip balm. If I'm feeling fancy I will wear some blush. But seriously, I have ONE blush (NARS Orgasm -- terrible name but it looks good on just about everyone and for any occasion) and ONE eyeshadow (Too Faced -- something from the Natural Eye palette) and ONE eyeliner color (Bobbi Brown gel liner in black mauve) that I use regularly and I am fine with that.

Speaking of, there's a lot of really great "natural look" eyeshadow palettes out right now that are a screaming deal. Too Faced and Urban Decay make popular ones. Check those out, maybe?

5. I suck at clothes so I won't answer this.
posted by joan_holloway at 10:26 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Bless This Post, I've felt the same way for the past 29 years.

With make up, going to a professional person at a department store (or making an appointment) might help.

If you're concerned about your hair, try to find a hair forum for people of your race or ethnicity (I think you mentioned being Asian). They often have make up and skin subforums as well. I've seen a few guides on youtube for Asians too. They often recommend excellent products.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 10:27 AM on June 13, 2012

Best answer: If you decide you want to explore the world of makeup, the reviews on Makeupalley are excellent. There are plenty of quality products (eyeshadow, lipstick, mascara) available in drugstores.

Feet: Keep your toenails trimmed and filed. Exfoliate any rough skin with a scrub or foot file. Rub lotion into them to keep them soft - depending on how dry your feet get you might want something thicker like an actual foot cream or body butter.

Hair: get a good quality boar bristle brush, and gently does it - don't yank through tangles. If you have tangles/snarls, use a wide-tooth comb to gently untangle them. Makeupalley has reviews of hair products (in fact, every personal care item you could imagine gets reviewed there, so it's a great first stop); again, not all of the good ones are high-end (I myself like Aveeno's leave-in conditioner). It's a great idea to spray long hair with a leave-in conditioner after you wash it because that will help keep the tangles away, as well as moisturize the ends of the hair which get dryer faster.

Hands: again, lotion - I keep tubes of lotion everywhere because I'm always washing my hands, and they get dry. Lubriderm is a great drugstore brand as is Aveeno. Keep your nails trimmed and filed.

Clothes: check for stains before you put them on and then again before you leave (Mskyle's suggestion of a mirror near the door is a great one). Brush and air outer clothing after you take it off. Outer clothing doesn't need to be washed EVERY time you wear it, except for blouses/shirts. Do the "sniff check" to test. Underwear has to be clean and fresh, no exceptions. There are a lot of fashion tutorials on YouTube and fashion blogs - I like the You Look Fab blog.

Shoes - DSW, Zappo's, Nordstrom's. Make sure they fit! If you need a wide width or narrow width you need one, and it's worth it to hunt them down. Nordie's and DSW have plenty of non-medium widths. It's so much easier these days to get shoes that are both comfortable and fashionable there's no excuse not to buy comfortable shoes, even pumps for work. Have more than one good pair of work shoes so you can rotate them (to keep them from getting shabby and smelly too quickly).
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 10:29 AM on June 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You're selling yourself short! Sounds like you are doing just fine. If you want to step it up a little bit, though, I would say the things that pay the biggest dividends towards "looking like a presentable grown-up" would be a) getting your brows professionally done (you can get away with going every two months and tweezing in between visits) b) getting an awesome haircut and c) getting a really fancy-looking but not necessarily expensive handbag that will go with almost everything. To address your specific concerns:

1) Your hair sounds like it might look great with bangs -- straight and heavy enough to lay flat, and would add some excitement. Do you have a stylist you love? I really depend on mine for just about everything hair-related; telling me if I need to cut some length, lighten the color, what products to use, etc. I don't go often but it's been really invaluable to have someone who knows my hair and my personality and can recommend what will work for ME.

2) Moisturize! If you hate socks like I do this might not work, but exfoliating in the shower at night and then slathering up with moisturizer and then putting on socks/gloves before bed has historically been the cure for this. There are even moisturizers marketed specifically for feet that tend to be a little richer and will soak in better. Since you live in a dry area it will be more of an issue than it might be for others, but just be vigilant. Keep moisturizer in your purse, at your desk, in your car, and anytime you notice your hands looking dry just apply some.

3) If it ain't broke, don't fix it. I wash my face with Dove and it works just fine. You are wearing sunscreen every day, though, right? Right?! I use Olay Complete All Day in Sensitive Skin and it's great; moisturizing and non-greasy and a little protection from the sun.

4) I bet you don't look silly with makeup on, I bet it's just more than you're used to. I also think that a lot of the magazine advice about makeup doesn't really apply to us living in the West, where things tend to skew a little more natural. Looks like there's a Sephora by you? I would go on a weekday in the morning and browse a little, try to look over the salespeople and see who looks friendly/knowledgeable. Then tell them that you are interested in developing a makeup routine but that you want to keep things natural/modern/divalicious whatever. Browse online to look at pictures of people whose "look" you admire (and also what you AREN'T going for!). All the Sephoras I've ever gone to have been pretty relaxed and not super "and now you must buy all the products!" so just go with a mind to learn and maybe buy one or two things if you really like them.

5) Can you put a little cheapie full length mirror by the front door, right next to where you keep your keys? That's been helpful for me to make sure my slip isn't showing, etc. You're right that slips are awesome, a good bra is amazing too. Lately I've been trying to not buy anything that I'm not crazy in love with, and I'm trying to minimize the cheap buys at Target/Old Navy in favor of quality pieces with good construction that will last longer.

Good luck!

And on preview, ditto to what a lot of posters above have said!
posted by stellaluna at 10:33 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You're lucky to have such a simple beauty routine. I was beaten over the head with "use all the products" from around age thirteen and on and I've spent the last couple of years trying to deprogram all that.

What I would suggest would be to research how to up the quality of your current routine, rather than adding more to it.

1. Consider replacing your comb with a standard boar's hair bristle brush. Personally, I have straight, fine, thick hair and I just use a crappy travel hairbrush from Target (then again, I keep my hair short and style it with my hands). You don't need anything special, but if you want to up the quality of your tools, it can't hurt.

2. Keep a glass nail file and some gentle lotion at your desk. File rough edges of your nails when you notice them and lotion up your hands every day around the same time (I do mine after lunch!)

3. You don't need special products for your hair. If you want to up the quality of these, don't look for price and certainly don't feel like you have to listen to the advice of people who work at salons - just look for simpler formulations! Dr. Bronner's body soap is wonderful. Silicone- and sulfate-free shampoo is gentle and great for most hair types. Pick up a bottle of basic hair conditioner from Trader Joe's or Whole Foods and let it sink into your hair after you shampoo.

4. I do recommend adding the following items to your routine: a gentle facial lotion and sunscreen. Even if you don't like face lotion, go for sunscreen: it'll help protect your face and body from sun damage and cancer. Cetaphil facial lotion with SPF 30 is simple and classic, but at least get into a habit of applying sunscreen to the parts of your body not covered by clothing.

I have plenty of experience Being a Lady, but all I use is shampoo, conditioner, lotion, sunscreen and liquid soap. For makeup, I wear a subtle eyeshadow and brown mascara. When it comes to beauty routines, think quality over quantity.
posted by theraflu at 10:38 AM on June 13, 2012

Best answer: You need basics. It sounds like you're overwhelmed by all the options and variations.

It sounds like your hair is pretty normal. I used Garnier Fructis shampoo and conditioner successfully for years. My hair routine was this, plus a wide-toothed comb like this one that you can use on wet hair. Comb through to get rid of loose hair, wet, shampoo, rinse, condition, comb through, let the conditioner sit while washing everything else, rinse. No more brushing/combing needed.

You have dry skin and need a moisturizing body wash. Pretty much anything in the grocery store/drug store should be fine that says "moisturizing body wash."
If you have your own bathroom, you can also get a moisturizing hand soap. I just switched and it makes a big difference in my hands.

Is your face dry or oily or a little bit of both? The advice changes drastically based on this. Since you have clear skin, don't worry about this too much, but you can get a face wash designed for any of these skin types. It's gentler on your skin than body wash.

Go to a store that does free makeovers and ask them to do one on you, showing what they're doing, how to do it, and why for each step. You can tell them your goal (I guess to look professional) and they will help you get the right colors.

I recommend watching What Not to Wear. I love the show, and they give the basics. I've picked up on so much just from casually watching it here and there. Also I have a close relative who used to be pretty sloppy -- she fell in love with the show, and really she dresses quite fabulous now!
posted by DoubleLune at 10:40 AM on June 13, 2012

Best answer: Using moisturizing body wash and hand soap can mean that you don't need an extra moisturizing step. If you're using the Ivory bar soap, that stuff is super drying. (You might still need to moisturize your hands after washing them at work, usually office soap is harsh.) Anyway, the way you know what's right is by trying a bunch and seeing how they're different and which one you prefer. I like this Aveeno Body Wash.

Nail file and tweezers everywhere, so that you can fix a hang nail or weird hair before you make it worse. I use a glass nail file (the ones at the drugstore are often not good, I got an OPI file from Amazon that had good reviews) and point tip tweezers (Tweezerman)... but those are also expensive investments. If you'll be more likely to take them everywhere if they're cheaper, then get the cheaper kind--you'll at least be able to do damage control until you get home.
posted by anaelith at 10:42 AM on June 13, 2012

Best answer: I agree with Rosie M. Banks: Makeup Alley is a great resource, where you can get a ton of information -- not just about makeup, but also skin and hair. You can search the boards, and also ask questions about your specific needs. You can even post a photo of you and your hair and get suggestions. The boards are active (especially makeup and skin) and new people are treated nicely. The discuss drugstore products, high-end stuff, and anything in between.

You'll get best results if you're specific. You might give your age, describe sort of what you're looking for. Example: "I need a daytime moisturizer for skin that's a little dry in some areas, but mostly normal. Or, "For a beginner, what are the priority items in makeup? I want to even out my skin tone and look polished but natural. Right now all I do is _____." If you don't get answers, try again at a different time of day.
posted by wryly at 10:44 AM on June 13, 2012

Best answer: I did not learn how to do makeup until very recently in my adult life (my teenage goth years, notwithstanding). I don't wear foundation, just eye makeup and occasionally lipstick. Here's what I've learned:

1) Primers are a must. I use Urban Decay's eyelid primer to prep before applying eyeshadow. It makes a huge, huge difference. It helps the shadow go on smoothly and blend nicely and keeps it from getting creased or blotchy during the day/evening.

2) Brushes are a must. I first thought "psh, I can just use my finger or a q-tip". NEG. A crease brush is especially helpful for smoothing things out.

3) Blend like a motherfucker. You'll be half way through putting on eyeshadow and go "what the fuck, this is awful" then you'll break out your crease brush and blend, blend, blend and suddenly you look awesome. Clean up any stray powder or errant eyeliner with a q-tip dipped in makeup remover.

4) Practice! That's what makeup remover is for.

I'd also agree that going to Sephora would be beneficial. They'll help you figure out the right colors and tools. Sephora is not cheap, but I think it's better to spend some money on the basics that will look great and will be easy to use than to buy cheap makeup that will just end up in the back of your drawer.

THAT SAID, I agree with those that have stated above that makeup is optional and not required to look "put together". Do it if you think it's fun and it makes you feel good/more confident.
posted by radioaction at 10:45 AM on June 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It took me until my 30s to realize I really should not shampoo my hair more than a few times a week. No more weird shampoo build up! And somehow my hair is more inclined to do what I want it to do. The hairbrush (acquired at a dollar store) comes in handy when I'm in between shampoos and need to smooth out frizziness. A little bit of hair wax also helps keep it looking polished when I need to look proper. Also I was much happier once I started getting haircuts that didn't require me fighting against my hair's natural tendencies. But I still secretly wish I had jewfroeqsue hair.

I carry a small tube of nice shea butter hand lotion with me everywhere. I like the burts bees one or the l'occitane one. Both moisturize nicely without being greasy. Sometimes I just put in on my cuticles. This is probably the one thing I still buy the pricier version because I never like the cheaper ones I've tried.

For the rest of my body I use Trader Joe's Midsummer Night's Cream (mixed with some lavender oil because I like the smell of it). I use it sans lavender oil on my face at night. During the day I moisturize with a Eucerin spf 30 face lotion. I used to indulge in Lancome moisturizers, but I can't justify dropping that much money anymore.

Pumice stone in the shower for my feet.

Makeup is something I embraced in my teens and then abandoned. But I find it helps to have one lipstick color that works for me. Right now that lipstick is a small $1 wet and wild one. It's a lot easier for me to try a new makeup color when it costs $1 and comes in a small amount.

I tend to cut tags out of my clothes as soon as I get them because they irritate me. I guess this also means they don't stick out. I try to stick to clothes that I am both comfortable in and look good on me. This means I will never rock certain looks, but I'm ok with that.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 11:06 AM on June 13, 2012

Best answer: I like to keep my nails and toes painted. There is something about looking down and seeing bright red toes that makes me happy. I typically paint my nails a clear or natural color and top with a base coat once a week. It looks a little nicer and it also makes my nails stronger so they don't get as beat up from chores or whatever else. I like a more natural color on my hands so chips are not obvious. I change the toe polish every two weeks. I do the cuticle oil thing and push the cuticles back, and I smooth off any foot callouses. Aveda makes an amazing foot lotion.

I use a face wash and moisturizer from Mary Kay. I try the drug store versions and I keep coming back to Mary Kay because my skin feels nice and stays clear reliably. Mary Kay parties are a hassle, but you can skip them and buy off ebay if you don't know a seller.

I really like wearing a little perfume (emphasis on little). I give my wrist a squirt and rub them together. I may be the only person who can smell it, but damn I smell good!

I buy some unscented body wash (by Aveeno) and spike it with lavender and rosemary essential oils, instead of buying the pre-scented stuff. I control the level of scent, and my lavender smells like lavender instead of an approximation.

One of the things I've learned is I give myself permission to toss products that don't work for me instead of feeling obligated to finish the bottle. I got some shampoo/conditioner once that for whatever reason seemed to smell like it had a hint of BO when applied in the shower. I tossed it, because it wasn't worth the anxiety of wondering if other people could smell it. It keeps clutter down vs having a shelf of product where you only use a few things and the rest are for show (and guilt).
posted by griselda at 11:07 AM on June 13, 2012

Best answer: Don't worry about makeup, but put on sunscreen every single morning. This can be any moisturizer with an SPF of 30. You'll be glad when you're older to have fewer wrinkles than people who don't do this.
posted by Ery at 11:13 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: One great place to find advice about this stuff is in fashion magazines like ELLE and Glamour and "home" magazines like Real Simple and Redbook. My mum died when I was 12, so I had to teach myself all my lady-skills from magazines.

I know that fashion magazines are deeply crap in lots of ways, reinforcing racist and classist and sexist and sizeist and ableist and heterocentric stereotypes, but they do run a certain number of "service pieces" that are useful how-tos on grooming techniques.

On hair: People with thick hair rarely find a hairbrush their best choice, though I agree that if you're going to try one a natural bristle brush is the way to go. I comb my hair with a wide-toothed wooden comb, because if I use a hairbrush on it it turns into a big puffball.

Those dad combs are THE WORST for hair (I'm assuming you mean those black rubber pocket combs?). Throw all the ones you have away instantly.

Pantene makes good drugstore hair products, both shampoo and conditioner, for most types of hair. Garnier products are pretty good, too. Or you might experiment by buying shampoo and conditioner from the hair salon the next time you go to get your hair cut or trimmed.

You get your hair cut or trimmed regularly, right? If not, that's probably a good thing to add to your regime. Even if you have long hair that's all one length, you should get a trim done every three months at minimum. If you have layers or bangs or shorter hair, every six to eight weeks is a good schedule for a haircut. Regular cuts or trims are key to keeping hair looking great.

On dry skin: Seconding the recommendation for Neutrogena moisturizers. They are affordable, don't smell horrible, and work really well. Putting moisturizer on your hands after you wash them is critically important in not having dry hands, so if you work in an office think about getting a little thingie of moisturizer for your desk.

You can exfoliate your hands (and feet) with an exfoliating scrub. For hands and feet, something cheap like the St. Ives Apricot Scrub that's in every drugstore works fine. Scrub off the dry skin, and then moisturize like mad.

As for your face, really the best thing to do is go get a facial and ask the technician what they recommend for a regime. Most people misanalyze their facial skin and use the wrong products.

On clothes: I have no idea what to do about clothes, so I pretty much made up my own style which I stick to year in, year out. In Style and Lucky magazines are actually more useful than the straight fashion magazines, in my opinion, because they show actual clothes that you can buy in a store, not stuff celebrities get messengered to them from Marc Jacobs's atelier.

Fashion blogs are sometimes helpful, but a lot of them are horrible. I like Capitol Hill Style and GabiFresh. The Budget Fashionista has some good tips, and so does Style Bakery.

Something to think about is the idea of a capsule wardrobe. In fact, if you have the money for a splurge, going to a fancy department store like Nordstrom and asking for a personal shopper to help you find a couple/three/several key pieces for a capsule wardrobe might be a great jump start.

Best of luck! I feel like a giant hypocrite giving all this advice while I am sitting here at the computer in bleach-stained yoga pants and a t-shirt from my goddaughter's summer camp, but I have figured out how to scrub up fairly well when I leave the home.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:15 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A ton of us don't know either. I'm 42 and I only wear makeup if my skin is breaking out any (helloooooo, adult acne) or if I have The Flaming Sunburn From Hell or something. I have always liked the minimalist approach to makeup, even when I was a teenager (I was the only girl in my high school whose mother was worried that she wasn't wearing makeup). Maybe I'll put on a little eye shadow and lipstick if I'm going out, but i go really minimal because otherwise I look at myself and think "what's that stuff all over my face?"

If you have especially rough feet, check out the foot section of your drug store - they have a couple of fairly inexpensive kinds of moisturizers that are called something like "Heel balm", that are super-good for taking care of that. They promise that it'll clear up super-rough feet if you use it twice a day for a week, but I only use it when it feels like it needs it.

As for the baby shampoo and Ivory soap -- you've probably done yourself an enormous favor keeping things simple, because sometimes going too crazy can make your skin a little crazy too. If the Ivory and the baby shampoo is working decently enough, just stick with it. My own soap is similarly simple -- I use the Dr. Bronner's soap (the stuff that comes in the bottles with the insane wacked-out New Age treatises on the label), but only becuase I really, really like the way it smells. It's pretty basic in terms of what it does, so my preference is purely esthetic.

If you want to try giving your face skin a little treat once in a while, you can try exfoliating once a week with something for free -- if you've got cornmeal in the house, just get about a tablespoonful, mix in enough water to make a paste, and rub that on your face and then rinse it off. It does the same job as the fancy-ass stuff in the drug store, and it costs nothing. If you like what that does, you can use even more cornmeal on your body -- or, get like a cup of brown sugar and a cup of coconut oil, mix them together, and scoop out a handful of that and scrub your body with it. Cheap, just as effective as the fancy spa stuff, and smells amazing.

Actually, don't be afraid to pick some kind of soap stuff just for the smell of it, because hell, if it's some nice thing you can enjoy in your shower once a day, that's not a bad thing in and of itself.

Finally, I give you a lesson I learned at age 12, which reset my opinions about all of this; one day in 7th Grade, I realized towards the end of the day that I had accidentally come to school wearing these beat-up fake moccasin things that I used to wear around the house as slippers. I almost panicked, but then after a split second I realized "wait....I've been wearing these things all day and no one noticed." That made me realize that, for all the fuss that people make about how Important Looks ARe and how important it is to Be Presentable, the reality is, people don't notice too much. So giving yourself a quick once-over now and then through the day to make sure that your fly's zipped and you don't have spinach in your teeth is actually just fine.

You're doing fine. Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:18 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: omg. thanks so much, everyone, for the help so far. Although some of it is making my head spin - brush...your clothes? some shampoos have silicone in them, and that's bad? - I'm starting even further back than I thought.

A couple thoughts/clarifications:

- I am Korean, with face skin that is oily on my forehead and my nose, but dry everywhere else. My skin tends toward being dry/ashy (is that right? Like, if I scratch a mosquito bite I leave white marks) everywhere else, especially since I moved to Colorado. Moisturize! Totally a thing that I need to do more, and will get better about. The advice to leave moisturizer everywhere is good, since I seem to not do it mostly because I'm too lazy to walk to where some is.

- I think being Asian causes a lot of my confusion around makeup etc, since most mainstream advice doesn't work with my warm-toned, no-eyelid-crease face. I was watching From Head To Toe makeup tutorials for a while (she's Asian, and does a lot of looks for mono lids) but she used so much stuff!

- I do make an effort once in a while to get a reasonably cute haircut, but it tends to look ratty after the first wash because I can't be bothered to style it (and I don't own a blowdryer or product or brushes). I try to ask for haircuts that work as wash-and-go styles and for the stylist (who I really like) to show me how to style it, but I just seem to be doin it rong no matter what. In my perfect world, I would have that long, super-shiny, super-sleek hair that Asian celebrities wear, but when I grow my hair long it gets frizzy and crunchy-looking.

- I guess I should mention that my major issue here is probably laziness. Currently, my morning routine is thus:

1) shower, washing hair and using a scrubby Japanese washcloth thing with soap.
2) towel-dry, wrap hair in towel
3) put lotion on my legs and arms (if I remember)
4) get dressed, try to comb my hair so it dries more or less not-crazily
5) other non-beauty related morning stuff, watering garden, eating breakfast etc.
6) leave house

This takes me about an hour, with only about 15 minutes of that being the first four steps. I would be willing to stretch appearance to like 30 minutes - can you tell me what you do every morning, and how long it takes you?
posted by peachfuzz at 11:19 AM on June 13, 2012

Best answer: Oh, one of the great "secret cheats" to looking fabulous in clothes is getting a good bra fitting!

NOT from Victoria's Secret--the fundamental technique with which they train their staff is completely wrong, so you will never get a good fitting there unless you happen to encounter a staff member who learned how to do it properly somewhere else--but either from a fancy department store like Nordstrom, or from an old-school lingerie shop that sells mastectomy bras and nursing bras and the whole shebang and has all grandmas as staff members, or from one of the jazzy new lingerie shops that do alterations and have cup sizes up to H or I and import lots of groovy bras from England and France.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:20 AM on June 13, 2012

Best answer: I do make an effort once in a while to get a reasonably cute haircut, but it tends to look ratty after the first wash because I can't be bothered to style it

The next time you get a haircut, tell the stylist that you don't do anything to your hair, and that you need a haircut that works with that approach.

Seriously, doing this changed my life. My morning hair regime is at best like yours (wash hair, wrap it in a towel while I do whatever and get dressed, then comb it into the vague shape of the style with my broad-toothed wooden comb [WHICH YOU NEED TO GET TODAY! YOU CAN GET IT AT WHOLE FOODS!] and then scrunch with my fingers) and my hair always looks great to the point where people stop me on the street and ask where I get my hair cut.

THIS COULD BE YOU. You just have to be firm with the stylist and say, "Look, I am not going to blow dry or use product or anything but comb it through with my broad-toothed comb, so you need to do something that will look great with that approach."
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:25 AM on June 13, 2012 [6 favorites]

Best answer: About your follow-up:

I am Korean, with face skin that is oily on my forehead and my nose, but dry everywhere else.

They call that "combination" skin, and I totally have that too. I need to remind myself to moisturize as well; you don't think you need to ("what, put more grease on my face that already has grease on it?") but the oily parts are oily because they think they need it. If you put a light moisturizer on there, the oil-producing parts think, "oh, okay, we can kick back" and they stop. You say it gets dull; the once-a-week scrub-with-cornmeal would work to take care of that.

In my perfect world, I would have that long, super-shiny, super-sleek hair that Asian celebrities wear, but when I grow my hair long it gets frizzy and crunchy-looking.

*sigh* Yeah, in my own perfect world I'd have wavy hair, but I've got stick-straight and baby-fine hair that loses any body in humidity. If you want wash-and-wear, short is gonna have to be the thing.

And then once you accept that, then it's just a matter of really trying to find the right haircut and the right stylist to work with you. That can be a lifelong journey, unfortunately.

can you tell me what you do every morning, and how long it takes you?

Shower: that's about 10 minutes tops. Wash body, wash face. I may put moisturizer on my face if I remember.

Dressing takes about 5 minutes.

Hair: this is just styling. I like to let my hair air-dry, and I don't wash it every day, so I wash it a couple nights a week when I'm just gonna be chilling around the house. Styling can take about 5 minutes, then I brush my teeth, then take another 5 minutes to touch it up.

Makeup: depends whether I'm having a breakout or not. I only use foundation and concealer if I need it. Takes me about 2-3 minutes.

Most of my morning routine is actually "sitting and listening to NPR with a cup of coffee and trying to wake up," actually.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:28 AM on June 13, 2012

Best answer: Okay, last stand on the soapbox for me. I agree that makeup tutorial videos in general are for much more elaborate looks than most people ever do! I Googled for some that were specifically for Asian women, and this seemed like a reasonable approach (the "day look" specifically). I'm going to email a friend of mine who is Korean, and whose eye makeup always looks fantastic, and see if she has any tips to share or resources to recommend.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:28 AM on June 13, 2012

Best answer: One thing about being an Asian lady living in the U.S., especially if one is in an area without a sizeable Asian population, is that following typical fashion magazine beauty advice can be hard. Like, you'll run into stylists that don't know how to cut or process Asian hair, makeup people who don't know how do makeup in a flattering way on Asian faces (eye makeup can be a minefield in particular), or eyebrow people who can't shape eyebrows in a flattering way for Asian features. So setting up a beauty regime can be hard.

In my case, I periodically check on blogs by Asian women, both Korean and English-language ones. One I currently like a lot is Extra Petite. In addition to pictures of her daily looks, she also has makeup tutorial videos and hair.

My own daily routine for my face involves using Paula's Choice skincare products (wash, tone, exfoliate, moisturize, mineral sunscreen). I may use some tinted moisturizer or yellow powder to tone down redness if my rosacea is flaring up. I have naturally very dark eyebrows, so I don't do much other than periodically tweeze some stragglers. Basically I don't put on a full face of makeup unless I am going out. My daily face routine takes at most 10 minutes, full face of makeup, as long as it takes.

Hair: back when I used to wear my hair long, I went to a Korean hair salon (or salon with a mostly Asian clientele) and got a "straight perm" that kept my hair straight and shiny for up to 6 months. These days I've been experimenting with shorter hair styles, but I try to stick to salons / stylists recommended by other Asian women, or at the least call and ask if they have stylists who can cut Asian hair. Currently I let my hair air dry as I go about my other morning stuff, and when somewhat dry will comb it with a wide tooth comb. I have naturally wavy hair which if I get a good haircut dries into a reasonably acceptable shape.

Regarding my hands, I try to put hand cream with sunscreen on it when possible, and I always wear rubber gloves when washing dishes and gardening gloves when working in the yard.
posted by needled at 11:35 AM on June 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I do myself once in the morning and I'm good all day. I love make up, hair styling, perfume, and all that girly crap. I'd wear a tiara everyday if I could.

1. PedEgg is awesome for doing your feet. Use it about once per week, then put Nivea Cream or Vaseline on your feet and put socks on.

2. You don't have to polish your nails, you can just use an emory board to file them evenly. Use one with heavier grit for your toes, and light grit for your fingers.

3. nthing the brows.

4. Your hair should be cut fabulously, a great cut will make you look prettier and make it easier to put yourself together in the morning. If you like it long, get barettes, elastics and headbands to wear on days when it won't cooperate (all summer long for me.) I get my hair cut for $20 at the Aveda Institute, but Paul Mitchel or Sebasitian or any other high-end Salon School should be fine.

5. The best make-up and skin care for Asians in the US would probably be Sheseido. It's Japanese, but should work great with your coloring. Don't go nuts! Get a good blush (a powder will work better for oily skin) and one set of eye shadow in a neutral brown color should be fine. Find a lipstick that's not over the top, again neutral. Tell the girls at the counter that you need some makeup help and they'll give you a makeover! Be honest about what you need, don't let them Bozofy you.

6. As weird as it sounds, Biore is also a Japanese company, so if you like drug store brand skin care, you could do worse. Get the stuff for combination skin.

7. A little light perfume is a good idea. I like Lauren, but there are a million light fragrances out there. One is fine. Make it your signature scent. One less thing to worry about in the AM.

8. As for your clothes. You can't go out looking ratty, you just can't. (I had to upbraid Husbunny on that this morning) On Sunday evening, after you've done laundry, get all of your work outfits out for the week. Match up tops, bottoms and shoes. Give everything the once over for stains, tears or other things that make you look bad. Iron what needs ironing. Organize it in your closet so that it's all there, ready for you. No more searching for shoes under the sofa on your way out the door.

9. Every so often go shopping. Buy new white blouses, black t-shirts and other things that are wardrobe staples.

10. For shampoo, I like Garnier Sleek and Shine. They have shampoo, conditioner and a leave in conditioner. My hair used to be thin and straight, now it's thicker and wavy. This stuff keeps it from frizzing up and it's super-shiny. You can buy it anywhere for about $3.50 an item.

11. Try a Beauty Balm (B.B.) Again Garnier makes a nifty one. It's like tinted moisturizer, and it's magnificent stuff. Has sun screen, pigment and makes you look glowy and dewy. About $11 but totally worth it!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:36 AM on June 13, 2012

Best answer: - In my perfect world, I would have that long, super-shiny, super-sleek hair that Asian celebrities wear, but when I grow my hair long it gets frizzy and crunchy-looking.

You can't get that hair if you don't blow-dry your hair. Long, super-shiny, super-sleek hair takes WORK. If you're willing to splash out some cash, you can get a high-powered blow dryer that will dry your hair pretty quickly. But that specific hair style will never never be wash-and-go.

As Sidhedevil says, if you really want actual wash and go, you have to tell your stylist that point-blank. That being said, some people CAN'T really pull off wash-and-go. If I were to wash-and-go, I'd look horrible. Have an honest convo w. your stylist about your hair and I bet you can come up with a solution.

Personally, in general I solve these problems by asking professionals. Get a professional pedicure to get your feet in order, and then keep it up by using an exfoliant in the shower (St Ives Apricot is good for feet and super cheap. Don't even worry about getting a polish if you don't care about that, but the professionals will make your actual feet look way better). I find that an occasional professional pedicure does WAY more than a manicure.

Ivory soap is probably too drying for you -- at least get Dove next time, or something that says "moisturizing" on it. Baby shampoo isn't helping you, either -- just buy whatever your stylist uses at the salon next time you're there, as they surely sell it. Baby shampoo is gentle, but REALLY drying and it's probably making your hair frizzy, which is not helping your Wash-And-Go dreams. You also need some conditional. In general, if you have the right tools, EVERYTHING actually is more effective. Spending a little time and cash will actually save you agita in the long run!
posted by Countess Sandwich at 11:37 AM on June 13, 2012

Best answer: PIXIE CUT. If your face shape works with it, it's a godsend for the lazy lady. I got mine cropped last week and I LOVE it. Wash, towel dry, bit of wax, done. (I didn't think my face shape - longish face, strong jaw - would work with a pixie for years, but then I got to go to a really good hairdresser who pretty much went 'no problem!' and it totally works.)

Other than that I do moisturiser on my face after showering because it feels dry and tight if I don't, and I use a body butter on my legs after shaving them, and I use hand or face cream on my tattoos because someone once told me it's good to keep moisturising them and they feel dry/itchy sometimes if I don't. I wash with whatever shower gel someone bought me with an exfoliating puff thing and I have a gentle exfoliating face wash (not soap) for my face.

Shampoo - I have greasy, frizzy hair and it was damaged and bleached to all hell and so I generally use stuff for damaged hair or frizzy hair. 'Glossing' or 'deep conditioning'. I buy stuff that is one or two steps above supermarket-own-brand but below ersatz-salon-fancy. £2-£4 a bottle. I like Aussie stuff. I'm currently using something that was on sale and labelled 'glossing' and it's fine.

Eyebrow waxing is a Good Thing and does a lot to make you look generally presentable and maintained. Good tweezers help with maintenance. I don't know if Tweezerman ones are in the US but they are the brand I (and the waxing place I go to) use.

I have no tips for you for makeup. Hate the stuff.
posted by corvine at 11:40 AM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Lots of good suggestions here. But in truth, I've learned most of what I know -- and I actually feel this is an area where I have gathered some knowledge over the years -- from professionals.

For example, I've learned a lot about doing my own manicures and pedicures from getting them done at nail salons. Check out the tools and how they use them, the soaking routines, etc., and you can then get your own and do your own.

Likewise, I've learned a lot about makeup by letting those makeup ladies at the department store show me their products. I'd recommend picking someone who looks like you, in general terms, and ask if they can talk to you about which products would look good on you, and show you some application techniques.

Clothes are something you learn lots and lots about by flipping through fashion magazines. And don't hesitate to go shopping at a store with gorgeous clothes and attentive sales people. You don't need to buy. You can try on and discuss. You will learn plenty. And you may find some affordable things you will like. Two keys: buy classic cuts/fabrics over trendy ones, and make sure to learn your sizes. At this point I buy everything online, but you need to know your own sizing very well to do that.
posted by bearwife at 11:43 AM on June 13, 2012

Best answer: Hello! As someone who is probably outside of the bell curve here in terms of time spent in front of a mirror every morning, the following is my daily routine. My aim is polished but not high maintenance.

Ignore anything in it that doesn't work for you - I just wanted to give a different perspective;

- shower with moisturing shower gel, not soap. I like whatever is close to a natural colour, creamy, and on offer in the supermarket.
- wash and condition hair - currently I'm on Pantene Ice Shine. I have seriously thick, long, wavy and rather greasy hair and if I want to look polished, it needs done every day.
- exfoliate body with either scrubby gloves or a loofah + more shower gel
- exfoliate face with a gentle face wash with little bits of sand (?) in it
- rasp feet with a file - I love this shape after a lot of experiment
- rinse, towel dry (wrapping hair in separate towel) and moisturise arms and legs - currently using a Garnier body moisturiser
- moisturise face with a mattifying moisturiser - currently Boots own brand with witch hazel
- while that's sinking in, blowdry hair mostly straight and then run GHD straightening irons over it. This is what makes it super shiny and takes maybe five minutes - I only do the top layer to prevent that 'poker straight' look and keep some volume
(sometimes I use volumising mousse before drying in order to add a bit of extra oomph)
- makeup: primer, foundation, pressed powder, eyeliner, mascara, blush. This is because I have uneven skin tone (hence primer and foundation); oily skin (hence powder to set everything); and wearing foundation can wash out the rest of one's facial features (hence mascara and blush) to redefine the rest of my face.

This takes me about forty minutes in a morning.

In seeking out the make up products I currently use, I went to Mac and Benefit and explained the issues I have with my skin/general face area, and asked them to recommend things that would work for me. Yes, I spend more on cosmetics than if I bought them from Boots (or Sephora or equivalent) but I know that what I have now works for me every single day, and it's a starting point for trialling lower end brands that might replicate the same effect.

On a weekly basis, I trim, file and paint my nails; on a monthly basis I get my eyebrows threaded and my legs and underarms waxed.

Hope this helps in any way - I would like to think I always look pretty polished for work/social events. Feel free to memail me if you want any other details, I don't know how interesting any of this is to someone who's not me!
posted by citands at 12:04 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For learning about new products that work for you, something like Birchbox might be worth looking into - it's $10/month and you get about 5 good-sized samples of things like makeup, skincare, haircare, and so on. There might be a wait list these days. I've been a subscriber for almost a year and have learned a bunch from there.
posted by Addlepated at 12:11 PM on June 13, 2012

Best answer: Danf - she wasn't asking for help in appearing more attractive to you or any other man. I know you meant that in a friendly way, but it comes across as patronizing, like you're assuming a woman would only want to change something about her personal grooming in order to be found more attractive. Not saying that's what you intended, but that's how it reads.

Everyone else has given great hair and clothes advice, so I'll just add my makeup two cents. OP, as everyone has said, you don't have to go nuts with products to appear more polished. I'm going to rec three products for you to start with that are stupid easy to use and will require minimal time and effort but will have a big payoff.

- Having your eyebrows groomed, yes, absolutely. You can just go into a salon and point to them and be like, "Help", you don't need to read or know anything about eyebrow grooming beforehand. After you're waxed/threaded, you can maintain the neat look by filling in your eyebrows with powder for everyday definition and polish. Benefit makes a great kit that lasts for-ev-er. You can ask the salon people or the Sephora people to show you how to fill them in.

- Cuticle cream. Even if you do nothing else to your nails, healthy, non-hangnailed cuticles will already help you look polished right out of the gate. Burt's Bees makes a good lemon scented one that you can find in drugstores/grocery stores. Leave it at your desk at work and put it on once or twice a day.

- A bit of color on your cheeks and lips will help keep you from looking washed out, but the array of choices/colors can be overwhelming, and you sound like you don't want to stress about balancing and matching colors. For maximum ease, pick a shade that works both places. I love theBalm Stainiac. It is virtually impossible to mess up the application because it's water based and all three shades are super natural and subtle, despite their appearance in the bottle. You can apply chapstick or whatever right over the stain on your lips and it will look like lip gloss without feeling goopy at all.

Those three things should get you started, and maybe after you get used to that routine you'll want to wear more makeup, and maybe not. Either is fine! You are welcome to memail me as well, I love talking about girly stuff
posted by superfluousm at 1:41 PM on June 13, 2012

Best answer: I love talking about girly stuff and not concluding my sentences properly, is what that should have said. Makeup fumes, etc.
posted by superfluousm at 1:42 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Convincing your stylist that you really are not going to put in a lot of work styling your hair every day will go a long way-- my boyfriend just sent me to this thread because "you're good at that kind of stuff" despite the fact that I, too, only own a hand-me-down hairbrush, and can't be bothered to use it half of the time. The secret to this laissez-faire attitude is in the haircut, but also in finding the right product-- I smear a little bit of Bumble and Bumble grooming creme (which is expensive, but worth it) through my damp hair and then fingercomb it, and somehow that's usually enough, even with shoulder-length hair.

You've gotten great advice on most everything above, but I also just want to stress: don't be afraid to try new stuff. As far as makeup goes, it can help to concentrate on trying new stuff in one area of your face at a time, and to make transitions gradually to wearing more dramatic makeup. Start with lip gloss, then try lip stain, then lipstick, or start with really simple eyeshadow (these eyeko sticks are the easiest thing in the world to use, and look great), then add another color, then mix it up with liner or something else more dramatic. That way you're not going from nothing to full make-up right away, because that will make you feel cartoon-y, rather than like you're doing something new and neat.

And have fun! And don't feel like once you start, you can't stop, or like you're compelled to wear it every day. That way lies misery.
posted by dizziest at 2:21 PM on June 13, 2012

Best answer: PS: Also! None of this needs to be super-time consuming, I meant to add to my original answer. I am actually, to be honest, really high maintenance and even I can get ready in 40 minutes -- and that's Fancy Ready, not Every Day Ready. A good haircut saves SO much time.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 2:23 PM on June 13, 2012

Best answer: Hair:

- Try Moroccan oil, they sell it at Sally Beauty Supply (get the small bottle). Start with putting it on your ends only and use a boar's bristle brush to brush your hair (upside down works well because it gives you volume). This will take about 5 minutes or less.

- I have curly hair and if I don't put conditioner on (Tresomme, which has pretty good ingredients and a pump so I don't squeeze out too much and waste it) it gets frizzy right away. I also put conditioner on AFTER I get out of the shower as my hair soaks up moisture and gets frizzy. My stylist said that's OKAY, it acts like a pomade and it's not too heavy or sticky.

- For a sleek look, get some nice hair product at Sally (I use Mixed Silk, Silk Elements in a pump, you don't need much) and then a Tourmaline Hair Straightener, which takes a while but lasts. You can also get some Keratin-based hair lotion (I use XTEND and it lasts a long time if you only use it once a week or so) and that will lock in with the heat and keep it from being damaged so much (another tip from my stylist).

- Eyebrow waxing and threading: I tried this recently and tho' I felt weird, everyone said it looked REALLY GOOD and opened up my eyes. Get it done professionally, as in not at a beauty school.

- Go for a pedicure at a beauty school or salon. One thing I hate is when they glop on the nail polish so thick it never seems to dry, so I will do my own and then splurge for a pedicure at a really nice salon once in a while. I use lighter colors in the summer (right now is powder blue, look at what is hot at the drug store, and Sally Hansen is a good medium priced nail polish, sold at Walgreens, Rite Aid, etc.).

- Make-up: I use a concealer because I inherited dark circles from my French-American mother. I also dab concealer on any spots, then I use either Maybelline, or L'Oreal foundation, or right now I have Jane Iredale, which is blended beads and specially chosen for me by the Day Spa. I only use it when I am going somewhere special and the regular Maybelline for well, regular stuff. Most of the time I don't wear foundation at all.

- Then I do mascara and let it dry while putting on a little bit of a neutral blusher with a BIG brush. If you put too much, wipe it off with a Kleenex. I rub the brush into the pressed compact (also Jill Iredale) and tap and blow to get off excess, and put it on my apples and a bit of sweep up to my upper cheekbone.

- Then I do my eyeliner, usually a brown neutral stick. Less in the corner of the eye and kind of dabbed lightly under the eye. Then I mute it with a Q-Tip. Blend a little, so it's not so stark, especially for day wear. You can always do more at night for a club or evening out.

- Eyeshadow, a dark matte color on the outside and in the crease. Then a lighter color from the inside corners of my eyes to the middle. If for a conservative outing or office wear, go lightly with the dark color and more with the lighter color. So say, a darker sage green on the outside and in the crease and a lighter sage green inside to open up the eye. I am not Asian so take this with a grain of salt.

- Powder: I use Translucent powder. Use a puff under the eye and then a big brush all over the face and make sure nothing is visible. Mine is L'Oreal Loose Powder and it comes with the little flat puff, which is good for getting under the eye so you aren't poking yourself with a brush in the eye.

- If I need more mascara, this is when I put it on. I get rid of mistakes with a Q-Tip.

- Removal: olive oil works great on eye make-up, put some on a wadded up Kleenex and gently wipe. Or some neutral make-up remover, I am just cheap and olive oil is good for your skin.

- Wash face gently with Kiss My Face or some nice soap from a health food store, or a cleanser for your skin tone.


- Mix up some SALT and OLIVE OIL into a paste. Sit on the edge of the tub or over a dry dish tub and rub it all over. Then wipe off with a clean towel or rinse off, being careful not to slip! You can also do this for your whole body once a week or so, just do it in a dry shower and then rinse and use a washcloth to get the bits of salt off. This works on elbows and such too. You can use a pumice stone on your heels, but be aware that your feet are actually dryer in summer due to wearing sandals, so your feet aren't encased in socks to keep your natural body oils in.

- At night, rub some good foot cream (I like any Sally Hansen brand) on your feet, really get it in, and put on some cotton socks. They also sell socks with moisturizer built in and they last a while but feels good to rub lotion on your feet and let them sit in the socks. Try and keep them on overnight or at least a couple of hours and of course be careful not to slip or get lotion on your good shoes if going out afterward.


- Once or twice a week, mix up an egg and put it on your face till dry and wash off. Do this maybe while treating your hair with some olive oil or Moroccan oil, wrapped in some plastic and a warm towel (from the dryer).

- Then use a light moisturizer after you wash off the egg (as sometimes one gets acne from the skin being dry and trying to make up for it by producing sebum and acne, yay). Spritz your face with a little water first then pat on a few dots of moisturizer, neutral like Neutragena.

- Relaxing bath: tie up some oatmeal in a sack, like a cheap piece of muslin from Walmart and put the sack in the warm bath water. Then rub it on your skin. Don't do like I used to do and pour oatmeal in the bath as it makes a huge mess!

I also take a good B-complex vitamin, calcium pill / 81 mg aspirin blend (check w/your dr) and Vitamin D and sometimes Vitamin E. Evening Primrose oil is supposed to be really good, both inside and out. Google the studies. You can always prick a gel cap of E or Primrose oil and mix with a little lotion or Jojoba oil and put on your face. Some nice Rose Geranium Essential Oil would be relaxing, or maybe Lavender if you like it. I get mine at the health food store or online (I like Egyptian Rose Geranium EO best, I think I use NOW brand lately). You can also mix it in your face spritzing water and use all over for relaxation.

A good dry scrub with a body brush is supposed to help your skin and general circulation, lymph system, etc.

Hair on other parts: I shave under arms when I get 1/4" stubble and legs, not so often, but I don't have overly hairy legs to begin with.

Make sure you blend any foundation make-up to your jaw and a bit beyond and have a good friend tell you if it matches (one time I used a foundation that made me look like a ghost and I have pale skin to begin with, yikes!).

I was able to take a shower, and then do my make-up in less than 10 minutes while my hair (with conditioner on it and combed with a large toothed comb) air dried a little. Then I would blow dry or style, or leave as is to curl. I think you would benefit from trying the tourmaline straightening wand and keratin lotion on your hair, it's not that hard (coming from someone who used to get her hair stuck in a curling iron on a regular basis).

One other thing: learn to do a good simple updo for days when you are in a rush. I twist my hair into a chignon and use a bobby pin or two. Ask other women whose style you like how they do their hair and they will tell you! A good bun with a bit of soft ends sticking out artfully can do wonders for your look (and people tell me I look very good with my hair up -- as do a lot of women as it elongates the neck, etc.).

Jewelry: I do earrings and maybe a nice pendant but not too much. Some only do the earrings and a bracelet and no necklace. Or a nice necklace and no earrings (or little earrings). Depends on your workplace, I would look at what the other women are wearing and follow suit until you develop your own sense of style.

Clothes: you can't go wrong with classic pieces like a good coat dress, a black skirt and white top with 3-quarter sleeves, and simple black pumps. Add a colorful necklace and a jacket or sweater. Yes you can get fancy with colored shoes and purses but there is nothing wrong with a classic look at the office (I do both now as I work at home and only dress up like this if I have to go out for business).

Good luck and remember, practice your new routine on weekends so you won't end up getting flustered on weekdays.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 2:44 PM on June 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I am also ready in 30-40 minutes daily and that includes shower, brushing teeth (very important), hair, makeup, perfume, clothing and jewelry, and I am a Fancy Every Day person as I have a dressy job.

The key is knowing what you are doing, for which some contact with professionals is hard to beat. Of course don't buy all the stuff they show you, maybe not any of it.
posted by bearwife at 2:47 PM on June 13, 2012

Best answer: I know working with professionals has worked well for a lot of people, but as a Korean person in the U.S., it was really hard to find professionals that did a good job with me regarding hair and makeup. What worked for me was self-study, and engaging professionals within the Korean community. Personally, I would even be wary of getting one's eyebrows done by professionals who don't have a Korean clientele (Korean women tend to wear eyebrows a bit thicker than typically seen in Caucasian women, and eyebrows are filled in with light colors - check out photos of Korean celebrities to see what I mean).

If the OP can afford it, the best thing would be to fly to Seoul and get a makeover there, as well as lessons.

Otherwise, some other things that can work are reading blogs and other online resources. For makeup, if possible I would suggest counters of Korean makeup brands, if available to the OP. If not, I have found Shiseido to be quite good, especially for matching foundation shades. Regarding hair, I would suggest the OP go to a Korean or Japanese hair salon. I have found they cut hair very differently from salons that cater to non-Asians. One thing the Asian salons always do is thin out my hair (this is also mentioned in the Extra Petite video I linked to above). They also tend to cut my hair in a "choppier" way, which results in hair settling on my head in a pleasing way without a lot styling with a brush and blowdryer.
posted by needled at 3:10 PM on June 13, 2012

Best answer: Get yourself fitted for a bra if you haven't already. It makes a massive difference. Go somewhere where they know what they're doing.

You're lucky in that you don't have to go through the awkward teenage stage of wearing bad make-up - you can learn what suits you and buy the right stuff now, if you decide it's something you want to do (I work in a casual office and not all women choose to wear it, it isn't compulsory!) I would recommend trying a department store makeover just to see what they do. Get yourself some brushes - you can't apply eyeshadow well with a finger or with the sponge applicators that come with it - Ecotools are supposed to be pretty good. (I use GOSH ones which I don't think are out in the US.) Also, make use of reviews on beauty blogs and, because they involve actual women of different colours and skin-types trying stuff out and talking about how it worked for them - something you won't find in women's magazines. And get yourself some cleanser to remove it - doesn't really need ot be expensive as long as it gets the stuff off, it's on your skin for minutes - not soap and water, or sleeping in it - your skin will thank you.

Getting foundation to match is the first step. I find it hard as I'm very very pale, and I imagine it's harder for Asian ladies. Bobbi Brown are often said to be one of those brands that are good for ethnic skintones, so if you have a counter near you ask if they can match you (you don't have to buy anything there and then).

Similarly, fashion blogs are much better for me than magazines. If you're plus size, if you're petite, if you think you'd prefer a simple look, there'll be someone out there who looks like you blogging about what they wear. I like Academichic and YouLookFab - both do series on finding things to suit you and are aimed at women your age rather than young 'uns. I am a pretty non-standard shape and size in many ways and I find blogs infinitely more useful to me than magazines that cater for people younger/shorter/thinner/richer than me.
posted by mippy at 3:21 PM on June 13, 2012

Best answer: Nthing getting the eyebrows done. I get mine threaded and took a friend (who I think is similar to you) to get hers done and the next day at work everyone was talking about how she looked like she had a "glow" that she looked fresh, etc. Someone even asked me if she was pregnant, I think b/c of the "glow."

Anyway, as someone who wears makeup most days, I wear it because I like and enjoy it but I don't see it as a necessary thing, especially if you have clear skin. I would just try to get into an exfoliation routine so that your skin looks fresh, and then if you want to learn about makeup Sephora is pretty good with their salespeople not being too pushy. They are also good at picking out stuff in my experience. You could start simple with like a lipstick or eyeliner/mascara/whatever. Makeup is pretty fun when it isn't taken too seriously. I love buying eyeshadow palettes which I also use as eyeliner. It's fun to pick different colors to wear each day.

Moisturizer is important. I've been using jojoba oil for the past couple of years and it seems like something that works for people of all skin types.

Don't stress to much. It sounds like you are overall satisfied with yourself and that is worth a million times more than the most perfect grooming routine.
posted by fromageball at 4:42 PM on June 13, 2012

Response by poster: this keeps getting better and better. So much realistic stuff I could actually maybe do, and not just for a week while I'm gung ho about doing ALL THE GROOMING!

One more thought - how awful is it to not shave my legs, if my usual goal is to present as conventionally feminine? Like, are hairy legs rampant-eyebrow-levels of sloppy (not terrible, but not doing me any favors either)? the hair on my legs is dark but very fine and sparse. I'd say you can only really SEE it from within two feet (I think? Oh god, maybe everyone can see it all the time).

If shaving is part of a good grooming routine, how/when do you do it so it's not a giant pain in the ass? I always end up fumbling with the razor in the shower, teetering precariously, while water plasters my hair over my eyes and washes all the shaving cream off my leg.
posted by peachfuzz at 6:26 PM on June 13, 2012

Best answer: To answer the leg shaving question: Of course there are ideological stances on this, but with very few exceptions, hairy legs will not do you any favors professionally. If you are going to bare your legs or wear sheer stockings at work, shave or wax them; people do notice this sort of thing and hairy female legs are frowned upon in US culture (in fact, "hairy legs" is used as a disparaging phrase).

I get my legs waxed whenever possible. If I have to shave, I do it sitting down in the bathtub, post-shower (so the hair softens) or after I've soaked in the tub for a while.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:03 PM on June 13, 2012

Best answer: Leg hair: it really depends on how much hair you have and how dark it is. It sounds like you might have little enough that you can not shave and no one will notice; this is the case for some Asian women (and some blond women). But, if it's noticeable, it will detract significantly from looking put together in a feminine way. I'd skip shaving for a couple weeks, then ask a totally honest friend. I also shave my legs sitting down in the shower.
posted by insectosaurus at 7:31 PM on June 13, 2012

Best answer: Skincare recommendation:

Morning: Splash face with water, apply a photostable sunscreen. I'm not really sure what sunscreen is best though, I haven't figured that out yet. Photostable is important - that means it will keep protecting you all day instead of breaking down. It's also important that it have broad spectrum protection.

Evening: Wash with a gentle cleanser from the drugstore, I like CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser. If you want, you could use CeraVe PM which is an awesome moisturizer from the drugstore.
posted by insectosaurus at 7:37 PM on June 13, 2012

Best answer: If you have typical Korean lady leg hair, you probably can get away without shaving. If it really bugs you, get your legs waxed.

Personally I've never shaved my legs, although I will get them waxed or wax them at home myself from time to time. But it's not something I have to do religiously on a schedule. I do shave my armpits, and I really envy my mother who naturally has no armpit hair.

(I feel like I am chiming in a lot in this thread, probably due to all the years of frustration and experimentation as a Korean woman in the U.S. trying to look presentable to both Koreans and U.S. folks. I'm not in a job any more where I have to wear a suit every day, so I can look more casual on a daily basis, but I can still clean up good when I have to :) )
posted by needled at 7:38 PM on June 13, 2012

Best answer: Lots of the Korean women I know don't bother with shaving their legs, so I think you can probably get away with it too.

People have given fantastic advice here, and I just want to add one thing. Sephora sells high end stuff- but they have a really great return policy. If you buy something there and it just doesn't work out so well when you get home, you can return it, no questions asked. Just knowing that makes the whole makeup shopping process less stressy for me.
posted by peppermind at 9:15 PM on June 13, 2012

Best answer: If you don't want to mess with your nails too much, you can put a semi-matte clear coat on them. It makes your nails look like they've been buffed without being all nail polishy. The one I'm using right now is Seche Natural, which you can find at Ulta or CVS (which has been branching out into salon nail products around here). Total time from start to dry enough to actually do things: 5 minutes.
posted by anaelith at 9:17 PM on June 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For me (a very low-maintenance person), the key to looking groomed is:

-making sure that all facial hair is under control. So while I am very low-maintenance about most things, I make sure to get my eyebrows threaded regularly (every 2 weeks) and to make sure my upper lip hair is under control. You can get facial hair removal cream from any pharmacy which you can keep on hand at home. I am south Asian, so body/facial hair is always an issue with me.

-well-fitted clothes. Really, it doesn't even matter what the clothes are, what style you adopt, as long as it's in your size. Get fitted for a bra. If you are worried about lumps and bumps under clothing, get a few pairs of Spanx - they are not super-comfortable, but you get used to them, and they can make you feel secure under form-fitted clothes.

I'm not going to talk about make-up, as you've gotten lots of great advice for that already!

(Oh and I do not own a hairbrush either. I have not brushed or combed my hair for years, I just comb it with my fingers when I come out of the shower. That actually sounds pretty gross when I see it written down, but I have good, healthy hair which gets complimented regularly. Moral of the story: whatever works for your hair is the right thing to do.)
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:33 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm pretty low-maintenance too. No makeup, and as a moisturizer, I religiously use jojoba oil. It only takes a drop to moisturize your whole face, has antibacterial and antifungal properties, and is just wonderful. I've been using it for years now and only ever have a pimple if I forget to wash my face for a few days (introvert; lazy weekends are nice).

As for shaving – you know how everyone thinks French women don't shave? It's because they don't! They depilate :) I'm pretty sure there are now electric depilators in the US too. They pinch a bit, like waxing can, but once you're used to it, it's worlds nicer than shaving. No nicks or cuts, no shaving rash, and your hair doesn't grow back for at least a week! Plus it gets lighter when it's pulled out at the roots!

Seconding Ziggy's mention of well-fitting clothes too. Those can make a huge difference. The fad for about, oh, ten years now it seems, has been towards slim/tight clothes, but those can actually make anyone who's not a size 0 or 2 look larger and lumpier than they actually are. Clothes that skim your body shape are much more flattering. People remark on how thin I "am" (in their eyes) when I wear straight, wide-legged trousers; when I wear form-fitting trousers, I get remarks on my "big" cyclist thighs. (I happen to like them, which is why I keep my form-fitting trousers, heh. But I do go the more understated route for work.)

For hair: using conditioner instead of shampoo made worlds of difference for me. I used to have what I thought was crunchy hair that could never be long, until I stopped using shampoo as often. I shampoo maybe once a week now; conditioner-only twice. Lovely, soft hair, and it even holds its natural wave now!
posted by fraula at 3:03 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I switched to a wooden comb, and I was amazed at how much nicer my hair is.

I got a boar bristle brush too, and it did make my hair nicer, but I found the wooden comb alone worked just as well for me and was easier.

There's a method for washing your hair with baking soda and vinegar, which has been given the unfortunate name of "'poo free" (referring to shampoo-free). Since I switched to this method, my hair has improved so much. And I only have to wash my hair twice a week, instead of every day. Some people go for a whole week. So it saves you time.
posted by Surprised By Bees at 5:31 AM on June 14, 2012

Best answer: If shaving is part of a good grooming routine, how/when do you do it so it's not a giant pain in the ass? I always end up fumbling with the razor in the shower, teetering precariously, while water plasters my hair over my eyes and washes all the shaving cream off my leg.

Okay, I'll tackle this one. I have blonde-practically-clear very fine hair on my legs. In the fall/winter, I can go weeks (months?) without shaving it, but then again I never wear skirts, and my man don't care. I'm a little better in the summer (maybe once a week) because I've started wearing shorts as an after-work thing, but still wear pants to work every day. I think you only need to seriously worry about shaving your legs if your hairy legs are visible at work, because that might make you look less professional.

I use EOS vanilla shaving cream (you can get it for like 3 bucks at CVS, Rite Aid, etc) which smells awesome and you can actually use it when your legs are wet or dry -- it's super moisturizing. When I do shave my legs, I do it at the end of my shower and only use the shaving cream on one half of one leg at a time. My routine: stand with my back to the shower (water mostly stays off your legs and won't rinse away the shaving cream before you can shave), prop left foot on tub, shaving cream up left calf, shave left calf, rinse razor, go over left calf again. Shaving cream up left thigh, etc., rinse and repeat. Only takes a few minutes. Also, disposable razors are dreadful and will slice you to bits. My hair is so fine I've been using the same Venus cartrdige for probably a year or more.
posted by jabes at 6:23 AM on June 14, 2012

Best answer: Shaving:

In a tub: Sit on the edge of the tub, turn the water on to the bottom faucet only, piece of cake.

In a shower-only shower: More of a nuisance. Get a shower head that has a handheld attachment (this is highly useful for other stuff, too) so that you can control where the water goes. If you really can't for some reason, fill a cup with warm water and turn the water off--use the cup to rinse your razor with. I've also considered getting one of those shower chairs, but currently I just sit on the floor. Make sure you shave while your shower area is well lit (sunlight if you have it), especially if you're only shaving irregularly, and run your hands up your legs to feel any spots you missed.

I also only shave my lower legs, my thighs have an awful reaction to shaving.
posted by anaelith at 8:26 AM on June 14, 2012

Best answer: I'm totally incompetent and lazy about being "put together" too (high five!) so when I want to look good frankly I put it in expert hands instead of my own, like many are saying--the two hugest payoffs I've found are indeed a really sharp haircut (it doesn't have to be weird or edgy or anything--you'd be amazed what a really good stylist can do towards giving your hair body and lift and shape in just an otherwise-standard medium-long haircut or whatever simply by knowing where to put hidden layers or whatever) and getting my brows shaped and cleaned up (I went the electrolysis route for that, but my hair's stubborn as fuck and I still need them cleaned up once in a while). It's sort of crazy what getting your hair figured out by experts can do for you--I don't wear ANY make-up these days and only wash my face with cetaphil and water and don't dress particularly classy or accessorized and I still think I look great when I want to when those two things are in place.

For the skin stuff, keep in mind you're right to be overwhelmed and it's likely taking a slow, gradual approach to adding stuff in is better 'cause frankly most people DON'T need all that complicated-sounding crap. Yeah, some kind of exfoliation/scrubbing once a week or so sounds like it might help, be it homemade or not, and yeah, preferably around shaving/shower time. Just don't slop on so much stuff in trial and error all at once you can't tell what's helping and what's making stuff worse...
posted by ifjuly at 8:27 AM on June 14, 2012

Response by poster: You guys! I got my brows did last night, and then I went to Sephora, which I hadn't been to since I was a teenager rolling my eyes while my friends squealed (god, I was a pretentious shit), and it was fun! I think I really just want a super-minimalist option to start, with some workhorse stuff I can use all the time, so I ended up getting some tinted moisturizer with SPF that works awesome when thinned a little with my usual moisturizer (why didn't anyone tell me about tinted moisturizer before, IT IS THE BEST) and a Stila combination lip/cheek stain in a pretty, fresh coral color that looks sunny and cheerful on but that I would have never ever picked if the girl hadn't suggested I try it. I got a nail file, too, and proper makeup remover. OH AND A CREASE BRUSH, which I didn't know about before this thread and so my hapless eyeshadow attempts (dark on the lid, medium in the socket, highlight on the brow bone) always ended up making my eyes look like bracketed equations.

This was totally my goal with the makeup, to amuse myself a little and figure out how to look a bit more polished when I want to. Thank you!

Next: Some kind of moisturizing soap and a not-baby shampoo, and a come-to-Jesus with my hairstylist. More little things of moisturizer. And then I think I'll be set, at least for a little while at least.

(I make a lot of my own clothes, so I'm a stickler about fit and have my own weird quasi style going on. Though the reminder to get bras that fit is great—I last got fitted when I weighed about 10 pounds more than I do now, which is a lot on 5'2", and none of the bras I bought then are ideal any more).

Thank you so much for all the kind help, commiseration, and useful advice. Ladyhood (or, at least, confidence that I'm professional and polished), here I come!
posted by peachfuzz at 8:47 AM on June 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Hello, fellow Korean lady of same height with similar issues! Here's my full morning routine and list of products. It takes about an hour, and includes shower, makeup, hair and puttering around with a toddler.

The routine is shower, makeup, get dressed, wake child, get child dressed, feed child, dry/style hair while child is eating, clean up and leave.

Shower: whatever soap and shampoo. I keep a pumice stone in the shower and take a whack at my feet every once in a while. As for shaving, I think it's a cleaner look to be unshaven than to have weird patchy growth from having partially shaven. I generally do not shave my legs in winter, and only about every week or so in the summer.

Makeup: first, I put on a little moisturizer. Then I put lotion on the rest of my body while my face absorbs the moisturizer. This whole makeup routine takes about two minutes.

1) primer. This may seem unnecessary, but I think it makes the whole process go faster/better because my fingers just glide right over my face, rather than dragging skin. I used to use Smashbox, but it turns out that Monistat Soothing Care Anti-Chafing Gel is almost the same thing, and it's $6 rather than Smashbox's $50. (I'm serious -- about the price, ingredients and use.)

2) foundation. I use tinted moisturizer with SPF to avoid Kabuki face.

3) eyes. I use L'Oreal HIP shadow in Charisma. Using the fat end of this brush, the pink goes on the top part of my eye, the purple goes in the creasy area using the other end of the same brush, and then black eyeliner goes on the top lashline only. I don't bother with mascara; with the oily T zone, it has a tendency to smear anyway.

4) Chapstick. For special occasions, I use this in Black Honey.

If you want to try a different look, try the Shiseido makeup counter, which caters to Asian women. If you want to get really advanced, ask Asian brides who did their makeup on their wedding day and go to them.

Hair is a little more complicated. Like you, I would love the long sleek Asian celeb style, but my hair is coarse and wavy, almost curly. I leave it long (shoulder length) because the shorter styles are not suited to thick, coarse hair -- I get this mushroom effect or something that requires much more time in styling. I have bangs, which brings focus to my eyes and also hides my generally ungroomed eyebrows.

I towel dry, and then let it air dry while I am dealing with kid things. While he is eating, I blow dry with a hot air brush (I don't want to deal with both a brush and a blow dryer). These are also really easy to find in Asian supermarkets, so I suspect they are popular with our people.

I use a drop or two of Moroccan hair oil and smooth it through my hair, and then go over sections with a flat iron. For flat irons and long hair, you want one with at least 1" plates. (I also thought this was totally unnecessary but it really does make a difference if you want that Asian celeb look.)

Good luck and have fun!
posted by hmo at 9:56 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This may or may not work for your skin type, but has revolutionised my skincare regimen: hot cloth cleansing. At present my 2 minute routine, morning and evening, is as follows:

Massage a gentle cleanser into my face and neck.
Soak a flannel/ facecloth into hot water, wring it dry, and wipe off the cleanser. This takes away all remnants of make up and gently exfoliates the skin. At night I pay special attention to my lips, as they tend to flake, and follow with a hydrating chapstick.
Splash some cold water and dry face.
Apply some serum. I don't buy the expensive stuff, instead I make a mix of pure aloe vera and vitamin e oil which suits my skin. This step is optional, but I like it.
Wait a minute or two for it to absorb, and follow with moisturiser or night cream.

My skin feels greasy for a bit but within 5 minutes it becomes soft and fresh, and as it's well exfoliated, looks healthier and brighter.
posted by tavegyl at 2:09 AM on June 15, 2012

Best answer: Background information on my qualifications: 1. I used to be clueless about this stuff too, 2. I'm now a cosmetologist, and 3. I'm Korean TOO. What! Yeah, so I have some advice for you along with some easy to find drugstore buys.
  1. Hair issues: You can keep your dad's little rubber comb for detangling purposes if you like. For general hair brushing and blow drying I'd recommend a simple paddle brush like this one. It doesn't have to be a fancy copper-infused one, just find a paddle brush with a cushioned pad and ball tipped bristles. You can use this brush for general detangling, for smoothing down your hair and while your blow dry your hair to give it more body and smoothness. (I can give you more information on blow drying if you'd like, just PM me). I wouldn't recommend a boar bristle brush for you since we have similar hair and boar bristles really create a lot of static in my hair. If baby shampoo works for you, then keep using it. You may want to consider using a conditioner as well since this closes your cuticle after shampooing and will also make your hair a bit nicer looking. I personally recommend people use Tresemme shampoos/conditioners because they're super cheap and they actually work quite well.
  2. Face stuff: I learned in esthetician training never to use soap on facial skin. You want to use a mild face wash, something like the original Neutrogena bar. It's always good to put a bit of moisturizer on after washing to protect your skin; find one with a sunscreen if you don't already wear one. You don't need SPF 100 either, this product would be fine for you.
  3. Sandpapery hands/feet: Use a lotion with AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) in it on these areas. AmLactin is a good lotion with AHA, and you can get that at drugstores and Costco.
  4. Makeup: What you're doing already is fine for everyday. Since you say your complexion is pretty nice, I'd focus on a bit of blush, eyebrow definition and maybe a bit of eyeliner/mascara to help you look more put together. If you want actual recommendations on products in this area or anything makeup related you can pm me.
  5. Clothing: I'd definitely recommend a full-length mirror some place in your house that you'll pass by before you leave for work. I try to make sure threads aren't hanging off my clothes or have dirty spots before I wear them. Put a lint roller by your new mirror and roll yourself before you head out. Ironing your clothes will also help you look a bit more polished as well (I never do this though, because I just don't care). Slips are great under dresses and skirt; use a camisole of your tops if you have any see-through-ish blouses or anything.
Can you tell me your beauty/maintenance routine, both for everyday and special use? What are the things you do from day to day, or week to week, that keep you looking good? And who/where do I turn to to find more of this stuff out for myself?
My daily routine is to wash my face with a cleanser every morning, then I apply a BHA gel (I have oily, acne prone skin. This step really helps my skin stay clear), moisturizer, then sunscreen.

After everything's been absorbed, I smooth on some foundation powder, apply the rest of my makeup (eyebrow pencil, eyeliner, eyeshadow, curl my eyelashes, mascara, blush, lip liner, lip color... I realize this seems like a lot but I swear it takes like 5 minutes).

Then I style my hair (usually I re-wet it with a spray bottle and blow dry it in the direction I'd like it to go. Otherwise I'll just re-wet and put my hair up in giant velcro rollers, spray on hairspray and wait for everything to set. Everything finishes with another spritz of hairspray all over and combing everything into place.

Lastly, I get dressed.

At night I shower right before bed, and I use a special makeup-removing cleanser in the shower to remove all the makeup on my face. After shower I slather lotion all over my body, put on my deodorant, put more BHA gel on my face and more moisturizer. I make sure to dry my hair before I sleep so I won't have to struggle with it too much in the morning.

Weekly (usually fridays), I exfoliate my face with the Neutrogena Microdermabrasion System. It makes my skin so much smoother and it's pretty cheap (at least compared to a real microdermabrasion) and the best exfoliator I've used.

I file my nails weekly, give myself a mani/pedi every couple weeks.

I get my hair cut infrequently since it's long and I'm low maintenance with it. Maybe every 2 months at the most. If you hair's shorter, a monthly trim will do you good.

As for getting future advice, I'd find an online community focused on these matters and ask there (like Makeup Alley or Essential Day Spa). Otherwise, if you have a beauty fiend friend/sister you could ask them. Someone mentioned going to a beauty school and asking them, but as someone who's been to beauty school I can tell you they won't be able to help you much there. You can always get your makeup done at a makeup counter in a department store and ask them for advice as well.

Sorry this is so long and sort of late to the game! I'd be happy to help you out if you have any more questions!
posted by french films about trains at 4:58 PM on June 19, 2012

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