Help me look more polished
October 16, 2018 6:20 AM   Subscribe

I am always feeling slightly disheveled. How can I easily make myself appear more polished?

It's small things - my nails get dirty more quickly than other people's/my glasses are always smudged no matter how recently I cleaned them/I get cowlicks. What are easy ways to make myself look polished? What can I do to keep myself from constantly falling into constant disarray?
posted by superlibby to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (18 answers total) 54 users marked this as a favorite
I've taken to carrying around a purse kit that helps me feel fresher and more polished, as you say. It includes: mouthwash and floss, comb, simple earrings (if I've forgotten to wear any accessories and feel the need put some on), oil-blotting sheets. hand sanitizer, Downy wrinkle releaser, a nail file, and a facial mist.

I usually use most of those products after lunch, to clean up, but also to feel like I've got a second wind to my clothing/appearance.

You may want to add a glasses cleaning tool or cloth, and maybe a nail file with the pointy end to clean under your nails.

You could also consider a once-weekly manicure (self-done or pro) which, even if a lighter color, will generally hide under-nail discoloration and dirt. Shiny nails always make me feel more put-together, too.
posted by rachaelfaith at 6:46 AM on October 16, 2018 [8 favorites]

I used to be very sloppy-looking and now I am presentable, if not fancy (I do not wear makeup daily or even weekly, I dress casually most of the time).

I found that once I started polishing my nails, they generally looked nicer, even when not polished, because I was more careful with them (who wants to spend all their time repairing chipped nails?), and like rachaelfaith says, opaque polish hides dirt. I don't know anything about your hair but if you pull it back you might have more luck looking tidy?

An optician I know recommends washing your glasses, frames and lenses, weekly with mild dish soap. This may help keep them cleaner in general so that touch ups help more.
posted by wellred at 6:48 AM on October 16, 2018

I am also a slightly disheveled person. Things I do to clean up a bit, usually only one or two of them but doing all of them really perks ya up:
-eye liner
-lint roll the cat hair off my clothing
-flat iron my hair
-spritz it with defrizzer stuff
-hair removal
-accessorize with scarves belts etc
-oral hygiene
-nail care
posted by oomny at 7:07 AM on October 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

- Spritz hair lightly with a "light hold" hairspray after brushing
- Wear clothes that fit properly ie buttons don't gape, fabric lies flat without bunching or puckering
- Keep a lint roller handy by the door, do a quick roll on the way out
- Chapstick is a good shout. Basic moisturisation. I keep chapstick and hand cream at my desk and re-apply sometime in the afternoon.
- If your nails seem to get dirty quickly, keep a nail brush at your bathroom sink. Give a quick brush over during your evening routine. Keep them trimmed. Clear polish is fail proof and literally gives you a polished look.
posted by like_neon at 7:22 AM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I use a velvet lint brush. This way I never forget to buy the replacement sticky pads. The one I put in the office has gone AWOL and it's driving me crazy to be at work in my velvet blazer with no lint brush.

In addition to manicure, put some kind of heavy duty lotion on your cuticles. I currently keep Bag Balm at my desk, but have used knock off Aquaphor and plain old vaseline. I used to have a perfect natural hair paint brush for applying, now I made do with my pinky finger and then wipe my pinky finger on the back of my hand. I use a nail brush at home to clean under my nails, because I am not getting manicures with any regularity (I've had one since January, they're just not in the budget).

Having all of your clothes be well fitted decreases the impact of some of the other things you struggle with. Things to especially watch for are shoulders, sleeve lengths, and waist proportion. If you can make these areas look purposeful, then much else will be forgiven/glossed over.
posted by bilabial at 8:33 AM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Blowdrying and styling my hair is the single thing that has the biggest payoff for me. Also, if you are so inclined, get some silver or gold hoop earrings.
posted by something something at 8:53 AM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I am also a disheveled person, edging towards feral if left to my own devices for too long.
Besides the things already listed, eyebrow maintenance does a lot to keep your glasses/upper face from looking too messy. My glasses nearly cover my eyebrows, which actually draws more attention to them and makes it very evident if I've let them get out of control.

I have started taking better care of the skin on my face and I think it makes me look much more put together. Good skincare will also help keep your glasses cleaner--develop a good cleaning and moisturizing routine and you will have less skin flakes and also less overcompensating oil that builds up in your t-zone and makes the insides of your glasses dirty.

Wear good (which doesn't necessarily mean expensive) shoes in good repair. If you were socks/stockings/tights, make sure they aren't pilled or torn or otherwise gross looking.

This is all the advice I give myself and hold to for days/weeks at a time and then abandon, FWIW, and I know it gets good results in practice!
posted by assenav at 9:16 AM on October 16, 2018

Tidiness comes from time, attention and/or money.

Take 5-10 minutes, three times each day, to work on the little details like where your hair is, your nails, glasses, etc.

Wear clean clothes and iron them.

Use bobby pins and a bit of hair spray. At your next haircut, have them style the hair and explain what they do.

Spend a day in self-awareness. Watch where you're putting your hands. Maybe you're touching your glasses and hair a lot. Maybe you use your nails to open containers when others would use a knife. I touch my glasses lenses when I take them on and off, and as a result they get dirty quickly. Try noticing moments where you see something is supbar but brush it away. No more of that!
posted by ramenopres at 9:30 AM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

The word "disheveled", to me (a guy, if it matters), connotes a sense of hurriedness, that you're too busy running around trying to do everything at the last minute to pull yourself together. The solution to that is to give yourself more time, both in the morning and throughout the day. Take an extra half hour in the morning to get ready. Even if you don't need it, you can use it to meditate or do some stuff around the house. And then as you go through your day, freshen up periodically. Whenever I am going into a meeting or leading a training (anywhere I'll be around other people), I'll go to the bathroom first, rinse my mouth with some Scope, and then put on some chapstick and hand lotion. Ditto if I go out after work.

Another important thing is building baseline habits. Schedule some time once a week to do some basic grooming and self-care, then do it every week on the schedule. (My weekly routine includes trimming my nose hair, LOL.) For clothing, make sure you're taking good care. Don't throw your clothes in a corner or let them get wrinkly.

Cowlicks, though. That's just part of your natural hair. A good stylist should be able to take them into account when styling your hair. Make sure you say "I get this cowlick right here all the time" and ask them to tame it.

One final thing that helps me is watching what I eat. One of the things I've learned as I get older is how certain foods affect me. When I eat heavy, fried foods, I feel really bloated and oily. It's not a health thing; high-carb foods like bread and bagels are ok, but some lean proteins are not. So when I'm trying to look and/or feel good, I'll try to eat something like a grilled chicken sandwich.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:32 AM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

The purse kit is a great idea! I would add stain remover wipes to it.

As a night owl who also has ADD, I often rush out the door in the morning without noticing that I'm wearing something that's been spilled on. Using Shout Wipes* in the restroom once I get to work allows me to impersonate someone who, you know, actually picked out a clean outfit the night before.

* I understand from Bustle that makeup wipes can remove lipstick, mascara, etc., from clothing as well as from faces, while Readers Digest informs me that a packet of artificial sweetener can clean up a grease/oil stain, and hairspray takes out ink stains.
posted by virago at 9:38 AM on October 16, 2018

Yeah, my clothing is generally neat and tidy, and when work clothes get tattered/sloppy, I'm good about replacing them, though I sometimes have a hard time noticing when things are getting sloppy/getting stains on clothing (yay, dyspraxia). I could stand to shine my shoes more, but my clothing fits well and is neat. It's more everything else that is kinda messy.

(This is all super-great and helpful, and having a kit sounds BRILLIANT.)
posted by superlibby at 10:15 AM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've been making a concerted effort to touch my face less. Less playing with my hair, wiggling my earrings, leaning on my hand, rubbing my nose, wiping my eyes, picking at the weird bump on my cheek... just try not to touch, and when there's a legitimate reason (eye itches!) then treat like a sting operation, get in get out and then leave it alone. I have fewer weird red marks, less smudged makeup, fewer fingerprints and faceprints on my glasses, etc.
posted by aimedwander at 10:54 AM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

For the smudgy glasses, I have found nothing is better than 3M microfibre lens cleaner cloths, the weave up close looks like cross-stitched. I wear eye makeup and get smudges all the time, these cloths are AMAZING, I just keep one at my desk, one in my purse, one in my car, one at home. I rinse my glasses once or twice a week and let them dry overnight.

For your hair, see what other women do, there might be a way to style that avoids the cowlick or a styling product that will keep it under control.

I think it's bs that women need to wear makeup but groomed eyebrows, mascara, lipstick, and blush does wonders for me, it takes me 10 minutes in the morning even doing foundation and concealer and a few things to my eyes. I have straight "good" hair so focus my attention on my face.

In my 30's I finally invested in several quality tank tops that I can wear under cardigans and pullovers and I rotate the same few pairs of pants, have good black/brown leather boots/booties/ballerina flats, have good coats/jackets. Most days I can get dressed without really thinking too much because the formula is the same and everything in my closet fits me. I've gotten rid of the things I don't like to wear so there's less distraction. I don't wear jewelery on a daily basis but if I do it's one of two pendants that go with everything. I have two leather totes that go with everything and can hold everything, I intend to use them indefinitely.

I have a little wristlet that I keep with me and it has concealer, powder, blotting papers, lens cloth, lipgloss, lipstick. In my desk I keep deoderant, more makeup, hairbrush, lint roller, boot wipes. I always have an umbrella in my car or at work.

Staying well-groomed requires pretty regular if not constant maintenance (I have great eyebrows but pluck them 2-3x/week, I have pretty good skin and I put something on my skin before bed 90% of the time, I wear sunscreen under my makeup), pick where you have the biggest bang for your buck and build that as a habit and then see what you enjoy doing. Makeup for me is fun, other people like styling their hair, accessorizing, or doing their nails.
posted by lafemma at 12:08 PM on October 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

One more glasses thought! I grew out my bangs and keep the front of my hair away from my face as much as possible. In your profile photo I see short hair, but if you are using a styling product in the front of your hair, keep it as far removed from your glasses as possible (bc hairspray, gel, etc will migrate onto your lenses) and don't style your hair down toward your brows/glasses if you can help it.
posted by assenav at 12:28 PM on October 16, 2018

In addition to a kit (which I carry everywhere), I've found that washing my glasses thoroughly with soap and drying them with a clean cotton towel every morning helps me keep my glasses clean all day. Sprays and cloths are fine for a touch-up, but real clean comes from a good wash.
posted by quince at 2:09 PM on October 16, 2018

I think if you tend to e.g. put your face in your hands when you read, you're probably going to keep doing that. So I think making it easy to keep up the things needing upkeep might be more practical. IMO looking kempt is most down to hair, nails, and glasses.

Nails: keep a file, and moisturizer in your bag. Moisturize daily. Get a heavy moisturizer or barrier cream that moisturizes (I use Vaseline), keep that by the bed, and get into the habit of rubbing it into your nailbeds every night. Set up a recurring reminder to take care of cuticles and cut nails once a week.

Hair: unkemptness is about style and frizz. Agree, a hairdresser should give you a cut that works with the cowlick vs against it, so you don't have to do much styling-wise. Ask about a styling product for your hair texture to get rid of any frizz.

Glasses: Get a few bottles of glasses cleaning spray and put them wherever you most often are (e.g. near the computer), and in the kitchen and bathroom.
posted by cotton dress sock at 2:47 PM on October 16, 2018

As a person with curly hair, my perceived dishevelledness is directly proportional to how good of a hair day I am having. That’s why i splurge on fancy haircuts (2-3x a year) and curl-specific products. And I ask the stylist to teach me in great detail how to replicate what they do. Basically, good hair day = good appearance overall. For me, anyway.
posted by leslievictoria at 5:17 PM on October 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Maisie speaks the truth: As soon as you put on red lipstick, no one cares.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:46 AM on October 17, 2018

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