Help me look my absolute best in a week.
February 11, 2007 8:17 PM   Subscribe

If I wanted to look my absolute best - i.e. healthier skin & hair, and as much weight lost/redistributed with lean muscle mass - in just over a week, what might I do? And yes, there is much...

I'm seeing an important someone in about 8 days and would like to look my best for the reunion. While I am normally in good shape & comfortable with my body and weight, I've spent the past few months working 40 hours a week at a desk job and that combined with the holidays and some light traveling added a few pounds to my body that I'd like to see gone. Plus, my skin and hair have been *pissed off* that I've spent so much time in dry air, between the heat in my office and space heater in my bedroom, so I'm fighting mild acne and frizzy hair. I've been eating right and exercising when I have time for the past month or so, but now that I have this impromptu reunion coming up I'd like to maximize my pampering & cleansing for the next week in order to look my best, especially when it comes to the pesky pound or two that I'd love to see depart my stomach and butt for a permanent vacation.

I'm not looking for anything that's drastic or unhealthy - no fasts, pills, weird herbal tinctures. I stick to healthy procedures at all times, because no amount of weight lost or clear skin is worth an adverse effect on my long-term health. I'm just curious what one can do in a short period of time to look their best and to help accelerate a teeny bit of weight loss. I eat well and take a multivitamin every day, drink as much water as I can stand while maintaining a normal (i.e. not every 15 minutes) bathroom schedule - is there anything I can do differently in this next week to help? Or am I looking for a unicorn, and this kind of looks-improvement just can't happen in a healthy fashion in a short period of time?

(looking back, I do hope I don't seem naive or idealistic. Just curious if there is anything that I might not already know about.
posted by AthenaPolias to Health & Fitness (34 answers total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
For your frizzy hair, treat yourself to a salon appointment and get a deep-conditioning treatment and a haircut/trim... It will definitely perk your hair up.

Sorry I don't have any advice on the other questions other than to tell you to stay hydrated (which is sounds like you're already doing).
posted by amyms at 8:27 PM on February 11, 2007

i've always been impressed when my girlfriends have splurged on a really fantastic facial and an expensive hip haircut ... as for quick weightloss? hmmm... go raw for a week - i've done a raw foods for a week fast that is excruciating... but damn you can kill 6 + lbs in a hurry.

some thoughts.
posted by specialk420 at 8:30 PM on February 11, 2007

You shouldn't expect to lose more than about 2 lbs in a week's time. More than that (at least from what I've heard) is not so healthy. Instead of rapidly trying to lose weight, I would try to wear something that will make you look your best when you reunite with this person. Have you heard of spanx? You wear them under your clothes to kind of smooth things out. I highly recommend them.

Kudos on the water-drinking- always good. Regarding your face, I would recommend a mild cleanser (e.g., phisoderm) in the morning/night. Also, keep it moisturized with an oil-free moisturizer (i believe phisoderm makes one of those too) if you think that dryness is your problem. For the hair, I recommend anything from John Frieda's Frizz-Ease line (especially the original Frizz-Ease serum- I couldn't survive without the stuff). All of these products can be found at your drugstore, but I might also consider scheduling my next haircut the day that I see this person so that the hairdresser can make my hair look extra special.

Hope this is helpful, good luck!
posted by liberalintellect at 8:31 PM on February 11, 2007

If you get yourself to the gym every single day for the next 8 days- switching off every other day between cardio and strength training- you will see improvement.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:33 PM on February 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

oohhh- yeah, amyms is right. Deep conditioning is also a good call. Pantene makes some good ones if you don't want to go the salon route ("Time Renewal," I think it's called.)
posted by liberalintellect at 8:33 PM on February 11, 2007

Best answer: There's not much you'll be able to do to add lean mass and get more toned in that time frame; building muscle from strength training usually takes 2-3 weeks to really get underway.

Your best bet is probably to ensure that you're retaining as little water as possible; the way to do this is to keep your electrolyte levels in check by 1) paradoxically, drinking plenty of water, which it sounds like you're on top of, and 2) reducing your sodium intake as much as possible.

You can probably also drop 2-4 pounds of fat if you really try; it wouldn't involve fasting exactly, but more of a "quasi-fast" where you eat significantly fewer calories than you need, like maybe half, for 2-3 days with a focus on high fiber & protein foods with very few carbs (no simple sugars and no "white" starches like potatoes or white bread) - the point is to kick off ketosis and start burning fat. If it sounds like the beginning of the Atkins diet, that's because it is, but if you take vitamins & avoid cholesterol and saturated fat, it's not harmful; in fact a milder form of this same process is the only way to burn a substantial amount of fat in the long or short term. If you really get into it for a couple of days, you can gradually increase your caloric intake to a more comfortable level without going back into fat-building mode.

Oh, and unlike building muscle mass, apparently the positive effects of cardio exercise are much more immediately noticeable. So if you anticipate any... um... strenuous activities coming up, you may want to run or hit the elliptical for 15-20 minutes a day between now and then.
posted by rkent at 8:37 PM on February 11, 2007 [2 favorites]

If you're in ok shape, lifting weights a few times that week (don't overdo it) will help you look a little bit more toned, and situps work really quickly if you do a lot. That will make more of a difference than losing a couple of lbs of fat.

Get a manicure, and definately get a trim. Unless you have a hair place you really love, get the haircut at the start of the week so you have time to correct or get used to it. If you get a facial make sure you get it at the start of the week too, just incase.

Teeth whitening strips can make a big difference in a week too.
posted by crabintheocean at 8:41 PM on February 11, 2007

It sounds crazy, but the best way to fight frizzy hair is to give it a breather from shampoo for a few days...yes I'm telling you to stop washing your hair. Brush it out everyday to redistribute the natural oils on your head, then use the styling tool(s) of your choice. Other option would be, yes - go to the salon and have them blow it out all fancy.

As for the toning/tightening - it's too late to shape up. If it's a "clothes on" kind of reunion, just fake it the old fashioned way - slimming/shaping undergarments, the kind your grandma might wear. They won't help any if you're getting nekkid, but otherwise they will make you look that much more toned/slimmed/what-have-you.

For the skin, I'd recommend your usual spa-type solutions. If you don't have time to go the spa (and who the hell does?), get a day pass to a local gym (many of them will give you one for free if they think you're going to sign up). Make sure the gym has a sauna/steam room/whirlpool set up. Chill out in the whirlpool for a bit, then hop in the steam room to open up your pores. While you're in there apply a face scrub and a body scrub. Scrub down. Jump in the shower, rinse off in some cold water, then jump in the sauna. Chill in there for a bit, then when you hop out apply all your deep moisturizers and conditioners while you're still all warm and melty.

Will all that stuff really make you look that much better? At the very least, you'll be glowy and exfoliated, and most importantly, relaxed. Chilling out and taking care of yourself is going to do you more good than anything else, I think. Also, please don't do like 800 crunches before this little reunion. You will be sore and have a look on your face like you're about to have an accident.
posted by SassHat at 8:41 PM on February 11, 2007

Spend as much as you can on a haircut and clothing. I never thought I'd say this, but the extra money is money well spent. I never paid more than $15 for a haircut on priciple, but my first $50 haircut made a believer out of me. Same with my forst $50 shirt. More money doesn't always equal better quality, but cheaping out always shows.
posted by lekvar at 8:41 PM on February 11, 2007

liberal: 2 lbs in a week's time?! Criminy, I lose 2 lbs every time I visit the bathroom in the morning... ... Huh? TMI? What? Well, just sayin'...
posted by SpecialK at 8:42 PM on February 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

For your hair, go to the salon and get them to wash, blow dry and style it the day before the date. For your skin, you could try a mud masque like Queen Helene's Mint Julep. But I'd only try that if you have some idea how your skin will react to it. For me, it makes my skin beautiful the day of and the day after, but then I get a few zits that were lurking beneath the skin before it goes back to looking good.
posted by MsMolly at 8:43 PM on February 11, 2007

Best answer: Stop drinking booze and stop eating junk food. This stuff bloats you like crazy. Only drink water (not even diet sodas — so bad for you, and if you're in the habit of one glass of wine a night, stop). By the end of eight days it will at least *look* like you've lost five pounds, and you may actually lose a bit. Of course, the bloat will come back if you get back on the junk food, but you can live a week without it, right?

As for your hair, I can't tell for sure but I assume you are a woman. If so, then treat your hair as nice as you can. I have dry hair and I try to keep it in a ponytail and unwashed a few days a week so it revels in it's natural oils. Of course, I don't work so that might not be appropriate for your situation, but it's worth a thought. You might also splurge on getting it styled (even if it's just straightened with a hot iron or "blown out") at a salon before you are to meet this mysterious person. You know they always do a better job styling our hair than we do. Why is that?

Lastly, invest in some shower scrub. St. Ives Apricot is super cheap and probably the best deal, and use it one or two times before the big night, in the shower. As soon as you dry off from the shower, slather yourself with lotion or body oil (this will lock in any water your skin absorbed in the shower). You'll feel and look super soft, in the event that you get treated to some naked time with this person.
posted by Brittanie at 8:43 PM on February 11, 2007

For me, nothing makes me look better than a nice-smelling facial, haircut, new top, clean shave and meticulous makeup, all drawn out over longer than my usual morning routine takes. The confidence and self-esteem I gain by pampering myself looks better than any exhausting, stressful week at the gym.
posted by sian at 8:43 PM on February 11, 2007

Oh, and now that I think about it, if you want to tan, now would be the time to start using a variety of that Jergens lotion tanner if you want to have a nice, even tint by the big day. I really recommend it! Usually self-tanner looks extremely orange and streaky, but it came out great on me.
posted by sian at 8:49 PM on February 11, 2007

Oh, and get those eyebrows shaped while you're at it, unless you're one of the lucky ones who doesn't need it.
posted by zadcat at 9:00 PM on February 11, 2007

Agree with those who say deep conditioner. Drink lots of water, cut back on sugar, and make sure you get lots of sleep (no junk food, booze, or caffeine for about 3 hours before bedtime). The Crest White-strips are a good idea if you have a coffee or smoking habit.

Also, this may seem like a "duh" but remember to sit/stand up straight. Instantly look 10 lbs lighter, and a whole lot more confident. A few years at a desk job tends to ruin everyone's good posture habits.
posted by almostmanda at 9:02 PM on February 11, 2007

Has anyone mentioned beauty sleep yet?
posted by salvia at 9:04 PM on February 11, 2007

For acne issues: In the morning, pour some steaming water into a bowl with a healthy pinch of dried sage. Put your face over the bowl, cover your head with a towel, and breathe in the steam for a good 30 seconds or so. It's supposed to be good for respiratory health (and it is), but it also completely clears up mild acne issues--maybe something about the "discourages secondary bacterial growth"? After the steam, splash with cool water and moisturize up.

For other dry places: apply a good foot lotion at night (the Burt's Bees coconut stuff is crazy-thick) and then wear some cotton socks to bed. If you're going running in the cold, moisturize your hands first, and then put gloves on before you head out. And Brittanie's right--get some sort of shower scrubby stuff, and then apply lotion while you're still damp. The exfoliating is especially key if you're going to use any kind of self-tanning product.

And have fun in eight days!
posted by paleography at 9:13 PM on February 11, 2007

Eat lots of asparagus. Not only is it high in fiber and vitamins and totally good for you, but it's also a natural diuretic and gentle detox, helping both your skin and weight. Drink lots of water, and expect your pee to smell funny.
posted by RoseovSharon at 9:41 PM on February 11, 2007

Re: St. Ives Apricot -- Heh, no, don't use it. One of my friends jokingly calls anyone who uses it "stripper scented"... mostly because apparently (and he would know) all of the strippers at the local strip joint use it.
posted by SpecialK at 10:06 PM on February 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Strippers know a thing or two about looking good naked. That makes me want to buy the Apricot scrub more!
posted by crabintheocean at 10:13 PM on February 11, 2007

Every three days pick a new habit to get or an old one to lose. Concentrate on one thing at a time. There are going to be many more situations like this reunion--build for life.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:30 PM on February 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For the hair, I found out about Aussie 3 Minute Miracle Deeeeep [link to the MakeupAlley reviews page]. I swear I felt a difference after the first use. It's about $3 a pop so even if it doesn't work for you, it won't be too big of a loss. (FWIW I also love their Dual Personality shampoo).
posted by mittenedsex at 12:17 AM on February 12, 2007

er, that is, I found out about it this year

also, do mark up the best answers to let us know what worked for you :-D
posted by mittenedsex at 12:19 AM on February 12, 2007

Best answer: However you show up at the reunion, feel good about yourself. Your confidence will make a bigger impact than a few extra pounds. Have fun!
posted by chrisch at 12:23 AM on February 12, 2007

A quick note on the eyebrow shaping - get it done 2 to 3 days in advance so you aren't red and splotchy. I usually don't have a problem, but the last time I went I had to wear a color correction concealor for 2 days.

Get a manicure and pedicure, if you feel good, you'll look good. Don't worry about losing weight in 8 days, work on feeling beautiful and don't stress.

Enjoy yourself at the reunion, they want to see you and spend time with you. They will think you look great no matter what.
posted by blackkar at 5:28 AM on February 12, 2007

Another thing you can do to make your hair and skin happier is to start using a humidifier at night (cheap and cheaper options).

I've found that this makes my frizz-prone hair softer and my skin clearer -- and it also makes my throat less dry. It also helps keep me from getting colds, which might be useful for you (nothing makes me feel less attractive than mucus dripping down my face) ...
posted by ourobouros at 6:33 AM on February 12, 2007

If you don't have fair skin, get yourself to the tanner. Don't overdo it. Just go every other day. I promise you will look a lot healthier.
posted by kaizen at 8:27 AM on February 12, 2007

the good news is that a new outfit, worn with mascara, blush, and lipgloss, will be your best bet. wear your hair down (go get a blowout) and wear earrings.

maybe fast for one day, 2 days before the reunion? then the next day (the day before), go vegan with minimal complex carbs (ie fruit and veggies but not so much rice and pasta) - that always flattens out my belly.

the opposite plan- going atkins- works too. eat chicken and fish and vegetables, say no to complex carbs.

also exercise every day unless you're fasting, in which case relax.

but seriously, doesn't the new outfit sound like the funnest option? boots with heels. jeans down to the floor (too short jeans mak you look stubby- this is important). longish top. shaped blazer. bouncy blowout hair and lipgloss. you'll look great.
posted by twistofrhyme at 8:41 AM on February 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

I could add several suggestions here: use a face wash with Benzoyl Peroxide once a day to combat your acne, use a lotion or serum containing Retinol every night and exfoliate with a gentle scrub (not St. Ives!) every other day to smooth and brighten your skin, cut out extra carbs (white flour, sodas, sugary snacks) for the next week to reduce bloat and water weight gain.

But I'd also like to play the Devil's Advocate: you don't want to show up to see your special person the victim of a freak self-tanner accident or an overzealous eyebrow plucking. Do the things you know work for you, and be careful about trying anything new that could irritate your skin or break you out into ugly red bumps. And for the love of god don't go to a tanning bed.
posted by junkbox at 8:57 AM on February 12, 2007

I'm late to the party here and you've already received a ton of awesome advice so far, but I thought I'd add my two cents. A trim, brow wax and spa body scrub are all great ideas, but if you prefer to go the at-home route, I'd consider refreshing your complexion, deep-conditioning your hair, giving your hands a good treatment, and using the right clothing lines to complement your figure.

For your skin, I've had awesome results with Neutrogena's facial peel -- try using it tonight, then if you have good results, use it once more the evening before your reunion. On the big day, be sure to use a nice rosy blush (or whatever color best suits your complexion), a nice vibrant lip gloss, and curl your lashes and apply a good mascara. (The suggestion to try teeth-whitening strips is great -- some work in 3 days -- and using a pinkish-toned lip color will make your teeth look whiter as well.)

For your hair, try using Neutrogena's hair mask several times this week, then try using a clarifying or extra-body shampoo to get rid of any buildup on the week itself.

For your hands, I would recommend Bliss Labs' "Glamour Gloves", available at Sephora. If you don't want to spend the money, or don't have Sephora near you, you can accomplish a similar result with Vaseline or really rich hand cream and socks on your hands overnight. Be religious in your application of cuticle oil, too. For the big day, file your nails into shortish "squoval" shapes and use a clear or pale polish -- my favorites are OPI Samoan Sand, which is kind of beige, or pretty much any of the Essie pale pinks/beiges.

Finally, as far as your figure/clothing go...I'd suggest trying Phase 1 of the South Beach Diet. I've successfully and healthfully lost anywhere from 4-7 lbs. in a week on this. Drinking a ton of water should help you as well. On the big day, I'd recommend trying a Naomi & Nicole bodyshaper -- they are by far the best I've ever tried. Their one-piece, all-in-one bra and panty is the only product of its type that fit perfectly in the bust, flattened my stomach and didn't cut into my legs. It works great under pants or jeans. The previous poster's suggestion about elongated pants and a slightly elongated top was spot-on; I'd just add that a V-neck (plunging if you're up for it) helps to slim you, as will going slightly monochromatic. Some kind of bright color near your face will also help to brighten you up. I'd also second the previous poster on boots with heels, or pointy-toed stilettos would have a good effect too, but only if you're comfortable walking in them.

Good luck and have a great time!
posted by justonegirl at 9:19 AM on February 12, 2007 [3 favorites]

I had wonderful success with Burt's Bees products. Never being a person with "good skin" (regardless of how healthy I ate), Burt's Bees products helped me survive an entire half-pound bag of M&Ms and my period without a single pimple. I used my usual cleanser, Cetaphil cleaner, and samples of Burt's Bees products from a $10 facial kit. The products were: Rosewater Toner, Marshmallow Vanishing Creme (daytime), and Evening Primrose Overnight creme (nighttime).

Two weeks after beginning using the Burt's Bees products, I can leave the house without concealer or foundation on. It's amazing: my face is literally glowing.
posted by parilous at 10:13 AM on February 12, 2007

Evening primrose oil - you need at least three days of doses to notice the effect, but it always clears my skin up and helps my skin and hair retain moisture in dry weather.
posted by annathea at 4:29 AM on February 13, 2007

Please post back and let us know what you tried and how it worked out!
posted by crabintheocean at 9:01 AM on February 13, 2007

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