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January 22, 2008 7:14 PM   Subscribe

Image Management: 21 year old female wants to be able to ease into the girly arts without killing her bank account, with near zero starting knowledge. (May be long, this is several questions around one theme)

Okay. I'm an extremely pale natural dark brunette with long hair and (mostly) dry skin. Growing up, my female role models were all either furry legged feminists or long dead monarchs, and that plus Aspergers means I missed that giggly stage girls go through where they mysteriously transform into being able to do hair, makeup and wardrobe from playing 'Warrior Princess'.

I think I have the fashion component nailed down; my youthful over exuberance with gothy duds, and later, plain middle-aged lady gear having been modulated with age appropriate tees, and carefully selected skirts and blouse combos. I have staples and a unique style and all is good. I'm even wearing the right bra size.

But hair, makeup and skin maintenance is something I don't get very well. I've noticed a huge improvement after I started professional brow waxing. The doctor fixed my pimples and contact lenses freed me from the prison of glasses. And yet, I'm either stubbly or razor burned, raspy fleshed like a lizard. Made up, I overdo it in the wrong way, the colours don't blend, I use products for the wrong thing and my cosmetics flake off.

I can't blow dry, or style hair well. My hair has a curl that rarely, when the oil consistency is right and the planets are aligned, falls in gorgeous shiny waves, but more likely either puffs into curls or hangs in waves with an aura of loose frizz on top. Curlers, irons and products are confusing artefacts of an alien civilization. I want more of the shiny waves and I’m even greedy enough to someday want to have choice in my hair texture like (gasp!) straightening.

At the moment I live in the middle of nowhere, so no major brands like Lush, MAC and Sephora are available except online. I have a credit card and I can purchase touted products, but not in bulk volume and high prices. I don’t know what girls are supposed to have in their makeup bag or what gear (brushes, sponges, removers) to invest in.

I want to be able to style my hair for formal events, class and office-y type work; remove body hair without bleeding or paying a fellow human being my entire weekly income to yank it out; stop flaking skin with a moisturizing product that works and find a means of gentle exfoliation; and do the makeup. The range of makeup mastery I wish to eventually achieve shapes this latter desire. I want something similar to what I’ve said about hair looks, that runs the gamut to that subtle glow my fellow female classmates paint on to impress each other, to office worthy war paint and the capacity to create great going out looks. This especially refers to eye makeup.

I’ll take any wisdom mefi can throw, but to get your magnificent hive mind warmed up, how about links to websites with excellent how tos; names of good guide books; product names that a starving student might be able to afford; helpful tools to build my arsenal; stories of how you (or females you know) do the girly routines, pro-tips for application and/or cautionary tales?
posted by Phalene to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (45 answers total) 92 users marked this as a favorite
Search youtube for makeup tutorials. I'm partial to this guy.

(favorited because I'm pretty much in the same boat.)
posted by sugarfish at 7:20 PM on January 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

This is what I've figured out so far:

Curel body lotion + exfoliation with a sponge or a wash cloth = stops most flakiness.

Long underwear - especially silk - in cold windy dry areas helps with the whole chapped/scaly skin.

LIGHT oils in hair help with the frizz. I'm loving Avalon Organics conditioner from Whole foods. With shampoo, I'm finding that diluting in a little water makes hair get less frizzy in the first place. Do a dilute-vinegar rinse once in a while to cut frizz, too. Coconut oil, baby oil, or olive oil as a deep conditioner on the days you're home all day. Don't use shampoo every day.

You can do your hair and then put a bit of conditioner on it to smooth out the frizz. Use it like hair gel, but it doesn't give you helmet hair.

Wash your hair at night and braid it for pretty waves in the morning. Or put it in loose buns while it dries. Don't leave it up nonstop - it'll never dry and it'll start to smell mildewy.

Hair dryers and curling irons destroy hair. Not a problem if you have short hair.

You didn't say how long your hair is, but I'm finding good directions here:

Shaving - go slowly, use soap or a shaving cream, use a light touch, and, do you really have to shave in winter? Even a day off gives your skin a chance to heal.

No hope on the makeup from here, sorry. Although, a gorgeous dark red lipstick might be pretty against your hair and skin.
posted by arabelladragon at 7:34 PM on January 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

For hair, you must find a stylist you trust. Ask around- surely you know someone with great hair who has a stylist they love, love, love. Go to that person and ask their opinion on how you should cut your hair. You won't be able to style your hair properly if you have a haircut that doesn't suit the hair you have.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:39 PM on January 22, 2008 [3 favorites]

I can't give makeup advice without seeing your face in natural light, but I know this -- a facial moisturizer plus a base lip balm with SPF will slow signs of aging and make your face feel much better in winter, too.

Also, if you're 25 or past, start giving your chin and neck area a hard look in the mornings. Black facial hairs lurk.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:43 PM on January 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sorry, I missed that you were 21, somehow.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:44 PM on January 22, 2008

For skin care, what are you doing now? I'm curious about what you've tried. For overall dry skin, I'd suggest having a bottle of body lotion in the shower (even the cheap brands, Suave or Jergens, work really well), and lotioning up while you're still damp.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:47 PM on January 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Toni & Guy has a range of products (known as TIGI) that have always worked for me. I have wavy hair, so I sometimes use the "smoothing lusterizer" so that I don't get flyaways or the "aura" you mentioned. But I agree that a good, low-maintenance haircut is the place to start.
posted by lhall at 7:49 PM on January 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Also have very pale skin and dark brown hair.

I like pretty much any of the valseline brand lotions. They are fairly cheap for lotion. Rub your body, legs, arms, torso with body lotion right when you get out of the shower as showering actually makes your skin dryer once you get out. Putting lotion on twice a day if you have particularly dry skin might also be helpful.

As far as makeup goes I only wear a bit. a tiny bit of concealer since i have perpetual shadows under my eyes and a bit of mascara. If i am dressing up i use a bit of light colored eye shadow and colored lip gloss. With very pale skin and brown hair, dark or bold lipstick and eye makeup can end up looking clownish.

And hair? Mmmm... I am low maintenance so I usually let my hair go wild with a bit of brushing. I use a blow dryer in the winter to keep my head from chilling, but I don't blow dry it all the way. My hair likes to misbehave and i have kind of given up.

hope that helps.
posted by whycurious at 7:53 PM on January 22, 2008

I think we have similar hair - yours sounds curlier than mine - but I have the same affliction where once in a blue moon it makes gorgeous waves, but usually it's just frizzy and weird.
1. I've tried a billion products to make it curly on purpose and none of the expensive stuff has worked. The one best most awesome product is kind of new and super cheap - sunsilk "anti-poof" 24/7 creme - it's a blue bottle, you can get it at cvs. it's a leave in that actually makes my hair dry pretty. I've waited my whole life for this stuff - definitely worth a shot.
2. another product I really like for days when I don't blow dry (wait for it - good news to come on this!) is sebastian "potion nine". it's another leave in - it's expensive (about $17 for a big-ass tube) but a little goes a looooong way. it's great for days you want to put your hair up wet and forget about it because it's basically conditioner with a *little* bit of hold - and it keeps you from getting a frizzy halo, or frizzies at the nape of your neck. priceless.
3. the good news for you and me is that when your hair is thick and textured, you don't have to know how to blow dry your hair. you can just do it. it won't look as good as when a stylist does it, obviously, and I can't work wide barrel curling irons or big round brushes either.... but I promise that if your hair is well conditioned, all you have to do is bend over, point the dryer at your head, and brush it through every so often until it's COMPLETELY DRY (that bit's key....) then just run your hands through it a bunch, maybe a little frizz-ease spray (another drugstore product) - your hair will look lush and shiny and straight and not-weird.
4. for the love of god DO NOT GET BANGS. trust me. making hair that wants to curl look like normal bangs DOES require advanced skills. long with layers, or shoulder length, your hair is really versatile and easy to make lovely.
posted by moxiedoll at 7:58 PM on January 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, as far as shaving goes, get a razor with three or more blades, use shaving cream, go slow and personally, during the winter i shave my legs roughly once a week. After shaving don't put lotion on right away to help avoid little red bumps. Always keep your razor clean, storing it outside the shower where it can dry better helps keep them lasting longer.
posted by whycurious at 7:58 PM on January 22, 2008

For shaving your legs, go find the blue Gillette shaving gel (the one for sensitive skin). Usually stocked in the men's shaving section. Use with a good new razor blade, move the blade slower and you'll be happier - I had the same problems with razor burn until I found this method.

For exfoliation, either a sponge, a loofah or one of those poofy plastic things you see in the toiletries sections of supermarkets. Exfoliation is one of those things that takes time, so work at it for a week or so, and then the results will start showing.

A good basic moisturiser can be found with Palmer's cocoa or shea butter - slap it on after shaving your legs and you'll help avoid the razor burn, and it has pretty much kicked my mild Keratosis pilaris issues to the kerb. They both smell delicious.

As for hair and make up, I suck at these too, so I'm interested to see what others come up with.
posted by saturnine at 7:59 PM on January 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Biosilk's "Silk Therapy" does wonders for your hair and is available at Target now. Here are some reviews of it online. It's a little pricey, but a little goes a long way and one bottle will last you forever. Also, go sign up at makeupalley.com. There's tons of advice, tips & tricks, product reviews, etc. You can even swap products with people. It's a great site.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 8:02 PM on January 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Okay, feedback:

@Sugarfish Hehehe! He's so funny! :D

@arabelladragon Down to my shoulderblades. I luff my long hair. Dilute with vinegar = ?

@Countess Elena Dark hairs show up around age 30 in my family. If you'll indulge me with further info I'd be glad to send you a picture.

@ThePinkSuperhero I've tried drug store cocoa butter and had a Neutragena combination skin, oil free moisture product given to me by a helpful sales clerk. Both don't seem to stop the dry sores on my elbows or makeup flaking off my face. An spf 15 Cover Girl moisturizing foundation is the most friendly product I've found seems to be me friendly, but I've hardly tried them all.
posted by Phalene at 8:03 PM on January 22, 2008

In general, I can only recommend buying makeup that you can try first. While I've found some great stuff in drugstores, it can be very hard to get a feel for the texture and color of a product in packaging. However, Sephora has a whole section of travel and trial size products on their website. Maybe look through and pick out a few to play around with before you commit to a big makeup purchase.
There are a few beauty products I'm never without and I think are pretty universally useful though: Cetaphil Moisturizer - it's perfect for sensitive, dry, or acne prone skin and wonderfully cheap. BeneTint liquid blush- not terribly cheap but a little bottle goes a long way. It only comes in 1 shade that's good on almost everyone so you can order it on-line. Use it on your lips and cheeks- a little for day, a little more for night. Frizz Ease- even if you air dry your hair, it smooths out all those little frizzies.
If you want to try blowing out your hair, start trying with a cheap-o blow dryer with a nozzle and a cold setting and a natural bristle brush. Comb your hair before you do anything else to it so it de-tangles and doesn't break (causing more frizzies).
Best of luck and have fun in your girlie endeavor.
posted by Thin Lizzy at 8:05 PM on January 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

one tip I got years and years ago that has been the total win for shaving is: use hair conditioner as a shaving aid. Reason: it both moisturises skin and doesn't clog the blades like soap products do.

Shaving tactics: Go slow, take even strokes, and rinse often. I think Venus shavers work best, but then I have fine light blonde leg hair and the Venus shavers are the only ones that get it all off without leaving bumps/ingrown hairs. Coarser (dark) hair may be more difficult. DO NOT continue running over the same patch multiple times, slower is better.

As far as makeup: Your best bet is to book an appointment at a Body Shop / Sephora type place with one of the makeup artists. Seriously. No web link, magazine article or text explanation is a substitute for watching the real McCoy in action. It's well worth it, and you'll get up-to-date tips on what the current style is, as well as how to adapt it to your own personal look. I go to the Lancome counter at the local mall for an update every year or so, but then I'm older and have used Lancome products for half of forever. You will want to try one of the younger, more updated type stylists that's more age appropriate for you, because what looks good on my 40 year old face |= what looks good on your 21 year old face.

For the hair: Use light conditioners (a leave-in type works well) - I use Paul Mitchell's leave-in conditioner most times, but I don't know the more modern brands. I have recently tried a Vanilla Silk smoothing product that works astonishingly well for my thick, flyaway hair - mine has a similarly unpredictable wave/body to it, that defaults to frizzy when it's not been tamed.

It might also be fun for someone of your looks to experiment also with 'period' or 'vintage' looks - pale-skinned brunettes look AMAZING in those 50's inspired Bettie Page / bombshell type themes (red lipstick, dark liner, blunt-cut hair, etc....), or even riff on the Audrey Hepburn doe-eyed look if you've got big dark eyes you can easily get the impact with a third the caked-on-makeup; today's products are much better-- because you're definitely young enough to sell this sort of style.
posted by lonefrontranger at 8:11 PM on January 22, 2008

Ok, so it doesn't sound like you've tried too much, so you have lots to try (you lucky dog, I LOVE trying new body products!) I would definitely start lotioning up your body right after every shower- I do it while I'm still standing in the shower, so I'm still in the warmth of all the steam. As for your face, you should develop a routine, and stick with it. Neutrogena products were reccommended by my dermatologist, I would think you could do a similar routine to what I do: wash with this twice a day, use this in the morning (SPF to protect skin, and the AHA will help exfoliate), and a little bit of something like this before bed. Good luck to you on your quest! And if you want to go product shopping if you're ever in NYC, you know who to call :-D
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:11 PM on January 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

Good luck! This can be fun! (And sorry if any of this is too basic. I'm sure some will be, but hopefully not all of it.)

MAKEUP. How far are you really from a Sephora? I ask because they do free makeovers in their stores and I have never seen any makeover of the quality that I've seen in various Sephoras. You don't have to buy their loot (which is extremely expensive) but I think you'll receive an invaluable lesson, one that you can't really pick up on the internet or by reading magazines. And you certainly don't want to get the wrong makeover somewhere else - that could be a disaster.

As for what to do... you might want a foundation. You OF COURSE want sunblock, for every single day. Something to consider is a sunblock that is also a foundation. This one from the Body Shop could be good. This is advanced, but you want a different foundation in the summer (if you tan at all) than in the winter, bc your skin color changes. Eye liner (dark brown? dark gray?) + mascara + sunblock + bronzer + blush + lip gloss (possibly with color) are probably the basics. Eye shadow can be lots of fun. The bronzer just gives you a healthy glow - it's different than the blush. The blush + the lip color can be the same product (e.g. BENETINT, although there are cheaper options). Here's a mascara tip - put it on first, then when you're done doing the rest of your makeup, put it on again. Double coat.

Moisturize at night at least. A dermatologist once recommended cetaphil daily moisturizer to me, and I have been thrilled. Exfoliate regularly as well. This goes for the whole body, but you use different products for face and body.

But overall with makeup, avoid being one of those women who is never w/o her makeup! (Except your sunblock of course).

HAIR. OH MY. Hair is so important. Can't help you much with the hair bc I have the opposite problem (very fine and straight). But I do know that there are products that you should put in your hair before you apply heat that will help protect your hair if you blowdry/straighten. Straightening, by the way, isn't that hard. Buy a straightener (seriously - no irons). Put parts of your hair up in a clip and just slowly move the hot straightener through segments of your hair, bit by bit. (This is after applying protective products, of course.) I LOVE Paul Mitchell Super Skinny Serum for adding a little shine to my hair. I use this most days by putting about 1/2 a dime sized pool in my palms, rubbing them together, then lightly smoothing the shiny stuff through my hair. I find it seems to help with flyaways, which are a problem for me in the winter. I buy it at drugstores and I've been using it for years. I also regularly use Aveda phomolient, which is a sort of mouse. I squirt twice in my palm then work the product through my hair before blowdrying, to add body. Not sure if this would work for you but others will know if you should be using a mousse.

Blowdrying/ironing is hard on hair, but it really looks so much better if you do it. One trick I finally learned is that you need to THOROUGHLY blow dry your hair (or I do anyway) in order for it to look its best. When I don't care what my hair looks like I make sure NOT to blow dry, to help save it. I also don't wash my hair every day, because shampoo is very hard on hair. Instead, for a couple days in a row, I wash it with just water and then I either do a leave in conditioner (I love Rusk's Smoother Leave-In condition, can't remember the name) or I condition in the shower. My hair has been much healthier since I've started this. You wouldn't believe how well it works until you really give it a try. Btw, I love Rusk products in general. And I've heard terrible things about Bumble and Bumble. It's good to do a "clarifying" shampoo as much as once a week - removes buildup. I really like Neutragena's clarifying shampoo.

What else? Get your hair trimmed about every six-eight weeks. Get it done professionally. I insist on that. You don't have to pay for the blow dry if it's not included, although you could get a few tips that way, especially if you ask the stylist to teach you how to do your own blow dry/ironing.

SHAVING. Get good razors and throw them out frequently. (Every 5 uses?) Men razor's seem to work well. Cheap razors just suck. Use shaving cream. The girly stuff seems to work fine. Go against the grain of the hair except where you get bumps, in which case you go with the grain (e.g. "bikini area"). You may never succeed in shaving the bikini area w/o getting bumps. Waxing or laser become alternatives to consider. Warm water helps, as does "softening" the area up first - e.g. don't jump right in and start shaving.

STYLE. Are you SURE about your style? Girly magazines, for all that they are crap on the ego, are a good education in what is stylist. I like Glamour. And, of course, you know that you need to dress for your body and be very careful not to buy clothing that you like the idea of but that doesn't fit your body. You pick up those sort of tips - if you don't understand it on your own - by reading stuff like Glamour. I hate Cosmo, but that's just me. Lucky is really, really about shopping (which I think is kind of boring). Vogue is gorgeous but too high brow. Women's Health is a fantastic women's magazine all around.

Perfume - try some stuff out and see if there's anything you like. A little splash of a perfume you love can put you in a great, going out mood.

I think that about all I've gleaned, over the years. Sorry I can't help you much with the brushes. I hear they're important, but that's too advanced for me.
posted by n'muakolo at 8:18 PM on January 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

The girls at the Clinique counter at any department store will give you a free makeup tutorial and consultation by appointment. My non-makeup-wearing wife tried it once with fine results. Maybe not a magic bullet for you, but perhaps useful.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:20 PM on January 22, 2008

There are lots of threads around on this kind of subject -- I think as a community we're not exactly fashionistas -- but here's a good recent one that Divabat started that might have some info that's relevant to you.

I have thick wavy hair too. One of the best best best! hair developments in recent years is the abundance of shine-enhancing products. I really like the John Frieda stuff -- Secret Weapon from the Frizz-Ease line, and Shine Shock from the Brunettes line. The former is a cream and the latter is more of a siliconey polish. The best thing about this stuff is that you can use quite a bit without ending up with gross hair, so if a little doesn't work you can use more. Plus, you can use it on wet or dry hair or both. There's no hold, so it's not stiff, and usually just smoothing down your hair with your hands when coming in from outdoors will make you shiny again. If you're in the US or Canada you should be able to find the whole line in drugstores for like $5-10.

(Another great product is the Purefume Humectant Pomade by Aveda -- smells amaaaaaaaazing and lasts forever -- but it's like $30 a tub and you can only get it in salons.)
posted by loiseau at 8:20 PM on January 22, 2008

"mouse" of course = "mousse"!
posted by n'muakolo at 8:27 PM on January 22, 2008

1. With leave in stuff and shine-enhancing lotions? Start with a little bit. Put a little small dollop in one hand and then rub your hands together so it's all over both of them. Then run your hands over the underneath, then run them over the outside (starting low on your head) and twist your hair and rake your hands through it to spread it around. ONLY THEN - take your almost-dry-but-not-quite hands and rake them over the top of your head. And then brush it through to distribute. You want to get most of it in the long-of-your-hair, and only a bit at your roots (since that hair is "younger" and doesn't need it as much, and because oil comes out of your scalp).
2. When you're using something on wet hair and plan to air dry for waves? Follow the above instructions on very wet hair, but after you've brushed it DO NOT brush it again. Because then you'll break up the curls and waves that are trying to form. You can mess with it with your hands, but try to leave it alone.
posted by moxiedoll at 8:41 PM on January 22, 2008

The Beauty Bible taught me great makeup basics. Her site also sells some moderately priced cosmetics and brushes.

My mom was never into hair stuff and I didn't have a lot of female friends growing up, so I also never learned the hair stuff. I wash it at night, add some nexus exxtra gel, and wear mimi's microfiber towel. It never looks professional, but I must say it doesn't look bad.
posted by melissam at 9:48 PM on January 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

I give nieces and cousins Making Faces. It seems to have a good balance of basic how-to and dramatic stuff.
posted by Gucky at 9:55 PM on January 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

I second the recommendation for Makeup Alley; I always consult their reviews before spending money on a new product. I also enjoy the Lipgloss and Laptops podcast for general beauty tips and product commentary.
posted by sanitycheck at 10:30 PM on January 22, 2008

I've got really dry skin too - tight and itchy even a half hour after washing it - and I've recently found that Philosphy is teh awesome. It's a little spendy, but this set has already lasted me four months and will be good for another one or two. Worth every penny.

For the rest of my body, I keep a bottle of baby oil gel in the shower... just a dab will cover my entire skin and stop all of the nasty itching.

My makeup is simple, but I've never really had to deal with acne. I have a neutral pink-ish eye shadow I put all over my lid, and a darker purple-ish one I use for lining (with an angled brush). My day look has less purple shadow than my night look (blend! blendblendblend!). A good mascara and eyelash curler. Some lip gloss in a neutral pink-ish color. A lip stain in red, and one in a brownish-purple that I can blend in for a soft look. A gel bronzer for my cheeks (no blush for me, kthx). And a translucent powder to set everything. And that's it.

I let my hair air-dry, but sometimes I put a dab of curl-enhancing cream in it and then a dab of texturizer like mousse and then scrunch it to encourage the curls. Sometimes I brush it straight and let it softly curl naturally. But to help with the frizz on top of your head, you should stop wrapping your hair in a turban. Seriously. Your hair is brittle when wet, and turbanizing it causes all kinds of breakage. It's a hard habit to get out of, but your hair will thank you.

I'm completely addicted to the Advice Smackdown. Amalah is funny and knows just a ton of crap about this stuff.
posted by rhapsodie at 11:15 PM on January 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

You are by no means unique. Sometimes I think that only about 1 in 10 women actually knows how to do this stuff, and the rest of us are just getting fooled by them.

And by the entertainment industry, of course, all of whom have professional make-up artists who are truly brilliant at their jobs.

I've done a bit of make-up training, and I'm still better at age-illusions (wrinkles, etc) than just plain old looking pretty, but the principles are the same. Highlight with light colours, shadow with darker - and use this to shape your eyes, face, etc. The eye tutorial above covers all of this - light just under the brow line, darker shadow in the creases.

But generally with make-up - less is best, especially when young and not trying to look dramatic, and still learning to do makeup. I love dramatic make-up, but it just looks garish when not at a club - and if not done well. Whereas if you are going for a natural look, any mistakes are so much less obvious. Light translucent foundations even out your skin tone, just a hint of eyeliner and/or shadow can be good. To be honest, I think mascara of any kind is too much for day and dark haired people don't need any most of the time, but that's a taste thing. A tinted lip gloss often looks better than full-on lipstick too, and if you don't get it on just right, there is no tell tale stains around the lips.

About your hair - could you be washing it too much? Frizz sounds like dry hair. Try washing every other day, rinsing every other day, then if that works, keep reducing how much your wash it to maybe every third day. How often you wash will depend on the thickness. My friend with thick curly hair doesn't even use shampoo anymore, just conditioner. Personally, I have very thin hair, mostly straight with a bit of curl, so I do have to wash more so it doesn't get laden with oil, but the less you wash your hair, the less oil it will produce.

If you have curly or thick and wavy hair, do not brush it outside of the shower. Brush it INSIDE the shower, and pat dry. This will keep the curls together. Otherwise you can just puff it all up. This really can reduce frizz, especially if you keep your hair good and oily (the thicker it is, the less you wash it).

Quick and easy style for long hair? I do a French twist - that is, I grab my hair, twist it, and shove a clip in. Takes about 2.5 seconds, which is already too much time out of my morning. Works for long but not too thick hair.

If you are having problems with dull, sticky seeming hair, you might have somewhat hard water (which is terrible to hair - hair likes acids, hates alkaline). Try a lemon juice rinse - your hair will be shinier, and smell like lemons. This also works with vinegar, but then you smell like vinegar.

I also have dry skin, everywhere but my T-zone. I blame the North American climate, since it went away when I was living in Britain (though my T-zone stayed oily). These days I'm using a moisturising soap, and Vaseline Intensive Care. You say that you have a doctor helping with pimples - obviously follow their advice, but I also found myself breaking out less the less stringently I cleaned my face. So I stopped using scrubs and acne fighting things, and now use a face cloth with plain soap - and getting less acne.

As for shaving - well, maybe there I should just shut up, since I had about six bandages on each leg the last time I did. But have you thought of an electric razer? My husband's is awesome, and if I shaved more often than once every two months I would definitely get my own. You can't cut yourself at all - seriously, he shaves while wandering around the house, without a mirror. Some men complain it's not as close as a blade, but these are your legs - how perfect do they need to be? And his cheeks are lovely and soft after shaving. Electric razers do cost a fair bit, but then last for years, and I think they are worth every penny of the investment.

This comment is longer than I planned. I will give a summary

make-up: go with less and lighter kinds (translucent liquid foundation as opposed to pancake, coloured lip gloss as opposed to lip stick), especially to start.
hair: wash less often, rinse if necessary but maybe not even that every day. Brush thick curly hair in the shower.
Skin: moisturise, avoid too many products on face (make-up will stress your skin - it looks good, but it's not great for you). UV is obviously bad, and will give you wrinkles and/or cancer.
shaving: electric, with one of those grills -- you cannot cut yourself, I've tried!


Also - probably you want to do this to feel better about yourself and to look attractive to yourself. But I have to point out that 9/10 of what women do does not impress men. It impresses other women, and it can be fun, but men think women are beautiful no matter what. This is especially true of somewhat geeky guys. Some I know even actively dislike make-up, and think women are most beautiful without it - and think that a Warrior Princess is just about the sexiest thing a woman can be.

So please have fun with make-up, but also feel free to leave it if you wish.
posted by jb at 11:18 PM on January 22, 2008 [2 favorites]

For someone in their 20s, I think makeup for the sake of looking made up is silly unless it's for going out or special occasions. You've already figured out the one step that so many women miss or mess up, which is eyebrow grooming! Sure, learn how to apply the fancy stuff eventually for when you want to do it, but for everyday, especially the office where less makeup is usually a safer choice, this is all I use:

1. A colorless primer instead of foundation+moisturizer. It smooths everything out to the point that I really do get that china doll complexion without having to do two or three steps, and it doesn't look like makeup at all, just looks like my own skin, extremely fresh and glowy. I can put makeup over it if I want for special occasions, and that makeup STICKS and doesn't flake off, which is another plus over normal foundation/moisturizer. My sunscreen is also included in this product (if I'm going to be outside for more than half an hour, that's a different story and I slather on the pure SPF 45). I use one called Line Tamer by Colorscience, and Smashbox makes a good one too but they're both pricey so I'd recommend getting samples of several brands before throwing down for a full size, but this is definitely where you want to plunk down some cash for the good stuff. Cheap out on everything else.

2. Lip balm. Try to get something with SPF.

3. Yellow-tinted under-eye concealer since I have terrible dark circles. Mascara might be your weapon of choice instead, or believe it or not, a white pencil on the inner rims of your eyelids (you're not using it like eyeliner!) can make you look really bright-eyed, which is good for faking enthusiasm for being at work at 8AM.

Sounds like I have hair similar to yours, and Charles Worthington Balance conditioner has made a world of difference in how the curls behave; they poof less and they're really soft now, so I can just let them air dry and they look good, but I think in general hair products are a total crapshoot and you just have to try a million things until you get something that your individual hair chemistry responds to, and then buy 10 of it and hope it's never discontinued.
posted by slow graffiti at 1:52 AM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

http://www.chagrinvalleysoapandcraft.com/shampving.htm - info on vinegar rinses for hair.

Now you mention the smell, JB, it occurs to me that I only do vinegar rinses on days I'm home. You can use apple cider vinegar but that still smells like basalmic to me. My husband's never complained about the vinegar smell once it's dry, and I usually at least partially rinse it out. It's just enough to cut the salty buildup and maybe smooth the cuticle, so it doesn't need to stay on the hair. It makes hair so soft, too.

You can mix up the whole shebang pre-shower, or you can put a little vinegar in a plastic (not glass! Learned that one the hard way...) cup. Then, in the shower, just add hot water. The exact measurements aren't important, b/c if you mix it too strong, you just stand under the nozzle and dilute it back down.

Still, lemon juice would smell pretty. Definitely going to try that.
posted by arabelladragon at 4:17 AM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have similar skin and hair color and I still haven't found a way to shave my legs without them looking freaky. I was raised in a very girly household. I solve this by wearing stocking or tights when I wear a skirt. I have been mistaken for an Orthodox Jew but if you don't live in NYC that shouldn't be a problem for you.

The problem is that our dark hair tends to show through our skin and that makes our legs look stubbly. You can try Nair, it will dissolve the hair at the root. Follow the instructions on the box. Especially make sure to test it first to make sure you are not allergic.

If you continue to shave your legs, use a new razor every three times, use shaving cream, and shave slowly. Don't press down very hard--it is the same amount of pressure you use when spreading peanut butter on bread.

Put a lotion on your legs and the rest of your body after you get out of the shower. This will be a lotion for your body only, not your face. I like Aveeno, but you can use any lotion that smells good. That procedure should keep you from getting razor burn. If it doesn't, try shaving your legs only every other day.

When it comes to the skin on your face, go to the local mall and get advice from the Clinique people about skin care. They have a simple system that you can use and it should help your skin--it has a soap step, an exfoliation step, and a moisturizing step. If you don't want the whole system, I have found that their moisturizing lotion works very well. Moisturize until your skin feels soft and comfortable (not itchy or dry). Makeup will stay on much better if your skin is moisturized.

If you have sensitive skin (meaning, you get rashes or itches a lot), stay away from any kind of all-face product besides lotion.

Find an eyeliner pencil, you can get them at the drugstore. Black will look good with your coloring. Also find an eye makeup remover, and cotton balls. Put a little eyeliner on the top lid of your eye, right next to your eyelashes. I only put it on the outside half of my eye, because that looks the best for me. You will have to try different methods to see which looks best for you. Only try one method per day, because you don't want to irritate your eyelid. If you mess up or want to take off your eye makeup, shake the eye makeup remover and put it on the cotton ball, then wipe it over your eyelids GENTLY.

If you want to experiment with eyeshadow, get dark greens and dark golden browns. They will look good with your coloring. You will have to experiment with what looks good. Less is always better. You can also ask a classmate who looks good if she could show you how she puts on eyeshadow, because hers looks great. She will probably be happy to show you some tips.

I can't help you with your hair, I tend to let mine stay in its frizzy/wavy natural state. Good luck.
posted by sondrialiac at 4:42 AM on January 23, 2008

Definitely agreeing with the "consult a professional" with regards to makeup. There are SO MANY options out there, you'll spend a fortune and go bald from stress trying to figure them out yourself (though, that could solve the hair problem). Do you have a good department store nearby? If not, perhaps treat yourself to a weekend trip. Browse the counters, look for colors/looks/styles that appeal to you, and do a consult with one of their artists. But really, you're 21, aside from perhaps some mascara/lip color, you should stick to the "less is more" approach while you can.

For skincare, do the moisturiser in/after the shower. Your pores will be opened up from the heat of the water and the moisturiser will absorb more thoroughly. You also need to use less, and won't have as much of that greasy feeling. And, unless you're working out strenuously on a daily basis, you don't need to do a serious soap scrubdown every time you bathe, as this is a great way to strip out your skin's natural oils. Use some kind of shower gel, soap the stinky bits, and use "soap" more infrequently.

I've been using olive oil to clean my face, and I love it. Sounds counterintuitive, I know, but I read somewhere (perhaps from a previous AskMe post, even) that oil attracts oil, and it's actually quite good on the cleaning front. It helps to keep your skin moisturised, is cheap, and I've never found anything better for make-up removal. Whereas I used to have to scrub my eyes with a washcloth to get waterproof mascara off (can't wait to see the results of THAT in 15 years or so), the oil melts it off wonderfully. Wipe with a soft cloth and hot water, pat dry. Moisturise, if necessary. (Depending on your skin type, you may want a heavier/lighter oil; there's a good selection in most health food stores, like apricot kernel (lighter) and avocado (heavier). A little goes a long way.)

Definitely use some kind of UVA/UVB blocking product on your face and neck (at least SPF 15). Neutrogena makes some good ones that can be found at supermarkets and drugstores--I'm fond of their tinted moisturisers as well as the Ultra-Sheer Dry-Touch Sunblock (SPF 55!). Use them RELIGIOUSLY, even when it's not obviously sunny out--the evil rays are still present, and still want to make you look like a purse when you're 50. It's a good idea to put sunblock on the backs of your hands, too--a lot of people forget this, but repeated sun exposure is one of the causes of liver spots, and you probably don't want those.

Can't help much when it comes to hair, as I've got the hair of a 2-year old. A friend has incredibly curly hair, though, and like the poster upthread she also avoids brushing and blow-drying to keep the curls together and avoid frizz. She never brushes it, but hers is shoulder-length--if yours is longer, you may not be able to get away with that. I've used Nexxus products for years, and love them--it recently started getting sold in Target, I'd suggest giving that a shot. If you have to blow-dry or use some other type of heat, use a heat protector first.
posted by the luke parker fiasco at 4:43 AM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Bravo on all that you have done and your efforts to do more and still remain human about it. I have gone through a similar phase over several years and not quite as methodically but the thing that helped most was professional advice...and I found ways to do this on the cheap. I think the most important thing was getting help with makeup; I was fortunate to meet a woman who is a professional makeup artist at the beginning of her career. I asked her to do a makeover on me and teach me to do my own makeup, pick colors, products etc. and in return I would teach her to do something that I'm an expert on. You can probably make such an offer on Craigslist. You can do the same with hair and skin care. My makeup artist friend also suggested going to a department store to have them do your makeup for you; they expect you to buy products from them, so be prepared. Ask a lot of questions, watch them work, find out why they are doing things a certain way, and even admit that you are trying to learn. You can also go from counter to counter asking "show me how to do my lips", "show me how to apply eyeshadow" etc. You can do the same for skin and ask for samples, if they have them. You might want to splurge and go to a salon that specializes in wavy and curly hair, and have them school you in how to get what you want out of your hair. I have read that curly and wavy hair should NOT be shampooed as this strips the oils and causes frizz. Take a look at John Freida products.

I can give you more advice about skin care and makeup if you want to email me offline with specific questions. kenzilisa at gmail
posted by kenzi23 at 7:16 AM on January 23, 2008

If I was abandoned on a desert island with no other makeup, I would insist on
Clinique's Dramatically Different Moisturizer and eyeliner. I don't think the moisturizer does much for one's looks now, but it certainly will keep you looking closer to your 21-year-old self at age 40 than otherwise.

Eyeliner, however, makes everyone look smoking. I prefer the pencil, as smudges/mistakes/shaky lines are a little less obvious than with a brush. It takes 10 tries to get a decent line the first time you try to put on eyeliner, but after a month, you'll be a pro. Definitely do some googling, though, so you learn where exactly to the put the line. I find that any gap between the eyelash and the line just looks freaky.

Seriously, though. Moisturizer and eyeliner... And Labello lip balm.
posted by whitewall at 7:30 AM on January 23, 2008

The challenge with generic advice is that each of us has a unique set of conditions -- hair type, skin type, face shape, genetics, environment, budget -- so, then add on the myriad different looks anyone might be attempting to convey: natural, polished, dramatic, sexy, professional, ad infinitum. The result is that any one woman's beauty routine is highly, highly personalized. The best thing you can do is experiment. As the luke parker fiasco said, you could go bald, broke and crazy trying to follow each piece of advice here.

There isn't really a requirement on "what girls are supposed to have" in their makeup bag; anyone who says so has an agenda. We all are just testing and experimenting ourselves. I am always refining my beauty routines, whether to account for aging, lifestyle changes, whatever life throws down the path. It's a constant process.

Some of the conventional wisdoms that might be a good starting place for you:

- Figure out what skin type you really have, as it will determine what products are right for you in both skin care and in cosmetics. People who get red, flaky skin often think they have what the industry deems "sensitive" skin -- but really they are just dry. People who are convinced they are type "oily" might actual be "normal"... but because they don't moisturize enough, their skin overproduces oil to compensate. Lots of us are actually "combination": oily and prone to break-outs in the T-zone (forehead, nose, chin) but normal/dry in the cheeks, eyes, jawline. Try a quiz like this one or google "what's my skin type" for other quizzes.

- Account for your environment. Are you in a humid climate? Is it freezing cold where you are, and therefore you're constantly in dry, forced heat right now? These things affect your skin and hair, and until you have assessed what to solve for, you can't know what direction to go. My beauty routine in hot humid Houston is vastly different from my beauty routine in hot dry Las Vegas or cold dry Wisconsin.

- Skin care: moisturizing after shower is good. Moisturizing before bed is good too -- while you're sleeping, all that lotiony goodness soaks in. At 21, you absolutely do not need an expensive lotion, for face, body or hands... you just need to find a consistency and scent you like. Check Curel, Jergen's, St. Ives -- these are all fine drugstore brands that won't break the bank but will leave your skin conditioned and happy. Don't forget that you do want a separate product made especially for face, though, which will absorb quickly and be non-comedogenic and lightweight... body lotion is too heavy and could make you break out.

- Makeup: poach and steal. It's what everyone who grew up watching sisters and mothers learned to do anyway (I had neither, so my widower dad sent me to makeup classes at age 11 out of panic). If you see a celebrity or a model in a magazine with your approximate coloring, and she's wearing a look you like, copy it.

- Eye makeup: practice, practice, practice. You didn't mention your eye color, but for most dark brunettes with light skin, you can't go wrong with a palette of browns, grays, or plums. Find those little eyeshadow trios or quartets with a medium color, a light color and a dark color in complementary shades. Practice applying the medium color across the main part of your lid as a base... the highlighter color goes sparingly on the brow bone, under the eyebrow, and the darker color goes sparingly across the crease of the eye. Practice different combinations -- just the medium for a natural daytime look... adding the others in for dressy or more drama. If it looks fake and mask-y, try blending more -- there's very little one puts on the face that can't be softened up with a Q-tip.

Adding mascara and eyeliner into the repertoire can be scary but they help add that polish that you're seeking. Just play around, see what works for you and stick with that. For example, I never did get the hang of those eye pencils that you have to sharpen, so I use one called L'Oreal Pencil Perfect, which you can twist up; it's always the right size for a nice line, plus I don't have to deal with an eye pencil sharpener.

- In addition to teaching yourself techniques, and getting used to the tools themselves, there is an added benefit to practicing at home: if one doesn't wear makeup very often, then when one does put some on, the face in the mirror looks strange and fake. Getting used to seeing our own faces in different looks can be half the battle. You mightn't be overdoing it as much as you think -- but the look is foreign to you so it feels overdone.

- Hair tools... a good haircut that is suitable for your texture and face shape is really the whole battle; you shouldn't have to also use the CHI and the ionic dryer and the crimper and the diffuser and the curler and the curler brush and the flooglebinder. Encouraging the shiny curls, eliminating the frizz, all that can start with a good cut. And no matter where you live, there is a salon within reasonable driving distance with a good stylist who will park you in front of the mirror and put his or her hands in your hair to assess the weight and texture, and ask you the right questions: "How much time do you like to spend getting ready? Do you ever put your hair up? Do you like a versatile look? Do you ever wear your glasses out? How are you currently shampooing and conditioning it? What products do you use?" Like ThePinkSuperhero said - the cut makes all the difference; start there and let a trained professional guide you.

- Color tips that are usually true for most Anglo skin shades: Blush is to create the allusion of depth, not to add color, so it should be applied sparingly or not at all... eyeliner around the whole eye usually makes eyes look smaller, so sticking to the outer parts of the lid is often best... You can either go with serious dramatic eyes (example shown here at Kevyn Aucoin's site) or a serious dramatic mouth (classic red lipstick was all the rage this winter, for ex.) -- but not both... or else you risk looking like a showgirl. Concealer, foundation, powder... anything that is flesh-toned should be subtle, used to improve skin tone, not thick and noticeable... much like perfume, the only people who should be able to tell you're wearing it is someone who's whispering in your ear.

Try this book: Bobbi Brown Beauty. Brown was one of the original makeup superstars, and she is renowned for making quality products, advocating professional techniques, and helping women find the style that works best for them.

Product names you can afford: start small and easy. I'd say try L'Oreal and Physician's Formula, both of which are available at the Target or CVS nearest you. The former is the drugstore line of a big global beauty corporation, whose other lines include Lancome, Kiehl's, SkinCeuticals, and all manner of department-store standards... and the science trickles down. The latter specializes in sensitive skin.

I agree with kenzi23 about going to a department store and asking the cosmetic associates to show you techniques. I would add a couple of caveats: in most stores, the rep for one particular line will only show you products from her brand. Most women find it best to cherry-pick the best products from different lines, so you shouldn't feel obligated to go with the Clinique lipstick and the Clinique powder and the Clinique blush just because the Clinique lady gave you a demo (plus, expensive!).

And, I would only go to a department store rep who is wearing makeup that looks attractive on her, to your eyes. A lady who is wearing heavy dramatic eyes and heavy scary blush and bright red lipstick is going to be an advocate of big showy looks, and might traumatize you with a Bozo The Clown makeover. But if she's got subtle, well-done makeup that you think makes her look glamorous... that's who you'd want to learn from. And, be sure you are sitting in front of the mirror while she applies it. Sometimes the dept store reps want to apply your makeup with you facing out into the store, so that passersby will be stop and watch; you're a sales tool, for her. But if you aren't facing the counter so you can watch her in the mirror, you can't see the technique she's using -- which defeats the whole purpose!

Good luck! I know this sounds so lame but in my mind, one day there will be a MeFi slumber party and we can all do each other's hair and makeup and bring our favorite products for show and tell. totally girlzone, sorry
posted by pineapple at 7:51 AM on January 23, 2008 [8 favorites]

You've got a lot of good advice here already, but let me add my votes for whatever they're worth:

1. hair: FIND A GOOD STYLIST. Talk to your friends. Look online for reviews (e.g. yelp). Be willing to drive out of your way and/or pay a little extra if you have to. Then build a relationship with this person. Follow him/her to the ends of the earth. It will be worth it. As someone with kinda-but-not-really-curly-hair, I feel your pain on this. But a really good cut will make all the difference, I swear.

2. makeup:
If you're in the middle of nowhere with no Sephora, MAC, etc, then hopefully you at least have Macy's, so head to the Clinique counter as others have recommended. STAY AWAY from their skin care regime (more on that later), but there's nothing wrong with their makeup. Let them make you over, give you lessons (you'll get more time and attention from them if you can go sometime other than a weekend afternoon)... and then let them sell you makeup. You don't need to buy every single thing they use on you, and it'll probably be obvious which things you want and which things you don't ("I'll skip the anti-wrinkle cream. Thanks!"). At a bare minimum, you'll probably want to let them sell you a good eyeshadow, eyeliner, lipstick, blush. (Don't spend money on expensive mascara -- Maybelline Great Lash from the drugstore is the gold standard.)

3. skin maintenance: I'm going to go against the general consensus on this and say find a good aesthetician (again, talk to friends, read reviews, etc.). A good facial is a wonderful thing, especially for those of us with dry skin. it doesn't have to break your budget (I only go probably 3-4 times a year), but it's enough that my aesthetician can do the "heavy maintenance" (depends on your individual needs -- could include microdermabrasion, extractions, etc.) and I can do the regular upkeep in between. It also means that I get an expert opinion on what products are best to use for my face (which is how I found out that Clinique skin care products were completely decimating my skin -- harsh soap and toner, inadequate moisturizer -- I didn't realize how bad it was until I switched away from it and saw how much better my skin could look and feel). Again, many will be trying to sell you something that their salon/spa offers, but most will provide samples for you to try first, and if it works, then there's no harm in buying from them (and you can always purchase those products online if you prefer -- I'm a big fan of dermstore.com myself).

Sorry this is so long. Hope it's helpful.
posted by somanyamys at 7:57 AM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

and pineapple, I am SO there!
posted by somanyamys at 8:04 AM on January 23, 2008

I am one of those girly-girls who cares a lot - and recently picked up Nadine Haobsh's book - Beauty Confidential. She writes Jolie in NYC, and will actually show you what to do with your hair. At least a little bit. Find it at your local library/bookstore and flip through it.
My other recommendation is Robert Johnston's Makeup Makeovers. Very much better than anything by Kevyn Aucoin. You actually get to see what works for you and exactly how to apply it.
The hard part is remembering to do it on a regular basis, not just the days when you want to be impressively put together.
posted by lilithim at 9:27 AM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

My hair isn't quite as curly as yours, but otherwise hello. My mother was a tomboy whose mom worked, and I had three brothers. Everyone else has given good advice, but I want to emphasize the hair thing. Besides all the other stuff people have said, there's no reason to be stuck with dark brown if you don't like it. I dye mine sort of burgundy and have it cut kind of trendy. Hair and eyebrows is all you'll have to work on most of the time. That being said, dye will also dry out your hair, so just leave conditioner in a couple extra minutes.

Where I grew up all the hair stylists were 40-60 years old or something. That was great for my mom, who wanted a conservative cut, but awful for me. I finally figured out how to tell the lady exactly what I wanted. Hopefully you won't have this problem, but I thought I'd mention it, since no one else has.
posted by herbaliser at 11:25 AM on January 23, 2008

I love Kevyn Aucoin's makeup books for ideas if nothing else, though I'm more a Bobbi Brown girl for everyday type stuff.

I'm also partial to Paula Begoun's (aka the Cosmetics Cop) products, particularly for skin care. Decently priced, excellent quality, no extra money spent on schmancy packaging.

She has a continually-updated version of her book Don't Go To The Cosmetics Counter Without Me at Beautypedia.com. That book breaks down a lot of the mythology surrounding brands and the ingredients that go into things, and it will help you find cheaper and more effective versions of the brands you may find out you like from testing them at the beauty counters, etc.

As a curly-haired girl myself, ditto on the not shampooing every single day. Men's razors (I like the Mach 3s) are my faves, I don't think the disposables do a good enough job without scraping half your skin off.

And for heaven's sake, get a moisturizer for your face and hands that has sunscreen, you'll thank us later. I just turned 33 and I have HALF the lines my former-sunworshipper/swim team best friend does, and she's younger than I am!
posted by bitter-girl.com at 1:52 PM on January 23, 2008

Eek, there's so much advice already that I'll keep it short and sweet.

My hair sounds just like yours. Nothing worked, everything was a stopgap, until I started using John Frieda Luminous Color Glaze in Clear instead of conditioner most days. My hair doesn't feel as soft, but its shiny and frizz-free and smooth.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 3:00 PM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

Baby oil for shaving = fantastic.

Clinique's dramatically whatsit moisturizing lotion. (Comes in nearly all of their give aways.)

Bare Escentuals makeup. Yes, it's from an infomercial, but it's bloody fantastic. I hate hate hate the liquid foundation feel, and this stuff doesn't even feel like makeup at all.

Pick up fun color eye shadows and a nice angled shadow brush at Target. If you only spend $3 on shadow, who cares if it blows?
posted by santojulieta at 3:44 PM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't know if you're into reality TV or not, but if you are, you should check out the most recent cycle of America's Next Top Model with Tyra Banks. This seasons featured a woman with Asperger's, and as far as I know, she made it awfully far. Some of her interviews might give you a little support/insight into what it's like to miss out on that girly phase because of a dhildhood hindered by Asperger's symptoms.

posted by santojulieta at 3:49 PM on January 23, 2008

Ditto the recommendation for Bobbie Brown's book. It has great advice for grooming in general and makeup in particular; she also has a wide variety for advice depending on your age, race, type of job etc. Once you get the big picture with her book you can get other books that offer more specifics for your needs.

Someone mentioned practicing your makeup every day. I would DEFINITELY recommend this not only so that you can learn how to do it well and quickly but more importantly so that you get used to wearing makeup and dont' feel like a clown every time you go out. Try different amounts of makeup until you feel that it feels natural on you.

My must haves are hair gel (I have short hair), moisturizer w/sunscreen, concealer (Makeup Forever) and mascara (L'oreal Voluminous)...the rest is nice but totally optional. Find brands of your essentials that you really like and stock up on them.

Don't feel shy about asking other women what they use...most will take that as a big compliment (esp. if you say "you have gorgeous eyelashes, do you use any particular mascara?") If you are in a public restroom or the gym and see someone using a product you have heard about, ask the woman her opinion of it. Us girls LOVE to talk about this stuff, so just ask!
posted by kenzi23 at 4:25 PM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]

I don't know how to do my hair or make-up myself, so I won't give any advice there, but I do have a suggestion.

Many higher-end salons with a make-up artist on staff offer a "make-over with lesson" service designed to teach people how best to choose colors and apply make-up. I've seen this offered for anywhere from $50 to $100 at a ton of different salons. The downside is that most salons only use one brand of make-up, so you won't learn too much about how to select products outside their line, but the techniques you'll learn will be applicable to whatever make-up brand you end up choosing-- eyeshadow is eyeshadow. A lesson plus an hour or two spent chatting up the clerks and trying the samples in your local department store's makeup section should give you a pretty good start.

To find a good salon, ask around-- anyone will be flattered enough to want to help if you say, "I love your hair-- who does it?" You could also google for salons in your area and check their websites for samples of their work and a list of services they offer, but absolutely nothing beats a referral.
posted by chickletworks at 4:31 PM on January 23, 2008

The best thing ever for shaving your legs is to use Palmer's cocoa butter body oil. It is amazing.
For the bikini area, conditioner seems to work best.
posted by exceptinsects at 9:57 PM on January 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Holy hand cream, batgirl! What a lot of wonderful advice! Thanks guys! :D
posted by Phalene at 8:22 PM on January 25, 2008

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