I used to love makeover shows, but I was always slightly dejected when each episode was over. There was no miraculous makeover in the cards for me. I was already giving it everything I had. But was I really? Sure, I was doing most of the big stuff, from semi-regular haircuts to flattering everyday makeup, but some of the smaller stuff had fallen through the cracks. Fortunately, I’ve learned, and that’s why I compiled this list of the little things, small improvement that yield big results. So here it is: 19 quick actions you can do today to look better instantly.
1. Whiten Your Teeth
Nothing makes you look prettier and more approachable than bright, healthy smile. As Charla Krupp once famously proclaimed, yellow teeth are aging! Fortunately, they are so easy to fix! A friend recently told me that she gets her teeth professionally cleaned at the dentist’s office three times a year instead of twice, and I immediately decided to do the same thing. If you don’t want to invest in a professional whitening treatment, use an at home whitening system or a portable tooth whitening pen. Another tip? Try cool, blue-based lipcolors (cherry, raspberry, wine) instead of warm tones (coral) to counteract they yellow in your teeth, or try a gloss designed to help your teeth look whiter.
2. Change Up Your Manicure
I am not saying that there is anything wrong with acrylic nails. Wait, yes. Yes, I am. I know this is controversial, but thick long squared off nails are dated. The trendiest talons now are delicate, whether short and delicate or longer and slightly almond shaped at the tip. Don’t be afraid to break out of the French manicure box. There are so many chic, wearable manicure ideas out there that are neutral and more updated. Classic red, coral or sheer pink nails are always chic. Or, if you’re looking for something funkier, try painting all of your nails in one solid color, and then adding a sparkly topcoat to a single nail on each hand, or try a colorful new nail wrap like the ones from Jamberry.
3. Ditch the Boring Bag
Your bag should be a beautiful, high-quality statement piece. It should not be boring, or frumpy, or dated. After all, you carry it every day, and a blah bag can bring down your whole outfit. A stiff bag with a faux exotic print embossed onto the leather looks so dated. Invest in a status bag, if you can, or, for more affordable options that are still on-point, stylewise, look to lines like Z Spoke from Zac Posen, Ivanka Trump, Michael Kors and Rebecca Minkoff. Avoid faux texture, tons of exterior pockets, and a boring shape in a boring color, like beige. For an investment piece, choose a black or camel bag in a strong, elegant shape with minimal detail and hardware.
4. Lower Your Vamp
High vamp shoes (those that cover more of the top of your foot) can be cool, or edgy, or funky, but they are rarely feminine or delicate. Furthermore, thin straps are prettier than thick straps, no matter what the Birkenstock wearers say. And while the new ugly shoes may, arguably, have a place in the wardrobe of a 20-year-old hipster, after a certain age, they look like comfort shoes – the very antithesis of cute. So skip the flatfoms and shower slides, the Tevas and the Birkenstocks, and stick with classic but still comfortable options like thong sandals, ballet flats (square toes or pointy toes are both trendy), or gladiators. Call me old fashioned, but I like pretty.
5. Lose the Platform Flops
Yes, this is closely related to #4, but I feel so strongly about this that I decided to give it its own category. Flip flops should be flat. Ditch the styles with the thick black rubber platform soles and go for a classic pair of Havaianas. While you’re at it, toss any old flip flops with the black nylon straps and black soles. There are so many equally affordable and comfortable – yet far more stylish options.
6. Grow Your Hair Out
Some women immediately cut their hair after having kids. It’s like a rite of passage. 1. Have baby. 2. Buy yoga pants. 3. Chop hair off.
But there is another way. You can have a baby. Wear cute clothes. And style your hair however you want it. Within reason. We all make tradeoffs. I decided keratin was too high-maintenance for my current lifestyle, and embraced my curls, but I didn’t cut it off because my hair looks better long. The key is to pick a pretty, flattering style that you can maintain, whether it’s long or short.
7. Ditch the Baggy Clothes
So, so, so many women think they are bigger than they are. They wear long baggy tees and slouchy sweatshirts in an attempt to hide it, which actually ends up making you look bigger. Next time, you’re shopping, try the smaller size. Or, if you are used to wearing your clothes a little too snug, try the next size up. Clothes that don’t fit are unflattering, unattractive, and most of all, aging.
8. Upgrade your Denim
I find that there’s plenty of room for trendy, disposable denim in a girl’s life. The boyfriend jeans, the updated “mom” jeans, the high-waisted jeans… These are all of-the-moment trends, and are best bought at discount prices, either at thrift stores, off-price stores or fast fashion outlets like H&M. Don’t spend a lot on anything with a short shelf life. The dark wash skinny jean is today’s answer to the boot cut: sleek, flattering to many, and versatile enough to dress up or down. It is the new classic, and should be an investment piece. Plan to spend 2-3 times as much on these, and look for premium labels like Joe’s, AG and Seven for All Mankind.
9. And your Bra
I know you think your tired, stretched out old bra is fine. It isn’t. Unless you struggle to fill in an A-cup, you need some support. The right bra will make absolutely everything you wear look a million times more expensive. You will look taller, slimmer, and chic-er. If you’re a full B-cup or higher, an underwire is required, not optional, and, if you can only choose one bra, pick a seamless neutral style with convertible straps for maximum versatility. And if you don’t have a high-end department store in town, go bra shopping online at innovative retails like Brayola, True & Co., and Third Love.
10. Pick a Fresh New Lipcolor
So we’ve heard how a too-dark, too-matte lipstick can age you, and how the opposite – a nude, washed out lip – is also true. Your best pick? An ultra-hydrating color with a little bit of sheen in a mid-toned flattering color. Whether you prefer the subtlety of a lip stain or the pop of a bolder shade, make sure the color complements your skin tone and brightens your complexion.
11. Groom your Brows
You know how you feel when they look straggly. Prevent that from happening by regular rearview mirror checks. I find that the angle of the rearview mirror, combined with natural light, is the best place to pluck stray hairs as they arise and keep your brows neat and groomed. Keep a pair of tweezers in your glove compartment and touch up your brows whenever you have a spare moment!
12. Buy a Cute Pair of Sneakers
Even if you don’t work out. Especially if you don’t work out. Trainers are trendy right now, and just the thing for long days of family travel or hiking around an amusement park. Of course I’m not talking about your worn out running shoes here. Make them count. Make them cute! Then they’ll look like an intentional part of your look and not just an afterthought.
13. Use Sunscreen
Every day. Even when it’s gray. Use an antioxidant-packed formula on the face, neck, chest, ears and back of the neck every morning, and a body lotion with SPF on extremities. In sunnier months, switch your regular hand cream for a moisturizing sunscreen. If you want the protection without the greasiness, try a sunscreen stick, like the Age Shield Hand Balm from Rodan + Fields.
14. Wear Dishwashing Gloves
Not a glamorous subject, but we all wash dishes, and all that soap and hot water and scrubbing can take its toll, and make hands look older. I keep a hand lotion pump next to my kitchen sink, and apply a quick dab to the backs of hands before slipping on my girly dishwashing gloves. It’s like a little spa treatment! Okay, it’s nothing like a spa treatment, but it’s the best I can do, most days.
15. Find a Great Skincare Routine
As a beauty writer, I have never had a shortage of skincare products on hand, but all that choice can be confusing, to you and to your skin. You don’t need more products. You just need a few well-chosen ones that cover all of your bases. One way to do this is to pick your entire skincare routine from the same company, since the products are designed to work synergistically. And if you are just getting started, keep it simple: a gentle cleanser, an anti-aging cream with SPF for day, and an an anti-aging cream for evening. After it becomes a habit, add more products, as needed, like an eye cream or a mask. For more tips on choosing and using a skincare routine, check out my new book on the topic, filled with tips from the top skincare experts.
16. Get Botox
When it comes to treatments that can treat current wrinkles while preventing future ones, Botox tops the list. And it doesn’t have to mean frozen face. Get a recommendation from a trusted friend for a derm known for his minimalist approach. Just the tiniest bit will leave you line-free and relaxed looking for months, and no one needs to know. So what are you waiting for?
17. Use a Skin Firming Body Cream
I have been told that a cream can’t take the place of exercise, but who has time for that kind of negativity? I personally love the way firming creams leave skin taut, glowing, and, well, firm. I am always on the hunt for the perfect all-purpose body cream, one that makes you firm and glowy, with just a hint of color. Jergens BB cream checks all the boxes, and it’s so affordable! Aveeno, Nivea and Palmer’s are also good options.
18. Curl Your Lashes
You might not think you need to curl your lashes. You do. Trust me. I have long, dark, curly-ish lashes and was convinced they didn’t need curling, until I tried it. Now I look back on those pre-lash-curling days and shudder. What a waste. Don’t let this happen to you. Curl your lashes, and you’ll be hooked by how bright and wide awake it makes you look! The best curler is from Shu Uemura. Don’t waste your money on any other…
19. Discover Coconut Oil
A long time ago, I read that Sophia Loren used to smooth olive oil on her body to keep it soft and youthful, and much as I wanted her skin, I balked. I didn’t want to smell like a salad. Fortunately, with coconut oil, there’s no odd smell. Only a mild slightly tropical aroma that I love. I have been using coconut oil on my face, body and hair for several weeks now, and I am obsessed. Addicted. My favorite brand is DeRigueur, which is pure, organic, and packaged in a tub so big you could practically soak in it. It absorbs quickly so you get smooth, hydrated skin, without greasiness. I use it to remove makeup, moisturize my dry legs and calm the frizz in my hair.
As promised, most of these are small changes you can make today that will lead to a brighter, fresher, more stylish you tomorrow. Which is your favorite?