You’ve made it through the fun part of your engagement (admit it: you love snapping all those ring selfies!), and now it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty of looking fantastic on your big day. We’re talking about your wedding beauty regimen because right now is the perfect excuse to give it a makeover so that you can have the best hair, skin, and nails of your life as you make your way down the aisle.
Sorry, brides-to-be, but it’s not just your venue, invitations, wedding dress, and seating chart that need your attention. In addition to your wedding checklist, you have another set of to-dos to conquer before you say “I do,” but luckily this checklist is tons more fun than deciding where your feuding cousins should sit. Starting (or revamping) a wedding beauty regimen is a great way to practice some self-care, giving you the opportunity to de-stress ahead of your nuptials. And of course, each step will aid you in perfecting your wedding-day look, from smoothing your skin to strengthening your hair. Because who doesn’t want to look their best on their big day? Wedding photos last forever, need we remind you.
“To a certain extent, everyone wants to look like a supermodel on a daily basis, but we may not have the drive to act on it,” says New York dermatologist Dendy Engelman, who helped Sofia Vergara prep for her wedding day. “A wedding date gives you a deadline, and forces you to start making a move.” The clock is ticking and it’s time to start checking things off your wedding beauty plan leading up to the big day!
Below, the 40 things to consider when getting your wedding day bridal beauty routine in order.
Skin: Manage stress.
From the top of your head to the tips of your toes, there’s no end to the beauty bummers headed your way if you don’t get your wedding-planning stress under control. On the complexion front, says NYC dermatologist Dendy Engelman, “Many inflammatory conditions, including eczema, psoriasis, and keratosis pilaris, may be at least partially caused by stress. As stress weakens the immune system, chronic inflammation worsens.” Excess anxiety can also disrupt your sleep, which in turn can lead to a gray, decidedly un-bridal complexion. The fix? Do what you can to chill out, whether that means hitting a yoga class after work or guided meditation apps such as Headspace and Omvana.
Skin: Set up an appointment with your dermatologist.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but flawless skin should probably be one of the top priorities for your wedding day, right up there with securing a stunning venue. And there are two key reasons to get a pro skin doc in your corner early on: One, they can assess your complexion’s current state way better than you and your trusty magnifying mirror. And two, they can help you devise a strategy for achieving your dream-skin goals, be it softening pesky forehead wrinkles or zapping acne. “Some treatments take time—up to several months—and you certainly want a game plan,” says Engelman.
Skin: Consider laser hair removal.
There’s no better excuse than your wedding (and honeymoon!) to treat yourself to laser hair removal. Is it a splurge? Yes, but it will be so worth it when shaving your armpits and legs is the last thing on your mind. Depending on where you go, sessions can range from $200 to $350, and “planning should be done 9 to 12 months before the wedding, as it typically takes six sessions spaced six weeks apart to see permanent results,” says Christian Karavalos, owner of Romeo & Juliette Laser Hair Removal Spa in NYC. As for pain, yes, there is some discomfort—but it’s minimal and temporary. Besides, with the newest lasers on the market, you can expect a cool blast of air as your technician zaps away unwanted hair.
Skin: Decide if retinol is right for you.
Although every day seems to bring a new must-have “miracle” skin care ingredient, 99.9 percent of them can’t hold a candle to the gold standard of skin care, retinol. Derived from vitamin A, the tried-and-true ingredient increases cell turnover, unclogs pores, boosts collagen, and helps diminish hyperpigmentation. The prescription version, a.k.a. retinoid, is even more powerful. Still, as great as they are, both retinol and prescription-strength retinoids can cause redness and peeling at the outset, and even a possible uptick in acne before all those benefits kick in. “I recommend patients start with a non-prescription retinol for at least four to eight weeks before progressing to a prescription retinoid,” says Engelman. “Their skin will tolerate it better.” One of Los Angeles’s most in-demand facialists, Shani Darden, has an incredible formula, Retinol Reform ($95) that celebs like Jessica Alba and Chrissy Teigen swear by. For a more affordable option, Roc Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream ($20) is a drugstore classic that will get the job done.
Skin: Visit an aesthetician for regular facials.
If you’re one of the lucky few whose skin is under control and you want to keep it that way leading up to your wedding, find a reputable aesthetician in your area to help maintain skin in tip-top shape. In your initial chat with a prospective aesthetician, make sure you address your goals and needs—don’t be afraid to speak up. “Look for someone who’s a good listener,” says NYC facialist Joanna Vargas. “Old-school facialists would dictate your care. These days the best ones work with your budget, your goals, and your skin.” Don’t go overboard with the treatments either, because flare-ups post-facials are likely. “I would never want a bride to get a treatment with a new facialist close to her wedding date,” she says.
Skin: Take time to exfoliate and follow up with a brightening serum.
As dead cells accumulate on the skin, they interfere with light reflection giving it a dull appearance, tells us NYC dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner. The solution: Regular exfoliation paired with a brightening serum to give you the best lit-from-within glow on your wedding day. “Regular exfoliation removes dead cells to improve radiance and can enhance the absorption of skin brightening products through the skin,” he explains. “I recommend exfoliating once per week initially, and advancing to twice per week after a month or so if you can tolerate it.” Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel ($80 for 35 treatments) yields fantastic results, but if you would rather go the scrub route, Zeichner says Neutrogena Pore Refining Exfoliating Cleanser ($7) is one he recommends to patients. Follow either one up with a generous application of Vitamin C (try Paula’s Choice Resist C15 Super Booster) and you’ve got yourself a power couple.
Skin: Skip the wine and get to juicing.
Because vino is such a world-class dehydrator, capillary-breaker, and radiance-robber, downing endless glasses is one of the biggest crimes against complexion brides-to-be commit, says Vargas. If it’s too hard to part ways with your wine, at least cut back and substitute that Bordeaux with liquefied leafy greens—especially during the few months leading up to your wedding. “Green juice is great for skin because it’s oxygenating and contains vital minerals to help stimulate the lymphatic system and drain out puffiness,” says Vargas. “One a day is great.” (For one of our favorite recipes, check out SELF).
Body: Nourish your skin starting in the shower.
“Most women don’t realize that your skincare routine truly starts in the shower and that using a gentle cleanser is key,” tells us dermatologist Dr. Mona Gohara. “I recommend Dove Body Wash ($6), which is sulfate-free, made with 100 percent gentle cleansers and provides softer, smoother skin after just one shower.” She recommends gently patting skin dry instead of rubbing and applying lotion within minutes of getting out of the shower to lock in moisture before it evaporates. Get in the habit of doing this for beautiful skin from head to toe come your wedding day.
Body: Pay attention to your décolletage.
Not only is it a notorious sun-magnet, but the décolletage is also prone to wrinkling for another reason, says Beverly Hills dermatologist Dr. Harold Lancer: Tissue-thin skin. “The skin of the neck and chest has a very different structure than that of the face and body,” he says. “The décolletage is an area with significantly less ‘fat padding’ and is generally more delicate than facial skin.” Translation: To look banging in that plunging gown, you might need to put some extra effort in here. Start with an OTC retinol product, and move on to prescription if your derm deems it necessary. If you’re still seeing spots or redness, consider adding microdermabrasion to your treasure-chest repertoire. These treatments gently “sand” the skin, removing roughness.
Body: Use a humidifier to keep skin happy and healthy.
After chiseling your upper body to perfection in the gym (more on that later), the last thing you want are patches of unsightly red bumps on the backs of your arms. The condition, called keratosis pilaris (KP for short) is caused by excess keratin, which forms a plug at the site of a hair follicle. “Unfortunately we don’t know what triggers the buildup of keratin,” says Engelman, who notes that KP often affects people with other skin conditions, like eczema. Triggers can include cold temperatures (resulting in a lack of moisture in the air), hormonal changes, food allergies, and a bride’s arch nemesis—stress. While there’s no cure for KP, Engelman says you can treat the symptoms by exfoliating with a product like DermaDoctor KP Duty Scrub, ($46), to unplug the trapped keratin and dead skin cells that cause the bumps. “Introducing moisture to the air via a humidifier can also help.”
Skin: Get into dry brushing.
Clocking in at under $20, a body brush might be one of the best engagement beauty investments you make. According to Engelman, dry-brushing yields major skin benefits, including exfoliation and increased blood circulation (i.e. a healthy glow). From an overall wellness standpoint, it also revs up the flow of lymph, the all-important fluid that whisks toxins out of our systems. “Lymph relies on muscle movement to pass through the body, so if you’re not an active person, dry-brushing is a wonderful tool to rid the body of waste,” Engelman notes. “There’s real science behind it, and it really works when you commit to it.” Start with three dry-brushing sessions per week, building up to daily, and sure to slather on some type of moisturizer afterward. “I love to do it before the shower,” says Engelman, “and then hydrate with body oils before toweling off.”
Body: Glow up skin with a spray tan.
“A sunless spray tan will even out skin tone, camouflaging any imperfections like stretch marks, scars, redness, and cellulite,” says St. Tropez skin finishing expert Sophie Evans. “It can also be used to contour by defining muscles and sculpting curves.” Evans recommends getting a trial spray tan before your dress fitting to figure out if you want to go darker or lighter before the big day. “A week before the big day, start exfoliating your skin in preparation for your spray tan.” Pricing can range anywhere from $50 in a salon to $250 for house calls. If you go the DIY route as a beginner, Evans recommends St. Tropez In Shower Gradual Tan ($25) and packing the brand’s Self Tan Express Bronzing Sheet Mask ($9) on your honeymoon.
Hair: Keratin Treatment 101
While it’s completely understandable that a frizz-prone bride would want to take out an extra hair-insurance policy for the big day, there’s just no getting around the fact that chemical straightening exacts a hefty health toll on your strands. Making matters worse? A dizzying array of options, from Brazilian Blowout Original Solution to Japanese straightening. “There are so many different keratin treatments and relaxers today,” says colorist and salon owner Sharon Dorram. “I suggest trying out the process months in advance to be sure it works for you.” If shelling out money on a treatment in the salon is for you, opt for a frizz-control product like Bumble and Bumble Styling Créme ($26) and a good blowout to do the trick.
Hair: Come up with a color game plan.
The general rule of thumb for big-day color shifts—whether you’re going lighter or darker—is to stay within two shades of your natural hue. But no matter what color you want, planning is imperative. “You should start planning your hair color as soon as you know how your hair will be styled for the wedding,” says Stephanie Brown, colorist at Nunzio Saviano Salon in NYC. Bring inspiration photos to your colorist of choice and be clear about your hair goals. You should also plan to get your hair touched up 7 to 10 days before the wedding to ensure it looks its best. “You want to have enough time to know you like the final color in case you need to change anything,” she notes.
Hair: Shampoo less often (yes, really).
As great as H20 is for you internally (it hydrates and debloats, so drink up), when it comes to hair, water won’t do those pricey highlights or rich faux brunette any favors. “Over-shampooing lifts, dulls, and fades hair color,” says Dorram. “I always suggest shampooing no more than three to four times a week. The best is to rinse hair and use a mild detangler in between shampoos.” When you do opt to suds up, do it with a gentle, color-loving shampoo like Leonor Greyl Bain Vitalisant-B Shampoo ($47).
Hair: Don’t skip conditioner.
Color or no color, this is the time to lavish extra TLC on your locks. You can head to the salon for a deep conditioning treatment or you can DIY it, by slathering wet hair with your mega-hydrator of choice. For home use, Dorram suggests a few drops of vitamin E oil mixed-into your conditioner or hair mask of choice. “We generally make a conditioning plan built around the wedding date,” Dorram says. “If the hair is in bad shape, we suggest weekly or biweekly treatments.”
Hair: Personalize your hair style.
There’s a big difference between looking amazing for your wedding day and morphing into a trendy version of yourself. Trust us, you’ll feel so much more relaxed on your big day if you opt for Plan A, a.k.a. Your Best You. Celebrity hairstylist George Kyriakos, who has 25-plus years of experience says, “You want a timeless look—an elevated version of yourself. If you never wear your hair up because you hate your ears, don’t let anyone talk you into that. The ’80s provided us with a ton of ugly photos to remind us of this.” Translation: Steer clear of those over-the-top Instagram updos and oversized hair accessories and go with a hairstyle that feels natural to you when you do hair trials.
Hair: Give extensions a go.
If your natural hair is lacking in the volume department or your hairstyle of choice requires some extra length, look into trying hair extensions. “Extensions help create a variety of styles, stay put all day long through photos and dancing, and make hair look like the best version of your normal style,” says Edward Tricomi, cofounder and stylist at Warren-Tricomi Salons. It takes about a month to order the hair so he recommends going in for a consultation at least two months ahead of the wedding date. “If you are doing permanent extensions, I would have them put in a week or two ahead of the wedding and for clip ins, a week before is fine.” Pricing can range anywhere from $150 to a couple of thousand dollars, but if you’re a first-timer looking for something low maintenance you can DIY, consider Glam Seamless 3-in-1 Glam Band, which is a halo version that’s versatile and wallet-friendly.
When: 2 months for consultation and 1 week before the wedding.
Makeup: Invest in a satin-finish foundation.
Once you’re engaged, the picture-taking never stops. And while you probably won’t be sporting full-on makeup for every photo-op, some occasions will definitely require a bit more polish. Give a big round of applause to satin-finish foundation, a universally flattering formula. “Satin has luminosity, and makes the skin look pretty,” says mega makeup mogul Sonia Kashuk. “You want that little bit of glow and dewiness that you don’t get with a matte formula. But at the same time, you don’t want too much shimmer. Satin gives the kind of balance that’s most reminiscent of natural skin.” Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation ($64) has the Brides seal of approval when it comes to the best foundation.
Makeup: Refine your makeup stash and look.
Every bride should wear a face full of paint and powder on her big day, right? So she’ll look extra glam in that online album? Wrong, says Kashuk. “Those pictures need to transcend time,” she notes. “If you’re not a big makeup-wearer, don’t just do it for your wedding day. Wear what you normally wear, but refine it,” she says. “You can even just add a lash to do something special. No one will ever realize you’re in false lashes. The point is to stay away from anything too extreme, or obvious.”
Makeup: Skip mascara, try lash extensions.
Afraid the waterproof mascara just won’t cut it on the big day? Consider lash extensions. Clementina Richardson, founder of Envious Lashes in NYC, says “Lash extensions are great for brides who don’t want to worry about having beautiful lashes from rehearsal dinner through the honeymoon.” She also adds that they look great in photographs which are not forgiving. “Since eyelash extensions are placed individually on existing lashes, no matter how close up the camera is, they will appear natural.” Richardson recommends getting your first full set a few weeks out to test drive them and to return three to four days before the wedding for a fill-in. “When you go back, you can make changes to your previous look,” she says.
Makeup: Steer clear of heavy contouring.
Fake-sculpted cheeks? So 2015. Although contouring can be flattering when done right, Kashuk recommends proceeding with caution for your big day. “When you have severe contrast, the face doesn’t match up to the rest of the body.” To optimize the technique, opt for a sheer, blendable creme formula like Benefit Hoola Cream-to-Powder Quickie Contour Stick ($28). “There’s a way to contour in a more natural way, using see-through, transparent textures,” she explains. “Add just a hint of depth under the cheekbones. Very subtle, very sheer.”
Makeup: Balance is key.
Super smoky eyes; glossy, fire-engine red lips; and bushy, Cara Delevingne-esque brows might be a slam-dunk for your Vegas bachelorette, but they have no business at your wedding. “My biggest piece of advice for brides is to stay away from extremes of any kind,” Kashuk notes. “Nothing should jump, so that means no overly strong anything. It’s about balance and softness. You want to rock a red lip for your wedding? Okay. But keep the lip line soft and undefined.”
Brows: Put the tweezers down.
We’ve all been guilty of over-plucking, but now is the time to seriously put the tweezers down and give up the threading and waxing. Why? When you over-pluck, you lose all of your natural arch shape, which can change your facial expression altogether. “Every bride needs a good aesthetician to whip those brows into shape before the big day,” says Jared Bailey, Benefit Cosmetics global brow expert. “For a classic approach to brow-shaping, you want to find brows that fit your face—brows should be a mirror of your facial features. That’s how they start to bring balance to the entire face and eyes.”
Brows: Invest in the perfect brow arsenal.
“The only thing that comes second to finding the perfect dress for the big day is finding the perfect brow wardrobe,” says Bailey. “You need to look for quality products to prevent things like a make-up meltdown or flaky gels.” He says now is the time to invest in highly pigmented, long-wear brow products that don’t flake or budge. After all, you’ll be taking pictures nonstop this year! You can fill in brows using the pin-thin Benefit Cosmetics Precisely My Brow Pencil ($24) to create hair-like strokes and follow it up with 24-Hour Brow Setter Shaping and Setting Gel($24) to lock in beautiful arches all day long. Bailey’s tip when color-matching your brow arsenal: “Be sure to choose a shade that mimics the same color as your brow hair—that’s key to making the product blend in effortlessly.”
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