With a social calendar as chock-full as your shopping list, you want to look your best this time of year. Unfortunately, there's more that can foil your looks than a dreaded bad-hair day. Take for instance the annual holiday office bash where you eat too much and consume more than your share of spiked eggnog. The next day, you've got the telltale puffy, red complexion. Spend too much time outdoors in the cold wind and your chapped lips won't be fit for smooching under the mistletoe. But no matter what beauty challenges lie ahead in this season of revelry, we've got the practical solutions you need to look your best on days when the going's rough.
Beauty blunder: You ate and drank too much at the office holiday bash, and now your face looks bloated and ruddy. When you overeat salty foods (think: nuts and chips), your body retains fluids, says Lori Farnan, M.D., an internist at the Women's Health Center at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. And consuming too much alcohol also can dilate the blood vessels in the skin, giving it a reddish hue.
Quick fixes: To help relieve bloating, get plenty of water (more than the 8 cups of hydrating fluids that you need daily) to help flush out your system. In addition, massage a pea-size dab of Preparation-H on swollen areas (making sure not to get it in your eyes, where it can cause irritation), and wash it off after 15 minutes, suggests New York City dermatologist Deborah Sarnoff, M.D. Because the cream is an anti-inflammatory, it can help shrink swollen tissues temporarily. Or apply a cold compress, chilled cucumber slices or cold black-tea bags to your closed lids. "The cold shrinks the veins slightly to prevent puffiness," explains Robert Cykiert, M.D., a professor of ophthalmology at New York University.
Powdered bronzer, applied lightly all over the face, can also help camouflage overindulgences, says New York City-based makeup artist Maria Verel. (Try Stila Sun, $36; 888-999-9039.) If your skin is particularly ruddy, dust on an allover powder with green pigment (like Caron Pressed Powder in Altair, $45; 877-88-CARON) to help counteract the redness.
Beauty blunder: You stayed up late watching "It's a Wonderful Life." Now your skin is lackluster and your eyes are sporting dark shadows. When you're fatigued, your whole body, including your circulatory system, goes into slow motion, Farnan says. The result: You have less blood flowing through your skin, which gives you a pasty look. And while lack of shut-eye doesn't cause dark circles (they're hereditary), not getting the recommended eight to nine hours of sleep a night makes dark circles appear darker simply because your skin is paler, says David E. Bank, M.D., a dermatologist in Mount Kisco, N.Y., and author of Beautiful Skin (Hyperion, 2000).
Quick fixes: Slather on a cleanser or mask that contains skin-stimulating botanicals like ginseng or spearmint. (Our favorite: BeneFit Fantasy Mint Wash, $26; 800-781-2336.) Camouflage undereye shadows by dotting a concealer at the outer corners of the lower lids. Then tap gently toward the inner corner of the eye. (Try L'Oréal Cover Expert, $10; at drugstores; Ramy Beauty Therapy Skin Stick, $22; ramybeautytherapy.com; or the Bobbi Brown Creamy Concealer Kit, $35; bobbibrown.com, which contains a concealer and a powder to help set the makeup.)
Beauty blunder: You've let stress get to you -- and now you've got zits. Whenever you are stressed, your adrenal glands pump out more of the hormone androgen, says Zoe Diane Draelos, M.D., clinical associate professor of dermatology at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C. The hormone increases oil secretions, which can become trapped if dead skin cells are littering the skin's surface. That pileup, along with bacteria in the pores, can trigger breakouts.
Quick fixes: To prevent breakouts, use exfoliants regularly. (See Beauty Q&A, page 41.) To dry out and cover up a zit, gently dab on a treatment with pimple-fighting salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide like Bioré Double Agent ($7) and follow with a concealer like Maybelline Shine Free Blemish Control Concealer ($5), both at drugstores.
Beauty blunder: You're visiting your relatives (and their furry pets) -- and now your eyes are red and teary. The fur on your Aunt Lucy's pet terrier (and other animals) produces a protein that flakes off into microscopic allergy-triggering particles. These particles can aggravate mucous membranes around the eyes, dilating blood vessels so they become larger, redder and more visible, explains Atlanta-based allergist David Tanner, M.D. Eyes then water in an attempt to wash away the irritant.
Quick fixes: After taking your allergy medication, use an anti-inflammatory eye drop like Naphcon-A ($8.50; at drugstores). These drops reduce redness by relieving irritation and inflammation. To help "lift" the eyes and minimize a droopy look, curl your upper lashes, suggests New York City-based makeup artist Paula Dorf. Then neutralize red lids, first with a concealer such as Max Factor Erase Secret Cover Up ($4.75; at drugstores) and next with a swipe of brightening stick near the inner corners of the eye, which helps teary slits appear more open. (Opt for Paula Dorf Eye Lite, $24; 888-472-8523; or Origins Eye Brightening Color Stick, $12.50; 800-ORIGINS.) Top it off with liner applied near the lashes and a swipe of clear mascara like Cover Girl CG Smoothers Natural Lash and Brow Mascara ($5; at drugstores).
Beauty blunder: You haven't been taking care of yourself and now you've caught a cold (and your nose looks like Rudolph's). Frequent blowing and rubbing with tissues can dry out the skin on your nose, causing chapping. Dry, peeling lips (another side effect of colds) can be made worse by indoor areas with low humidity as well as by cold temperatures, says Debra Luftman, M.D., a clinical instructor of dermatology at the University of California, Los Angeles. Lip licking also can dry your lips further because saliva contains enzymes that can draw moisture out of the skin.
Quick fixes: Apply an over-the-counter hydrocortisone ointment mixed with equal parts antibiotic ointment (try Neosporin, $4; at drugstores) to your nose. The combination will create a protective barrier for the skin and kill any bacteria that could inhibit healing, Sarnoff says. To conceal a red nose, dab a foundation like L'Oréal Air Wear Breathable Long-Wearing Foundation ($12.35; at drugstores) on the skin. Re-coat as needed. Moisten lips with cool water, then apply a lip balm (like Weleda Everon Lip Balm, $5; 800-941-9030; or Aveda Lip Tint, $12; 800-328-0849) to help seal in moisture. If you want to apply more color, choose a moisturizing lip gloss like Neutrogena MoistureShine Gloss ($7; at drugstores). But before you apply it, brush lips gently with a toothbrush to help exfoliate the dead skin so the color can coat lips more evenly. Also, drink plenty of water to rehydrate your entire body.