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DIY Beauty Treatments vs Going to the Salon

DIY or See a Pro?

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Thanks to a slew of new at-home products (not to mention countless tutorials of all kinds on the Internet), taking the DIY approach towards your beauty routine is easier and more popular than ever. You could, quite feasibly, polish, primp, and perfect from head-to-toe, all in the privacy of your own bathroom. Does this mean it's time to cancel all of your salon and spa appointments? Not quite. We asked experts to weigh in on ten common beauty treatments to determine exactly what you can do yourself...and what you should really leave up to the pros.

Photo: Corbis Images

Waxing

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The Verdict: DIY
It's fine to wax easily accessible areas—think legs, arms, upper lip—in the privacy of your own home, says Nandi Wagner, aesthetician at Bliss Soho. To ensure super smooth skin, exfoliate the area a few days beforehand to remove any dead skin that can clog hair follicles and lead to unsightly bumps and irritation. (Just don't exfoliate immediately prior to waxing, as the exfoliator can leave behind a residue that prevents the wax from properly adhering). Make sure you hold the skin taut as you remove the wax; this both helps you remove hair more thoroughly and minimizes the ouch factor, explains Wagner. And don't plan on going to spin class afterward; sweat can irritate freshly waxed skin.

See a Pro If... You need to wax hard-to-reach areas, like your bikini or back. "A professional can quickly, safely, and effectively remove hair in these more tricky spots," says Wagner. (For more: Confessions of a Bikini Waxer.)

Photo: Corbis Images

Manicure and Pedicure

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The Verdict: DIY
If you've mastered the coordination to paint your own nails, we applaud you and say go for it; after all, weekly appointments can quickly put a dent in your wallet. And with new polishes launching daily, even formulas previously only available in salons, like no-chip gels, can now be found at the drugstore. Even if you haven't yet perfected the polishing part, regular upkeep is essential for nail health. File, buff, and apply cuticle oil regularly to keep nails strong and healthy, advises Anjelica Guttierez, a nail technician at Juko Nail + Skin Rescue in Chicago.

See a Pro If... You simply enjoy the relaxation aspect of it all. After all, massaging your own feet never feels quite as good. It's also worth hitting the salon if you need to ensure your mani or pedi lasts: "Expert filing, shaping, buffing, and polish application result in longer polish wear," says Guttierez. (Although these 6 Secrets Will Make Your Manicure Last Longer too.)

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Microdermabrasion

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The Verdict: See A Pro
Despite the onslaught of new, at-home microdermabrasion devices touting results comparable to the in-office version, this is most definitely not something you should try to do yourself, cautions Annet King, Director of Global Education at the International Dermal Institute and Dermalogica. "Even skilled professionals require hours of extensive training to learn how to properly and safely operate a microdermabrasion machine. Done incorrectly, it can cause trauma to the skin and even draw blood," she says. The bottom line: It's not about the machine, it's about the technique. No matter how many times you read the instructions, this isn't worth attempting yourself.

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Bang Trimming

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The Verdict: See a Pro
"Even though it may seem like just a trim, any adjustment to your bangs merits seeing a professional," explains Ray Civello, founder of Civello Salons. "Bangs can make or break a haircut, and the seemingly simple exercise is more complicated than it appears." (Not to mention bangs grow out slowly, meaning you'll have to live with any mistake for quite awhile). Most salons offer complimentary bang trims...just ask! (Find out How to Rock Bangs the Right Way.)

Photo: Corbis Images

Teeth Whitening

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The Verdict: DIY
"As long as you're using a quality product and following the instructions, you can effectively whiten teeth at home," says Dr. Michael Apa. Since not all whitening products are created equal, choose carefully. Look for one that contains at least 7 percent hydrogen peroxide (the same ingredient used in in-office treatments), and makes direct contact with your teeth (i.e. strips versus a rinse).

See a Pro If... You need to score pearly white, stat. In-office whitening yields results much faster than at-home options, which typically take a few weeks.

Photo: Corbis Images

Brow Shaping

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The Verdict: See a Pro
Whether you have bushy brows or annoyingly sparse arches, a professional is your best bet for creating a flattering shape. "Brow experts know how to properly contour brows to best complement all of your facial features. It's challenging to do so yourself because when you're looking so closely at your brows, it's hard to see your entire face," explains Sabria Celaj, brow expert and owner of Sabria's Brows in NYC. An added boon: He or she can also teach you how to properly fill in and define your brows at home. Celaj suggests regular appointments every three to four weeks (ask if your pro offers bulk pricing to save some moola).

DIY If... You need to touch-up in between appointments—but tweeze judiciously. "Pluck only the blatantly stray hairs that clearly fall outside your new shape," says Celaj. "Many people make the mistake of overplucking in between appointments, which makes it more difficult for the pro." So when in doubt, don't pluck it out. (Read our Perfect Eyebrows Playbook first!)

Photo: Corbis Images

Hair Color

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The Verdict: See a Pro
DIY box color can be confusing for the best of us, and even a minor misstep can result in a serious color conundrum. It's always safer to leave it up to an expert, especially if you're thinking about highlighting or lowlighting, both of which require precise color placement, advises Sharon Dorram of Sharon Dorram Color at Sally Hershberger. Even if you don't have the time or funds to spend on a full-on color session, book a consult to get some professional recommendations and advice, she adds.

DIY If... You're a brunette and just need to cover up a few grays. "Single process, brunette color is the safest option to try at home," says Dorram.

Photo: Corbis Images

Self-Tanning

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The Verdict: DIY
A plethora of new, easy-to-use formulas have made it easier than ever to score a natural-looking glow, especially if you're tanning your arms, legs, chest, or face. "These areas are easy to do yourself because you can see exactly where you're applying the color," explains tanning expert Anna Stankiewicz of Louise O'Connor Salon in NYC . For the most foolproof results, follow her golden rule: Start lighter. "You can always add more color, but it's hard to take it away." (Find The Best Self-Tanner to Suit Your Fit Lifestyle.)

See A Pro If... You're going on vacation or have a big event. "A pro will make sure that all the areas that are visible in a bikini or a gown look totally flawless, especially hard-to-reach spots like your back," points out Stankiewicz. A skilled pro can also subtly sculpt and contour your abs, arms, and legs to make muscles look even more toned.

Photo: Corbis Images

Peels

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The Verdict: DIY
Just adjust your expectations accordingly: "Most of the at-home peels on the market are just a type of exfoliator, and not the same as an in-office peel," explains King. Still, they're a more affordable and accessible option to use regularly, which is essential for seeing results such as smoother, more even skin. But be cognizant that using a peel at home isn't quite as simple as, say, a mask. "This isn't something you can apply and then go kick up your feet and watch TV," warns King. Pay careful attention to how your skin looks and feels as you're doing it, and follow directions carefully. And always purchase any kind of peel from a reputable company or a skincare professional where you can ask questions and become familiar and comfortable with the product, she adds.

See a Pro If... You want to address more specific skin concerns, such acne or stubborn spots. To really see a noticeable difference in these kinds of conditions, you need a medical-strength peel, which should only be administered by licensed professionals, explains King.

Photo: Corbis Images

Blowout

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The Verdict: See a Pro
With affordable blowout bars popping up left and right, there's no better time to get your hair done. And not only is a blowout an easy way to ensure a good hair day, it's also a good option when you're craving a makeover (but not quite ready to commit to something quite as drastic as a cut): "Simply having your stylist suggest a different way to blow out your hair can totally change your look," says Meg Haas, owner of Parlor Beauty Bar in Kansas City, MO. And because pros often have better access to and knowledge of products and techniques, a professional blowout will often last longer than a DIY version, Haas adds. (Read up on 7 Ways to Extend a Blowout.)

DIY If... You genuinely like doing your hair. A blowout requires a certain amount of patience and time, so if you have both of those, and enjoy self-styling, go for it.

Photo: Corbis Images

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