Exfoliate yourself raw? Slather on so much self-tanner you're a not-found-in-nature shade of orange? Bleach your hair into oblivion? Join the club. We've all fallen victim to the "if a little is good, then a lot must be better" trap in the quest to get gorgeous. But help is here. Read on for face- (and hair- and body-) saving advice from the pros.
OOPS! You've cut your bangs too short.
"Trimming your own fringe is tougher than it looks," says Mark Townsend, a Matrix celeb stylist in Los Angeles.
"Sweeping your bangs to the side, rather than wearing them straight down on your forehead, will help disguise their length until they grow out a bit, which usually takes about four weeks," says Townsend. To style in the interim, he recommends coating damp bangs with a pea-size drop of light-hold gel, such as Biolage Sculpting Jelly ($14; biolage.com for salons), then blasting them to the side with a blow-dryer. You can also camouflage your handiwork by pulling the hair off your forehead with stylish bobby pins or a headband.
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Even if you're not ready for a full-fledged haircut, go to the salon—most stylists will snip long fringe free of charge. "And if you can't make it to a pro, at the very least cut your hair when it's wet so it lies flat and you stand a chance of getting an even outcome," says Townsend. Then aim to trim the hair so it falls right below your brow line.
OOPS! You OD'd on highlights and now your hair's bleached out.
"A lot of women end up over-blonding, especially when they're highlighting at home," says Jason Backe, a colorist at the Ted Gibson salon in New York City. Usually you're successful the first two to three times you do your own streaks. But by the third or fourth dye job, you're overlapping the highlights (it's nearly impossible not to when working on your own head) and losing your natural dark undertones.
Put your hair in a clip and hightail it to the drugstore. What you're looking for: an allover, demi-permanent color (a long-lasting, temporary dye that washes out in four to six weeks) in a hue one shade deeper than your highlights. "A demi-permanent dye tones down bright blond and gets rid of brassiness," says Marcy Cona, a colorist in Silver Lake, Ohio. A consultant for Clairol, Cona swears by the company's Natural Instincts blond shades in the "neutral" range ($9; walgreens.com) as opposed to those labeled "cool" or "warm"—which can leave over-lightened hair greenish or brassy. To apply, set the directions aside and follow these steps from Backe: Shampoo your hair; while it's still wet, comb the color through your tresses and wait three minutes. Rinse and blow-dry. If you want to subdue the hue even more, repeat the process. If your hair still isn't the shade you want, Backe suggests going to the salon to have a professional weave in some lowlights to reintroduce the darker undertones you've lost.
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"When I'm coloring a blonde, I typically use three different shades—a light, a medium, and a darker tone—to make the results look realistic," says Cona. Because this kind of "multidimensional" highlighting is tough to do yourself, if you're simply seeking a quick hit of brightness, avert a disaster by sidestepping streaks and choosing a single-process color one shade lighter than your present hair color. After ward, wash with a color-protecting shampoo, like Pantene Pro-V Highlighting Expressions Shampoo ($6; at drugstores), to preserve your pigment.
OOPS! You irritated your skin with an exfoliator.
The abundance of do-it-yourself chemical-peel and micro-dermabrasion kits have made exfoliating at home easier and more affordable for women. However, "too often people don't read the instructions," says Pat Wexler, M.D., a cosmetic dermatologist in New York City, "and they wind up using something daily that's meant to be applied just once a week." The result? Major redness.
Drape your face with ice-cold, skim milk–saturated cotton pads for 20 to 30 minutes. "The protein in the milk neutralizes inflammation in the skin," says Wexler. Then keep your skincare routine very simple for the next five to seven days, says Kate Somerville, a Los Angeles celebrity aesthetician. She recommends sticking to the mildest cleanser you can find, such as Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser ($11), and slathering on a light salve, like Aquaphor Healing Ointment ($8; both at drugstore.com) to keep the area moist. Then shelve the offending scrub or peel for at least a week.
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To avoid irritation, opt for gentle exfoliators like Nude Facial Scrub ($52; nudeskin care.com), with skin-buffing beads, or Sonya Dakar Enzyme Peeling Cream ($85; sonyadakar.com), which dissolves dead skin cells in minutes so they easily splash away when you rinse. Wexler's rule: Unless a product is formulated for daily use, apply no more than once or twice a week. If you experience redness or stinging, stretch it out to twice a month.
OOPS! You picked at a pimple and made it even worse.
Squeezing a blemish may get rid of what's inside, but it can also cause an infection. Plus, pressing against the skin with your nails can cut your skin, leaving the area red, scabby, and swollen.
"Using a clean cotton swab, dab the pimple with antibacterial ointment, like Neosporin Neo to Go First Aid Antibiotic Ointment pocket-size packets ($5; drugstore.com), to reduce redness and prevent infection," says Somerville, who adds that if the pore is still partially clogged, skip the ointment, as "it will stop what's still in there from coming out." Instead, swipe the area with a hydrogen peroxide–soaked cotton swab to kill bacteria, then hold an ice pack on the spot to reduce swelling. Finish by dabbing an oil-free moisturizer on the blemish to soften any scabbing, then top with foundation.
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If you're still determined to squeeze a pimple, do it right: Apply a warm washcloth to the area to open the pore, making it easier to squeeze, says Somerville. Sterilize a lancet—try the Sephora Complexion Extractor With Lance ($18; sephora.com)—with rubbing alcohol and gently pierce the blemish. Then wrap your pointer fingers in tissue (so your nails don't jab into and cut your skin) and gently squeeze. Stop if nothing comes out, pat with hydrogen peroxide, and leave it alone. If you are able to empty out the pore, treat it with antibacterial ointment. If the blemish is still large and painful, see your dermatologist, who can give you a cortisone injection that should bring down the bump within 24 hours.
OOPS! You went overboard with self-tanner and now you're the same shade as a pumpkin.
"When people goof with self-tanner, it's usually the result of applying the lotion too thick or putting it on too frequently," says Anna Stankiewicz, an aesthetician at the Rita Hazan Salon in New York City who specializes in spray tanning.
Your first line of defense is to jump into a hot shower and immediately and lightly exfoliate with a gentle scrub like St. Tropez Self-Tan Remover ($17; sttropeztan.com), which helps fade streaks. (Next time you buy tanner, it might be a good idea to pick up the scrub at the same time, just in case.) After your shower, slather on a lotion with either glycolic or lactic acid to accelerate your skin's natural sloughing process; we like AmLactin Moisturizing Lotion ($16; drugstore.com), with lactic acid. Your skin should be back to its pre-self-tanner tone within a day or two, depending on the concentration of active ingredients in the formula.
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Always start with a clean slate: When you apply tanner, your skin should be recently exfoliated and free of body lotion and perfume. (Lotion can prevent self-tanner from penetrating, while fragrance can alter the final tint, says Stankiewicz.) Then smooth on tanner in a very light layer and wait 10 minutes before getting dressed, even if the tanner says it's quick-drying. ("Most people put their clothes on too soon and the fabric, not their skin, ends up absorbing the self-tanning ingredients," says Stankiewicz.) Finally, wait 24 hours before applying a second coat (and shower at least once during that period to remove excess pigment). By then the color will have fully developed and you can better judge whether you really need another hit. To guarantee a streak-free, right-for-you color, Stankiewicz swears by these two formulas: Carita Paris Self-Tanning and Contouring Care for Legs and Body SPF 6 ($95; fredsegalbeauty .com), which is lightly tinted so you can ensure an even application, and Dove Energy Glow Daily Moisturizer With Subtle Self Tanners ($8; at drugstores), a self-tanner/ body lotion combo that gradually deepens your tone over the course of several days.