April 24, 2009

Lately, we've been inundated with dramatic makeover shows featuring life-altering cosmetic surgeries. Check out these practical & affordable makeover tips you can do yourself.

On episode after episode, we're shown that plunking down thousands of dollars for liposuction, tummy tucks and facelifts is the sure-fire solution to a more rewarding and satisfying life. Not true! Turn off The Swan and Extreme Makeover and instead invest your time in learning simple and practical techniques that maximize your looks -- without wrecking your self-esteem. We went straight to the pros for insider advice on how to easily (and affordably) transform yourself from head to toe in a way that makes you feel good.

Start with these makeover tips.

Perfect your skin. When it comes to makeup, keep in mind that "less is more." "Many women make the mistake of trying to cover up fine lines with layers of makeup; in effect, this actually makes them look older," notes New York City makeup ace Mel Rau. Instead, look for a new breed of skin-perfecting products with photo-optic technology, which brightens, resurfaces and improves your skin's clarity. One favorite: Estee Lauder Prime FX Color Neutralizing Primer ($25; esteelauder.com).

Choose professional eyebrow shaping. A skilled eyebrow shaping can totally transform your face. (Prices range from about $30-$60; call your local salon.) "The entire eye area can appear 'lifted' and more open, helping women look younger and much more polished," explains New York City-based celebrity makeup artist Ramy Gafni. Maintenance simply involves "cleaning up" brows underneath and removing only the strays on top.

Eyebrow coloring: keep the color close to your hair color (one shade darker than your locks). Since eyebrow coloring at home can easily go wrong (you don't want to take any chances working that close to your eyes), experiment with makeup pencils and powders. Women with very dark hair can try brown, while a taupe color works for blondes or most brunettes, according to Giselle, a colorist at Pierre Michel Salon in New York City, who suggests lightly feathering it into brows. (We like Revlon Brow Fantasy in Dark Blonde, Brunette and Dark Brown.)

Keep reading for even more easy and affordable beauty tips.

[header = Beauty tips for at-home makeovers: lip plumping, smile makeovers and more.]

Find more affordable makeover tips, including smile makeovers, eye makeup tips and more.

Make thin brows thicker. Unfortunately, many of us know all too well what it's like to have thin brows. To the rescue: Talika Eyebrow Extender ($30; sephora.com). Unlike tinted brow gels, this is a transparent fixative with hairlike fibers that cling to your own eyebrows, adding depth and thickness and filling in overplucked spots.

Eye makeup tips to brighten your eyes: Any professional makeup artist will tell you that their most important tool is an eyelash curler, which instantly makes the eye "pop." After curling, apply mascara only to top lashes, being sure to remove any clumps with a lash comb (try the Folding ILash Comb from Tweezerman, $5.50; tweezerman.com).

You can bring out your natural color with Almay's Intense i-Color Collection ($7-$7.49; at drugstores), a shadow, liner and mascara collection that uses complementary and contrasting shades to intensify your iris color. Other shadows to try: Estee Lauder Graphic Color EyeShadow Quad ($37; esteelauder.com), eight new compacts, each featuring three complementary shades and a surprising pop shade for a dramatic effect; and Shiseido The Makeup Hydro-Powder Eye Shadow ($21; sca.shiseido.com), five creamy shadows with pearl particles for added oomph.

Perfect your pout with lip plumping. Why go to painful extremes (e.g., doctor's office injections like collagen or Restylane) to get lush lips? Temporary, painless products for lip plumping are the latest rage. Try Elizabeth Arden's Ceramide Plump Perfect Lip Moisture Cream SPF 30 ($27.50; elizabetharden.com), the peppermint-infused Pout Plump ($24; sephora.com), which temporarily increases blood flow to the lips, or LipFusion Micro-Injected Collagen Lip Plumper ($36; sephora.com), which penetrates lip tissue with dehydrated marine collagen microspheres.

Brighten your smile with smile makeovers. Whitening discolored teeth is a simple, affordable way to look younger and healthier within weeks. We like Crest Night Effects Premium for Sensitive Teeth, which contains a hydrogen-peroxide gel that helps remove stains after 18 nights of use. Or try Supersmile Teeth Whitening ($16; supersmile.com) for on-the-go brightening. Just squeeze a drop from the pocket-sized tube and smooth over your teeth.

Next, discover terrific makeover tips for your tresses.

[header = Hair makeover tips: beauty tips for your hair extensions, coloring and more.]

At-home hair makeover tips: revamp your hair with these affordable and easy beauty tips.

Here's one of our favorite hair makeover tips: lose the length. Women tend to believe long hair is more youthful-looking, so they hold on to styles that worked for them years ago. "Collarbone-length and shorter hair accentuates features like your eyes and smile, actually making you look younger," explains New York City stylist Mark Garrison. "It's also important to have some layering, which provides movement and shape." A cut -- even a trim -- also eliminates all of the older, damaged ends, improving your whole look.

Try phony pony hair extensions: If you've dreamed of a movie-star mane but don't want to grow one, hair extensions might be just your thing. Natural hair extensions can stay attached for up to six months and are maintained just like real hair (the downside: prices start at $500). An easier, less expensive option: temporary hairpieces that instantly transform your look. Our favorites: Jacquelyn Wigs Pocket Ponytail ($275; 800-272-2424), made of 100 percent human hair, has a built-in pocket to be pulled up over your own hair or can be rolled up into a simple, elegant chignon; and Flawless by Hair U Wear (from $24; bellahair.com), designed by celebrity stylist Danilo, comes in 20 shades and 10 styles.

Heed our must-know home hair coloring tips: When coloring your hair, stay within two shades of your natural color, whether you're going lighter or darker. "The further you stray from your natural shade, the more maintenance you'll need," Giselle explains. (Maintenance is now easier with the new Clairol Nice 'n Easy Root Touch-Up; it's a permanent dye meant to be used midpoint between colorings to cover any roots that have started to show.)

Another one of our favorite hair coloring tips: Keep it subtle. Even minimal color changes can still make a dramatic difference in your overall appearance. As a general rule -- for women of all ages -- warmer tones like golden blonde, honey and caramel are more flattering than ash blonde and drab browns, which can wash you out. L'Oreal Professionnel Artec Colorist Collection Shampoo ($12.50; us.lorealprofessionnel.com for salon locations) cleanses and deposits color on strands in a range of brunettes, reds and blondes.

If you do plan on an extreme change, it's best to consult a professional to avoid disaster. (To test how you'll look with a different hair color, click on the clairol.com Try It On Studio; just upload a picture of yourself and see how you look with one or all of the 590 shade possibilities.) And since chemical treatments can be damaging to hair, keep it healthy by using a conditioning mask once a week. We like Marc Anthony Be Brunette, Brilliant Blondes and Simply Straight 60-Second Hair Masks ($8 each; at drugstores).

Read more: Check out more of our favorite beauty tips.

[header = Skin and hair makeover tips by Shape to lighten your hair and exfoliate skin.]

Must-know hair makeover tips: give your tresses a great pick-me-up with these hair makeover tips and exfoliate skin to brighten your complexion.

Here are the details:

Streaking hair: add natural-looking "streaks." Create permanent color changes and give your hair a great pick-me-up with at-home highlighting kits, now easier to use than ever. To make the process simple, Giselle suggests parting your hair as you usually wear it and painting strands around your face from roots to tips in one sweep. We like the L'Oreal Hi-Light Styliste Kit ($11; at drugstores), which includes both an easy-to-control defining wand for fine, precise highlights; a brush to apply bolder, thicker chunks of color; and a blue-colored highlighting cream that helps you see exactly where you're streaking hair.

If you're looking for a temporary solution, try painting on shampoo-out Blonde Hair Highlights ($38; 866-777-0345) from West Hollywood, Calif., colorist Kim Vo, who frequently colors the hair of Extreme Makeover candidates. Just swipe the mascara like wand on your strands for highlights that will last until you next wash your hair.

Exfoliate skin to brighten a dull complexion. Be your own cosmetic dermatologist and get flawless, even-toned skin with microdermabrasion. We love L'Oreal ReFinish Micro-Dermabrasion Kit ($25; at drugstores) and Dr. Brandt Microdermabrasion; both mimic the effects of professional microdermabrasion, which polishes the skin with aluminum oxide crystals. "Two or three at-home treatments are typically equivalent to one in-office treatment," says cosmetic dermatologist Frederic Brandt, M.D., who has offices in Miami and New York City.

Peels, which dissolve dead skin cells and help eliminate unwanted pigmentation from past sun exposure, are another good at-home option. Editor favorites: MD Skincare Alpha-Beta Daily Face Peel, a gentle chemical peel that contains a blend of several acids (30 pads/$68; mdskincare.com) and Good Skin All Bright 2 Step Facial Peel Pads ($30; kohls.com), with 10 percent citric acid (a gentle alpha-hydroxy acid) and lime extract.

Keep reading for even more of our top beauty tips.

[header = Bonus beauty tips: Shape provides 2 more makeover tips that are fast & easy.]

Check out even more of our favorite fast and easy do-it-yourself makeover tips.

Firm and lift with anti-aging creams. When it comes to anti-aging creams and lotions, proper application is key. Massage in creams or lotions when you apply them to enhance absorption.

"We've found that a massaging action relaxes muscles, which helps soften lines and increases blood flow to the massaged area," says Jim Wilmott, executive director of Chanel's skin-care line; its Ultra Correction Serum ($95; gloss.com) is designed to be massaged into skin to help firm it.

Another option: Lancome Renergie Microlift Active Redefining Treatment ($74; lancome.com) helps firm skin with natural enzymes (from rice) and diminishes fine lines with maltextract.

A weekly mask, either hydrating or oil absorbing, will also keep skin dewy and supple. (We like the Shiseido Benefiance Pure Retinol Instant Treatment Eye Mask, $60 for 12 packs; sca.shiseido.com).

For your body, try Avon Anew Clinical Lift and Tuck Professional Body Shaper ($18; avon.com) with a unique blend of ingredients, including soybean root and bitter-orange extracts, to help firm skin in the stomach and buttocks area after using the product twice a day for four weeks.

Look slimmer instantly with self tanning products. "Self-tanners can definitely help you appear slimmer if applied properly, especially in the leg and thigh areas," says Leesa Slater, manager of the Clarins' Boutique in New York City. They can also help conceal cellulite and other imperfections. For best results, always exfoliate first, paying special attention to knees, elbows, feet and hands, to ensure even, streak-free application. Make sure that your skin is completely dry before applying or else the self tanning products will go on unevenly. Try Clarins Sheer Bronze Tinted Self-Tanner for Legs ($28; gloss.com); it's easy to apply evenly since it's tinted. Or if you prefer untinted, try Shiseido Brilliant Bronze Quick Self-Tanning Gel ($26; sca.shiseido.com), which liquefies as it's dispensed so it can soak into your skin quickly. Remember that the color can take several hours to fully develop, so apply the night before a big event -- or a day at the beach.

Find even more makeover tips at Shape.com.