Home Improvement


I know women who fearlessly smear their most intimate body parts with molten wax, and others who wouldn't dream of letting a tweezers-wielding stranger remove a single stray eyebrow hair. But it only takes one overly adventurous home-highlight job to convert you to a salon devotee. Lucky for you, we asked the experts to offer easy advice to help you do it all yourself and well!

1. Highlights

Biggest at-home blunder Not watching the clock. The time frames on the box are there for good reason: Hair goes through color changes as it reaches its goal. Color works the same way at home or in the salon, and if you stop too early, you can catch it midchange and the color is almost always brassy, explains Giselle, celebrity colorist at the Pierre Michel Salon in New York City.

Do it yourself well Style your hair the way you normally wear it before highlighting to make targeting the face-framing pieces easy. Highlighting kits that offer plenty of color choices include Garnier Nutrisse Nourishing Multi-Lights ($7.29) and L'Oreal Hi-Light Styliste Hi-Control Brush-On Highlights ($11; both at drugstores). If your highlights seem too bright, tone them down afterward with a dose of semipermanent color in a shade thats one notch deeper, says New York City colorist Rita Hazan. Choose one like Clairol Natural Instincts ($8; at drugstores) that has no ammonia, low peroxide, and wont damage already-colored hair. If your color looks a little orange, try L'Oreal Tone Refiner ($9; at drugstores), to neutralize brassiness. Giselle and Hazan agree: If you want allover highlights, high-tail it to the salon to ensure the perfect shade choice. But for a few fun streaks around your face, go for it on your own!

2. Microdermabrasion

Biggest at-home blunder The infamous more is better mentality. Don't use the product more often than the directions specify, warns Fredric Brandt, M.D., a cosmetic dermatologist in New York City and Miami. Overuse will strip away the skins outermost protective barrier, and your face will look raw and irritated.

Do it yourself well Home microdermabrasion products use the same exfoliating particles as the experts use, points out Brandt. Unlike everyday home scrubs, microdermabrasion spheres don't dissolve in water, so skin reaps their full benefits as long as you rub them around in a circular motion, for deeper exfoliation. Apply the product to damp skin, so it glides on easily, use before bed so any redness can calm down as you sleep, and to avoid stinging, save your anti-aging treatments for other nights. Roughly two to three home sessions are equal to one in-office visit. Generally one $15-$125 at-home kit provides about 10-12 uses (they range in price because some kits use higher-grade exfoliants than others). Leading home microdermabrasion picks: Brandts own Microdermabrasion in a Jar ($75; sephora.com), Ponds Purely Polished Microdermabrasion Anti-aging Kit ($14; drugstore.com) and Neutrogena Advanced Solutions At Home MicroDermabrasion System ($38, drugstore.com); all have a creamy base for added softening benefits. Brandt adds: Professional microdermabrasion does penetrate skin deeper to offer longer-lasting glowing results. But considering the cost savings you reap from doing it at home, we say try a do-it-yourself treatment first; if you're not satisfied with the radiance of your skin, opt for the professional route.

3. Manicure + Pedicure

Biggest at-home blunder Most women forget to deep clean the nail, says Jan Arnold, co-founder of Creative Nail Design. This is a problem because any dust or oily residue will prevent the base coat from adhering properly. The fix: Swipe each nail with acetone-based polish remover right before applying the base coat. Try Cutex Essential Care Advanced Nail Polish Remover Pads ($3; at drugstores).

Do it yourself well Master the base coat plus the three-stroke polish application used in salons; it lays down a thin coating thats ideal for lasting results. Also, never shake your polish. Doing so creates air bubbles, which can be painted right onto your nails (a dead giveaway that you've done your nails solo). Instead, mix lacquer by rolling the bottle between your palms. Arnolds at-home advice: With the right tools and a steady hand, you can pull off a top manicure/pedicure yourself. Start with a salon manicure/pedicure, then do the next two or three polish changes at home. Tools that make it easy to maintain a groomed look: Dr. Scholls Pedicure Essentials Skin Softening Foot Rasp ($3.82; at drugstores), a paddle-style file for use on the soles of your feet after every shower, and Sephora Professional Emery Board ($2; sephora.com) to smooth nail snags.

4. Waxing

Biggest at-home blunder Trying to wax hair thats too short. An eighth of an inch (about two to three weeks worth) is the minimum you need for top results. Plus, if hairs too stubbly, waxing it is painful and may cause ingrowns.

Do it yourself well Exfoliate skin first to help raise hairs, making them easier to extract. When waxing sensitive areas (face, bikini, underarms), apply wax in small, 1- to 12-inch strips, suggests Marcia Kilgore, founder of Bliss Spas in New York City. Try Nair Lasting Effects Ready to Use Wax Strips ($5.55; at drugstores) on any part of your body, or Veet Facial Easy-To-Use Cold Wax Strips ($7; at drugstores). First, stretch the skin as you apply wax, then remove in one swift, close-to-your-body motion. Tearing straight up to the sky can cause bruising, Kilgore says. Her final note: Small areas like the chin or upper lip line are especially easy and quick to handle alone. Ifyoure squeamish about the pain, temporarily numb the area first with GiGi Anesthetic Numbing Spray ($12; sallybeauty.com). Forlarger, seemingly daunting body parts, you may want to consult a professional aesthetician.

5. Sunless Tanning

Biggest at-home blunder Lack of preparation: People don't realize that what they do to their skin ahead of time can cause streaking, says Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Harlan Roberts, president of Flawless Tan. Top culprit: using oil-based body scrubs that cause DHA (the active ingredient in tanners) to separate.

Do it yourself well Exfoliate skin with plain table sugar in the shower, recommends Carmindy, a New York City-based makeup artist. Sugar is cheap, effective and wont mess up your results, she says. When skin is perfectly dry and lotion-free, apply a spray-on self-tanner like Tanline Tan In A Can ($35; tanline.us.com) or St. Tropez Shimmering Bronzing Mist ($36; sephora.com). Then buff your feet, ankles, knees and elbows, and around your jaw and hairline with a barely damp terrycloth towel (to avoid streaking).

6. Brow Shaping

Biggest at-home blunder Overplucking. Women get obsessive and try to take out every little hair they see, says Patricia Giano, an aesthetician at Frdric Fekkai Salon & Spa in New York City.

Do it yourself well Before tweezing, use a brow pencil to draw along the bottom of your natural brow line; try IsaDora Eyebrow Pencil with Brush ($9; at Walgreens). Then take away only the hairs below the line, says Giano. Remove the hairs you can see in natural daylight, standing a foot away from a regular mirror. An initial shaping by a pro cant be beat, but home maintenance gets the green light, adds Giano. Key: Use tweezers that are sharp (the tips align perfectly) and angled, so they follow the curve of the brow bone. Our favorite: Tweezerman Slant Tweezer ($20; tweezerman.com).

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