How to Handle Beauty Emergencies

Quick fixes for common beauty crises, from overplucked eyebrows to breakouts and blemishes.

Problem: Overplucked Eyebrows

Solution: "Fill in with a M.A.C or L'Oréal pencil with a comb on the end," says Lucy Baldock, a makeup artist and the founder of Lucy B cosmetics. "Choose a shade slightly lighter than your hair so that it looks natural until they grow back. Make sure it is not too dark, as this can look too fake." After filling in with the pencil, fill in the gaps with brow powder, which will soften the line and make it look more natural, says celebrity makeup artist Laura Mercier.

Problem: Puffy Eyes

Solution: Lie down and place cold cotton balls or a chilled gel eye mask over closed eyes for 10 minutes, advises Anne Sumers, an ophthalmologist in Ridgewood, New Jersey. This will drain accumulated fluids and reduce swelling. Baldock prefers cucumber slices placed on closed eyes for 10 minutes, while Mercier recommends wetting chamomile tea bags, putting them in the refrigerator until cold, and using them as a compress.

Problem: Dark Circles

Solution: For undereye circles, use a creamy emollient concealer. "The skin under your eyes is thinner, and it has fewer oil-producing glands," says Doris J. Day, a dermatologist in New York City. So you need a moisturizing cover-up to make it go on smoothly and adhere well. The wrong formulation will dry and accentuate lines, so to help concealer go on smoothly and evenly, apply an eye cream first with your finger. (Don't use a gel formula, which can leave a sticky surface.) Next, apply a thin layer of concealer over the entire undereye area, using a concealer brush. Layer on a second coat to lighten the darkness. Concentrate on the darkest part (often the inner corner to the middle of the eye), and blend it up into the lash line. To keep concealer from slipping into the crevices of skin, set it with powder before starting on the other eye.

Problem: Blemishes and Breakouts

Solution: When a pimple appears, place an ice pack on it for 5 to 10 minutes to reduce swelling, then pat the area dry and apply benzoyl peroxide cream or gel with a clean cotton swab, says Diane Berson, an assistant professor of dermatology at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University, in New York City. You can top it with concealer that also contains benzoyl peroxide. For blemishes and small spots, rely on sticky concealers, which come in compacts or tubes. For larger blotches or redness around the nose, use more watery liquid concealers (commonly sold in tubes), or try foundation. Both are easy to spread, says Mercier. For pimples, Mercier recommends removing any flakes with a wet washcloth. Next, dab a medicated acne treatment on the pimple. "Work it into the skin until it disappears," she says. (Skip this step if you're using a medicated concealer.) Warm some cake concealer on the back of your hand. Next, with a brush, dot a tiny bit on the middle of the pimple. Using a clean finger, push (don't rub) it into the skin until it disappears. The key is to build thin layers. Set with a large brush and translucent powder.

  


Problem: Running Out of Lipstick

Solution: Cream or powder blush dabbed on lips with a finger creates a soft, sensual look. For a creamier texture, top blush with clear gloss or a lip balm, says Carol Shaw, a Los Angeles makeup artist and the creator of Lorac cosmetics. This works in reverse, too: Use lipstick as blush. Keep in mind that lipstick has much more pigment than blush, says Joli Baker, president of the cosmetics company Pür Minerals, in Atlanta. To avoid going overboard, start with a tiny dab, then gradually increase the color. Add a bit of moisturizer to blend it in.

Problem: Gray Hair

Solution: While mascara is sometimes used as a quick fix to touch up unanticipated gray hairs, "it is possible that mascara could stain the hair, due to its high pigmentation," says Ron Levin, a colorist at the Pierre Michel salon, in New York. He prefers a product called Tween-Time, by Roux, as an alternative in between colorings. "It is a dry lipstick-like stick that can be wetted and applied directly to the roots of hair for instant color," he says. "It will also stay on the hair until your next shampooing." Also recommended: Covermark, which is applied like mascara but made specifically for the hair.

Problem: No Cuticle Cream

Solution: Use baby oil, Vaseline, or olive oil, says Skyy Hadley, a celebrity manicurist and the owner of the As "U" Wish Nail Spa, in Hoboken, New Jersey. Even avocado oil or the contents of a vitamin E capsule massaged into the cuticles will work, says Mark G. Rubin, a dermatologist in Beverly Hills. "It's really just the fact that you're putting on something oily to hold in water and moisture that matters," he says.

Problem: Chipped and Broken Nails

Solution: Use a block buffer in place of a nail file, if needed, says Hadley, "but if you are in a real bind, use the back of a matchbook. Be careful, though, because you might scratch off the back of the matchbook, leaving your nails black or red!" she warns. "Binding broken nails with nail glue or Krazy Glue should hold you over until you get to your nail tech."