Real Simple readers reveal their tried-and-true tricks for looking and feeling their best.
I stopped fighting my naturally curly hair and accepted it for what it is―curly! No more wasted hours battling with a straightening iron, no more lost summer days spent sitting inside to avoid the humidity, and no more running from the rain. Now I just wash my hair, add some gel, and go. I may not look quite like the girls in the magazines any more, but now I bear a strong resemblence to my grandmother, and that is a beautiful thing.
Now Hair This
About once a week, I slather on a thick deep conditioner (so thick that it holds my hair in place) before heading out for my morning run. My body heat plus the sun’s rays helps the conditioner penetrate my hair and work its magic, and this saves me time in the shower. I love that I’m sneaking in a bit of pampering during an otherwise unglamorous endeavor.
Post–blow-drying, a quick brush of clear mascara fixes my flyaway hairs much better than hair spray or any other products I’ve tried.
Cranford, New Jersey
The glorious and ingenious piece of elastic known as the ponytail holder has been my most reliable beauty companion for as long as I can remember. This simple band can take me from workout to work to a business dinner. The ponytail never goes out of style.
My most reliable beauty shortcut is without question my great hairstylist. Every couple of months, for years now, he has given me the perfect shag―it dresses up, dresses down, looks sophisticated when it’s sleekly styled, and looks fun and tousled when I sleep on it wet. It’s exactly as easy or as complicated as I want to make it.
Every morning, I use Velcro hair rollers to save time and add extra curl. I roll my hair and let it set while I apply my makeup, eat breakfast, and watch the morning news. Once I’m done with all my morning routines, I take out the curlers, use a little pomade and finishing spray, and head out the door.
St. Paul, Minnesota
I’ve saved so much time and money by having a very short, easy haircut that I’ve never colored, despite the fact that I’m prematurely gray. I spend less than five minutes daily on my hair, and my monthly hair appointments take only a half hour. I always get compliments from strangers on the fact that my hair isn’t dyed, and I secretly hope I can inspire more women to go natural.
My baseball caps allow me to just get up, put my hair in a ponytail, put my cap on, and go. I have them in every color.
I love Bobbi Brown SPF 15 Tinted Moisturizer. Because it’s a moisturizer, a sunscreen, and a light foundation in one, it saves time in the morning. Before discovering this, I never wore foundation, because I hated the way it felt on my face. This product is light and nongreasy, and it evens out my complexion. Although it’s a little pricey, a small dab goes a long way, so it lasts.
I make an olive oil–and-sugar body scrub―it’s cheap, it’s fast, and it makes my skin glow and feel soft. I just mix equal amounts of olive oil and sugar, smooth the mixture all over my body, and rinse it off for perfectly gorgeous skin.
I use olive oil to wash my face. Since I started, the redness in my skin has subsided and my skin is softer and smoother. When winter heat kicks in and my skin gets super-dry, it’s my allover body moisturizer.
Ranson, West Virginia
Make It Up
I travel quite a bit, and I hate to bring a lot of cosmetics with me. I’ve found that M.A.C false eyelashes are my savior. When I wear them, I don’t need any other makeup and I still look good.
La Habra, California
If I have to run out of the house without makeup, I’m always sure to at least put on lipstick. It makes me look and feel complete, and it tends to divert attention from the rest of my “unfinished” face.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
The new pressed powders are my most reliable beauty shortcut. I have one that goes on like a powder but covers like a liquid. I use it when I’m running late and don’t have time to put on or freshen my makeup. It takes less than a minute to apply. I add lip gloss and am instantly transformed from rushed and stressed into composed and finished.
Virginia Beach, Virginia
I always do a quick swipe of mascara to perk myself up a bit. I have fair skin and light eyelashes, so applying mascara always makes me feel a little more “done,” and it takes less than a minute.
Woodside, New York
I always use a dash of concealer under my eyes. Even if I haven’t slept well in days, it won’t show―at least not in my eyes.
Charlotte, North Carolina
When I’m in a hurry, I skip the mascara and just use a navy eyeliner pencil to line my eyes. My favorite is Aveda Eye Definer in Wild Indigo. The inky blue color makes my blue eyes stand out.
Groom and Go
For an instant manicure, baby oil works wonders. Just a few drops and I have shiny nails and smooth, moisturized cuticles in seconds.
With a great pair of sunglasses and a good lipstick, I can walk out of my house and feel instantly glamorous.
South Windsor, Connecticut
I love the look of a nice manicure and pedicure, but I hated waiting around for nail polish to dry. I read somewhere that you could speed the polish-drying process with cold tap water. I was skeptical, figuring the water would smudge the polish, but I tried it and it works. The secret is to give the polish a minute or two to set before you put your hands under the running water. This trick always saves me a lot of time.
Mount Vernon, Washington
I am a “make do” kind of girl, but I have to pluck my eyebrows regularly. I may not be wearing a stitch of makeup, but my eyes look brighter and my whole face looks alive when my eyebrows are properly groomed.
I use hair conditioner to shave my legs. It helps give me a close shave, and I don’t have to use moisturizing lotion afterward, because the conditioner is so emollient.
Buffalo, New York
I need something on my lips to feel put together, so I always carry a Bonne Bell Lip Smacker in my purse. They come in a variety of colors and flavors, and they also make me feel as if I’m back in high school.
After I shower in the morning, I soak a washcloth in ice water and place it on my face for a glowing look. It also seems to help keep my makeup fresh-looking all day.
On days when stress makes me look tired and worn-out, a 30-minute walk allows me to relax, clear my mind, get some exercise, and bring a natural, refreshed glow to my face.
Christine Barcia Moore
West Chester, Pennsylvania
My most reliable beauty shortcut is a box of perm papers. I use them to blot lipstick, blot shine, and swipe overloaded makeup brushes. A couple of bucks for a box of 1,000. Gotta love it.
You can skip the foundation if you’re having great sex with someone you love. It gives you a healthy glow, flushed cheeks, a twinkle in your eye, and a smile on your face. Nobody can bottle that.
Salt Lake City, Utah
As much as I love lotions and potions, the best things in life truly are free. Sleep is my beauty shortcut. It rewards me instantly from the inside out, and there are no regimens or cosmetics that can hide the lack of it. Sleep energizes me and lifts my spirits. If you have that, you’re bound to look good.
My most reliable beauty shortcut is silk pillowcases. They help prevent split ends, and I wake up with sexy bed hair and no creases in my face.
A Beautiful Mind
My shortcut: not to waste too much time plucking, exfoliating, clay-masking, renewing, or styling but to spend my time on the things that make me truly beautiful―sleeping in, my family, and a good laugh with friends.
Green Bay, Wisconsin
As I rubbed my granddaughter’s back to soothe her to sleep, I told her she was “my gorgeous girl.” She reached up, placed her hand on my cheek, and responded, “And you are my boo-ti-ful nonnie.” In an instant, that little beauty shortcut took away pounds, wrinkles, gray hairs, and age spots! Being in the presence of a child is the most reliable beauty treatment anyone can get.
Elaine G. Graham