Summer, at last! You've been anticipating the fresh lemonade, family beach days, and backyard grill parties. There are a few things, though, that likely didn't make your can't-wait-to list: wrangling with a blow-dryer on sticky mornings, shaving daily, and protecting all that extra exposed skin, for starters. We can relate. So you can get to those summer pleasures that much sooner, we've fast-tracked your beauty routine with innovative products and speedy tips. Plus, the Good Housekeeping Research Institute reports on which lipstains really stay put.
1. Speedy Skin Smoothers
Sure, four weeks' daily use of a firming body lotion can help you tone up, but that's of little comfort when you're headed to the beach today. Instead of despairing, look for mica, says Los Angeles makeup artist Brett Freedman. "When light hits these mineral particles, it bounces back and scatters, making skin look smoother than it is." Commonly used in makeup, mica is now turning up in sunscreen, too—a relief, since the light-diffuser can be forgiving even to cellulite. Try Hawaiian Tropic Shimmer Effect Sunscreen Lotion SPF 40 ($9, drugstores). Or use a sunscreen with a bronze tint, like Australian Gold Instant Bronzer SPF 30 Continuous Spray ($9.50, drugstores), to disguise flaws. The hidden benefit: Instant gratification might just motivate you to stick to the sun-protection rules and reapply every two hours.
2. Built-in SPF
You've likely gotten into the habit of rubbing sunscreen on any exposed skin, expecting that what's clothed is already protected. Think again. The average lightweight white T-shirt has an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) of 5, explains Monique Moore, cofounder with Anne Botica of clothing company Mott 50. In other words, most UV rays go right through it. Mott 50 clothes, which carry the Skin Cancer Foundation Seal of Recommendation, are UPF 50, which means they block out 98% of all UV rays (by comparison, an SPF 30 sunscreen blocks 97% of UVB). A short-sleeved T-shirt ($55; mott50.com) may be worth the investment if you are gardening or playing a sport like golf or tennis in the hot sun. And if you're really averse to sunscreen, or simply forgetful, a long-sleeved T-shirt ($60) and lightweight pants ($129) can save you a lot of hassle and worry; the sun protection lasts for 30 washes.
3. Sight Savers
UV-protecting sunglasses can give you a false sense of security: The lenses themselves block 98% of UV rays, but standard frames may allow as much as 20% of stray light to enter from their sides, top, and — if you're lying poolside — bottom, says New York City optometrist Susan Resnick. And that light is far from benign: "UV exposure can contribute to earlier onset of cataracts and the progression of age-related macular degeneration, the number one cause of vision loss in the U.S. for people over age 50," she warns. The fix only takes a quick shopping trip: Upgrade to wraparound sunglasses. And if you wear contact lenses, choose ones, like 1-Day Acuvue TruEye, that the American Optometric Association deems class one, which means they block at least 90% of UVA and 99% of UVB rays. Wear the shades and lenses year-round, and you'll protect eyes from incidental sun damage, too.
4. Rough-patch Soother
If dry, scaly elbows and knees have kept you from wearing short-sleeved blouses and skirts, pull a switcheroo: Swap your usual body moisturizer for one with lactic acid, like Amlactin Moisturizing Body Lotion ($15, drugstores). Lactic acid does double duty as an exfoliator and a hydrator, so it sloughs off dead flakes and keeps skin dewy, explains Alan B. Fleischer Jr., M.D., professor and chair of the department of dermatology at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC. Use it twice daily, and you may see results in as little as a week. Lactic-acid moisturizers can also minimize the appearance of those little bumps known as keratosis pilaris, or chicken skin, he adds; but keep in mind that the pesky condition is incurable and that the bumps will reappear if you stop treating them.
5. Easier Waxing
Shaving is a thankless task, but hey, it's the fastest way to get the job done. Or so we thought until we saw Bliss Poetic Waxing Strips ($25-$36, Sephora) and Veet Ready-to-Use Wax Strips ($4.50-10, drugstores). Unlike time-consuming, messy waxes that require a microwave or stovetop, these warm up in your hands. Simply rub between your palms, pull apart, press onto hair in the direction of growth, let set for a minute, and then pull quickly in the opposite direction. Both sets of strips come with post-wax skin soothers (an oil and a wipe, respectively). It's all so easy that, yes, you really can wax on the road, and the time savings don't stop there: Regrowth is, of course, slower than with shaving — legs can stay smooth for up to three weeks.
6. Summer Refreshments
Heat and humidity can put a damper on your efforts to feel clean. Happily, new quick on-the-go, stay-fresh solutions abound. Degree Women Expert Protection with MotionSense Anti-Perspirant & Deodorant ($4, drugstores) contains fragrance capsules that — through the friction caused by, say, a brisk walk or gardening — burst and release a bracing scent. If you've already broken into a sweat, or are feeling just plain hot and sticky, there are individually wrapped Playtex Sport Body Wipes ($3 for 20, drugstores), which, unlike wipes in a box, can easily travel solo in a yoga bag, a handbag, or even a clutch. Another boon for your pocketbook: Mary Kay Tranquil Waters Fragrance Pencil ($14, marykay.com, sharpener included). Its freesia-and-white peach scent is soft and lovely for warm days, and inoffensive if stroked on in public (no spritzing required).
7. Grease-free Shine
If you're baffled by women who manage to get two days out of their hairstyles, you may have a case of product-induced greasies. Shine sprays and anti-frizz serums get the job done (see "5 Ways to Fight Frizz"), but their star ingredient, silicone, does have a trade-off: "It can leave hair feeling greasy, especially if your locks are fine," says Los Angeles hairstylist Kim Vo. If you have this problem, you know it: By day's end, your bangs are stuck to your forehead or your hair feels like an oil slick. Blow-drying and styling don't have to be a daily affair: Start by switching to silicone-free products, advises Vo. Try Living Proof's new Straight ($29, Sephora), which can be spritzed on before blow-drying or flat ironing as well as afterward to touch up, or L'Oréal Paris EverSleek Humidity Defying Leave-In Crème ($9, drugstores). Then, if you feel your hair has lost its luster, consider adding on a glaze or gloss to your next salon cut or color. The clear 20-minute treatment can go on colored or uncolored hair, producing four weeks of guaranteed shine.
8. Quick Slimmer
Yes, bronzer gives you an instant tan, but its other talent is shaving five pounds off your face. To slim cheeks and make your cheekbones pop, choose a matte color that's one shade deeper than your skin tone. (If you're having trouble finding a non-shimmery bronzer, try a pressed powder, like Maybelline New York Fit Me! Powder [$8, drugstores].) Suck in your cheeks and use an eye shadow brush to apply the warm tone in the hollows, stroking up under the lengths of your cheekbones. Blending is key to achieving a natural finish: Buff the color out so there are no clear lines. To sharpen your jawline, use a big, fluffy brush and stroke the warm tone directly under it; the slight shadow minimizes jowls.
9. No-chip Nail Color
Polish can't stand up to summer wear and tear — scratchy sand, for instance — but Sally Hansen Salon Effects Real Nail Polish Strips ($10, drugstores) can. These sheets of polish adhere to nails, don't chip, and last up to 10 days. Until now, similar strips were available only in salons, for upward of $60. While stars like Rihanna and Lady Gaga have popularized metallics and designs like leopard print, there are more wearable shades, too. Try Cry Baby soft pink, "It Girl" hot pink, or Red-y for Trouble red. Application is easy and speedy; after you stick the strip on your nail, just file off the excess. Not only do strips require no drying time, but (unlike nail polish) they won't fade or yellow with exposure to UV rays.
Lasting Lip Color?
Lipstains — marker-like lip colors — claim to stay put as the mercury rises. To determine their true staying power, the Good Housekeeping Research Institute evaluated the color coverage of six market leaders three times: immediately after application, after eating, and six hours after initial use. Volunteers also tried the stains at home. In both sets of tests, Revlon Just Bitten Lipstain + Balm ($8, drugstores) took first place. Volunteers liked the lip balm it came with, which set it apart from other, more drying stains. Another tester favorite: NYC New York Color Smooch Proof 16H Lip Stain ($3, drugstores), which won fans with its rich colors. Both performed well in the first two sets of lab tests. After six hours, though, they lost more than half their vibrancy, and none of the stains outlasted the winner of our 2007 long-wear lip color test, Chanel Ultra Wear Lip Colour ($34, department stores), which has a thicker formula. The bottom line: The ease and lightweight feel of a stain are ideal for summer, but expect to touch up.
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