Your embarrassing beauty questions answered
Whiskers on your chin
"What can I do about the whiskers that have suddenly sprouted on my chin? They're uncool, unfeminine, and so annoying!"
"A gentle yet firm tweeze is the way to go," says Molly R. Stern, Los Angeles-based celebrity makeup artist. Use a sharp-angled tweezer, grasp the hair as close to the base as you can, and tug. Be careful not to pinch the skin and don't dig under it to remove any hair left behind.
If you've got more than a few hairs, see your doctor. Polycystic ovarian syndrome, a disorder characterized by high levels of male hormones, or an adrenal gland problem could be to blame, says Doris J. Day, MD, clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York University. If you're moderately hairy (meaning you tidy your brows or upper lip monthly), there's not much you can do to escape genetics.
Gray hair down....there
"My pubic hair is almost completely gray. Is it safe for me to color it?"
The answer is yes, thanks to products like betty and Smart Bikini Colour, made specifically for "the hair down there." "To be safe, don't start any lower than your pubic bone and work your way up to the hairline," says Mia Markey, owner of Studio 9 Hair Design in Cold Spring, New York. "Also, steer clear of products made with harsh chemicals such as peroxide or ammonia." betty, for instance, is water-based and uses gentle ingredients, such as henna, chamomile, and lemongrass. And don't overdo it: Only color as often as you would the hair on your head.
"I feel like a clown when I wear makeup. Are there any tips for choosing the most natural shade to match my skin tone?"
"Sample colors on the inside of your wrist or arm. Most women mistakenly use the back of their hand as a guide, which is usually darker than their face," says Stern. "Second, always check the color in the sunlight. Most cosmetics departments are artificially lit, making it hard to see what your skin actually looks like. Ask to borrow a hand mirror and step outside; better yet, wear it for a few hours before you commit. Then see how the color looks after it mixes with your skin's natural oils."
Get rid of dandruff
"How do I get rid of dandruff once and for all?"
Those pesky flakes can be stubborn. Dry scalp or seborrheic dermatitis, a scaly condition caused by an overproduction of skin oils, are common culprits. Stress and hormonal imbalance may also contribute. Slipping back into your favorite black turtleneck may take some trial and error: "Look for shampoos that contain either salicylic acid or zinc pyrithione," says Day. "Use one for two weeks, and if it doesn't work, switch to the other. As a last resort, try alternating both products." Wash your hair every day or every other day.
Weird bumps on your butt...
"What are the weird bumps on my butt and backs of my arms? They look like pimples!"
The good news: You're not breaking out. The condition is called keratosis pilaris, and while the exact cause is unknown, it's possibly hereditary. "Those bumps are actually skin cells that don't move up through the follicle like they should and get stuck there," says Day. It may sound counter-intuitive, but toss the loofah. Scrubbing causes irritation and exacerbates the condition. "Instead look for moisturizers with lactic acid or urea. These ingredients make the skin cells less sticky so they travel through the follicle more easily."
"How do I fix my yellow toenails?"
Contrary to popular belief, it's not the nail polish -- but the reaction between polish remover and lacquer -- that causes discoloration on your nails, says Day. Mitigate the problem by using a base coat. Or, add a drop of bleach to the remover for a more aggressive approach. If your nails are also thick and misshapen, you might have fungus. Make an appointment with your dermatologist pronto. Fungus is particularly tough to treat, and remedies range from topical over-the-counter solutions to prescription meds. The sooner you find a remedy, the better.
"I over-plucked my eyebrows when I was younger and they never fully grew back. Can you recommend a regrowth treatment?"
Latisse, which is typically used to grow lashes, may also work for brows, says Stern. (Consult your doctor to decide if the prescription treatment is right for you.) A preliminary study also found that rosemary might promote hair growth. In the meantime, Stern suggests using a brow pencil or powder to fill in. If you prefer pencils, stick with a hard formula. Soft has a greater tendency to rub off or mix with the natural oils on your face. If you like powder, opt for a small, shorthaired brush with an angle. Whichever you use, draw quick hair-like strokes, as drawing long lines will give you a less natural effect.
Wiry gray hair
"I'm years away from going totally gray and I don't want to start coloring my hair yet. Is there a way to smooth out the wiry, witch-like grays that stand out?"
Yes and no, says Dickie, co-founder of Hair Rules Salon in New York City. Gray strands are coarser because they lack pigment, which gives hair a wiry effect. Hair also turns brittle after a lifetime of harsh shampoos. "Continual washing robs hair of its oils and moisture," says Dickie. "That's why your hair at 40 isn't as shiny and soft as it was when you were in your 20s." Replenishing moisture can help. Avoid shampoos made with sulfates and buy those billed as "cream" or "non-sudsing." Leave-in conditioners will also help soften and smooth out older locks.
"I've tried three different self-tanning shades and I still end up with neon orange skin. How can I score a natural looking tan?"
"Self-tanner tends to go orange when the color is too deep for your complexion," says Stern. "To achieve an authentic tone, choose the shade lighter than you think you want to end up with." For a dark tan, pick a medium shade; if you want a medium glow, select one for fairer skin. Exfoliate before applying self-tanner to help guarantee an even application.
"I recently attempted home bikini waxing for the first time -- big mistake! I tore off some skin and I'm raw and bruised. What did I do wrong?"
A few things could have happened: The wax may have been too hot or your skin too dry. Perhaps you pulled the wax off too quickly or left it on too long, causing it to cool and adhere to the skin. "Waxing is not an easy technique to master, which is why sensitive and hard-to-reach areas are best left to a professional," says Day. To heal your skin, use a moisturizer with Vaseline or another rich ingredient. A heavy cream or ointment will promote faster healing than a lighter product. If blisters form, see a dermatologist.