We like looking good. In fact, we really love compliments that imply we've never looked better! That's because we've learned how to compress, cover, plump up and highlight our best while camouflaging small issues like thin hair or a squish belly. It's not easy. All this daily primping, planning and preparation can be exhausting, expensive and time-consuming. Ever hear the phrase “less is more"? Summer is a perfect time to cut out the superfluous. Here are 11 ways to do exactly that, starting today. Pick your favorites and go:
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PHOTO BY: Olay / CeraVe / Burts Bees
1. Go back to basics
You've tried every five-star cream, balm and serum out there and still no glow? Improve your skin, reduce your routine, save some cash and simplify your summer with a streamlined plan. Three low-cost basics packed with high-quality proven ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramides and peptides can deliver firmer, dewier, fresher skin. Try a hydrating cleanser like Olay Regenerist Collagen Peptide 24 Cream Cleanser ($8, target.com), a daily moisturizer with sun protection like CeraVe AM Facial Moisturizing Lotion with Sunscreen SPF 30 ($17, target.com) and a night cream like Burt's Bees Truly Glowing Night Cream for Dry Skin ($18, target.com). Done!
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PHOTO BY: Michael Kors / H&M / Unique Bargains
2. Count on animal prints
Does an outfit look dull and boring? Do you feel out of date? No need to go trend crazy. Just add an animal print top like the H&M+ Crinkled Blouse in Beige/Leopard print ($25, www2.hm.com/en_us/), Michael Kors Plus Size Leopard Print Peasant Top ($55, macys.com) or Unique Bargains Women's Stretchy Peplum Shirt Leopard Print in Brown or Beige Black ($17, walmart.com) to any pair of jeans or black pants for an instant fashion boost. Though leopard is easiest to find, tiger, zebra, cheetah and even Dalmatian prints work. Start a collection and don't worry about overloading your wardrobe with too many spots. Just wear one piece at time and stick to colors true to those found in nature.
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PHOTO BY: Coppertone / Hawaiian Tropic / Bliss Block
3. Buy a dual face/body sunscreen
Buying sunscreen is not the same as wearing it. Any formula that feels tacky, matte or greasy, leaves a whitish, ashy film on the skin or smells funky stays in the drawer. And why buy separate products for face and body or cart around a bunch of sprays, lotions and potions when one will do? Three choices made for dual face/body use pare down the problem. Try silky SPF 30 lotions like Hawaiian Tropic Sheer Touch Ultra Radiance Lotion ($11, target.com) or Coppertone Glow With Shimmer Sunscreen Lotion ($9, target.com) that give mature skin a luminous glow head to toe and blur lines, wrinkles and discolorations, too. Or choose an updated sheer mineral sunscreen like Bliss Block Star Invisible Daily Sunscreen ($20, target.com) that feels and looks undetectable on every skin tone.
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PHOTO BY: Nexus / Its a 10 / SheaMoisture
4. Air dry your hair more
Many of us tackle summer heat and humidity by hot-styling and shellacking our locks sleek and smooth. Even then our natural texture sometimes sneaks back in. Why not take a healthy break from blow-dryers and irons once a week or more? Whether your hair is straight, wavy, curly or coily, you need product and patience to make an air-dry look polished. Shampoo, condition, rinse, blot dry. Then apply a leave-in conditioning styler like SheaMoisture Manuka Honey & Yogurt Hydrate + Repair Multi-Action Leave-In ($11, ulta.com), It's a 10 Silk Express Miracle Silk Leave-In ($24, ulta.com) or Nexxus Curl Define Leave-In Conditioner ($15, ulta.com) to detangle, define shape and add a healthy shine. Distribute it evenly roots to ends and then resist touching, combing or brushing until totally dry.
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PHOTO BY: A New Day / Universal Standard / INC International / Romantic Gypsy
5. Show some skin
Bare legs and sleeveless tops may not appeal to you, but showing some skin at neckline, wrists and ankles is a game-changer. Those few inches of exposed skin at your extremities optically stretch your body and create the illusion of a trimmer, slimmer, taller you. Any neckline that dips below your collarbones (V, square, boat or scoop), any sleeve shorter than full length (three-quarter to flutter), any pant, jean or midi skirt that reveals inches of ankle is your body's new best friend. No crops in your closet? Roll all shirt and blouse sleeves to show your forearms. Haul long pants, jeans and even long-sleeve tees to the tailor. A simple snip and sew can crop all to flattery length.
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PHOTO BY: Vaseline / Soap and Glory / Herbal Essences
6. Turn sleep into spa time
Use overnight hours for rehab and shower in the a.m. It's an easy way to stay on top of calluses, rough hands, parched locks and dehydrated skin. Apply a face mask like Soap & Glory Glow to Sleep Vitamin C Radiance-Boosting Sleep Mask ($14, target.com), a hair mask like Herbal Essences Bio:Renew Coconut Milk & Aloe Hydrating Hair Mask for Dry Damaged Hair ($8, target.com) and slather feet and hands with a balm like Vaseline Cocoa Butter Petroleum Jelly ($14, target.com) before slipping clean pairs of cotton socks over both. You'll wake to silky soft hair, plumped up lines and satin smooth hands and feet. FYI: You don't need special “overnight” face and hair masks either (they're just an option) since any face cream and conditioner lavishly applied will do. Just be sure to make a plastic-wrap turban and sleep on an old clean pillowcase.
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PHOTO BY: Chicos / Sweaty Betty / Crazy Dog / Warby Parker
7. Find your style superpower
What's the one thing about your looks that's so you? Maybe it's your green glasses, tousled shag haircut and bangs, or pop-of-color bags and shoes. Make that special personal detail your “signature” — and emphasize it, dramatize it and keep it consistent. That one special item or look defines you and elevates everything you wear. How about a collection of beaded statement earrings like the Chico's Black Beaded Drop Hoop Earrings ($36,chicos.com), a set of message tees (to peek out discreetly under blazers) like the Crazy Dog T-Shirts “Empowered Women Empower Women” in orange ($10, walmart.com), a bright yellow bag like the Sweaty Betty Cloud Bag in Cloud Yellow ($78, nordstrom.com) or statement frames like the Warby Parker Shea in Peacock Green ($95+, warbyparker.com).
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PHOTO BY: Madewell / Anthropologie / Anastasia
8. Wear a hat, hair band or head wrap
If there ever was a season to do less with your hair, this is it. Aside from air-drying, scrunchies and claw clips (also known as jaw clips), hair bands and hats provide another time out. A straw fedora like the Madewell Packable Straw Fedora Hat ($40, nordstrom.com) looks stylish and not too casual or obvious (like baseball caps and beach hats) for streetwear and socializing away from sand and pool. Wide printed, pleated or embellished head bands like the Anastasia Knotted Headband in Black & White ($20, anthropologie.com) or Anthropologie Woven Knotted Headband in Cocoa ($20, anthropologie.com) are polished enough for work or dinner out thanks to neutral colors, and the broad band provides coverage and control.
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PHOTO BY: Jones Road Beauty / Nars / Illia
9. Pare down your daily makeup to one thing
Who needs a soup-to-nuts look when the temperature soars and our lifestyles are more casual? New hybrid formulas and light high-pigment colors make this an easy less-is-more fix. All you really need is a skin booster like the Jones Road Miracle Balm in Dusty Rose, Bronze or Tawny ($38, jonesroadbeauty.com), Nars The Multiple in Maui, South Beach or Orgasm ($39, sephora.com) or the Ilia Multi-Stick Cheek & Lip in At Last, All of Me or Cheek to Cheek ($34, sephora.com) to add some warmth and color to cheeks, lips and lids.
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PHOTO BY: Mango Buttons / Kiyonna / Gap
10. Wear complexion-boosting colors
We love our neutrals, but a colorful top can give your look a real power surge. Remember: Most people focus on us waist-up, whether that's across a table, a desk or on a screen. If your skin has gone ashy or pale with age, energize it with vibrant reds, roses and corals like the Violeta by Mango Buttons T-shirt in Coral Red, Plus-Size ($35, mango.com/us). If brown spots, blotchiness and undereye circles are the issue, a softer pink or peach like the Gap Wrap T-Shirt in Modal in Pink Fig ($30, gap.com) can restore a blush-like glow. If your skin is sallow or ruddy, cool fuchsia, violet and lavender shades like the Kiyonna Femme Fatale Faux Wrap Top in Orchid ($58, coedition.com) can counteract yellow and red undertones.
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PHOTO BY: Hollywood Fashion Tape / Singer / Foot Petals / Gal Pal
11. Hang an “emergency” kit in your closet
We waste way too much time changing clothes at the last minute. Make like a fashion stylist and keep a styling kit in your closet. Include a lint roller for clothes and clearing crumbs from handbag linings, double-stick fashion tape to secure necklines and wraps, rubber bands to expand jeans waistbands on “bloat” days (loop around button, through buttonhole and back around the button), extra earring backs, scented dryer sheets to deodorize stinky shoes, shoe inserts and cushions, a deodorant-removing sponge, a mini solid deodorant, a mini sewing kit with threaded needles and a nail file.
Lois Joy Johnson is a beauty and style editor who focuses on women 50 and older. She was the beauty and style editor at Ladies’ Home Journal and a founding editor of More magazine. She has written three books: The Makeup Wakeup, The Wardrobe Wakeup and The Woman's Wakeup.