10 New Beauty Habits to Make and 10 Oldies to Break
Mix up your routine with these creative swaps
by Lois Joy Johnson, AARP, March 4, 2021
En español | It's so easy to get stuck in a beauty rut. There's comfort in an “if it ain't broke, don't fix it” attitude, not to mention a routine and products we know and trust. We've had bad experiences — the detangling brush that pulled out more hair than it left, the self-tanner that turned us Cheetos-orange and the bath bomb that itched like poison ivy. But here's the thing: If you don't keep trying something new, you miss the chance to make better use of your time, money and looks. Ready? Here are 10 changes that'll do it.
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PHOTO BY: Ulta Beauty; Target (2)
1. Old Habit: Shopping as usual
New Habit: Green your routine
We're already recycling, bringing our travel mugs to Starbucks and doing the BYOB grocery thing, so why not add a few do-good beauty habits? You know products labeled organic, cruelty-free or vegan are hot these days, but there's no need for a total clean sweep yet. A few swaps will get you started. Try a sulfate-free shampoo/conditioner duo like Love Beauty and Planet Coconut Water Shampoo and Conditioner ($14, target.com), a mineral sunscreen like Tula Protect + Glow Daily Sunscreen Gel Broad Spectrum SPF 30 ($36, ulta.com) or a rich hydrating plant-based moisturizer like Weleda Skin Food Original Ultra-Rich Cream ($19, target.com) to feel healthy and empowered.
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PHOTO BY: The Container Store (2); Target
2. Old Habit: Hoard and stash
New Habit: Cut the clutter
No more looking through bins and cupboards, rooting through dirty makeup brushes and smeary makeup. Make doing your beauty “laundry” a weekly ritual. Wash hairbrushes and combs, makeup brushes, sponges and even sponge-tip shadow applicators. To cut your get-ready time in half, edit and organize everyday essentials so they're accessible in a bamboo drawer organizer like the Marie Kondo 7-Section In-Drawer Organizer ($30, containerstore.com), a clear acrylic container like the Container Store Acrylic Makeup Organizer with Drawer ($25, containerstore.com), a Sonia Kashuk Countertop Makeup Tray Organizer ($13, target.com), or a couple of straw baskets on the counter. Stow chill-enhancing eye creams/gels, face rollers and mists in their own corner of the fridge.
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PHOTO BY: Target (2); Nordstrom; Anthropologie
3. Old Habit: High-maintenance hair
New Habit: Low-maintenance hair
Over-styling your hair and forcing it to be something it's not every day — like straight or curly — is not only time-consuming but also damaging. Learn to style your hair so it looks great blow-dried or air-dried, freshly washed or three days post-shampoo. Invest in a heat-brush styler like the Infiniti Pro by Conair All-In-One Paddle Dryer Brush ($40, target.com) or Revlon Salon One-Step Hair Dryer and Volumizer in teal/black ($42, target.com). Use hair clips like the Anthropologie Courtside Matte Hair Clip Set in kelly or grey motif ($24, anthropologie.com) and scarf scrunchies like the Tasha 3-Pack Pleated Hair Scrunchies in burgundy/mustard ($24, nordstrom.com) to control frizz and hide grow-outs or undone hair in contemporary style.
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PHOTO BY: Target (3)
4. Old Habit: Multistep routines
New Habit: Multitasking routines
No need for a cleanser, makeup remover, body scrub, soap, post-shower moisturizer, hair conditioner, heat protector and frizz serum when you can cut that list down to a few multitasking items. It makes sense to double up to streamline your routine and schedule. Start with three: a one-step micellar cleanser like Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water All-in-1 Makeup Remover & Cleanser ($9, target.com) to remove eye/face makeup and sunscreen and freshen skin; an exfoliating moisturizing body wash like Olay Exfoliating & Moisturizing Body Wash with sugar, cocoa butter and vitamin B3 ($9, target.com); and a leave-in hair conditioner like It's a 10 Miracle plus Keratin Leave In Conditioner ($20, target.com) to detangle, nourish, humidity-proof, add shine and heat protect. Done!
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PHOTO BY: Target (2); Ulta Beauty
5. Old Habit: Polished nails and socks
New Habit: Healthy hands and feet all year
We figure we're constantly washing our hands and wearing slippers, Uggs or boots 24/7, so who's going to see? You are! Aren't smooth paws and tootsies one of life's little pleasures? Nail polish — which, let's be honest, is camouflage — will get you only so far and doesn't begin to address the issues of red rough hands, cuticles and callused feet. Make daily nail oil like Essie Apricot Cuticle Oil ($9, ulta.com) with almond, jojoba and sunflower as well as a nongreasy hand cream like Burt's Bees Lavender & Honey Hand Cream ($5, target.com) a habit by popping them in your bag, near the sink and by your laptop to compensate for the drying effects of handwashing, sanitizer and weather. Use a pumice or foot file in the shower daily to exfoliate dead skin, and before bed slather clean feet with Vaseline Original Petroleum Jelly ($4, target.com) and slip on cotton socks for baby-soft feet by morning.
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PHOTO BY: Ulta Beauty (2); Target
6. Old Habit: Signature scent all the time
New Habit: Body mists to calm down and pep up
If we learned one thing this past year, it's the value of a quick de-stress plan. Start using the power of select notes like vanilla, lavender, rose and jasmine for a calming, soothing effect — and don't be a scent snob! A low-cost body mist like Vitabath Lavender Chamomile Fragrance Mist ($9, ulta.com) or Island Vanilla by Pacifica Perfumed Hair & Body Mist ($13, target.com) can help reduce anxiety when sprayed on body, hair or pillow. On the other hand, for a quick energy boost try a citrus one like Nest Fragrances Grapefruit & Verbena Body Mist ($20 travel size, ulta.com) instead of an espresso. Keep your usual fancy fragrance, of course, but now use it in rotation with mists.
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PHOTO BY: Target (2); Ulta Beauty
7. Old Habit: Full-coverage foundation
New Habit: Sheer foundation
For years we've been spackling and painting to hide every discoloration and splotch. It's time to stop. Like our favorite new wire-free bras, updated face makeups still do the job they're meant to do but they're easier to wear and make us look authentic. Switch to a skin-like moisturizing formula with a dewy texture — like NYX Professional Makeup Bare With Me Tinted Skin Veil ($15, target.com), Wet n Wild Bare Focus Tinted Hydrator ($6, target.com) or e.l.f. Cosmetics Camo CC Cream SPF 30 ($14, target.com) — and aim for a blurring effect, not a total cover-up. After all, trying to cover every single brown spot, red splotch and discoloration to fake a perfectly even skin tone is not necessary for real life — unless you're on TV.
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PHOTO BY: Sephora; Target; Anthropologie
8. Old Habit: Salon color on schedule
New Habit: Stretch your color
Another COVID-19 lesson here. We wrestled with the root and hair color issue during lockdown and didn't like being unprepared one bit. Make it a habit to stock up on chic, wide hairbands (your roots’ new best friend) such as the Anthropologie Amber Knotted Headband in sapphire ($24, anthropologie.com), and get handy using a temporary touch-up — like Color Wow Root Cover Up ($34, target.com) or dpHUE Color Touch-Up Spray ($28, sephora.com), which comes in hard-to-find shades like strawberry blonde and auburn — to extend color for a simple DIY. After all, gray roots are very different from dark ones, which can look kind of Madonna edgy. Grays can make a part look wider and a hairline appear to be receding — and who needs that?
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PHOTO BY: Target (2); The Body Shop
9. Old Habit: Sleepless nights
New Habit: Nighttime rehab
Whether you sleep like a baby or toss and turn all night, use those hours free of sun exposure and public viewing for a skin rehab. If you regularly use retinol cream or other moisturizer before bed, save one or two nights a week for intensive care. Apply a supercharged hyaluronic face mask like Olay Masks Hydrating Overnight Gel Mask with vitamin E ($23, target.com) to push the envelope on line plumping, as well as a shea butter mask for hair like Faith in Nature Coconut & Shea Butter Hydrating Mask ($8, target.com) or The Body Shop Shea Butter Richly Replenishing Hair Mask ($18, thebodyshop.com). You don't need to use masks labeled “overnight,” either. Any rich cream or mask applied lavishly works, but protect your pillowcase by using an old one and wrapping your hair in a plastic-wrap turban or shower cap.
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PHOTO BY: Ulta Beauty (3)
10. Old Habit: Get sunny with bronzer
New Habit: Get a glow with blush
Still think bronzer is the answer for dull, tired, saggy skin? Not so fast. The best new trick for grownup skin that has lost its radiance is to apply a cream blush — like Milani Cheek Kiss Cream Blush in coral crush or blushing berry ($9, ulta.com); Stila Convertible Color in petunia, lillium or gerbera ($25, ulta.com); or e.l.f. Cosmetics Putty Blush in Tahiti, Caribbean or Turks and Caicos ($6, ulta.com) — high on the top ledge of the cheekbones. Forget the old blush-on-the-apples trick. As we age our cheeks sag and drop when we stop smiling. Lifting the blush up lifts your cheeks! Stick with creams since — unlike bronzer and powder blush — they add a healthy gleam that's pure glow. Choose rose, pink and berry shades for cool skin tones; apricot, coral and peachy shades for warm skin tones.
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.