COVID isolation was a DIY test lab. Left on our own without hair and nail salons, barbers and day spas, self-care became the new normal. The funny thing is even though business as usual has resumed, at-home treatments don’t seem as big a deal anymore. In fact, in a pinch or when just pinching pennies we now fearlessly get the job done. As a refresher, here are eight top at-home to-dos, with updated products that ease the way:
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PHOTO BY: Amazon; Ulta Beauty; Target
1. Give yourself a pedicure
Few at-home grooming rituals are as daunting at 50-plus as this one. All that shaping, filing, buffing and painting requires a steady hand, limber body and the eyesight for tidy trimming and polish application. Some tips: Remove old polish and soak your feet in the tub to soften cuticles for a painless push back. (Avoid cutting cuticles since they protect us from infection.) Add bath salts or shower gel to the water for a spa-like touch and use a multitasking pumice like the Spongeables Pedi-Scrub in a Sponge Foot Buffer 5+ ($3, ulta.com) to smooth soles and sides of your heels (see tip number 6 for tough calluses). Towel off and trim nails straight across with a pedicure clipper before filing the edges with an emery board. Massage your feet with a body cream or lotion. If you’re applying polish here’s what really makes a difference: Use a foam toe separator like the Rolabling Toe Separators ($5, amazon.com) to apply it without smudging, and an ergonomic-design bottle topper like the Olive & June The Poppy Manicure Tool ($16, target.com) to increase control (it’s perfect for shaky, clumsy or arthritic hands).
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PHOTO BY: Target (3); Ulta Beauty
2. Get a flawless self-tan
Getting a sun-kissed body glow is no longer a time-consuming, sticky, messy deal. In fact, the new mousse formulas smell deliciously fruity or coconutty, have skin-enhancing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, botanical oils, vitamin E and aloe, and evolve into realistic shades. The big essential now for a seamless application is a tanning mitt like the MineTan Bronze On Applicator Mitt ($7, target.com). With the updated combo of mitt, whipped cream formula and hydrating ingredients there’s no need to worry about color buildup even at dry spots like elbows, knees and heels. Choose an express product like the St. Tropez Self Tan Express Bronzing Mousse ($44, target.com) or Coco & Eve Sunny Honey Bali Bronzing Foam ($35, amazon.com) that “tans” in one to two hours, or a sheet- and PJ-proof formula like Sol by Jergens Medium Sunless Tanning Water Mousse ($24, target.com) for a stress-free eight-hour overnight tan.
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PHOTO BY: Ulta Beauty (2); Target
3. Apply under-eye concealer the right way
Dark shadows make us all look tired even when we’re not. Concealer works great as a daily fix but, frankly, the wrong one or an incorrect application makes things look worse. Here’s what to do. Always prep the under-eye area with an eye cream like the Tula Glow & Get It Cooling & Brightening Eye Balm. It provides a dewy primer base for coverup and prevents it from caking or looking dry an hour (or six) later. Choose a corrective shade in a gold, peach or apricot (depending on your complexion) in a hydrating formula like the Benefit Boi-ing! Bright On Undereye Concealer ($24, ulta.com) or L’Oréal Paris True Match Eye Cream in a Concealer ($13, target.com), instead of a skin-tone match, to cancel out any blue/purple discolorations. Focus placement first at the inner eye corner, where darkness is more concentrated, and blend the concealer toward your outer eye in a wide arc. Use a small, flat makeup brush or your ring finger in a gentle tapping motion for a gradual fade. Remember: Concealer does not hide wrinkles and crow’s feet so let your eye cream do its magic there. All you want is to create a fresher, more rested look.
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PHOTO BY: Target; Walgreens (2)
4. Do an effective facial massage
This is a new habit for many women 50-plus. If you’ve ever had a facial at a spa or day spa you know that how the aesthetician applies creams and masks is as important as the products themselves. While not a face-lift (sorry, but you won’t get a tight, sculpted jawline and supermodel cheekbones, no matter what anyone says), massaging on your creams and serums mindfully can stimulate circulation, reduce puffiness under eyes and jaw, smooth expression lines and erase tension. Start by applying a skin serum or face oil like the Weleda Awakening Facial Serum ($25, target.com) or the Milani Prep & Brighten Face Oil Rose ($12, walgreens.com) for the necessary “slip.” Use a jade roller like the Revlon Cool & Depuff Jade Stone Facial Roller ($10, walgreens.com) or your fingers and gentle pressure in slow sweeping movements to massage from the center of your face outward, including your forehead and under-eye area. Then massage upward from neck to jawline to hairline and repeat the procedure. If you use a roller, store it in the fridge since the chilled stone helps deflate puffiness. You never want to work in a downward or inward movement, which only encourages gravity and expression lines.
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PHOTO BY: Target (2); Ulta Beauty
5. Banish foot calluses
Thickened heels and tough, hard skin on the balls of our feet and toes can really take the sizzle out of sandal weather. While a pedicure is great for maintenance, the hottest solutions to soften and exfoliate stubborn rough skin are foot masks — booties infused with some combo of acids, usually alpha hydroxy acids like glycolic and lactic alone, or with salicylic acids or fruit enzymes. The “peel” part can be a little gross, but satiny soles are the payoff. These treatments work gradually, with the shedding process continuing for about a week to 10 days. Try the Baby Foot Original Exfoliant Foot Peel ($25 ulta.com), the Boscia Fruit Acid Smoothing Foot Peel ($18, amazon.com) or the Earth Therapeutics Soft & Smooth Gentle Peeling Foot Mask ($3, for 1 set, target.com). They work for him or her, but avoid them if you have open sores, red, popped blisters or are diabetic (in the latter case, please see your doctor before trying any foot treatment).
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PHOTO BY: Ulta Beauty; CVS; Glossier
6. Trim and groom your brows
Men and women both know mature brows are different. They tend to be long, wiry and undisciplined, often curling and springing in unplanned directions. All you need is a pair of small scissors like the Tweezerman Brow Shaping Scissors and Brush ($20, ulta.com) or any delicate pair to use for nose hairs, and a spoolie brush or old clean toothbrush. Brush the brows upward and snip the ends of long hairs that stick out above your brow line and trim the excess where it starts to bend or curl — but avoid going too short. To keep brows in place, brush after shaping and apply a clear brow gel like the CoverGirl Easy Breezy Brow Clear Setting Gel ($10, cvs.com). Guys, you, too, can benefit from this — or use a tinted brow gel like the Glossier Boy Brow ($16, glossier.com) in a relevant shade of brown, blond or auburn to blend gray and white hairs with pigmented ones.
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PHOTO BY: Sephora (2); Target
7. Turn dull hair shiny and healthy looking
We gripe about thinning hair but locks lacking luster really bug us. Normally a hair mask is the standard fix but there’s been a change. Glossing treatments and glow serums are the faster, more effective update. They deliver a luminous healthy shine somewhat like a dusty car after it emerges from a car wash … in seconds. While the terms gloss and glaze are interchangeable, be sure to select a clear formula to sandwich between shampoo and conditioner, like the Drybar Liquid Glass Glossing Rinse ($34, sephora.com), rather than a tinted one. A hair serum like the Olaplex No.9 Bond Protector Nourishing Hair Serum ($28, sephora.com) or Dove Hair Therapy Ceramide Brilliant Gloss & Repair ($7, target.com) is another option. These leave-ins amp up sheen and vibrancy and tame frizz whether you’re gray, blond or brunette. Just shampoo, condition, blot and apply before an air- or blow-dry.
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PHOTO BY: Ulta Beauty (3)
8. Do a quickie manicure
Though long decorative talons are trendy, shorter lengths make more sense for doing buttons, pulling on jeans and leggings, texting and just about everything. Here’s the swiftest procedure: Remove old polish and trim nail length. Use a nail file for a slight trim and a small, rounded clipper if you need to cut length (larger, straight-across clippers are for toes only!). Keep the length even for all 10 nails — a mix of short and long looks messy. Aim for a slightly rounded shape or a squoval (a hybrid of square and oval). Then use an emery board to smooth rough edges and shape, working in one direction instead of seesawing, which weakens nails. Buff the nail surface with a foam cube like the Flowery Blue Max 4-Way Buffing Block ($2, ulta.com) for a polish-free healthy sheen (guys, too). Apply cuticle oil to soften cuticles before pushing them back. Then dip a cotton swab in polish remover and wipe each nail down so polish will adhere. Choose a quick-dry 60-second, one-coat polish like Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Nail Color ($6, ulta.com) or Essie Expressie Quick-Dry Nail Polish ($9, ulta.com) to really speed things up. Start in the center, then do each side and end by painting the tip edge to seal in the color. When using your nondominant hand, use the handy gadget in tip number 1. You will be finished in less time than waiting in line for a latte.
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.