It’s time once again to move past the bad habits we’ve developed over the last year and resolve to do better in the year ahead. With many resolutions aimed at looking, feeling and generally living your best, what better place to start than with your beauty routine?
From polishing up those pearly whites to maintaining shapely brows or glowing skin, the beauty world can be complex and overwhelming. And, without proper guidance or research, finding the flawless face can also be an expensive pursuit.
Luckily, when it comes time to craft the perfect look, many minimally invasive and affordable options exist. We met with local experts in the business of beauty to find out the most effective ways to keep you looking your best.
The Standout Smile
Whether meeting someone new, saying farewell to a friend or posing for photographs, your smile is one of the first things that catches the eye. So an investment in your smile is a worthwhile one.
Whitening is often a top priority for those considering cosmetic dentistry. Thanks to the staining effects of coffee, red wine and sodas, it can be challenging to stop your pearly whites from becoming cloudy yellows.
“Everyone wants the bright, white million-dollar smile,” says Dr. Pouya Ardakani of Core Dental. “The good news is, it’s not going to cost you a million dollars.”
While over-the-counter whitening treatments are available, your dentist can provide stronger and more effective options for either in-office or at-home use. During these treatments, concentrated hydrogen peroxide gel is applied to teeth. A light is then used to activate the gel and break down stains. In-office treatments offer immediate results of up to eight shades whiter in under two hours, while take-home kits can provide results after several days.
But, according to Dr. Ardakani, white teeth are just one element of the “million-dollar smile.” Overcrowded, crooked or uneven teeth are also important to correct.
“These issues aren’t just cosmetic. When you have crowded teeth you can have a hard time maintaining healthy gums, which can have an impact on your overall health,” he says.
Braces were once the go-to for crowded, crooked or uneven teeth. The process was expensive and could take years to provide results. Newer teeth straightening systems such as Invisalign offer lower cost, less visible options (although they do require similar timelines.)
While most orthodontic overhauls take years to complete, less extensive changes can easily be achieved faster.
“Typically in a smile we’re looking at the area from premolar to premolar. The teeth in the back aren’t visible. For teeth in the front we can cheat biology by using crowns or porcelain veneers — these options provide results in as quickly as a month,” says Dr. Ardakani.
Beauty, in the Eye of the Brow Holder
If the eyes are indeed the windows to the soul, then window treatments are critical elements to your overall appearance. Lengthy lashes, sculpted brows and carefully applied liners can make your eyes look bigger, brighter and more beautiful.
One of the greatest downsides of conventional makeup is its uncanny ability to smudge. Tears of happiness at a wedding, a visit to the pool, or even an outdoor excursion on a summer day can result in streaky black rivers running down your face.
For those seeking fuller, more dramatic eyelashes without the downsides of mascara, lash extensions may be worth exploring. During the procedure, lash artists painstakingly apply synthetic mink or silk extensions, one by one, to natural lashes.
“With classic extensions, we’ll apply one extension per natural lash. Our volume lashes will have up to six extensions per natural lash and are quite dramatic,” says Becca Adams, Lash Artist at Keravie Lash Loft. “The type of extensions we do really depends on what the clients want; for brides, we often do hybrid extensions to give them the fullness while still keeping it natural-looking.”
No matter the type of extensions chosen, after about two hours, clients walk away with longer, more glamorous lashes. The extensions last for about a month, but fills are recommended every two to three weeks for maintenance.
As for smeared eyeliner and brows, a longer lasting, smudge-free solution exists in permanent makeup application. Procedures such as microblading and micropigmentation apply pigment into the upper layer of your skin (so no, we’re not talking Post Malone or Mike Tyson face tattoos here, simply light-handed enhancements).
Despite its name, permanent makeup isn’t actually permanent. The procedure is done on the upper dermis, close to the surface of the skin. Rather than using the permanent ink used for traditional body tattoos, the procedure uses semi-permanent pigment, which fades over time.
“Cosmetic tattooing, or permanent makeup, is surface work. So whether we’re doing your brows or your eyeliner, it won’t wash off, but it will fade out within about four years, so you will need to come back to maintain the look,” says Thuy Lau, Owner and Artist at Brownude Permanent Cosmetics.
Skin(care) Is In
Taking care of your skin with elixirs, balms, essences, oils and toners can seem daunting, but your skincare routine doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective.
“The most important thing is to make it a ritual for you. You have to enjoy using products to keep using them consistently. And you have to use them consistently to see results,” says Lane Edwards, Founder of Pura Botanicals.
A proper routine starts with a pH-balanced, sulfate-free cleanser that won’t strip your skin of its natural moisture barrier. This, followed by an alcohol-free purifying toner, will help to open pores and allow the next products to deeply penetrate the skin.
Following the toner, use an essence, a fermented product popularized in the Korean beauty industry, and a serum, which targets specific concerns like dark spots, scarring or wrinkles. The final step in any comprehensive skincare routine is moisturizer. To combat Edmonton’s climate, Edwards says that a moisturizer with clean, natural ingredients and no fillers can help restore your skin’s natural lipid barrier and protect it from environmental factors. “You also want to nourish your skin,” adds Edwards. “It’s important to look for products that provide nutrients and vitamins. For instance, vitamin A helps to firm your skin and maintain elasticity, while vitamin C helps with cell rejuvenation to brighten and tighten your skin.”
Once you’ve got the basics down, consider adding aesthetic treatments as an add-on to your daily routine. “Microdermabrasion is a great treatment to start with. For more specific concerns, such as acne, micro-needling and laser treatments can be valuable. These rejuvenate the skin, but you don’t want to rely on them. They’re more of an enhancement for your daily regimen,” she says.
Treatments such as microdermabrasion and light therapy are minimally invasive procedures that help reduce the appearance of skin-related concerns like age spots, sun damage and scarring. Microdermabrasion exfoliates the skin through a fast, painless procedure that provides almost instant results, while light therapy can be used to target more specific concerns. Depending on the wavelength used, light-therapy treatments can treat acne, produce elastin and collagen or reduce pigmentation.
Hair, There and Everywhere
Any Edmontonian with lengthy locks knows the struggles that accompany long, dry winters and hot, sunny summers — split ends, dandruff and fragile, brittle follicles are some of the most common concerns. But there are steps you can take to mitigate the impact of our environment.
“I always say home care is the investment for how much you want to spend in the salon,” says Jennifer Storey, Owner of Adara Hair and Body Studio. “If you take care of your hair at home, you can prolong the time between your salon visits.”
Haircare, much like skincare, is a year-round responsibility. In the summer, Storey recommends SPF protection to prevent sun-damage, while in the winter, she recommends leave-in conditioners to stop it from drying out.
“When your skin is feeling dry, remember your hair is at least four times drier. A leave-in oil or conditioner will make your colour last longer, and you won’t have to get cuts as often because you won’t be getting split ends as quickly,” she says.
Skin care myths and facts from licensed estheticians
Myth: I can scrub my acne away.
Fact: Cleansing too often, with too much pressure, can actually aggravate your skin.
Myth: Hot water can open and cleanse my pores.
Fact: Hot water dehydrates skin and makes it produce too much oil as a defense mechanism.
Myth: A base tan protects me from sunburns.
Fact: There is no such thing as a safe tan (including from tanning beds). Any tan at all is a sign of skin damage. Always use a broad-spectrum sunscreen.
Myth: The foods I eat don’t affect my skin.
Fact: Foods high in sugar and fat increase inflammation and can cause dullness, puffiness, redness, congestion and acne, and caffeine and alcohol dehydrate your body and skin.
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This article appears in the January 2019 issue of Avenue Edmonton.