‘Step away from the straighteners’: DIY beauty hacks you can do at home
Try an avocado face mask, a home manicure or a jawline-enhancing beard, says Sali Hughes
1 Bring some TLC to dry and irritated hands
Dry your hands carefully (especially under rings, where contact dermatitis is common) after every wash, and apply hand cream (I love The Body Shop’s Hemp Hand Protector, £5). At night, mix some extra olive or avocado oil into the cream, slather on and cover your hands with cotton socks overnight. If hands become cracked, use Flexitol cracked heel balm, £5.09 (56g) in the same way.
2 Love your hair without the blowdries
There’s something nice about letting hair do what it wants, within reason. My hairdresser, Luke Hersheson, agrees. “Stepping back from the blowdryer and straightening or curling iron is easier, saves time, preserves condition and very often looks better,” he says. The trick is to place hair where desired when soaking wet. “Comb it through, apply any product, part it where you like, tuck behind the ears, twist, shake it out – but then leave it alone until it’s dry. Then you can disturb it, taking a piece or two to style with tools, but don’t bother with the back – only the front matters in Zoom meetings.”
As for cuts, no stylist wants you reaching for the scissors. “People should wait. Haircutting is really hard. This whole idea that you need to do it every six weeks is outdated – what your style evolves into is often more interesting,” says Hersheson. His team is offering tips and advice via one-to-one video consultations, for a £10 donation to an NHS charity, during the Covid-19 crisis.
3 Make an avocado face mask
Don’t waste your eggs, ignore the internet’s devotion to turmeric unless you’d like to turn yellow, and don’t go near lemon, lime or vinegar as they can play havoc with your skin. If you want to nourish your face with non-greasy moisture, half a mashed avocado with a teaspoon of honey works fine (slather on and leave for 15 minutes before removing with a wet flannel). Adding a tablespoon of fresh plain yoghurt can impart an extra glow.
4 Give yourself a home manicure
1. Remove old polish and wash hands (but don’t apply hand cream).
2. Choose something about an hour long to half-watch on television (this ensures you don’t get up too early and smudge).
3. Clip or cut and, with an emery board, file nails in one direction only, into a “squoval” (square along the top, curved at the sides).
4. Apply a thin layer of clear base coat.
5. Apply colour. Remove the brush and stroke it on either side against the neck of the bottle (the brush should never be dripping) to get rid of surplus polish. Paint three strokes – left, middle, right – in the shape of a nail. This is very important: you should disregard your natural nail shape and leave small unpainted gaps between the sides of your nail and your skin. This looks heaps better than pools of polish in the gutters. Don’t worry about streaking at this stage; this coat is for colour density, not neatness. Leave to dry for a few minutes.
6. Second coat. Repeat step five, this time taking great care not to streak. Stick to the shape you painted with the first coat and go nowhere near your nail beds, leaving a little gap all around the edges of polish. Move fast. Don’t go back and paint over polish you have just laid down. Wait at least 15 minutes.
7. Apply clear topcoat, this time taking it over the colour’s edges to seal it, then finish whatever you were watching. You can clean up with a remover-soaked cotton bud, but avoid hand cream for a good hour.
5 How to remove shellac nails
Take a nail file and file gently across the gel polish, to disturb the seal. Soak a small piece of cotton wool (try cutting discs into four triangles) in acetone, available cheaply in any chemist. Place the wet pad on to the nail, then “trap” it by wrapping in place with a piece of tinfoil (or special clips, widely available online). Leave for at least 10 minutes, preferably 20. Take an orange stick and gently scrape away the colour. Use a buffing file to remove any tiny fragments, then apply oil to nails and cuticles.
6 Perfect that beard
For bearded men, social isolation may look like an enforced choice between clean shaven and ZZ Top, but good maintenance is perfectly possible when you know how. Expert groomer Jon Chapman has scrubbed up Dustin Hoffman, Tom Hanks and Daniel Craig over the years, and is a proud beard owner himself. “Beards shouldn’t go over an inch below the chin, preferably less,” he says. “Anything longer drags down the face, diminishes facial features, looks unprofessional and ages you.” A shorter beard keeps the jawline defined – ideal if you have gained a few extra pounds – and gives the illusion of smartness when your hair is in need of a cut. For trimming, Chapman suggests Wahl beard trimming clippers: “Accept no substitutes. They’re inexpensive, available everywhere and will last a lifetime.”
On a slim face, you should hold a 3-4mm Kent comb at a 2 o’clock angle to the skin, and trim above it. For fuller faces, hold the comb vertically and clip downwards, leaving no more than a quarter of an inch of bristle. “Don’t forget the nose, ears and brows,” Chapman adds. As someone who routinely trims my husband’s brows, I find the best technique is to brush them upwards, trim any overlappers with nail scissors, then use small clippers to remove any traces of monobrow.
Chapman doesn’t hold with beard oil unless someone has very thick, coarse bristles. Instead, he follows a good skincare routine and rubs his facial moisturiser well into his beard to keep it conditioned and tame. If you feel the need to colour it, Chapman urges caution to avoid the Lego-look: “Use two shades lighter than you think, do it in three stages, and fleck on the dye with an old toothbrush.”
7 How to wax your own bikini line
If you’re a die-hard salon waxer, you may currently be itching like mad. And while you may not have used it since the 80s, epilation cream can be a great solution when you don’t want a razor blade near your nethers. Just smooth on the cream (Nair’s Tough Hair, £4 for 200ml, is good), leave for a few minutes, then remove with the special tool or an old towel, buffing away the hairs. There are also cold wax strips if you feel brave – just make sure you’re wearing appropriate underwear, to avoid catching any skin that does not wish to be caught.
8 How to stay in the game
If one of the few benefits of this period is not having to bother with hairstyling and makeup, then all power to you. But many of us feel better for the sense of structure and normality these beauty routines bring. A good compromise is “dress up Fridays”, where ponytails, bare faces and trackies can be upscaled once a week with a cursory blowdry, a face of makeup and a non‑elasticated waistband.
9 Get to grips with home tan
Self-tan no one can see: why bother? “Because people have cancelled their holidays in the sun, and their weddings, and shouldn’t have to miss out on the golden glow, too,” says Jules von Hep, of Isle of Paradise. He has tanned Kate Moss, Sienna Miller, Stacey Dooley, and spent three years hosing down all the Strictly Come Dancing contestants. “When people look in the mirror, many of them want to see the person they saw before, and to observe the same rituals.”
So if a little extra colour makes you more cheerful, then you will need to master it yourself – and this is the perfect time to practise. For Von Hep, that means thorough exfoliation for a smooth, even base. If you’re out of body scrub, mix a handful of brown sugar or coarse salt into body wash or olive oil, massage into skin, then shower. Straight afterwards is the best time to self tan. Von Hep believes in moisturising only hands, knees, elbows and feet, then leaving for five minutes to soak in. Then take your tan – tinted for beginners, clear for the more experienced – and saturate the skin with product. Put on a tanning mitt (or use a household sponge) and blend using sweeping, upward strokes, never circular motions. Do face, arms, legs and torso; for your back, either enlist a helper or tape the mitt to a wooden spoon to reach. Brush through brows with an old mascara wand and use an inside-out sports sock to buff around the hairline and ears to remove excess.
Leave to dry, then repeat everywhere except your face, and wear loose, cool clothes for two to six hours. “Remember, tanning isn’t just for the pale,” adds Von Hep: darker shades of self-tan will give a glow to darker skin. “We’re all looking a little ashy right now from being indoors. And many of us are a little pink from drinking wine in the evenings. Tan will correct all that and restore your glow.”
10 Make the most of any downtime
As you grow out that fringe or brows, consider upping your skincare game. Retinol can work wonders on acne and ageing skin, but many of us can’t face the inevitable two to four weeks of dryness, flaking and peeling as it takes effect. Now is your time to push through the peel barrier in the privacy of your own home. Gently does it: begin with a low-dose retinol (perhaps a 0.3%) applied every other night, then work up to nightly application. There are countless retinols available online; among my favourites are those by Medik8, Paula’s Choice, Estée Lauder and La Roche Posay. Skin texture should be better than normal within a month.