I am getting married in less than three weeks, and I'll be honest: the stress has started to kick in. While my life hasn't changed drastically over the past few months in order to prepare for the wedding — besides kicking my already regular workout routine up a notch (or five) — I'm beginning to wonder if I should have started my beauty prep a long, long time ago. Every day, info hits the Fashionista inbox about the must-haves when it comes to "bridal beauty," including suggestions for chemical peels, laser hair removal, facial injections, liposuction and other scary-sounding things that are not only really expensive, but also probably excessive. I just want to look like a dewier, slightly better version of me on my wedding day, not like someone who's undergone a wide range of procedures for the sake of (hopefully) looking better in photos.
In order to weed through the endless options out there, I consulted some experts to tell me what's worth the cash and what's a rip off — or worse, a waste of time. Read on for the top bridal beauty splurges, and if you have any insight to share with this slightly freaked out bride-to-be, please leave it in the comments.
Hair removal. "The last thing any bride wants on her wedding day is a five o'clock shadow under her arms. While many women opt for permanent hair removal treatments at salons — pulsed light treatments cost around $750 to $2,000 for five sessions, not including tips — the time commitment and price tag will add significant stress to your wedding prep. And frankly, with the technology available now, you can be your own pro. I use the Silk'n Flash & Go ($199) for permanent hair removal on my underarms, legs and bikini area. After a couple of months, I'm happily hair-free. It's easy to use, fast and extremely low on the discomfort scale. You pay once for the compact gadget and that's it. Plus, the results will last through your honeymoon." —Polly Blitzer, founder of BeautyBlitz.com.
A high-end foundation: "Splurge on a foundation without opaque fillers or titanium dioxide. Look for one in which the color pigments are suspended in a clear gel or serum instead of a white base. These types of foundations tend to cost more than drugstore brands, but they're totally worth it. Here's why: If you wear a foundation with opaque filler, a white base, or titanium-dioxide and are photographed with a flash, the light reflects back unnaturally and can make you look ashy, pasty or oily in the photos. Some good options of safe foundations are Make Up Forever HD Invisible Cover Oil-Free Liquid Foundation ($42), or Yves Saint Laurent Le Teint Touche Éclat Illuminating Foundation SPF 19 ($57)." —Jennifer Goldstein, executive beauty & health editor, Marie Claire magazine.
A professional airbrush tan: "I made the mistake before my wedding of saving the spray tan for the last minute. I wound up with a 'drive through' version: a spray tan booth at a local tanning salon. It did the job, because I knew how to contort my body to let the gust evenly coat my limbs. But I still had a couple of minor streaks and pale hands, and self-tanner doesn't rub off the same way you can remove streaked foundation. A professional airbrush artist will customize the application head to toe (for $50 to $90) and will adjust the application to mimic the way sunlight naturally hits you. They will also contour and highlight to create a chiseled, slimming effect. Plus, they'll protect areas that tend to "grab" excess formula, like knees and elbows, and they'll clean grooves around your nails and laugh lines so they don't look brown. Some pros will even come to your home for a slightly higher fee, so you can throw on a robe afterward and let the formula set without rubbing off on clothing. I recommend lightly touching up your hands and wrists the night before using a makeup sponge and self-tanning cream. Washing your hands will gradually fade the effect, leaving you with uneven ombré arms." —Polly Blitzer, founder of BeautyBlitz.com.
A fancy facial treatment mask: "I suggest the Sk-II Facial Treatment Masks. Use one every day for the week before your wedding — they are worth every cent. According to popular lore, Japanese brides actually use one of these masks everyday for 90 days prior to their weddings. Obviously that's the cost of a small reception, so just buy the six-pack and be done with it. Every beauty editor and model on the planet uses these during flights or after stress-inducing situations. It will never, ever make your face look red or irritated the way and actual facial can. It's 15 minutes of anti-Bridezilla zen." —Cheryl Wischhover, Fashionista beauty editor-at-large
...in addition to regular facials. "I would suggest monthly facials beginning at least three months out (or six months if you can afford it). Having great skin means a better makeup application and less Photoshopping in your portraits afterwards." —Maureen Choi, senior beauty editor, Glamour magazine.
Eyelash extensions: "I suggest road-testing lashes about six weeks before your wedding (touch up the set every three weeks, so a bride will have fresh lashes for her wedding day). Price varies from about $150 to $400 for initial service and $60 to $200 for touch-ups. Why risk a potential Britney moment with lash strips that don’t stick, and you certainly don’t want to worry about smears or dry waterproof mascara formulas which can make lashes look brittle. A bonus with lash extensions -- you’ll have them for your honeymoon, when you’ll want to look gorgeous in bed and first thing in the morning, or in waterfalls in Hawaii where you may be frolicking, or whatever." —Gwen Flamberg, beauty director, US Weekly.
Natural-looking hair extensions: "Clip-in human hair extensions help to enhance your wedding day hairstyle by adding length, thickness or both. My favorite are from The Helena Collection, because they'll custom blend packs of hair to match your coloring." —Jeannine Morris, founder of BeautySweetSpot.com.
Invisalign: "I've had a gap in between my two front teeth for the longest time and began Invisalign treatment around the time I got engaged. They're clear retainers that I wore almost 24/7 for a year, but my smile was picture perfect on my wedding day — and still is." —Jeannine Morris, founder of BeautySweetSpot.com.
A gel manicure: "This is a must, must, must! Especially if you're going on a honeymoon. Who wants to risk chips on the big day — or look at grubby nails in paradise? Even better if you can do gel on your toes, too." —Leah Wyar, beauty director, Cosmopolitan magazine.
A hair and makeup trial. "If you're going to invest on your wedding day, you must invest in a trial. I've had friends just do wedding day makeup and be super disappointed. Think about it: when's the last time you had perfect makeup as a bridesmaid -- i.e., when you didn't have a trial!? It's very rare." —Leah Wyar, beauty director, Cosmopolitan magazine.
Bonus splurges: These came up in conversation time and time again, so I thought I would share them here. Teeth whitening, a pre-wedding massage, a personal trainer, a short juice cleanse and medical facials are all deemed worthy of the extra money before your big day. You (hopefully) only get married once!