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Expert tips on do-it-yourself beauty at home

Maintaining beauty at home

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. — Your hair color is fading, your unibrow is growing and you desperately need a pedicure.

In the age of do-it-yourself everything, you just need a refresher course in grooming. Channel your teenage years, when you and your girlfriends would host pajama parties just to braid hair and paint toenails. To help, we've gathered tips from Jessica Aguallo and Lisa Anderson, instructors at Marinello Schools of Beauty in Concord, Calif.

They have a combined 40 years of experience in cosmetology — Anderson owns Diva Styles salon in Oakland, Calif. — and are proponents of using ingredients found in your cupboard or pantry to maintain hair, skin and nails. As our professional appointments become less frequent, we decided to get tips from these experts on grooming at home.


Anderson has been giving herself facials using natural ingredients for years. She recommends the following basic facial once every one to two weeks. All you need to know is your skin type — normal, dry or oily.

Cleanse face with whatever you normally use. "Stay away from harsh soaps," Anderson says. She's a fan of softening bars, such as African black soap, or products by Eucerin or Neutrogena that won't overdry skin.

Once your skin is clean, make a natural steam to open up pores, she says. Bring a quart of water to a boil and pour into a bowl. While it's still steaming, place five tea bags — Anderson recommends camomile or peppermint — in the bowl, throw a towel over your head and breathe in the steam for three two-minute increments.

Time to slough off those dead skin cells. Make a scrub by mixing granulated sugar with olive oil. The consistency is up to you. "Just make sure it's not too gritty," Anderson advises. Rub the mixture on your skin and lips in an upward motion, massaging gently for one minute. Those with oily skin should focus on the T-zone. Rinse off.

Use a mask to close your pores. "If you have dry skin, use a thick face cream as your base and add a few drops of lavender essential oil," Anderson says. Oily types can make a mask from dry oatmeal and an egg white. Once you attain a consistency that is sticky, apply evenly to the face and leave on for 15 minutes.

Your last step is toner, which seals your pores. Anderson makes her astringent by mixing one teaspoon lemon juice with two teaspoons cold water. "Pure witch hazel or apple cider vinegar on a cotton ball works as well," she says. "So does plain old ice water." The true last step? Sunscreen. Never leave home without applying it to your face.

Nail care

Manicures are hardly the most expensive part of a beauty regimen, but every penny counts. You can do this simple nail-care system as often as you like.

First, clean up nails. Clip and shape them, making sure to file one corner at a time and even out in the middle. "Do not file straight across because that splits the nail," Anderson says.

Make a nail conditioning treatment by using a few drops of olive oil or your favorite essential oil. Saturate cotton balls with the oil and press against each of your nails. Wrap your finger with the cotton ball and cover in tin foil. "This allows the oils to penetrate your nail plate, which keeps the nails healthy and prevents hangnails," Anderson says. Leave them on for five minutes, then remove. Wipe clean.

Anderson doesn't encourage pushing back cuticles, unless you know how. "The white moon shape area, the lunula, is where the nail grows from," she says. "If you push it down too far, you can damage your nail growth. You can also get a lot of hangnails."

The best way to make your nails look great is to buff them. "Buffing is very underrated," Anderson says. "I don't think people realize how shiny their natural nails can be." Get yourself a soft buffer and run it several times along the entire surface of your nails in circular motions.

Apply base coat, two coats of your favorite polish and follow with top coat. To pamper dry skin in winter, Anderson likes adding a few drops of olive oil to body lotion and applying that to her hands and feet at night. She puts on socks and mittens and goes to bed. In the morning, hands and feet are soft and smooth, she says.

Hair cut

Aguallo is not a big advocate of cutting one's own hair. But if you have to do it, keep a low maintenance haircut that's one length, she says.

Bangs can be easy to trim at home when it's absolutely necessary. Invest in a quality pair of shears, which should cost about $15 at most beauty supply stores, she says. Again, wear your bangs long.

To cut, wet hair and comb all bangs forward. Gather in the middle and decide where you want them to hit when they are dry. Cut across carefully and slowly. Touch up when dry.

Because the sides "traveled farther," they'll be a little longer and will frame the face nicely, Aguallo says. She recommends a bias bang — which can be pushed off to either side — because it falls evenly both ways.

Hair color

Women have long colored their hair or touched up their roots at home. It's not difficult. Just find a color you like and make sure to wear gloves and a cape to cover up while you apply color, Aguallo says.

Here's an easy color tip: If you're just touching up your part until you see your colorist, you can buy color wands at most pharmacies. They work like mascara on the hair, Aguallo says. Since they wash out, wands are best for short-term touch ups.

If you're touching up the outgrowth at home, follow the directions on the box of color. But do not apply the color to your previously colored hair. It will cause a color buildup on your ends, resulting in color saturation there. Instead, if previously colored hair needs to be refreshed, comb color through the ends during the last five minutes of the coloring process.

Need a simple way to prolong color? Use a shampoo and conditioner with pigment in it. They come in all colors — blond, red, and shades of brown. Also, Aguallo adds, use a shampoo free of sulfates, the ingredient that strips hair of color.

Because roots are so close to the scalp and heat permeates from it, you can develop "hot roots," where the color ends up lighter, Aguallo says. To avoid this, apply color a half-inch from the scalp. Then, go back and apply color to the scalp.

Finally, if you're covering gray, start your color application process in the front, as this area is usually the grayest, Aguallo says. "Gray hair is resistant so you should leave the color on 45 minutes from the time you last applied the color," she says.

© Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)