February 26, 2024

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The Ultimate Pre-Wedding Beauty Regimen

20 min read

Now that you’ve made it through the fun part of your engagement (admit it: you loved snapping all those ring selfies), it’s finally time to get into the nitty-gritty of looking fantastic on your wedding day. We’re talking about creating your pre-wedding beauty regimen, of course, and there’s no better time than now to identify a routine that will help you feel and look your best on the big day. Luckily, building this regimen is way more fun than deciding where your feuding cousins should sit at the reception, and it’s also a great way to practice some self-care as the bride or groom. What’s more, each step will aid you in perfecting your wedding-day look, from softening your skin to strengthening your hair and ensuring your makeup lasts all night long.

“To a certain extent, everyone wants to look like a supermodel on a daily basis, but we may not have the drive to act on it,” says New York-based dermatologist Dendy Engelman, who helped Sofia Vergara prep for her wedding. “A wedding date gives you a deadline, and forces you to start making a move.” And with the clock currently ticking, we thought it might be helpful to list out the most important tasks to complete before you say “I do.” Ahead, we’re sharing the ultimate pre-wedding beauty regimen for brides and grooms to follow leading up to the big day.

Face

Manage Stress

From the top of your head to the tips of your toes, every part of your body can be negatively impacted by unmanaged stress. On the complexion front, Engelman shares, “Many inflammatory conditions, including eczema, psoriasis, and keratosis pilaris, may be at least partially caused by stress. As stress weakens the immune system, chronic inflammation worsens.”

Excess stress and anxiety can also disrupt your sleep, which can lead to a gray and dull complexion. The fix? Do what you can to relax, whether that means hitting a yoga class after work, trying out guided meditation apps, such as Headspace and Omvana, or delegating a few wedding planning tasks to family and friends.

When: 1 year out

Set Up an Appointment With Your Dermatologist

There are two key reasons to get a dermatologist in your corner early on: One, they can assess your complexion’s current state way better than you and your trusty magnifying mirror can. And two, they can help you devise a strategy for achieving your dream-skin goals, be it softening pesky forehead wrinkles or zapping acne. “Some treatments take time—up to several months—and you certainly want a game plan,” says Engelman.

When: 1 year out

Decide If Retinol Is Right for You

Derived from vitamin A, retinol increases cell turnover, unclogs pores, boosts collagen, and helps diminish hyperpigmentation. The prescription version, also known as retinoid, is even more powerful. Still, as great as these products are, both retinol and retinoids can cause redness and peeling at the outset and may even lead to a possible uptick in acne before all those benefits kick in. “I recommend patients start with a nonprescription retinol for at least four to eight weeks before progressing to a prescription retinoid,” says Engelman. “Their skin will tolerate it better.”

When: 9 months out

Photos by The Bold Americana and Lisa Poggi; Design by Mehroz Kapadia


Visit an Aesthetician for Regular Facials

Find a reputable aesthetician in your area to help keep your skin in tip-top shape. In your initial chat with a prospective aesthetician, make sure you address your goals and needs, and don’t be afraid to speak up about what you need. “Look for someone who’s a good listener,” says New York City facialist Joanna Vargas. “Old-school facialists would dictate your care. These days the best ones work with your budget, your goals, and your skin.” Don’t go overboard with the treatments, though, since flare-ups post-facials are likely.

When: 9 months out

Exfoliate and Follow Up With a Brightening Serum

As dead cells accumulate on the skin, they interfere with light reflection, giving it a dull appearance, explains New York City-based dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD. The solution? Regular exfoliation paired with a brightening serum to give you the best lit-from-within glow on your wedding day. “Regular exfoliation removes dead cells to improve radiance and can enhance the absorption of skin brightening products through the skin,” he explains. “I recommend exfoliating once per week initially, and advancing to twice per week after a month or so if you can tolerate it.”

For men, Shama Patel, CEO of Clean Your Dirty Face, shares that multi-use products that exfoliate, brighten, and hydrate the skin are something to consider if you’re new to the skincare world or if you’re looking to save some time while doing your beauty prep. “Chemical exfoliating cleansers that have natural enzymes like lemon peel and pumpkin are great exfoliants,” shares Patel. “Moisturizers with hemp seed, blue chamomile, and lavender are also great because they help calm shaving irritation and hydrate the skin that is visibly noticeable. Our Hey Handsome Face Oil has all three ingredients—hemp seed, blue chamomile, and lavender.”

When: 5 months out

Skip the Wine and Get to Juicing

Since vino is a world-class dehydrator, capillary breaker, and radiance robber, downing endless glasses of wine is one of the biggest crimes against anyone’s complexion, says Vargas. If it’s too hard to part ways with your wine, however, try to cut back and substitute that Bordeaux with liquefied leafy greens—especially during the few months leading up to your wedding. “Green juice is great for skin because it’s oxygenating and contains vital minerals to help stimulate the lymphatic system and drain out puffiness,” Vargas adds. “One a day is great.”

When: 3 months out

Body

Nourish Your Skin Starting in the Shower

“Most [people] don’t realize that your skincare routine truly starts in the shower and that using a gentle cleanser is key,” explains dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD. “I recommend Dove Body Wash, which is sulfate-free, made with 100-percent gentle cleansers, and provides softer, smoother skin after just one shower.” Specifically, she suggests gently patting your skin dry instead of rubbing and applying lotion within minutes of getting out of the shower to lock in moisture before it evaporates.

When: 1 year out

Consider Laser Hair Removal

There’s no better excuse than your wedding (and honeymoon) to treat yourself to laser hair removal. Is it a splurge? Yes, but it will be so worth it when shaving parts of your body is the last thing on your mind. Depending on where you go, sessions can range from $200 to $350, and “planning should be done nine to 12 months before the wedding, as it typically takes six sessions, spaced six weeks apart, to see permanent results,” says Christian Karavalos, owner of Romeo & Juliette Laser Hair Removal Spa in New York City.

When: 1 year out

Photo by PHOTO BY JULIETA; Design by Mehroz Kapadia


Pay Attention to Your Décolletage

Not only is it a notorious sun magnet, but the décolletage is also prone to wrinkling for another reason, says Beverly Hills dermatologist Harold Lancer, MD: tissue-thin skin. “The skin of the neck and chest has a very different structure than that of the face and body,” he says. “The décolletage is an area with significantly less ‘fat padding’ and is generally more delicate than facial skin.” Translation: You might need to put some extra effort in there. Start with an over-the-counter retinol product, and move on to a prescription if your dermatologist deems it necessary.

When: 1 year out for retinol; 6 months out for Rx retinoid

Use a Humidifier to Keep Skin Happy and Healthy

Keratosis pilaris (KP) is caused by excess keratin, which then forms a plug at the site of a hair follicle. “Unfortunately, we don’t know what triggers the buildup of keratin,” says Engelman, who notes that KP often affects people with other skin conditions, like eczema. Triggers can include cold temperatures (resulting in a lack of moisture in the air), hormonal changes, food allergies, and, you guessed it, stress. While there’s no cure for KP, Engelman says you can treat the symptoms by exfoliating with a product like DermaDoctor KP Duty Scrub to unplug the trapped keratin and dead skin cells that cause the bumps. “Introducing moisture to the air via a humidifier can also help.”

When: 9 months out

Get Into Dry-Brushing

Clocking in at under $20, a body brush might be one of the best beauty investments you make. According to Engelman, dry-brushing yields major skin benefits, including exfoliation and increased blood circulation (i.e. a healthy glow). From an overall wellness standpoint, it also revs up the flow of lymph, the all-important fluid that whisks toxins out of our systems. “Lymph relies on muscle movement to pass through the body, so if you’re not an active person, dry-brushing is a wonderful tool to rid the body of waste,” Engelman shares. “There’s real science behind it, and it really works when you commit to it.”

Start with three dry-brushing sessions per week, building up to daily, and make sure to slather on some type of moisturizer afterward. “I love to do it before the shower,” says Engelman, “and then hydrate with body oils before toweling off.”

When: 6 months out

Consider a Spray Tan

Skin expert Sophie Evans recommends getting a trial spray tan before your final fittings to figure out if you want to look a bit tan before the big day. “A week before the big day, start exfoliating your skin in preparation for your spray tan.” Pricing can range anywhere from $50 in a salon to $250 for house calls.

When: At a time during your fitting and then two days before your wedding

Hair

Do Your Research on Keratin Treatments

While chemically processing your hair puts a hefty health toll on your strands, keratin treatments are something to consider if you’re searching for a way to quickly achieve straight hair. Just be sure to do your research and find an option that works best for your particular hair type. “There are so many different keratin treatments and relaxers today,” says colorist and salon owner Sharon Dorram. “I suggest trying out the process months in advance to be sure it works for you.”

When: 9 months out for sampling a straightening treatment

Come Up With a Color Game Plan

The general rule of thumb for big-day color shifts—whether you’re going lighter or darker—is to stay within two shades of your natural hue. But no matter what color you want, planning is imperative. “You should start planning your hair color as soon as you know how your hair will be styled for the wedding,” says Stephanie Brown, colorist at IGK Salon in New York City. Bring inspiration photos to your colorist of choice and be clear about your hair goals. You should also plan to get your hair touched up seven to 10 days before the wedding to ensure it looks its best. “You want to have enough time to know you like the final color in case you need to change anything,” she notes.

When: 6 months out for test-driving initial color; 10 days out for your last pre-wedding touch-up

Shampoo Less Often (Yes, Really)

As great as H20 is for you internally (it hydrates and debloats, so drink up), when it comes to hair, water won’t do those pricey highlights any favors. “Overshampooing lifts, dulls, and fades hair color,” says Dorram. “I always suggest shampooing no more than three to four times a week. The best is to rinse hair and use a mild detangler in between shampoos.”

When: 6 months out

Don’t Skip Conditioner

Color or no color, this is the time to lavish extra TLC on your locks. You can head to the salon for a deep conditioning treatment, or you can do it yourself by slathering wet hair with your mega-hydrator of choice. For home use, hairstylist Jae, owner of Hassadity Hair by Jae, suggests SheaMoisture Intensive Hydration Hair Masque. “It has Manuka Honey and Mafura Oil in it which is great for all hair types, especially if your hair is dry and needs lots of moisture. It’ll leave your hair feeling fluffy and moisturized without weighing it down. The best part is, it doesn’t contain any harsh chemicals that are hazardous to you or the environment!”

When: 3 months out (earlier if hair is damaged)

Find a Hairstyle That Speaks to You

Celebrity hairstylist George Kyriakos, who has 25-plus years of experience, says, “You want a timeless look—an elevated version of yourself. If you never wear your hair up because you hate your ears, don’t let anyone talk you into that.” Translation: Steer clear of those over-the-top updos and oversized hair accessories, and go with a hairstyle that feels natural to you when you do your hair trials. The same rules apply to grooms. Choose a haircut that makes you feel best, one that won’t make you look like a completely different person and unrecognizable.

When: 2 months out

Give Extensions a Go

If your natural hair is lacking in the volume department or your hairstyle of choice requires some extra length, look into trying hair extensions. “Extensions help create a variety of styles, stay put all day long through photos and dancing, and make hair look like the best version of your normal style,” says Edward Tricomi, cofounder and stylist at Warren-Tricomi Salons.

When selecting extensions, or even a wig, Jae advises brides to start their research early, so that they’re able to find the best styles well ahead of their hair trials. “Narrow down your styles and consult with a beauty professional before buying anything,” Jae adds. “Your stylist will help you make the right decisions as far as texture, origin, color, density, etc. when buying a wig or hair extensions. Certain styles require a certain grade of hair in order to achieve the desired look. The last thing you want to do is purchase the wrong hair extensions and not be able to achieve the perfect look for your special day.”

When: 2 months for consultations; the week of your wedding for installations

Makeup

Invest in a Satin-Finish Foundation

Give a big round of applause to satin-finish foundations, which the pros say are the most universally flattering formulas. “Satin has a luminosity, and makes the skin look pretty,” says mega makeup mogul Sonia Kashuk. “You want that little bit of glow and dewiness that you don’t get with a matte formula. But at the same time, you don’t want too much shimmer. Satin gives the kind of balance that’s most reminiscent of natural skin.”

When: 1 year out

Photo by Natura Collective; Design by Mehroz Kapadia


Schedule a Makeup Trial

If you plan on wearing makeup for your wedding, scheduling a makeup trial is one of the most important tasks to consider ahead of the big day. “It’s important for the bride to meet with a makeup artist and get to understand what she wants for her special day,” shares makeup artist Jennifer Farrell, known professionally as Jenny Lynn Skinn. “A lot of times, brides are unsure of what they want, and we as artists are able to help them discover what suits them best. I am able to get them out of their comfort zone and help them see how beautiful they are!”

Whatever you do, stay away from anything that’s too extreme or different from what you generally prefer for special occasions. According to Farrell, many brides make the mistake of trying to emulate celebrities they see online instead of sporting a look they know works best for them. “Unless you look almost identical to the person or have similar features, the makeup looks you see online will look different on everyone,” she shares. Kashuk also adds, “If you’re not a big makeup-wearer, don’t just do it for your wedding day. Wear what you normally wear, but refine it. You can even just add a lash to do something special. No one will ever realize you’re in false lashes. The point is to stay away from anything too extreme or obvious.”

When: 3 to 6 months out

Try Lash Extensions

Afraid the waterproof mascara just won’t cut it on the big day? Consider lash extensions. Clementina Richardson, founder of Envious Lashes in New York City, says, “Lash extensions are great for brides who don’t want to worry about having beautiful lashes from the rehearsal dinner through the honeymoon.” She also adds that they look great in photographs. “Since eyelash extensions are placed individually on existing lashes, no matter how close up the camera is, they will appear natural.”

Richardson recommends getting your first full set a few weeks out and then advises brides to return three to four days before the wedding for a fill-in. “When you go back, you can make changes to your previous look,” she says.

When: 3 weeks out for your first set; 3 days out for a touch-up

Steer Clear of Heavy Contouring

Although contouring can be flattering when done right, Kashuk recommends proceeding with caution for your big day. “When you have severe contrast, the face doesn’t match up to the rest of the body.” To optimize the technique, opt for a sheer, blendable cream formula. “There’s a way to contour in a more natural way, using see-through, transparent textures,” she explains. “Add just a hint of depth under the cheekbones. Very subtle, very sheer.”

When: Day-of

Photo by Jacob Van Rozelaar; Design by Mehroz Kapadia


Brows

Put the Tweezers Down

We’ve all been guilty of over-plucking, but now is the time to seriously put the tweezers down and give up the threading and waxing. Why? When you over-pluck, you lose all of your natural arch shape, which can change your facial expression altogether. “Every bride needs a good aesthetician to whip those brows into shape before the big day,” says Jared Bailey, Benefit Cosmetics global brow expert. “For a classic approach to brow-shaping, you want to find brows that fit your face—brows should be a mirror of your facial features. That’s how they start to bring balance to the entire face and eyes.”

When: 1 year out

Invest in the Perfect Brow Arsenal

“The only thing that comes second to finding the perfect dress for the big day is finding the perfect brow wardrobe,” says Bailey. “You need to look for quality products to prevent things like a makeup meltdown or flaky gels.” He also shares that now is the time to invest in highly pigmented, long-wear brow products that don’t flake or budge. After all, you’ll be taking pictures nonstop this year. Bailey’s tip when color-matching your brow arsenal: “Be sure to choose a shade that mimics the same color as your brow hair—that’s key to making the product blend in effortlessly.”

When: 1 year out

Try Microblading

If your brows are so sparse that they need serious help or you’ve been dying to try microblading, consider doing it two months out. With microblading, you can achieve your dream natural brows without worrying about sweat or water washing them away. “They will need a week to heal initially and then you have to go in for a touch-up four to six weeks after,” says Eyebrow Doctor founder Piret Aava. So the whole process calls for (you guessed it) planning ahead. “Do your research before you get microblading,” advises Aava. “You want to make sure you go to someone who has a good reputation and does work that looks natural.”

When: 2 months out

Teeth

Time to Go to the Dentist

A gorgeous smile starts with healthy gums and teeth, so use your wedding as a time to further invest in healthy oral care practices. You can also use this time to talk to your dentist about teeth whitening or investing in braces or clear aligners. If a crooked smile has you down, your special day might be a good excuse to try out Invisalign and finally achieve a perfectly straight smile. Specifically, Invisalign Express gets you the perfect smile in six months and will run you up to $4,000.

When: 1 year to 6 months out

Start Using Straws to Drink Red Wine and Coffee

You might love Merlot, but Merlot doesn’t love your pearly whites. “If you want white teeth for your wedding, you have to give up red wine,” says Marc Lowenberg, DDS of LLK Dentistry in New York City. “Because it’s a liquid, it seeps into your enamel and darkens your teeth in a way that, even if you get them cleaned, they’re not going to get lighter. You’ll have to get them bleached. And if [you absolutely love wine], you need to drink it through a straw, as ridiculous as that sounds.” What’s more, you should use a straw when drinking coffee, too.

When: 6 months out, or after your first in-office bleaching

Invest in Teeth Whitening

If you want to amp up your smile, consider splurging on professional-grade teeth whitening. These days, a whitening treatment can be done in-office, in under an hour, and comes with convenient take-home whitening trays, depending on the level of stains. You can easily whiten your teeth four to six shades and results last for up to a year.

When: 1 month out

Schedule a Cleaning Before the Big Day

Unlike red wine, which gives your teeth a nice little bath of hard-to-dislodge color, most food and drink stains fall into the surface category and are easily scrubbed off in an appointment with your hygienist. Be it berries, coffee, or marinara sauce, Lowenberg says that anything that will stain a white blouse will also stain your teeth. It’s wise to follow up that first dentist appointment with another follow-up cleaning a few weeks out for a truly flawless smile.

When: 2 weeks out

Nails

Oil Up Your Nails Every Day

Nail artist Tom Bachik says the best thing you can do for your nails is to keep them hydrated. “When they dry out, they become brittle, leading to chips and cracks,” he says. “Keep nails flexible and strong by using an oil on your cuticles nightly before bed.” Simply put, get into the habit of applying oil every night to ensure beautiful ring-selfie hands year-round.

When: 1 year out

Don’t Forget Your Hands

Nails are important, but so are your hands. Amy Lin, founder of Sundays Nail Studio in New York City, recommends using a gentle scrub weekly and following it up with a generous amount of lotion and cuticle oil. “Apply sunscreen to the back of each hand to protect [the] skin,” she adds.

When: 1 year out

Invest in Regular Manicures

Treat yourself to a professional manicure every few weeks leading up to your wedding to ensure your hands and nails are in tip-top shape. “Getting a regular manicure is a good way to care for cuticles, nourish nails, and relax your mind,” says Lin.

When: 3 months out

Go for Neutrals

As much as we love nail art, save it for the bachelorette party and the honeymoon. You don’t want anything taking away from your natural beauty on your wedding day. You can still have fun, but keep it neutral for the best look. “Like the red carpet, I believe wedding nails should be timeless, classic, and elegant,” says Bachik. “That doesn’t mean brides can’t have a little personal style. But keep the art simple and the colors tonal. Nails should be the perfect accessories to complete your look, not compete with it.”

When: 2 to 3 days out

Photos by Christine Flower and 2digital Bodas; Design by Mehroz Kapadia


Health

Sleep Is Everything

As an Equinox Fitness Global Personal Trainer of the Year and founder of Team Awesome, Ed Gemdjian is immersed in all the latest fitness findings. So, when he says sleep is now considered the third pillar of health—along with a sound diet and lots of exercise—it’s time to hit the sack. “Sleep is important for so many reasons,” he says. “We produce the highest amounts of natural HGH (human growth hormone) while we sleep, which is responsible for regenerating and creating new cells of all our body tissues—skin, muscle, hair. When we sleep, it’s the only time our brain can repair and reorganize. And the relaxed breathing state during sleep reduces stress by calming our central nervous system.” Less stress also means lowered production of cortisol, the fight-or-flight hormone that tells our bodies to hang onto every ounce of fat for survival.

When: 1 year out

Stick to Healthy Eating Habits

“I’ve seen deprivation crash diets backfire time and time again,” says registered dietician Brooke Alpert. “Because you’re basically starving yourself, you’re going to break down and binge, regaining the weight you lost and feeling bad about yourself.” Not to mention how cranky and miserable you’ll feel during this highly social period of your life. That’s why Alpert recommends you aim to have a healthy (sugar-free) meal or snack every three to four hours.

When: 1 year out

Plan Your Meals and Workouts

If you’re lucky enough to have a trainer on the wedding payroll alongside the planner, caterer, and florist, it can be easy to slack off between appointments on the days you’re not working out together. “At Equinox, we provide our clients with specific strategies to follow on their own, just as much as when they’re training with us,” says Gemdjian. “Taking ownership can be very empowering, and improved self-esteem can go a long way when planning a wedding.” Another reason to flex your self-discipline muscles? You’ll build habits that last through your honeymoon and beyond.

When: 9 months out

Work Your Upper Body

Upper-body strength training should be incorporated into your workouts leading up to your wedding. “Working out your upper back and chest is not just muscle-defining, but it will help your posture,” says certified trainer Holly Roser. “We look down at our phones all day and hunch over our laptops, which tightens up our chest muscles.” Roser guides her clients through an upper body-chiseling program that includes rows, deltoid flys, and low-seated rows. She also lasers in on the triceps muscles with dips, cable pull-downs, and push-ups.

When: 6 months out

Limit Your Sugar Intake

Is it easy? No, especially if you’ve got a major sweet tooth. But the list of beauty benefits—not to mention the positive mental state—that come from kicking sugar to the curb are virtually endless, says Alpert. “For [couples], removing sugar will help keep skin clear, plump, and fresh-looking,” she adds. “And even more important, for anyone coping with guest lists, seating charts, and in-laws, limiting sugar intake can help control stress levels and keep you more even-keeled and clear-minded.”

When: 3 to 6 months out

Lay Off the Booze

Everything in moderation, right? Limit your alcohol intake and your body and mind will thank you.”The top areas for sugar and alcohol storage on our bodies is right around our hips and lower belly,” says Roser. “Alcohol metabolizes as estrogen, and estrogen loves making a home for itself in our lower abdominal area.”

When: 1 month out

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