Pre-Christmas planning part 3 – Hair (and a bit of general beauty)

Curling Amber's hair for the photo shoot

You can make curls using a hair straightener and an awful lot of pins and clips … Me beautifying Amber in the office.

I know that October seems a terrifying time to be thinking about Christmas, but a bit of thought now will pay off in a lot less stress two months down the track. Scientists say that stress hormones cause the brain to deteriorate over time, so you’re best off keeping everything as chill and prepped as possible and thus guaranteeing a healthy old age.

Which is why now is a great time to think about your Christmas hair. With so many parties and get togethers through December and January, it’s fun to look your best. Often that means a new cut or colour, which is a brilliant way to revamp your look, but can be a bit risky if you don’t like it or haven’t worked out how to style it yet. With six weeks before the main party season, now is the time to make the change. It will give you time to check that you’re happy with the colour and cut, make any tweaks, learn how to manage the style and get through the dreaded post-cut doubts.

Make a booking for the hairdresser this week if you’re planning a big change, as there will be time for any miscommunications or disappointments to grow out before the photo season starts, and then you can just book a trim and touch-up at peak season, which will get you in and out much faster during the crazy time of year in a salon. If you’re just wanting a general spruce-up, make an appointment two to three weeks before your first big party, which will still give you time to learn all the styling tips and fix any accidents. Book in a set or blow-out on the day if you’re nervous – you’ll look salon-fresh without having to spend the whole afternoon in a chair or worrying about dye tidelines around your temples!

If you haven’t had time to visit a hairdresser in a while, we’ve all been there! Next time you wash your hair, comb it out perfectly straight, parted in its normal spot, and have someone you trust (husband/girlfriend/neighbour …) snip off the ratty ends with a pair of hair scissors (they’re about $12 from the chemist if you don’t own any) following the lines of your old cut, or just straight across the back. With the split ends removed, you’ll immediately look a lot more groomed and polished.

Then check out the supermarket or chemist for a good low-cost hair mask. I like Pantene 3-Minute Miracle ($7.99/3 ampoules – my fine shoulder-blade length hair gets 2-3 treatments per ampoule), VO5 Emergency Rexcue Elixir 1-Minute Nourishing Treatment (about $6.99/200ml – a little less oomph than the Pantene, but definite moisture boost without weighing hair down) and Garnier Fructis Sleek and Shine Treatment Mask (about $7.95/300ml – the serious stuff, I break this out for my baby-weight hair after too much swimming, when all the goodness has been sucked out, this sticks it back in! For thick and curly hair, it’s a brill weekly treatment.) All three of these deliver just as much as products that cost ten times more. Slather in a bit of shop-bought hair health once every week or two and by the time Christmas rocks around you’ll be sleeker than a seal.

If your hair is chin-length or below, you can whip up any of the four up-dos in the Christmas 2011 issue of family circle that will hit the shelves next Monday. And I really do mean that you can do it at home. We had ordered in step-by-step shots from the OS stylist who came up with the dos, but they were too low-res for us to use. So I recreated each of them from his steps, using the Better Homes and Gardens girls as models. Given that my usual hair style repertoire consists of Gently Windblown, Held Up With Hairclip and Ponytail I Am Really Too Old For, when I say that you can do any of them, I do mean it – they’re that foolproof!

Finally, make sure the rest of you looks as good as your hair. We’ll be updating the blog with some of our fave beauty products over the next few weeks, which are all tried and tested, but there are a few basic steps that will have you at your best through the party season.

* Start getting more sleep. We know – it’s not that easy! But even going to bed 15 minutes earlier will show in your complexion, leaving you fresher and brighter, and all for free!

* Up the water, fruit and veg in your diet. They all work to cleanse your system, which means that your skin will be purer and less irritated.

* Give your body a good old scrub – those funny mitts from the chemist or Body Shop do a great job at clearing away dead skin. And don’t worry if you have to go at your feet a few times, it’ll be worth it! For your face, try a gentle exfoliant with mild fruit acids.

* Slather on the moisturiser and sunblock, for both face and body. I like to splash out on my face moisturiser, but for my body, Aveeno Skin Relief ($12.95/345ml) is one of the best I have tried, as is Cetaphil Moisturising Cream ($19.59/550g), though for me that’s a winter-weight cream – if your skin is really dry, it could be the answer to your prayers. I am a massive fan of Hamilton sunblocks, their Everyday Face and Sensitive ranges both deliver without risk of breakouts, but whatever block works for you will do – spots are immensely easier to cover up than wrinkles, or, worse, skin cancers.

* If you’re nervous about make-up, book someone else to do it for you for your pre-Christmas dos. If you get in early, you can even have someone spruce you up for New Year. Most beauticians offer a make-up service for a reasonable fee, and you can also book in with a make-up artist at many beauty counters in Myer and David Jones, or at Mecca Cosmetica. Expect to be given a bit of a hard-sell on products, but since the cost at these counters is usually redeemable on product, buy the ones you like best and you’ll end up with a great face for free, plus new make-up that you know looks great. Remember to ask lots of questions so you can recreate the look at home, and pay especial attention to the brushes used! If you go to a beautician instead, take your own lipsticks at least so you can choose from your range – that way you’re set for touch-ups during the party!

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