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Stretch Your Beauty Dollar

Save time and money with these easy at-home beauty alternatives, from facials and haircuts to celebrity secrets and bargain salon services.

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Jack Miskell
Jack Miskell
Jack Miskell
beauty products
Jack Miskell
Jack Miskell
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Hair Care: Be Your Own Colorist

Conceal annoying grays and overgrown roots with a quick trip to the local drugstore instead of the salon.


1. Choose a box of color that closely matches your current shade. The most goof-proof kits: "Those that specify a non-drip formula on the box and come with applicator combs or brushes," says Jason Backe, Clairol color director.


2. When you need to hide roots, apply color to new growth only. (Leave on for the specified time.) "This prevents overprocessing hair that's been dyed in the past," Backe says. If you require allover color, follow the box directions.


3. Once a week, wash with a tinted shampoo to prevent color from fading. Limit total washes to every other day, and always condition, which maintains color. Depending on your hue, try Riveting Reds, $6.99, or Shimmer Lights for brunettes, $8.79, both at sallybeauty.com, or Pantene Blonde Expressions, $6.49, drugstores.


See a pro if...

You want a head of highlights (they're difficult to do on your own) or plan on going three or more shades lighter or darker.

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Trim Tactics: Tackling the At-Home Haircut

Say good-bye to split ends without booking an appointment with your stylist. Here's how:


1. Regular scissors often have only one working blade (the dull side sweeps away just-cut hair), which can damage the hair shaft. Buy a set of professional shears (above, Fromm Spectrum Shears, $44, sallybeauty.com). "Both blades slice into hair for the cleanest cut," says Eliut Rivera, a New York City salon owner.


2. Divide and clip dry hair into three sections: the crown, the left, and the right. Unclip, pull the crown area straight up, and twist it. Cut into the ends vertically -- not straight across -- taking off damaged hairs in half-inch increments. "This creates a soft finish, rather than a blunt, uneven one," Rivera says.


3. Repeat the process on the left and right sides, but pull and twist hair downward rather than upward.


See a pro if...

Your style is one length (such as a bob), which takes precision, or if you want a total change.

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Wax On, Wax Off

With a little practice -- and these smart tips -- you can clean up your bikini line as fast and accurately as the experts (we promise!).

  • Overapplying hot wax can burn skin, says Janet Chao, head aesthetician at the hair-removal company Parissa Laboratories. The solution: pre-coated strips, which contain just the right amount. Before applying the strip, trim hairs to the length of a grain of rice (anything longer gets messy) -- and don't wash the area. "Your natural body oils act as a protective barrier," Chao explains.
  • Soften the strips by rubbing them in your hands until warm. Pull them apart, prop up one leg to stretch skin so wax goes on evenly, then press the strip on in the same direction as hair growth.
  • Hold skin taut with one hand, then quickly pull off the strip with the other in the opposite direction of hair growth. Rub off any residue with olive oil; it dissolves wax.


See a pro if...

You want a Brazilian wax (to be done only by experts) or if your bikini line is prone to ingrown hairs.

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Get a Tan from a Can

An airbrushed finish is no longer limited to top salons. Get a perfect glow at home with these steps:


1. Aerosol self-tanners offer a flawless application -- if you have the right touch. Practice by making small circular motions on a sheet of paper. "If it's too wet on the paper, you're too close," says Fiona Locke, educator for St. Tropez tan products. The secret: Stay 6 inches away.


2. The active ingredient in tanners, DHA, is soaked up by dry patches of skin. This leads to too-dark spots. Buff your entire body first with a loofah and apply lotion to dry, thick-skinned areas (ankles, knees, elbows, knuckles).


3. Using the technique you perfected on paper, apply tanner to skin. Spray cans with 360-degree technology (like Mystic Tan Build Sunless Tanning Spray, $38, sephora.com, left) let you spray upside down -- great for your back.


See a pro if...

You plan on baring a lot of skin; spray-tan artists use airbrush machines that rarely make mistakes.

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Nail the Perfect Mani/Pedi

Score a perfect 10 on fingers and toes -- and preserve the freshly painted look -- with these strategies.


1. After showering, use a scrub on hands and pumice on feet to slough roughness and smooth calluses. Push back cuticles and file nails until even, then clean the surface of each with polish remover. "Dirt and oil prevent color from sticking," says Alisha Rimando of Dashing Diva nail salon in Port Washington, New York.


2. Instead of speed-painting the base, color, and top coats, wait three minutes between each. "It takes four glopped-on layers more time to dry, increasing the chance of smudges," Rimando says.


3. Take the polish over the edge of your nail (where chips start) to add days to your paint job.


See a pro if...

You can't risk nicks or imperfections -- or you just need a little TLC (like a hand massage).

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Cut Costs on Professional Treatments

When you must see a pro, do it on the cheap.

  • Trim costs at the salon. Beauty schools such as Empire (find one at empire.edu) offer way-low prices (shampoo, cut and style, $8; highlights, $37).
  • Nab a free facial. Seek out the Shiseido and Cle de Peau Beaute counters at the department store. Their skin experts provide facial services gratis.
  • Score a no-cost manicure. Beauty 360 stores by CVS/pharmacy offer relaxing hand massages, pro polish changes, or both. Walk-ins welcome!
  • Take advantage of Spa Week. The biannual spring and fall event, which next runs April 13 through 19, features spa treats for $50 each at more than 750 U.S. locations. Prebook yours at spaweek.org starting March 16.

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Star Steals: Celebrity Budget Beauty Secrets

Even celebs enjoy frugal finds. These can't-live-without-'em beauty bargains -- all $8 or less -- prove looking glamorous needn't be pricey (even in Hollywood!).


Save Face

Gossip Girl's Leighton Meester is a fan of Clean & Clear Oil Absorbing Sheets ($4.99, drugstores).


Soothe Skin

Tyra Banks likes Vaseline Petroleum Jelly ($1.79, drugstores) so much she gave bejeweled jars of it to her studio audience.


Shine On

Stylist David Evangelista mists Becki Newton's hair with Garnier Fructis Style Brilliantine Shine Glossing Spray ($3.99, drugstores).


Go Long

Isla Fisher's lashes were defined with Neutrogena Healthy Volume Mascara ($8, drugstores) in Confessions of a Shopaholic.

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Cheap Tricks: Great Ideas from Your Peers

FITNESS asked readers how they stay their most beautiful during tough times. Borrow these bright ideas -- we already did!


"To buy time between color appointments, I brush eye shadow -- one that's the same shade as my hair -- onto grays to conceal them." -- Jaime Maser, 30, New York City


"Instead of a manicure, I buff my nails. It gives them a nice sheen without a drop of nail polish." -- Lindy Mishler, 28, Johnstown, Pennsylvania


"Rather than buying my signature perfume, I've been scenting my skin with body sprays. They're less expensive and smell great." -- Jenny Milton, 36, Lee, Massachusetts


"I keep a basket of hotel toiletries. I use them to replenish empty full-size bottles or throw them into my travel bag." -- Carrie Jablonow, 33, Los Angeles


"I started a 'beauty collective' with two friends. We chip in to buy oversize bottles of shampoo and conditioner from beauty-supply stores, then divide it up." -- Nafeesa Saboor, 29, Jersey City, New Jersey

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Bag These Beauty Bargains

Great cosmetics don't have to break the bank. These seven essentials -- case included -- cost less than $40.


1. Sephora Signature Clear Stripe Bag, $7, sephora.com

Easy-to-clean vinyl, dressed up with punchy pink stripes, lets you find what you need quickly -- and in style.


2. Sonia Kashuk Eye Shadow Quad, $9.99, target.com

Color lids with any of these four shades or use them wet as liner along the lash line.


3. CoverGirl Exact Eyelights Mascara, $8.95, drugstores

Light-reflecting colored minerals spike this black mascara, acting like mirrors to accentuate your eye hue.


4. Maybelline New York Dream Liquid Mousse Foundation, $9.79, drugstores

The light-as-air formula goes on smoothly, making skin appear near-flawless.


5. N.Y.C. New York Color Cover Stick, $1.99, drugstores

Packed with antioxidant vitamins A and E, this stick makes dark circles, freckly spots, and pimples disappear.


6. Sally Girl Lip Gloss, 99 cents, sallybeauty.com

The moisturizing lacquer never feels sticky or tacky.


7. E.L.F. Shimmering Facial Whip, $1, eyeslipsface.com

The ultimate multitasker, this cream (in six shades) tints cheeks, eyes, and lips.


Originally published in FITNESS magazine, March 2009.

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