Making it my business: let’s get beautified!

It’s all about beauty this week with questions about skin care and taking the leap into the land of short hair.

I never claimed to be a beauty expert, but seeing as no one else around here is giving any advice, I guess you all will just have to trust me.

(Oh and before we get to it, if you’ve got any questions, send them on over to

Let’s get to it, shall we?

Dear Valerie,

I’m pale. Like really, really pale. Do you have any advice as to how to prepare my fair skin for the summer sun? Should I just bite the bullet and go tanning?

Pasty McNoMelanin

Whenever someone tells me that they’re white, I’m always tempted to pull up my pant leg and show them the blinding glory that is my calves. You aren’t white, guys. I’m white. As white as the snow atop Mt. Everest, as the clouds in the sky, as the cocaine loved by La Lohan. White, white, white.

So, Pasty, I guess that was a dramatic way of saying that I know where you’re coming from.

Let’s address the tanning immediately. I have a word for people who tan – Ok, it’s actually my friend’s word but I thought it was funny so now I’m stealing it. It’s “LEATHAFACE.” Yes, that’s “leatherface” said in some undefinable but hilariously condemning accent. When I hear about someone going tanning, I call her a LEATHAFACE in my head, not because she already looks like her face is made of leather, but because I know if she keeps it up, it’s just a matter of time before the premature wrinkles set in and she starts to resemble a football.

In short, don’t do it. Any exposure – whether to the sun or tanning lamps – can damage your skin and cause premature aging.

The way I see it, you have two alternatives…

One. Slather on the sun screen and head outside for brief spurts of time. Slowly but surely, you will build up a base. Remember to pay attention to the instructions on the bottle of sunscreen (yes, it does need to be reapplied, particularly if you’re swimming or sweating) and give yourself plenty of breaks. Those of us who burn tend to get more worn out by being in the sun, and we don’t want you passing out from heat exhaustion, now do we?

Two. If you’re just going for a nice summer glow that will allow you to expose your arms and legs without causing blindness, opt for a nice, subtle self tanner. Avoid the ones offering immediate results and go for products that add color over time, such as Jergen’s Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer for fair skin – just be sure to wash your hands after applying. And please, please, please remember that a tan achieved through lotion is NOT a base and will not make your skin better equipped for being outside. You still need to wear sunscreen and limit your exposure to the sun.

But really, the best piece of advice I can give you, Pasty, is to embrace your, uh, pastiness. Some of the most beautiful women in the world sit on the fair end of the spectrum. I saw work it, own it, and stay the mess out of the sun.

Hi Valerie!

I’m thinking of cutting my hair short, but I’m nervous about making the leap. Any tips?

Contemplating the Cut

I! Love! Short! Hair! I’ve had my hair short for the majority of my adult life and I doubt I’ll ever make it back to a pony tail ever again.

Now before I start dispensing my handful of short hair tips, let me issue a warning: short hair is not for everyone. In order to keep it short, you must cut it often. On top of that, there will be no more pulling your hair back when you don’t have time to shower – if you haven’t showered, everyone will know it. And they’ll all be talking about you.

But, if you think you’re ready, here are some helpful tips when going for the short cut…

1. Bring in a picture. Seriously. It’s one thing to say “Just take off a couple inches,” but it is quite another to say “Oh, just cut it short.” You need to be specific, show them what kind of style you’re going for, such as sleek vs. spiky, stacked vs. wedged, Meg Ryan vs. Halle Berry.

2. Go to a stylist you’re comfortable with. DO NOT break in a new stylist with a drastic change, even if it means putting up with long hair for one more month. Once you’re comfortable with his or her approach, *then* talk about making a big change. And when you do, be sure to ask questions and be willing to trust his or her professional opinion.

3. Think about doing color. If you’re going really short, you might be surprised to see that your hair can sometimes resemble a well-shaped helmet. Adding a few highlights will break things up and give your hair a little movement and depth.

4. Ask for a straight razor. Often the difference between a man’s short haircut and a woman’s short haircut is a little texture. When stylists use a straight razor (or some variation of it) while cutting your hair, they’re able to make sure the hair is laying right, giving you a more feminine shape.

5. Use the cool button. When you’re finally greeted with styling your own short ‘do, make sure to use the cool button on your hair dryer after blow drying and before applying any product. Heat messes with the hair cuticle, getting it all huffy and fluffy. This is pretty unnoticeable on long hair but hard to miss on short hair. A quick blast of the cool button calms the cuticle down and helps things lay just right.

And really, the most important advice I can give you is a little saying my mom likes to throw out there over and over again. And over again. Seriously, she thinks it’s so funny. Anyway, here it is: The difference between a good haircut and a bad haircut is two weeks.

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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

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