THE JULY magazine racks and TV ads are a sea of skin, all healthy and wholesome, but bare nonetheless. On the covers and inside, the beautiful and fit lounge gracefully by the pool, romp prettily on the beach, and glow with inner health and beauty -- all very depressing for those women who are fighting frizzy hair, oil-slick complexions and blotches and snags all over.
Expectations of a glorious summer wilt with Maryland weather, and pollutants and chemicals take their toll.
What to do? Relax. Recognize beauty problems that can be helped and learn to co-exist with your natural endowments.
The '90s are in your favor. The times for looking as beautiful as you can be have never been better. Today's women are smart shoppers and cosmetics companies are courting consumers by developing better products and providing better information on product ingredients and application.
However, the broad spectrum of beauty products can be confusing. Who hasn't cruised the cosmetics aisle reading labels, comparing prices and walking out with a =lotion or cream that's used a few times and abandoned?
Investing some time with professionals can put you on a beauty regimen with information and techniques to keep your looks going on your own.
So shake out your hair, add some color to your cheeks and wriggle your toes. It's summer.
"Summer sun, chemicals and water are the hair's worst enemies," says Bill Kearney, chief colorist and stylist at Studio Giovanna in Towson. "Water looks refreshing and feels great for a dip, but causes damage. Chlorinated pool water isn't the only culprit. A trip down the ocean means exposure to salt water. The problem is compounded when hair is washed with the local tap water which comes from wells and is hard with mineral deposits."
Kearney offers a quick-fix for removing chemical buildup from the hair. He says mixing a tablespoon of baking soda in a pint of water works as an after shampoo rinse.
But the buzzwords for hair are protection and condition and it's possible to do both while having fun outdoors. The wet look is fashionable now, so Kearney suggests slathering a good conditioner on your hair and wearing it slicked back or loosely twisted or braided. The conditioner coats the hair shaft and keeps chemicals from penetrating. If there's no conditioner at hand, run a generous amount of suntan lotion through your hair, preferably one with a high sunscreen rating. This has the added benefit of filtering out burning rays and slowing the fade of hair coloring.
As pretty as sun-streaked and highlighted locks are, the prolonged sun exposure needed to get them the natural way is a health risk. An expert colorist can achieve the same effect. Kearney uses a highlighting process in which individual hair strands are wrapped in foil and lightened to three different shades that blend together -- just as nature would have stroked them.
Kearney suggests going along with your own hair's temperament in the summer -- stay curly or straight, a good stylist can make it work. A good cut that takes advantage of the hair's natural tendencies, gentle if frequent shampooing, and careful conditioning will keep your hair bobbing along all summer.
The biggest favor you can do for your skin is to stay out of the summer sun. That being next to impossible for active people, the lesser step is to use and replenish sunscreen any time you're out and about. You've heard the medical warnings on skin cancer and seen the leathery looks of the generation that baked itself and basted with coconut oil. Ignorance is no excuse because sunscreen products carry guidelines on exposure for various skin types and coloring. Yet tan lines are still forming.
"Many of my clients are still out there working on a tan and their skin is showing it," moans Victoria Wilke, esthetician at Gian Bian Studio in Owings Mills. "Some are being more careful and have started using self-tanning lotions which darken the skin without sun exposure, but they want that glow.
"Makeup can give the face a deeper color," says Wilke, "by using a foundation and powder with a darker, yellow undertone for richer color."
But the best foundation of all is a healthy, clean skin.
Summer heat and activity increases production of perspiration and oil. Compounding the problem are pollutants that cling to damp skin and clog pores.
"Cleansing morning and night to remove all surface oil and grime is an essential summer beauty routine," says Wilke, "but soap and water may be too harsh for frequent bathers. A good soap-free cleansing gel may be the answer. Finish with an alcohol-free toner to prevent dryness and then a light moisturizer.
"Many people stop moisturizing in the summer because they believe it will leave their skin too oily. The opposite is true." Frequent washing tends to strip the skin of oil, which will cause the oil glands to work harder and eventually clog the pores.
Wilke recommends twice-weekly cleansing with a mild exfoliator such as an oatmeal or granular scrub to remove dead skin cells. "Always use clean hands to prevent carrying bacteria to the face."
And if overactive skin results in clogged pores and blackheads?
"Never, never try to dislodge blackheads by yourself. Didn't your mother tell you the same thing? Improper pressure and incorrect technique can press impurities deeper into the skin. A deep cleaning facial by a professional will prevent possible scarring and infection."
As a final feel-good treat, consider a mild clay masque. Mud, or kaolin on the label, works well for all skin types, says Wilke. Apply according to label directions, sit back with some good sounds, then rinse off and smile.
Nadia DeBiasi knows her nails. At Studio Giovanna in Towson, she lacquers, polishes, builds, repairs and creates nail designs. Her favorite look for summer hands is a clean French-look manicure with a natural tint. Along with other beauty experts, she recommends constant replenishment of moisture lost to frequent washing, chores and summer sun.
"It's easier to remember caring for the hands because they are always in your view. A good manicure is a start, and with frequent application of good cuticle oil to keep skin around the nail supple, and a rich hand cream, hands can look pretty."
But, oh those toenails! When the winter pumps go to the back of the closet and open shoes and sandals allow feet to see the light of day, toes curl up with shyness.
There is no way to avoid the fact that wear, tear and the wrong shoes leave many women frozen with fear about showing their feet in public.
"Nothing scares me," says Nadia, "I have seen the ugliest feet -- corns, callouses, bunions, misshaped and missing toenails. But many women who come in routinely for manicures are embarrassed to book a pedicure because their feet are so ugly."
Fear not, a professional pedicure is the ultimate pampering, spoiling experience and there's even moral justification for getting one. Chances are the ugliest feet hurt the most. So think of a pedicure as a healing experience.
Feet are bathed, massaged and smoothed to remove dead and calloused skin. "Then the nails get real attention, to get them looking as perfect as possible," says Nadia, "I can rebuild and reshape toenails that have gone crooked from fungus infection or damage, the same way fingernail extensions match a break."
Ironically, the current interest in looking good and feeling good has contributed to foot problems. Closed and snug athletic shoes tend to trap perspiration and allow bacteria and fungus to grow. "It's necessary to give feet plenty of opportunity to breathe during summer," advises Nadia, "wear sandals, and dust them with a deodorant anti-fungal [powder] after frequent bathings."
Listen to your body!
* Your work life and play time affect all your body functions. Even the prospect of a vacation can bring on stress -- what with packing, planning, fear of flying, weekend traffic and lost luggage. You may find your skin getting oilier or flakier; your hair getting greasy or brittle. Don't be afraid to change your beauty routine to suit fluctuations in the weather and your body.
Stagger beauty breaks!
* A block of time to pamper yourself is a luxury, but don't resort to too many treatments all at once. Shave your legs in the evening so sensitive skin can rest. Don't color or perm the day before you hit the beach because frequent washings will spoil results. Stretch and savor those beautifying times.