Ruth Griffin's ... Ultimate party season makeover
As November begins, your mind might not quite yet be on party dresses and sparkles, but now is the perfect time to start preparing for the festive season - and the endless selfies that go with it!
To help you get your gorgeous on and make sure you're looking and feeling fabulous this Christmas, I'm bringing you my Ultimate Party Season Makeover. Starting today, my in-depth series will look at the cornerstones of your beauty regimen - tan, brows, nails, hair and make-up - and bring you up to date with the latest trends and techniques. So, whether you want to overhaul your look or just make sure you're 'on fleek' from pedi to pout this party season, this is the guide for you.
With the evenings closing in, make use of the calm before the festive-season storm to begin experimenting, planning and prepping.
Many of us work so hard at creating such beautiful memories for our loved ones each Christmas that we often overlook ourselves in all the frantic planning. With this series, I would love to gently encourage women to mind themselves a little bit and ensure they look as gorgeous and glowing as they can for those all-important Christmas photos!
As with everything else, grooming expertise and the ability to master various looks improve with practice. So now is the perfect time to carve out some 'me time' and refine your techniques, find out what works for you and try out some new looks. Why not invest in a little pampering time for yourself and try out all those lipsticks you've had rattling around in your make-up bag for months? Or experiment with some new nail colours? Or find some images of a gorgeous hairstyle online and give it a go?
Even speaking as a former model, I know how easy it is to get stuck in a beauty rut. However, I've always found that spending some time on a little grooming and pampering can actually boost my confidence and give me a wee pep in my step as I do the thousand other jobs I have to do in my day! That's exactly what I want to do for you with this series - give you the confidence and tools to up your beauty game this Christmas.
This series is designed so that you can take what you want from it: try out one or two of the products or techniques; make it bespoke to you. Take what works for you and leave what doesn't - this series is not meant to add any more pressure to your festive-season preparations! Instead use it as a fun but focused, practical but pampering, guide to party-season beauty. Turn the page to see my Week One self-tanning guide. Be brave and enjoy!
* When people ask me for my best beauty 'hack' or trick of the trade that I picked up from 15 years' modelling (and let's be frank here - most of the beauty business is pure trickery), I always say: the best way to cheat looking slimmer and younger is by using the right tan with a subtle glow.
Finding a self-tan that suits your skin type and tone will shave inches off your body and years off your face. It disguises blemishes, evens out skin tone, gives light to the skin, makes your teeth and the whites of your eyes look brighter, and gives the illusion of living a healthy, outdoorsy lifestyle, even if we're happily superglued to our couches 24/7!
Lots of people are afraid of using tan in case it becomes a streaky, muddy, you've-been-Tangoed disaster! So I really want to encourage people of all ages - it's never too late to start - to trial some of the amazing new light formulations, odourless technology and subtle, imperfection-blurring self- tanners available now.
Spray tans are great for those who are afraid to go it alone. I would, however, advise anyone getting spray tans to always ask for a very light application. Ask around friends and family for recommendations on tan therapists, and do a trial run before a big event. The best one I ever had was a Bronze Leaf spray tan at Brazilia, in Dublin's South William Street; brazilia.ie. See bronze-leaf.com for stockists. It's worth noting that spray tans - including DIY home products - are not recommended for pregnant women.
When I first started modelling, the self-tans available were smelly, thick, orange formulations. In the last decade there has been a revolution in the self-tanning world. Nearly all self- tans now have moisturising elements to give skin an added glow, and are scent-free and fast-acting - you can wash off after an hour so no more wrecked bedsheets!
If you're wary about using tan, rest assured we now have a dizzying array of tanning products to choose from - shower tans, sheet-mask tans, dry oil tans, odourless options, gradual tanners, gels, instant tans, mousses, creams, lotions and overnight masks… In short, there's an option for everyone.
The key with self-tan is to find the right formulation that suits your base skin colour. The general rule of thumb is that women with a pale complexion are best off using a gradual tanner or tanning drops, so they can achieve an über-subtle glow. Those with medium and darker skin tones can go for tans with a deeper glow.
I personally find mousse tanning formulations the easiest, most foolproof way of getting an even, streak-free glow. The only formulation I never use is the at-home spray tanners. I find they make such a mess (and I end up inhaling them too!).
After many, many trials and tanning errors, I've found the tan that works for my skin type and tone (dry and dark) - bBold Smart Mousse, €19.
For parties and events, I top my tan with golden- shimmer dry oil to amp up the sheen. I love the divine Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse Dry Oil with Gold Shimmer, €42.90. Use it on hair, body and face.
I'm wearing both of the above in our shoot and they are widely available from pharmacies nationwide.
1 Exfoliate and moisturise your skin in the days leading up to self-tanning, as patches and streaks can come from tan clinging to dry skin areas. Do not, however, moisturise immediately before applying your tan because it causes the tan to 'slide'.
2 Always apply tan in front of a mirror, using plastic gloves and a mitt. Don't spend a fortune on mitts: they're all pretty much the same and need to be dumped after a few uses. If you don't have a mitt to hand, a fluffy Penneys sock is a great alternative!
3 Pour the tan onto the mitt first, not the skin, as some tans develop so quickly, this can result in dark spots.
4 Apply your tanning lotion a little at a time and don't faff about - blend the tan in quickly for the most even results.
5 Use Vaseline on your knees, knuckles, wrist bones, elbows, ankle bones and heels. Vaseline stops the tan from overdeveloping on the driest areas of the body.
6 Don't apply tan heavily to hands and feet. Leave these areas until the last minute, and only use whatever tiny bit of tan is left on your mitt. Then, wipe off your knuckles, wrist bones and ankles with a face wipe, and apply a tiny bit of moisturiser to the whole area.
7 When applying tan to your face, don't forget to blend up your ears, behind your ears and the back of your neck - especially if you're wearing your hair short or in an up-do - and also blend down your neck and into your chest.
8 If you have a streaky disaster, don't panic! Simply apply moisturiser to the streaky area and, using a clean mitt, buff and blend all around the area. I promise the streaks will vanish!
9 Wipe any tan off your upper lip, eyebrows, 'sideburns' area and hairline with a face wipe, as it will cling to the hair there. Then apply your normal moisturiser (but nothing with active or retinol ingredients) all over your face - this gives a guaranteed even finish.
10 Do not apply tan the night before your party/event - leave at least two nights as sometimes the tan needs to settle into the skin, and in the extra day you'll definitely have got rid of any tan scent.
11 Always shower off your tan the morning after application (apart from instant tan). Wash your hands thoroughly after applying all formulas of tan - even if you have used plastic gloves.
12 If opting for a spray tan, do your research first. Ask family and friends for recommendations. Specify what you want - a light shimmer, medium glow, dark bronze - and explain your skin type, so your therapist can pick the right tan for you. Follow the at-home after-care to the letter.
8 weeks to Christmas: 3 things to do this week
Up your moisturising game
Get into the habit of moisturising after each shower. The more hydrated your skin, the better your glow, and the less chance of getting a patchy tan.
Drink more water now
The easiest, quickest, cheapest way to glowing skin for the party season!
Do a tanning trial run
If you're keen to try out a new tan or tanning technique, now is the time to do it.
Self tan essentials
Beauty experts know they are only as good as the tools they use, and when it comes to tan there are lots of handy helpers on the market. Here are some of the newest tanning aids to help you get your glow on.
● The Tanning Mitt
Along with plastic gloves, a tanning mitt is an essential tanning tool, no matter what formula you are using - cream, gel, oil, mousse, gradual, long-lasting... Generic versions are available from €5 from pharmacies, and most tans come with their own mitt included. As I said before, I don't think it's worth spending a fortune on a mitt you will only get a limited number of uses out of. I use the Bellamianta Luxury Tanning Mitt (€9.50, from pharmacies nationwide) as it's very big and soft and makes seamless blending a cinch.
● The tanning roller
The roller is a relatively new tanning tool. It's useful for covering large areas of the body, but to be honest I find that you still have to blend the tan by hand anyway. The best I have used is the Skinny Tan Luxury Application Roller (€16.99, from Boots nationwide).
● The tanning Brush
Think of the Black Magic Tan Body Blending Brush (€15, from pharmacies nationwide or blackmagictan.ie) as you would a very large foundation brush. Packed tight like a kabuki make-up brush, this covers large areas quickly and gives a beautiful blended finish. Best for the experienced DIY tanner.
● The tan remover
Another handy tool for your arsenal is a tan remover. Please don't be tempted to apply new tan over old, patchy tan - this is the quickest way to a splotchy, speckled look! Black Magic Tan Foaming Spray Tan Remover (€18, from pharmacies nationwide or blackmagictan.ie) has green tea extract, jojoba, argan oil, aloe vera and witch hazel, to leave skin soft and smooth for the perfect tanning result.
● The back tanner
Sick of asking people to put fake tan on your back - or worse, trying to do it yourself and leaving splotches you can't see? Check out this handy little tanning helper: the Bronzie Got Your Back Tanning Mitt (€19.95, from pharmacies nationwide). It's like a tanning towel that gets to all the hard-to-reach (and see) areas, like the back and the back of the legs and shoulders. Genius!
6 of the best self tanners
● Best instant/wash-off tan
Pippa O'Connor swears by Vita Liberata Body Blur Instant HD Skin Finish (€42.99, from pharmacies nationwide), which also acts as an illuminating, skin-blurring body make-up. This gorgeous all-over-body product can be used on the face (sparingly) and looks unreal in photos. Apply with a mitt, leave to dry and you're party-ready in minutes! It washes off in the shower. For a more budget-friendly option, try Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs (€13.99, pharmacies nationwide) in fair, medium and dark. This must be applied with a mitt to properly blend, and I find it quite difficult to remove in the shower.
● Best gradual tanner/shower tanner
This gradual tanner seems a bit wacky, in that you apply it wet after soaping in the shower. Rimmel Sunshimmer In-Shower Self Tan Hydrating Lotion (€13.99, from pharmacies nationwide) only takes one minute to activate - simply apply all over your body, then towel-dry gently. So handy! The tan builds up after each application.
● Best body tan
Skinny Tan Mousse (€29.99, from Boots nationwide) is a cinch to apply and leaves a beautiful honeyed tone to the skin - no Oompa Loompa hues, I promise! Famous for using a caffeine ingredient to help reduce cellulite, and jam-packed with natural skin hydrators, this is a multi-tasking tanning gem. The tan will last for a week easily, if you moisturise daily.
● Best face tanner
Do you really need a tanner specifically for your face, or is it just marketing encouraging us to buy more products? I absolutely think it's essential to use a face-specific tan that's non-comodogenic, has a smaller molecular structure and has buckets of added skin-hydrating properties - which means no spots, no face dryness and no tightness. With a good quality facial product, you hydrate as you tan. Remember to apply on and behind your ears, down the neck and around the back of your neck. James Read Sleep Mask Tan Face (€35, from Marks & Spencer, Meaghers pharmacies nationwide, and Callan & Co, Dublin 4) is hands down the best face tan I have ever used.
● Best organic
For pregnant or breast-feeding women, or those recovering from illness or looking to eliminate chemical nasties from their skincare routine, check out this all-natural option. TanOrganic Self Tan Lotion, (€20.50, from health-food stores nationwide) is the world's only Eco Certified tan, made from 84pc aloe vera - beetroot is used to achieve the tanning colour. It has no fake-tan odour and is brilliant for sensitive skin. Free from harsh chemicals, parabens, colours and fragrances.