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Teen Beauty: 20 Beauty Secrets Every Teen Girl Should Know

Or, What I Wish I Knew 25 Years Ago When I Was a Teen

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When I was a teenager growing up in the Texas countryside, I had to get all my beauty tips from reading magazines. More than 10 years ago, I started writing about beauty and I've literally read 1000s of magazines, dozens of books, interviewed dozens of professionals and tried out 100s of products. 

What I would have paid to know as a teen what I know now. Even though I can't turn back the clock, I can share my very best beauty secrets with you. Here they are: the20 things I wish I knew when I was a teenager.

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Watch the foundation

In high school I wore a full face of Cover Girl liquid foundation every day despite the fact that I had pretty nice skin for a 16-year-old. I was a victim of "cake face," that matte look that screams to the world, "I wear loads of makeup." I had no idea then that heavy foundations are not meant to cover the entire face, they should be used judiciously -- to cover up only the uneven spots like the cheeks, around the nose and maybe the chin. Once the foundation is in place, you can then dot concealer on any ruddy or pimply spots the foundation doesn't cover.

Here's a secret I wish I knew then: gorgeous skin is dewy and natural and heavy foundations leave look looking anything but. A better bet than foundation is tinted moisturizer, which didn't exist when I was a teenager.

See How to Avoid "Cake Face"

You pat concealer in, you never rub it in

When I was younger, I used to slather concealer over my ruddy spots because tap, tap, tapping it in seemed like such a waste of time. The truth is tapping in it leaves your face looking much more flawless.

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Here's how to properly do it: put a bit of concealer on the pad of a finger and pat it in. Never rub. Got acne? Gently tap the concealer over the blemishes and then set it with powder.

Get more tips in How to Apply Concealer

Play up your lips or your eyes, never both

Ever notice how girls with heavy eye makeup and heavy lips can look overdone and a bit clownish? When it comes to making up your face, it's best to decide to play up either your eyes or your mouth, but never both. I'm not a huge fan of rules when it comes to beauty, but I pretty much always follow this one and I wish I knew this tip when I was a teen.

If you wear a smokey eye, go for nude lips with just a bit of gloss. Prefer the drama of dark lipstick? Keep face light (stay away from heavy blush) and wear only mascara on your eyes and a light eyeshadow. Don't heavily line your eyes. Play up both and you'll look like a clown. And never, ever line lips in a darker color than your gloss or lipstick.

See Play Up Your Eyes or Your Mouth, Never Both

Less is more during the day

Ever notice how some of your friends look their best with no makeup at all? No matter your age, there is such as thing as too much makeup. If you wear foundation, powder, blush, liner, mascara, eyeshadow, lip liner and gloss on an everyday basis, then you're probably overdoing it. Leave the heavier makeup to the evening and formal occasions and tone it down during the day: All you really need is a great mascara, concealer for blemishes and gloss. Add a pop of blush in winter.

See How to Apply Makeup

Oily hair? Dry shampoo to the rescue

I have to wash my hair every day or it will look greasy. But the truth is, I hate washing my hair every day. I get by on the days in between using dry shampoo (or baby powder) that I apply at my crown and roots and brush through. It soaks up excess oils like nothing else. 

Baby powder also works in a pinch. But it's best on blondes or girls with light brown hair. If you have dark hair, you might be better off with a dry shampoo crafted especially for your hair color.

See my list of the Best Dry Shampoos.

Bye-bye bad hair color

Ever see those girls with naturally dark hair and super blonde highlights the width of spaghetti? It's as if someone painted little lines in their hair (which is actually what they did). Not attractive. The secret to great hair color is hair that looks like you didn't pay to have it done. That said, some of the best hair color is so obviously not natural (think platinum, like this) but is so cool that everyone will want it. Either leave people guessing or leave them dying to ask where you get your hair done.

See Hair Color: The 6 Hottest Trends for inspiration

So when to do it yourself and when to head to a salon?

The general rule of thumb is to do your own hair if you are going only a shade or 2 lighter or darker. Anything more than that and you need a professional's help. Going from dark to blonde is actually a complicated process. You'll first have to strip hair of its natural color (this is called "bleaching"), then the stylist will color your hair blonde and possibly add a few highlights of darker and lighter strands to give hair definition. This is not something to try at home. But if you are dyeing a few strands blue or a couple shades darker, you can do it yourself.

See How to Dye Your Hair: 15 tips for at-home hair coloring

Vaseline is your best friend

I actually knew this tip as a teen -- that's actually where I learned it. Vaseline is a great product to have on hand for 2 reasons: it's a great eye makeup remover in a pinch and used with a toothbrush, it's the best lip exfoliator ever.

Here's how it works: Slather on a bunch of Vaseline, then use a toothbrush to massage lips. Wipe the excess off on a tissue. Your lips will be smooth and soft.

More amazing scaly lip tricks in How to Get Rid of Scaly Lips

You can never go wrong with layers

Long layers are great for any hair type: Super curly, straight or wavy. It makes thin hair appear thicker, curly hair appear manageable and wavy hair appear just-got-back-from-the-beach sexy. Just make sure you don't get too many layers cut in. Short, spiky layers and hair that's short on top and long on bottom (mullets!) can be dated.

Check out The Year's Hottest Hair Trends

Acne? Get thee to a dermatologist, stat

Biggest mistake people with bad acne make? Not going to a dermatologist. Forget those $150 jeans you covet. Getting rid of those pimples will be the best investment you'll ever make. And the only guaranteed way to do it is with a dermatologist.

That said, there are some great treatments out there for acne that isn't too bad. Find out more in my article, Acne & Teens: How to Treat Pimples (& Cover Them Up)

Spend money on key beauty products

There's no need to spend a lot of money on cleansers, makeup removers, polish removers and anything that doesn't stay on your face for very long. Why spend $60 on a fancy cleanser that touches your face for 1 minute a day? You can also find affordable moisturizers that won't break the bank but will leave your skin feeling soft and supple.

Not sure what to splurge on and what to save on? I give you the scoop in this article,Splurge or Save? Skincare, Makeup & Haircare Products. See if you should splurge or save on cleansers, mascara, concealer and more.

Buying foundation or lipstick? Test it first

There are some beauty products you simply must try out at a department store or Sephora before you buy. These include: Foundation, lipstick, blush and powder.

Buy these products in a grocery store and you'll be lucky if you picked the right color for your skin tone. What you can get away with without testing: Mascara, eye liner, most basic eye shadows and lip gloss.

Once you've bought it, how long until you should throw it out? Find out in What is the Shelf Life of Makeup?

The One Beauty Product You Should Never, Ever Skip

Had I known this trick when I was a teenager, I'd have fewer wrinkles as a 40-year-old. The first beauty product you should apply every day is sunscreen, even if it's cloudy or rainy outside. Why? Good habits start young and if you use sunscreen now, you'll have gorgeous skin when you're 50, 60, 70. Plus, the sun's UV rays can penetrate clouds and car windows.

Not all sunscreens are created equal. Get the scoop on the best ones in My List of the Top 10 Sunscreens Once you've bought it, how long until you should throw it out? Find out in What is the Shelf Life of Makeup?

The Secret to Sexy, Beachy Waves

There's nothing cooler than long, layered waves. Wavy hair is gorgeous on all hair lengths, from chin length to shoulder-length to long. To get them, wind hair AROUND the barrel of a large curling iron. Reverse direction for each 2-inch section (wind up for one, down for another).

Get the step-by-step instructions in How to Curl Hair: The Secret to Sexy, "Beachy" Waves

Self-tanner will always stink

Unfortunately, even the best ones smell. Your best bet is to apply self-tanner a good 24 hours before an important event and take a shower (don't loofah) to wash off any smell. For really big events like a dance or wedding, consider a professional spray tan. These are pricey and don't last long, so make sure to do it a day before the big event.

Find out why self tanners smell

Don't let nails go

Not into manicures and pedicures? No worries. Just make sure to keep nails clean and the same length. If you do want to paint them, don't keep the polish on until half of it's chipped away. Also, there's nothing worse than too-long toenails. Keep nails clipped between pedicures! People tend to judge others by the care they put into their hands and feet.

I share my best manicure secrets in How to Give Yourself a Manicure & the Secrets to Gorgeous Nails

Don't line the inside of your eyes

Of course you can line the inside of your eyes. There's no one stopping you. But keep in mind it will make your eyes appear smaller and who wants that? I love the look of a liquid liner on the top lid and a smudged pencil line on the bottom lid.

More tips and tricks on applying eyeliner in How to Apply Eyeliner

Shave legs at the end of the shower

Cut down on nicks and cuts by making shaving the very last step in your shower or bathing ritual.

See Top 10 Shaving Tips for more information.

Play up your best feature

What feature do people comment on most? Play it up. If you're told you have Angelina Jolie lips, make sure to wear gloss and play with bold lipstick colors. If it's your eye color people love, find eyeshadow colors that complement them and make sure to wear mascara. Also, know what color shirts look best on you and go shopping.

Save money by making your own scrubs and face mask

Why buy a $60 scrub or face mask when you can make one out of ingredients from your kitchen for pennies? All you need to slough off dead skin from your face and body is a homemade scrub made of 1 part oil and 2 parts sugar or salt. As for face masks, I have dozens of recipes for all skin types.

See Recipes: 25 Amazing Face Masks & Scrubs.

Remember: Beauty does come from within

Think about a girl you know who could stand to lose a few pounds yet all the guys love her. Why? Because she's confident. If you aren't wearing makeup and your toes haven't been repainted in weeks, if you're happy and smiling you will still be 10 times prettier than the mopey cheerleader sitting next to you in class. Trust me (wink).


Joanne Purvis