Style means never having to say you're sorry for being well-groomed
I love the old fashioned term "grooming." As a fashion designer and lifelong observer of style, I think beautiful grooming is what takes a person's appearance to the next level. These days, grooming isn't just for dogs and metrosexuals.
According to recent statistics, billions of dollars are spent annually on beauty care. Whether you care for your nails, lips, and eyebrows as automatically as you brush your teeth or save it for special occasions, grooming is an indisputable part of modern life.
Here's a roundup of some of the best options on the market -- from splurges worthy of a red carpet appearance to do-it-yourself fixes.
Splurge for hands & feet
The Hands On Spa Boutique is one of the most quietly pampering places on the face of the earth. Owner Don Conner describes his spa and boutique -- which carries high end sandals, tee shirts, totes and jewelry -- as a modern day haberdashery. The luxury manicures and pedicures will make you feel like royalty (Jamie Foxx indulged before collecting his Oscar.) An upstairs Zen-like massage facility accommodates massages and facials. While almost every A-lister in Hollywood has been in at some point, the atmosphere is surprisingly tranquil.
No matter what spa or salon you choose, make sure that you have a great experience by arriving a few minutes early. If you booked an appointment at Hands On, you'll want time to browse their excellent selection of clothes and accessories. Bring sandals or flip flops if you're getting a pedicure and a sweater in case it's chilly in the salon. Hands On Spa Boutique is located at 243 South Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, CA. (310) 860-0137
Do-it-yourself spa alternatives for hands
Creative Nail Design co-founder Jan Arnold, whose team is responsible for most of the nails seen on fashion runways as well as big events like the Grammys, provides three tips for maintaining great hand health:
1) Regular care of some sort -- do something quickly at home, even if it's only five minutes a week. Keep your length under control. Nails grow fast, and if you don't manage hang nails and breaking nails, it can be a downward spiral.
2) Conditioning -- using regular conditioner on hands and nails -- is one of best things you can do. Creative Nail Design's Solar Oil (a favorite of Elton John) has a cumulative effect every time it's used, going deeper into the layers of the nail. This waterproofs the nail, adds resilience, softens and keeps the cuticle area healthy and clean.
3) Keep nails coated -- use anything from one clear coat to gel or polymer. A coating prevents nails from getting scratched and acts to protect them from the elements.
Do-it-yourself spa alternatives for feet
Creative Nail Design's sea-inspired SpaPedicure products are made from all-natural ingredients taken from plant life from the sea. It's truly one of the most delicious lines on the market. On days when you're too tired to go to a salon but really want to pamper yourself, start with their Foaming Sea Soak. Next, exfoliate with their gentle aromatic AHA foot scrub (it feels like marshmallow with little grains). Then massage the blue Marine Masque onto your feet, wrap them in a towel for a few minutes and rinse. I promise you'll feel amazingly rejuvenated. For more products and information go to creativenaildesign.com.
Renowned celebrity manicurist Firozé says a weekly manicure is essential to keep your nails and hands looking their best. But if you don't have time to make it in to the nail salon, she suggests, "Use cream on your hands two to three times daily. Push your cuticles back after each shower with a towel. Once a week, file nails after showering when they're supple and easier to shape, and then apply a base coat with a translucent color." Try Nora Jones' favorite Firozé shade "Goddess" or the Firozé French Manicure kit favored by Oprah. These fabulous products can be ordered at firoze.com.
On-the-go feet (and a good cause)
Made with essential oils of bergamot, tea tree and lemon with finely-ground yellow topaz gemstones and shea butter, Artemis Woman Topaz Foot Butter is an incredibly effective way to soothe and awaken your tired feet. Artemis Woman co-founder, Lisa Kable, survived breast cancer and created the product to honor the men and women who dedicate their lives to fighting the disease. A portion of profits are donated to finding a cure. $24.99 at artemiswoman.com.
The Lip Kit by Dr Bruce Freund is the ultimate kit for kissable lips in a pinch. Around 92% of women use lipstick each day, but the truth is we're still more likely to apply a body cream or get a facial than we are to properly care for our lips, even though they're one of the most exposed areas of our skin. This new beauty "must-have" is available in a cute travel pouch that comes with a lip exfoliator, vitamin E stick, filler, plumper, and sealer for picture perfect lips. $59.95 thelipclinic.com.
On-the-go lip tips
If you're short on time, Dr Freund suggests keeping lips supple by exfoliating lips gently with a soft toothbrush. Brush clean, wash with a cloth and apply a lip balm with sunscreen for extra moisture and protection.
Frame the window of your soul: eyebrow splurge
Have a pro do it. This is a great investment because you can maintain the shape yourself afterward. Makeup artist Julie Michaud is famous for making her clients' brows look flattering, subtle and pretty. Before opening her Boston salon, she painted and tweezed supermodels Kate Moss, Nicki Taylor, Helena Christensen, and Bridget Moynihan. Julie says, "Fifteen years of experience have taught me that it's best to shape the brow to suit the face -- not suit the current fashion trend." Visit Julie's Studio at 69 Newburry Street, 5th Floor, Boston, MA. Call 1-888-2pretty or go to michaudcosmedix.com.
Eyebrow guru Ramy Gafni, whose clients run the gamut from Jane Pauley to Cher, feels essential brow equipment starts with slanted tweezers with a rounded tip. Ramy and Tweezerman teamed to create the Ramy Tweezer, which is more gentle on delicate skin around the eye.
Ramy also advises using makeup to fill the brows. His pomade (Miracle Brow) or pencil (Miracle Brow to Go) work wonders. Whichever you use, Ramy says, "Always opt for a color one shade lighter than your hair color. If in doubt, chose a universal shade, like taupe or light brown, which looks good on most people." RamySpa is located at 39 East 31st Street, New York. (212) 684-9500 or ramy.com.
No such thing as on-the-go brows
As any brow expert would be quick to point out, eyebrows should only be worked on when you can pay some mindful attention to them. An accidental mishap can happen only too quickly with your brows, so it's better not to think of them as something that can be done on the run. But like all good things, the effort is worth it.Makeup legend Peter Lamas, responsible for the lush makeup on the set of Titanic, has written one of the best guides to quick and easy tips for hair, skin and makeup to be found. Beauty Basics by Peter Lamas covers the art of creating a beautiful brow, and eyebrow shaping is broken down into a few simple steps. $7.99 at peterlamas.com.
The wonderful thing about grooming is that it's a great equalizer. While researching my new book, "The Slow Burn Woman," I found that history proves an impeccably-groomed woman can hold her own when positioned next to a stunning beauty. The secret to this is not worrying about the end result. The Mary Jo motto is to always focus on how good it feels to take care of yourself, and you'll be just fine -- no matter what supermodel walks into the room!