The Best Pre-Wedding Skin-Care Prep, Depending On How Much Time You Have

In a fairytale wedding, the tablescapes are set up in a snap of the magic fingers and songbirds style your hair. In real life, there are quite a few things you'll need to sort out before you can safely dive headfirst into your happily-married future: bank accounts (will you consolidate them?), life-insurance policies (have you taken one out on your future spouse, just in case?), your prior divorce (are you absolutely certain it is final, in the eyes of the law?)...

Planning a wedding is stressful, but getting the best skin of your life ahead of your big day doesn't have to be. Sure, you're not Meghan Markle, and nobody is paying roughly $45 million to make sure everything is absolutely perfect (with only two hairs out of place), but with the right approach, you, too, can have the blissful glow of someone who just married into royalty, maybe.

Whether you have a year, an hour, or half a lifetime leading up to the vows, here's everything you need to know about doing pre-wedding skin-care prep your way.

So you have dinner reservations for Le Cirque at the Bellagio at 6:30, and you're headed to the altar at 8. Life is full of surprises! The only problem with spontaneity is embedded in the very essence of it, which is that it doesn't give you much time to prepare.

While the Elvis impersonator that's doing the honors is smoothing down his sideburns in the bathroom mirror of a bar on the Strip, go ahead and start by washing away last night's mascara with a gentle cream cleanser. Pat skin dry, then smooth on an AHA mask before rinsing with cool water to calm inflammation and make pores look smaller and tighter. Just be sure not to exceed the allotted time with your mask, or you'll risk looking more Bloody Mary than blushing bride.
With just four weeks to go before the big day, it's completely normal to feel a lot of mixed emotions: excitement; joy; exhaustion; anxiety; fear; resentment; worry; dread; the sudden and overwhelming sense, real or imagined, that maybe this isn't what you really want after all and it's never ever going to feel right and oh my god is it too late to call the whole thing off and —

Now's a good time to distract yourself by engaging in radical acts of vanity. Depending on your budget, you can go big — facials, Gua sha, microdermabrasion, placenta treatments, bathing in red wine, leech stuff — or stay home. With more hard-working, highly effective options available on the market than ever, you don't necessarily need to seek professional help while gearing up for the date. Professional skin-care help, that is. Why, what were you thinking?
The venue is booked, the safety deposit is down, the custom wax-sealed invitations are out, and the hard stuff is out of the way, mostly. You're still trying to decide between whimsical flower arrangements or stately candelabras for the main centerpiece on each table, but you have a feeling the answer will come to you at some point when you least expect it, perhaps in a dream.

Good skin, sadly, will not. Six months might feel like forever, and the concept of time in and of itself is an illusion, but the clock is ticking. Instead of emailing 15 of your closest friends three times a day about planning a totally amazing, wildly expensive destination bachelorette blowout that they'll all resent you for until the end of days, do... something else. Literally anything. Book 26 weekly facials? Fine. First-time fillers, to give them time to wear off in case you hate it? Great — whatever will keep you out of that group text for a day or two.
Before the time crunch really kicks into high gear in a few months, take the opportunity to start forming smarter habits — no quick-fix treatment can ever take the place of a solid routine that builds the foundation on which consistently good skin stands. If you don't already cleanse, tone, and moisturize morning and night, and wear daily SPF religiously, for the love of god, do it now. Add a retinoid to your life; use it a couple times a week at first until you build up some tolerance, then as often as your skin can handle.

Get really into this whole routine thing, if you can! The ritualistic nature of it will give you something mindless and pleasant to focus on when you've been on the same passive-aggressive email chain with your mom, your mother-in-law, and the party planner for the past six weeks and your grandpa calls you from his landline to tell you he's not coming unless you promise to raise your children in the church.
Look, there are a few explanations as to why your prospective wedding date might be eight years — or more — into the future, and none of them are wrong. Maybe you've been dating since college, and you know the day will come eventually; you just haven't made it official yet. Maybe you don't even believe in the marriage institution, but you want to be prepared anyway, just in case. Or maybe you've been planning your wedding ever since you were 10 and watched your parents tie the knot on VHS for the first time! It takes all kinds.

Whatever your reason, rejoice, for you have already given yourself the greatest gift there is: time. Preventative skin care is the name of your game, not to mention making the right lifestyle choices; don't drink, don't smoke, don't use harsh physical exfoliants, don't pick, pop, or squeeze. Don't do anything, really. Live in a glass case. Consume only Smartwater, air, and the leaves of rare trees. Once a fortnight, let your forehead be caressed by the wings of a pure white dove. Or just do a sheet mask every once in a while instead.
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