Beauty ER! Expert Fixes For 10 Primping Disasters

[Update: This story was originally published on April 6, 2012. We've all fallen prey to a beauty disaster or two. See our quick fixes from experts on how to save face (and nail and hair and leg and….)]
Whether it’s your skin freaking out, your colorist giving you a brassy ‘do, or a run-in with some streaky self-tanner, beauty drama can seriously (and literally) mess with your head. We feel you: R29 editors have battled everything from vanishing eyebrows to being dumped by their colorist via text message (true story).
Since we don’t want you guys to suffer the same emotional distress we’ve battled through, we gathered our 10 worst horror stories, and set up a team of top-notch beauty pros to tell you how to fix them — and how to avoid the problems in the first place. As Mary J. Blige says, "no more drama."
Spill: What's your worst beauty horror story?
Illustration by Ammiel Mendoza
1 of 10
Trauma: "I got a gel manicure and didn't have time to go back to the salon to get it removed when it started chipping. It's now been on my nails for the past two weeks and looks all grown-out and gross. How do I get it off my nails without having to go back to the salon, or, how do I hide it until it grows out completely?"

On-Call Beauty Doctor: Marie Barokas, manicurist at John Barrett Salon

Prescription: "Although I do recommend having a nail professional remove your gel manicure, it is possible to remove it at home with a few simple tools. Purchase 100% acetone from your local drugstore or beauty supply store. You will also need cotton, foil, an orangewood stick, buffer, and cuticle oil.

Start by cutting 10 squares of foil to fit comfortably around the tip of your finger without slipping off. Generously soak a cotton ball in acetone, place it on top of the nail, and wrap the foil around the finger as tight as possible. This can be done one hand at a time if you are taking it off by yourself. Wait no less than 10 minutes before twisting and firmly pulling off each wrap. You may see some gel residue on the nail after pulling off the wraps. If so, use your orangewood stick and gently push off the remainder of the product in a downward motion, starting from the top of the cuticle and moving down to the bottom of the nail. If the product does not easily slide off the nail you may need to repeat the foil wrap step.

Then, using a fine buffer, buff the surface of the nail in a downward motion to remove any last traces of product. After the nails have been rid of all product, wash your hands and apply cuticle oil to each nail for hydration."

Illustration by Emily Kowzan
2 of 10
Trauma: "Every time I have an important event that requires me to look my best, I get a honking zit. What can I do the night before to shrink that bad boy down, and what can I do the day of to hide it altogether?"

On-Call Beauty Doctor: Stuart Kaplan, M.D.

Prescription: "The most important thing is DON'T PICK the pimple. Ideally, you should see your dermatologist so you can have the pimple properly drained. If you are not able to see your derm, then first, wash your face and apply warm compresses with even pressure to the pimple for 30 minutes. After the warm compress, apply an over-the-counter acne medication with at least 10% benzoyl peroxide. If you get frequent whiteheads and cysts, the best thing to do is visit your dermatologist early on, and get a prescription strength 20% benzoyl periode cream to keep on hand for emergencies like this.

If you pick the pimple, or try to 'scrub it off,' you will rip the top of the skin off, and it will create a scab. To avoid scarring if you have already ripped the top of the pimple off, you can see your dermatologist to get a prescription for Biafine, which speeds the skin healing process. If you cannot see a dermatologist, try an over-the-counter antibiotic cream, like Neosporin, to help speed up the healing process, then apply concealer."

Illustration by Emily Kowzan
3 of 10
Trauma: "One time I went to get my hair cut (I've always had long hair so this was traumatizing enough already), and I was feeling a little sassy. I was wearing a square-necked shirt and decided to cut my hair to the neckline. I pointed at it and 40 grueling minutes later, I had a long bob and tears in my eyes. That's when I discovered 'the ponytail,' which I wore for about 6 months until it grew back."

On-Call Beauty Doctor: Ammon Carver, Matrix artistic director

Prescription: "Well, if the haircut is that bad, then you are on the right track with the ponytail. Get creative with headbands and braids — both are very on trend and will hide your horrible hair until it grows out and you can get in to see your stylist.

While I can't say cutting your own hair is ever a good idea, if you absolutely cannot live with the cut you have and cannot get into a salon, then enlist the help of one of your good friends. Cutting a clean, balanced line is MUCH easier from someone else's perspective."

Illustration by Ammiel Mendoza
4 of 10
Trauma: "I got my eyebrows waxed and I don't have much to work with as it is, so when they were done with me my eyebrows were so thin that you could barely see them at all! What's a browless girl to do?"

On-Call Beauty Doctor: Anastasia Soare, eyebrow expert and founder of Anastasia Beverly Hills

Prescription: "The best way to advise a new brow artist is to cover up areas that you do not want her to remove with brow pencil — just ask her to wax or tweeze around it. Also, avoid brow threading. It's a method of hair removal that doesn't follow a line or template like wax does.

Leaving your arch to grow in naturally can take six months or more, as hair grows back in sparse patches. During the growth process, you will need the right products to help stimulate growth quickly. Try a peptide-enhanced growth stimulating serum, like my Brow Enhancing Serum Advanced.

If your brows are over-tweezed and you'd like them to look fuller, use a dry wooden brow pencil — it has a harder formula and will fill in thin lines of color without the heavier look of a mechanical pencil, which tends to be waxy. If you don't want any color at all, use a clear wax pencil to groom your brows and train stubborn, spiky hairs to grow upward in the direction of the arch."

Illustration by Eddie Larios
5 of 10
Trauma: "I tried to liven up my pasty skin with a faux glow, but wound up looking like a sunburned zebra. How do I fix streaky self-tanner in a bind?"

On-Call Beauty Doctor: Denise Schoenberger, spa manager at Clarins Skin Spa

Prescription: "Exfoliation is the key to a non-streaky application. Also, make sure to moisturize dry patches such as ankles, elbows, and the knee are. The moisturizer will prevent any of the self-tanner from settling into the dry spots, which is what causes streaks and spots.

If you already have streaks, you can exfoliate the skin to lighten the color, and then apply a bronzer to even out the area."

Illustration by Isabelle Rancier
6 of 10
Trauma: "I tried to cut my own bangs and ended up with a lopsided fringe. Whoops."

On-Call Beauty Doctor: Ammon Carver, Matrix artistic director

Prescription: "Ah, the old lopsided fringe — without a doubt the most common issue that comes into the salon. My suggestion would be to sport a cute braid through the front, or pull your hair back with pins until you can have your stylist fix it.

If you have botched your bangs and cannot get in to see your stylist, here's how to fix your fringe in an emergency: Secure the rest of your hair out of the way with clips to make sure you are only working with the hair in your bangs. Comb the hair exactly how you want it to fall, and cut the hair with the tip of the scissors parallel to the hair, so that you can softly even out the fringe without creating chunks or choppiness. Be patient — take a little at a time and keep checking in the mirror for balance. Just do enough to make the bangs bearable, then schedule a bang trim with your stylist ASAP."

Illustration by Ammiel Mendoza
7 of 10
Trauma: "Maybe I've just been overdoing it with the nail art, but recently my nails have been extremely brittle, thin, and take FOREVER to grow back. Is there anything I can do to make my nails healthier?"

On-Call Beauty Doctor: Marie Barokas, manicurist at John Barrett Salon

Prescription: "I recommend a reconditioning hot oil manicure for people with brittle nails. Warm up olive oil in a small bowl nestled inside another bowl that's filled with hot water. Right before bedtime, soak your nails for 10 minutes in the oil — the heat aids in the absorption. To get all the moisturizing benefits, don't wash your hands afterward.

Perform this hot oil manicure once a week and follow up with a nail strengthener to prevent any splitting and peeling of the nail. I would suggest Essie Millionails to improve strength and growth. Use once a week for three weeks. If you are sensitive to formaldehyde, use a protein hardener — a combination of clear polish and a protein, such as collagen."

Illustration by Isabelle Rancier
8 of 10
Trauma: "I had the same colorist for almost five years. Nothing fancy, just a single-process rinse that I did a few times a year to brighten my red hair. Then, all of a sudden, my color 'changed.' One time, it had a pink tint (had to have it redone), another time, I had a strip down my part (another redo), and on the most recent visit, I came home and my fiancé said, 'Wow! You colored your hair brown!' In a cowardly text, I asked her if she could fix it. She replied that clearly, I was looking for something she could no longer provide and that I needed to find a new person. No fix, no explanation — I was now a sad brunette, dumped via text by a crappy colorist. Help!"

On-Call Beauty Doctor: Kyle White, lead colorist at the Oscar Blandi Salon

Prescription: "There are a multitude of things that can cause hair to change color, even though the colorist is using the same formula. A good colorist will analyze the hair, see that it's in a different state, and adjust the formula accordingly to produce the same results as the first time.

Consistency in a hair colorist is a rare and wonderful thing. If you have to go back for more than one re-do, then your colorist is not getting it and never will. You should be dumping her. Everyone deserves a second chance, but that's it, in my book. You need to find someone who gets you, your hair type, and what you’re looking for, so stop wasting your time (and theirs). There is also a strong chance that they can make it worse, or might damage your hair with more chemicals. You should not have to pay for a redo and I doubt they would expect you to, but if they do, just politely ask to speak to the manager, and explain that you have tried twice to get the color you want and you don't feel comfortable going for a third. Any decent salon will refund your money and you'll be on your way."

Trying a new colorist is like going on a blind date: If you get a bad vibe, or they don't seem to understand what you’re asking for, DO NOT book an appointment with them. You shouldn't have to spend twenty minutes explaining the hair color you want. If you do, that's a big red flag."

Illustration by Ammiel Mendoza
9 of 10
Trauma: "My skin is dry, peeling, and flaking and I cannot fix it. I've tried all types of creams and nothing is working. What do I do?"

On-Call Beauty Doctor: Stuart Kaplan, M.D.

Prescription: "There are different medical conditions that cause peeling and flaking skin, such as eczema, contact dermatitis, or seborrheic dermatitis. Seborrheic dermatitis usually causes skin dryness between the eyebrows, in the sideburn area, in and around the ears, and sides of the nose. Contact dermatitis and eczema can occur anywhere on your body.

For home remedies, try an over-the-counter, 1% hydrocortisone cream to treat eczema, contact dermatitis, or seborrheic dermatitis. However, if it is specifically seborrheic dermatitis, try Nizoral 1%. If your condition does not improve after 3-4 days, consult your dermatologist for a proper diagnosis and prescription creams."

Illustration by Emily Kowzan
10 of 10
Trauma: "Unfortunately, there are those of us who are just born hairy. Creams can burn, and shaving leaves behind unfortunate marks, especially in visible areas or on sensitive skin. Is there any way to permanently remove hair that doesn't cost a fortune?"

On-Call Beauty Doctor: Cindy Barshop, owner of Completely Bare salons

Prescription: "To have hair permanently removed, the best option is laser hair removal. Initially, it's more expensive than minimizing hair growth or temporarily removing hair. However, at some point you break even because you're saving on waxing. For instance, if you buy a laser package for about $1,210, that's really about the same amount you would spend on 20 visits at $40 each for a basic bikini wax at the spa.

Other options for non-permanent removal include waxing, shaving, or a depilatory. To get the best wax possible, make sure hair is 1/4-inch long and exfoliate before your service. Use a hair inhibitor in between waxing appointments. Shave only very fine hair and make sure skin is moist. Be sure to shave in the opposite direction of the hair growth with a new razor. For those prone to ingrowns, a depilatory is recommended. Keep in mind that this is an acid, so it’s important to test it on a small area on your body and use a timer."

Illustration by Emily Kowzan

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