A while back I wrote a post describing how men can maximize their looks by tending to the three Fs: fitness, follicles, and fashion. Women can do the same by tending to their three Fs: figure, face, and fashion. Also, I just want to clarify that looking good should not just be for the purpose of attracting a husband or boyfriend. Looking good will improve your life mentally, emotionally, and physically, and give you greater confidence – which will in turn make you more attractive to the opposite sex. For my Christian readers, I suppose this is where I’m supposed to remind you that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, and that the Holy Spirit don’t want to live in no junk! Very generally speaking, though, I think that the state of the body is a partial reflection of spiritual health. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the United States is experiencing both a spiritual quagmire and an obesity epidemic. But I’ll save that for another post.
Back to the point of this post, though, which is how women can maximize their appearance! Obviously I have more to say on this because (a) I am a woman, and therefore have personal experience with most of the issues that women face in this area, and (b) there’s simply more that women have to do to pass muster.
Unfortunately for women, men value a woman’s figure much more than women value a man’s physique. For many men, the poundage you carry will make the difference between whether he sees you as the Eternal Friend With A Good Personality or as the Potential Wife. This means that unless you’re naturally slender and don’t put on weight easily, you’re going to have to watch what you eat and get regular exercise. In other words, you will have to develop some self-discipline if you don’t already have it.
Eat greater amounts of lean protein, fruits, and vegetables, and drink more water. Limit starchy and greasy foods and high-sugar drinks like fruit juices and sodas. (Sodas are empty calories to the max. Eating Special K for breakfast is worthless if you’re chugging down two Big Gulps a day.) Stay away from processed foods like TV dinners and “instant” meals where you add water and stick it in the microwave. These are usually high in salt and fat…hello, water retention! Learn the basics of cooking if you don’t know how to cook; not only will your food prep be healthier, your food bill will also decrease. I recommend Betty Crocker Cooking Basics as a starter cookbook if you really don’t know what you’re doing in the kitchen. This book has easy-to-follow instructions, great photos, and recipes that won’t make you the next Bobby Flay but will enable you to make tasty meals with common ingredients.
For singles who are cooking for one, a toaster oven or a small George Foreman grill are really easy ways to bake or grill meats in single servings. I also tend to buy frozen vegetables and nuke them in the microwave. Frozen vegetables take the pressure off trying to eat perishable foods fast enough.
Find an exercise plan that you can stick to and easily incorporate into your life. Don’t join a gym if you’re only going to go once a month or if you’re too shy to use the equipment in front of strangers. Don’t buy expensive home gym equipment or faddish workout DVDs. Unless you are really passionate about exercise, don’t invest in anything that requires you to spend an hour a day working out; you will run out of enthusiasm quickly and then be stuck with a bulky or expensive (or both) investment that you don’t use. My preferred methods of exercising are brisk walking around the neighborhood and a core strengthening Pilates DVD. Walking briskly for 20-25 minutes three times a week will take at least an inch off each thigh; it will also tighten up your booty and tone your calves. Plus, it’s free, which is everyone’s favorite price. If you’re the type of person who needs some accountability, recruit a friend and go walking together. Just keep the pace brisk; you should be slightly out of breath at the end. The Pilates DVD has helped to tone up my thighs, abs, glutes, and arms, but even better is the added endurance for sitting, standing, and walking.
Another option to try, if you are willing to spend some money, is Wii Fit Plus for the Nintendo Wii. One of my friends has it, and it is a blast. It has so many different exercise options that you won’t get stuck in a rut. Also, the exercises are short. Wii Fit Plus also has the ability to track your progress. If you’re motivated by visible results and are more electronically inclined, Wii Fit Plus may be for you. Another bonus is that you can exercise in the privacy of your living room or wherever you have a TV.
Overall, the goal for feminine fitness should be to have a healthy body for your body type. Don’t be discouraged that you don’t have the body of a millionaire supermodel or actress. Those women’s JOB is having a perfect body, and only a very small percentage of women have the genes that make them eligible for that job, anyway. And a lot of even those women struggle with maintaining their figures. (Also…most eligible men in your circle will never have a chance with a woman of Hollywood-caliber looks. Only the most delusional man is going to hold out for the Christian version of Jessica Alba or Megan Fox — and even if one showed up at church, who’s to say she’d go for him? Most men, when faced with the choice of a real live woman who takes care of herself vs. his imagination, will choose the real live woman.)
After figures, most men are interested in a woman’s face. While underlying bone structure more or less determines who’s the fairest of them all, every woman can maximize her facial beauty by taking care of her skin and smartly using makeup to enhance her best features and downplay her, um, not so perfect ones.
A good complexion is a marker of good health, which, for obvious reasons, is attractive. Eating right and drinking water will improve anyone’s complexion. Also, find a skin care regimen that works for you. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but you should be cleansing your face in the morning and at night before you go to bed. Also, use moisturizer. Moisturizer keeps the skin hydrated, which allows light to reflect more evenly and gives you a more youthful, luminous glow. Finally, use sunscreen to help protect yourself from sun damage, which will age your skin. A lot of moisturizers come in versions that include sunscreen, so you can kill two birds with one stone. (My skincare for years has been Mary Kay’s Timewise cleanser for oily skin and moisturizer with SPF 15. I have tried other products periodically, but none have kept me from breaking out and made my skin soft the way that the MK Timewise does.)
Brows are an area that is often ignored by fashion and beauty articles. Well-groomed eyebrows will make your face look more refined and more feminine. If you’ve never had your brows waxed (or threaded), especially if you have thick or bushy brows, consider having your brows done.* Done right, they will help shape your face, open up your expression, and draw more attention to your eyes. If you have thin, light eyebrows, you can fill in your brows with a brow pencil or powder. Brows that are too dark and overpowering can be lightened with bleach.
* Make sure your brows are done by an esthetician. Hairdressers usually don’t specialize in brows, making it more probable that the experience will hurt and/or that she will mess up in some way. I know this from personal experience.
There is actually some debate in Christian circles over whether or not women should wear makeup. I obviously think it’s okay, but I don’t think any woman should feel pressured to wear it because otherwise she’s a failure as a woman.
The basic purpose of makeup is to enhance your best features and downplay your worst ones. Exactly how much makeup or the types of products you use are up to your preference, but a good makeup job will not draw attention to the makeup. It also doesn’t matter so much whether you use expensive or drugstore products. Everyone’s skin is different and will react to makeup differently. What I do like about higher-end makeup, though, are a couple of things. One is the opportunity to test it in the store at the counter. Just because it looks a certain way in the tube doesn’t mean it’s going to look that way on your face — or stay that color as you’re wearing it. I also think higher-end stuff has better color selection for foundations…I find that drugstore foundations tend to be too pink or too peachy. The other main reason is that I generally find higher-end makeup to wear better: it goes on more smoothly, it blends more easily, it lasts longer, and you don’t need to use as much as you would with cheaper stuff.
If you’re not very familiar with makeup, here’s a quick primer on different products and their uses:
Foundation – Used to even out your skin tone, hide blemishes and redness. Comes in liquid, powder, or creme forms; finish can be matte or luminous. Foundation should match your skin tone and not leave a visible line of demarcation on your jaw line; your face and neck should match. Good foundation also helps to control oil and shine on the face. For those not needing the coverage of foundation, tinted moisturizer is a sheer option. Foundation is often set with loose or pressed powder. (You just dust it over your face with a brush or puff.)
Blush – Highlights the cheeks, can also be used to contour the face (e.g., make a round face or nose look narrower, shorten a long face, accentuate the cheekbones). Comes in powder and creme forms.
Mascara – Lengthens, thickens, and/or adds curl to lashes. Gives color to pale lashes. The most common colors are black and brown, but you can also find blues, greens, and purples. If you have small eyes, using a lash curler before applying mascara can help your eyes look larger.
Lipstick – Adds color to the lips. Intensity ranges from sheer to shiny to matte…really, every finish and color are available. Lip gloss adds shine to the lips and also comes in a variety of colors, though the pigmentation won’t be as intense as with lipstick (ergo, a good choice for a younger girl).
In my opinion, these four products are the main ones you need for a basic, everyday face. If you want to add more emphasis to the eyes, you can use eyeliner and eyeshadow, but these can be a little trickier to use. A lot of women make the mistake of not blending and using colors that are too harsh for their skin tone, so they end up looking like raccoons with hard, black lines ringing their eyes. This is a cheap look. You want to avoid that.
For some good makeup tutorials, I recommend the pixiwoo channel on YouTube. It’s run by a couple of English sisters who are professional makeup artists. They know their stuff, plus they’re very personable and lots of fun to listen to with their accents.
Oops, this post got really long, so I’m going to split it into two parts. Stay tuned for my Very Important thoughts on fashion.