On your wedding day, of course you want everything to be perfect. And that includes your skin.
According to Neal Schultz, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City, starting a targeted skincare routine that will reverse, as well as prevent the skin issues that matter to you most is crucial because not only does it take several skin cycles (which average 28 days) to see noticeable changes, you also want to figure out which products and in-office treatments work — and which do not — for your specific skin needs. The result: plenty of #iwokeuplikethis skin long before you even say, “I do.”
3 Months Before
Focus on the basics. “Now is the time to optimize the foundations of your daily skincare routine — cleansing, moisturizing and daily sunscreen,” recommends Sejal Shah, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. Removing all traces of makeup and skincare residue morning and night, as well as excess oil ensures pores stay clear and pimples do not pop up, which you always want, but especially on your wedding day.
And it may seem like no big deal to skip here and there, but applying a face cream every morning and night can greatly impact your skin’s appearance. “Hydration helps maintain healthy skin — skin loses water throughout the day and moisturizers [prevent it,] replenish lost water and acts as a barrier,” Shah explains. Look for mega-hydrators such as hyaluronic acid (a molecule that holds up to 1000 times its weight in water!), glycerin or ceramides, and apply it to damp skin or immediately after a serum for even more moisturization.
And do not underestimate the power of daily sunscreen and an antioxidant serum. “Your skin is exposed to ultraviolet light everyday which not only causes dark spots but also skin cancer,” notes Shah. Pairing SPF with an antioxidant serum (think vitamin C, vitamin E, etc.), also helps “counteract harmful free radicals caused by UV, further protecting skin and preventing damage to brighten and even skin tone,” she adds.
Clear up acne and blemishes. “Be consistent with using acne treatments that contain salicylic and benzoyl peroxide directly to pimples to make them go away faster so that you don’t get any marks after they heal,” says Schultz.
If breakouts are a major skin concern and a new one seems to pop up as soon as an old one clears, visit a dermatologist for in-office and prescription-strength treatments, which may include pro-peels every few weeks to help boost cell turnover and prevent clogs as well as an oral antibiotic to help rid bacteria from the inside-out. (The good news is, says Schultz, that most insurance plans will cover the treatment of acne.) Celebrity facialist Renee Rouleau suggests doing pro peels, too. “Depending on the strength of the peels, you would do a series between two and three months out from your wedding date,” she explains. “You can go in once a week or twice a week or even twice a month just depending on what your professional recommends.”
Zap red and brown spots. Post-pimple marks can be red or brown, and cumulative sun damage can also cause a surge in pigment and brown spots that never go away. In-office treatments which have relatively low down time can make dark spots totally disappear.
Schultz’s top picks are YAG laser, Alexandrite laser or intense pulsed light (IPL). (Note: starting pro treatments now is important because they can take two to three months to see results, plus you may need more than one IPL treatment a few weeks apart. If removing spots is up there on your wedding skin checklist, you may even bump them up to six months prior, he notes.)
If you only have a few subtle marks that you want to fade, opt for at-home topicals that contain glycolic acid, vitamin C or arbutin, suggests Schultz.
“Kojic and arbutin prevent new pigment from forming; while vitamin C, if it is the tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, does both fade and prevent. Vitamin C also ties up tyrosinase, which is the enzyme that makes the pigment. Glycolic acid removes existing pigment by removing the layers of dead cells heaped one on top of another which have too much melanin in them.”
2 Months Before
Book a Botox or filler appointment for filtered skin IRL. “If you’ve never had Botox or filler, now is a great time to schedule your first treatment,” says Shah. “Botox softens forehead lines, glabellar lines (“11” lines between your brows), and wrinkles around your eyes. Fillers can be used to replenish volume for example, under eyes, cheeks and lips and for deeper lines, such as nasolabial folds, which curve downward from your nose and around the sides of your mouth.” For his regular Botox and filler patients, Schultz says he backs into the wedding date to determine the timing of their treatments over six to 12 months.
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Focus on your eyes. “The eye area is the area that wrinkles before any other place and is the area that women complain to me about first,” says Schultz, who recommends using a hydrating eye cream in the morning and a gentle exfoliating glycolic eye cream at night. And while it may seem counterintuitive, “Eye products should go on before any of your other products — it creates a barrier to this sensitive skin and prevents what you apply next from migrating there.”
Try an in-office treatment that creates sculpted cheekbones. Shah recommends Vivace, a radiofrequency microneedling treatment, that delivers amazing results to all her brides-to-be. Before the treatment, a numbing cream is applied for 30 to 45 minutes and although it is not uncomfortable, you may feel a little heat. And afterwards skin appears red and may even have some areas of pinpoint bleeding that lasts 24 hours. The beauty benefit: “Skin looks brighter and tighter, and over time you should note improvements in texture and tone,” she explains.
1 Month Before
Get a pore-clearing facial. Clogged pores equal dull-looking skin, plus, they can lead to breakouts — but leave the blackheads and pimples to the pros! “It can be so tempting, but before you go ahead and pick at that blemish, remember that if you disturb it and cause the skin to scar, it can remain visible for around three months,” says Rouleau. For cystic-like bumps that are deep under the skin, your pro may recommend a shot of cortisone directly in the pimple to break down the bacteria.
“If you have been seeing a derm, you also may want to get a pore clearing peel two weeks before the wedding,” says Schultz.
Stick to your current routine. “The bottom line: You really don’t want to start screwing around with new products and ingredients the months before your wedding — your skincare routine should be stabilized,” says Schultz. “You also have to be really careful about not overdoing the products that you regularly use, thinking that if a little is good, more is better. Less is more when it comes to skincare products.”
Rouleau also confirms how important this is. “Starting from one month out, you don’t want to test new products and treatments,” she says. “Even if you don’t typically have sensitive skin, it’s just not worth having a potentially adverse reaction to a new product.”
Schedule your last laser treatment as well as Botox, filler touch-up, if needed. “It’s more important that you don’t do it too close to the wedding but for those who get it regularly, I usually recommend at least two weeks before,” notes Shah. “It can take up to two weeks to see the full effects of Botox and if there is any swelling or bruising post injections that can also take up to two weeks to fully resolve.” You also want to squeeze in your last in-office skin smoothing and brightening sessions, too. “For most laser, peels and microneedling treatments, you will want to schedule your last treatment,” she explains. “Similarly, it can take one to two weeks to fully heal after a laser or peel, depending on the treatment.”
2 Weeks Before
Consider in-office glow-enhancers. Shah often recommends brides-to-be to get a Clear + Brilliant laser or Aquagold treatment around seven to 10 days before their wedding, “to ensure a smooth, glowing complexion on the big day.”
“Aquagold is a micro-channeling device that allows the infusion of customized serums into the skin — I usually use a solution of diluted Botox and hyaluronic acid fillers, antioxidants and vitamins,” she explains. “Immediately afterwards, skin will look pink for a day or two and you may even notice some pinpoint scabbing but by day three skin is smooth, plump and hydrated.”
“Clear + Brilliant is a gentle fractional laser treatment that uses heat to resurface the top layers of the skin, revealing a smoother, brighter, more radiant complexion,” Shah explains. “Post-treatment, skin is mildly red or pink, which usually fades in one to two days, but at the end of the week, your skin is softer and more refreshed and even.”
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Book a skin-smoothing treatment. Rouleau suggests doing a super gentle dermaplane treatment. “It uses a razor-like tool that lightly exfoliates, but it also removes all of the little hairs on your face,” she explains. “Since you’re typically outside for most of the day on your wedding day, and exposed to the sunlight, it won’t show your peach fuzz and will also help your makeup go on more smoothly.” Note: If you tend to have sensitive skin or turn red or get bumps easily, get this treatment one other time a few weeks or months beforehand to make sure your skin reacts well.
1 Day Before
Use a hydrating sheet mask. The occlusive application versus standard cream masks allow ingredients to sit on skin and properly penetrate. The goal: “Instantly plump and hydrate skin,” notes Shah.
Get a lifting and firming microcurrent facial. This zero down-time treatment “glides a smooth metal wand over the skin that emits low-level electrical currents into your skin, which has a toning effect so that it appears tighter and lifted and is perfect for 24 hours before your wedding,” says Shah. Because the results are not long lasting, it is crucial to book an appointment no more than 48 hours prior.
Make beauty sleep a priority. Sleep is when your skin not only repairs damage and resets from the aggressors it faced all day, but it is also a stellar time to have it absorb all the skincare ingredients you have applied before bed. “For your special day, you’ll want to look your best and feel refreshed,” says Rouleau. “And this means no sign of tired eyes.”