I compare being a first-time mom to falling in love with a new boyfriend: the kind of relationship where you become so involved with someone that you lose yourself a bit. When my son was born I became so lost in being a new mother that I forgot about myself. And when I say forgot about myself I mean that I really, truly forgot about me in that first year of sleep deprivation, nurturing another human and learning how to be myself and “Henry’s Mom” at the same time.
The intervention came when I finally took the time to get my hair done eight months after my son was born. When I confessed my hair sin to the stylist, she looked at me and said, “Why did it take you so long?”
In that moment I realized that I had absolutely no excuse. My total descent into motherhood was evident from my trashy roots and brittle ends. It’s no coincidence that my outer appearance at the one-year postpartum mark matched how I felt on the inside. I had just spent an entire year giving all of myself to another human while trying to continue nurturing my husband and career. I was spent.
From that moment, I started on a path to getting myself back or, rather, figuring out the new me. As I get ready to have my second baby, I’ve vowed to make more time for myself this time around. While beauty only runs skin deep, it sure helps make a new mom feel like her old self.
Here are the ten beauty tips/products/people that I have vowed to not live without:
10. Buy the best hair and beauty products you can afford.
I now spend more on hair products than I ever have. Let’s face it: Aveda shampoo costs a heck of a lot more than Pantene, but I use a lot less of it, and one of the really large bottles has lasted me almost a year. My color-treated hair (shhhhh….don’t tell brand-new moms about the motherhood-induced grays) looks better than it ever has. What’s even better is that I don’t have to wash my hair every day. I can actually go two to three days without becoming an oily Gila monster. What new mom couldn’t use that time-savings!?
I am also a huge fan of dry shampoo. I think it should be part of the bundle that the hospital sends home with you. Diapers for baby. Dry shampoo and bottle of wine for mama. There’s a world of dry shampoos out there, so experiment and find out what dry shampoo is best for you.
9. Find a great hair stylist.
Although I appreciated the honesty of the stylist who snapped me out of my motherhood slump, I didn’t like the way she cut my hair, and I hated that every time I went in, I left the salon even blonder. No offense, blonde ladies of the world – you’re all beautiful! But my hair is naturally a very dark brown. I decided to put my money where my mouth is, and I anted up the big ones to see a stylist/color specialist at Tangerine Aveda*. My first appointment with Kelsey was amazing. She took the time to talk to me about what I wanted and made real suggestions on what color would look best with my skin tone and eye color. Then she went a step further and talked to me about my morning routine. How much time did I have to get ready? Did I mind blow drying with a brush? Had I experimented with up-dos? Basically, she rocked my world. She finished up the appointment by giving me a full on tutorial on how to use hot rollers (see tip #8) and then hooked me up with the product I would need to make it happen. A year later I still see Kelsey every eight weeks and I made sure to book an appointment with her two weeks after my due date. No messing around this time.
*Another awesome fact about Tangerine? It is a totally tranquil environment that feels spa-like. They even have a relaxation room and give you a hand massage during your shampoo.
8. Conair Hot Rollers (a.k.a. the product that changed my life)
My mornings are hectic and I don’t have a lot of time to get ready. I used to try to round-brush my hair every morning, but I wasn’t that coordinated and would end up missing sections of hair. Cue the Conair Hot Rollers. Kelsey recommended that I give hot rollers a try and I’ve never looked back. I have the set to the right and my routine goes something like this: after washing my hair, I use Aveda Phomollient (a product I only have to buy about twice a year), spray some Aveda Pure Abundance (another once a year product) at the crown of my head for volume, then blow dry upside down. While blow drying I plug the rollers in and then they are ready to go when I’m done. I section my hair, put the rollers in and then voila – I can do my makeup, pack lunches, get my kid dressed, etc. while my hair practically does itself! Check out YouTube for great hair tutorials. It is the BEST resource for step-by-step hair help.
7. Get Your Brows Done.
There is something about getting your brows professionally waxed that makes you look polished. I’m not a great plucker (ask me about the over-plucking eyebrow incident of ’03), so having my brows shaped by a professional is what I need. I see Michelle at Posh Salon and she rocks. She’s quick, competent and her prices are reasonable. I try to go every five weeks or so. Michelle also offers facials, body waxing, etc. What I love about Michelle is that she isn’t quick to push you towards new products. When I told her that I was concerned about a red splotch on my face she simply asked if I had been drinking enough water. The answer was no. No, I had not.
6. Treat Yo’Self.
Make some time to do something out of the ordinary for yourself that you wouldn’t normally do or haven’t done in awhile. Get a pedicure, try a Shellac manicure (my favorite spot is Soak), spring on a fancy facial at the Atlantis or Peppermill, or book a massage. Make yourself the priority. Here’s the inner dialogue that I have to fight: “It’s so expensive.” “I should really spend that on ________ (groceries, clothes for my son, my retirement).” Fight the inner dialogue, because you’re worth it and you deserve to take care of yourself. Repeat that until you have booked your appointment(s).
Nurture yourself by creating a ritual that makes you feel good. It doesn’t have to be big. Once a week or so, I like to use the Queen Helene Mint Julep Mask. Having the green face makes me feel silly, but that’s part of the fun. My skin looks fantastic afterwards and it’s a little something I do just for me. Plus, a tube of Queen Helene is less than $5. You can’t beat that. Once I hit 30, I vowed to take better care of my skin, so in addition to the weekly Queen Helene routine, I also have come up with a morning and night routine. Forcing myself to take the time for me is about more than just having great skin.
I recently subscribed to Birchbox, a monthly box of beauty samples that are sent right to my home for $10 a month. Opening the box is like Christmas and it gives me the chance to try higher-end products that I wouldn’t normally buy. As an Accutane survivor, I am picky about my moisturizers, so I was delighted when I found a Benefit kit that made my heart pitter-patter and my super dry skin happy. There is a world of beauty products out there that can be overwhelming. Take the time to find products that you really love and don’t be afraid of trying new trends. You’re a mom, but as my grandma would say, “You ain’t dead yet, kid.”
You’ve had a baby and you don’t live in Hollywood. Getting back to your pre-prego size may happen in six weeks. It may happen in two years. It may never happen. Work with what you’ve got, and don’t worry about being Slender Svetlana. Dressing a postpartum body can be tough. If you’re nursing or pumping, a whole layer of complexity is added. Ever had to completely disrobe in a public bathroom just so you can pump? **Gulp** Sheepishly raises hand.
My go-to fashion item in the first year was dresses. Also Spanx. Get some. My favorite fashion blog has an entire section on dressing a postpartum body. Check out her Style Capsules for more inspiration.
2. Up-Dos. They aren’t just for prom.
This is embarrassing to admit, but I’m pretty sure I wore a ponytail to work three to four times a week in my son’s first year. That is sooooooo against the rules according to The Plastics. Since recognizing that ponytails are mostly appropriate for one place (ahem – the GYM), I’ve started experimenting with more up-dos. Here are my favorites:
P.S. Up-dos are so awesome for second-day or third-day hair. As in hair that doesn’t get washed everyday. As in my hair.
1. Make Your Health a Priority
Whether it’s physical, mental, spiritual or your social health, if one gets off-kilter, it doesn’t take long for the rest to fall apart. And if mama ain’t healthy, ain’t nobody gonna be happy. After having my son, I neglected to take care of a health issue that I have had forever. I didn’t manage my autoimmune thyroid disease, and while breastfeeding, I managed to gain 20 pounds. I wasn’t a happy camper. Becoming a new mom was hard enough, but struggling with the idea that I may never, ever get closer to my pre-baby body affected the way I felt about everything. So here’s what I can tell you: if you are struggling in any area during that first postpartum year, ask for help. Check in with your doctor (or, in my case I found a new doctor who didn’t just brush off my concerns of weight gain), find a therapist, speak to your pastor, pray, get medicated, make regular plans with girlfriends, learn to let go of the mommy guilt, find a solution. Out of all my tips today, this one that you HAVE to do. You can’t look or feel beautiful if you’re struggling to be healthy. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t write it off to new motherhood and continue to struggle. So many people will tell you that you must ask for help. They are right.
What’s your beauty regimen like? What do you do to make yourself feel beautiful?