Saturday afternoon and you have two hours before it’s time to get ready for dinner. The sane, adult choice would be to shampoo and blow-dry your hair, maybe even go for a manicure or pedicure. But let’s be honest. There’s also time for nine holes of golf, a bike ride or a swim. This, as it turns out, is perhaps the biggest dilemma for the active woman: We love pushing the envelope, especially when the guilty pleasure involves spending more time doing sports and being outdoors. But the consequences–wet hair in a restaurant, bike grease peeking out from under a hemline, shredded fingernails we self-consciously hide in our laps–come back to haunt us when it’s time to clean up and return to civilization.
Consider them occupational hazards, or even something to brag about–we all know how much fun it can be to show off your latest battle scars to your friends. But we still want to know how to make them appear. Below, we’ve collected the most common exercise-related beauty issues from active women and consulted experts who gave us their best solutions. (Ever heard of “confusing your roots”? We hadn’t either.)
Because the truth is, you never want to ask your friend who was a swimmer in college: Ho can I improve my backstroke–and how come your hair never turns green?”
PROBLEM: Is wearing a ponytail bad for your hair? And how do you get those short, wispy hairs off your face?
SOLUTION: If you wear a tight ponytail all the time, then yes, you can rip your hair, especially at the site of the holder, says hairstylist Moty Alvow, owner of Moty Moty Hair Spa at Equinox Fitness Clubs in New York City. But a loose ponytail during exercise is fine, and keeping hair off your face will kelp your hands away from your face, ensuring that your skin stays relatively greaseless. To keep those fine wisps off your forehead, Alvow recommends applying a little gel before working out. For a nonshellacked look, try Clairol Daily Defense gel, which also protects hair from the elements.
PROBLEM: What causes superscaly legs and what can I do about it?
SOLUTION: “We are a hyperclean nation, showering all the time and drying out our skin,” says dermatologist Vicki Rapaport. “Scaly legs look that way because the skin naturally sloughs off in pieces,” creating an alligator-hide effect, she adds. The lower part of the legs are more exposed to the elements, so that’s the area most likely to flake. To reduce leg scales, slough off dead skin with an apricot scrub or nylon exfoliating gloves. After showering (when you’re still damp), seal in the moisture by rubbing in lotion or a silicone emollient like Tocca’s Touch.
PROBLEM: Is there any way to make rosy cheeks last after working out?
SOLUTION: As your body cools, the blush in your cheeks will vanish rapidly. Dab a red tint like BeneFit’s Benetint or Philosophy’s the Supernaturals on the apples of your cheeks, or where you usually get sun.
PROBLEM: How do I keep foot callouses from becoming so big and rough?
SOLUTION: John McNerney, D.P.M., team podiatrist for the New Jersey Nets, cautions that most callouses are there to protect the feet, so getting rid of them completely could lead to more problems (like blisters). To make them smoother, use a good emery board foot file, says Sequita V. Howard of the DuBunne Day Spa in Torrance, California, who works on the feet of WNBA player Katrina Colleton. She discourages pumice stones though, which “aren’t aggressive enough.” For smooth, soft feet, try the Origins Touch Your Toes foot-care set.
PROBLEM: Can I defrizz my hair without reshampooing after a workout?
SOLUTION: To combat that Bride of Frankenstein look, those with straight hair should spritz water onto their frizzies, then mix gel and a styling cream (like Frizz-Ease Secret Weapon) in their hands and run it through their hair, advises hairstylist Moty Alvow. Do the same for curly hair, but roll each curl in your fingers. Then leave your hair alone so the curls can take hold.
PROBLEM: Can exercise trigger a breakout?
SOLUTION: Not usually, says New York dermatologist Charles Failmezger, M.D. But clogging pores with oily sunscreen, heavy makeup or just plain dirt while you sweat can block sweat glands, resulting in unseemly, pimplelike bumps–especially on your chest and back and at your hairline. Your only options at this point: Wash with antibacterial soap like Cetaphil, and don’t pick or squeeze the bumps; they’ll go away in a day or so. To prevent them altogether, shake on baby powder or talc before you exercise to keep problem areas dry.
PROBLEM: My feet have so many blisters, they’re starting to look like bubble wrap.
SOLUTION: While callouses come from long-term friction, blisters emerge when the skin of the foot rubs intensely against a sock or shoe for a short period of time. If they aren’t painful, cover them with a bandage or moleskin. If they hurt, pop them with a sterile needle and drain the fluid, but don’t peel off the protective layer of skin that remains. Keep the area dean, and apply an antibacterial cream, such as Neosporin. Cover the area with a Band-Aid and use moleskin to protect it from further rubbing.
PROBLEM: I have a scar I’d like to hide. How can I do it?
SOLUTION: You’ll need to use a bit of makeup alchemy. To cover up a reddish scar, look for a green concealer; for something bluish (even a tattoo), you’ll want yellow. Then cover all with a flesh-toned concealer. Sequita Howard suggests Joe Blasco, which makes a kit containing several colors, or Dermablend, a thick concealer designed to match your skin.
PROBLEM: How do you prevent helmet hair?
SOLUTION: Wearing a helmet makes your scalp sweat. Your hair then sticks to your head and takes on an ugly dome shape. The best fix, says Alvow, is to “confuse your roots.” Hang your head forward, letting your hair fall toward your feet, and blow-dry, focusing on the roots. If you don’t have a blow dryer, still hang your head when you brush and use your fingertips to massage your scalp. Those with curly hair should rub in gel to bring back the curl. For straight hair, use hair spray.
PROBLEM: I think chlorine in the pool gives me green hair. How can I get rid of it?
SOLUTION: While chlorine causes the hair shaft to become porous, it’s actually the algae-fighting copper compounds in pool water that are to blame for your new hue. Copper turns green when exposed to the air (think Statue of Liberty) and is more noticeable on blondes. If you’re one of the unfortunate, Ultraswim shampoo and conditioner, ABBA Molasses Purifier or ISO Purifying shampoo can remove chlorine and copper buildup. They also moisturize the hair, so you won’t end up with a straw mane. Wet your hair with tap water before diving in, so it will absorb less copper in the pool.
PROBLEM: What’s the best cure for a chapped nose or dry, cracked lips?
SOLUTION: Vitamin E sticks or conditioners like Peter Thomas Roth Post healing balm or Frederic Fekkai Lip Conditioner with shea butter can help heal damaged skin. Follow that with a product to keep the winter air out–whether you use a waxy product that coats your lips and nose (like Burt’s Beeswax Lifeguard’s Choice weatherproofing lip balm) or a slippery one (like Kiehl’s Lip Balm #1) is simply personal preference.
PROBLEM: What should you dc; if you get a black toenail?
SOLUTION: A black toenail is caused by a bruise under the nail and comes from trauma–usually because your shoes are too tight. Don’t just paint the rest of your nails with a dark polish. Your nail has separated from the nail bed, so there is a danger of toenail fungus moving in, causing toenails to become gnarled, yellow and painful. See a podiatrist and either get the nail drained (doing it yourself is painful and can cause infection) or get a prescription for Lamisil, which will kill fungus before it moves in. Eventually the nail will just fall off (once a new one has grown in under it); in the meantime, keep a bandage on it so you don’t reinjure it while exercising. Then go out and buy a better-fitting pair of shoes. There should be a quarter-inch of space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe.
PROBLEM: Is there a fast way to heal a black eye?
SOLUTION: Do like Fred Flint stone and put a slab of steak on it. Red meat contains enzymes that break down the pooled blood under the skin that is responsible for swelling and braising. The enzymes are more effective if the meat is at room temperature. Hold a steak over your eye for 10 to 15 minutes. (But keep it away from a fat lip because raw meat contains harmful bacteria–and don’t eat the steak when you’re done.)
PROBLEM: Can you get rid of a blotchy self-tanner job?
SOLUTION: Only if you exfoliate and scrub really hard while your skin is wet. Avoid the problem by using tinted self-tanners (like Estee Lauder Go Bronze), so you can see the cream as you apply it; or get it done in a salon.
PROBLEM: What’s the best way to tame staticky hair?
SOLUTION: Modern technology has spared no expense on this dilemma. Pack a single square of fabric softener–Downy, for example–and rub it on your hair after you take off your hat. Seriously.
PROBLEM: Is there any way to get rid of the suction rings from swim goggles ?
SOLUTION: You can avoid the rings in the first place by using goggles with rubber instead of foam around the eyes (Speedo makes them), advises swimmer Dara Torres. “They look like they’re hard, but they mold to your face and don’t suck at the skin like the foam ones do.” The foam also causes allergic reactions in some people, triggering a rash around the eyes.