Makeover Magic for Dieters

Why wait until you reach your goal to start looking great?

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on November 17, 2005
6 min read

Whether you're just a few pounds away from your goal weight or are still hoping to lose 50, even 100 pounds, there's no reason to wait on looking great.

Mini-makeovers throughout the course of your weight loss program will not only give you an instant ego and energy boost, they may even help you stick with your plan, experts say.

"People who see you every day don't always notice the weight loss, but when you've got a great new hairdo or you update your cosmetics, it can be a real "wow," and suddenly people are saying 'You look great!,'" says Ceslie Armstrong, a fashion and style expert who is the former editor-in-chief of Grace magazine.

These are just the kind of compliments that can keep us going when the dieting gets rough, says Image consultant Sandy Dumont.

"It gives you the incentive to remain really serious about losing weight," says Dumont, author of the book Image Pays.

The best news: Makeover expert Andy Paige says updating your look may be easier than you think. It all starts with your attitude.

"Toss away those preconceived notions of how you viewed yourself before, and begin looking at yourself in a whole new -- and thinner -- light," says Paige, a former plus-size model who is beauty and style director for NBC's makeover show Starting Over.

That means forgetting many of your old "rules" -- like "I can't wear that!"

When it comes to casting a new image, perhaps nothing works as quickly as a new hairdo. But, experts advise, don't just rearrange the style you have -- go for something brand-new!

"Try a really sleek, modern haircut, one that doesn't have a lot of girth, and look for a style that offers contours that can slim the face and work with the overall proportions of your new body -- the way you look now," says Paige.

Taller women should keep their hair at shoulder length or just below, she says, adding layers to create emphasis around the eyes, cheekbones, and jaw.

The one style you probably want to avoid: A chin-length pageboy with ends that turn under.

"This will make a chubby face look chubbier," says Paige. Flipping hair out on the ends, she says, will slim the face and give you a friendlier, more approachable look.

Another trick: Treat yourself to a professional hair coloring -- one that uses tones of your natural shade to create a more slender appearance.

"If the hair from the ears to the nape of the neck is one or two shades darker than the rest of your hair, it can contour the jaw line and slim the neck, making it look longer and leaner," says Paige.

If you can't spring for professional coloring, try an at-home highlighting kit. The goal here is to lighten more strands at the top and fewer at the bottom, for a slimming effect.

As you continue to lose weight, Armstrong says, it's important to keep your hair well-groomed and your cut maintained.

"Don't just do it once and forget it," she says. "Make sure you revisit your salon with every 10 pounds you lose, so your haircut will constantly flatter your face shape and size."

If you're like many women, you've been using the same cosmetic brands for a decade or more, sticking with the products you used during the time you looked your best.

But, experts say, this is almost always a huge mistake. Not only does your coloring and complexion change as you age, dieting changes your skin and the shape and contour of your face.

The best place to start updating your cosmetic bag is at the foundation counter, where you should seek a shade that matches your skin tone as closely as possible.

"For some reason, larger women always seem to gravitate towards a foundation that is just too light for their skin, sometimes believing it will make them look more radiant," says Armstrong. It doesn't, she says.

Armstrong cautions that foundation that's too light simply makes your face look larger and blanks out your natural contours.

To make sure you're getting the right shade, experts say, try your foundation on the lower part of your cheek -- not the back of your hand -- then walk into natural light to check whether it's truly a good match.

"Ideally, you should have a hard time figuring out where the makeup is -- that's how close you want to match the color," says Armstrong.

Since dieters often are plagued with dry skin, particularly on the face. Don't be afraid to swap out traditional foundation for a tinted moisturizer.

"The look is lighter and softer, which can also be more youthful," says Armstrong.

If you're purchasing makeup online or by mail order and can't figure out what to buy, Dumont says, you won't go wrong if you look for products with a pink undertone. This will brighten the skin even if your complexion is dark.

"Most women look better (and more natural) in a foundation that has a subtle pink undertone -- it makes you look soft, pretty, and feminine," says Dumont.

When it comes to giving your face subtle shape -- bringing out your hidden cheekbones and jaw line -- many women turn to contouring products, powders, and creams in brown and tawny colors. Unfortunately, unless you're a trained makeup artist, these products can make your face look dark, shadowy and -- egad! -- older.

The way around it: Paige suggests contouring with foundation that is no more than two shades darker than your skin tone.

"Place it along the chin and jaw line, and under the cheekbone, and blend, blend, blend it well, particularly down into the neck," says Paige. The look is softer than contouring, she says, and much less obvious even in daylight.

To further emphasize cheekbones, Dumont suggests blush in a soft shade of pink or coral, placed on the uppermost portion of your cheekbones. For extra pizzazz, Armstrong says, never underestimate the power of a good bronzer -- winter or summer.

"It not only slims the face, but it also adds a youthful glow," she says.

If dieting has left you with dark circles or puffy eyes -- two common weight loss problems -- bypass ultra-light or white under-eye concealers, which will only emphasize the problem.

"Choose a concealer that matches your skin tone and has brightening properties but not lightening properties," says Armstrong. "You want to avoid anything shimmery or light."

Finish your face with a touch of mascara and lip gloss, rather than lipstick, for a more up-to-date look.

To help you pull your new look together, our experts offered 10 more tips for quick-and-easy makeover success.

1. Use accessories to draw attention to your face. Earrings and necklaces will bring the eye upward.

2. To slim the face, choose earrings in a triangular shape. For dangles, the longer and leaner the style, the slimmer your face.

3. Wear jewelry that's in proportion to your body. Overly large pieces will draw attention to your size; teeny-tiny jewelry will make you look larger. Your pieces should be seen but not command the whole show!

4. Remember that every detail plays a part in your overall look, including accessories like handbags and shoes. Always check your total look in a full-length mirror, and watch that accessories don't over- or under-power you.

5. Never underestimate the impact of a good bra. Make sure to get refitted for a new one for at least every two dress size you lose.

6. Use anti-aging skin care, even if you're years away from aging skin. The more weight you lose, the greater your risk of loose, flabby skin when you reach goal weight. Using these products while you're dieting may help you keep the look of firmer skin.

7. Instead of buying a new wardrobe every 10 pounds or so, have your clothes tailored every time you drop two dress sizes. When you drop the third size, buy new basic pieces -- a jacket, skirt, trousers, a pair of jeans, and two tops.

8. As you start your diet, budget a few dollars for experimenting with new grooming products, like shampoos, conditioners, and skin care items. Weight loss can trigger body-wide changes that require a change in grooming products.

9. Choose tops that show some skin on your chest without revealing cleavage. Generally speaking, the lower the neckline, the slimmer you look. Avoid turtlenecks, mock turtlenecks, and crewnecks, which make most women look larger.

10. When it comes to grooming, don't forget hands and feet. They can go a long way in giving you a polished look, no matter your size.