Cheap Home Alternatives To Off-The-Wall Bridal Makeovers

Every woman hits a crossroad when that fateful day arrives, and someone she loves puts a ring on her finger. As she peeks over the threshold at the daunting, exhilarating, endless year ahead, she’ll probably spend some time pondering how to fine-tune her look — for posterity, you know. After all, this will be her red carpet moment, and she’ll be paying the photographer an awful lot to capture it.

At this point, some brides will go totally over-the-top. By that, we mean bridal boot camps and personal trainers named Reinhold. Brides with even less of a rudder will apply to one of the emerging reality TV programs, such as Britain’s “Bride and Grooming,” where “lively couples” go under the knife, turning Roman noses into cute little Irish ones, lifting those baggy eyelids and of course, getting their teeth done.

Chances are, you’re not like that. You want to look your best, but you also want to look back on this year and remember your grip on sanity. And if you’re like me, you don’t have a lot to spend on “Exxtreem Makeovers” anyway. Which is fine, because a couple of bucks here and a couple of bucks there can pack quite a punch … without making you look like a stranger.

— Fuller Lips — the Reality TV Approach

Puff up your lips with various temporary injections, or more permanent Gore-Tex implants. Costs: $200-2000 for “injectables”; $1000-3000 for implants.

— Fuller Lips — the Sane Way

Almost all women — especially we hopelessly Caucasian types — wish we had fuller lips. We know this because of all the droopy “trout pouts” that show up on rising and fading Hollywood stars, no matter how goofy they look.

The sane bride can plump up her lips at home for a fairly small investment. No, we’re not talking do-it-yourself collagen implants. We’re talking CityLips, the only lip plumper we’ve tried that works.

Don’t get excited (or alarmed) — you’ll never get Angelina Jolie results with lip serums. And in fact, anecdotal evidence suggests that CityLips won’t work for everyone. But it works for us, unlike anything else we’ve tried. Yes, there are a number of effective plumpers that temporarily irritate and swell the lip tissue, but CityLips actually plumps the collagen through some mysterious mechanism instead of merely irritating your lips. It takes about 30 days to work.

So where to buy your lip-plumping secret weapon? We tried eBay, but we didn’t get much of a discount. We did learn to avoid buying the mini tubes, since much of the serum gets stuck in the bottom.

Instead, we found the best deal was to sign-up for the newsletter at www.citylips.com directly. Every so often, they put out a “buy 2, get 1 free” deal that’s music to our ears, or they offload a less popular color at a great price. Sure, you might end up with psychedelic purple gloss, but who cares? It’s CityLips!

— Whiter Teeth — the Reality TV Approach

Plant your derrière in a dental chair. Prop your mouth open for one hour while the dentist turns your teeth into an approximation of the polar caps (pre-global warming) using a peroxide-based solution and a laser. Costs: $800-2000.

— Whiter Teeth — the Sane Way

Dentists have long given up the rap that you have hit the office to whiten your teeth. We all know you can do it at home. The best way?

The overwhelming consensus is Crest Whitestrips.

You have plenty of choices — peroxide-based gels and trays you fit to your teeth at home are easy to come by. But they’re uncomfortable, not very strong, and they make you drool. Crest Whitestrips have none of these drawbacks, and many people find they work better anyway.

Want to get them cheap? Buy them on eBay. Buy them even cheaper by choosing a slightly older product, like plain old Whitestrips instead of Whitestrips Premium or Premium Plus. They go for a song. What a deal. Forget the whitening toothpastes; they don’t work.

One more note on teeth — sometimes it does make sense to get a little work done. To wit:

— A Sad, Sad Tooth Story

When I was a child, I had a diastema — a gap between my front teeth, like Madonna. It was kind of cute. But my parents took me to an orthodontist for surgery. He fixed the gap, but didn’t use braces. So my formerly straight-as-an-arrow teeth lost the gap, but grew in crooked. My sadistic parents stopped there, leaving me with awful, inward-pointing front teeth until I left home.

In college, I found I could finally fix the problem with a few inexpensive veneers. Veneers look terrific, and if you only need a few, the costs can be reasonable. If you had sadistic parents or a few problem teeth, this stretch before your wedding might be a good time to look at veneers.

— Forehead Wrinkles — the Reality TV Approach

Botox, duh. Costs: $400 a session.

Forehead Wrinkles — the Sane Way

You’re young, right? You’re not a chain smoker or former tanning booth marathon champion. You shouldn’t have forehead wrinkles, yet you do. In fact, there’s this big one right in the middle, one that seemed to pop up the very day he popped the question. Where did it come from, and how can you punish its sender?

It’s likely it comes from your habit of indulging in pained expressions. Yes, pained expressions are appropriate when you’re planning a wedding. But they lead to hyper-developed forehead muscles and that weird line right in the middle, and you really don’t want to resort to bangs, right?

Train yourself to stop frowning. In the privacy of your own home, slap a big old piece of tape on your forehead. It will remind you. Don’t forget to remove it when you head to the gym or that upscale whole foods store.

— A Few More Champagne Tips for the Beer Budget Crowd

— The Hair
If you have a thick, umber mane like Cindy Crawford’s, just leave it alone. But if you’re a dishwater blond like me — and you know who you are — look into some coloring or a few subtle highlights.

Another tip: don’t try to look like someone else for your wedding day. If you wear your hair short and sporty, don’t grow it long “just for your wedding.” You’ll look much more fabulous as yourself.

— The Skin
Sometimes a glycolic peel is a great way to freshen up your skin and get an extra glow. You don’t need to book the dermatologist; you can do this at home.

Actually, brave brides can buy extremely strong TCA peels from eBay (at their own risk). I wouldn’t do this less than six months before your wedding, and I wouldn’t do it if you have a risk-averse personality. Oh, and the top layer of your skin will peel off a few days after you apply the product. This can freak out your friends.

It’s easy to find gentle glycolic peels on the shelves of any drugstore. I found L’oreal’s ReNoviste on sale the other day, and I liked the results.

— The Oddball Dietary Suggestion
Everyone knows you’ll look better if you exercise during the wedding prep phase, and strive to avoid the “french fries and diet coke” diet. But another trick you might want to try is dumping dairy. Many people have a lactose intolerance without even knowing it, and that can lead to indigestion, black circles under the eyes, and other subtle beauty-busters.

No other animal drinks milk after its infancy … much less milk designed for a totally different animal. Only we do that. Try life without milk for a few weeks, and see if you don’t perk up.