Should You Have A Pre-Wedding Beauty Routine?

Insider tips from the APW staff

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You’re planning a wedding and the WIC and the beauty industry have converged to tell you that you aren’t bridal enough if you’re not taking on 40 new beauty routines in the year before your wedding. That’s right, if your wedding planning timeline isn’t enough to stress you out, go ahead and add a year-long beauty timeline and checklist to your life. As Meg said in 2014, “On the one hand, we’re never supposed to buy into any beauty standard that asks us to change something about ourselves, while on the other, we’re expected to flawlessly fit into an impossible beauty ideal.”

So what’s a feminist to do? Here’s the thing: Wanting to take better care of yourself is reasonable. The idea that you have to add forty skincare items to your to-do list to be marriageable, is not. And if self-care means maintaining patriarchy-approved beauty standards… is it actually self-care at all? 

So let’s talk beauty routines. Do you want to add some beauty elements to your routine leading up to your wedding?

If you’ve been wanting to take better care of your body and physical appearance in certain ways and the upcoming wedding is the push you need to do it then go for it. Do it because you feel loved, you want to love yourself better, and it feels good to you. Not because it’s on a bridal checklist. 

practical beauty routines

I love Jonathan Van Ness’s advice on grooming from Queer Eye. Sunscreen is the bare minimum. Taking some moments for yourself to care for your skin can be as little as two minutes in the morning. A good haircut can change your whole look for the better. My hairstylist is my best friend when I need a pick-me-up in the form of a super sharp bang trim.

My esthetician has taught me that washing, toning, and moisturizing evening and morning will make the biggest difference to your skin. Adding a serum to that routine is next level. She also told me what everyone from your doctor to your mama will tell you: Drink your water and eat your greens. Skincare works from the inside out!

Here is some advice from APW readers and staffers about their beauty routines, and what they do to prep for special events (plus some tried and true product recs).

BEaUTY ROUTINES (With Hat Tips To Special Event Prep)

My hair has a coarse curl pattern (2C, or thereabouts), which means there is no wash-and-go for me on special events. And before you tell me that I should “learn to love my curls,” let me be clear that I don’t have curls, I have massive amounts of frizz. So prep for any special event either involves a professional blow out, or intensive work with a curling iron and bobby pins. For my wedding, we slaved over hot tools and bobby pins. In the years since, I’ve learned that de-frizzing with a blow out makes prepping for an event pretty simple the day of, so I take that route. (Given that I have very coarse hair, I don’t wash it much, so a blow out will last me ages, as my hair slowly re-curls.)

In terms of skin, I’ve been blessed with great genes. But I’m turning 40 in a few months, and I’m here to tell you that if you just wash your face, regret is coming for you. Skincare shouldn’t be intense, but it needs to be consistent. I use a heavy duty face moisturizer at night, an eye cream, and a lip mask. But the key thing in my arsenal is, indeed, retinol. It’s the scientifically-approved gold standard. I use a prescription cream that I get for five dollars, thanks to my Kaiser dermatologist. It’s a full-on game changer. Given that my skin is managed, special event makeup is easy enough. My go-to is: foundation, light blush, waterproof eyeliner, and half a strip of fake eyelashes per eye.

I don’t suggest making any profound changes to your beauty routine pre-wedding. But I do suggest figuring out what works for you (because taking care of yourself is an all-the-time job), doing it… and slapping some eyeliner and falsies on top, if that’s your jam. —Meg


The start of my skincare routine is always, always Aztec Secret. Seriously, the stuff has a cult following for a reason. I try do a mask two to three times a week before I go to bed so my skin really glows. Otherwise, my standard is Neutrogena Liquid Cleanser, followed by Thayers Facial Toner with witch hazel, and then TONYMOLY Hyaluronic Face Cream that comes in a super cute panda container. My daily makeup consists of the same few products I’ve used for years: an SPF moisturizer, BareMinerals Original Foundation, a mean cat-eye using L’Oréal Felt Tip Liquid Eyeliner (I won’t leave the house without it), and that’s it.

When it comes to special event makeup, I do my regular routine and then add a bronzer and a statement lip (my current fave is Stunna Lip Paint by Fenty Beauty for it’s high pigment and durability).

My hair routine is pretty minimal, to be frank. I wash and condition my hair every two to three days and use a lightweight texturizing spray that gives me just enough volume and “beachy” waves right after I towel dry my hair. Since I recently cut over a foot of hair off, I’ve managed to cut my morning routine down by half an hour and I am loving it. The one hair product that I’m super committed to is Batiste Dry Shampoo. I’m on the go pretty often so I always have a mini one in my bag and that’s usually what I need to freshen up my hairstyle and have had one handy to use at all the events and weddings I’ve been attending. And since buildup is inevitable when you use dry shampoo, if my hair is feeling…gross, I use Neutrogena Anti-Residue Shampoo to remove buildup. —Chelsea

A few years ago, I learned the secret to figuring out both my skincare and haircare routines, by treating them both like science experiments. When I went natural ~ten years ago, I kept a hair journal to help me figure out what worked and didn’t work on my 4A, tightly coiled hair. And eight years ago I decided to start my locs (which was a fabulous decision btw!) and the joy of a protective style like locs is just how easy it is to manage. The majority of the time I’m able to care for my locs myself, including washing, tightening and styling with lots of pins when the mood strikes. For my fellow kinky/coily natural hair ladies, I highly recommend techniques like co-washing and protective styles (braids, twists, updos, etc.) to keep your hair healthy. Many natural hair womxn also find it helpful to either find a stylist well-versed in natural hair, or do several trial runs before a big event. I’ve even struggled with getting my locs into an acceptable style before a big event, so if you can outsource to a trusted stylist, it can be worth it!

As for my skin, a bad experience with acne products taught me that I actually have dry skin, and my skin craves all the moisture it can get. For years I’d reach for the most hydrating, creamy products I could get my hands on. In the last few years I’ve gotten really into skincare, and I started keeping a journal just like I did with my hair care routine. The biggest thing I’ve learned is how vital exfoliation is for those of us with dry skin! Once I added exfoliation into my regular routine, my hydrating products worked even better and I found I didn’t need the super heavy creams anymore. I’m also blessed with a good amount of melanin (#blackdontcrack) so I keep my routine relatively simple with a nightly double cleanse using argan oil and Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser, followed by exfoliation. I alternate between a chemical exfoliating toner and a physical exfoliating cleanser (never both the same night), then a serum and First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Intense Hydration Cream. For daytime, I use Tatcha The Water Cream moisturizer because it’s more lightweight. —Jareesa


I recommend

Personally, here are some products I love. I highly recommend The Ordinary line of skincare products. The pricing is really accessible for great skincare basics. I use the peeling solution, which is supposed to be as good as a peel with a facialist. I can actually see results with each use. People I spoke to love Tatcha skincare products, which are a little spendier but amazing and luscious. And this Boscia exfoliating peel gel is really cool in a gross way. 

Now you’re up. Did you change anything about your skincare leading up to your wedding? What are you trying and loving right now?

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