I went to almost a dozen formals during my time in high school.
Mid Valley Secondary Center had three formal dances per year: junior-senior prom, a semi for grades 9-12 and a seniors-only prom. I weaseled my way into a few early and became an expert by the time my senior prom rolled around. (Sorry to the boys I used as a date just to get all glammed up.)
Cue the old-timey music but getting ready wasn’t as easy as it is now. I didn’t have thousands of YouTube tutorials at my fingertips. I had knowledge learned from magazines, tricks from experience and tips I traded with girlfriends.
Today, there’s tons of resources but, speaking purely as a prom veteran, here are the things you need to keep in mind to look as good as you feel at prom.
Prep your skin.
You’ll want glowy skin on prom night and best way to ensure that is to make sure your skin care leading up to it is on point. The number one rule is to NOT introduce anything new into your routine about three weeks before to avoid any irritation.
The second is to think in the long-term. Lots of people will want to use some kind of clarifying mask that day or the night before but that’s a recipe for disaster. Masks like that act like catalysts and bring pimples to the surface faster meaning you might end up with a crop of breakouts if you mask too close to prom. Instead, do a clarifying mask about a week before the big day, to help clear out anything that might be lurking under the surface and to dry out existing blemishes.
Finally, hydrated skin equals healthy skin. The day of, use a hydrating sheet mask to give skin a shot of moisture which will plump your skin up and provide the perfect base for makeup or a fresh face.
Adjust your hair-washing schedule.
If you’re getting any kind of hairstyle from an updo to big curls, your hair needs to be a little greasy. Oily hair grips and holds the style so don’t wash your hair for at least a day (or more if you’re a once-a-week gal) before going to the salon.
Be extra for the camera.
The camera sucks the life out of us. You’re taking tons of photos at prom so you’re going to need to amp up your regular makeup. Wear a base (foundation, BB cream) with more coverage than you usually opt for. Apply false lashes or swipe on an extra coat of mascara. Wear eyeliner and, more importantly, tight-line your eyes by lining your upper water line. Gently (GENTLY!) lift your lashes and use a liquid or gel liner or powder on a flat brush to fill in the gaps between lashes. (Please do not poke yourself in the eye, OK?)
Make it last.
The best long-lasting makeup tip comes from Beyoncé’s makeup artist Sir John: put down a cream base and layer powder over it. Cream blush then powder blush. Cream contour then powder contour, etc. Also, don’t skip primer or setting spray. For a long night of dancing and having fun, a good base like primer will grip your makeup and a setting spray will make certain it stays put.
Fake a glow.
Be careful not to go too trendy but glowy skin will never be out of style. Opt for a spray tan (do a trial run first) or make your own shimmer body lotion. Exfoliate your body in the shower first then crush up and mix glimmery powder bronzer with body lotion. (Just be careful not to get it on your dress.)
Make your fragrance last.
You’re going to look amazing all night long so you might as well smell just as good. Apply fragrance immediately after body lotion since this will give your scent something to grip on to.
Put foundation on your ears.
It sounds weird but think about it: if your ears are a different shade than your face (lighter or red from the heat of the dance floor), they’re going to stand out or even look larger in pictures — especially if you’re wearing an updo. After you finish putting on your foundation or other base (BB or CC cream, tinted moisturizer), pat some excess product on your ears with a blending sponge.
Fill in your brows.
I grew up in the mid-’00s and we destroyed our eyebrows. You know better now so please enhance those beautiful full brows. You don’t have to go super dark and opaque — just shade in the center (where your brow hair is naturally thicker) and in any sparse areas. For an easier option, grab a tinted brow pomade to fill and shape your brows in seconds. (I love Glossier Boy Brow) This frames your face to give you a more put-together look.
Lips and lashes, always.
If you don’t follow any of my other advice, please do NOT skip mascara or lipstick. Mascara defines your eyes in photos. Lipstick, even in a shade slightly darker than your natural color, will make you look more polished.
Leave no room for mishaps by bringing essentials: extra bobby pins, travel-size hair spray, lash glue, eyeliner, lipstick, makeup remover wipes, blotting papers. You should be having the time of your life — not worrying about looking anything less than fabulous.
Gia Mazur is an award-winning staff writer and beauty obsessive who joined The Times-Tribune’s Lifestyles department in 2015. She’s a product enthusiast who can’t live without an eyelash curler. A proud Virgo, Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillow Talk is her go-to. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9127; @gmazurTT