Beauty Secrets Every Teen Girl Should Know

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Or, What I Wish I Knew 25 Years Ago When I Was a Teen

Teen girl fixing her make up
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When I was a teenager, I got all my beauty tips from reading magazines because there existed no YouTube vloggers. 

I've been writing about beauty for more than 10 years and thought it would be fun to share these 22 beauty tips I wish I knew 25 years ago when I was a teenager.

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How Cool Contouring Can Be

Make up woman face. Contour and highlight makeup.
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Contouring as we know it today did not exist when I was a teenager. The first time I learned about bronzer I was 18 and visiting Austria with my family. A hip, 20-something cousin gave me a bottle of bronzer powder and told me how to use it. I coveted that thing for years, applying the orange powder to my temples and cheeks. I loved the way it made me appear tan without the sun and I really liked the tiny sparkle that came from the natural minerals.

Fast forward 20 years and now there are so many ways to use bronzers and blush to highlight and give definition to your best facial bits while downplaying your worst ones. Who knew you could create cheekbones with a swipe of a fat makeup brush? Who knew you hide your weak chin or your big nose?

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How to Get Effortless, Choppy, LA Waves

Beautiful woman smiling on beach
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There's one way to curl your hair these days and it works on long bobs, choppy bobs, shoulder-length hair and long hair.

These textured waves are all the rage thanks to LA stylist Anh Co Tran. And there's a secret to this look: wind hair AROUND the barrel of a large curling iron, never clamp hair in. Then reverse direction for each 2-inch section (wind up for one, down for another).

  1. Working from one side of your head around to the other, take a 2-inch section of hair and spritz it with a holding or styling spray.
  2. Open the curling iron and wind hair around the barrel, making sure not to clamp hair down. Curling iron should have about a 1 or 1 1/2 inch barrel. I love the clamp-free curling irons. Make sure you wear the heat-protectant gloves that come with them.
  3. Work your way around your head winding hair in different directions so it looks natural. Make sure not to curl ends. You want at least an inch of hair on the bottom that's not curled.
  4. Do not touch curls. Let them sit there in ringlet-form until you're done.
  5. Once hair is all curled and cooled, break up the ringlets with your fingers. Never brush or comb hair.
  6. Spray hair with dry shampoo for added texture. Spritz with hairspray to hold the curl.

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Curl Your Lashes Before Mascara

Young woman bending eyelashes in bathroom
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A great way to make eyes pop is by curling your lashes before applying mascara. There's simply no way to open up the eyes better. I like to heat my curler for 3 seconds with a hair dryer to set the curl better, just make sure to test the metal on your arm first to ensure it's not too hot.

For nighttime, you might consider adding a few false eyelashes but don't go overboard or it will be too obvious.

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How to Properly Apply Foundation

Young lady applying a swatch of foundation
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In high school, I wore a full face of Cover Girl liquid foundation every day despite the fact that I had a pretty nice skin for a teenager. I was a victim of "cake face" -- that matte look that screams to the world, "I wear too much makeup."

I had no idea then that the heavy, creamy foundations that everyone bought at the drugstores when I was a teen were not meant to cover the entire face. I also didn't know that my oily skin would have been much better off with an oil-free foundation or tinted moisturizer. Oil-free was not in my vocabulary. And tinted moisturizers, a much lighter version of foundation, didn't exist.

Here's what I did know thanks to Seventeen magazine: I knew how to avoid the tale-tell line at the jawline. The secret is to first find the perfect color match to your skin and the second is to blend, blend, blend.

More fun foundation tips:

  • Unless you're going in front of a camera or performing on stage, foundation should be used judiciously -- to cover up only the uneven spots like the ones found down the center of your face. Cover up redness or dark spots around the nose and the chin. Everyone is different, so cover up only where you need it. Many women leave their cheeks bare, but I tend to put a bit of foundation there. Once the foundation is in place, you can then dot concealer on any ruddy or pimply spots the foundation doesn't cover.
  • You can use your fingers, a foundation brush or a makeup sponge to apply and blend in foundation.
  • You have the right shade if it blends in beautifully.
  • Foundation over patchy, dry spots is not good. Get rid of dry, scaly skin first by exfoliating with a warm washcloth dipped in coconut oil.
  • If your skin tans in the summer and is paler in the winter, you'll need two shades of foundation. You can even blend them during spring and fall.
  • Oily skin? Skip the heavy powders and use blotting sheets to soak up oils. Paper towels or even toilet paper will work in a pinch.

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Use a Highlighter Pen to Bring Light to Parts of Your Face

teenage girl applying makeup to younger sister.
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Ok, so Kim Kardashian's now-famous highlighting lesson was a bit much. I'm not sure any regular person needs that much highlighter, but contouring via a highlighting pen or an illuminating cream really can dramatically change your appearance.

Draw a skinny line down the center of your nose to make it appear thinner, dab a bit of shimmer cream above the brow to make your skin appear dewy, use a bit of pink luminizing cream on your cheeks instead of blush for a really dewy look, apply a dot above your cupid's bow on your lips -- these are all amazing beauty tricks you can do with the right illuminating makeup.

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You Pat Concealer In, You Never Rub It In

Portrait of a beautiful woman applying concealer
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When I was younger, I used to slather concealer over my ruddy spots because tap, tap, tapping it in seemed like such a waste of time. The truth is tapping in it leaves your face looking much more flawless.

Here's how to properly do it: put a bit of concealer on the pad of a finger (or use a concealer brush) and pat it in. Never rub. Got acne? Gently tap the concealer over the blemishes and then set it with powder.

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Play up Your Lips or Your Eyes, Never Both

Woman with freckles and bold lips
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Ever notice how girls with heavy eye makeup and heavy lips can look overdone and a bit clownish? When it comes to making up your face, it's best to decide to play up either your eyes or your mouth, but never both. I'm not a huge fan of rules when it comes to beauty, but I pretty much always follow this one and I wish I knew this tip when I was a teen.

If you wear a smokey eye, go for nude lips with just a bit of gloss. Prefer the drama of dark lipstick? Keep face light (stay away from heavy blush) and wear only mascara on your eyes and a light eyeshadow. Don't heavily line your eyes. Play up both and you'll look like a clown. And never, ever line lips in a darker color than your gloss or lipstick.

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Press a Bit of Light Shimmery Eyeshadow Into the Inside of the Eye

Female eye looking up, close up
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Another great makeup artist trick I wish I knew when I was younger, is the great eyeshadow-in-the-inside-corner-of-the-eye trick. Basically, you press into the inside corner of your eye a bit of light, shimmery eyeshadow. If you have an eyeshadow palette at hand, it would be the lightest color in your palette. This will make eyes wake up, you know "pop."

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Less Is More During the Day

Woman with not much makeup.
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Ever notice how some of your friends look their best with no makeup at all? No matter your age, there is such as thing as too much makeup. If you wear foundation, powder, blush, liner, mascara, eyeshadow, lip liner and gloss on an everyday basis, then you're probably overdoing it. Leave the heavier makeup to the evening and formal occasions and tone it down during the day: All you really need is a great mascara, concealer for blemishes and gloss. Add a pop of blush in winter.

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Don't Overpluck Your Brows: Here's Why

Woman tweezing eyebrows. Images

Fuller brows are almost always in, super skinny brows are not. If you are ever, ever tempted to shave or pluck all your brows hairs for the sake of a trend or a whim or a dare -- DON'T.

Why? If you overpluck your brows, they may never grow back.

Do keep your brows manicured by either getting them done professionally or tweezing stray hairs below and yes, above the brow line and in between. If your brows are on the thinner, non-existent side, use a brow pencil to fill them in. Choose a shade that's as close to your brow hair color as possible.

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Oily Hair? Dry Shampoo to the Rescue

Woman pulling dry hair
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I have to wash my hair every day or it will look greasy. But the truth is, I hate washing my hair every day. I get by on the days in between using dry shampoo (or baby powder) that I apply at my crown and roots and brush through. It soaks up excess oils like nothing else. 

Baby powder also works in a pinch. But it's best for blondes or girls with light brown hair. If you have dark hair, you might be better off with a dry shampoo crafted especially for your hair color.

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Bye-Bye Bad Hair Color

Asian woman with platinum blond hair
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Ever see those girls with naturally dark hair and super blonde highlights the width of spaghetti? It's as if someone painted little lines in their hair (which is actually what they did). Not attractive. The secret to great hair color is hair that looks like you didn't pay to have it done. That said, some of the best hair colors are so obviously not natural (think platinum) but is so cool that everyone will want it. Either leave people guessing or leave them dying to ask where you get your hair done.

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How to Do Your Own Hair Color Properly

Hair dye being applied to head.
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So when to do it yourself and when to head to a salon?

The general rule of thumb is to do your own hair if you are going only a shade or 2 lighter or darker. Anything more than that and you need a professional's help. Going from dark to blonde is actually a complicated process. You'll first have to strip hair of its natural color (this is called "bleaching"), then the stylist will color your hair blonde and possibly add a few highlights of darker and lighter strands to give hair definition. This is not something to try at home. But if you are dying a few strands blue or a couple shades darker, you can do it yourself.

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Vaseline Is Your Best Friend

An open tin of vaseline on grey background
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I actually knew this tip as a teen -- that's actually where I learned it. Vaseline is a great product to have on hand for 2 reasons: it's a great eye makeup remover in a pinch and used with a toothbrush, it's the best lip exfoliator ever.

Here's how it works: Slather on a bunch of Vaseline, then use a toothbrush to massage lips. Wipe the excess off on a tissue. Your lips will be smooth and soft.

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Now Is a Great Time to Experiment

Miley Cyrus
Miley Cyrus. Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

I had the same haircut all 4 years of high school. Basically, it was long and permed so it could be curly. I coveted curly hair, but so did all the girls back then.

These days teens are way more comfortable experimenting with their hair. Your hair is a great form of self-expression and I think I was trying so hard to fit in that I never considered playing with my hair length or even color.

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Acne? Get Thee to a Dermatologist, ASAP

Help! My acne won't go away
Help! My acne won't go away. The Image Bank/Getty Images

Biggest mistake people with bad acne make? Not going to a dermatologist. Forget those $150 jeans you covet. Getting rid of those pimples will be the best investment you'll ever make. And the only guaranteed way to do it is with a dermatologist.

That said, there are some great treatments out there for acne that aren't too bad.

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Spend Money on Key Beauty Products

Young girl holding money.
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There's no need to spend a lot of money on cleansers, makeup removers, polish removers and anything that doesn't stay on your face for very long. Why spend $60 on a fancy cleanser that touches your face for 1 minute a day? You can also find affordable moisturizers that won't break the bank but will leave your skin feeling soft and supple.

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Buying Foundation or Lipstick? Test It First

Woman testing out skincare product.
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There are some beauty products you simply must try out at a department store or Sephora before you buy. These include foundation, lipstick, blush, and powder.

Buy these products in a grocery store and you'll be lucky if you picked the right color for your skin tone. What you can get away with without testing: Mascara, eyeliner, most basic eyeshadows and lip gloss.

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The One Beauty Product You Should Never, Ever Skip

Woman applying Suntan Lotion at the beach
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Had I known this trick when I was a teenager, I'd have fewer wrinkles as a 40-year-old. The first beauty product you should apply every day is sunscreen, even if it's cloudy or rainy outside. Why? Good habits start young and if you use sunscreen now, you'll have gorgeous skin when you're 50, 60, 70. Plus, the sun's UV rays can penetrate clouds and car windows.

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Self-Tanner Will Always Stink

Tricks to applying self tanning lotion
How to correctly apply self-tanner. Gio Barto/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Unfortunately, even the best ones smell. Your best bet is to apply self-tanner a good 24 hours before an important event and take a shower (don't loofah) to wash off any smell. For really big events like a dance or wedding, consider a professional spray tan. These are pricey and don't last long, so make sure to do it a day before the big event.

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Don't Let Nails Go

Close up of multicolor fingernail polish on woman's hands
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Not into manicures and pedicures? No worries. Just make sure to keep nails clean and the same length. If you do want to paint them, don't keep the polish on until half of it's chipped away. Also, there's nothing worse than too-long toenails. Keep nails clipped between pedicures! People tend to judge others by the care they put into their hands and feet.

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Don't Line the Inside of Your Eyes

Woman's brown eyes.
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Of course, you CAN line the inside of your eyes. There's no one stopping you. But keep in mind it will make your eyes appear smaller and who wants that? I love the look of a liquid liner on the top lid and a smudged pencil line on the bottom lid.

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Shave Legs at the End of the Shower

Soft and silky
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Cut down on nicks and cuts by making shaving the very last step in your shower or bathing ritual.

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Play up Your Best Feature

Angelina Jolie
Angelina Jolie. Jason Kempin/Getty Images

What feature do people comment on most? Play it up. If you're told you have Angelina Jolie lips, make sure to wear gloss and play with bold lipstick colors. If it's your eye color people love, find eyeshadow colors that complement them and make sure to wear mascara. Also, know what color shirts look best on you and go shopping.


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Save Money by Making Your Own Scrubs and Face Mask

Woman applying face masks
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Why buy a $60 scrub or face mask when you can make one out of ingredients from your kitchen for pennies? All you need to slough off dead skin from your face and body is a homemade scrub made of 1 part oil and 2 parts sugar or salt. As for face masks, there are dozens of recipes for all skin types.

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Remember: Beauty Does Come From Within

Beautiful, confident young woman.
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Think about a girl you know who doesn't follow all the "beauty rules" yet all the guys love her. Why? Because she's confident. If you aren't wearing makeup and your toes haven't been repainted in weeks, then you will still be 10 times prettier than the mopey cheerleader sitting next to you in class if you're happy and smiling.