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Surviving Shellacked Updos and Other Bridesmaid Beauty Disasters

For the bridesmaids among us—no less than 11 million this year—spring ushers in the season when we don chiffon plus a shellacking of makeup and hairspray for yet another dear friend. But standing by the bride’s side needn't be such a beauty disaster area. Erica Whelan, a New York City-based hair and makeup artist (and five-time bridesmaid) shares some quick fixes to common gripes.

The Bridesmaid Beauty Challenge: A Kim Kardashian smoky eye…for an 11 am church ceremony.
The Pro Solution: Ladies, grab your Q-tips! First, use one to remove any silvery eye shadow on the brow bone—and tone down the drama. Then put a tiny bit of moisturizer on another Q-tip and dab it underneath the eye to erase some of the smokiness. Finally, apply translucent powder to the whole lid to soften it up—try W3LL People’s Realist Satin Mineral Setting Powder.

The Bridesmaid Beauty Challenge: A prom-ish updo that'll never move. Ever.
The Pro Solution: If the updo is truly intolerable, take it down, brush out all that hairspray and pull your hair into a low or high ponytail or bun. If it’s passable but too stiff, loosen a few pieces near your face with a rat tail comb then massage them between your fingers to make them look less shellacked. Still sticky? Spray in a tiny bit of dry shampoo.

The Bridesmaid Beauty Challenge: A foundation shade that doesn’t match your body.
The Pro Solution: So you look like Tara Reid from the neck up and Rooney Mara from the neck down—or vice versa. If you're en route to the ceremony, you have no choice but to blend some of the foundation onto your neck and décolletage to even things out. If your face is paler than your body, use a matte bronzer like Jouer’s to warm your face up.

The Bridesmaid Beauty Challenge: A Dolly Parton-style blowout
The Pro Solution: When you’ve been dealt a head of overly voluminous or tightly curled hair, divide it into three to four loose braids and leave for thirty minutes or so. If you can get your hands on a flat iron, gently press down on the braids to reduce tightness and volume without making your hair pin-straight. Undo the braids and your ‘do should be considerably more restrained.

When all else fails…
Bring your own foundation... And concealer. The makeup artist can use them as a reference (or just use them.)
Request a simple blowout. It’s your safest bet. If the bride wants updos, ask for a low bun. And then ask if you can see the back before any hairspray is applied.
Be polite but direct. Whelan has found that specific, upfront instructions make everyone’s lives easier. "I don’t want you to stay quiet and then hate your hair when it's done!" she says.

Looking for more brilliant bridal ideas? Check out our Wedding planner for thoughtful gifts, beauty must-haves, and special offers for the big day.

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