Encyclopedia of Beauty

From A to Z, here are the top picks from your ESSENCE beauty editors for everything you need to acheieve beautiful skin, healthy hair and knockout nails.

ESSENCE.COM Oct, 02, 2012

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No look is complete without a dash of swag. No matter what hairstyle or lip color you rock, working it with confidence turns it into a hit. Bottom line: When it comes to beauty, own it!

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For a sleek blowout, invest in an ionic dryer. Why? Negatively charged ions don't disrupt the hair cuticle. The result is frizz-free strands. We love the CHI Touch Dryer ($200, ulta.com) which has a "coarse" hair setting.

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Use DIY peels to speed cell turnover and get glowing. These at-home versions come in a lower strength than those offered by your dermatologist. We love the Exuviance Performance Peel AP25 ($72, ulta.com).

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Dark circles can be caused by heredity, broken blood vessels or lack of sleep. Clinique Even Better Eyes Dark Circle Corrector ($40, clinique.com) is a great defense.

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"Our brows often lack symmetry, and women pluck too much trying to make them the same," says Kim Roxie of Lamik Beauty in Houston. Get a pro to define the shape and then maintain it with tweezers like the limited edition Tweezerman/Cynthia Rowley Mini Slant ($15) and Slant tweezers ($25, Sephora).

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We love going faux. You can easily transform your tresses with color, like Sanya Richards Ross, or wear your hair straight one day and kinky the next, and even sport a short do without getting a cut.

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Gloss is our go-to for flirty glam. For celebrity makeup artist Oslyn Holder, it's all about finding the right color and tip. "Go for a brush instead of a sponge for a precise finish," she says. "A brush gives you more control and will keep you from overdoing it."  Try STILA Lip Glaze in Cranberry ($22, stilacosmetics.com).

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Fresh fruit and veggie juice (think kale, beets, carrots) can give your look a boost. "Most people notice less puffiness in the face and more vibrant skin," says Lori Kenyon, co-owner of Ritual Cleanse in Corona de Mar, California. Drink up!

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These aren't your mama's tools—they've been upgraded! Pick up one of these modern-day versions of the classic hot comb. Above: Gold 'N Hot Professional Pressing & Straightening Comb ($30, sallybeauty.com).

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"Use a shampoo designed specifically for the condition," says celebrity hairstylist Oscar James.  Clear Scalp & Hair Beauty Therapy Shampoo ($5, drugstores) instantly soothes an itchy scalp.

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You don't need a lab to create your most useful beauty elixirs. You can make these two at home.  Add brown sugar and olive oil to create a customized body scrub that leaves skin gleaming.  You can also mix yogurt, honey and almond oil to create a hair taming concoction that smoothes tresses and fights frizz.

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Lowlights, like those seen on Mary J. Blige, strategically darken strands, while highlights lighten them. For dark-haired beauties, stylists use lowlights in red or brown tones to balance out overly lightened strands, blending them into the natural hair color.

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Two biggies: (1) We don't get sun damage. FALSE! Melanin does give us an advantage, but we still need sunscreen every day. (2) We don't show age. FALSE! Yes, our skin is slow to wrinkle, but melanin doesn't keep us from sagging. Loss of volume is the number one aging factor in women of color, says Washington, D.C., dermatologist Cheryl M. Burgess.

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Did you know that the creamy shea butter actually comes from the shea nut tree, which grows in West Africa? This all-natural, creamy product can be used to moisturize both the skin and hair without feeling heavy or greasy.

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Want moisture and a sexy scent? Indulge in a fragrance oil—it's the best of both worlds. Your skin will have a subtle sheen and a light scent that lasts all day. Try Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb Bomblicious Perfumed Body Oil ($65, Nordstrom).

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Want your manicure to pop?  Follow these tips:

1. BUFF: Smoothing your nails will allow the polish to adhere better to the nail bed.

2. LAYER: Brushing your nail color over white polish makes the color more vivid.

3. SEAL: Paint the tip of the nail to lock in the polish.

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Q: How can I get my eye makeup to last?

A: Don't you hate it when you glance in the mirror midday and your eye makeup is gone? When it comes to eye shadow, double up. Start with a cream shadow close to your natural skin tone, then layer a powder shadow over it. The cream gives the powder something to attach to. If you're a liner girl, you'll love the Tarte Clean Slate 360° Creaseless 12-hr Eye Primer ($19, tarte.com).

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To keep hair healthy while relaxing, go a minimum of six weeks (eight is even better) between touch-ups and remember to get ends trimmed.

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You may have sensitive skin if your skin is easily irritated and tingles, or you break out in rashes often. See a dermatologist to rule out underlying health issues.

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If you don't do The Big Chop, the trickiest part of going natural is learning to live with two textures. The key is to moisturize and wear protective hairstyles.

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Bobby pins, hair elastics, a light pomade and a bit of imagination are all you'll need for these star-worthy styles. Whether it's a French roll, chignon or pony, an updo keeps us cute when we need to secure our strands in high humidity or amp up our glam factor for the red carpet.

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Besides popping your vitamins, look for them in your beauty products. Vitamins A and E, for example, help speed up the skin's natural repair system, while Vitamin C brightens skin.

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For sparse lashes use wands designed to catch every one. Try a curl-enhancer brush to open eyes. For short lashes, grab a wand that glides from root to tip. We love Givenchy's Noir Couture ($32, Sephora).

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We may look younger longer, but we should still be proactive about preserving our complexion. Enter serums. They're usually more concentrated than lotions and penetrate the skin more easily than creams. Plus, a drop goes a long way.  Try YSL's Forever Youth Liberator serum ($150, ysbeautyus.com) to rejuvenate cells.

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Don't just rely on toothpaste spot treatments to nix zits. Go high-tech with an at-home acne treatment. We love the no!no! Skin Acne Treatment System ($180, my-no-no.com). It promises results within 24 hours.


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