I’m a Beauty Editor, and This Is Exactly How I Prepped for My Wedding

Must read

All products featured on Allure are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

I got married eight months ago. My plan was to write this — my personal guide to wedding beauty prep — once I got back from my honeymoon. That didn’t happen. I’m not one to miss deadlines (even if I’m the one that set them), but I blew past this one big time. Each and every time I put fingers to keyboard, I was paralyzed by just how cringey it felt to imply that anyone needs to do anything to enhance their appearance before their wedding. Because… you absolutely don’t. And I didn’t either!

But the reality is that a lot of people (including myself) want to feel like the best version of themselves on their wedding day. And for a lot of people (including myself) that means taking a little extra care when it comes to your skin, hair, and makeup.

Samm Blake

Because I am a beauty editor, I have the unique privilege of trying the most innovative treatments, buzziest products, and coolest new devices as part of my job. I see it as my responsibility to only get behind the really good stuff; the things I’d shell out for if I wasn’t getting them gratis (and on that note, I want to be clear that all the treatments and services you’re about to read about below were, indeed, gratis). When readers and friends say that the hairstylist I recommended gave them a life-altering cut or that the brightening serum I suggested has made them feel more comfortable in their own skin, that’s success. So that’s how I’m justifying this — admittedly — pretty darn narcissistic story. If I can help fellow brides make the best beauty decisions for themselves, then I’m doing my job right.

Of course, there are a hundred different ways to aesthetically prepare for your wedding day (doing absolutely nothing being just as valid as any one of them). While I could have tried pretty much any treatment or service and justified it as “work,” this is what I chose to do. My “thing” might not be your “thing” (for example, I’m not into spray tans but I did spend a considerable amount of time choosing the perfect shade of milky-pink nail polish), and that’s totally okay. Take from it what you will.

Skin

I’ve been taking better-than-average care of my skin for more than a decade now (interviewing dermatologists day in and day out will have that effect). But especially as someone who didn’t want to wear tons and tons of makeup on my wedding day, I knew I wanted to pay even more attention to my skin in the months prior.

I was lucky enough to be under the care of Macrene Alexiades, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City who is something like the Michaelangelo of faces: She envisions the optimal outcome for every patient, and uses her litany of lasers, injectables, and topical treatments to achieve it.

I started visiting Dr. Alexiades’ office in December in advance of my May wedding, which was cutting it close, dermatologically-speaking: Dr. Alexiades recommends that brides have their initial consultation about a year in advance, since that’s how long it can take to treat particularly stubborn conditions like acne and rosacea.

As I sat on a cream-colored couch in her Park Avenue office, Dr. Alexiades asked me my skin goals for the wedding (and I’d like to emphasize that she asked me — I don’t like it when doctors point out “problems” you didn’t even know you had). I said that I was hoping to get some more definition along my jawline, minimize the heaviness of my brows and lids, and lessen some patches of discoloration.

Over the next five months, I visited Dr. Alexiades’s office more often than my wedding venue. Our appointments involved multiple types of treatments in pursuit of my self-identified goals. Dr. Alexiades used radiofrequency devices — specifically the Legend Pro and NuEra by Lumenis — to help tighten the skin along my neck to create a more defined jawline. We did two sessions a month apart (a single one can cost anywhere from $500 to $1,800, depending upon your location and provider), and after just one, my jawline did indeed look more chiseled, especially in photos.

Samm Blake

To get my overall skin tone more even and texture smoother, Dr. Alexiades used a device called Laser Genesis, a type of Nd:YAG laser that (painlessly) heats the skin to stimulate collagen production and encourage cell turnover. (A single treatment costs about $575 on average, but again, can differ based on where you live and your provider.) “I selected the Genesis because I was confident it would tackle any brown spots, red capillaries, and fine lines without downtime,” says Dr. Alexiades. We did four treatments over the course of the five months we had ahead of my wedding, and I can confirm that I never once left her office looking the least bit red or blotchy — and that the dark spots dotting my forehead and the tops of my cheeks indeed faded into near oblivion.

I wasn’t new to the world of Botox and other neuromodulators. But if you’ve never gotten it before and don’t have the time to try it at least twice in the year prior to your wedding, frankly, I’d say to skip it — unlike filler, which can be dissolved immediately, the effects of botulinum toxin can take three to six months to fade completely.

Samm Blake

In the right hands, though, neuromodulator injections can work wonders (and on average, cost about $300 to $600 per area depending, yet again, on who your injector is and where you live). I’ve previously been treated along my brows and forehead to help visually open up my lids, which are naturally hooded. Still, my face is shaped as such that when I smile, my cheekbones lift and my eyes crinkle in a way that they disappear almost completely. Since I would (hopefully!) be doing a lot of smiling in my wedding photos, Dr. Alexiades used botulinum toxin in an area I’d never had it before: the bunny lines across the nose. “By releasing these muscles with botulinum toxin injections, I was able to reveal your beautiful big eyes, smooth your facial skin while smiling, and ensure a lovely elevated brow,” she says. (This is probably a good time to mention that you should always see a board-certified dermatologist for any treatments that go into or past the skin barrier, Botox and its peers included.)

At home, I diligently applied the same types of skin-care products I’d been using for years. My job is to test the latest and greatest, yes, but in the weeks before my wedding, I revisited my old-reliables: It was not the time to try a new peel or see whether or not a cayenne pepper-infused gloss really can plump your lips.

My morning routine looked a little something like this: I cleansed my face in the shower using a face wash with gentle exfoliants, like iS Clinical Cleansing Complex. After the shower, I applied La Mer The Treatment Lotion, a hydrating essence. Then, I used Macrene Actives High Performance Face Serum — with dark spot-reducing vitamin C, arginine, and amino acids — to amplify the effects of the Genesis laser. Finally — and most importantly — I’d apply sunscreen. EltaMD UV Clear SPF 46 is moisturizing and never leaves a white cast.

Macrene Actives High Performance Face Serum

At night, I used a cotton pad soaked in Bioderma Sensibio H2O micellar water to take off my sunscreen and makeup. Every other night, I used a liquid exfoliator like Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 or Eighth Day The Resurfacing Tonic. Then, I applied the same Macrene Actives High Performance Face Serum I used in the morning followed by Clé de Peau Beauté Eye Contour Cream Supreme (which targets dark circles) and SkinCeuticals Triple Lipid Restore 2:4:2 moisturizer (with skin barrier-strengthening ceramides).

Clé de Peau Beauté Eye Contour Cream Supreme

Everything was going great. I had achieved skin nirvana! But then, just a couple weeks before the wedding, it happened: I got a pimple. (I suspect this was due to a combination of hormones and stress over things like napkins and seating charts.) Dr. Alexiades squeezed me in for cortisone injection, which helps calm inflammation. She also told me that if I was worried about breakouts, I could start a low-dose antibiotic — 40mg of doxycycline daily — as a layer of protection for these last two weeks before the big day. (I opted out since when I break out, it’s usually a singular, cystic eruption.)

In the end, my pimple dissipated (thank you, Dr. Alexiades and your magic cortisone injection!) and my face looked exactly as I wanted it to on my wedding day. I do believe great skin is the basis for every makeup look, which brings us to…

Makeup

I can’t emphasize enough just how important it is to find a makeup artist who you really like being around. This person will be just a few inches from your face for several hours on a sometimes-stressful, emotionally-charged day — so if you find two people to be equal in skill, go with the one you mesh best with.

My friend Daniel Martin is an exceptional talent who pretty much wrote the book on what it means to look like the best version of yourself on your wedding day. He’s also one of the most beloved people in the beauty industry for his warm demeanor and incredible energy. So when Daniel offered to do my makeup, it felt heaven-sent.

We did one trial about two months before the wedding (one thing I didn’t have the foresight to do was to schedule the trial before a wedding-adjacent event like my bridal shower or bachelorette party, though I wish I had). I showed Daniel my wedding dresses (yes, plural… more on that in a minute) and we talked about things like how much coverage I wanted (medium, satin-finish) and if I wanted false lashes (just at the outer corners, please).

Samm Blake

The trial was in the morning because Daniel wanted me to wear the makeup throughout the day and report back. We made tiny tweaks like choosing a slightly-lighter shade of the same lipstick, and decided to double-down on undereye concealer (I’m prone to creasing).

At the risk of this reading like a shopping list but because you are probably just as interested in the makings of a Daniel Martin makeup look as I was, here goes: He prepped my skin with Tatcha The Texture Tonic to exfoliate away errant flakes, then applied The Essence and The Water Cream to flood my skin with hydration. Then, he used Tatcha The Liquid Silk Canvas primer to create a smooth canvas on which to apply makeup. (Daniel is Tatcha’s global director of artistry and education.)

Tatcha The Liquid Silk Canvas

After my skin was prepared, Daniel used a Beautyblender to apply Nars Soft Matte Foundation (I’m the lightest shade, Siberia). Then, he dabbed the orangey-toned Nars Radiant Creamy Color Corrector in Light on my undereyes to help counteract my purple-toned dark circles before topping it off with Dior Backstage Concealer in 0N. On my cheeks, he applied Tower 28 Beauty BeachPlease Lip + Cheek Cream Blush in Office Hours, a subtle mauve, before setting with Dior Forever Natural Velvet Matte Compact Foundation powder in 0N.

Tower 28 Beauty BeachPlease Lip + Cheek Cream Blush in Office Hours

I don’t wear a lot of eye makeup in my everyday life, so to make sure I still felt like me, we stayed away from sparkles and stuck to neutral shades. After applying True + Luscious Angel Eyes Eyeshadow Primer, Daniel used the matte shades in Makeup by Mario Ethereal Eyes Eyeshadow Palette and finished the look with Lancôme Hypnôse Waterproof Mascara. He then beefed up my brows with Anastasia Beverly Hills DipBrow Waterproof Pomade in Soft Brown. (I’d gotten them tweezed at Sania’s Brow Bar about a week prior.)

Makeup by Mario Ethereal Eyes Eyeshadow Palette

Nars Afterglow Sensual Shine Lipstick in Turned On

Lastly, Daniel lined my lips with Make Up For Ever Artist Color Pencil in 600 Anywhere Caffeine, a pinky-neutral, before filling them in with Nars Afterglow Sensual Shine Hydrating Lipstick in Turned On, a muted shade of berry.

Nars Powermatte Lipstick in Notorious

Tatcha The Kissu Lip Mask

My makeup didn’t budge at all… until exactly when we wanted it to. About two-thirds of the way through the reception, I switched from my white Amsale dress to a red anarkali to honor my husband’s Indian heritage. But why simply swap outfits when you could change your beauty look, too? Daniel traded my neutral lipstick for a tomato-red one: Nars Powermatte Lipstick in Notorious plus a dab of Tatcha The Kissu Lip Mask in the center for moisture.

Samm Blake

Hair

During the same 10 minutes that Daniel changed my lipstick, hairstylist Tommy Buckett completely revamped my hair look. But let’s rewind…

About a month before my wedding, extension expert Priscilla Valles loaded up my fine hair with Glam Seamless keratin-bond extensions, which adhere to tiny-teeny sections of hair and are pretty much imperceptible. Since I was going for volume, not length, she trimmed the 21” inch extensions so they matched my chest-length hair. (And because keratin-bond extensions stay in place for two to three months — at which time they start to slide down the hair shaft and require professional removal using a solvent — they lasted long past my honeymoon.)

Samm Blake

A few days after getting my extensions, I headed to Marie Robinson Salon to see my friend and stylist Tommy, who, like Daniel, is exactly the kind of person you want around you on your wedding day. I brought my veil — which had belonged to my mom — so we could get a clear picture of how my hair would look with it both on and off. I knew I wanted to wear my hair down, and we decided on a center part with the front sections of my hair tucked behind my ears — and lots and lots of volume at the crown.

My hair is ultra-fine, so I didn’t wash it on my wedding day: My ever-so slightly dirty second day hair holds a style far better. Tommy added smoothness and shine using Iles Formula Finishing Serum Haute Performance, and locked in the look using Oribe Superfine Hair Spray.

Iles Formula Finishing Serum Haute Performance

Oribe Superfine Hairspray

Okay, now back to my mid-reception beauty switch up. At my trial, Tommy and I concocted a plan to change my hair into a half-up accented with flowers inspired by the colors of my dress. Tommy magically transformed a bouquet of silk flowers into a hair accessory by hot gluing individual blooms onto hair combs — and then, more wizardry. He executed the whole transformation in about 10 minutes inside my makeshift on-site bridal suite: the Dancing Crane Cafe at the Central Park Zoo.

Samm Blake

Nails

For a few brief moments that evening, the Zoo’s cafe also served as…. a nail salon. My friend Miss Pop is an editorial manicurist and the queen of nail art. She commissioned a friend to create teeny-tiny 24 karat gold bezel-set gems, which she adhered to the neutral manicure I wore during the ceremony (CND Shellac in Romantique, a milky pink expertly applied by manicurist Anna Miles) using nail glue.

Samm Blake

In an ideal world, we would have used another layer of clear gel to set and cure the gems so they’d last longer — but the nail glue did the trick for the evening, and wiped off easily (without disturbing the gel manicure underneath) using non-acetone remover.

Fragrance

Since scent is closely tied to memory, I liked the idea of pre-selecting a fragrance for the day; one that would theoretically transport me back to my wedding each time I caught a whiff of it. After a lot of debate, I opted for Ellis Brooklyn Sweet Eau de Parfum, a blend of pear, violet, and white amber that is — as its name implies — quite sweet, but warm and enveloping, too. In my bridal suite, I burned the brand’s Fable candle — which also has notes of violet and amber — while I was getting ready. And lo and behold, lighting the same candle in my living room today still kinda gives me butterflies.

Ellis Brooklyn Sweet Eau de Parfum

Ellis Brooklyn Fable Terrific Scented Candle

If you made it this far, thank you for caring! As a beauty editor, my wedding was a chance to bring together what I consider to be the dream team, and to put the products and treatments I spend my days writing about to the ultimate test. Would I do it all again? Yes! (The stressing over napkins and seating charts, however, I could live without.) In my humble opinion, radiofrequency along my jawline and Botox delivered the biggest payoff; Laser Genesis sessions could be swapped for regular facials, if you’ve got a pro you already know and love (and if you’re willing to deal with the downtime that comes with extractions). I loved my keratin-bond hair extensions (I practically shed a tear when they were finally removed, cascading dramatically to the floor) but for a fraction of the price, wearing clip-ins day-of could achieve a similar effect.

But fellow brides, above all, please know that at the end of the day, you will be just as married whether you’ve spent months on your beauty prep or hardly given it a second thought.

More articles

Latest article