Does beauty only come in expensive little bottles or from the hands of skillful plastic surgeons? Of course not. And while genetics may help or hurt your chances for healthy skin, a combination of healthful habits, good skin care, and artistic application of makeup can soon help portray a more attractive you.

You’ve heard the old worn-out saying: “Pretty is as pretty does?” Very often, beauty is a matter of having the initiative to learn new and better ways of taking care of yourself and your skin and doing this routine consistently.

After consulting with several professionals, the following tips are offered for taking better care of your skin, using makeup to enhance your appearance, and the one never-fail trick for making yourself beautiful – a positive attitude.

Preparing the face

One of the first considerations in a makeover is to take care of any preexisting skin problems. Although makeup can hide some flaws, a chronic condition needs professional attention, especially if the skin condition will be further irritated by cosmetics.

For all steps in skin preparation, remember to use gentle upward motions. Don’t help gravity by pulling down, and don’t use a heavy hand to scrub.

Preparing the skin for a makeover is just as important as applying makeup – as is knowing your skin type and using the appropriate products to produce the desired results. Don’t be afraid to try different products until you find the look you want, and don’t feel you have to spend a fortune. Remember that how you feel about your appearance will reflect to others as much as anything you do.

The first step in a makeover is cleansing the skin. All-natural cleansers are available in a variety of forms, including liquid soaps and moisturizing cleansers, as well as standard bar soaps. Natural ingredients frequently found in such products include citrus extracts; various herbs, including chamomile, lavender, and lemon balm; and grains. Experiment with different varieties and stick with the one that best suits your skin’s needs.

Dr. James H. Sternberg, Assistant Clinical Professor of Dermatology at UCLA Medical School, and co-author of The Skin Book and Great Skin at Any Age, says if you use a bar soap or any drying cleanser, you should follow immediately, “literally within three minutes, with a moisturizer, a product that won’t cause whiteheads or blackheads. Once you wash your skin, you wash off all the protective oils and fats. Your skin gets very hydrated, but there’s nothing to hold that moisture in, so it immediately evaporates out leaving [your skin] dryer can than when you started.”

Aesthetician Jeana Muir suggests using a good glycolic cleanser followed by a scrub. A scrub can either be soft granules or something slightly abrasive that will exfoliate the top layer of dead cells. If your skin is sensitive, you never want to use anything harsh that will scratch or cause damage. Sternberg even suggests avoiding vigorous facial massages which can break down more collagen, especially with skin that has a lot of sun damage. Once you’ve used a scrub, you need to use a gentle cleanser with moisture to remove the residue.

AHA’s are one new means of exfoliation

Professionals at a San Francisco-based cosmetic company suggest it is a good idea to exfoliate regularly to remove the dead skin cells that accumulate on top of the epidermis (the outer layer of skin) and create a dull appearance.

Aside from scrubs, exfoliation can be done with alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA’s), which are usually glycolic or lactic acids available in cleansers, moisturizing lotions, and peels.

Sternberg says, “Exfoliants are fine as long as they don’t dry you out too much.” The feeling is that if you want to get results that are noticeable, you should use products with a 10 percent or higher AHA content. “At low levels, they are not [effective] at all.”

AHA’s used daily are now believed to reduce skin problems associated with “photodamage,” that is, darkened spots of pigmentation and even some skin cancers associated with sun exposure. Daily use of glycolic acid has also been found to be useful for some dermatological conditions such as acne.

“At high levels, AHA’s can cause tremendous burning and you can even get scarring if they are left on without being neutralized.” The higher concentrations are used more frequently in peels which are applied by professionals. Sternberg suggests a product with at least 10 percent glycolic acid that can be used twice a day (morning and evening). You should use a cleanser and moisturizer twice a day as well.

Now that your face is clean, most professionals recommend using a toner to remove any cleanser residue and to hydrate your skin in preparation for accepting a moisturizer. Sternberg recommends that a good sunscreen is also needed, one with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 or higher.

Once the skin has been cleansed and moisturized, Sternberg suggests an old show-biz trick for hiding skin problems. “To anything pink or red, you want to use some sort of green-based formula or green moisturizer, because green plus red makes brown.” If you put a little green tint on a red face or problem spot, for example, the skin color is neutralized to a brownish color and then foundation makeup will easily cover it.

Applying makeup

Research shows many species, humans included, seem to be more attracted to others with symmetrical features. In other words, the center of the lip, nose, and forehead should line-up vertically, while eyes, cheekbones, nostrils, jawbones, and lips are horizontally even and seem to be an identical match. Surprisingly, many of the people the world sees as the most beautiful are also unusually average.

Through the illusion of makeup, we can contour the face and hide flaws. By using a lighter shade of foundation, we can highlight areas we want to emphasize or, with a slightly darker shade, create shadows. For example, to make the nose appear narrower, sweep a darker line down each side of the bridge. Or to de-emphasize heavy jowls, use a shadow along the jawbone and highlight the cheekbone.

And just as there are a variety of natural cleansers and moisturizers, there is a wide selection of natural makeup choices, too. Many of these products feature essential oils derived from flowers and vegetables, as well as herbs and herbal extracts. Many also contain antioxidant vitamins to reduce oxidation.

Although rarely thought of as a form of skin protection, makeup – even those varieties without added sunscreen – actually protect skin by providing a protective covering from the harmful UVA and UVB rays of the sun.

One expert offers her makeup application tips

For tips on applying makeup, I spoke with Yvonne DePatis-Kupka, a makeup artist and hair designer for “The Jenny McCarthy Show” on MTV. She has also worked on movies such as Clueless, Interview with a Vampire, Forrest Gump, and The Nutty Professor.

“Once the skin is moisturized and clean, I go to the problem areas which might be the bluish or the darkish circles in the little corners of the eye and dabble those with concealer. You can camouflage all kinds of things, by starting with a concealer.”

Next she applies foundation. Most of the time she uses a lighter foundation around the whole eye area because it creates such a beautiful look and makes the eye “pop out” a little more. The base foundation should be as close to the skin color as possible. If you darken, only go slightly darker than your normal shade.

After the base is even and smooth, then comes powdering, which is important because that sets the makeup and keeps it from rubbing off on everything. Be sure to dust off the excess. Yvonne prefers loose powder, but any powders will do that work for you.

Shaping the eyebrows to look right for that individual is next. “Because the eyebrow is like the center, it surrounds the whole eye and gives expression, it should be nicely defined.”

Different colors of shadows are then applied to the outer corner of the eye and the inner area. “If there isn’t that beautiful inner part, you can make one by using soft contour colors in the beige and neutral tones and taupe. Then, in the corners of the eyes, use darker colors always lifting up, not dragging color down. This is really pretty simple makeup for every day.”

There are usually four shades of eye colors. Starting with a pinkish tone, wash the eyelid in the center part of that wonderful bone in there and drag it out to the corners, then use the taupe colors. Drag the color across that bone and then start darkening in that outer corner. You can lift it way up or you can just do it very subtle inside of the corner pocket. You can also drag the darker brown all the way across from the inner corner to the outer corner, but very thinly. These are shadows. Then you can add liner and mascara. Yvonne likes both black and brown liners and mascaras, because they do different things and change the whole look.

“It is always easier to add than it is to take away. I really like to use a cream color right in that inner corner which pops the eye open. A cream color powder or stark white right up underneath the eyebrow also really opens the eye.”

Yvonne likes to use an eyelash curler because it, too, helps to open the eye. She also likes to use lash lengtheners that can be put on after the eyelashes are curled to make the lashes thicker and longer, and then the mascara is put on over that.

The blush is applied on what she calls the apple of the cheek. “If you look straight at the person, it’s that little ball that pops up when they smile. Just lightly drag the color there in an upward direction, up the cheekbone very softly. A pet peeve of mine is too much blush.” By using a softer taupe, or other color depending on the skin tone, you can contour the bone right underneath which enhances the cheekbone.

“Lip liners work really well for a natural lip look. The pencil should neither be too dry and hard nor too soft and creamy.” You can check the texture by applying it on your hand and testing how it goes on.

If the mouth is the right shape, then just follow the natural lines; otherwise, you can shape the mouth exactly the way you want it. “Just draw it, change it, make a fuller lip or make a totally uniformed mouth with the lip pencil. Sometimes, for simplicity, you can use pencil on the lip for color instead of lipstick, then a slight dab of a gloss or something, and you’ve made a nice matte lipstick with a little sheen to it. You can also just leave it matte like that with a pencil, but this look is usually more flattering to younger women. When women are maturing they need a little more moisture.”

There are also several brands of concealer pencils which are almost like a lip liner. If it’s flesh colored, you can go right outside of the lip liner which will pop the mouth out and help keep the color from bleeding.

“The natural makeup is the softer look for day.” Then the look can be easily punched up for evening. “In the evening time, of course you can take much more makeup. Lights are darker, it’s darker outside, so it doesn’t look garish like it would if you had too much on in the daytime.”

Yvonne recommends investing in good, soft, moderately-priced brushes, as well as palettes that work all the time for everyday life, with three to five different colors.

“Makeup is such artistry, It changes people completely. It doesn’t require hundreds and thousands of dollars’ worth of products to achieve a very pretty makeover. I think a healthy, happy life is the best thing there is and making oneself feel better can be done by good grooming. Makeup can be a real fun thing.”

Also, if you’re looking for health and beauty products which are not tested on animals and are free of ingredients from animal sources, your natural products store is the best source.

One final trick

Now, for the never-fail trick I mentioned earlier – a positive attitude. Think of the most beautiful person you know – the person who seems to glow. You know, the one who never seems to worry about smile lines, the person whose beauty is more than skin-deep, and you feel good just being around them. Now visualize that person…Does it matter if their nose is too large or their ears protrude or their features aren’t perfectly symmetrical? What makes that person so appealing? I’ll bet you find it’s one positive attribute – attitude.

The most important thing you can do to enhance your beauty is to offer the world your best – with a smile. Besides, if some wrinkles are inevitable, better they frame a smile.