Prom Timeline: When to Start Your Beauty Routine on the Big Night

Victoria Moorhouse
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Prom Timeline: When to Start Your Beauty Routine on the Big Night
Photo: JGI/Tom Grill/Getty Images

Even though getting ready for prom is half the fun of the whole event, putting together the perfect hair and makeup look can totally get stressful—and since wiping tinted tanning lotion on your dress or smudging wet nail polish all over your cuticles are issues you just don’t have time for, planning out a timeline is essential.

Obviously being early is better than running way behind, but who wants to sit around for hours worrying about a falling updo? A happy-medium is ideal—and it’s even best to start your beauty prep before the actual day of prom.

MORE: How to Match Your Dress to Your Hairstyle for Prom Night

We pulled together a roundup of advice from hair, makeup and nail pros that will help you create a customized schedule for your big night.

Self-Tanning

Tanning beds are so out, but spray tan and self-tanning technology have really come a long way if that sunkissed glow is on your must-haves list.

  • If you’re going to do a spray tan, plot extra time in your schedule that week. “If you can tan the evening or two before an event, this will allow the tan to develop overnight, which will guarantee a longer lasting finish,” explains St. Tropez expert, Sophie Evans. Depending on the product you use, you can also self-tan the day before prom, too. “A base coat of classic St. Tropez Bronzing Mousse or Express Bronzing Mousse applied the day before the event and then St. Tropez Luxe Dry Oil or One Night Only applied as a skin finishing product on the day of the event works fabulously for a beautiful glow,” she notes.
  • If you’ve been using product for a while now, make it last or at least make sure it’s fading evenly by exfoliating. Evans suggests exfoliating lightly every 2-3 days while you’re wearing the product so color build-up doesn’t occur. She says you can do this with a gentle body polisher like the St. Tropez body polish—it will not rip or tear at the skin and will keep the tan even as it starts to fade.
  • To be extra careful, schedule a trial run session a couple of weeks before to make sure you’re asking for the correct tone of product.
  • If you’re using a daily moisturizer, chances are that it will deposit a tiny bit of color over an extended period of time. You’re not going to get fast results here. Check the back of the bottle to see when you should start to notice a change in your skin tone.

Nails

There’s nothing quite as annoying as looking down at your nails and seeing a chunk of color missing, but chipping manicures naturally happen. To avoid this being the case on the actual night of prom, take some precautionary measures. While you could always claim it’s a take on the negative space trend, it’s not an ideal alibi.

  • Believe it or not, you might not want to make the appointment on the actual day of prom. “Get your nails done the day before prom to ensure you don’t damage them, however you should be sure to apply an additional coat of clear nail polish to your mani and pedi on prom day. Some extra protection will ensure that you don’t chip the polish or break a nail on prom night,” notes celebrity manicurist Skky Hadley.
  • By getting them done a day before, Hadley also says you’ll be able to ensure they’re fully dry—and it will also give you the opportunity to redo them if they weren’t your thing to begin with.
  • To make them last, be mindful of how you go about doing your household chores. Our expert says you should try wearing gloves when washing the dishes or even going into chlorine. “Dunking hands in and out of water strips nails of all moisture and will make the color and shine fade,” she notes.
  • If you’re doing your nails by yourself, start the day before but make sure your nails are buffed and dry. “The smooth, naturally gleaming surface will help the pigment in the polish adhere better to nails,” Hadley says. To avoid chipping, paint underneath of the nail and apply a strengthener.

Hair

Up, down, half-up, braided—there’s A LOT to choose from, and the style you pick will depend greatly on the dress that you’re wearing that evening. After you’ve picked your style, you have to plot out when to create it. Obviously, this step is going to be done on the day of the event, but how many hours in advance to construct it is key, especially if you’re dealing with humidity. Try some of the tips below to make sure your prom night coincides with a good hair day.

  • For hair, you’ll be dealing with a matter of hours, not days. “If the prom is at 6 or 7, I would recommend getting the hair done around 1 or 2. You want to make sure that you have plenty of time to make changes to the hair style if needed, get home, get dressed, and get to your destination without rushing,” explains Edward Tricomi, Master Stylist and Co-Founder of Warren Tricomi Salons.
  • Generally, you’re not going to want to make drastic color changes the day before or day-of a big event (it’ll be a total disaster if you hate it), but color-touch ups are more than OK. Tricomi says you can do this day-of or even a week before.
  • One of the most annoying things about curly ‘dos at prom is that they tend to fall out before you even get on the dance floor. Avoid this by trying a technique called spot spraying. “You spray the one curl instead of spraying all over. It’s best to use either medium or strong hold hairspray,” says Tricomi.

Makeup

This step isn’t just about applying lipstick—there’s so much more to it. In addition to picking out the look you want to wear in advance, you’ll want to be on top of your skin care routine leading up to the dance. And while the latter will clearly be done in advance, makeup is the very last thing you should do on prom night. Take a look at some of the prep tips below.

  • “Leading up to the big night, be sure to have all of your beauty and wellness routines in full force weeks in advance,” explains makeup artist Neil Scibelli who says you should be avoiding pore-clogging beauty products, try using an oil-free moisturizing day and night, as well as cleansing mask two weeks before prom.
  • When should you sit down in the makeup artist chair? Scibelli says that 45 minutes should be a good amount of time for skin and makeup—and that section of time should bet set aside after hair and nails. “I suggest getting your makeup done after your hair and nails. This way, you’re arriving looking your freshest, leaving more time to enjoy the festivities before you’ll have to ‘blot’ and touch-up. You also won’t have to worry about your nails drying or your makeup smudging while you’re getting your hair done. If you tend to get shiny in the t-zone quickly, it’s also best to get your makeup done last so that product isn’t sitting on your skin all day,” he notes.
  • Having a good idea of what you want to wear in terms of makeup is important, but a professional can help you make the best decisions that won’t clash and will work well with your skin tone. Scibelli says to bring in a picture of your dress or at least fill your makeup artist in on the color scheme.

MORE: 15 Essential Tips For Doing Your Own Prom Makeup Like A Pro

Originally published March 2015. Updated May 2017.

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