Top 7 Beauty Resolutions

Resolved: You’re going to show off your most beautiful skin and gleaming hair in 2012. And you don’t need to overhaul your entire beauty regimen or invest in a ton of new products to achieve this. Just launch the new year with these seven simple steps.

1. Make sure your daily skin-care regimen includes the three essentials: a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher; an antioxidant serum or lotion with ingredients like vitamin C, green tea or coffeeberry; and a wrinkle-reducing retinol cream or gel. “The antioxidant and sunscreen will defend and protect your skin during the day,” says New York City–based dermatologist Linda K. Franks, “and the nighttime retinol will switch your skin to the offensive mode, producing new cells and collagen to keep your complexion looking young.”

2. Cleanse your skin every single night -- late Saturday nights and stressful weeknights included. Going to sleep with the day’s accumulation of grime, dead skin cells and makeup clogging your pores can lead to the growth of acne bacteria and “those nasty big red craters,” says Adam Friedman, director of dermatologic research at New York City’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

3. Practice good skin hygiene. If you find yourself breaking out on the side of your face where you hold your cell phone, switch to an earpiece or clean your phone with an oil-free wipe once a day to make sure you’re not transferring grime to your skin. Plus, be mindful of not touching your skin when you’re eating greasy food, like French fries or pizza. “It may not be the oils you’re ingesting that are causing breakouts,” says New York City–based dermatologist Jody Levine, “but the oils that you’re introducing to the surface of your skin with your fingertips.”

4. Choose products that are the perfect match for your skin and hair. Beauty and hair-care companies now offer lines that are formulated specially for specific skin and hair types. Take advantage of these. The acne wash that has helped clear up your best friend’s breakouts may leave you flaky if your own skin tends to dry out easily. Likewise, the ingredients that help keep medium or thick hair frizz-free can weigh down finer locks. The right hair products will not only make styling easier, but also help protect your hair against damage, such as split ends or color fading, says Jeni Thomas, a research scientist on hair and scalp health for Pantene.

5. Baby your tresses. Use a wide-tooth comb to get the tangles out of wet hair. Cut down on the brushing; those mythical 100 strokes a night can actually lead to breakage and split ends. If you wear your hair in a ponytail, use seamless elastics and ease -- don’t rip -- the elastic out when you take your pony down.

6. Cool it with hot styling tools. Switch to a lower setting when you use flat irons, curling irons and hair-dryers. “Some high settings can exceed the boiling point of water,” says Thomas, “and may be far hotter than you need to achieve your style.” Always use a heat-protectant spray, and if your hair is looking scorched, consider moisturizing versions of your favorite shampoo and conditioner.

7. Dye your hair, without killing it. If you color your hair, choose a shampoo and a conditioner that are designed especially to restore the health of chemically treated hair. Bleach can be especially tough on hair, so if you’re going lighter, focus on roots rather than pulling the color through the entire length of your strands every time you need a touch-up. Whether you color your hair in your bathroom or at the salon, it’s best to stay within a couple of shades of your natural color. Be cautious about chemically straightening your hair if you already color it. Instead, consider a cut that works with your hair’s natural texture and use products, rather then chemical treatments, to smooth your locks.