You Asked It

Damn Girl Ya Look Good

Advice about high-waisted skirts, going blonde, acne medication, and makeup for redheads.

I’ve just begun taking Roaccutane. I was warned before starting it that the drug can cause major birth defects and may worsen depression or anxiety. But no one warned me that my skin would get SO DRY—and so sensitive! My lips are already cracked and bleeding. My foundation looks disgusting on top of my dry skin. The treatment has made my skin too sensitive for exfoliation, and I don’t know how to deal with this! Please help! —Liz

Let me first say that I FEEL YOU. A few of us on staff have had experiences with taking Isotretinoin, otherwise known as Accutane in the U.S. and Roaccutane in many other countries. Being one such person, I’m intimately familiar with the overwhelming feeling that your entire epidermis is turning into a burnt crust. You should definitely ask your dermatologist about products she might be able to prescribe to counter the dryness—when I was taking Accutane, I used an extra-strength prescription lip balm and moisturizer. For immediate relief, try using shea or cocoa butter—the pure/unscented kind, because any additives like oil or fragrance can irritate and STING sensitive skin, especially if it’s already cracked and bleeding. And use a gentle cream cleanser made for sensitive skin: I like Neutrogena Ultra Gentle Daily Cleanser. Otherwise, look for any fragrance-free cream formulation designed for extra-sensitive skin. Ultimately, though, your derma should be able to help you out with this—and keep in mind that everybody’s skin is different, and what brought me relief may be very different from what you need.

I would be remiss if I didn’t warn you that this drug can do permanent damage to your health in various scary ways, including the psychological risks you mention and a slew of other troubling possibilities like weakening your bones and causing long-lasting diseases. If you choose to take Roaccutane, please be sure to pay super-close attention to your moods and body and keep your doctor in the know about any changes you experience. Based on my own Accutane usage, I also urge you to monitor the amount of moisture in your hair and eyes. The drug dried out my eyes so much that I still can’t wear contacts. Allyssa, who also took Roaccutane, says, “It made some of my hair fall out because I was producing no oil whatsoever. I sort of just dealt with it and slathered myself in whatever my derm gave me, but my hair has never been the same.” So, while some of the Rookies I spoke to had totally fine experiences with the drug, there are very real risks involved with taking it. Talk to your doctor, and in the meantime, I hope you find relief for your hurting skin soon! —Julianne

I’ve been wanting to dye my hair blond for a while, but I’m a little scared. If I go blond and don’t like it or get bored, can I dye it back without damaging it too much? My natural color is golden brown. —Floriane, Glasgow, UK

As someone who has bleached and dyed her naturally black hair over and over again, I know that coloring your hair can be scary, especially if you choose to do it at home. But it’s also a totally fun rite of passage! It’s so awesome to me that all it takes to look like a whole different person is a few hours and some strange-smelling goop on your head.

Debbie Harry of Blondie (of course) showcasing two distinctly different looks, via Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images – Roberta Bayley/Redferns/Getty Images.

Debbie Harry of Blondie (of course) showcasing two distinctly different looks, via (L-R) Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images and Roberta Bayley/Redferns/Getty Images.

It’s usually less risky to change your hair color in a salon, but that can be really expensive depending on the products and processes the colorist uses. It’s possible to go blond at home, but before you actually slather any blondenizing potions on your head, consult a hairdresser for advice. I asked Shannon Dean, a stylist at Refuge Salon in Los Angeles and educator at Form Academy, for his profesh thoughts about DIY lightening. He had this to tell us: “Going lighter by lifting pigment from the hair can be damaging, depending on how light you go, what type of lightener is used (high lift color versus powder bleach versus wax- or oil-based bleach), and how long the product is on the hair.” You can check out this article by Hannah for tips about using dye. If you opt for bleach, which is the most tried-and-true way to go blond but also potentially the harshest on your hair condition, here’s a thorough guide to the whole process. No matter how you choose to go about it, always do a strand test to see how hair reacts to your product before you go in for the whole head.

You might want to lighten your color in stages, too. Depending on how light you want to go, it’s possible that you won’t be able to get your desired result all in one shot—if you space out your coloring sessions to just one per week, it might be a while before you can get to your desired the shade of blond without frying your hair to a crisp. Platinum is a little tough to do yourself and hard on your hair; a more golden-y blond will be less damaging. You’ve got an advantage here in that your hair is already kinda light, which will make the dyeing process less difficult.

And if you do screw up or experience “bleacher’s remorse,” you can totes fix it! Shannon offers these comforting words: “Taking your hair darker again by adding pigment would have very little negative effect on the health of your hair.” While going lighter can dry out your hair, going in the other direction isn’t generally too damaging—it can even fill in some of the porousness in really fried platinum hair and make it appear healthier. But I’m willing to bet that you’ll look so tight as a blonde that you won’t need to worry about this. And even if you do bungle it, you’ll have taken part in a long tradition of people temporarily wrecking their hair and then having a really funny story to tell at parties ever after. As you’ve no doubt heard from countless elders, and/or observed during the course of your life as a human, hair grows back, so you might as well go forth and blondify! —Marie ♦

Wondering how to do a bouffant? Looking for advice/validation on wearing head-to-toe denim? In search of the PERFECT purple lipstick? Describe your most elusive beauty and style wishes to Marie and her team at Include your first name (or nickname) and where you live.


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  • January 7th, 2014 11:51 PM

    For anyone who is looking to tune up her/his skills in makeup, do checkout /r/MakeupAddiction on Reddit. I have learned so much through the support of various women around the world. We embrace everyone! It is quite the loving community.

    As I redhead, I will throw in my two cents and see if I can provide some insight:

    1. You may have alabaster skin but that doesn’t eliminate you from the wonders of an appropriate bronzer. Try Too Face’s Milk Chocolate Soleil. It contains no orange mess and was made for pale skin. Smells like chocolate, too!

    2. Filling in eyebrows is hard when you have lovely red locks to match with. I have had good luck with an angled eyebrush, warm chocolate brown eyeshadow, and Nyx’s eye pencil in Hazel. I fill in my brows with the angled brush and powder then go over the bottom with the Nyx pencil for a sharper look. Use a highlight (any pretty shimmery white/champagne shadow) right under the bottom where your brow bone is.

    3. The perks of red hair is that we can play around with some fun colors. Purple and blue eyeshadows look stunning when paired to red hair. Some of my favorites are from Nyx’s Smokey eyeshadow collection and Urban Decay’s Vice 2 palette. For the ‘no-makeup’ look, go with a nice brown eyeliner and mascara in a brown-black.

    But, let’s get serious. There are no rules. Whatever makes you feel confident and funky is what will work for you. Makeup is a wonderful thing to explore.

    • llamalina January 8th, 2014 12:07 AM

      I totally agree, /r/MakeupAddiction is where I learned how to do my brows. And the insight from women of all different backgrounds with different experiences in makeup is really fun and useful to have!

    • Redheadscanwearanything January 8th, 2014 3:47 AM

      I love your post, and agree! I have worn urban decay’s vibrant green shadows and I felt like Poison Ivy or something. <3

  • sophiethewitch January 7th, 2014 11:56 PM

    I also want to lighten my hair (not to be blond, but so I can dye it green/blue/purple/rainbow). I have very dark brown hair. I honestly don’t care that much about damaging my hair, because whatever, I can always shave it off, and hair’s not that important. BUT I’ve heard that inhaling bleach kills brain cells, which terrifies me and has stopped me for years from getting the technicolor hair I want. Is there any way around this? Would wearing a surgical mask during the process help?

    • Magdalena January 8th, 2014 12:30 AM

      I’ve been wondering the same thing!

    • MaggietheCat January 10th, 2014 2:02 AM

      Using a low volume of developer in your bleach will lessen the fumes.

      Work in a well ventilated area. A surgical mask is designed for germs, not fumes, I don’t think it would make a difference. Just keep the windows open if you’re concerned.


      a haircolor specialist

  • e1znekcaM January 8th, 2014 12:10 AM

    To the high-waisted skirts thing: I had this same issue at first. I’ve discovered that it sometimes just depends on the top you wear with the high-waisted skirt. Some will make your boobs look larger, and others smaller (or in this case just normal because really when you have large breasts it seems that there is no smaller). Like for me, if I wear a looser top tucked in it’ll be a little more subtle. Overall, I don’t think it should even matter. Flaunt what you’ve got. Boobs are awesome, and some people are probably super jealous of your breast size!

  • Redheadscanwearanything January 8th, 2014 3:44 AM

    As a natural redhead I feel the need to comment on the makeup advice. I have always had pale red hair / coppery/ strawberry blonde . It’s red. I’ve struggled with my hair identity for years. It wasn’t blonde enough, it wasn’t red enough. I finally went full throttle and embraced the red side. I went full carrot red and never looked back. Natural red hair and flaming Redken red hair, I looked fabulous in ALL makeup. Please don’t think you’re any different from your brunette and blonde peers. You’re a brilliant rare jewel and you should wear whatever makes you feel prettiest. You have freckles? So do I! I still wear foundation and you can still see my frecks. Sometimes I go without makeup, and that’s awesome too. But just know there are no special rules for redheads. I wear cat eyes, red lips and pale makeup and I turn heads. Don’t hold yourself back or ever feel inferior. <3

  • Minna January 8th, 2014 4:56 AM

    Hey guys! I just want to stress that I too agree that redheads can wear/do whatever they want with their makeup :) I know I do! Elena asked for specific advice for her paler skin to avoid it looking washed out, so I suggested some simple, tried and true methods and looks that I have used over the years :) I’m glad to read all your tips too, so thank you! :D

  • createyourowndreams January 8th, 2014 10:52 AM

    omg I am from Glasgow too!

  • Fueled_By_Marley January 8th, 2014 12:51 PM

    For Liz with hella dry skin, I’ve been taking acne medicine since fourth grade and took accutane last year and I totally feel you about the dry skin. It took me ages to find a lotion that made my skin “not dry” anymore. Heres the link:

    Hope it works for you!

  • Libby January 8th, 2014 2:03 PM

    Oh, I’m on isotretinoin too and definitely didn’t believe that the dryness would be this bad! I’ve had a super helpful nurse though, who basically told me that it didn’t really matter what lipbalm I used, but I should be applying and reapplying every hour or so. I have Nivea ones, and I have them in my coat pocket, my school bag, my bedside table, and then one really intense one that I slather on whenever I’m home alone. I’ve found that using an oil-based cleanser is really good because it’s very gentle but still manages to moisturise my skin well. I use an origins one; you can make your own too I think?
    My moisturiser is a shea butter based one, and it’s so good – it’s a 24 hour type, so my skin actually does feel soft and not too dried up throughout the day. I bought it at the hospital chemist’s when I was picking up my prescription, so even if you can’t get a prescription moisturiser (I don’t think that’s so common here in the UK?) you can generally get a really good one at the hospital chemist!
    Anyway, good luck to everyone else on it at the moment – we can do it!

  • Pauletta January 8th, 2014 4:20 PM

    I was also on Roaccutane like five years ago and I had no probs with my skin. I am sure this was largely because my dermathologist prescribed a plethora of creams that nourished my skin. Had it not been for the ten month ban on alcohol, it was as if the whole Roaccutane thing had never happened (except, of course, that I no longer had acne…)!!! O.K. so the things my doctor prescribed are the following, I hope they help you too:

    1.- Hyalix (or anything with hyaluronic acid)
    2.- Ureadin (I strongly suggest you get this one. I have tried other creams with the active ingredient in this (urea) and they are just not the same)
    3.- Exomega
    4.- ISDIN Extreme (a sunscreen gel)
    5.- Endocare for your lips. This is not a product especially to be used as a lip balm, but you can use it as such. I used to apply it only once every morning and it was almost miraculous!!
    6.- At night, my doctor told me not to use soap to wash my face, not even a mild clenaser. Just water and after that, I used Sébium, a blue tonic to remove anything that remained on my face after I washed it.

    Good luck, girl!!! And don’t forget to check if you are sensitive to any of the ingredients in the products you will use.

  • elliecp January 8th, 2014 4:42 PM

    I feel you Elena! redhead makeup can be hard, but it’s also really fun. Coral and orange lipsticks look fabulous with pale skin and freckles…I learnt that from watching Charmed! :)

  • Shayd January 8th, 2014 6:05 PM

    Also, for all of you redheads out there, the site Just For Redheads carries mascara, specifically for us beauties!! My best friend got me brown/red mascara, as I always look washed out when I wear black mascara(pure ginger!), and it is AMAZING. It looks so natural and still accentuates my eyes phenomenally! I love it. It is fantastic. Love you Redheaded Rookies!!

  • Moonshoes January 8th, 2014 6:24 PM

    as always, such helpful advice!

  • NotACommenter January 9th, 2014 8:07 AM

    Just wanted to note that when I was on Accutane (twice! ugh.) the best thing for the dry/cracked lips and skin was Aquaphor, which my derm recommended. In the cold months, I still alternate it with this at night:

    Also, since my skin is still pretty dry from taking it a decade ago, I’ve found that this stuff works wonders for day-to-day:

    Hope this helps!

  • Mimi7 January 9th, 2014 11:23 AM

    I have medium, on the lighter side brown hair and I just went blonde. I love it! It can be kind of expensive but I think it makes it a lot easier to get it done first in the salon. Then you can see how your hair responds and how the hairdresser does it if you want to do it at home again. And if you get bored, when you’re platinum it’s easy to dye it pretty colors!

    And here is my recommendation for platinum blonds, lavender shampoo! I didn’t think that it was a big deal until I tried it but takes away the orangey tones and just makes it lighter and shine again. I leave it in for a while and notice that it works better that way.

  • Hayley January 9th, 2014 4:20 PM

    Oh man. Someone else mentioned Cetaphil up there and I totally second that. I never took Accutane, but I *did* take antibiotics for a long time to clear up my skin, and an arsenal of other creams and products…my skin was always super dry and sensitive and it seemed like every extra lotion or cleanser I used would just make it hurt and break out more. Cetaphil is honestly the only thing that has ever worked for me. I still use both the cleanser and the face lotion and it’s sooo gentle and lovely.

  • mangointhesky January 10th, 2014 6:28 PM

    This sums up every question of the past month- thank you rookie!

  • champagnecoast January 11th, 2014 12:07 AM

    About the Roaccutane (as it’s called in aus) – i was on it a few years ago after having serious serious serious acne, like you would not believe the craters and blisters i had! anyway, my derm emphasised the dryness out of anything – so i thought i’d put my advice in as it did take me a while to find anything that worked with my highly sensitive/reactive skin. SLATHERS and i mean layers and layers every half hour or so of carmex was the only thing that worked for my lips, particularly at night!!! paw paw is also really good, but i found that it just sat on top of my lips and didn’t actually heal anything whereas the carmex did, i carried tubes of it everywhere. for general skin dryness, cetaphil was the only thing that worked for me, i used the washes the moisturisers anything cetaphil that i could get my hands on. drink lots and lots and lots of water, more than usual, as to avoid blood noses and headaches. any sort of morrocan oil for your hair if that’s an issue.
    ALSO i think it most def has an unfair rep – if you are worried about depression and anxiety (as i was), just be aware. if you feel yourself slipping, speak up! explain to ur doc that you are worried about it and you’ll at least have someone else being aware of any changes in you also. any good derm will look after you and manage the side affects.
    this is long BUT IF YOU TAKE ONE THING FROM THIS IS STAY OUT OF THE SUN!!!!! WEAR SUNSCREEN ERRY DAMN DAY WHILE UR ON IT! srs that will do 18432 x more permanent damage than the side affects will. it makes u crazy crazy sensitive to the sun. GOOD LUCK BB XXXX

  • Sophii January 11th, 2014 1:59 PM

    I’m going to save this as I’m planning to dye my hair blonde some time. I think I’d be too scared to get it done in a salon in case it really doesn’t suit me :S

  • radiofireworks January 11th, 2014 6:10 PM

    Some more advice from a fellow redhead who has suffered similar issues here!

    I cannot stress how much better I felt about myself and my redheadedness after I started doing two things: lining my upper waterline and filling in my brows. Lining the upper waterline with a pencil eyeliner (I use a gel/pencil eyeliner thing from L’Oreal which is awesome because it sets and lasts all day and doesn’t smudge everywhere when my eyes go watery and smear all over my contact lenses) and it means I can wear black mascara without my eyes looking washed out and weird (if I don’t do it and I put mascara on I always feel like my eyes look like little mole eyes).

    And filling in my super-pale eyebrows makes me feel like my face has more definition and isn’t just one big pale blob. I use Illamasqua’s brow cake in Peek which is perfect because you can use it dry (paler and less defined) or wet (darker and precise and ~dramatic). (Illamasqua are great in general for pale/redhead tones, their foundations are the only ones I’ve found that are pale enough for me.) I swear it makes SUCH a difference.

    Woah, sorry, essay. I am very passionate about this apparently.