Best Timing for Your Beauty and Health Routines

We're all well-versed in time-related clich├ęs: The right place at the right time, better late than never, time heals all wounds, timing is everything ... as tired as these platitudes are, when it comes to your beauty and health routines, timing really is everything. Did you know that the time of day you rub salicylic acid on your face could be the difference between "meh" and a miracle? And when you decide to go in for your wax can be the difference between a trauma or ... well, waxing is always kinda traumatic, but less so?

Caring for your skin and hair, eating lunch, going shoe shopping -- when you do them matters almost as much as what you do. Our experts in health, skin and hair helped us unlock the secrets of time. Make these surprising tweaks to your schedule to reveal your best-looking, best-feeling self. 

The best time to ... drink caffeine 
When: 9:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.

Why: "Cortisol is a hormone that helps promote alertness and reaches peak levels in the blood first thing in the morning," says Steven Miller, Ph.D. candidate in neuroscience at Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md. "These blood levels tend to drop after this -- around 9 a.m. -- and spike later in the day between noon and 1 p.m., and again at 5:30 and 6:30 p.m." Miller's research suggests that the best time to drink your (first) morning cup of coffee is in the time slot when your cortisol level first begins to drop to compensate for decreased alertness.

The best time to ... test a perfume 
When: During ovulation and two to three hours after you spritz a fragrance on your body

Why: During the week of ovulation, increased hormonal activity triggers a heightened sense of smell. According to Bond No. 9 Founder and President Laurice Rahme, it's best to take advantage of this sensory spike to find your new favorite fragrance. But simply smelling a fragrance on a tester strip can be misleading. "You need to wear a fragrance for a few hours to determine if you really love it and will continue to do so after leaving the department store," Rahme advises. Why? Because fragrances develop on the skin in phases or layers, and to really know what you're buying, you need reach the bottom note.

According to Rahme, the top note is what you smell right away -- "usually the sparkling and vivacious fresh notes that invite you to smell a little bit longer." The middle note, or "heart" of the fragrance, is where the essence of the scent comes through (think warm and sensual, floral and intoxicating, aromatic and clean). The bottom note surfaces last and stays with you for hours, long after the top note has disappeared. "This base is what blends with your own skin scent to create a scent individual to you," Rahme explains.

The best time to ... use retinoid products 
When: At night

Why: Check your labels. If you're using a retinoid product or any product containing vitamin A, you need to shift your routine from a.m to p.m. "Products with vitamin A derivatives should be applied in the evening because sunlight can lessen their efficacy," says dermatologist Dr. Jeanine Downie, director of Image Dermatology P.C. in Montclair, N.J. For best results, Downie recommends washing your face with a gentle cleanser, applying your retinoid and following with a moisturizer before hitting the hay.

The best time to ... get a wax or pluck your brows 
When: Two weeks before your period, or one week after it

Why: Ever notice how much more sensitive your skin is during your period? According to Downie, the drop in estrogen levels causes your skin to lose water and become drier, which makes your skin more susceptible to irritation. To avoid extra pain on top of the aches and cramps you experience during your period, she suggests scheduling all hair removal procedures two weeks before you start. Downie also notes that hair grows faster during the hormonal surges after your cycle. To get more bang for your buck, schedule your appointments for the week after your period to get rid of more hair at once.

The best time to ... try on new shoes 
When: In the a.m.

Why: Your feet are smallest and truest to their genuine size first thing in the morning because, throughout the day, walking and standing causes your feet and ankles to swell to a bigger size. According to podiatrist Phillip Vasyli, chairman of Vionic shoes, it's important to buy shoes that fit this true size to avoid going up shoe sizes over time.

If you try on new shoes in the afternoon or evening, when your feet are most swollen from bearing your weight all day, you'll find they tend to slip the next morning. "This causes rotation in the ankles and poor distribution of weight, which further swells the feet in an attempt to fill that shoe," says Vasyli. "But when you wear a shoe that fits the foot at its proper size, the shoe actually helps pull or bind the foot together. If you keep the foot in a certain shape, it maintains that shape."

The best time to ... brush your teeth 
When: Half an hour after you eat

Why: Seems pretty obvious: You'd want to brush right after you bite into a burger or down extra garlic-y guac, right? Wrong. "You shouldn't brush directly after eating," says cosmetic dentist Dr. Timothy Chase, practicing partner at Smiles NY. "After you eat, the enamel coating of your teeth is in a weakened state due to the high acid content of food and the different enzymes your body releases in saliva to start the digestive process." Instead of heading immediately to the sink, which further strips your teeth of enamel, Chase recommends finishing a meal with a glass of water and waiting at least 30 minutes to allow the enamel to return to normal.

The best time to ... gargle mouthwash 
When: After you've waited half an hour to brush your teeth

Why: Reaching for some mouthwash in an attempt to freshen your breath as you wait for your enamel to relax? Not so fast. "When the enamel on your teeth is stripped and demineralized after eating, your teeth are also more susceptible to staining," Dr. Chase says. In this case, mouthwash can be more foe than friend. "If your mouthwash is tinted, put off gargling more than half an hour after you've eaten," Chase recommends.

The best time to ... apply acne treatments 
When: In the morning, right after you wake up

Why: According to Downie, the sebum (a.k.a. oil) level in your skin is at its lowest during the night, and at its highest in the morning. Thus, acne-fighting treatments are more effective when you apply them first thing in the morning when your skin is oiliest. However, Downie notes that while your skin's sebum level is higher during the day, skin cells turn over more frequently at night. If you suffer from moderate to severe acne, she advises applying treatments twice a day, morning and night, to take advantage of these daily changes that occur in your skin.

The best time to ... color your hair 
When: At the end of fall or the start of summer

Why: If you want to switch up your hair color, Jenny Balding, Cutler/Redken styling and grooming expert, suggests using the outside elements to your advantage. "If you are going darker or choosing a reddish color, dyeing your hair in the fall and winter is more ideal -- the sun won't fade your hair like the summer months will. If you're looking to go lighter, do so in the summer, as the sun may lighten up the hair anyway."

The best time to ... trim your hair 
When: At the start of each season

Why: If you live in an area where weather conditions are relatively extreme in the winter and summer (hint: not Southern California), Balding says it's especially important to schedule routine trims at the start of each season. "Your hair gets drier during colder seasons, so a trim just before the winter will prevent split ends from doing worse damage." Likewise, a trim just before summer will get rid of split ends before the hair gets hit with damage from the sun and salt or chlorinated pool water, says Balding. This scheduling will also get you into the habit of getting regular trims for healthier hair year-round.

The best time to ... get a facial 
When: When you're breaking out

Why: Stop popping those pimples! According Marcia Kilgore, esthetician and owner of Bliss Spa in New York City, the best time get a facial is when you're slightly broken out with whiteheads. Whiteheads are a telltale sign that bacteria is spreading through your pores, and extraction could prevent those whiteheads from becoming full-fledged pimples.

If it's too tricky to time your facials to your breakouts, schedule facials the week before or the week during your period, when skin is most sensitive.

The best time to ... eat lunch 
When: Before 3 p.m.

Why: Researchers at Bringham and Women's Hospital in collaboration with the University of Murcia and Tufts University found that individuals who ate lunch after 3 p.m. lost significantly less weight and had lower estimated insulin sensitivity (a risk factor for type 2 diabetes). Researchers also found that subjects who chose to lunch later in the afternoon were more likely to skip breakfast -- the meal that jump-starts the metabolism for the rest of the day and prevents you from stuffing your face (and spiking your insulin levels) in the afternoon.


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