News & Politics

Getting Ready for the Big Night Out

More women—and men—are getting their teeth whitened, eyes lifted, lips plumped, and eyelashes extended before going out to a gala.

Going to the National Symphony Ball or the Ambassadors Ball? If you think you just need a dress, think again: These days, it’s time-consuming—and expensive—to be the belle of the ball.

What does it take to get gala-ready? Some partygoers just get their hair and nails done and look great. Other men and women start prepping months in advance.

We asked salon owners, stylists, plastic surgeons, and other beauty experts what clients and patients sometimes ask for before a big event.

Three to Six Months Ahead: Under the Knife

Want fewer wrinkles to show in party pics? Considering a little liposuction before slipping into that tux or gown?

Any cosmetic surgery should be done well in advance, says plastic surgeon Anne Nickodem, who performs everything from Botox injections to tummy tucks and has offices in Annandale, Reston, and Chevy Chase. “Patients say, ‘I never thought I’d see myself in here, but I need to look younger,’ ” she says. “The event triggers the patient to have something done.”

What it would cost: Necklift, $4,500 to $7,000. Eyelift, $3,500. Liposuction (abdomen), $4,200. Breast enhancement, $5,000 to $6,500.

One Month Ahead: Choosing a Look

Curl up with fashion magazines: It’s time to figure what—or whom—you’d like to look like for the gala, says Erwin Gomez of Erwin Gomez Salon & Spa in Georgetown.

Gomez says clients often bring in celebrity photos from magazines; some want him to replicate the complete look, while others say, “I want her hair and her makeup.” This fall, he expects to see a lot of photos of Catherine Zeta-Jones, Halle Berry, Jennifer Lopez, and Eva Longoria.

Two to Three Weeks Ahead: Lips and Hair

Considering a shot of Botox in the brow or a little filler in the lips? Physicians say two or three weeks leaves time to fix any spots needing a touchup after the procedure, says Adam Tattelbaum, a plastic surgeon with offices in McLean, Rockville, and Annapolis. Plumping up the lips with Juvéderm or Restylane is “really the big thing at the moment,” Nickodem says.

A few weeks out is also the best time for haircolor and highlights. “Highlights look better after two weeks,” says Berrin Cetin of Georgetown’s Tara Salon & Spa.

What it would cost: Lip filler, $350 to $700. Botox, $300 and up. Highlights, $130 to $170.

One to Two Weeks Ahead: Whitening and Waxing

Dentist Michael Pollowitz starts to see gala-going patients come in about now for teeth whitening. Pollowitz, of the Washington Center for Cosmetic Dentistry, says the 90-minute, in-office procedure gives people more confidence in their “first presentation to someone else”—their smile.

A week or two before is also good timing for waxing eyebrows or upper lips. It leaves enough time for the skin to heal and any redness to disappear, Cetin says.

What it would cost: Teeth whitening, $350 to $650. Upper-lip waxing, $15. Eyebrow wax, $20 to $55.

One Week Ahead: Clean Face, Fake Tan

It’s going to be a busy week: If you heed our experts’ advice, you’ll need to find time for a session at an airbrush tanning booth and for a superficial chemical peel, microdermabrasion, or a facial.

“Microderm within a few days of the event is a nice refresher for the skin,” Nickodem says.

Microdermabrasion uses tiny abrasive crystals to remove dead skin. Superficial chemical peels can have the same effect.

Tattelbaum recommends doing microdermabrasion a little further out—seven to ten days ahead—because it can cause redness. For best results, he recommends that the treatment not be your first; ideally, it should be the last in a series of microdermabrasion sessions begun months before.

Haven’t been getting microdermabrasion all along? A regular facial can do the trick. “You need to get some kind of facial so your skin is exfoliated,” Cetin says. “Makeup will not stay on oily skin.”

What it would cost: Microdermabrasion, $150 a session. Facial, $65 to $150. Airbrush tanning, $25.

Two to Three Days Ahead: For Men Only

Men, you might slip into a salon for a facial and eyebrow waxing. While a few days might not be enough time for a woman’s face to recuperate, men’s faces aren’t as sensitive, says Cetin.

The Day Before: Take It Easy

The day before is more about what not to do. For example, beware a last-minute facial. “If you have sensitive skin, you might get red or itchy or have a breakout,” Cetin says.

Resist the urge to color hair, Gomez says, because it can dye the scalp. “If you decide to do an updo, you don’t want to see any staining,” he says. Highlights won’t look natural at this late date, either.

Day of the Event: Lashes and Last-Minute Primping

Many women head to the salon the day of a ball to get their hair blown out or put up, get a fresh manicure and pedicure, get makeup applied—and get dressed? Gomez says some clients bring in their dresses and get ready at the salon. Carl Ray, makeup artist at George at the Four Seasons in Georgetown, says he gets requests to go with clients back to their rooms to help them dress.

Another day-of treatment that’s becoming popular: temporary lashes. Clusters of three fake lashes are glued along the lash line to create a longer, fuller look. The fake lashes last anywhere from one to four days and can be taken off with eye-makeup remover. “They’re super, super popular,” Ray says.

And one more reason, in this pregala prep, to blink.

What it would cost: Manicure, $25. Pedicure, $50. Hair updo, $45 to $125. Hair blow-out, $25 to $50. Makeup, $45 to $155. Eyelashes, $50.