You don't have to be hitting the red carpet to benefit from advice on how to style yourself for an important event in your life. Diana Schmidtke, a celebrity groomer based in Los Angeles, is a pro at helping guys make the most of what they've got (including Best Actor nominee Michael Keaton, whom she will be styling for this Sunday's Academy Awards). "Some celebrities are truly flawless," she admits. "You go to work on them and it's ridiculous — they're perfect already." For everyone else, follow Schmidtke's shortcuts to looking like your own the place:
1. Hair First
"Your hair is basically your money shot," says Schmidtke. "Women can play around with lipstick color or eye shadow, but really the only thing men have to play with is hair." For your big night, get yourself a cut that will frame your face with clean lines, but don't change your regular style too radically (which looks like you're trying too hard to impress), and don't get your hair cut the day before your event. You need at least a week to grow into it, says Schmidtke. Even the best cut is a fail if the guy looks uncomfortable with it.
2. Use Paste, Not Gel
"If you’re going for the Mad Men look, gel is okay — you'll lock in shine and your hair will hold its shape," Schmidtke explains. "But for an extreme look, make sure it's what you're going for before you sign up." Another thing to consider: Using gel on wet hair draws your strands together — great if you're seeking that chunky style, but bad if your hair is thinning, because it massively exposes any bald spots. "Once the gel hardens, you can see all the way to the scalp," she says. Instead, consider a paste such as Pete & Pedro Paste (peteandpedro.com, $19) that you massage into dry hair. It will add volume and fullness, even to thinning hair.
3. Seek Sun
Just 15 minutes of sunlight on your face will instantly give your skin a healthier hue, Schmidtke says. What's that? You live anywhere in the U.S. outside of California, and you're buried under 20 feet of snow right now? Consider a bronze powder — yes, really — to add a hint of color to your ghostly pallor. Check out Guerlain Terracotta Bronzing Powder for Men (sephora.com, $42). Take one of your wife's big powder brushes, run it over the surface of the product, then do a long sweep across your face. "You don't want to dab color in one spot and not another," Schmidtke explains. A definite no-go: Your wife's bronzer. "Women's bronzers generally contain flecks of glitter," she says. "On a man, this looks really awkward. You do not want your skin to shimmer." True.
4. Go Matte
The quickest way to elevate everyday skin to its primetime potential is by moisturizing, especially in the winter, when dryness and cracking is at an all-time high. But many moisturizers will leave your skin looking greasy or glossy — a No in general and a Big No if your event involves public speaking under bright lights, which will cause your lubed-up skin to look like you are sweating profusely (and you may be, but that's not the point). Seek out lotions that tout "anti-shine" or matte properties, like Kiehl’s Oil Eliminator 24 Hour Anti-Shine Moisturizer (kiehls.com, $27).
5. Go Minimal
"I'm not a fan of a lot of product on men," Schimdtke says. "My goal is to keep things as manly as possible." You might, however, consider some spot treatment if you're suffering the effects of razor burn, an untimely zit, or a black eye from last night's bar brawl. "Many guys on the red carpet use concealer," she adds. To avoid shine, choose a product specifically formulated for guys, such as Tom Ford's Concealer For Men (tomford.com, $40). Rub a little into your palm, press one finger into it, then dot your finger along the offensive spot on your face. Use a dabbing motion as larger strokes will spread it unnecessarily beyond the immediate area and create a streaky look.
6. Tweeze Wisely
Tux, tie, and unibrow do not a happy marriage make. But Schmidtke's bigger fear is the guy who gets so carried away with his tweezers that he plucks his entire manliness into oblivion. "Over-tweezing your brows, or tweezing too much underneath your brow so it starts to arch, is the fastest way to take away your masculinity and make yourself look like a woman," she says. Your goal: Pulling out the weeds while keeping your garden natural. Not sure which hairs should stay, which should go? Leave this job to the pros — 20 minutes and a few bucks later, you’ll be glad you did.
7. Match Your Hair to Your Blazer
Grooming style should be dictated by the formality of your attire. If your event is more blue jeans and button down than black tie, you can get away with a more relaxed grooming look as well. "Facial hair is more appropriate for a casual event, Schmidtke says. Sporting a beard? "If it's a black-tie event, you want to keep your beard line really tight. Even for a more casual event, you still want to clean things up below the chin and along the neckline or it makes your beard look sloppy instead of trendy." For those hard to reach/hard to angle spots, use a razor such as The Art of Shaving's Lexington Collection Fusion Razor (theartofshaving.com, $125), which pivots in multiple directions to keep neck nicks at a minimum.
8. Get to Know Your Wife's Blowdryer
If you're intimidated by the sucker, you’re not alone. Schmidtke says clients always balk at her recommendation that they use one at home. "But it takes literally three minutes of your life to grab a round brush and use the dryer," she says. The payoff: More volume and texture in your hair that ups your game but still looks natural.