It’s a safe bet that most young women have gotten makeovers at some point in their lives. Whether the beauty upgrade is just an informal tinkering at a friend’s house one afternoon, a full cosmetic overhaul at a department store’s makeup counter, a drastic haircut or coloring, or a wardrobe transformation with the help of a professional stylist, it’s hard to resist the lure of a whole new look.

But how often are makeovers really effective? What’s the likelihood that their effects are long-lasting? Do you actually like that coral lipstick and copper eyeshadow or did you just feign excitement for the sake of whoever suggested it? Do you now truly believe that you’re a “winter” and that animal prints paired with magenta are a good look–or can you not wait to leave this stylist appointment and return all the selections she pulled for you?

I’ve had two memorable makeovers in my day–one disastrous, one great. The first was before junior prom. It was my first foray into French rolls, finger waves, and acrylic nails–and it was all a bit too much. My coif, frozen solid with thick, dark holding gel, and my nails, heavy and awkward hanging nearly two inches off my fingertips seemed so unnatural, I didn’t wait until the appointed week was up before re-styling. I washed my hair and soaked those acrylic tips in acetone the day after prom.

The next makeover turned out far better. A minimalist, I’d gotten into a post-college rut, just using lip tint and no additional makeup for everyday wear. I thought I was fine with my workaday face, no muss, no fuss, completely low-maintenance. But after a few years of this, my exasperated, cosmetic-savvy aunt introduced me to the wonders of the “dramatic eye” and “rouge,” as she called it. With a good foundation–she recommended liquid but I eventually transitioned to powder–the makeup transformation really overhauled my look. Whether dressed up or dressed down, a carefully made-up face made a difference in my appearance and confidence. The trick was to be able to maintain the makeover. I had to allot for an extra ten minutes of prep time before leaving the house and train myself to wear all the stuff, even when I didn’t particularly feel like it, but it was worth it. I’m still not a cosmetic connoisseur (I use close to the same products I did when I was originally given a makeover), but I’ve honed my color palate and even gotten adventurous for really special occasions.

It’s never a bad idea to experiment with updating your look, even if it’s only for a day. But when the results are favorable, maintaining the update long-term can still be a challenge.

What have been your experiences with makeovers? Do you have a horror or success story?

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