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Everything We’ve Learned to Do Ourselves (Until We Can See a Professional)

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The coronavirus pandemic, with its seemingly never-ending imperative to stay inside and not invite other people in, is testing our ingenuity (and sanity) when it comes to all parts of life — especially those that we usually outsource to others, like cutting hair or unclogging clogged sinks. So we’ve rounded up some of our best advice from the experts themselves to tide you over while we’re physically distant: There’s a contractor on how to deal with some basic home-repair problems, skin-care experts with advice on how to wax at home without hurting yourself, and a bunch of personal trainers who weigh in on worthwhile exercise equipment. Until you can see a professional, these might be your best bets.

If you’re having issues with your toilet or a squeaky door is driving you crazy, you can either wait until self-isolation ends or deal with it yourself. So we talked with a contractor to learn how to deal with some of the most common home issues — like a clogged sink or drain, which can be fixed with a small drain snake plunger because it’s pliable enough to twist into clogged spaces and has little barbs to help with debris removal. Read more here.

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For those who live in hot and humid cities without central air conditioning (read: New Yorkers), the threat of having to install your own window air conditioner looms large as the weather warms. Fortunately, the HVAC experts we spoke to agree that the only thing you need to install your own air conditioner is a safety bracket — like this no-drill metal bracket from Black and Decker, which they say is easiest for amateur installation — but gloves and window sealant are also helpful. Read more here.

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If you’re trying to limit nonessential trips outside but don’t have an in-unit washer-dryer, consider doing your laundry at home. According to the experts we spoke with, a nontoxic, liquid soap is the best way to get started (as long as it’s not dish soap), and Patric Richardson, a.k.a. The Laundry Evangelist, likes this honey-scented hand soap because he already keeps it near his kitchen sink — the best place to wash laundry, by his estimate. There’s also some specific product recommendations for spot-treatments, cleaning sweaters, and drying those freshly laundered clothes. Read more here.

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Just because your dermatologist’s offices are closed doesn’t mean your skin will cooperate during this stressful time — or that your canceled laser peel will go unnoticed — which is why we consulted with five dermatologists about how to get professional-level results for these common skin questions at home. For deep, stress-induced cystic acne that many people might be experiencing right now, dermatologists suggest combining an exfoliating salicylic acid, like this Clean & Clear spot treatment, with antibacterial benzoyl peroxide, and anti-inflammatory hydrocortisone for overnight treatment. Read more here.

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Prenatal and postpartum appointments during the coronavirus will differ based on peoples’ pregnancy needs, but for those who will be having virtual checkups, we spoke to a half-dozen experts (including some OB/GYN’s) to learn about the best self-monitoring tools. While you can use a Doppler device to hear your baby’s heartbeat during pregnancy, and an infant thermometer is helpful to have on hand after your baby is born, a blood-pressure monitor is useful to ensure that your blood pressure is in the normal range (and not heightened due to preeclampsia) before and after birth. Read more here.

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Among the many beauty treatments that most people would prefer to not do themselves, maintaining your own brows is one of the trickiest. Thankfully, Benefit global brow expert Jared Bailey gave us step-by-step instructions of how to shape your own brows, starting by sketching out your ideal shape with a brow pencil before you go in with tweezers. Read more here.

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If you’ve already mastered shaping your brows at home but usually get them filled out professionally, we asked several other brow experts about everything you need to prep and dye your brows at home — plus what you need to style them and remove any leftover tint from your skin after the fact. Although our experts recommended a couple of dye packs, some oxidant, and supplies for mixing and applying the tint, this beard-dye kit comes with all of the necessary supplies in one, making it an easy-to-use, albeit nontraditional, brow-dye kit. Read more here.

A lot of products go into waxing beyond the fabric strips and wax itself, including pre-wax exfoliant scrubs and soothing oils and creams to use after the fact. If you’re looking for an at-home kit that has it all, several skin-care experts recommend the cultish Gigi Hair Removal Waxing Kit, which comes with honey wax and muslin strips that are suitable for either large or small areas. Or if you’d prefer to just get some wax beans or need an ingrown-hair remedy, we have expert-approved picks for those items, too. Read more here.

If another week of social distancing means another week of not getting your hair trimmed by your barber, it might be a good time to pay them (in the form of a gift card that you can cash in post-pandemic) and invest in some at-home haircutting supplies — that all come recommended by barbers themselves. Depending on your hair length, you can use this Philips Norelco OneBlade. It’s sufficient for maintaining both facial and head hair at home. Plus, one barber we spoke with guarantees it will cut a nice line without cutting your skin (even if you accidentally go too deep). Read more here.

Photo: Fleury Rose

Our resident beauty columnist Rio Viera-Newton also pointed out that now is a good time to book gift certificates for future appointments at your favorite salon and then experiment with DIY manicures. Before putting on one of a few cuticle oils or glittery nail polishes, Viera-Newton’s go-to manicurist Fleury Rose recommends removing old polish with this remover by Zoya, which doesn’t smell too strongly (unlike typical acetone solutions), so it’s conveniently suitable for using inside. Read more here.

Photo: Rio Viera-Newton

On the other hand, if you’re stuck at home trying to take off a gel, SNS, or acrylic manicure, Rio’s manicurist recommends a five-step removal process, starting with a 180-grade Flowery Nail File, which is strong enough to scrub off as much gel polish as possible. (Just be careful not to file the natural nail.) Next, soak your nails in acetone, then clip and push away the remaining gel bits before you nourish your nails with some cuticle oil. Read more here.

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When we asked four personal trainers about the best treadmills for running at home, most of them named NordicTrack as a favorite brand. Plus, the company’s 1750 treadmill model folds in half to preserve indoor space, has a good range of speeds and inclines, and is under $2,000 (a pretty good price point for treadmills). We also found an eco-friendly treadmill, one that comes with built-in programming, and a treadmill that simulates an outdoor run. Read more here.

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Although treadmills are one of the big-ticket home-gym equipment pieces that workout professionals recommend, there are also a bunch of bikes, cardio machines, and weight machines that come highly recommended. A couple of trainers vouch for this water-powered rowing machine, which feels more like rowing in an actual river than an electric version and ensures a full-body workout. Read more here.

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Although we’re mostly focused on cold and flu medicine these days, a few weeks before the coronavirus was declared a pandemic, we consulted with 49 health-care professionals about their favorite medicine cabinet products across 32 categories. Nearly half of the experts named Imodium, the fast-acting anti-diarrheal pill, as one of the most essential products to keep at home, alongside antibiotic ointment, contact-lens solution, antacids, and more. Read more here.

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

Everything We’ve Learned to Do (Until We Can See a Pro)