My Biggest Beauty Mishaps

When it comes to beauty, we don’t always get it right. Hell, we don’t get it right a lot of the time. But we wouldn’t eventually end up with the look that makes us feel our absolute best if we didn’t leave the house and get photographed looking like a total dumpster fire at least once.

I’ve gotten to a place now that I know what I like and — dare I say — it seems to be true you start getting more comfortable in your own skin in your thirties. We’ll see.

So, for the sake of self-flagellation, here are some of my biggest beauty fuckups and how I righted all those cringe-inducing wrongs:

Super Thin Eyebrows
Whether they were in the shape of tadpoles or a mile apart, we’ve all overdone it with our eyebrows. I wanted to be Gwen Stefani (still do) and so I went after my eyebrows just like my idol. Thankfully, my mom stepped in with this Bobbi Brown beauty book before I could do longterm damage.

While I haven’t had No Doubt-style eyebrows since high school, I started paying much more attention to them in the past few years. I let them grow in and did my best to avoid plucking as much as possible. I swear using my favorite eye cream from La Mer on them has helped them grow in thicker and I groom them using this handy tool. I recently discovered Brow Blade from Urban Decay and it’s a game changer for filling it any blank spots without making them looked stamped on.

Fake Orange Tan
Back in the aughts, all us white girls had one skin tone: Cheeto. Blame it on Paris Hilton, blame it on low-rise jeans and baby tees that meant showing more skin all year round, but we all roasted on the beach and made our way to those glowing, skin-darkening coffins more than we would like to admit.

Now, with one melanoma scare and a collection of scars behind me, I’ve lost interest in putting in the time to be tan and have learned to embrace the pale as much as possible. If I do decide I want a bit more glow, my favorite at-home product is Tarte Brazilliance™ PLUS+ Self-Tanner. The mitt makes all the difference.

Over-processed Hair
I knew I had gone too far when I woke up, looked at my pillowcase and saw the pile of blonde, purple and black strands left behind. I was in high school and my hair had been every color but green. My best friend’s mother is a hairstylist who was kind enough to entertain all my hair whims, even when I ignored her caution it was a bad idea. Add to that my fondness for my flat iron (which I also used to create faux dreadlocks) and you have a recipe for total disaster.

It took using this foul-smelling mask to save my strands from further breakage. Now, I only highlight my hair 2-3 times a year and wash it twice a week. I also rely on quality products like L’incroyable Blowdry Crème Hair Cream from Kérastase to protect it when I heat style. This is also my favorite shampoo.

Acrylic Nails
Possible unpopular opinion: I know these are back now and I’m sure improvements have been made in the method, but acrylics wrecked my nails. When I would remove them (either on my own or at the salon), my nails would be thin, brittle and bendy. And when I would inevitably get them pasted back on, it hurt like hell.

I had some serious claws for all of high school and every time I was broke thereafter, I would add up the money spent on four years’ worth of biweekly fills.

Loofahs
This lesson it took me a long time to learn. Like, as of three months ago. I was always a fan of a loofah to really scrub myself in the shower. But even when I was diligent with replacing it every 2-4 weeks, I noticed it never helped when it came to any body acne no matter how hard I scrubbed.

It finally dawned on me during our vacation this summer when most hotels had only wash cloths or nothing at all that the loofah was clearly the problem. I came home — with a smooth back — and promptly tossed my loofah. And she lived happily ever after.

Attacking My Acne
As you know by now, acne has been my No. 1 nemesis since middle school. The biggest mistakes I made in treating it in the past were to think “acne systems” worked for everyone (looking at you, Proactiv) and being too aggressive with my treatments. If a product didn’t burn or make my skin peel off, I didn’t think it was working.

It’s taken a lot of trial and error but a more gentle approach has proven most effective for me. Different acids, vitamins and lots of moisture (which seems counterintuitive for those of us with oily skin) have helped a lot. Here are some other tips:

  • Switch to a gentle detergent.
  • Always sleep with my hair off my face.
  • Never sleep in makeup.
  • Read the ingredients on all cosmetics, looking for oil-free formulas.
  • Use clean makeup tools.
  • Wash your face right after exercising.
  • Find a dermatologist you actually like and that listens to you.

You live and you learn, am I right?

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