My Biggest Beauty Mishaps

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.

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?

Empty Bottle Review: Creme Dermopurifiante + Creme Placenta

Empty Bottle Review: Creme Dermopurifiante + Creme Placenta

Moisturizing is a tricky business when you’re a greasy girl. People with acne tend to run from thick moisturizers thinking they cause more zits (and some can) but what many dermatologists and estheticians have told me is oily skin really does need moisture. You just have to choose the right one. As I’m sure you’re well aware, I’m a Biologique Recherche devotee, but two of the products I was most apprehensive about were the Creme Dermopurifiante and the Creme Placenta.

These two moisturizers were recommended to me for use at night to help balance and heal my skin that was breaking out all too often and marked with scars. It was not love at first sight. Biologique Recherche don’t contain any dyes or fragrances so these creams are basically the color of brown butter and smell like, well, what’s in them. Creme Placenta has the strongest scent, which I got used to. I can’t say Craig ever did.

They texture is very creamy and somewhat slippery. It took a bit of work to massage the products into my skin and while I usually say a little goes a long way, I’m starting to reconsider whether that’s a philosphy I should follow anymore. I was listening to an older interview with Tata Harper on the Goop podcast The Beauty Closet (love, love, love) and she explained many people don’t see the benefits of their products because they are using so little. The suggested amounts to apply are there for a reason (and it’s not just for you to need to buy a new bottle or jar faster). At the most basic level, products expire.

Think about it, when you have a facial, they really slather everything on. That’s why you leave looking all out-of-this-world glowy. So while you certainly don’t need a huge dollop of moisturizer, using more than a pinch is probably a good idea.

OK, I digress.

I tried joining the facial oil club, adding a few drops of Drunk Elephant Marula Oil on top, which I love because it’s the only facial that hasn’t made me break out, but this felt like too much. I think the texture of the Biologique Recherche creams are what kept it from absorbing into my skin.

As for the results I saw, these two moisturizers absolutely kept redness, tightness and dryness at bay and didn’t make me break out. I preferred to use Creme Placenta on the nights I used my stronger retinol serum.

Using them along with the rest of my regimen helped clear up my skin (especially around my jaw) and I noticed post-acne marks faded faster. If your skin is in the midst of a freakout, I highly recommend them. If your skin isn’t oily, you can also use Creme Dermopurifiante during the daytime, as it’s the lighter and more pleasant-smelling of the two.

Now that my skin is more balanced, I’ve moved on to other moisturizers (my wish list is long) but should I notice anything getting out of control this winter, I’ll definitely go back for these.

See what else I’ve used up here.

Empty Bottle Review: Rodial Dragon’s Blood Eye Gel

Empty Bottle Review: Rodial Dragon’s Blood Eye Gel

The first department store beauty product I ever purchased was eye cream. I’ve been obsessively hydrating my peepers since I was 18, morning and night, and eye cream is a product I simply refuse to live without. In need of a new daytime formula, I picked up Rodial’s Dragon’s Blood Eye Gel while visiting Space NK in London.

During the day, I prefer a gel formula as opposed to heavy cream so my eye makeup doesn’t crease and I don’t end up looking like a raccoon from my mascara. In terms of texture, Rodial’s eye gel was a perfect match. When I applied makeup over it, my shadow stayed in place all day without any annoying lines. It’s not too thick and a little bit goes a very very long way. I bought this jar last December and just finished it at the end of September.

I’ve had trouble in the past with eye creams stinging, mostly because I’m crazy about covering the entire eye area. I apply my eye treatments to the lid, under the eye and all around it, even covering my eye brows to help them grow. In short, I don’t have time for crow’s feet. This Dragon’s Blood Eye Gel doesn’t burn or sting and didn’t interfere with my contacts.

I can’t say for certain what impact it would have on any deep wrinkles, but it did help me look more awake and refreshed each morning. My eyes looked brighter and less puffy shortly after putting it on. I bet keeping it in the fridge would only help with that effect, but I live in NYC and fridge space is precious.

With how long it lasted and the absence of any of the usual pitfalls of eye cream or gel, Rodial Dragon’s Blood Eye Gel is definitely worth a try. And with how long it lasted, it’s likely to be the only eye product you need to buy for a long time.

See what else I’ve used up here.

Empty Bottle Review: Joanna Vargas Daily Serum

Empty Bottle Review: Joanna Vargas Daily Serum

Living in NYC has presented plenty of challenges for my skin from pollution to the instant sheen of sweat I’m covered in after entering the subway (ick). This city is also home to some of the top skincare experts and one of them is Joanna Vargas. I had her Daily Serum on my list of products to try for months when I finally used up the vitamin C I had been working through and decided to bite the bullet.

I mean, anything dubbed “green juice for your face” was worth a try, am I right?

And let’s be clear. This serum is green. It also smells like those Flintstones vitamin C chewables we all took as kids, which is certainly not a bad thing. It has a gel-like texture and one pump was always enough for me to cover my face and neck. I would give it about 30 seconds to absorb before following with a moisturizer and didn’t experience any issues.

What I noticed most of all with Daily Serum is that it made me look fresher and more awake (much like I hope paying $10 for a bottle of green juice does). When I applied it, my skin was smoother and felt hydrated and fresh throughout the day. I layered it with both tinted moisturizer and regular moisturizer and added foundation on top sometimes. All applied smoothly and stayed put.

If you’re interested in adding a vitamin C product and a hyaluronic acid product to your routine, I suggest going for this one for the two-in-one benefit and saving a step (and some cash).

My one gripe would be the oil-balancing claim. I couldn’t say it made me any less shiny and I definitely wouldn’t call this product mattifying, so that was a bit of a letdown.

I would say the search continues on that front, but I think I just found the answer. Coming soon…

See what else I’ve used up here.

Empty Bottle Review: Biologique Recherche Emulsion Gel Biosensible S.R.

Empty Bottle Review: Biologique Recherche Emulsion Gel Biosensible S.R.

I have been lucky enough (or unlucky if you ask my husband) to do some amazing beauty shopping during my travels this past year. I’m working on putting together some roundups of my shopping destinations from England, Croatia and the Netherlands so stay tuned for those! One such too damn expensive magical experience happened in the legendary beauty department at Liberty London, where I was final able to snag a bottle of Emulsion Gel Biosensible S.R. from my favorite brand, Biologique Recherche.

As soon as the woman behind the counter put some on my hand and I saw how quickly it absorbed, I knew I had to have it. This moisturizer is for oily skin (S.R. = Seum Regulating) so it has a texture that is lighter than a cream but not sticky at all. I ignored the exchange rate, declared it a souvenir and had her wrap it up, all the while convincing another woman at the BR counter she needed everything they had recommended for her. Where’s my commission check?

As soon as I got it home, I worked it into my daily routine. Following my cleansing and toning in the morning, I applied my two main serums and followed it with Emulsion Gel Biosensible S.R. But here’s where I went wrong…

I added another moisturizer on top of it.

I’ve heard over and over how oily skin is the most dry and you need to add more hydration to help balance it. While I don’t totally disagree with this, I learned you can go overboard. My skin was feeling oilier and my makeup was practically sliding off. I thought it could take the place of a hyaluronic serum but I was wrong. This was not the feeling I had expected. I didn’t break out, but I had definitely tipped into the overdoing it category.

So, I remembered what Coco Chanel said and I took one thing off before leaving the house (she was totally talking about skincare, right?). Once I did, I started to notice the benefit of the product. My skin was smooth, hydrated and looked even. No redness or tightness and no acne. I wouldn’t call my skin sensitive by any means but I can see how soothing this would feel to anyone with tightness or inflammation. It was almost the most pleasant smelling BR product I’ve tried.

The one bottle did last me almost six months, applying just a pea-size amount per day, but I will probably save it for a special occasion before purchasing again. I personally would rather spend more on a night cream that my skin has all night to reap the benefits of, without competing with makeup and pollution.

But if you’re looking for something light — and certainly luxe — and know how to follow instructions, you won’t be disappointed.

See what else I’ve used up here.