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doorsixteen_herbivoreorganicals_bathsoak

For much of my adolescence, I lived in a house without a shower. The house was built in 1820, and when indoor plumbing was added, a bathroom was built on the second floor. It had a toilet, a chrome-legged sink, and a cast iron pedestal tub. My mother, two of of my sisters and I took turns taking baths every morning. The tub didn’t have a spray handle, so we kept a big plastic cup next to the tub for rinsing shampoo out of our hair with clean water. I’m not going to romanticize things: It sucked. It made getting ready in the mornings a huge hassle, and it sucked. I loved staying over at friends’ houses so I could take a real SHOWER. (And also so I could eat microwave popcorn and watch cable TV.)

When I was 16 or so, we got one of those shower enclosure conversion things, and life immediately got better. Showers! Every! Day! So! Clean! And do you think I ever took a bath in that house again? HELL NO.

Anyway, that was in 1991. Fast forward 17 years to 2008, when we were renovating the downstairs bathroom. Taking that shower out of commission meant that we were limited to taking baths in the upstairs bathroom for however many months (six…) it took us to finish the renovation. Fortunately we do have a hand-held sprayer so no plastic rinsing cups were necessary, but let me tell you…taking daily baths as part of regular grooming and personal upkeep is one thing, but bathing after a long day of demolition and sweaty, dirty renovation work is quite another. One bath to get the grime off, another bath to get the dirty water off, and then a cleaning session to get the haze of grime off of the tub. There was no lazing about in mounds of bubbles while listening to Mets games on the radio with the window open. No, none of that. All business, no pleasure.

So, naturally, once the downstairs bathroom renovation was complete and the shower was back in order, I quit baths like a bad habit. Until last month, I think I’d taken a grand total of maybe five baths in the past five years. How pathetic is that? We put all of this hard work into renovating the bathroom and spent a bunch of money having the clawfoot tub refinished, and I’m not even taking baths in it?!?!

Well, that’s all changing now, and you know what the incentive was? No, not a desire for relaxation, but packaging. Beautiful, minimal packaging from Herbivore Botanicals, who I first discovered via their Etsy shop. Seattle-based Julia and Alex started Herbivore Botanicals three years ago, and everything in the line is totally vegan and completely natural. Now, I don’t want to stereotype too much here, but as someone who is increasingly doing a lot of shopping in health food stores’ cosmetics aisles, I can tell you that “vegan” and “natural” are not usually words that I associate with incredible packaging design. And that stuff matters—it matters to me as someone who cares about design, and it matters when it comes to the perception of animal-friendly and natural products as being part of the world of luxury skin care.

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Let’s talk about that Coconut Milk Bath Soak. It’s amazing. It doesn’t make bubbles or anything like that, it really is a soak. It has the most gentle, calming coconut/vanilla scent imaginable—not like one of those gross, chemical-y “birthday cake”-scented bubble baths. It doesn’t make the tub (or you) weird colors. After getting out of the tub, my skin feels so super-soft…not coated or oily, just soft and fresh. There is a subtle fragrance that lingers, but it’s nothing that would interfere with another perfume (if you’re into stuff like that). The Coconut Milk Bath Soak has turned me into a bath devotee. I am committed to taking baths in the evenings on weekends now!

I bought a couple of other products at the same time as the bath soak—Vetiver Cardamom Luminous Body Oil for me, and Men’s Face Elixir for Evan. We love them both! I use the body oil almost every day now, right after I get out of the shower (or bath). It’s much more viscous than body oils I’ve used in the past, so I do need to apply it while my skin is still warm. It’s done an incredible job of keeping my legs from turning into crocodile skin this winter. The cardamom vetiver scent does linger for a while, but it’s exactly the kind of warm fragrance I love when it’s cold out. When the weather gets warmer, I’ll probably switch to the Neroli Blossom version. Evan really likes the Face Elixir! He uses it every night, and was able to give up the very unnatural nighttime moisturizer he’d been using previously.

I have to admit that after having struggled for so many years to find a facial skin care routine that really works for me I am hesitant to change anything about it. I don’t think I can walk away from my prescription medications without my skin freaking out (the emotional distress of adult acne is something I’ve discussed before, I won’t get into it again now…), but I am going to try to phase out the other products—and phase in more natural, animal-friendly ones. I’m going to start by ordering the Pink Clay Soap and see how it goes. My skin is far too dry and delicate for anything like the Bamboo Charcoal.

How about you? Are there any natural, vegan, non-irritating face washes you’d like to recommend I try? Preferably ones that work well with a Clarisonic (not all cleansers do)—and bonus points if the packaging is nice. Of course.

doorsixteen_ardencyinn_mascara

Something big has happened: I found a new mascara to love. Considering the last time I felt a mascara was worthy of blogging about (Max Factor Volume Couture, now discontinued) was a full five years ago, this is a real cause for excitement! Five years of reading reviews, buying tube after tube with the hope of finding just the right formula, only to be disappointed time and time again. I’ve been settling, something you should never do where eyelashes are concerned. And so, without further delay, I present to you…

Ardency Inn Punker Unrivaled Volume & Curl Lash Wax (a.k.a. “mascara”)

I first saw Ardency Inn (founded by Gilles Kortzagadarian and Stephane Siboni and promoted by James Vincent) mentioned in the New York Times Style Magazine last spring. The packaging caught my eye, but the products weren’t widely available at the time and the name slipped from my mind. Then last month I was poking around the Sephora site trying to figure out how to update my email address, and there it was! Ardency Inn! Such an unusual name, no wonder I forgot it.

Bad news first, good news last. Right? OK…

Cons:
✚ For now at least, the Ardency Inn line is only available in-store at select Sephora locations (and online, of course), so if you run out and need a fresh tube, you’ll need to plan accordingly.
✚ As much as I like their logo, that distressed stencil typeface (not to mention the word “Punker”) is causing me small degree of emotional pain. I try to only look at the other, less offensive side of the tube when I’m applying it. That helps considerably.
✚ $24 is a lot to spend on mascara. But hey, it’s still a buck less than Diorshow!

Pros:
✚ The entire Ardency Inn line is cruelty-free, as are their suppliers.
✚ The tube is chubby and easy to hold.
✚ After so many years of using mascara with now-commonplace silicone brushes, it initially felt strange to go back to a classic curved bristle style. The shape of the wand is perfect, though, and I find that as long as I let the curves of the brush follow the curve of my lash line, it’s very easy to hit even the tiniest hair without also getting mascara globs on my skin.
✚ There is absolutely NO flaking or fallout whatsoever, even after 14+ hours of wear. I also am not seeing any transfer to my eyelids, which has always been an issue for me with mascara.
✚ IT HOLDS A CURL!!! My number-one complaint with mascaras is that they go on too “wet,” and as a result I wind up losing all of the curl and having droopy lashes. That’s not the case here! I’ve actually found that it seems to add curl even if I skip the lash curler (which really only happens if I’m out of silicone pads).
✚ The formula dries really nicely, leaving my lashes feeling soft, not hard or brittle.
✚ I get really good volume and clump-free separation without having to use a lash comb.
✚ No allergic reaction!
✚ I can apply multiple coats if I want to, but one coat actually seems to be enough.
✚ The removal process is pain/tug-free: I don’t need an oil-based remover, it comes off completely with my nightly face wash. Less lash loss and less undereye trauma, hooray!
✚ My eyelashes look like JAZZ HANDS crossed with a house centipede! In other words, perfection.

So there you have it! Ardency Inn Punker Unrivaled Volume & Curl Lash Wax (such a mouthful…), my mascara dream come true. I’m also trying out a few other Ardency Inn products right now (Ultra Lightweight Skin Perfecting Primer, Custom Coverage Concentrate and Smooth Ride Supercharged Eyeliner), but I need more time with them to decide if they’re life-changing. I’ll let you know!

HELLO THERE! I just got back from a trip to San Francisco (more about that in my next post!), and while I was there, I became weirdly self-conscious about how my makeup was stored. Even though I don’t do a lot of long-distance traveling, I am constantly making trips back and forth between our house in Newburgh and our apartment in Brooklyn. I guess it would make sense to buy two of everything and not have to take anything with me, but realistically that’s not going to happen — cosmetics are expensive, and I’m super-fickle about which products I like to use on a daily basis…not to mention the life-span of products once they’ve been opened. Two coffee makers? Yes. Two tubes of $32 mascara? Not so much. As a result, I wind up throwing everything in various drawers and boxes when I’m at the apartment, and living out of Ziploc freezer bags when I’m traveling or at the house. Not cute. And much as I like the idea of keeping all of my stuff in clear lucite boxes like Nubby Twiglet, I know I’m just not tidy enough to keep everything looking pristine all the time. (Also, not everything I like to use comes in pretty packaging. Alas.)

Nomess Copenhagen Balsabox

Nomess Copenhagen / Balsabox Personal
Earlier today I came across this cool neon pink and balsa wood storage box by the Danish company Nomess Copenhagen, and it immediately went on my wishlist. It’s actually made up of three boxes, two of which nest inside the largest one. The lid lifts off completely and becomes a standing mirror! Such a great design. It’s not good for traveling, but it’s simple enough to toss stuff in without having to worry about fitting everything into tiny, specialized compartments (I’ve never been able to make those fancy professional train cases work for me). I still need to measure to see if it can fit on the shelves in my bathroom, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to be perfect.

Coriumi pouch

Coriumi / Geometric Pattern Pouch
I own another, smaller pouch from the Lithuanian brand Coriumi, and I keep it in my bag at all times to hold tissues, sunglasses, a comb, band-aids and all of the other stuff that would otherwise be floating around loose and getting lost/dirty. It’s really nicely made. I’d like to add this one to my collection to stash all of my makeup when I’m in transit. It’s big enough to hold everything I need without being stuffed to the gills — it’s basically the size of a big Ziploc. Aaaaaaand it doubles as a very pretty fold-over clutch! I usually transport my makeup brushes by rolling them up in a paper towel, which would be easy to nestle at the bottom of the pouch.

IKEA Pallra box

IKEA / Pallra Box + Pokal Tumbler
IKEA has been nailing it lately with their small storage boxes (let us not forget the best box) and this happy yellow round guy is no exception. I haven’t seen the Pallra box in person yet so I’m not sure if the levels are fully separate or if there’s a swivel-hinge on one side (update: no hinges!), but I like that it’s not just one big open space. It’s only $10 and the yellow covering is paper fabric, so it really lends itself to being decorated (I’m picturing potato-stamped white triangles). Round boxes aren’t great for storing brushes, but how cute would that yellow box look paired with this pale pink stoneware cup? Yup.

Speaking of makeup storage and that kind of stuff, someone asked me how I care for my brushes. Nothing to it, really! Once a week or so, I wash them in tepid water and Dr. Bronner’s mild/baby liquid castile soap. I press out most of the water with a dry washcloth, then leave them flat to dry completely overnight — near an open window if possible. I’ve had some of my brushes for more than a decade now, so it must be working out!

OK, now tell me how you store your makeup so I can feel inadequate and disorganized.

Summerland giveaway

I’m sure I’m not speaking just for myself here when I ask why spring has been sooooo sloooooow to start this year! A couple of days ago I was bundled up in a winter coat in near-freezing temperatures, and today the thermometer is hovering just below 80°F. New York City is gorgeous in the springtime, but it never lasts long enough — before you know it, we’ll all be complaining about how hot it is.

In celebration of these precious few weeks of beautiful weather, though, I thought it might be nice to do a giveaway from one of my favorite Portland-based boutiques — and one of D16’s earliest sponsors! — Summerland. One lucky person will win a $100 gift certificate to spend on anything in the shop!

Here’s how to enter:
Visit Summerland and pick out a few of your favorite things.
Leave a comment here letting me know what they are!

Here’s how to get two extra entries:
Like Summerland and Door Sixteen on Facebook.*
Follow Summerland and Door Sixteen on Instagram.*

* If you already liked/followed either of us, that’s fine. Just let me know in your comment so I can count your extra entries!

The deadline for entries is April 16th at 11:00 PM, EST. THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. I’ll announce the winner here and on Twitter tomorrow. The winner will also be notified by email. Thanks to everyone who entered!

UPDATE: The winner of the Summerland giveaway is Shawnna! Congratulations, Shawnna.

Small print: This giveaway is open to international entries, but Summerland is not responsible for customs fees and duties if they should occur.

Bonus discount!
Summerland is offering a 10% discount for ALL Door Sixteen readers between now and the end of the giveaway (April 16th at 11:00 PM, EST). Use the code DOORSIXTEEN at checkout!

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My favorites! Clockwise-ish, from top left:
Mila dress, Eskell / Number One sunglasses in Vanilla Wood, Karen Walker / Dark Wave fragrance oil, OLO (I wear this every day!) / Girls Just Wanna Have Fun nail polish, Deborah Lippmamm / Blixen boots, Wolverine x Samantha Pleet / “Everyday Is Like Sunday” banner, Banter Banner / Pink Cross bow tie, Twenty-Seven Names / Rose + Vanilla tinted lip blush, Fig + Yarrow

It’s been a while since I wrote about my daily cosmetics routine, and now that I have my skin under control (or at least as much as it’s ever going to be), I feel like it’s much less of a struggle to figure out what products I like and what I don’t. I doubt I’ll ever be the kind of person who goes out bare-faced (I don’t even stay in bare-faced), but I also don’t like to look really made-up…at least not when it comes to my skin. I save the color/drama for my eyes and lips, and I’ll get into those products in another post. This is really just about what works to make my overall complexion look a little brighter and fresher.

daily face

Presented in order of application…

1. Too Faced / Tinted Beauty Balm (Vanilla Glow)
Judging by the reviews I’ve read, this is one of those products that people either love or hate, and I think it all comes down to expectation. Here’s what it’s not: A true beauty balm or a foundation. Here’s what it is: A very sheer tinted moisturizer containing broad-spectrum SPF and miniscule light-reflecting particles. If you want a full-coverage foundation, this is not the product for you. I used Laura Mercier’s Tinted Moisturizer for years, and while I still think it’s a great product, I found myself wanting something even lighter weight. This Too Faced cream is perfect. It evens out my complexion while still letting my skin show, and the color it provides is very forgiving. My skin tone is very difficult to match, but this goes on imperceptibly. I apply it with my fingers.

2. Make Up For Ever / Lift Concealer (Pink Beige 1)
I recently ran out of my holy grail undereye concealer, Bobbi Brown’s Creamy Concealer Kit (which I previously reviewed at length), and since I’ve been making an effort to use up leftover products I already own before buying anything new, I pulled out this tube of MUFE concealer to give it a go. I can’t remember why I’d rejected it initially, but now I love it. The key is to pat it on under your eyes very lightly with your ring finger — I find that works much better than using a brush, which tends to move the product around too much. I also use it to cover up any minor blemishes and dark areas around my nose.

3. Urban Decay / Eyeshadow Primer Potion (Original)
Yeah, everyone uses this stuff, including me. It’s great. I’ve always had a problem with eyeshadow sliding around and creasing in the past, and this primer does an excellent job of keeping lid oils at bay and helping my eye makeup stay put all day long. I can’t put it under my lower lash line so I still get some little smudges there from my mascara, but that’s really not a huge deal. I highly recommend this stuff if you have problems with your eye makeup wearing off or looking cruddy after a few hours!

4. the Balm Stainiac / Tinted Gel Blush (Prom Queen)
I bought this with the intention of using it as a lip stain, but the color didn’t work well for me. Rather than toss it I tried dabbing a bit on the apples of my cheeks. Perfect! It doesn’t give a deep stain or anything, just a little bit of a flush. I like to layer a light stain under my powder blush — that helps the pinkyness last all day.

5. Too Faced / Primed & Poreless Powder (Translucent)
This is the best face powder I’ve ever tried! I has NO color whatsoever and provides no coverage, but it does an amaaaaaaazing job of keeping other makeup in place and of stopping any oiliness without drying out my skin or accentuating tiny flakes. I use a small brush to apply it in under my eyes (no creasing or crepe-y skin!) and around my nose, and a big fluffy brush to dust it lightly all over my face. The package says you can also use it under your makeup as a primer, but I’ve never tried that. I find that a very light layer on top of everything is enough, and I don’t have to touch it up unless I’m going out at night. The finish is silky-smooth and very, very natural-looking.

6. NARS / Blush (Deep Throat)
Oh, NARS and your stupid color names…sigh. I used Orgasm for years, but switched to Deep Throat on a whim last time I needed a refill. It’s very similar, but with less sparkle and a tone that leans just slightly more pink than coral. NARS blushes are all very highly-pigmented and long-lasting, so you do need to use a light hand. I lightly swipe my blush brush in the pan, tap off the excess on my back of my hand, and ever so gently stipple it onto my cheeks. Very natural, very pretty.

Does that sound like a lot of stuff? I guess it does, but it doesn’t seem like it when I’m putting it all on! After all of this comes eye makeup and lips, so there’s still more to come. Stay tuned!

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a long, long time now. Skin—and, more specifically, adult acne—is something I’ve touched on briefly here and on my old blog, but never really in depth. It’s such a sensitive, personal subject, and it’s hard to talk about. The skin on our faces is so intimate, but we show it to the world every day. I’m constantly trying to reconcile that fact.

I don’t like having my photo taken. I’m OK taking my own photo (which is why most pictures of me also contain a camera and are in reverse), but the second someone else aims a camera at me I feel extremely anxious. I imagine the photographer at home, hours later, zooming in on my skin and discovering all of the many things that are wrong with it. It feels naked; it feels bad. When I take a photo of myself, though, it’s more about the act of taking the picture than it is an examination of my face. It’s safe, and if it looks bad, I can delete it and no one else ever has to know.

It really all comes down to skin. Forget the shape of my nose or the color of my eyes or anything at all about my face, because the only thing I’m seeing when I look in the mirror is whether my skin is flaky or red or if I have a pimple or two or seven. The condition of my skin plays a huge role in defining my confidence, my overall mood and even my productivity on any given day. My rational mind tells me this is ridiculous, but my irrational mind has used personal days to stay home from work because of breakouts. So.

My skin was fine when I was teenager, OK in my early 20s…and then it just got progressively worse. I never used to wear foundation, but my the time I was in my early 30s it was a daily operation. Ridiculous amounts of time spent every morning dotting on teensy amounts of concealer over red marks with a tiny brush, all so no one would have to know my terrible secret. It’s hard to explain this stuff with anyone who doesn’t know what it’s like to deal with adult acne, so if you fall into that camp, please try to cut those of us who have some slack. To be 37 years old and battling breakouts and wrinkles at the same time sucks. It makes you feel like you’re perpetually trapped in a delayed adolescence while simultaneously running out of the years when you’re supposed to look your best. It’s embarrassing. It makes you feel inept and unprofessional and dirty. And you will try anything to make it all better.

So here’s where I’m at right now, and I can say this with confidence: My skin has never looked better. Well, maybe it looked better when I was 15, but this is as good as it’s been in the 22 years since. Every now and then I have a minor breakout, but it’s generally just one small blemish that goes away pretty quickly and doesn’t make my life too horrible while it’s around.

Here’s the rundown:

1. Neutrogena Fresh Foaming Cleanser
This is the least-glamorous face wash I’ve used in my adult life, and I admit I was really skeptical when my dermatologist recommended it to me. I like to use things in pretty packages that are only sold at tiny drugstores or fancy department stores. Again, I know it’s ridiculous, but I’m biased against a cleanser that’s available everywhere for $5. But yeah, my dermatologist was right, and it’s the best thing I’ve ever washed my face with. I actually use it twice at night: Once to do a quick makeup removal, and then again right after to deep-cleanse with my Clarisonic. Speaking of my Clarisonic…

2. Clarisonic Mia
I LOVE MY CLARISONIC. So much. I’ve had it for a couple of years now (it was a Hanukkah present from Daniel, who understands my quest for pore perfection), and we’ve been on a journey together. At first I loved it, and then I hated it, and then I really wanted to like it again, and now I love it and can’t imagine being without it. The trick is finding the right cleanser to use it with. There’s a lot of debate over whether it’s better to use it with a foaming or non-foaming face wash, and I really think it comes down to your skin type. For me, a gentle, foaming, soap-free cleanser works best. I use it every single night.

A couple of notes: I use the replacement brushes made for delicate skin. I can’t see why the new Mia 2 is worth the extra money, so my recommendation is to just go with the original Mia. It’s the cheapest model Clarisonic sells, and it does everything you need it to. I don’t know anything about the cheaper facial brushes that Olay and Neutrogena make, so I can’t advise you there—but I can say that my dermatologist was adamant that I only use a genuine Clarisonic. I already owned one, so fine by me!

✚ EDIT: Reader Tallin commented that SkinStore.com is having a 20% off sale right now that includes the whole Clarisonic line.

3. Ziana Gel
I realize this might be a controversial inclusion since it’s a prescription product that combines a topical antibiotic (clindamycin) with a retinoid (tretinoin), and I hesitated to mention it at all. I’m not big on using antibiotics, and I was initially hesitant to start applying them to my face. I’ve also had bad experiences with prescription retinoids in the past. I think I just got to a point of desperation, though—I weighed my emotional well-being against the potential risks, and I decided to fill the prescription.

Ziana has been amazing. Aside from inflamed blemishes, I’m really prone to clogged pores and closed comedones. After using Ziana (just a tiny, pea-sized amount over my entire face at night) for a week, the improvement in my skin’s texture and clarity was noticeable. After three months, my face was completely clear—and I mean completely. I’ve been using Ziana for a total of six months now, and my skin just looks so much brighter and smoother and healthier. Some of the reviews I read complained of redness and drying, but I didn’t experience any of that. Maybe they were using too much or not using a moisturizer? I don’t know, I can just tell you that it’s been wonderful for my skin.

4. Kiehl’s Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado
I first wrote about this eye cream four years ago, and I’m still using it now. I usually only put it on at night since it’s a bit too emollient to wear under makeup, but it’s hydrating enough that the effects last even during the day. I’m careful when I wash my face in the morning to not get cleanser around my eyes, though, so maybe it’s just residual amounts that are doing the trick? Whatever it is, I love this stuff. No, it doesn’t cure me of my undereye circles, but it does keep the skin around my eyes soft and dewy-looking, and that’s good enough for me.

5. Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse
I wrote an entire blog post about how much I love this stuff a couple of months ago, so I won’t dwell on it again too long now. The love affair is still going strong! Much like my Clarisonic, this is something I can’t imagine ever not having as part of my skin care routine. I’m forever thankful to Ilenia for recommending it to me! No more dry patches, no more irritation…just soft, happy skin.

So that’s about the size of it. I do also use a sunscreen daily, of course (a spray from Paula’s Choice that was just discontinued, much to my chagrin), as well as Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant when I feel like I need exfoliation, and Peter Thomas Roth Un-Wrinkle Peel Pads if my skin seems dull at all. Nothing else—and yes, that means that my formerly-beloved Mario Badescu is no longer in my life. I have a much simpler routine now, and it’s all come down to finding the right products for me.

I still feel a bit hesitant to publish this post since I know very well that skin is an incredibly personal thing and that everyone will react differently to various products, but I also understand how reassuring it can be to know that someone else is dealing with the same issues. I may not be jumping in front of cameras anytime soon and I still have no plans to ever leave the house without makeup, but at least I can look at my face now and not just see the state of my skin—and when I do, I’m mostly OK with it. Happy, even.

Last month, my lovely friend Ilenia told me about Huile Prodigieuse (literally “prodigious oil”) from the French brand Nuxe, and I figured that since she’s Italian she probably knows what she’s talking about because popular culture tells me European women know everything about skin care. Right? So I took the next step toward what we beauty product-obsessed types like to call “lemming” (yes, used as a verb—I hate myself too, don’t worry) something: Reading all of the 100+ reviews for it on Makeup Alley. 4.2 lippies and a 78% “would buy again” rating is high praise in that community. Commence lemming!

Completely positive that Huile Prodigieuse would, in fact, change my life, I committed myself to shelling out the $46 the large bottle sells for locally at Thompson Alchemists as soon as possible. Upon returning from London last Monday, I knew the time had come. Between the 12 hours spent on airplanes, a week of washing my face with hard water (which, by the way, made my hair look AMAZING…but my skin, not so much) and dropping temperatures, I looked like a floured potato roll. I made plans to have coffee with Ilenia the very next day, and after consuming four lattes between the two us, we headed over to the pharmacy.

Can I pause for a moment to recognize New York City’s small pharmacies? Yes, there may be a Duane Reade on every other corner, but we also have lots of old-school, independent apothecaries here that sell just about every brand imaginable of cosmetics, skin care and toiletries from all over the world. My favorites are Avignone Chemists and Bigelow Apothecary (both Avignone and Bigelow opened in the 1830s—each claims to be the oldest apothecary in the United States), but I also love ogling the goods at New London Pharmacy and Thompson Alchemists. Yes, it usually costs a few dollars more to buy something locally than to order it from Amazon, but I’m OK with that if it means supporting a small business that’s managed to survive for decades (or centuries!) in NYC.

Something happens to me when I walk into one of these pretty little pharmacies that’s kind of trance-like. I realize it’s pure escapism, that glassy-eyed state of being that sets in when there’s a $30 bottle of French makeup remover at arm’s reach. The packaging, the scents, the foreign languages…I fall for all of it. Apart from a bar of eucalyptus soap for Evan and about a million samples (that’s the other benefit of shopping at these little stores—the salespeople love to give out samples), though, I managed to walk out with only a bottle Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse in my bag. Mission accomplished!

I’ve been using Huile Prodigieuse on my face and in my hair night and day for two weeks now, and it is SO GOOD. I have delicate skin that’s prone to dryness and scaliness while also being annoyingly acne-prone. The Nuxe oil is just the right formulation (borage, St. John’s wort, sweet almond, camellia, hazelnut and macadamia oils, plus vitamin E) for me, apparently, because my face feels softer and looks brighter than it has in years right now. I’ve tried using various combinations of oils (jojoba, olive, coconut, argan, etc.) on my face in the past, and I’ve never had results like this. I love that the oil goes on “dry,” leaving absolutely no residue. Any redness in my skin is almost immediately abated, and dry flakes are gone overnight. It’s also lovely to wear under makeup—I haven’t had any issues with it altering the color of my face powder at all, something I’ve experienced with other facial oils. At night I use two spritzes in my palm smoothed over my entire face and neck, and in the morning one spritz is sufficient (I avoid putting it on my forehead in the mornings since bangs + oil = ugh).

I also like to rub a little oil into my hair, mostly at the ends. I usually just use whatever is remaining on my palms after putting it on my face—it’s sufficient to smooth out any dryness or flyaways and to weigh down my hair a bit so it doesn’t look “fluffy.” If I’m wearing my hair wavy/natural, the oil provides a bit of separation and texture that I love. If there’s still any oil left on my hands, I rub it into my cuticles. A little goes a very long way.

Oh, and did I mention the scent of Huile Prodigieuse? It’s my dream fragrance. I don’t even know what it smells like—it’s somewhere between earthy and flowery; very very soft and warm. Every time I put it on I wish it would last all day and double as perfume, but the scent dissipates completely within a half hour or so. I did discover that Nuxe has just released Prodigieux le parfum—perfume based on the scent of the oil—in France, though, and that the fragrance will be available here by January. Wishlisted in advance! And I’m not even one of those people who really thinks about stuff like perfume.

What fancy European skin care products should I try next? Bioderma Crealine/Sensibio H2O and Caudalíe Beauty Elixer are on my short list…!

I buy a lot of cosmetics. Not that I wear much makeup at any given time (though I never go without unless I’m sleeping or in the shower), but there’s a certain feeling of hope and anticipation in buying beauty products that I find extremely comforting. The promise of a new lipstick or an expensive tube of mascara…the idea that this will make my life better. Yes, it’s a superficial improvement of self when a product turns out to live up to that promise, but I’m a believer in physical improvement as a means to further overall confidence.

There is no type of product in my extensive arsenal of cosmetics that outnumbers the tubes, pans, pens and sticks of undereye concealer I’ve amassed over the years. I actually tried gathering them all up into one pile to take a photo for this post, but it was just too embarrassing (though apparently not so embarrassing that I won’t write about it, haha). Dozens of concealers, all purchased with the hope that they would eradicate the dark circles under my eyes while still looking natural and not creasing, caking, making my mascara smudge, or wearing off by lunchtime.

I’m not going to name any names, but a certain female parent of mine passed along her genetic dark undereye circles to me (alas, I did not get her lovely blue eyes to go along with them), and no matter how much sleep I get, water I drink or vitamin supplements I take, those suckers aren’t going anywhere. We talk about undereye circles sometimes, that certain female parent and I, and she shares my sense of hopefulness about someday discovering that perfect product, the holy grail of concealers…

Well, I think I may have found it. About a month ago, I was (as usual) whining about my undereye circles on Twitter, and Gala asked if I’d ever tried Bobbi Brown’s Creamy Concealer Kit. At first I said yes, but then realized I was confusing it with her Corrector, which never really worked out for me. Anyway, blah blah blah, I went out and bought the concealer, because that’s what I do. I buy concealer. Then I bring it home, try it out, like it for a week, stop liking it, throw it in a drawer, and move on to the next contender.

You know what? I’ve been using this undereye concealer (my shade is Warm Ivory) for a whole month now, and I still LOVE it. Really! It took me a couple of days to get the hang of applying it right, but now that I have it down, I think I can honestly say that my quest for finding the perfect undereye concealer is OVER (at least until some other product comes along that I just have to try, but let’s not talk about that right now).

Here’s how I put it on:
After moisturizing, I wait a few minutes to let everything sink in. Then I use a synthetic taklon brush to apply the tiniest amount of concealer under my eyes, patting it in a bit with my ring finger as I go. A little really goes a long way. Once everything is covered up, I use a shadow blending brush to tap on the setting powder (that’s what’s in the right side of the pan). Done! And it lasts all day without creasing or looking dry and crepe-y. No smudged mascara, either. And I get to not look like I’ve been living in a windowless basement for a decade.

I’ll be sure to let my mother…I mean a certain female parent of mine know the good news.

Oh, hello there! Yeah, I took a little time off from blogging. I’ll talk a little bit about why in another post soon. It’s nice to be back! Hello! Let’s break the ice with some frivolity, shall we?

It’s been a long time (more than four years!) since I’ve written a post about hair products, and given how much different my hair looks now than it did back then, I think it’s time for me to do an updated rundown of what I’m putting on my head.

The biggest change in my hair recently is that it is long. Like, not just medium-length longish hair…it’s full-on LONG. I haven’t had hair this long since maybe 1990. Long hair is a tricky beast. It’s nice when the air outside is dry and cool, but the second there’s any humidity in the air or the temperatures reach into the 80s, it’s not dissimilar to wearing a giant wool cowl that just came out of the dryer still half-wet. Because I’m still growing out this haircut from last summer, I can’t really pull it back yet—the side is still too short to reach nicely (I also don’t really like wearing ponytails or braids, so there’s that). My hair is also really fine but full—and prone to tangling.

Side note: As I write this, I’m waiting to get a haircut (yes, I’m still going to the amazing Mariko at Dlala!)—the ends of my hair are super-straggly and my bangs are way too long—and I have NO idea what I’m going to have done. So maybe it won’t be long anymore in a few hours? We’ll see!

The shampoo/conditioner combination that seems to be working really, really well for me is from the Italian company Davines. They have a pretty extensive variety of products designed to suit a lot of hair types and styling needs, and I’ve been using Love Smoothing Shampoo and Love Smoothing Conditioner. The combination leaves me with hair that’s not over-stripped (I like to wash my hair daily, so I have to be careful about that) and that feels soft, smooth and minimally frizzy. It’s a bit on the spendy side, yes, but I only need to use the tiniest amount each time. I expect to get at least six months of use out of one bottle/container.

As a side bonus, the scent is faaaaaantastic. My hair smells pretty all day.

I usually don’t blow-dry or straighten my hair at all on the weekends (I’d prefer to let it air-dry all the time, actually, but I don’t like leaving the house with wet hair), but on workdays I still use my trusty, no-frills Conair Yellow Bird dryer and a Chi flat iron. I’ve had both of these things for years, and I recommend them highly. I don’t use the iron to straighten my hair, really—I really just smooth it out a bit so there are fewer flyaways. I’m very casual with the whole styling process.

Once my hair is dry and neat, I set my bangs with Bumble and bumble Spray de Mode, a hairspray that doesn’t really behave like a hairspray. It keeps everything in place, but it’s not hard or crunchy or anything like that.

For a finishing touch, I rub in a dab of my latest favorite thing into my roots: Davines No. 4 Glossy Modeling Putty for Wizards. Yes—despite not actually being a licensed wizard in the state of New York, I was able to obtain a tube of this stuff. It is glorious. It magically turns my fine hair into something with texture and substance without feeling waxy or sticky or dull. You only need the tiniest smidgen, too, even on long hair. It’s really good stuff, and just like the Davines shampoo and conditioner, it smells great.

Okay, it’s time for me to hop on the subway and head out for my haircut now!! My pre-snip jitters are at a minimum, so that must mean I’m leaning toward something closer to a trim than a major change…

I thought about titling this post “ME ME ME ME ME ME (and a little more ME),” because let’s face it—this is a whole bunch of ME. I don’t post a lot of photos of myself on the blog, I guess because it just always feels awkward. I hate having my picture taken by other people, and I don’t like taking a photo of myself unless the camera/phone is visible in the picture as well. Having the camera visible makes the resulting photo less about documenting the subject and more of a marker of that specific moment—which is the act of taking the photo.

Am I over-thinking it? Maybe, but all of that over-thinking made me realize something: I am my own design project. Here are some Instagram snaps from over the past few weeks.

So yeah. I mean…I pretty much look like my house. I don’t really draw any distinction between designing myself and designing anything else. I have a set of limitations that I need to work with, and a knowledge of how to use certain tools and materials in order to achieve the results I want. I never think about what would be perceived as “sexy” or whatever, that’s just not something I’m concerned with. I do like to look attractive, of course, but for me physical attractiveness (in anyone) is determined not by a specific set of features, but by a series of proportions, contrasts, textures and colors—exactly the same things that make a room or a book cover or a garden appealing to me.

OH, AND: Here’s me matching my dorm room 18 years ago.

I’m curious: How about you? Do you “match” your home? If you’re an artist or designer, do you feel like there’s a correlation between your professional work and, say, your hair?