One of my favorite features of Emily Weiss’s really wonderful site, Into the Gloss, is her Top Shelf–a close look into the beauty routines and philosophies of fashion/beauty tastemakers, which often ends up being much more introspective and revealing than a regular ‘ol interview. For anyone who doesn’t believe beauty is a great equalizer, I submit as evidence the degree to which she gets her sometimes-cagey subjects to open up over discussions about toner and moisturizer. I mean, how else would you know that Sally Singer has an obsession with Japanese manicures and Erin Wasson is really into craniosacral therapy (yes, as weird as it sounds.) Today, for you TDO readers, I’m borrowing a little from Emily’s format and opening my Top Shelf to you, to share a little bit about myself (we’ll keep this write-up confined to just skincare.) I’m nowhere near as fabulous as Emily’s usual subjects, but here’s hoping to one day.
Written in the manner of Into the Gloss’s Top Shelf, condensed and self-edited
“Like many a beauty-obsessed editor before me, everything I know about beauty, I’ve learned from my mom. I wouldn’t term my mom a beauty fanatic, but I would define her as a ‘natural beauty’ fanatic, meaning she is all about preserving your natural beauty–whatever gifts you were endowed with. She could care less about makeup (so much so that I gave her an eyeliner 101 lesson just a few months ago), but skincare is her jam. For as long as I can remember, my mom has had an intensive nighttime skincare regime consisting of multiple steps and potions (at least 6.)
I always thought that my mom’s skincare routine was unique to her because of her fanaticism. But then, when I went to Asia, every single cosmetic counter was advising the same thing. We’re talking, makeup remover, face cleanser, skincare milk, toner, serum, moisturizer, eye cream. I mean, I think most Americans consider themselves pretty good if they can hit one or two of those steps, let alone six. No wonder Asian makeup artists gasp in horror when I asked if they had a dual makeup remover/cleanser. At first, I thought this multi-step process was a scheme by Asian cosmetic companies to sell more product, but then I thought about it and realized most dual-use products perform dubiously. I mean, it’s never 100% one thing or the other, so it usually half-heartedly does both things. I consider two-in-one shampoo/conditioners to be a dubious dual-purpose beauty product.
My mom also shields herself from the sun like a Buffy vampire. Oh, so one beauty product that is dual-purpose that Asian people believe in? Umbrellas. Effective not only during rainstorms, but also used by shield the sun’s rays. I mean, my mom drives to work in a visor, face mask, and full-length gloves–a UV ray blocking costume that she quickly removes so none of her coworkers can see. Yes, even in rainy weather.
So I combine a little of my mom’s approach of beauty with mine. Although some of my best beauty discoveries have come from her. Like this best-selling toner from Japan, that is used by royalty or something. My mom buys giant bottles of Albion Skin Conditioner every time we go back. It’s a toner and a mask. When you buy it, the sales people make you sit through a 15-minute tutorial where they demonstrate the effects of the toner on your skin, doing a left/right hand test. And it’s incredible, you can really see a difference! And they sell these special cotton pads to use along with the toner, which you drench in the emulsion and then peel into thin-onion skin layers onto your face. While they’re demonstrating it to you, you look a bit like a molting mummy, but afterwards, your skin glows! It looks so clean and fresh, you almost don’t want to go outside for fear of it disappearing. So I use this a few times a week on my skin and it was a real lifesaver back when I used to have bad cystic acne, I felt like it was clearing out impurities. It wouldn’t dry bumps up overnight but it calmed them down–it made them less angry, calmed them down from Hulk levels of angriness.
My skin is the type that is pretty good–except when it gets hormonal, when it gets angry. Thankfully, my dermatologist, Anne Chapas, has turned me onto the benefits of Retin-A, so I use a Retin-A cream that is like 0.1% or something like that because my skin can be sensitive. It started flaking a lot at first, but after three-four months, it’s really adjusted. It was the only thing that really helped my cystic acne. So after applying that and the toner, I apply a moisturizer. Right now, I’m really into Murad’s Hydro-Dynamic Ultimate Moisturizer. My skin was feeling really tight for a few days, because of the weather change, and this is great at clearing that up and helping it adjust to the brutal change in weather between heaters and the cold air outside. I also like Natura Bisse’s Oxygen Moisturizer, which my Space NK facialist recommended to me. I bought it because they were having a deal where if you buy a facial, you can also use the dollar amount to buy products. I later found out that Beyonce also mentioned in an interview that she loves this brand too, so I was like, sold. I also tap into my mom’s La Mer supply when I go home. That’s one product that is definitely not overhyped.
And then eye cream, I love Ven Effect’s Eye Cream, which was founded by two dermatologists. It’s really moisturizing, not greasy–and any eye makeup you put on over it just glides, it almost acts like a great primer base. And I’m still really faithful to Kiehls Midnight Recovery Eye Cream, which is just the perfect size to slide past TSA.