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Best of Exfoliators

January 8, 2014


Mean Mr. Winter has sucked all the moisture out of my skin. Where once my skin was soft and smooth, it now resembles the rough, scaly surface of an elephant. I guess you could say that my entire epidermis is like an elbow. Slight exaggeration, but you get the visual. It’s around this time of year that my exfoliation tendencies go from 1-2 times a week to 4-5 times a week, depending on the area of my skin. And as someone who visits the dermatologist on a biyearly basis (gotta check those moles!), I’ve treated each appointment as an opportunity to get as much information as I can about moisturizing, acne, dry skin, and yes, exfoliating. As it turns out, though not surprisingly, a lot of the exfoliating I was doing was all wrong dot com. It wasn’t so much the products I was using as much as it was how I was using them. Here’s what I learned and subsequently what I can’t live without during these dry, crackling skin months.

1. St. Ive’s Apricot Scrub - I’ve been using this product since I was in the eighth grade. It calls itself invigorating and boy, does it mean it. One scrub of this stuff and I feel like I’ve lost a pound in dead skin. However, according to my dermatologist, this scrub is one of the worst things you can apply to your face. The sharp edges of the Corn kernel meal and walnut shell powder (aka the exfoliants) actually end up creating invisible cuts on your face which then end up producing bacteria that causes zits. NEWS FLASH to me! But while the scrub may be deleterious to your face, it actually is great for the rest of your body. I use this once or twice a week on my entire body including my bikini area as its one of the highest recommended exfoliants to prevent ingrown hairs.

2. Clarisonic Brush – I used to use my Clarisonic everyday but that just made pimples pop up everywhere. Much to my disbelief, it is possible to over exfoliate, particularly when it comes to your face. Over exfoliating makes your skin noticeably drier and red which can cause pore irritation otherwise known as acne, and I’m not talking about the Swedish Fashion House. As tempting and refreshing it may be to scrub the makeup off your face on a daily basis, it’s better to use your Clarisonic only a few times a week (2-4, depending on the sensitivity of your skin).

3. Exfoliating Gloves – I always passed these gloves in the drugstore, wondering if they actually did more than my former go-to, the loofa. Gloves in the shower always seemed strange to me. Kind of like socks in the bathtub which I unfortunately experienced one time when I forgot to take them off before stepping into the tub. Anyhoozit, my curiosity got the better of me back in November when I purchased a pair. Hello, life change! I use these scrubby gloves in the shower and am obsessed with how different they’ve made my skin. Not only are they a great way to get the blood flowing in the morning, but they scratch off just that topmost layer of skin on my body, leaving it soft and smooth like a Kenny G song.

4. Fresh Sugar Lip Polish - Exfoliating your lips? I know, I thought it was poppycock the first time I heard about it too. But my lips are usually the first to show dry, cracked skin (especially in the winter) and as someone who loves lipstick, it’s beyond necessary to apply those bold hues to a smooth set of lips. I use this polish about once a week, depending on what I have going on (i.e. if I’m in my house for an entire week there’s no need to fuss over whether my lips will look good under lipstick) and always immediately follow up with a hefty coating of Aquaphor.

Up next: best in moisturizers!

The Good Stain

December 18, 2013


When it comes to cheeks, I’ve always preferred bronzer to blush. Given my naturally pasty glow, I need all the help I can get in the faux tanning department. I also have a pretty uneven skintone, so adding pinks and reds to my already pinky red skin seems redundant. However, on a recent photo shoot, the makeup artist topped off my look with a “pinky stain” that she said would be my new best friend. I generally feel overdone when there’s a lot of makeup on my face, so I braced myself for a full on drag queen moment when I went to look in the mirror. Much to my surprise, my makeup just looked like an amped up version of what I already do; and then I noticed my cheeks. The faintest shade of peachy pink glimmered on the apples of my cheeks, adding not only a sunkissed glow but a whole new dimension to my face. “I look photoshopped!” I said, turning my head right and left to see how the light glistened on my rosy cheeks before demanding to be introduced to my new best  friend.


Her name is Tipsy (talk about meant to be) and she comes from the land of Tarte. Embodied in a cylinder-like tube, Tipsy is a water-based gel that stains your cheeks just a wee bit to give them that natural rosy glow. She also has a touch of shimmer for extra radiance and smells like candy.

I now use Tipsy as the final touch to my everyday look, applying her after a swipe of bronzer across my cheek bones. And sometimes, if I’m feeling really crazy, I’ll dab her on my lips because it tastes good and adds a modest hue of natural pink. Who knows, maybe when summer rolls around and I have a real tan, I won’t need any bronzer and will just apply Tipsy to my cheeks. Now wouldn’t that be something else.


// photos by Sara Neel


On Finding That Perfect Lip Balm

November 19, 2013


It’s that time of year again! That time when our lips crack, burn, peel, and bleed no matter how many humidifiers we use and how much water we consume. I first realized it was Chapped Lip Season when I ducked into Duane Reade to quench the thirst of my lower, now cracking, lip just the other day. I cruised over to the health aisle (why it’s there and not in the beauty aisle is still a curious choice to me), admittedly excited to pick out a new chapstick since I lose mine on a far too frequent basis. But once I got there, the choices, which I had imagined to be endless, were plucked over like the candy section before Halloween. Given my lips’ current state of dehydration, I was in no place to dawdle, so I grabbed a mini tub of medicated Carmex and made my way to check out. One application later and my lips were tingling with the same sensation one gets when jumping from a cold pool into a hot tub, aka uncomfortable at first and then gratifying. Though my lips were temporarily quenched, the satisfaction I was looking for was not there — this was not my lip balm.


Whenever I’m out with friends — girls and/or guys — someone inevitably asks, “Does anyone have any lip balm?” Guys usually fish into their pockets and pull out a standard stick of Chapstick™, whereas girls dive into their bags and resurface with a lip balm of which the brands are endless. One friend seems to always carry Khiel’s, while another swears by Nivea’s Milk & Honey stick. I have sampled both and can understand why they’ve become such staples in each of their handbags — they’re refreshing! But still, these are not my lip balms.


When it comes to a lip balm, I’m looking for something that’s going to coat and smother my lips. I want it to be thick and nourishing, last for hours, and not make my mouth look as though I’ve covered it in the glaze off a glazed donut. So far, my quest for the perfect lip balm has been satisfied twice. The first balm to make my lips feel as smooth as Silly Puddy was Aquaphor. This versatile ointment (god I hate that word) has been a longtime companion, keeping my lips hydrated through the harshest of winters and deadliest of sunburns. But carrying around a tube of the stuff never feels that glamorous. I know, it’s chapstick, who cares? But for some reason, I do. Unless in dire need of lip balm, no one gets excited when you bust out a tube of Aquaphor. It’s like the person who brings mixers to the party; it’s great it’s there, but it ain’t the booze! This brings me to the second, more glamorous lip balm (there is such a thing) which I am slightly embarrassed to admit I spent close to $30 on. Dior’s Crème de Rose Lip Balm feels like you’re applying rose-flavored butter to your lips. It’s thick, luscious, lasts for hours, and has everyone’s hands grabbing for it when you pull it from your bag, but it’s $27. Is it worth the dinero? Yes, absolutely, it’s probably more effective than Aquaphor. But, if you’re anything like me when it comes to chapstick, you risk the possibility of losing it. I have already done this…twice…and let me just say, it’s not easy to justify spending another $30 knowing full well that I’ll likely lose the tub of crème all over again. So, for now, I’m stuck with Aquaphor — a similarly satisfying, less exciting, but far more economical option.

However, even after finding these two “perfect” lip balms, I still test out every type that comes my way, convinced that there will be one, almighty chapstick that dominates the rest. So now I ask you, what lip balm do you use?

‘Cause It’s Friday: Go Makeup Free

November 15, 2013


Thanks to an unfortunate bout of the stomach flu, I have been makeup free for the past three days. Though I have never considered myself to be much of a makeup person, it’s rare that I leave the house without at least a touch of eyeliner or mascara; I’m not trying to frighten children, after all. But since I haven’t  left my apartment in the past  few days and my only human interaction has been with delivery men, makeup, in any capacity, has been the last thing on my mind.

Today is the first day that I’m actually feeling better — praise Allah for sleep, Saltines, and Gatorade — and as I sat down to write this morning for the first time in days, I went to rub my eye and froze. On any normal morning, I would already have a fresh application of eyeliner and mascara on, making this little rub session (that sounds sexual, oops) a major no-no. How frustrating is it when you mess up your makeup because of one measly eyelash stuck on your cornea? But this was not a normal morning. This was post Flu-palooza and aside from having shed a significant amount of blubber due to lack of eating (best diet ever!), I wasn’t wearing any makeup because who knew if I could manage sitting up for more than 20 minutes. So, after halting my fingers mid-cheek, I realized this was a rare opportunity for me to go to town on my eyeballs and thus proceeded to spend a solid ten minutes rubbing one out (again, sounds sexual. Ok this time it was intentional).

What. Utter. Bliss. Honestly ladies, when was the last time you really went to town rubbing your eyes? If you’re like me, you’re likely scratching your head trying to remember the last time you even bothered to wash your makeup off before going to bed. So, here’s this: Regardless of whether or not you have the stomach flu (and I actually really hope you don’t because dear god was that bad), take a moment this weekend to wash off all your makeup and bask in the glory that is a clear face. I’m not talking clear as in pimple free — please, my face is like the snowcapped Rocky Mountain’s for ants right now — I’m talking clear as in without foundation, bronzer, mascara, lipstick, etc. Not only are you giving your exhausted skin a much needed breather, but I promise you, that little eye-rub session will be one of the most soothing things you’ll do all weekend.

Embracing Your Inner Nudist

October 16, 2013


NARS Pure Matte Lipstick in ‘Madère’, Deborah Lippmann nail polish in ‘Prelude to a Kiss’, Essie nail polish in ‘Mamba’, YSL Ombre Solo eyeshadow in ‘The Naturals’


 I’m no goth, but when it comes to makeup I’ve always preferred hues on the darker side of the spectrum. My eyeliner has remained a dark espresso color since the beginning of college — this was a graduation from caked on black eyeliner in high school — and as for eyeshadows and lipsticks, I’ve stuck almost exclusively to the smokey eye and bold red or burgundy lip when craving an extra oomph to my look. This color theory also applies to my nails as I’ve been painting my digits a variation of reds, blacks, and blues since the days of Hard Candy nail polish. This summer however, as my nail polish continued to chip after hours spent in the pool and I had less of a need for a dramatic eye or bold lip — summer is all about low maintenance beauty if you ask me — I gradually stopped painting my nails and began using less and less makeup in my everyday regime.

Now that summer is over and fall is in the air — can I get an, “Ohhh yeah!” — I’ve amped up my beauty routine again and instead of returning to the darkness that is the majority of my beauty products, I’ve opted to continue with this whole nudist theme. What I like about this nakedness is that it allows you to add pops of color without looking like Jessica Rabbit. For example, obviously I’m not wearing nude eyeshadow and nude lips at the time, that would just make me look like a creepy mannequin (or maybe that’s your thing?), but when the eyes are bare, the lips have a chance to make a statement and vice versa. As for nails, there’s something refreshing about a nude nail that lets the rings on my fingers stand out and the whole chipped polish thing become unimportant. The only downside is that more often than not, people can see the dirt buildup beneath your fingernails, but who really cares about that anyways?