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Posts from the ‘beauty’ Category


I have a huge crush on my husband. But I have a more complicated relationship with Tom’s desire to maintain himself. By maintenance, I’m talking about the gym, skin care products, clothes—all of it. I appreciate that he cares how he looks, but I get annoyed when his grooming starts interfering with my life.

The main way in which it interferes with my life is right before we go out to dinner or a social event. For some inexplicable reason, Tom always wants to be the last person to get out of the shower before we leave, and it will not stand. My hair and makeup, once set, begin an almost immediate process of deflating/disintegration, which means that it is imperative that I get out of the shower and blow-dried mere seconds before we step out of the house.

Why even bother to shower, dude? I’m just being real. With a hetero couple, no one is looking at what the man looks like when you go out with your friends. I mean, maybe they’re looking at the guy, but only if something is wrong. Like maybe the guy is wearing dad jeans or his cummerbund is on upside down. Or maybe there are two guys in the group wearing the exact same shirt, which has almost happened twice with Tom and our friend Erskine, and happened most recently to Tom and our friend Ryan (below). If something like that happens, you’re looking at the man. Otherwise, everyone’s looking at the women.


That doesn’t mean the guy doesn’t have a role to play. When we go out, Tom’s role is to look neither good enough nor bad enough to distract from my own appearance. In that way, I think of me and Tom as a bouquet. I’m the flowers and he’s the cellophane wrapper.

And guys, let us have that, ok? Once you start jockeying for the second shower position, or interrupting your wife’s outfit selection process to ask which pocket square you should wear when she hasn’t even put on her underwear—that’s annoying. It’s almost…unmanly. I know I’m treading perilously close to being un-PC, but sometimes I just want my man to be manly. Because in life, I can do most of it myself. I can make money. I can take care of my kids. I can call someone to fix something when it breaks, just as well as Tom can. So: don’t steal my Garnier Surf Paste and tweezers and then take them on your business trip. C’mon, man. I gave birth to your kids. Have I not given enough?

For all that, Tom’s still a ways off from caring too much. When he needs a haircut, he goes to Rudy’s, a local barbershop, and sits down in whichever chair is open. I have a few tenets I live by, and one of those tenets is Thou Shalt Honor Thy Hair. I can’t even fathom something as insane as letting a stranger cut your hair—it’s Russian roulette, where the bullet is a terrible haircut. And sure enough, every third visit, Tom comes home looking like one of those sheep that are shorn too close and are showing the tender pink skin beneath. When he gets a good haircut, I beg him to write down the name of the stylist, and to request that person in future. He always shrugs me off. Here’s the thing. I can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped.

When it gets right down to it, I guess I prefer that Tom care too much, rather than too little. Because it’s when a man stops caring that things get scary. Tom falls into these funks from time to time, but they only last a couple weeks at most, during which time you can usually find him lying on his back in front of the TV under a blanket of funsize Milky Way wrappers, with a 2-liter of Diet Coke within arm’s reach. I’ll take the dude with the Biore strip on his face over THAT guy, any day of the week.

stealing shampoo

I use “The Ethicist” column from the NYT as a moral barometer of sorts. It’s nice to check in every Sunday and verify that one is measurably less insane than the people who write into the column. Until, that is, you read a column and disagree with the Ethicist’s response. This happened to me last week, when someone wrote in about whether it was ok to take home the mini shampoo and conditioner bottles from hotel rooms. The Ethicist responded (basically) that those bottles are provided for your use under the condition that you use them inside the hotel room. Yeah, I know. WTF.

Screw the Ethicist. In my mind, not only is it ok to purloin those bottles, you would be a fool to leave them behind. When I get into a hotel room, after checking the bathroom floor for stray hairs, my first order of business is to immediately put all the miniature bottles in my bag, so that the housekeepers will put out new bottles of product at turndown. The next morning, I wash my hair with the Garnier I’ve brought from home, and then put the turndown bottles in my bag, so I can get new bottles when they clean the room. And so on and so forth. And here’s the thing. The housekeepers know I’m doing it. It’s not like they can’t see that the bottles are gone, or that the bottles aren’t in the trash can, which the housekeepers empty. No one’s reporting me. Because, you know what? They expect me to take the bottles. They NEED me to take those bottles.


primo minis from a recent trip to san diego

I’m going to pause here for a second to address the hotels that have replaced the mini bottles with communal shower dispensers. First of all, nothing says luxury accommodations like communal dispensers. Second, you can stick whatever label you want on the outside of the dispensers, but everyone knows what you’ve got in those dispensers is bottom-of-the-barrel Suave Awapuhi and VO5, which just means that you are dirty, cheap liars. Third, you’re not using dispensers for the environment, you’re using them because you want to save a buck, so stop pretending otherwise.  Communal hotel dispensers make me so mad that sometimes I am tempted to empty them out, in silent protest.  But that would be wasteful and petty.

I just want to be on vacation. I’m already doing my part for the environment at home. I recycle. I compost. I turn off the tap when I brush my teeth. And I grudgingly do my part at hotels. I reuse the stupid towels and sheets even though the main reason I go to a hotel is so I can sleep in crisp sheets that do not smell faintly of my kids’ urine, and luxuriate in the weight of a fresh towel that I can’t afford at home. I turn off all the lights and AC when I leave my room, and do the rest of the hotel’s bidding. So give back the mini bottles of shampoo and conditioner, ok? Jesus, I feel like crying.

If you think I’m weird, consider that I use those mini bottles for the gym, and travel to places that don’t provide product (e.g. vacation homes). So I have a real use for them. I’m not like my husband, who takes the mini bottles to use at our house, where he has access to regular-sized bottles of shampoo and conditioner. For reasons unknown, Tom seems to prefer using products in miniature. Miniature bottles of product are great because they are free, but when you get right down to it, they are kind of a pain to deal with. I mean, they are notoriously difficult to open and squeeze, and once squeezed, they never stay upright, and end up spilling all over your shower. It’s a real problem for me, because as the only space in my house that my kids don’t have access to, my shower is my refuge. I sometimes shower twice in one day, just to escape my kids. Anyway, I like a neat and tidy shower. So it drives me nuts when I have to deal with something like this.


If you don’t think this is weird, let me just point out for you that the miniature bottles are all l’Occitane bottles that Tom brought home from the Four Seasons in Seattle. That big bottle is filled with the SAME PRODUCT that is in the little bottles. The labels look different but trust me, I know, because years ago Tom demanded that I ask l’Occitane what product they put in their hotel minis. Which I did, like the loving wife that I am. And the shampoo in their hotel minis is essentially the same stuff in that big purple bottle, which he demands that I procure for him at regular intervals, while I lather up with the Garnier. And still, he continues to use the miniatures. Is this not weird? I think it is totally insane. Every time he does this I stand in my shower with the water going cold, staring hard at the bottles, just trying to make sense of it. And I never can.

But whatever. I say nothing, because I want to support Tom’s hotel product benders, which probably save me at least $27 dollars a year in man-tastic beauty products, which I consider less fun to buy than even diapers or dishwasher tablets. As for any lingering qualms I might feel because of the Ethicist’s stupid column, here’s what I have to say to him, who as far as I know, lacks ethical credentials of any kind. He is not licensed in psychology or sociology, or morals. I, however, am a lawyer. As such, I might not know morals, but I damn well know conditional use. Those miniature bottles are mine. I paid for them with my hotel room, and if you want to say they are conditional even though those words appear nowhere on the bottles or on my hotel terms and conditions, go right ahead. But you’re wrong.

skin deep

We all have someone in our lives who exists solely to make us feel like we know nothing. For me, this person is my cousin Lisa (heretofore referred to as “Cuz”), a native New Yorker who I love like a little sister. She moved in with us last week to establish residency for grad school, and I’m excited, partly because I know she will provide lots of material for this blog in the coming months.

The first thing to know about Cuz is that she has made skincare her life’s work. She is obsessed. When she first met Tate, he was a 9-month old baby and completely non-verbal. Instead of cooing over him like a normal person, Lisa repeatedly stroked his cheek and asked him, with a straight face, what he did to keep his skin so soft.

When we first see each other after a long time apart, she will always make a comment about my skin. She caught me this time at the end of a week-long trip to Central Oregon, from which I returned with skin so dry and bumpy that if my forehead said “Wilson” on it, you would think my head was a leather basketball. I knew the situation was serious, but she really drove it home for me when she said this: “You know, Clarisonic was invented for the exact skin problem you have. You should try it.” SKIN PROBLEM. I felt like she’d just diagnosed me with leprosy.

Anyway, I was already feeling stressed about my skin when I walked into her room and saw this.


I mean, my God. She’s 26. For comparison, here’s what my 35-year old skincare regimen looks like.


Seeing the evidence of her superior commitment to her skin was bad enough, but then she started talking and it got so much worse. I asked her about her CeraVe night lotion because the drugstore brand stood out from the $2000 worth of high-end skin care products surrounding it. “Oh,” Cuz said, “That’s the only thing that fills in my lines. Like these lines right here (casually touching a finger to my laugh lines as I froze in horror)—CeraVe will fill that in right away.” It was such brilliant timing, because I’d recently noticed that those lines—two hostile parentheses hugging my mouth—were getting more noticeable.

And Cuz was just getting started. When I asked her why she had so many serums, she said, “My morning serum has to have antioxidants. My night serum is more for intense moisturization.”  Having personally discovered serum only a few years ago, the concept of having more than one serum in one’s skincare arsenal was still blowing my mind when she asked me what I used for moisturizer. “A daytime FLUID?!? Fluids are for people with oily skin. You don’t have oily skin.” And then, toners: “I don’t use American toners. They all have alcohol and they strip the skin. That’s why I like Korean essences, they soak into the skin and really prep it for the stuff that follows.” As she talked, I saw the dozens of bottles of American toners from my past flash before my eyes.

By the end of it, I just felt sorry for myself.  What had I been doing with my time?  I felt my upper lip bead with sweat as I began to question everything I was doing and had done to my skin. Expecting sympathy, I told her how stressed I was. Instead of coddling me, she broke it down, cold. “You SHOULD be stressed. You have good skin and you’re not taking care of it.” Hearing that, and looking at her perfectly unlined and dewy face, made me die a little inside.

My friend Pat is a skincare guru who, despite being twice my age, has skin of such surpassing loveliness that you suspect she made a pact with the devil to get it. Her face manages to stay perfectly intact during a vigorous hour of Zumba, while my face melts and slides all over the place like a gruyere sandwich. Between Pat and Cuz, I’m motivated to kick this skincare thing into high gear.

I’ll report back any findings.

all my bad haircuts are self-inflicted

Ah, hair. No one is happy with their hair. If I’m wrong and you are, please be sure to post a comment here and I promise not to make fun of you in my reply. The thing about hair is that when it’s good, you can hardly look at anything else. I’ve written of my love of Khloe Kardashian before, and 80% of my love for her, is love for her hair. It’s long, it’s bouncy, it’s perfectly piece-y, it’s got volume at the crown. I’d give my left kidney to have Khloe’s hair. And my right kidney, to have Lamar.

But this post is not about Khloe Kardashian’s hair. No, it’s about hair that is roughly 1/8000 as good–my hair. Actually, it’s less about my hair than my tragic inability not to get in the way of my stylist, which results in situations like this:

I readily admit that the issue might not be easy to spot, as my entire hairstyle was carefully conceived years ago to look like a high-end rat’s nest. But the problem here is that my ear is almost completely exposed. Just on my right side–the ear on the other side is totally covered, as it should be, which just informs the observer that the haircut is an accident. It’s likely psychosomatic, but I actually feel colder on the right side of my head. It probably doesn’t look like a big deal to you, but to me, it feels like I look like this:

Anyway, it’s not my stylist’s fault. I worship the ground Galen walks on and I dedicate a full minute of every day to having a panic attack that she will leave town or quit hair altogether. No, the problem, as usual, is me.

By the time I get to the salon, I’ve spent an entire car ride coaching myself not to micromanage my haircut. It’s never any good, though. I breeze in and plop down in her chair with a forced casualness that to my mind approximates the behavior of the 20-something clientele to which Galen is accustomed, and then I’ll usually say something cheesy like, “Galen, you do your thing.” Except that I never end up letting her do her thing. After she’s done, I’ll heap her with praise and then ruin everything by asking her to cut a little more at the back, or to trim up the bangs a little bit. I can think of 15 instances when that last Yoona-mandated tweak of the bangs has taken the cut from great, to freakshow. And the worst part is that as I sit there, forcing myself to look hard at my hideous reflection and fighting back hot, burny tears as Galen nervously sweeps up the hair around me, I know I have only myself to blame. But the lesson never takes. I’ll inevitably do the exact same thing two months later.

This last go-around, when Galen finished up, I was convinced that the hair looked shorter on one side. So I grabbed a lock of hair from my right side that looked out of place and told Galen to cut it. Galen gave a visible wince, but she knows who’s calling the shots in her salon, and it’s not her. So she cut it. Turns out that lock of hair covered my right ear. And that’s how I ended up where I am today.

The ear is almost grown over by now. Time for a new haircut.

what’s in my bag?

I love the “What’s in My Bag?” page in Us Weekly, because it’s always such a shameless, manufactured attempt at product placement, and a totally homogenized version of what purse contents actually look like. According to Us Weekly, the only thing starlets carry in their bags are whole bottles of perfume and LV planners.

A couple months ago, I caught a glimpse of the inside of my friend Michelle’s bag, and was immediately inspired to write a post about what a real woman’s bag looks like. To look at Michelle from the outside, you’d think she was a put-together, vivacious, beautiful mom of three. But if you caught a glimpse of the inside of her handbag, you might think the bag belonged to the Unibomber. I suspect most of our bags look like Michelle’s. If yours doesn’t and you’re jealous, here’s a tip: for the perfect mess, it helps if the bag is completely without structure and has no compartments or pockets, like my Clare Vivier, above. Then everything can just tumble around together in one horrific, roiling mix.

Below: the true, unedited contents of my bag, and a handy key, as of April 26, 2012.

1. Wallet filled with carefully clipped coupons, all expired.

2. Target gift card, received by Finn at his 5th birthday party (12/17/11). Stolen from Finn (12/18/11).

3. Kleenex, never there when you need it.

4. Cleaning cloth for sunglasses, covered in dirt and particulates from rolling around the inside of my bag. Dwight Holton button, because Dwight’s the man. The button pricks me every time I reach into my purse, but I don’t blame Dwight. Don’t forget to vote.

5. Burt’s Bees original lip balm. I have 37 of these stashed in various places.

6. Lego keychain. Rather cruel, turns out. Tate has spent about three tortured hours trying to get the storm trooper (clone trooper?) off the keys, to little avail.

7. Halls wrapper. Why throw wrappers away when you can keep them for always?

8. Lens Crafters protection plan for Finn’s glasses. The best $29.99 I’ve ever spent, because he’s already broken them four times. Why I keep the hard copy in my purse is another question.

9. Mystery item.

10. Part of Heath wrapper. Suspect I ate the rest of the wrapper.

11. Emergency food, for emergencies. Like 4:00.

12. Price tag from new sunglasses, which, as far as Tom knows, are old sunglasses.

13. Friend Amara’s recipe for s’mores bars served during the Super Bowl. In February.

14. Large post-it pad, with Tate doodle. Effective at keeping a child diverted, for exactly three seconds.

15. Highlighters in five colors. Because having just the yellow one is for amateurs.

16. Emergency tampon encased in cardboard packaging that I have no clue how to infiltrate. But don’t worry, I work best under pressure.

17. Tape flags, for flagging stuff.

18. Grand Central coffee card. Only 7 more cups to go until I get my free $1.25 cup of coffee.

19. Rubber finger, for flipping stuff.

20. $5.80 Forever 21 bracelet, for power lunches.

Phew. No decaying banana peel or wet boy socks. A pretty organized day, all told.

stuff i like: maybelline mascara

Is there anything as unchanging and reassuring as a magazine article on “beauty steals?”  It’s always the same products: Cetaphil for cleaning, Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour Cream for “anything and everything,” Rosebud Salve, and the perennial pick, Maybelline Great Lash mascara.  I’ve never tried the 8 Hour Cream because apparently I don’t need a cream for “anything and everything.”  Rosebud Salve is fine if you don’t need your lip product to actually adhere to your lips, and you also don’t mind the taste of soap.  As for Cetaphil, it’s just gross.  It’s like washing your face with vichyssoise.  It’s always touted as being gentle, but I’m sorry, I don’t require gentleness from a cleanser.  What I require is something that leaves my skin so clean that it squeaks.  If I could wash my face with a brillo pad, I would.  If you like that feeling too, try this.

As for the mascara, it takes a lot more than Maybelline Great Lash to make something of my Asian eyelashes, which are short, fine, and sparse, like the eyelashes you might find on a 6-pound mini pinscher.  I had to overcome a strong visceral reaction to that particular combo of green and pink in order to purchase a tube of Great Lash, and it turns out I needn’t have bothered, because it sucks.  I mean, if you are Caucasian and/or are already blessed with visible eyelashes, maybe it cuts the mustard.  But if that’s the case, certainly any mascara will work, including those that don’t look like they were conceived for a 12-year old.

There IS a Maybelline mascara that actually works for the eyelash-challenged.  I can’t even type the name here because it’s so terrible, but I’ve provided a photo.  A month ago, this mascara prevented me from killing myself when I learned that Shiseido is no longer selling its Lasting Lift mascara in the states.  Forget Dior Show, forget Lancome, forget the $35 tube of Chanel–all of which I have tried, some twice because I forgot I had tried them before.  If you are Asian, a Shu Uemura curler warmed under a hair dryer + Shiseido Lasting Lift = all-day curl and volume.  But no longer.  I am starting to feel hysterical writing this, because it’s really hitting me that it’s over.  I took my mascara for granted, and now it’s gone.  Those pathetic people who hoard their favorite beauty products?  Sages, every damn one of them.

Anyway, my friend Davia is no slouch with mascara, and she suggested the purple Maybelline, and it works.  It’s no Lasting Lift, but it’ll have to do.  It makes my eyelashes visible, keeps them curled up for a while, and the waterproof version doesn’t smudge too much.  If you like subtlety in a mascara, this one’s not for you.  But for the rest of us: at $7.99, it’s worth a shot.