If You Have Just Five Minutes …

My current living situation isn’t exactly the most glamorous.

I live in a building with many other families that are all living there for the purpose of someone completing a higher education degree.  It is a season of scrimping and saving, constant transition (as there is a moving truck in front of our building at least once every two months), and general uncertainty.  Many of the women in my building are busy raising three or four young children; others are plugging away at their own coursework or job responsibilities.  Any you way it slice it, it’s not exactly the place where you’ll see lots of false lashes or makeup brushes lying around.

That being said, all this doesn’t mean the lashes and brushes have been tossed to the wayside here, rejected as some sort of earthly frill without any value.  For so many of my neighbors, there just isn’t time, and one’s mind is simply preoccupied with other things besides finding the perfect highlighter that’s right for your skin.  I guess the same could be said for many folks in various stages of life- we often find ourselves without time, or living in seasons when we’re just distracted, and little things that brought joy are the first to go.  Something like makeup or skincare becomes more of a tedious effort than a delightful ritual.  One of my most restful activities has always been doing my makeup and hair, and even without children, I’ve already found myself slowing down and not wanting to take the time that I used to for these things.

But for me, my putting aside of makeup says more about the state of my mind and heart than about busyness.  I could take the time to do a little something, but when my mind and heart are clouded with worry or feelings of ungratefulness, I can’t enjoy something like makeup.  In moments like that it’s hard to sit down, take a deep breath, and choose which couple eyeshadows I’d like to wear.  It’s a challenge to let go of the worries of the moment and say, “You know, things are going to be okay.  Worrying truly solves nothing, so let’s choose joy and put on the makeup I love.”

But something funny happens when I do surrender those worries, when I say “no” to the seemingly looming cares of tomorrow- I find myself picking up the brushes, turning on the curling iron, and taking joy.  I find myself putting in the “work” of makeup out of thankfulness, out of delight.  And suddenly, makeup stops feeling so much like work, but rather like the pleasure it’s been for me since I was twelve.  You could almost call it worship.  I sometimes manage to get so caught up in this delight that I end up with full-face look, complete with primer, contouring, something colorful, and maybe even false lashes.  When I say no to worry and fear, I am able to take delight in beauty and creativity.

Think about that.

So for those of us that are busy, worried, tired, or feeling unsure of whatever it is in the season you’re in, I’d encourage you to choose joy and put on those false lashes.  Or mascara.  Or lash extensions if you’re especially busy!  Release those fears and bust out your exfoliant.  Surrender your anxieties and decide which color you’re going to paint your nails.  Say no to the fear and choose rest.  So if you have even just five minutes, here are a couple strategies for pursuing this very specific practice of joy and rest effectively:

  1. Choose a bold lipstick and strong eyebrows – Stop thinking of lipstick as overly glamorous and formal, and start thinking of it as your best femme-friend that can go with you anywhere to give things a little sunshine and “Yeah, girl!”.  A great lipstick is like carrying around Leslie Knope in your bag.  One of the easiest signature looks you can adapt is that of a striking lip color paired with gorgeous, groomed brows.  Have your face moisturized, and use one or two brow products to fill them in, brush them up, and tame them in place.  As you know, I like Glossier’s Boy Brow for a really quick fix, but Bobbi Brown’s Perfectly Defined Long-Wear Brow Pencil comes in a good variety of shades, is tapered as a pencil, and comes with a spooly brush.  You can always use clear mascara or Boy Brow to then set things in place.  Next, have your lips moisturized with your fave balm and then apply whatever awesome lipstick your heart desires.  Choose something that feels like you, but is perhaps a small step beyond your comfort zone. I love wearing MAC’s Russian Red by itself, but there are also some seriously amazing shades by Bite Beauty that I love staring at.  Colors like Jam, Tannin, or Dragonfruit would make amazing signature shades.  Moisturizer + eyebrows + lipstick = very French and very pulled together, probably within five minutes.  Below, my current look of choice.
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  2. Choose a perfectly-cleansed fresh face – Do your whole routine of a little exfoliating, a little cleansing, a quick spritz of toner, and a yummy moisturizer for a quick-but-indulgent accomplishment.  A bare but glowing face these days is widely accepted as a chic substitute for makeup (though I always recommend giving your brows a wee bit of love, too).  I use a small bit of Kate Somerville’s ExfoliKate as a mini peel for one minute (and I treat this stuff like golden elixir as it was a gift), and then I rinse and follow up with Ole Henriksen’s Empower Foaming Milk Cleanser.  After I rinse off the cleanser and pat my face dry, I spritz on Lush’s Eau Roma Toning Water.  I love that this is in a spray bottle as opposed to a needing a cotton pad for application- so fast and easy.  I follow up with Origin’s A Perfect World SPF 25 Age-Defense Moisturizer with White Tea, and I’m glowing like the sun!  A little brow gel to complete the look, a quick pull back of the hair into a low bun, and you’re basically ready for New York Fashion Week.
  3. Choose mega lashes and flushed cheeks – Mascara takes me the longest time of any other makeup product to apply, so if you’re short on time or patience but you really want lashes, choose to focus on only that and perhaps one more thing.  Use an eyelash curler like Kevyn Aucoin’s to gently curl and lift your lashes.  Lash curlers are really underrated in my opinion; they do so much to open up the eye and ease the application of mascara.  Next, pick a couple favorite kinds of mascara that thicken and lengthen (or if you can manage just one, props to you).  I like almost any kind from CoverGirl’s LashBlast line– the orange tube (LashBlast), the purply-blue tube (LashBlast Fusion), the lime green tube (The Clump Crusher), or the turquoise tube (The Super Sizer).  I could use any combination of these babies and get really black, super thick lashes that you can carefully build for length.  Once you’re happy with the outcome, do a quick dusting of a blush that you’ve found to be most flattering (and by flattering, I mean it suits your face nearly every day of the year).  An easy pick is NARS Orgasm, long hailed as universally flattering on all skintones.  The name may make your eyes roll, but the stuff is no joke.  If that’s out of your budget, Milani has a good variety of really pretty blushes that are super concentrated in both matte and shimmery finishes.  These get a ton of buzz on Pinterest and Instagram; I used on once on a bridesmaid who owned one and wanted to wear her own blush and I was really impressed.

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Whatever your plans involve this weekend, whether it’s a lot of running around, getting things done, or just sitting on the couch trying to catch your breath, be sure to open the door to joy.  And if that means exfoliating or applying lipstick in a shameless shade of merlot, to that I say, “Yes and more please”.  xo, MR

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Stress, Bad Habits, and Olivia Palermo

I have been a worrier since I was a little girl.

When I would find myself under stress as a young child, I remember wrapping my arms around myself and repeating, “It’s okay. It’s okay. It’s okay.”  I constantly talked to myself as a child and performed what felt like little play therapy rituals with toys and dolls; there are still traces of this in me today and it always seems to revolve around hair.  As odd as it may sound, playing with hair is very soothing for me whether it’s my own or someone else’s.

But worry has followed me elsewhere.  My 5th grade teacher once placed a ban on me from approaching her desk and asking her what my grade was; I’d been asking her every day for at least a month after being somewhat traumatized by my first D on a long division math assignment.  I would constantly wonder what my grades were or if I was suddenly failing.  I would do the same with friends; in preschool I incessantly asked my friends if they really liked me, to the point where some of them started to say they didn’t anymore.

In middle school, things got a little weirder when I started picking at myself.  When worry or fear would crowd into my mind, I would pick furiously at my legs, at all the little ingrown hairs.  The picking would leave these all these red bumps, making it look like I’d been attacked by mosquitoes.  In my early college years, I started picking at my hair.  I’d find dry hair strands with broken ends, and I’d snap them off.  I’ve been known to pull at my eyebrows and eyelashes too, especially at my old job where things could get really fast-paced and surprisingly stressful.

A lot of this may sound alarming, but believe it or not, many of these behaviors are very normal and I’ve been working on replacing them with other things like reading a passage, prayer, finding something little to do that I enjoy, and so on.  Obviously the behaviors spike during times of greater anxiety, but in my personal case they can be controlled with a little help and attention.  These things I deal with are more situationally triggered than compulsive problems that really need no trigger.

Please note though that some people struggle with extreme, compulsive versions of these behaviors such as trichotillomania in the case of hair pulling, which is defined as a disorder that involves recurrent, irresistible urges to pull out body hair (not just picking off dead ends in a fit of nerves, but literally pulling out entire patches of hair in a single episode).  Those who suffer from this disorder frequently find themselves with bald patches, or lose all their eyebrows or eyelashes from all the pulling.  Trichotillomania is overwhelming and debilitating.  It requires the help of medical and psychiatric professionals and isn’t merely a symptom of general anxiety; it is a major problem within itself.  I do not suffer from this disorder, but Olivia Munn apparently does.

However, one minor physical manifestation of anxiety that I’ve always struggled with has been biting my nails.

I have always, always been a nail biter.  I bite my nails alone, out to dinner, at work, in the movies, and around friends.  I bite my nails everywhere.  And there has never been a really effective strategy for getting me to stop.  My dad once pulled out his microscope and had me place my nails under it to show me how filthy they were (because everyone’s nails are).  And they were filthy.  And I kept biting.  In college, I once got asked out on a date by a guy in one of my classes; I declined (as I had a boyfriend), we laughed it off on friendly terms, and he said, “Awww. Okay. But hey, you should really stop biting your nails”.  And then he hopped away on his skateboard.

With all the transition that the first half of 2015 brought, you can imagine that all the worrying, picking, and biting came to a fever pitch.  Luckily I had cut my hair off in April so picking at dead ends was not much of a problem.  However, by July, I basically had no nails.  They’d turned into tiny little nubs that began to hurt whenever you’d try to bite them again.  It had to stop, or at least for a little while so I wouldn’t risk giving myself some random infection and so it didn’t sting every time I used soap when I washed my hands.  Enough was enough.

And so I motivated myself to stop biting my nails the only proper way I knew how- by buying a bottle of nail polish designed by Olivia Palermo.

I’ve been awkwardly obsessed with Olivia since seeing her on The City, and even though our styles actually aren’t that similar, I’m a sucker for nearly anything she puts her name to.  So when she debuted three bottles of nail polish for Ciate London this summer after being named their guest creative director for 2015, I felt I might have a solution to my problem.

So that last week of July was my final week of nail biting.  Every time I’d bring my fingers to my mouth, I’d remember that gorgeous bottle of brilliant red polish waiting for me and how badly I wanted a professional manicure for the first time in years (and how I’d paid for that polish and I’d better use it). Moreover, the August and September issues were out, and seeing all the beautiful nail trends had me even more motivated to prep my own nails for the season.

I’m delighted to say that the strategy worked!  And now I get to deal with the annoying upkeep of filing my nails so they don’t tear and then (gasp) snag my hair as I run my fingers through it.  But seriously, I had my first manicure about two weeks ago and wow- my hands had never looked so pretty!  I think I’m used to having nubby little troll hands, so I was extra pleased with how feminine and soft they looked.  The color is Olivia Palermo for Ciate London in Hutch.

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During the times that I’ve kept away from biting for a few weeks, I actually have enjoyed painting my own nails even if it doesn’t happen too often.  I prefer either nudes (as pictured below), or solid, classic colors for impact such as black, white, or a true red like my Palermo polish.  I always do nude on my toes when I go in for the rare pedicure because it actually can make your legs look longer.  I also love a matte topcoat; Butter London makes a good one.  I can also handle a bit of glitter around the holidays; I like chunkier glitter for impact.

What I don’t care for are brights, pinks, acrylics (I’m terrified), French tips, or any elaborate nail art beyond a simple, minimal design like these black tips.  I also don’t like nails to be too long, unless you go for the full Rihanna/Lady Gaga talon look, in which case I’d still go all black but it would probably mean getting acrylics which, again, terrifies me.  This would be about as “talon” as I’d go.  For the most part, I tend to prefer a hybrid square-oval shape (or “soft square” as the manicurist called it).

My favorite colors have come from the drugstore.  Sally Hansen’s Complete Salon Manicure lasts well over a week for me, and she’s had some amazing milky neutral colors that are so modern and flattering.  I wore the second polish from the left on my wedding day; it’s called Malt.  From the left, the others are Pumice, Honeywhip, and Bandage.

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Now that I have my nails back, I know I need to work hard to A) keep them in shape without spending money and B) control my anxious thoughts so I don’t bite them!  This should be a good exercise in seeing the smaller fruits of turning over my thoughts daily, and remembering I can be thankful and have joy instead of giving in to temporary anxiety and destroying new growth in the process.  If you struggle with anxious thoughts, remember that filling your head with worries robs you of too many things- your energy, your joy, your peace … your nails.  You aren’t meant to live that way.  xo, MR