An Autobiographical Top Shelf

This post is done in the style of Into The Gloss’s Top Shelf feature, which I’ve been obsessed with for about five years now.  So basically, I’m pretending I’m being interviewed by Emily Weiss on all the products I love, in my own home, complete with “professional” photos/selfies.  Fake it ’till you make it, right?

My routine is hard to explain briefly.  I’ll say this, though- I am not low maintenance when I don’t have to be.  There’s no shame in that.  I’m addicted to haircare, skincare, makeup, all that, but I really don’t afford myself much time to enjoy it on a daily basis.  I either want to spend an hour getting ready just the way I like, or I want to be out the door in five minutes.  All or nothing.  It’s part of how I appreciate beauty- I hate doing any of it halfheartedly.  One of my least favorite things is when I try to quickly wiggle on some mascara in the morning on the way to work and then it turns out all sloppy and incomplete by my standards.  It’s not worth it.  I’d rather bite the bullet and go bare.

SKINCARE

So, what I do depends on the day.  If I have time, I start from the bottom layer and work up, though I try to make the skincare thing happen every day.  I typically begin with a serum, and I’ve decided Caudalie’s S.O.S Thirst Quenching Serum is the best.  I tried Shiseido’s Ultimune, but I like Caudalie’s better for the money.  It feels so fresh on my skin, sometimes I forget to put on moisturizer afterwards.  It’s been hard to pin down a great moisturizer for me because I’m always looking for something natural, but effective and with SPF that doesn’t leave a weird residue.  I’ve been using Origins A Perfect World Moisturizer these past couple months.  It smells amazing and has SPF 25.  I’ve also like Desert Essence’s Daily Essential Defense Moisturizer from Sprout’s or Whole Foods, but it wouldn’t absorb well when it was hot out so I continued my hunt.  When I checked out Origins, the lady helping me gave me a quick facial and she talked me into the toner from the same line.  I haven’t used toner in forever because I feel it’s unnecessary and drying, but this stuff felt tingly and actually left my skin moisturized.  There’s a lot of white tea in it.  We’ll see if I keep it up.

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For face wash, I alternate between Origins and Desert Essence, which is entirely made of oils and some castile soap.  It sounds basic, but there’s a ton of random stuff in it like bladderwrack extract and goldenseal root extract that I hadn’t even heard of before using it.  For a night cream, I’ve been using Acure’s for a couple years and it’s really rich with lavender and chamomile.  It’s very calming.  I think they sell it at Target now, but it’s been at Whole Foods forever.  For zits, I’m pretty faithful to Mario Badescu’s Drying Lotion.  My husband loves it too.  I try to just leave zits alone for the most part these days; I find that doing anything to try and “heal” them just aggravates them or doesn’t quicken their disappearance.  Sometimes I’ll do a mask if I’m just watching Netflix late at night.  I’ll use Lancome’s Hydra Intense Masque.  It’s super cooling and smells amazing; I love putting on some I Love Lucy and having a late-night snack when I do a mask.  Best ritual ever!  I’ll also use Origins’ Clear Improvement charcoal mask for porous areas; the lady who gave me the facial at Origins gave it to me for free!  I like face wipes too, and my favorite are the Yes To Cucumbers kind.  I can’t tell you how many packs of those my mom has jammed into my Christmas stocking over the years.  I buy them in bulk at Target.

The one thing that’s still sort of a mystery to me is eye cream.  I like ones that are cooling and depuffing, and I like rollerball kinds best because they’re more sanitary than dabbing your finger into a jar of cream and then putting it on your eye.  Simple Skincare makes a good one, as does First Aid Beauty, but I don’t know.  I’m just not there yet.

HAIR

My hair stylist knows I’m a major product addict.  The funniest thing has been when I’ve asked him about products from lines that he uses before they’re even out yet or before he’s heard about them!  I read about hair stuff in magazines and then I want to go out and try it.  New hair products are what I get most excited about, so I’ve tried a lot but I can finally say I have favorites.  I wash my hair every three or four days, and I alternate between two shampoos.  I’ve been using Rahua’s shampoo for over three years now, and it’s pricey but I feel absolutely no guilt using or purchasing it because it’s so natural.  There’s really no soap in it.  It’s another product made up mostly of oils.  I’ll use another shampoo every other wash, typically an Aveda one like their Color Conserve or Dry Remedy.  I’ll try anything for conditioner.  I’ve been obsessed with conditioners since my late teens because I was always trying to find ones that would make my hair grow or repair it, but I don’t really believe conditioner does that anymore.  I’ve used one from Davines for a long time called Momo; I love it.  I’ll also ask for Kerastase samples from my friend who works at a L’Oreal salon because I can’t afford Kerastase, but their deep conditioners have the craziest reputations so I’m always desperate to try them.  I also like Alterna, mostly their treatments from their Caviar line.  They’re good for when I want to grow my hair out.  I use Unite’s 7 Seconds Leave-In Conditioner to detangle with a wide-tooth comb after I wash, but I think I like Bumble and Bumble’s Prep spray better for this.  I’ll go back to it after I run out of the Unite.  The Prep spray has hops and rosemary, the latter of which is good for lice prevention.  I work around kids, and lice is one of those things that you can’t really avoid if you’re in that environment.  It’s part of life, so you just have to do what you can.  Tea tree oil works well for this too, by the way.

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For styling, I’m a sucker for anything to do with texture.  Living Proof’s Instant Texture Mist is great for giving that pliable “chunk” feel that I love for hair, and I also like Bumble And Bumble’s stylers like their Dryspun Finish and Cityswept Finish.  If it mattifies, gives texture, or extends a blowout, I’ll try it.  Anything for the second- or third-day hair look.  I like Oribe’s Apres Beach Wave And Shine Hairspray too, though my hair does “beachy” really well on it’s own.  I love Oribe’s products for their scent.  And the best dry shampoo in the world is Klorane’s, hands down.  The non-aerosol kind has stretched out so much time between washes for me.  It can make your scalp itchy if you put too much on and don’t brush it out, but it’s still the best.  The drugstore kinds suck.  If I want a smooth or blown-out look I’ll use R&Co’s Jackpot Styling Creme.  The scent is intense but it stretches out my hair beautifully, and the effect lasts around three days.

I got into the R&Co stuff because my salon started carrying it.  I go to Salon 9 in Orange, and I’ve been going to Justin Kamm for nearly ten years!  He’s a genius.  He teaches workshops and is part of the cutting team for Davines.  We finally, FINALLY cut my hair past my shoulders just this weekend.  I’ve always had my hair long or mid-length, because I love long hair and I love playing with it.  I miss topknots and ponytails and long waves, but the bob that Justin gave me feels so right.  It’s good to do at least once, and I’m surprised at how comfortable I feel with it.  I feel reeeeeally French.  And the best part is, all those texture products work so well with this cut.  I still put a bit of wave in it with my Hot Tools iron, but roughing it up with some kind of product gives it that grit that I’m always after.

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MAKEUP

Makeup is tricky.  I’ve tried a ton, but over the years I’ve come to find that I’m actually really picky and haven’t tried quite as much as other people (which is encouraging).  Makeup is expensive, and I take forever to run out of anything so buying too much is a really wasteful choice for me.  I don’t use primer much, but I like BeneFit’s The Porefessional when I do makeup for brides.  It feels silky.  I like to use Clarins’ Beauty Flash Balm on myself and then immediately put on powder or foundation once it absorbs.  I prefer this to primer.  It sort of gives skin a brightening effect.  For foundation, I love Bare Minerals’ Original SPF Foundation because it still leaves a glow.  I don’t like a matte skin finish; I’m all about dewy skin and mattified hair.  The opposite feels too Vegas or Miss America for me.  If I want a liquid foundation, Lancome’s Teint Miracle is nice but I still haven’t landed on a favorite.  I just don’t think I like liquid foundation.  I even have a BB Cream that I like but I just don’t use it too often.  You can’t escape the feeling of liquid makeup on your face, which I hate.  I immediately want to take it off.  Concealer is nearly always Yves Saint Laurent’s Touche Eclat in Luminous Vanilla.  I used to hate it, and I’m not sure why.  It’s the most lightweight formula I can find that still gives coverage.  However, I’m not too concerned anymore with getting rid of dark circles anymore because for some reason, I like them now.  They seem to give a touch of character.  A heavy concealer under the eyes looks too finished for me.  You need that bit of wear in your face.

NARS Bronzer in Laguna is pretty standard, and I’ll try almost any blush.  NARS has the best ones.  I’ve liked their creme formula in Lokoum for a long time but I think it’s discontinued.  Their other powder shades are bonkers; I love Exhibit A and Liberte.  MAC has a gorgeous one from their Mineralize line called Warm Soul.  It super pretty for everyday, but mineral blush on top of mineral powder it can make your skin look funny.  I like it on bare skin.  MAC’s Plum Foolery is also good; I wore it for my wedding day and my mom wears it, too.  I have a couple Chanel blushes too, but I hate to admit that I bought them because they were honestly just too expensive and frankly, MAC and NARS make better ones.  The Chanel ones have perfume in them.  You feel glamorous putting them on, but they’re a murderous, stupid splurge.  Spend that kind of money on groceries or not at all, for God’s sake.

Eye makeup is a journey for me.  I take forever to decide what I’m going to do with my eyes.  Eyeshadow feels like such a commitment, which is probably why I wear it the least out of anything.  It’s takes me a lot of time and concentration, and I always need to put shadow primer on if I’m going to do it because it makes such an undeniable difference.  I think I like purple shadows on myself best.  It’s just enough of an interesting color to feel special, and it does wonders for brown eyes.  MAC’s Sketch and Embark are good.  I bought the Embark because it’s the closest thing I could find that matches this special edition Victoria’s Secret eyeshadow I have.  Christian Siriano from Project Runway did a collection for them a long time ago and it included this eyeshadow that is literally perfect.  It’s matte, smooth, has amazing concentration, and is this deep purple-brown shade called Royalty that, of course, ended with the collection.  I’m going through it really slowly, but I love using it for smokey eyes.  A lot of that stuff with a ton of MAC’s kohl liner in Feline, and boosh- I feel like Catwoman.  If I’m really going for it I’ll use Urban Decay’s eye pencil in Vice, too, and smudge it out.  The best is when a smokey eye looks sweaty and sparkly, like a hazy night at Studio 54 in 1978. This pencil does that.  Oh and my mascara is pretty much exclusively CoverGirl.  I swear, theirs are the best.

Lips are simple.  I do very little, unless it’s something like a red lip.  I like lip colors that look like just a bit of something, because I usually like to focus on my eyes.  A lot of times it’s just a few swipes of Burt’s Bees.  Everything I like tends to be pinky-nude.  I’ve liked Dior’s Addict lipstick in Tulle, L’Oreal’s Colour Riche Balm in Nourishing Nude, and Yves Saint Laurent’s Rouge Pur Couture Glossy Stain in Nude Provocateur.  I guess I gravitate toward balm stains, or gloss balms, or all those hybrid formulas we see these days.  Nothing too lipstick-y.  An exception would be NARS’ lip pencils.  Those are brilliant.

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Oh!  I almost forgot about brows.  I use one thing- CK One’s Brow Pencil and Gel Duo in Crafty Raven.  I like thick, groomed eyebrows, but I hate how many rules and standards there are with them these days.  They have to be perfectly shaped, tapered, filled in, not too thin, all that.  I’m not into it, and same goes for the contouring craze.  It’s just too much, too Kim with all the banana powder and shading and all that.  I’m not into tricks that transform your face into another face, though it’s cool that it can be done.  I like to look like myself, but with a bit of a wink I guess.  That’s the best for me, at least.  xo, MR

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Old Reliables

I’ve been wearing some ugly clothes lately.  Mom jeans (hear me, they were literally labeled as mom jeans), Birkenstocks (the originals), and tapered track pants with mules.  There’s something freeing about forcing yourself to try and make good out of something known as “ugly” by conventional standards.  It’s a good challenge in personal creativity, and you sort of give up on how others feel about what you’re wearing.

One trend I haven’t been dabbling in, however, would be the return of overalls.  And by gosh by golly, even Olivia Palermo’s been wearing those and Lord knows how I drool over her!  I don’t know, I think it has to do with the fact that they bring back old memories of the cool girls in middle school who would wear their overalls (which were nothing short of a staple back in the day) with … tube tops.  Yep.  Hot pink tube top, overalls from some place now deceased like Anchor blue, top it off with an Etnies skater jacket, and you’re good to go.  Did we want to be Fred Durst video girls or farmers?  We didn’t know, but we had to have the best of both worlds or God strike us dead!

So, I’ll try a trend here and there (or in my case, more like here, there, and everywhere), but I’d say I’ve now managed to round up my set of old wardrobe reliables that I’ll probably keep in rotation until I die or my then-20-year-old child tells me it’s time to stop.  Such items include leather jackets, striped tees, a lot of denim, and a pair of leopard print pumps.

Now what, may I ask, would be the beauty equivalent of these items?

Old faithfuls

I’ve mentioned all of these items in previous posts, but if I’m buying them multiple times then they’re worth mentioning again.

I’ve used Bumble&bumble’s Prep Spray for years as a detangler once I hop out of the shower after washing my hair.  Speaking of washing my hair, it’s very likely that I’ve also just used Davines’ Momo conditioner for dry hair.  The scent (sort of gummy and cotton-y, yet addicting), the texture, and the long-term effectiveness of this balm have managed to give it a top space at an extremely long list of conditioners that I’ve tried.  I try to focus more on moisture with my wash as opposed to “damage repair” or protein (which I do every so often), because it can lead to more breakage as I’ve previously discussed.

So anyhow, after washing, I give a few sprays of Prep directly into my roots, sort of massage my scalp a bit, and then gently comb through with (only!) a wide-tooth comb.  I appreciate Prep for the vitamins and, again, the detangling qualities, but I don’t think it really serves a styling purpose.  That’s fine with me considering I tend to let me hair air-dry completely most of the time before laying any heat on it.

I keep a couple shampoos in rotation, but Rahua has been in my shower for two-and-a-half years now.  It is completely free of detergents and soap, is safe for color-treated hair, and has an almost wholly natural ingredients list.  It is not particularly cheap, but I love it so much.  My hair is noticeably less dry after using it, thanks to the lack of ingredients in drugstore shampoo that ironically do more harm than good for dry hair.  I love it, and it gives me an excuse to go to Bloomingdale’s.

Once my hair is dry and I decide to break out the hot tools, I spray a liberal amount of Sally Hershberger’s Hyper Hydration Super Keratin Spray on each section.  It works as a heat protectant, but also serves as an argan oil spray to smooth for blowouts.  The scent is phenomenal, and I love spraying it all over my hair once I’ve twisted it up in a bun at the beach, just to keep it hydrated.  The more concentrated versions of argan oil tend to be too heavy for me, unless I’m going for a pin-straight, shiney look.

And finally, once my hair is taken care of I move on to face and body.  I’ve often sung the praises of Desert Essence’s Tea Tree Oil Deodorant for the fact that it has no aluminum (which means it’s not an antiperspirant, and yes, your body can acclimate to this as all bodies once did a few decades ago), and it contains no propylene glycol.  Tom’s of Maine’s natural deodorant worked for a couple years before I found myself with red, peeling, burning rashes in both of my armpits that would not stop itching.  I discovered this to be the fault of propylene glycol.  Desert Essence is pretty much all oil, and yes, I do not go through my day sweat-free when I wear this stuff but you’re seriously not supposed to go through any day sweat-free.  Bad.

Once I’ve moisturized with some kind of somethin’ (still trying to nail down a favorite), I’ll move on to my precious BB cream from Boscia.  I loooooove this stuff like no other.  This will sound hilarious, but I cannot believe how good my skin looks after putting just a dab of this on!  I like to mix it with some kind of face lotion because it isn’t super spreadable, but I love how even and luminous it makes my skin.  There is a lighter version, a bronze version, and it contains SPF 27.  I recommend this one to anyone with a face.  Anyone.

Any mainstays in your own repertoire?  Holler at me; I’m always curious to know what others can’t live without, whether it’s a tube top or a good nail polish remover.  xo, MR

How to wash your hair like a crazy obsessive person.

Over the years, as I’ve become more and more conscious of how precious healthy hair is, I’ve developed some … what shall we call this … neuroticisms when it comes to my hair.  Those who’ve touched my hair and had the pleasure(?) of working with it know that I am what I like to call a hair hypochondriac.  If there were ever such a thing, I AM IT.  I always think my hair’s damaged.  I always think it’s falling out.  I always want it to be two inches longer than it is, but I can’t bear the idea of damaged ends and so I give in and go in for a trim anyhow.  And then I always think that too much is being trimmed off and now a whole foot of hair has been lopped away (and yes, you wouldn’t believe the things my brain sees that aren’t actually there).  I always ask my friends trained in cosmetology to feel it and tell me if it feels “porous”.  I always look at my coworkers’ and friends’ hair to see if their ends look less healthy than mine (and yes, I literally stare at the ends of your hair when I’m checking you out … sorry if you thought it was a more exciting part of your body).  I always have this idea of what my hair should look like, and as my friend pointed out to me just a couple weeks ago, I think I’m always a little dissatisfied because my face doesn’t match the hair inspiration pictures I always refer to (as opposed to just the hair).

Sometimes it’s a fun game I play with myself, to see just how healthy and how long I can get my hair to be.  But at other times, it’s nothing short of a neurotic fixation that causes anxiety and an endless amount of comparison.  Which, of course, will truly make my hair fall out.  But for now, I felt it may be fascinating to at least let you in on my … hair cleansing routine.

First, start with what you’d expect:  a good wash and condition.  And of course, it has been at least three days since the last wash and condition (right????).  Use a shampoo with as few sulfates as possible, and as many natural ingredients as possible (read: ingredients that you can understand, pronounce easily, and aren’t chemical-synthetic compounds).  I happen to rotate between two shampoos and two conditioners.  Be sure that once you’re in the shower, you wash your hair first so that you can immediately move on to conditioner (as Matt Damon discusses in The Informant!).  Remember not to worry about conditioning your roots; just cover your hair from mid-shaft downward to the ends.  Put your hair up in a clip so you can go about the rest of your showering business without accidentally rinsing out the conditioner, and so that any steam and heat help along the conditioning process (but do remember that it’s best to shower in tepid or even cold water if possible, as it’s better for your endocrine system and less harsh on your strands).

Once you’ve rinsed out your conditioner, blot your hair with your towel to gently dry it (and do not wring it or throw it up in a turban-style towel, as this promotes breakage in your hair’s wet, weak state).  Then, using a wide-tooth comb, detangle slowly by running the comb through your hair, with assistance from a detangling spray if you so choose. And after that, you wait.  You do some Netflix time, make some tea, let it air-dry and lay not a watt of heat to your head.  And ideally, you do not touch it with your fingers either as that promotes frizz.

Perhaps when your hair is 60% dry, you apply some kind of repairing or smoothing product, concentrating specifically on the ends.  This may be an oil, a serum, a cream, or who knows what at this point.  If your product is heat-activated, perhaps you’ll apply just a bit of warmth from a blow-dryer to produce it’s most effective results.

before

Whew!  Talk about “before”.  This is how my hair dries naturally after doing just the aforementioned.  I suppose it’s “wavy”, but it’s a little wonky, you know?  Could be worse, but not the most flattering.

After your hair is almost totally dry, see what sections need help from a curling iron or flat iron.  If you’re satisfied (because perhaps your hair is curly), then you’re done!  If not, then fix whatever kinks or create whatever waves as you see fit.  I use a 1.25′ Hot Tool Professional Ceramic + Titanium spring curling iron.  I just wrap sections around the rod and skip the clamp all together.  If I think any section of hair can forego the heat treatment, I leave it be.    What comes next all depends on my mood, quite honestly.  It’s usually a tad of Frederic Fekkai’s Glossing Creme to impart just a touch of shine and to shut down any tameable frizzies, but I usually finish by flipping my head upside-down and sort of mussing up the roots for a bit of volume and to avoid looking too neat.  A bit of dry shampoo to the roots perfects the look on day two and day three of a wash (and by day four, it’s probably up in a bun and perhaps covered in oils, treating it for the next wash).

after

Sooooo much better.  And let this be a lesson: don’t get too discouraged by how your skin looks if you’re standing in horrible bathroom lighting.  Look for some natural light for a real assessment.  And that whole makeup thing always helps, too.

So anyhow, this is what I do.  Sometimes whatever particular combination of products I’ll use will just produce a really great response from my hair, and I’ll have a great hair week.  I have to take into account what I’ve eaten too, or if I’ve worked out.  Other times, my hair will get oily quickly, or my scalp will itch.  The weather is even a factor at times.  My point is, no matter what I do to try and control my hair’s condition and growth, it just tends to operate like the rest of our bodies do- sometimes it needs a little of this, and sometimes a little of that.  Rarely will it always need the same exact same things forever.  And it’s not always going to do what I tell it to do.  So with that said, I’ll just keep up with my bi-weekly washes (and they really are some of the best parts of my week), keep eating my salmon and berries, and … oh yeah … sleep with it up in a scrunchy and on a satin pillowcase.  Less damage that way.  xo, MR

P.S. And the following is a list of my absolute favorite products that I use for my routine (and again, I alternate my use of the shampoos and conditioners, and I don’t use all the treatment/styling products at the same time):

Rahua Shampoo

Davines Momo conditioner

Aveda Color Conserve shampoo and conditioner

Davines Oi

Alterna Caviar Photo-Age Defense (YES MARIA I BIT THE BULLET SHUT UP.)

Bumble&bumble Prep.

Weleda Rosemary hair oil

Frederic Fekkai Glossing Cream