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How To Be Perfect

July 22, 2014

perfect

 

I don’t think it’s going to shock you to hear me say that I’m a perfectionist. Maybe I was born this way, maybe it’s the way that I was made through years of parental expectation and ballet classes, but I can’t remember a time where “good enough” was ever actually good enough.

This hasn’t always been a bad thing. My grades were only ever perfect, because that’s all I could do. And as an adult, I’ve built a career out of being detail-oriented. I don’t know how to be anything else than at my best.

But it isn’t always a good thing, either. Aspiring to perfection means that you always, ALWAYS fail. You will never be perfect. You will never write the perfect sentence or take the perfect picture, execute the perfect look. I have a very hard time recognising my achievements, because all I can ever see is the vast distance between what I’ve done and what I COULD have done, if only this was different, or I had this thing, or this other thing wasn’t happening in the background.

In my head, I’m failing all the time. And the more I succeed, the worse I fail.

Sometimes this is inspiring; it encourages me not to rest on my laurels or get complacent. It’s good to strive for something. It’s not good to constantly feel crappy because you aren’t The Queen Of Everything, All The Time. Nobody can do that, you know? Even the actual Queen isn’t doing that. She isn’t personally ruling every nation in the Commonwealth. She knows better than to try that! It would cut into her hat-wearing time!

Me, I don’t have hat-wearing time. Even when I’m not doing anything, in my head I’m doing something. I wrote this blog post and edited it three times while I was walking my dog.

I’m not sure what the solution is here, so sadly this isn’t going to be a “This Girl Used To Be A Perfectionist. What She Did Next Will Take Your Breath Away” type of article. I know that I can’t change who I am, so trying to be less of a type-A weirdo is about as likely as sprouting wings. Instead I am going to make a list–I still love those–of the things that I want to work on. I don’t want my perfectionism behind the wheel anymore; I want it in the passenger seat, being my navigator.

  • I’m going to start appreciating what I’ve accomplished. I seldom feel like I’ve done anything special, and I need to start giving myself a bit more credit. I knew nothing about photography when I started my job, and I’ve taught myself a lot. I built a studio from scratch for under $50. And video editing? Man, I’m skilled at that now. I know that there’s nothing that I can’t learn or achieve or do if I apply myself to it, and I need to remind myself of this every day.
  • I’m going to start appreciating what I look like. This can be reeeeeeeeally tricky. It’s my job to look at beautiful people day in and day out, and it’s almost impossible not to compare myself–often unfavourably–with them. But you know what? I don’t need poreless skin. I don’t need a 22″ waist. I’m smart, I’m funny, I’m talented, I’m healthy and I am AWESOME. I’m great in my own way. That’s the truth, and that’s what I need to start living.
  • I’m going to apply less pressure to myself. Because the world won’t end if it takes me a day to return all my emails instead of AS SOON AS THEY COME IN, OH GOD.
  • I’m going to take time off. I know a lot has been written about how social media is ruining society, blah blah blah, but I love it. But lately I’ve been feeling spread a little thin, and maintaining twitter/facebook/instagram/tumblr/etc has been feeling like something I HAVE to do. Maybe this means turning my phone off more regularly. Maybe this means setting limits on my social media time like an lazy teenager. I just want to feel joy in the fun stuff again, before it became so important for work.
  • I’m going to cut myself a break. I’m going to stop being so self-critical. I’m far harder on myself than anyone else could ever be–yes, this includes random people on the internet–and beating myself up over my work or not giving my very best to a workout or WHATEVER is just garbage. I wouldn’t let a friend beat up on me like this; I’m not going to do it, either.

I don’t know if this is going to make me happier. But I’m tired of not enjoying good things because I’m too busy wishing they were great, so anything has to be better than where I am now.

Wish me luck.

On Writing II: Editing, Editors and Killing Your Darlings

April 8, 2014

Hi guys! I took a little break while I went to Miami with some great friends–post to come, probably–but I’m BACK, and it’s time to talk about words again!

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Today we’re going to talk about editing and editors, two things I know a lot about.

People laugh when I tell them that being a writer is really only 1/3 about writing, but it’s true. It’s also 1/3 hustle, and 1/3 getting along with others. And the most important Others you’ll be getting along with are your editors.

Marci and AMG at xoVain are two of the very best editors I’ve ever gotten to work with. It’s really rare that you fall in with a crowd of people who are totally on the same page as you are, who value your contributions, and who you like on a personal as well as a professional level. It’s taken me a long-ass time to get here, and I’m so glad that I finally have.

Not everyone has always been so awesome, but even when editors are strange, neglectful or tempestuous, they have something to teach you. Only once, when I was about 22, did I have to learn the lesson that sometimes editors don’t actually EDIT–they just hit “publish,” grammatical mistakes and all. The pedantic nerd in me never forgot that, so I dedicated myself to becoming my OWN editor, and making sure my writing was as good and clean as it could be. Now that I’m an editor myself and my standards are much higher, this has been very useful.

Usually my writing and editing process goes a little something like this:

  • Walk the dog. Write article in my head while walking, because my brain works best when my feet are moving. I’m like the dinosaurs in Dinotopia that way.
  • Write everything down. Seriously. EVERYTHING.
  • Take a break. Do some pilates or watch Bob’s Burgers or something.
  • Come back. Focus on the main “threads” of the article. Does it all connect? Does it flow from paragraph to paragraph? Delete anything that seems forced or shoved in.
  • How are the descriptions? Are they useful or superfluous? Cut them out altogether if the latter.
  • Are the jokes well-deployed? If there are too many, you come off looking like a hacky stand-up comic. Cut about half of them out.
  • Is the beginning powerful? Would you read the start of this article and want to KEEP reading? If not, delete it.
  • How is your ending? Ideally this should tie back in to the beginning somehow. End on a strong note.
  • Will this start conversation with readers? How can you make it so that it does?
  • Go back and read the whole thing again. Do the pictures make sense where you have them marked to go? Cut them out if not. You can’t possibly take 74 photos for a single article; that’s insane.
  • Final read-through. Watch for wordy language; likewise for language that’s too slangy. Write for the publication, but always keep your own voice in there.
  • File.
  • Notes, if applicable, from on high.
  • THE END.

By the time I reach THE END, my story is about half as long as it was initially. That’s a lot of darlings to kill, but it’s always worth it–condensing a story or an article down into its purest form is a beautiful thing. It’s like an art. It’s easy to think that you’ve written a masterpiece on the first try, and maybe you have, but everything can be better with a little polish.

Learning to edit–to look at something and see what’s good and what needs work–is a skill that comes with time. I used to edit people’s papers in high school and college, and I used to do a TONNE of copyediting back in the day, so my eye has been sharpened through years of use. Basic rules: Never use ten words if three will do. Explain everything simply. Use powerful, rather than flowery words. Make sure every story has a point. If you’re going to be clever, be REALLY clever–don’t go halfway. Stick to the subject at hand. Back up your points with research, and cite everything.

But most importantly, you need to see what your piece is going to BE when it’s done. Have a vision. Have scope. Killing your darlings is great, but make sure they’re the RIGHT darlings.

Sometimes I hear writers say that they don’t have to self-edit, because that’s what editors are for. NO. That is an entitled, nonsensey thing to say. You never want to give someone else more work because you’re too lazy to turn five sentences into two. Needing help is fine. Saying “I can’t be bothered” is not, and it’s the kind of attitude that torpedos careers. Editors have heaps of other stuff to think about and do. They can’t possibly do work that you should have been doing also.

Speaking of attitude stuff: be open to changes. Your editors seriously want to help make your story the best that it can be, so if they have a lot of notes, take those on board. Don’t take your ball and go home because they suggest your writing wasn’t perfect the first time. Criticism can be good. It’s how you grow!

However, if you’re stuck working with someone who isn’t seeing the same vision as you–who wants to chop and change your story past recognition, or take it in a direction you’re not happy with–know when to speak up. At the end of the day, this is YOUR byline. It’s going to follow you forever. Make sure you’re proud of every aspect of it.

Editing can be hard, especially when you have to cut out something you were really proud of. That can physically hurt! Just know that just because the passage/description/whatever doesn’t work in one place, it doesn’t mean that it won’t work in ANY place. I’ve got short stories that started as throwaway lines in articles! What is dead never dies (she said, Greyjoy-ly).

So by all means, kill your darlings. Be merciless in each edit. You don’t get a gorgeous sparkly diamond without cutting some bits away to show the hidden beauty within; that’s how you need to look at everything you write. Like you’re revealing something hidden, not taking something away.

Once you can do that, your work is going to be all the better, and editors are going to WANT to work with you. And that, as I’ll explain next week, is something incredibly valuable.

On Writing I: Inspiration

March 18, 2014

A lot of people have written to me, asking me for writing advice. Obviously I have a lot to say on the subject, but rather than blopping it all down in one giant chunk–and yes, blopping is totally a word, I am an editor now and I say so–I am going to break it up and post little bits every week. I will aim for every Tuesday, and hopefully I’ll hit my mark; feel free to yell at me if I don’t.

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One of the questions that I get asked a lot is where I get my ideas from, and what I do when I have writer’s block.

Okay, so this is really two questions, and I’ll answer the last one first: Annoyingly, I don’t get writer’s block anymore. Maybe it’s because I know that I have a three article per week schedule at xoVain that I MUST stick to, maybe it’s because I’ve found a subject that I truly love talking about, but I can’t remember the last time I got idea-blocked. Writing has always been easy for me, even when it hurts, because I love words and when they’re flowing through me I feel THE MOST like myself. My issue is usually taking what’s come out and editing it into something better, but I’ll get into that whole deal another week.

There was a time, and it doesn’t feel like so long ago even though it’s been almost a year, that after publishing every article, I’d go “Nope. I’m done. I’ll never have another idea again.” But then week by week, I found something new to write about. And then three times a week. And now I feel like I’ll never be able to run out of ideas because there’s so much cool stuff in my head! Creating breeds creating. The more stuff I make, the more stuff I know that I can make.

So now, where do I get my ideas from. I am really lucky in that I have a wide degree of freedom in the articles I write and the angles from which I can approach them. Some of these ideas come from the world; a question that I’ve always wanted to know the answer to, or a subject I want to learn more about. Some things come straight from stuff that I love; I’ve written a lot about Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, as well as Star Trek and Doctor Who. Sometimes another writer will suggest something to me; I’m always inspired by listening to the ladies that I work with. And often, the community will straight up tell me what they want to see. Then it’s up to me to think of a unique spin to put on the subject, which is sometimes trickier to do that you’d think.

The world is an amazing place, and there is inspiration literally EVERYWHERE. One of the things that I love so much about beauty writing is that it allows for so much creativity; you can take almost anything that you love and turn it into a story, but that’s obviously not limited to just this area. Keep your eyes open all the time. Look for the beauty and the unusualness in the world. Always think about how you can help someone. Always ask yourself why someone will care about what you have to say, and then show them why they should. Always consider what YOU can add to the conversation that hasn’t been there before.

Keep watching. Keep loving. Feed yourself on music, art, movies, tv, long walks, handsome men, cuddly puppies, things you love, things you’re scared of–everything. Take in as much as you can. Be a part of as much as you can. Engage with people, places and things.

If you do that, your creative well will always be full, even if it’s hard to get the bucket down there sometimes. You will always have something to write about if you are an active citizen of the world.

There is inspiration in everything, if you know how to look.

The Luckiest

March 10, 2014

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Every day, I feel lucky.

This isn’t to say that I believe in luck, because I don’t. Like I don’t believe in fate, or destiny, or horoscopes, or The Secret, or any of the magical thinking malarkey that sells us on the idea that it’s the Universe that is controlling our lives, rather than us.

But still. I feel lucky.

Five years ago, I was trying to be a writer. Actually, I WAS a writer; I was just trying to get people to pay me to do it. I had to ghostwrite blogs for popular internet personalities, hide behind male pen names on science and tech blogs because readers wouldn’t respect a woman, and write truly awful copy for businesses that would then turn around and refuse to pay me.

It was a hard time. But I chipped away and it got easier. Then things changed, and I changed, and was glad for the stability that a non-freelance life could provide.

But I’ve always been a writer, even when I do different things.

Common wisdom is that everyone is an asshole on the internet, and sometimes that’s really true. There were times when I was younger that I’d pick fights in chatrooms or message boards, just to show that I was smarter or could shout louder than they could. I usually stay out of comment sections because they are full of people doing exactly this–trying to get attention, trying to get a rise out of someone else, trying to look cool or smart or better than someone else.

But sometimes it’s worth it to wade in. Sometimes something clicks and you can consider a point of view that maybe you never would have come across before. Sometimes you can make friends.

And sometimes you can get a job.

I remember reading a comment thread on xoVain one day and seeing a woman asking how to pick out a bold lipcolour. I wrote a quick response while I shoved a sandwich in my mouth at my desk at lunch. I don’t think I said anything special–just what I’d say to a friend who asked me, or what I’d want someone to say to me if I asked. I didn’t know that the woman I was talking to was a contributor to the site (Hi Beth!), or that she’d email my now-boss to tell her about this girl who was killing it in the comments.

Some of this was luck. I was in the right place at the right time with the right knowledge base. But being nice to someone–that’s not luck. That’s being decent, and it should be it’s own reward. But sometimes it carries additional benefits.

A few days later, when I saw that xoVain was looking for new writers, I sent four or five short article pitches. They were really conversational, and at least one was about my dog. I didn’t think I’d hear back. But I did. My first article on making a custom lipstick shade went up the next week, and it did really well. I got awesome feedback from the other writers and the commenters. Nothing I’ve written has EVER gotten such an overwhelmingly positive response, and right away I felt like I’d found my home.

But I can’t say that was luck, because I busted my ass to make it amazing. I wrote and re-wrote 1300 words for an entire weekend. I took photos in front of a clothing rack with fabric pinned to it for three hours. I picked and edited photos while still learning how to use the software (looking back with a critical eye, you can REALLY TELL that my image editing game was weak). It was fun, but it was hard work. To have that hard work validated was incredible. And it continues to be incredible–getting to know the xo staff and other writers, interacting with the amazing commenters, learning new things, being inspired every day. I love it. This is my dream job.

Last week, Marci and Anne-Marie announced my promotion to contributing editor. I’m still riding high on that. For several days now I’ve been submerged in a sea of congratulations from all over the world, and I am so honoured to be a part of a community that is so passionate and loving. I really think that joy shared is joy doubled, and I feel so lucky to be able to share my exciting life milestones with millions of people that I love. Thank you, everyone reading this, for being so unfailingly awesome to me. None of this would have been possible without you. Seriously.

I remember years ago, in college, idly writing in my Myspace blog that my dream job was “my life.” And now so much of it is. So much of it still might be. It’s amazing.

I don’t know what’s going to happen from here. A new title means new responsibilities and challenges, and change is pretty scary to me. Anything could happen, and hell, IT MIGHT. But I’m excited rather than anxious, because I am actually watching my dreams come true.

None of this was luck. It doesn’t have anything to do with luck. I worked hard and I kept going–and I’ll KEEP going–and because of that I am the luckiest.

Thank you all. You are all amazing, and I hope I make you proud.

This is just to say

April 10, 2013

plums(Source unknown? I’m sorry, it’s just so perfect!)

 

This is just to say
that I have not written
anything new
for this blog

And you were probably
wondering
if I was
still alive

Forgive me
I have been busy
so busy
so tired

(Sorry, William Carlos Williams)

Anyway, the poem is true–I’ve been dreadfully neglectful. It sucks and I’m sorry. When life and work and all that nonsense get crazy, the first thing to get sacrificed in the name of “having enough time to sleep” is fun stuff. This blog is #1 on the list of fun stuff, which means it’s the first thing to suffer.

Don’t worry, though. The bathroom has been remodelled, the leak in the ceiling has been patched up and things are slowly returning to what passes for normal around here. Regular service will resume soon. In the meantime, why not click the “Greatest Hits” tab up above and check out some of my favourite older posts? There’s all kinds of stuff in there!

Thanks for putting up with my sporadic ass. I’ll be back soon.

lovesyou

No BS Beauty! Episode 5: RED LIPS SINK SHIPS

March 6, 2013

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This weeks question–which I have totally misplaced, by the way–is from Farrah, who wants to know about red lipstick. Her question was, if memory serves, about a few things:

  • How can I pull off red lipstick?
  • Can I wear it during the day?
  • Is lipliner still a thing? Do I need it all the time?
  • I want to do a dramatic Old Hollywood look, but I don’t know how.

I am the right person to ask about this stuff, because I have always and forever been a red lipstick kind of girl. For example, yours truly at 20, having nothing on her agenda except going to class:

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My look at the time could not be described as has low maintenance. I probably spent forty minutes putting my face on, only to spend all day sitting in a lecture hall, taking notes. I could have used that time for sleeping. College students, take note!

Anyway. What I’m trying to say is that I’ve been around the red lipstick block.

Red is easier to pull off that a lot of people realise. Before I talk about gloss vs matte, I’m going to talk about finding the right shade of red for you. This is also a lot easier than most people realise.

First things first: When figuring out what colour ANYTHING looks best on you, wear the right stuff. Wear a light or neutral coloured shirt and minimal, basic makeup. This is your prepared, blank canvas that will give you the best idea of how the product will look in your real life.

And I’m not saying you HAVE to wear a gigantic Mongolian lamb vest…but it doesn’t hurt.

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You may also notice that I’ve cut my hair and dyed it a bit darker. I feel like a new woman!

For me, basic makeup is concealer (MAC Mineralise, YSL Touche Eclat for under my eyes), blush (NARS Desire), eyeshadow to fill in my eyebrows (Sable, by Studio Graphics I think?), grey eyeliner under my eyes and mascara (both discussed here). Your mileage may vary. DO YOU.

Obviously, red is never just RED the way black is black or white is white. Though red is a primary colour, other colours go into making the different shades–which is how you get this, this, this and this–and they’re all still red. When it comes to choosing a lipstick, the dimensions you’re going to want to consider are warm vs cool and dark vs bright. These may have technical names, but I have no idea what they are, so whatever.

Warm reds are red lipsticks that have a lot of yellow or orange in them. If you go to a makeup counter, you’ll probably hear them described as “true red,” “tomato red” or “brick red.” Cool reds–these are my jam–have more blue or purple in them. These might be described as “natural red” or “raspberry red” but I always call them the pinky-reds, ’cause that’s what they are.

I don’t think there are particular skintones or hair colours that look best in warm vs cool reds, because there are too many variables for that. So no shortcuts: you just have to try both and see which one you like the best.

How dark or bright is another factor to consider. Do your want your red deeper, like a crimson, or brighter, like a poppy?

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That’s MAC Red on the left and So Scarlet (discontinued) on the right–two cool toned reds, one bright and one dark. Totally different.

So now you know what colour red you like. Now let’s talk about attitude.

The trick to pulling off red lips is confidence. It’s a bold look, and you have to be bold YOURSELF to carry it off. Luckily, confidence isn’t hard to fake–just tell yourself how fantastic you look and go about your business like nothing is different on your face. A lot of people tell me they think other people will think they look stupid with a bright lip. In general, people don’t really spend much time thinking about others because they’re too busy thinking about themselves, so don’t worry. Nobody will throw rotten fruit at you on the street because you did something different.

That said, there are a lot of ways to ease your way into a red lip. The first is with a red gloss.

My favourite red gloss is Starlit by Smashbox. You get really great colour without having to go as heavy as lipstick, and you get some shimmer but not like you ate a mouthful of glitter. This particular red is warmer (more yellow) than I usually wear, but it looks so good that I don’t even care.

smashbox

Because this is a gloss, it’s going to come off pretty quickly. That’s the price you pay for shine. Though you’ll need a mirror to reapply, it’s got a wand applicator and is basically unfuckupable. This particular gloss really earned a place in my heart for not being too sticky or having a gross smell or taste. CRUCIAL.

If you’re nervous about looking “too much” for daytime but still want to look like you’re wearing makeup, I’d recommend a red gloss like this one. It’s light, reapplication is easy, it doesn’t get on your teeth, you don’t have to think about it too much.

And now let’s talk about the big guns.

My favourite red lipsticks–and now I’m talking actual lipstick, the kind of things you think about when someone says the word–are two from Mac and one from Dior. They all have pretty decent wear and decent shine, but because they are high pigment they come off on literally everything. Don’t kiss anyone unless you want to leave evidence behind, is all I’m saying, and check your teeth frequently.

threereds

MAC red has been my go-to for years. So Scarlet was discontinued a few years ago, which is a mega bummer, so look for any deep reds described as having a burgundy base to copy it. Fireworks (sorry, there’s an ‘s’ on the end there) is a replacement for my deeply beloved Flamenco Red, which Dior also discontinued and was my ultimate forever favourite. Fireworks is lightweight, shiny and lasts well–it feels almost like a gloss, but looks like a lipstick. Plus it doesn’t smell, which is AMAZING in my book. (Still, RIP Flamenco Red)

Now a word about lipliner: Don’t wear it with a gloss. You don’t have to. If you’re wearing a thicker, more colour-heavy lipstick like the three above, you will need it. Putting on lipstick straight from the tube is not really an exact science and it can look really messy if you aren’t careful. I know a lot of people tell you to do the liner FIRST, but I always apply the lipstick first, THEN neaten up the borders with my liner. You don’t need a seperate liner for each shade of stick, either. I only have four colours of lipliner, all of them from the drugstore, and that’s basically all I need: A bright red, a dark red/burgundy, a bright coral/pink and a colour pretty close to my natural lipcolour. If you get a selection similar, they will serve you well.

If you don’t want to mess around with liner and lipstick, and you want something that is going to stay on your mouth for ages, why not combine the two into one? And why not make it the closest thing possible to a universally flattering red? Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to NARS Dragon Girl.

dragongirl

It has the best name in history. It comes in a chubby pencil and it’s really easy to use. It stays on forever and doesn’t dry out your lips (even though it’s a very matte finish and sometimes that’s the price you have to pay). This colour looks good on so many skin tones and hair colours, it’s insane. It also doesn’t kiss off all that easily, which my boyfriend appreciates. And it is my absolute favourite ever ever EVER.

Because it’s so bright and so matte, I usually save this for nighttime outings. But it also looks spectacular on the beach, with a plain white tshirt, while walking your dog, etc. The sky is the limit when you’re a Dragon Girl.

I also wanted to write about lip stains and how there’s only one awesome kind, but the one I wanted to write about got stolen a few weeks ago and I haven’t gotten around to replacing it yet. ANOTHER TIME.

As for a glamourous Old Hollywood Look, I’d pair a bright red lip (Dragon Girl or MAC red) with some cateye liner (review the technique here), and either loosely wave my hair, Veronica Lake style, or pull it back and tease it into a big ol’ beehive. If I was feeling more Silent Movie Vixen, I’d use the deep red (So Scarlet) on my lips, then do a super smoky eye by smudging some black eyeshadow into my lashline (top and bottom). I’d straighen my hair and wear lots of long, ropelike necklaces.

And it would be fabulous.

Do you guys do the red lips thing on the regular? What are your favourite reds? Should I bring back the spiky black bob? Tell me everything in the comments or on Twitter.

lovesyou

No BS Beauty! Episode 4: SKINCARE

February 20, 2013

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Today’s question comes from Mandi, who says:

i have a question for you! i am unfortunately getting older, and i feel like i need to really kick it into gear with my anti-wrinkle regimen. any products that i should be using for fine lines around/under my eyes and laugh lines?

Okay! This is a fantastic question, and one for which I have a long answer. The first thing I am going to say is that everyone should take care of their skin. It’s the largest organ in (or rather on) your body, and obvs you want your organs to be as healthy and functional as possible for a long, long time.

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THAT SAID, there is so much bullshit out there about skincare, it is ridiculous. It’s like cosmetic companies are competing to see which can tell us the biggest lies and still have people fall for it. This product will reverse the aging process! This product will erase your wrinkles! This one will make you invisible! This one will allow you to fly! This one is actual magic that we distilled from the tears of a unicorn!

Cosmetics companies will promise you anything in order to get you to buy the skincare stuff they are selling, and literally nothing they are saying is true. Here are the only legit claims any kind of cream, gel or potion can make:

  • That it moisturises your skin.
  • That it has sunscreen in it.
  • That it has certain ingredients in it that have been shown to help with acne.
  • That it has an ingredient that will exfoliate your skin.

If a product says anything other than that–like that it will fade acne marks, or get rid of sunspots, or shrink your pores, or get rid of wrinkles, or banish your undereye circles–it is lying to you. If that shit could be done by something you buy at Sephora, plastic surgeons and cosmetic dermatologists would be out of business.

So let’s talk a little bit about skin and how it works so that everyone understands what a massive, massive crock of crap 99% of skincare advertising is.

There are very strict rules about what cosmetic companies are and are not allowed to say about their products. This is why you’ll hear ads say things like “Reduces THE LOOK of fine lines and wrinkles” instead of “Reduces fine lines and wrinkles.” The former is doing some selective truth-telling whereas the latter is straight up lying, and there are penalties for that. Lancome was smacked down by the FDA in 2012 after advertising that one of it’s expensive magical potions would “Boost the activity of genes” and “Stimulate stem cell regeneration.” Those are the kind of claims that only drugs can make, because drugs are tested like crazy to be sure that they work. Face creams don’t have to meet those kind of standards, so they can claim they do anything, even if what they’re claiming is impossible. And changing the composition of your skin–ie, getting rid of wrinkles, making you look younger, getting rid of dark circles–are all impossible claims.

Now let’s get to why.

Your skin, as I mentioned, is the biggest organ you have. The top layer of it is designed to protect you from infection and stop you from losing too much water. That’s it. It does not care what it looks like, just like your heart doesn’t care if it’s a perfect size six with flowing golden hair and blue-green eyes like a Wakefield twin. Not having wrinkles is not your skin’s job. If you told it that it is, it would be all “Come the fuck on, I’m making sure you don’t get avian flu from the ATM at Target. You think I’m going to change how I work so that you can be prettier? I HAVE OTHER PRIORITIES.”

Skin is not very permeable, which means that most things can’t get past it. It’s whole reason for existing is to be a roadblock, not a fishing net. So all those cool graphics you see of magical creams penetrating to the deepest layers of your skin? Bullshit. At best, those creams moisturise the very top layer of your epidermis, which is made of dead skin cells and sloughs off in about 27 days. If there truly was a cream that could penetrate allllllll the way down to your dermis and change the way your skin works–like to “increase collagen production” or “undo sun damage”–it would be considered a drug by the FDA. You would need a prescription to get it and it would probably cost a million dollars. You would not be able to buy it at Walgreens.

You can’t magically reverse most of the damage that you do to your organs, you can only do things to prevent it. The only way you can fix them once they’re fucked up is with surgery. There is no miracle cream you can rub on your liver that will undo 30 years of alcohol abuse, there’s only a liver transplant. Likewise, you can’t lie in tanning booths and then slather on a nightcream and undo all the sunspots and wrinkles those choices have gotten you. You can only go to a cosmetic surgeon for resurfacing or lasers or whatever that terrifying scar removal procedure was in The Craft. (You’ll probably have to pray to some weird god to make that last one work, though)

Of course, we’re all going to die eventually, and when we do it’ll matter very little whether we had laugh lines or not. If you treat your body (and your skin) well, you’ll look and feel better at 80 than someone who eats pizza every night and washes their face in the cheese grease. But eventually both of those people will be dead. All the sunscreen in the world won’t change the fact that humans are mortal.

Mandi’s question deals specifically with wrinkles, specifically, what can we as ladies who are no longer teenagers but not yet middle aged do about them? As you’ve probably guessed, the Official No BS Beauty answer is: not a lot. Your skin really doesn’t give a shit if it gets wrinkled or scarred; it has a JOB to do. All you can do is be kind to your skin and trust that in 40 years, you–the person who has taken care of themself–will look better than the person who washes their face in cheese grease.

No matter what you do, at some point in your life you’re gonna get wrinkles. But let’s be proactive about it. If you don’t have lines yet, let’s work on delaying the ones you will eventually get. If you have a couple, let’s work on not getting more. And there’s no such thing as too late; the best time to start doing this stuff is today!

Here is how you can be kind to your skin at any age:

  • Don’t sleep in your makeup. Human skin is home to millions of bacteria from thousands of species. Most of them are friendly, but some of them are not, and tipping that balance can contribute to acne, rosacea and psoriasis. Bacteria likes to grow in a warm, dark, moist environment where there’s lots of stuff for it to eat, ie: your face at night covered in makeup. Yuck. Doctors wash their hands; you gotta wash your face. Take that shit off.
  • Wash your face. Use something gentle. I really like this stuff Burt’s Bees makes, but I also use CeraVe and that’s awesome. Don’t waste your money on stuff that promises to anti-age or de-scar you or whatever, because that is lie-telling. I wash my face in the morning and again in the evening after I work out. Toner isn’t necessary, so don’t waste your money on it unless you really like the smell.
  • Don’t get too wacky with acne products. Repeat after me: spot treat, don’t scorch the earth. I get zits to this day and the only thing that gets rid of them is time and a little dab of 2.5% benzoyl peroxide cream. Put it on the spot, don’t rub it all over your face; it will irritate the shit out of the rest of your skin. And unless a dermatologist tells you to, don’t buy the 10% benzoyl stuff. It won’t heal things any faster, it will only make you drier and flakier.
  • Exfoliate. You can buy exfoliation creams, or you can get one of those crazy expensive Clairsonic things if you want. I put a bit of cleanser on a washcloth and exfoliate it GRANDMA STYLE twice a week. Be gentle with this. If you get too crazy with it–by this I mean attacking your skin with a pumice stone or something–you’ll end up looking like Samantha Jones: Beekeeper.samantha_chemical_peel
  • Use sunscreen. Yes, even if it’s cloudy. Yes, even if it’s cold. Just do it. I come from Australia and we know that skin cancer is no joke. Plus, ultraviolet rays cause wrinkles and other signs of premature aging. The Mayo Clinic says so.
  • Don’t go tanning. And also, Don’t bleach your skin. Whatever colour your skin is naturally, it’s perfect. Don’t fuck around and burn/bleach it it so that it’s a different shade. It is TERRIBLE FOR YOU.
  • Moisturise. When you’re done taking off your makeup and washing your face, pat it dry with a clean towel and put on some moisturiser. I like this from Burt’s Bees and this from Say Yes to Carrots, which also has SPF in it. Lately my skin has been really irritated and bitchy because of the weather, so I put a few drops of Argan oil on my face at night and it’s THE BEST. I wake up and my skin looks happy, feels really nice and doesn’t get dry & flaky OR too oily. Right now I’m using the Josie Maran stuff because it doesn’t smell (I hate smells), but that is expensive. You can get Argan oil for cheaper at Whole Foods or by looking around on Amazon, though. Read the reviews and make sure it’s not a smelly brand, though.
  • Don’t eat too much shit. I know science disproved the whole chocolate-gives-you-zits thing in the 90s. But when I eat tonnes of crappy food, my skin starts looking really crappy too. Eat more fruits, veggies and protein, don’t be scared of fats (you need them!) and stay away from too much processed stuff.
  • Get enough sleep. I need eight hours, maybe you need less (or more). Get the amount that you need. When I get less, my skin is waaaaay dull looking, as well as more prone to breakouts. Sleep is good for your skin and good for the rest of your life.
  • Don’t smoke. It’s bad for your insides and bad for your outsides.
  • Stay away from meth. Self-explanatory.

This is just a rough guide for skincare, not a sure thing. Hormones can change how your skin looks (especially when it comes to acne) and genetics play a giant role in how you look as you age. Which means you could do all this stuff and still get a whole tonne of wrinkles. You’re gonna end up with wrinkles no matter what happens–that’s just what happens to skin as it ages–and so you can either say “Fuck it, these are the badges of a life well lived” or spend your dollars on plastic surgery (or cosmetic dermatology, or whatever it’s called). I am all for plastic surgery if it makes you happy and you can afford it, but probably don’t take out a bunch of loans to “fix” your laugh lines when you’re 30, you know? And honestly, I’d rather spend a few thousand dollars to get guaranteed results in a doctor’s office than waste my money on creams that promise miracles and don’t deliver.

There is literally NO REASON to spend hundreds of dollars on a tiny jar of La Mer or similar. It’s not magic. It’s not actual Polyjuice Potion. It will make no difference to your face or your life, except to eventually make you feel like a dummy for wasting your money.

How about you guys? What’s your skincare routine? Do you have any products that you love/hate? Let me know in the comments or on twitter!

lovesyou

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