"My name is Aditi C. Venkatesh [@aditicv] and I'm an attorney at Ralph Lauren, which means that at any given work meeting, where I’m surrounded by absurdly talented and creative people, I am probably the most boring person in the room. I grew up in San Diego, went to college in Los Angeles, and moved to New York for law school when I was 20. Like every other bicoastal snob, I have to say that if I ever left New York, it would be for Cali.
My parents moved to the United States from India in the 70s. Thanks to them, my culture has always been part of who I am; I've never thought twice about it. As a kid, I used to practice Indian classical dance. Like any type of performance art in which you need to convey a lot of expression onstage, it involves some serious face—Google 'Indian classical dance makeup' and you’ll see what I mean. I remember when I was five and I was backstage post-performance, and my mom was trying to wash off all my makeup. It took us a few rounds with the Pond's Cold Cream, and I distinctly recall watching all that foundation and lipstick and eyeliner swirl down the drain in this cesspool-of-Covergirl, and thinking 'Ew.'
I don't wear much makeup. I'm lazy, and more importantly, I don't like the idea that I'm somehow unfit for public consumption without it. It's depressing when you're makeup-less and you run into someone, and she says, 'You need a vacation!' and you're thinking, 'No, that's just my face.' How much makeup you wear and how often you wear it shouldn't be determined by external pressure to erase so-called flaws. For me, makeup is an occasional pleasure, not a daily obligation. I probably get that from my mom. She'll swipe on some lipstick—maybe—and then forget about it, because, frankly, she has more interesting things to think about. When I was little, we never went to the salon to get mommy-daughter pedicures like I wanted; instead, we drilled multiplication tables so I could skip the third grade. I suspect that's partly cultural, but that's also just who she is. Seriously, she's hardcore.
It's taken me a long time to figure out a routine that works for me. I would love to be one of those girls who slathers on a custom blend of rare tree-nut oils to achieve that 'glow,' but my skin misbehaves and needs no encouragement to make my life harder, so I’m always looking to achieve that tricky balance between moisture and exfoliation. In the morning I wash my face with Cosmedix Purity Clean. It smells minty and wakes me up, which is semi-unfortunate, because I also use it right before bed. I really like Luzern Laboratories Force De Vie Micro Gel. It's lightweight, but has managed to sufficiently moisturize my face through NYC summers and polar vortexes alike, so I think it's a keeper. Last, I'll smear on some Andalou Naturals Oil Control Untinted SPF 30 BB. It goes on with a slightly white cast, but that disappears after a minute or so. Before bed, I wash with Purity Clean again, and then I'll either use Biologique Recherche Lotion P50 or Sunday Riley Good Genes—the former if I feel like my skin is on the verge of doing something terrible, and the latter otherwise. They're both great exfoliators, but going by the odor and the really unique expression my husband makes when he smells it on me, I think the P50 is a bit more intense. Mario Badescu Buffering Lotion is my nuclear option for any spots attempting to surface, and Kate Somerville Exfolikate makes my face feel like glass when I use it, usually on weekends. Whatever I'm using, I spend some time working it into my face to get the most out of the product.
Olive oil is my go-to makeup remover, shaving cream, weekly hair mask, body oil, lash conditioner, what have you. Coconut oil is something most Indian women have been using forever, but I don't love smelling like pastry all the time. I'm kind of a dude in the fragrance department. I stick to Avalon Organics Lemon Bath And Shower Gel and Body Lotion, and a spray of Guerlain Vetiver before I leave home. Nail polish is too fussy for me, so I just get my nails buffed. I don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to hair. I just grow it, okay? There's actually a well-known Bollywood actress named Kajol who famously doesn't let anyone touch her unibrow. I don't have such a militant stance about it, but she makes me feel better about letting my brows express themselves. On my hair, I use DevaCurl Low-Poo and One Condition and air-dry. My hair is quite long and can never decide how wavy it wants to be, so I sort of gingerly leave it alone, feed it Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray when it goes flat, and hope it likes me.
I don’t wear foundation, period, end of story. I dot on Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer in Custard if I need it, and wear Dr. Bronner's Lip Balm, which is the only thing I've ever used that really moisturizes, rather than sitting uselessly on top of your lips. It also doesn’t taste weird. The Chanel Precision Eyelash Curler can be hard to track down, but it's great if your eyes are on the rounder side. That's me on a daily basis, plus Laura Mercier translucent powder to control shine.
If I go out, though, I go for drama. I have strong features, so I like to play up one thing—eyes or lips—and leave everything else bare. Chanel Le Crayon Khol in Noir is the best. It sticks to your waterline and smudges in a way that looks mostly intentional. Nars Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Dragon Girl, Train Bleu, and Yu are my other go-tos—the most pigmented red, goth purple, and neon pink I've found. I don't do sparkles or glitter, because yes, I hate fun, but I also don’t do those 50-shades-of-beige palettes. My makeup motto is all or nothing. I mean, I wore Yu on my wedding day. Granted, Indian weddings are colorful affairs, and my outfit was Yu-hued, too. My point is that if I’m going to make an effort and wear makeup, the last thing I’m interested in is looking like the girl next door.
I got married this past winter, which was...edifying, beauty-wise. I wanted a very traditional wedding, so I went through all the pre- and post-wedding ceremonies with an open mind. In some parts of India, like where my parents are from, the whole process of getting married can take a week. There's no better test of a product's longevity than surviving an Indian wedding. One of the ceremonies required smearing turmeric and mustard oil all over my face and arms, which stung like crazy, but produced this incredible glow. Another ceremony involved painting alta—similar to a red dye—on my fingers and toes. Think Lorde at the Grammys, but red instead of black. It takes weeks to come off, and until it does, anyone who wasn’t at the wedding thinks you’ve amputated your extremities. The actual wedding ceremony is so long it actually has an intermission, but I loved every minute of it and would do it again in a heartbeat.
What else? I love my standing desk and will never, ever sit down to work again. I eat the way I suspect many New Yorkers do, which implies a steady diet of oysters, tacos, IPAs, and bourbon on weekends, balanced out by penitent kale salads and Greek yogurt on weekdays. I tried a juice cleanse once and it made me profoundly resentful. Also, I missed chewing. I don't think there are 'beauty secrets' for long hair or clear skin or, I don't know, really white eyeballs. Use common sense and hopefully a little of what you learned in bio and chem to understand what works, and more importantly, why. Be a skeptic. I’m all for examining labels and doing your research, but I notice that there's a tendency in the blogosphere to throw around buzzwords like synthetic, natural, unrefined, chemical, etc. without any real analysis of why those things might be good or bad. If I encounter an ingredient I don’t recognize, my first reaction isn't, 'MUST BE TOXIC.' I get out my phone, start googling, and figure out why that ingredient is there in the first place. I try not to be a passive consumer, but I also try not to be a conspiracy theorist. When it comes to what you put on and in your body, you alone have the ability to decide what’s worth taking a risk and what’s not. Try to do that in an informed way."
—as told to ITG
The #ITGTopShelfie series puts the focus on the lives and beauty routines of Into The Gloss's lovely, accomplished, and loyal community of readers. Show us your own Top Shelfie on Instagram—tag us @intothegloss, and include the hashtag #ITGTopShelfie.