“I was never really a beauty junkie, but it’s just those chromosomes that make you walk into a magazine’s beauty closet and think, ‘Oh my God, that is a wall of shampoo. Oh my God, those are fifty bins of every makeup brand ever!’ But I think I’m rather cynical. I think it’s cynicism combined with a sense of humor. So there is never an overly sappy ‘I’m obsessed with’ kind of thing in my beauty writing. If anything, it’s like, ‘Let’s weed out the BS, let’s weed out the stuff we don’t need,’ but I’m a great admirer of all things beautiful. [Laughs] I worship the God of NARS. I get as fascinated as any other woman would about, let’s say, what a hair product can do, like make it super smooth, or give it more volume. I think what I’m trying to say is that we’re all girls at heart. I’m not above realizing the transformation of what a beauty product can do to you. I do think it should be done in an accessible way, though—I don’t ever want beauty to be intimidating.
Love fragrance. Live for it—although I think I have a terrible nose. I’d like to think that I know some of the top fragrance people, some of the best perfumers, and I’m well-versed in all the fragrance lingo and everything—but they’ll introduce me to something and I’ll smell it and I’ll be like, ‘…Bergamot?’ and they’ll shake their heads: ‘Uh, no…musk.’ It will be the complete opposite of what I’m thinking I’m smelling. There’s probably a part of me that’s trying to impress them or whatever. I truly am passionate about it, but my nose is terrible. I just think it’s a fascinating science, and I think it makes people feel so good. Le Labo has a candle called Santal 26 with sandalwood, and it’s a divine, divine, sexy candle. Then they came out with a fragrance version of it. They added seven new notes to it, because a candle—when it’s scented—is linear. But all good fragrances, and I would say all fragrances, have a lifespan that starts with one dominant note, then settles into something else—that’s how most of them are created. Candles are the just the same scent throughout. Le Labo had to add some notes to give it more of a life, and give it kind of a complexity that a candle doesn’t need to have. I met the founders, Fabrice and Eddie, before they opened shop, back in 2006, and we’ve been friends ever since. Sometimes you just connect with someone, or you know that what they’re doing is really exciting. You know that if you’re excited about it, your readers are going to be excited about it. You will nurture that relationship and say, ‘If you ever make a candle out of this fragrance, or if you ever come out with a makeup line, please let me know.” Thank God I met them, thank God I responded to the email a colleague sent me about them, because I just think they’re so cool. As a wedding gift, they gave us Santal candles to give to our friends. Now I just buy them in bulk. I don’t get them in bulk, I buy them in bulk because I love them so much. And now that Santal is in a wearable fragrance form, I guess you could say it’s my signature. The problem is, I wear it all the time that I can’t smell it on myself anymore! But I don’t want to overdo it. Suffice it to say that, despite wearing it, I miss smelling it. What a conundrum.
I have a pretty small stable of what I love to wear for different occasions or different times of the year; you’ll see that I’ve got probably ten on my bureau. Diorissimo is one of the most genius fragrances ever created. It’s based on the Lily of the Valley, but it contains no Lily of the Valley. That’s the curiosity of it. It’s a gorgeous, gorgeous scent. I think it was made in the 1940’s—no, 1950’s. And then I wear Privet Bloom by Hampton Sun. Hampton Sun, as you probably know, is a sun care line and after-sun care line. People loved the scent of the product so much, they told the founder, ‘Could you make a fragrance out of it?’ It’s so beautiful.
I got a Clarisonic two years ago, and I really like it. It operates the way a Sonicare toothbrush does. It’s not pulling your skin, it’s going back and forth so it’s getting debris out. I’m a firm believer—I use it just about every day, just once a day, because my skin is quite sensitive. I’ll use it with various gentle cleansers, but lately I’ve gone back to cleansing oils again. For a few weeks, I’ve been using a new one by Therapy Systems. You have to wipe it off with a damp washcloth, so I’ve been stocking up on washcloths—something I never use. I’d been getting regular facials from Joanna Vargas, but I’ve been so busy I haven’t been back in a while. I was in L.A. in October and had a facial by Terri Lawton, so now I’m trying her stem-cell based creams. I guess you could say my quest for the perfect skincare for my tricky skin is still ongoing. What I often do is test one line on one side of my face, and another line on the other—serum, moisturizer, even eye cream, everything but cleanser (too tricky), and I inspect the “progress” every morning. I once tweeted, 'Am I the only beauty editor who tries out different products on different sides of her face?' and Sarah Brown from Vogue promptly wrote back, 'Yes.' That cracked me up. But, I don’t care; it makes perfect sense to me. All that being said, I won’t try any old line. It can’t be too rich, it can’t be oily, it can’t be heavily scented, and 'hypo-allergenic'or for 'combination' or 'sensitive' skin are big pluses. My skin will break out if you look at me the wrong way. If something makes it break out, it’s gone. Over. If something doesn’t disrupt my skin and even looks like it’s calming the redness, good sign. I’ll give something about 3-4 weeks to see results—I just don’t have the patience to wait the standard 6-8.
I definitely go through phases. I think it’s about trust, and you trust your gut. Again, this goes back to my cynicism—you learn about compliance when you’ve got a number of things to try at your disposal. You learn about what’s important to you. Like, I clearly don’t care that much about under-eye circles or crow’s feet—I just don’t use those kinds of products every day. I’ll be at a meeting, and someone will ask me, ‘What’s the best under-eye cream?’ and I’ll just have a doe-in-the-headlights look, because I actually don’t use under-eye cream. Maybe I just don’t care enough about it. Or maybe I’ve never tried one that actually worked. And yet—I’ve certainly tried more than my fair share of lash-enhancing serums! I tried Latisse, and my lashes got much longer almost instantly—really fast. Another beauty editor, who has light eyes like mine said, ‘You don’t want to risk your pupils getting darker,’ and I said, ‘Oh, they’re fine.’ But, of course, I did notice a little discoloration on my eyelid…just a little bit red, but not rashy-looking. But I didn’t care because I loved how long my lashes were. So I thought, I’ll just wear some eye shadow to cover the spots. You can see where my priorities lie here… Nevertheless, my lower lids started to look red, and I didn’t even put two and two together until someone said, ‘It’s probably Latisse.’ Big Duh. So it works, but it was too much for my poor eye area. So I just thought, not for me. And I haven’t used it since.
I take baths probably twice a day, especially at night. I cannot have enough bath products—I love this one called Kneipp Herbal Bath in Spruce. You put a couple drops in the water and it’s like being in a pine forest. I’m never happier than when I’m in a pine forest. Jurlique Jasmine shower gel is also so fresh and nice. I love Invisible Zinc sunscreen, it’s from Australia. But I don’t wear sunscreen every day; I just learned that my vitamin D levels are a bit low, so I figure I could use the little sun exposure I get on my morning walk to work. I never use body lotion. It’s greasy and for some strange reason, my skin manages to be soft without it. I feel very lucky about that. What I do use it for, though, is if I’m at the gym and I’m blow-drying my hair, I’ll use body lotion as a pre-styler and a post-styler. Works like a charm.
For makeup, I love Sonia Kashuk tinted moisturizer, and NARS has a new one coming out in February—I use this little lab sample they gave me. By Terry is also coming out with a really sheer foundation next year, so I go back and forth between those. Actually, my friend Jenny, who isn’t really into beauty products, once told me that she applies foundation just on her cheeks—so now I only apply it there, too, and my phone has thanked me for it! [Laughs] On my lids, I either wear NARS Ashes to Ashes or Tom Ford’s Silver Topaz—they’re both light versions of smokey shadow and they’re low on the shimmer count. I can’t stand shimmery or glittery shadow. And then I’m a big fan of the Orgasm powder blush. If it’s a little much I dust Tom Ford illuminating powder over just to tone it down a little bit. Not every day, but it definitely is something that I use. I am loyal to Lancôme Ôscillation mascara, the vibrating one. Maybe people think its kitschy, but this is the first mascara that was sent to me where I said, ‘Please send me more!’
At night, if there is a pimple, Retin-A Micro is on it. It’s great for acne, as well as anti-aging. If I have any bumps on my forehead I use it. Biologique lotion P-50, a French brand, is also great for acne. My husband can’t stand the smell, but it is amazing. I have had acne my whole life. I used Accutane when I was 22 years old, and that definitely shifted it, but all through high school and college…not pepperoni pizza face, but not good. I remember, up until my early thirties, just wiping the gobs of oil off my face. I used to say, ‘I’ll be happy when I’m sixty and have no wrinkles.’ Well, that was a bit over-dramatic. Not there yet and I do have some, but not huge crevasses I’m overly concerned with. I mean, there’s a little Botox here and there—I do it probably once a year. I get it in the middle of my forehead, and in between my eyebrows. I don’t have an eleven, I just have a one. [Laughs] I go to Dr. Amy Wechsler—she is amazing. She tells me to use things like Retin-A and basics, like Purpose or Cetaphil as cleansers.
I get my hair colored by Marie Robinson. She is a very busy woman, so her assistant Kimberly Cannon started doing my hair, and I’ve been going to her for nearly a year now. I get my hair cut by Valery Joseph, who gave me lots of layers for the first time late Summer, and they’ve been kind of game-changing. It was a good update for me. I love the Bamboo line from Alterna, it has kendi nut oil in it, and it makes my hair really smooth. I also love Shu Uemura’s Cleansing Oil Shampoo and L’Oreal’s Everpure conditioner. My hair is quite thick—it has a bump to it—so if I air-dry it, it never looks sleek. I think the Philip B. Russian Amber shampoo is amazing, but it’s expensive, so I use it for red-letter days—important days, if I’m doing a presentation or something.
It’s interesting, when you do this [ITG], you realize you have so much to say; we haven’t even talked about lipstick! [Laughs] If I am somewhere without lip balm, I freak out—I will have to go buy some. Burt's Bees is my favorite, just the original beeswax lip balm. I have the red tinted ones too. I’ve always shied away from lipstick in general because my lips are thin. Even when makeup artists do my makeup, they always get this challenged, perplexed expression on their faces because of my poor, undefined lips. Whenever I’d try red, forget it. I’d look like grandma tried to put on red lipstick with very shaky hands! But lately, I’ve been wearing red and kind of loving it. I pencil on NARS Velvet Matte Lip Pencil in Cruella, then blot a lot, and it leaves a striking look that I manage to keep from messing up too much. I’m also really into nail polish—I usually do it myself; it’s like art class for me. I just never take the time to get manicures. I have on one from Estée Lauder that Tom Pecheux did, and I also like Butter London, Essie and Deborah Lippmann. Actually, Deborah Lippmann was in my dream last night: I dreamt that she was in a concert, because she sings, too. Some other nail person was there—I don’t know who—and they were trying to steal my attention from watching Deborah sing. [Laughs] Read into that one, Dr. Freud.”
—as told to ITG