'My name is Joanna Smolenski [@ _boj], and I'm currently in New York pursuing a PhD in Philosophy. I moved here for college nine years ago, and I'm proud to say I'll earn my stripes as a New Yorker before I become a doctor—I've heard you have to be here at least 10 years before you can really call yourself something of a native. There's a surprising amount of accomplishment in that.
I'm pretty positive that my path to a lifetime of product hoarding started in my childhood, when you could tell how much people liked you based on the number of gift baskets from Bath & Body Works you got for your birthday. I easily had gallons of freesia body spray, which was a problem because I've never really been able to move on from a product without finishing it, even if I hate it. I get a really strong sense of satisfaction from throwing away an empty bottle. Luckily my mom liquidated my stash at some point, giving me some much needed closure.
These days, I do a lot of bizarre rationalizing when it comes to buying products and saving money—I won't buy shampoo at the drugstore without a coupon, but will buy four Lancôme mascaras at a time if that means I get a free gift with purchase. Whenever I'm in Poland, where my family's from, I buy about a year's worth of stuff—there's a Super-Pharm in basically every mall in Warsaw chock full of La Roche-Posay, Bioderma, Vichy, and it's all so much cheaper there.
An ugly fact of student life is that, if it's late, I'm falling asleep on the couch surrounded by a graveyard of Kettle Chip shards without washing my makeup off. So when I do get around to cleansing, my method is ridiculously thorough in order to compensate. Either I'll use the Clarins Cleansing Milk with Gentian and their ‘Patented Cleansing Method,’ which involves using your hands to make little face suction cups that are supposed to pull impurities out of your pores. I actually like this process, but God, the smell drives me crazy—it haunts my towels for days. Then, I'll follow up with the Somme Institute Transport Pads, which really feel like they're doing something. I'm waiting to find out what that something is.
Or I’ll use Vichy Normaderm Gel Cleanser and my Clarisonic, which has made a huge difference for my skin. I'm another former Accutaner, and while I break out somewhat rarely now, I still have visible scarring and big pores from my acne days. Buffing with the Clarisonic is doing wonders. I'll follow this up with the Santa Maria Novella Acqua di Rose I bought on a whim at Eataly because it smells literally like magic. I don't know how much it's doing for me, but if I could bathe in this ambrosial elixir, I would.
Then I moisturize with the Somme Institute Facial Serum and La Roche-Posay Toleraine Soothing Protective Skincare Lotion. However, the pièce de résistance is something I will recommend to everyone until the day I die— Shu Uemura Lash Builder. You always put conditioner on your hair—so why not lashes? The best thing about it is that it's got no pigment and a silky texture—you put it on before bed and your lashes just kind of bask in it while you sleep.
Anyway, I love a good lash, and creating them is a crucial part of my routine. First, I curl. The Shu Uemura one really is worth it, and if you order it online, add the Lash Builder for free shipping! Lately, I've been really enjoying Inglot Full Metal Eyeliner in 524. It's the perfect chrome, and applies smudgily enough that it doesn't look too intense during the day. Then I use primer. My favorite is the Smashbox Layer Lash Primer, but Lancôme's is a good runner-up.
I will try any mascara that has 'drama' in the name. No Doll Lashes, no Star, no whatever else. Just Drama. My favorite is Lancôme Hypnose Drama—coat them lashes, then comb. The wand from a dried-out sample of Benefit's They're Real! Mascara separates best. Post comb-out, I go over one more time with the Hypnose Drama brush that's low on product to fill in any gaps that may have emerged during the combing process. Et voilà!
Otherwise, I stick to a BB cream. I’m using Lancôme Bienfait Teinte in Porcelain, but I actually really love Maybelline Dream Pure BB in Light as well—it’s really good if you have oily skin. Dolce & Gabbana Powder Foundation in Soft 90 on a damp sponge swiped under my eyes works as concealer, and Cover FX Blotting Powder in Light finishes everything off nice and matte. Add to that a swipe of Inglot Multicolor System Bronzing Powder and some blush—I love Nars, but am trying to use up all those gift with purchase blushes I've gotten over the years from Lancôme.
I recently bleached my hair and I love it—it’s so much easier to get volume now. I actually had my friend start the bleaching process and then had it finished by Sara Jane Booth at Takamichi Hair to get it to that perfect white shade. I've basically never dyed my hair before so didn't see this coming, but Sara is so good at what she does I've already been back twice. Plus, we somehow went to the same high school for one semester and had a crush on the same guy, so who better to trust with my roots?
Now I shampoo with Klorane Silver Highlights, and alternate between the Davines Alchemic Silver Conditioner and the gold standard Shimmer Lights about twice a week. After I get out of the shower, I spray some strengthening spray on my roots—currently Radical's Mgiełka wzmacniająca do włosów [ed note: not available in the US] and either Jhirmack Silver Brightening Miracle 5 in 1 Leave in Treatment Spray or Davines Oi/ All in One Milk Spray throughout the rest. Then, I give it a comb, massage some Living Proof Full Thickening Cream in at the roots, and put it up in a bun until it dries. This and dry shampoo is about as much as I can muster, though I do have a pretty good braid game for when my hair is really, really dirty.
I definitely notice that people perceive me differently now that I'm blond. When I was growing up, I used to feel a bit too 'nerdy' to fit in among 'fashion' people, and a bit too 'fashion' to fit in among 'nerds.' But at this point in my life, though, I'm just not worried about people who get confused in their attempts to categorize me. Sometimes, the best argument is a good counterexample.”
—as told to ITG