Trace Barnhill, Writer

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'My name is Trace [@Trace _Barnhill]. I’m currently living in Philadelphia and am not particularly employed. If you want me to do nearly anything, email me.

My first beauty memory is my mom squeezing blackheads out of my nose when I was 11 years old. My relationship with my skin hasn’t improved much since—I still have acne. I am the general befuddlement of dermatologists in three states. It’s not as bad as it could be, and I’ve learned to live with it. It’s a hard thing, because you hear models talk about the ‘imperfections’ they embrace, like a gap in their teeth or bushy brows. And I’m like, I have red inflamed spots...maybe that’s my thing?

I used to believe that some kind of perfect alchemy would banish and cure my acne overnight. Back in high school, I went all Breaking Bad on the Neutrogena—a little Oil-Free Acne Wash combined with smashed avocado, let sit for three minutes, then pour Clear Pore Astringent over everything to wash it off. Smother with Stridex and benzoyl peroxide cream. I was living off-label, thinking that maybe science just hadn’t progressed far enough to anticipate this magical combination of chemicals that maybe would render me acne-free by morning. Which, of course, never happened.

I’m in a more cautious and methodical place these days, probably because of these early desperate product-junkie years. Sometimes I see girls with bathrooms overflowing with various lotions and potions—but invariably they’re the ones with good skin anyway. I’ve learned to stick closer to what works, and to build up a relationship and routine with my chosen products.

Of course, I’ve had the same oleo-epiphany everyone has. In the morning, I’ll rinse my face with filtered water, then foam up a little DDF Blemish Foaming Cleanser, sometimes adding baking soda. I rinse with filtered water and tone with Heritage Rosewater and Yon-Ka Lotion for Oily Skin. Usually a little Aura Cacia Macadamia Oil or Nutiva Coconut Oil around the eyes, just to sit on top of my skin and glisten, and I’m ready to go.

At night, I’ll use the Shiseido Ibuki Gentle Cleanser with the same toning regimen. I don’t always apply Tazorac but when I do I like to lay down a layer of Longview Farms Emu Oil before. It protects the integrity of the product and sinks down into your skin with it. It’s like emu oil is Jack and coconut oil is more like Rose, and your skin is the ocean.

I have to extol the virtues of the Berkey water filter—I drink this water all day. It’s super pure and has a killer mouth-feel. I rinse my face with it, but most importantly, I rinse my dry, crunchy, frazzled hair with it after showering, and it becomes a very convincing replica of actual hair. I’m a natural brunette recovering from a platinum phase, and after six months blonde of thinking of nothing but my hair, it’s nice to just not think about it anymore. It’s amazing how many problems go away when you just stop thinking about them.

I’ve been using Kevin Murphy Angel Wash and Rinse, although I’ve actually combined it with some remaining Moroccanoil Repair Shampoo and Conditioner to cut down on shower clutter—my alchemist tendency again. Coconut oil on the ends after showering. I haven’t blown my hair dry since high school. These days, I’m doing the bedhead look, which I achieve largely by being in bed and then, at some point, getting out of bed. That’s sort of the secret. I also wrap the whole thing in an old silk tank top when it's still wet. I’ll do a poufy half-up-half-down in French Luxe Couture Clip when I'm feeling the need for something more “done'—a style to which I refer affectionately as The Martha Washington. Not my boyfriend’s favorite.

I’ve gone through the same makeup phases as most. Initially disinterested in early high school, just using a tube of Maybelline Great Lash, to haughty maximalist dilettante sophomore year replete with Diorshow and Chantecaille. I developed a taste for the small boutique sellers and cultivated a respectable Nars collection on my parents’ dime. I remember being on my bedroom floor in the afternoon, holding my hand over the editorial liner notes in Allure and Vogue, quizzing myself. Was that Chanel Stylo Eyeliner in Taupe or Espresso on Keira Knightley? I suppose the main mistake of my youth was not knowing what was important, so I mistook everything for important.

In college, I turned that bookish obsessiveness towards actual books and kept makeup minimal but effective. Out of college I did some yoga and did the whole natural product/home remedy thing. Being significantly poorer, I also recently went through a drugstore makeup phase. My summer look has been a sweaty homage to Monica Vitti— Revlon ColorStay Eyeliner in Brown in the outer corners of my eyes with Maybelline Line Stiletto Liquid Liner in Black Brown on top. I don’t really like mascara these days—I think it makes me look too girly, but I did recently buy CoverGirl Length Mascara in Black Brown.

I’ve never owned a foundation and I doubt I ever will. I don’t think foundation can fool someone into thinking you’ve got good skin—it can only make your bad skin less confrontational. And I’m getting better at handling confrontation. I used to use Laura Mercier Oil-Free Tinted Moisturizer in Nude, but have largely given it up since finding Tarte BB in Light. I love the matte finish and the level of coverage, and it doesn’t reek of sunblock. I only use a tiny bit at a time, so it’s lasted me a while.

My art teacher once lectured on Titian’s use of color, and how he alone could achieve these lifelike, lit-from-within flesh tones and complexions by painting a face on his canvas blood red, and then gradually and patiently applying tan and neutral washes over and over to the face so that the skin. When finished, subjects really did glow from within. I think about this applying my BB cream, obviously. have Nars Stick Concealer in Honey and Givenchy Mister Light in 4 Mister Macaroon for under-eyes. Even though I’m fair, I don’t like a fair concealer. I don’t mind my skin showing through. Just give me something with a little yellow to even me out.

The best part of any of this is sharing it with others, though. I imagine vanity as thinking of yourself as beautiful, and narcissism as assuming everyone else in the world does. I think it’s important to share vanity, to share that personal journey and relationship with other people. On this side of my 20s, it seems like everyone is going straight into preservation mode face-wise and taking it all much too seriously. I mean, yeah, I have a retinol. Yeah, I have La Mer. Yeah, I’m in this for the Lauren Hutton/Helen Mirren long haul. But what’s the point of preserving your face in a jar by the door like Eleanor Rigby if you never take it out and dress it up? I’ve got my whole life to do something tasteful in bronze and beige. So maybe now is the time for lizard-green liquid liner. For lipstick applied roughly, with the finger, and with an accent color right where the lips meet. And, most of all, for collaboration and celebration, because it’s better to feel beautiful with others than alone.”

—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.