'I'm Qianwen Zhang [@qianwen.zhang], and I'm new to Paris from Singapore. Before I moved here, I worked a little for a very large beauty company, which was so rewarding for me. I'm particularly interested in studying the emotional value people give their beauty products. I'll never forget being 4 years old at grandma’s place and having a family friend lightly pencil in my eyebrows. It was just for fun, because I always had really sparse brows, but it's such a sweet memory—it's what I think of when I think of how beauty makes me feel. I started experimenting around 15 because I had really persistent acne. It wasn’t severe, but I always had enough on my face and back for it to be distressing. At this point, I avoid fragrances and alcohol if I can, and I'll use a product that looks greasier and feels a bit heavier if it means it isn't scented like roses. I like to do a five minute massage every couple of days to just get out all the oil that clogs in my skin. I’ve learned not to touch my skin with my grubby hands throughout the day to avoid breakouts, so my skincare routine is the only time I get to touch my skin—and I love it.
For skincare, I’ve managed to whittle it down to a solid routine with just a few no-frills products. If I have makeup on, I use the Garden of Wisdom Blemish Prone Cleansing Oil to remove it. I got into cleansing oils when I was on Accutane, and it seemed like an easy way to remove sunscreen and dry flakes gently without further irritating my skin. If I don’t have this available, I'd grab Shiseido's Perfect Cleansing Oil, which has a lighter texture, but I find it a little too drying to do a long massage with since it contains quite a bit of alcohol. After I cleanse, I sometimes exfoliate. I prefer retinoids over acids for exfoliation—they feel more gentle and less stingy than the typical glycolic or salicylic acid treatments I’ve tried. Then, I go in with a hydrating serum— Skinceuticals' Phyto Corrective Gel. It’s green, so it helps counteract and calm down my skin from redness as a result of a late night out.
For moisturizer, I’m loyal to La Roche-Posay's Toleriane Fluide. Sometimes, I would mix in a few drops of evening primrose oil or safflower oil. I use oils that are high in linoleic acid—versus oleic acid—so they have a lower chance of clogging my pores. If my skin feels really dehydrated or dry, like when I visit wintry places, I put on a thin layer of Vaseline over my moisturizer and oil. Everyone talks about how mineral oil and petroleum byproducts are really bad for your skin because it clogs and everything, but I think cosmetic-grade ones are OK, as long as what you put on below or along with it doesn’t clog your skin. They are occlusive and amazing! They form a protect seal over your face so that moisture doesn’t get sucked out of your skin and the wind doesn’t get through.
If I get a pimple now, I just use one of those Nexcare Oil Absorbing Covers on it to suck out all the yellow gunk in it—gross but satisfying. If it’s one of those terrible under-the-skin types, I use Kate Somerville's EradiKate on it, and it kind of just withers away without coming to a head.
If I’m going to be out anytime between 10am and 5pm, I’ll put on some sunscreen. The sunscreen I use for my face is Steifel's Spectraban Sensitive SPF30. I put it all over my face including my eye area and ears. It’s the only one I’ve found to work for me—it doesn’t break me out or irritate my skin even though it uses chemical filters. It does look a little shiny, and it's not light like the Japanese fluid ones, but a little powder makes it all OK!
It's interesting because, in terms of makeup, I think beauty has become more of a fashion accessory. A red lip or a colorful manicure is now considered part of an outfit. Fashion and beauty are really the same, we use them to decorate ourselves and send a message about who we are to the rest of the world. For makeup, I like to put in minimal effort for maximum impact. For everyday, I like to use the Collection 2000 Illuminating Touch Concealer in Natural. It’s has a bit of salmon-pink tone, so it helps counteract the darkness under my eyes instead of just masking over it. For blemishes, I use Laura Mercier's Secret Camouflage mixed with Shu Uemura's Nobara Cream Cover Stick Foundation to get the perfect color and texture. The Secret Camouflage is not yellow enough and little too dry and the Shu Uemura stick is yellow enough but too creamy. Together, they are perfect. I set my skin with Chanel's Universal Powder, either pressed or loose—depending on what I have on hand. I fill in my brows with Shu Uemura Hard Formula H9 Brow Pencil in 05 Stone Gray because I have black hair. I also use the Shu Uemura Eyelash Curler every day—I’m a little addicted to the feeling of curling my lashes. My mascara is Heroine Make Volume and Curl. Japanese mascaras are the best at holding a curl and being waterproof. Then, I would just do the Shiseido Bronzer in 01 Light with a fan brush to get some color in my face. MAC's Powder Blush in Peaches is also pretty good. In general though, really like buying Japanese makeup because they understand the struggle of having very yellow undertones and living in a super humid climate.
But I also think beauty goes way beyond products. When I'm too strapped for cash to go to Sephora, I just do yoga. It helps me relieve stress, meditate, and sleep better at night—the basics, in my mind, to feeling beautiful.”
—as told to ITG
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