Esther Yu, Writer & Editor


The #ITGTopShelfie interview series focuses on the beauty routines of Into The Gloss' lovely, accomplished, and loyal community of readers. Submit your own on Instagram—post your Top Shelfie (tag us @intothegloss!) and include the hashtag #ITGTopShelfie for a chance to be featured on ITG.

"Hi! My name's Esther (@forthetimebeing_) and I'm an LA transplant. I've worn a couple of different hats over the past couple of years, going from English Lit grad student to editor of feminist blog Acro Collective, but right now, I'm working as a student advisor for an LSAT company while applying to law schools. I'm in a bit of a transitional period that I think feels familiar to a lot of young working women my age. I like going to work every day, but I also know that this isn't going to be my career's final stage. The same thing goes for beauty. I have some time to experiment and play around before the more conservative 'law look' puts constraints on what I can wear or how I can style myself—though who knows? So many beauty and style rules today are also holdovers from earlier times. They're meant to be stretched and broken.

To me, beauty and skincare can be deeply feminist acts. For women, and especially women of color, the world is a demanding and sometimes hostile place. Obviously, beauty in itself isn't enough to combat that. But for me personally, it lends a sense of power and authority, even when I don't feel it yet. Doing a face mask or taking a long bath—these are small but essential ways to check in with yourself. We all need a little more self-love. It's very important and underrated, and my beauty routine is another small way I try to carve that time out for myself.

I use Glossier's Milky Jelly Cleanser every day, morning and night. I've gone between a lot of different cleansers, both higher and lower end, but none of them have that perfect combination of being both gentle and totally effective at removing makeup. In the morning I'll use it with water to rinse off any moisturizer residue from the night before, and at night I use it on dry skin to remove makeup and then again on wet to make sure I get rid of any traces. I also use Missha's Time Revolution The First Treatment Essence Mist morning and night. It's a dupe for SK-II's much more expensive facial essence, and has a fermented yeast formula that gives me a glow from within. It brightens everything up, and also hydrates and preps skin for next steps. In the morning, I use SPF and that's pretty much it—just Biore Aqua UV Watery Essence, which is less like a pasty childhood sunscreen and more like a light gel that sinks into your skin.

At night, after cleansing and using essence, I also do a dropper full of LJH Tea Tree 90 Essence, another k-beauty product that soothes inflammation and tired skin. Because I struggle with acne, I alternate between two holy grail CosRX products—their AHA Whitehead and BHA Blackhead Power Liquids. The BHA in particular is really effective and is formulated with salicylic acid's gentler cousin, betaine salicylate. I usually let those chemical exfoliators sit for about 10 minutes while I do something else before applying another product on top. Since LA is so dry, I might do a sheet mask for moisture. The Dr. Jart masks, Manefit's Green Tea Masks from SokoGlam, and Aritaum Ampoule Masks all feel great and leave skin really nourished and moisturized. Finally, I massage in a thick layer of the Sulwhasoo Overnight Vitalizing Mask. It smells heavenly, like ginger and herbs, and is packed with soothing, hydrating ingredients that also help with redness.

If I feel like I look tired, I do a layer of Nars Velvet Matte Skin Tint in St. Moritz. It's magical! They were not kidding about the whole velvet thing. I also have problem skin—hyperpigmentation, acne—that can sometimes use a boost. If I'm going somewhere special and want to look like a smooth-skinned cyborg I'll also dab Sephora's Bright Future Color Corrector in * Green* over my hyperpigmentation and then blend in NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Ginger on top.

A cat eye is an essential part of my daily makeup. I use any dark brown eyeshow I have on hand and then I sweep on a black pencil eyeliner—for years I used Maybelline Unstoppable in Onyx, which is an old standby, but recently I've been using the Make Up For Ever Aqua Eye Pencil in Matte Black. It was developed for the French synchronized swimming team, so its waterproof claim has some serious credentials. Then I define the swoop and point of the cat-eye with a liquid liner, which right now is the Clinique Pretty Easy Liquid Eyelining Pen in Black. Finally, if I'm feeling it that day, I'll do a double layer of lip tint... whatever Tonymoly lip tints I have within reach, because theirs are the bomb. I do two coats, no more and no less, and I can eat and drink all day and my lips will stay rosy. My favorite so far is their Liptone Get It Tint HD, in either Cotton Rose or Edge Orange.

The next thing on my list is eyelash extensions! Those have been around forever but I have a really DIY approach to beauty—giving someone else control of my nails, or eye area, or anything else takes half the fun out of it. But I think that's one thing I'd have to leave to a professional. In general, I'm aspiring to total fearlessness, but taking it one step at a time."

—as told to ITG