The Software Engineer Obsessed With Good Ingredients


"Hi! My name is Allison von Bargen (@leahzxxz). I live in Brooklyn, New York, and have recently left my job in advertising to pursue software engineering full-time. Being an engineer, I tend to be quite rational in my selection of beauty products. I look for active, potent ingredients that are proven to be beneficial for the skin, like retinol, niacinamide, or hyaluronic acid. I started experimenting with beauty quite late actually—I’d say around [the age of] 20. Growing up in China, I was not allowed to wear makeup or dye my hair at school, which only left me more curious.

I approach beauty from a rather scientific angle. I watch beauty videos and read articles published by dermatologists and cosmetic chemists. I try to understand the scientific principles behind why and how an ingredient works. I’ve found that consistency is key—stick to products you know really work. I have combination and acne-prone skin, so I used to experiment with a lot. Some things messed up my skin very quickly, even at some point made my skin extremely sensitive, rejecting anything new I put on it. Now I keep my skincare and makeup to a minimal level. It’s cliché, but less is more.

I’ve been using SK-II Facial Treatment Essence for the longest time, day and night, and it’s proven to be one of the products I cannot live without. In the morning, it softens/moisturizes/refreshes your skin to be ready for makeup. At night, it preps your skin for heavy serums and night creams. It’s very versatile and light-weight but does a lot of good work. Then I love the Concentrate by La Mer, a godsend for skin emergencies. Whenever I have a breakout out of nowhere, or I’ve just been on a long international flight—I’m talking about Hong Kong to New York, over 15 hours—and my skin feels all kinds of wrong, the Concentrate fixes it in a day. I always travel with it and I haven’t found a single product that compares. Before I go to bed, I use Glossier Super Pure all over my face to help with irritation and dab the Mario Badescu Drying Lotion on the few acne spots that are active and very visible. Usually fixes everything in a day or two.

In the morning, I wash my face with Glossier Milky Jelly Cleanser, then spray the Avène Eau Thermale all over. It helps balance the pH level of your skin and the bad things that comes with tap water. Next is the SK-II Facial Treatment Essence followed by Neutrogena Hydro Boost Gel, this Clarins Booster, and Elta MD SPF 46 UV Clear. At night, I cleanse with this Lancôme Crème Radiance Gentle Cleansing Creamy-Foam Cleanser and moisturize with the Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair. Oh, also—I’d been dying to try micro-needling and I finally had to courage to try it two months ago. I went to a dermatologist clinic with a PRP—aka the ‘vampire facial’—and it TRANSFORMED my acne scarring. It’s the best decision I have made for my skin.

With makeup, I like to use all my color cosmetic products interchangeably. Lipstick as a blush, blush as eyeshadow, eyeshadow as contour… I’ve found some nice surprises that way! For everyday, I always start with Clé de Peau Radiant cream foundation SPF 24. On my brows I’ll do the Anastasia Brow Definer in Chocolate, and I line my eyes with Kat Von D Tattoo Liner in Satin Black. To finish it all, I love this Becca pressed highlighter in Opal, and then Givenchy Le Rouge-À-Porter #301 on my lips.

I’m not a coffee person, so I drink a large amount of tea for my metabolism and mental health because I still need caffeine in some capacity. When I need to clear my head, I’ll solve programming challenges on Codewars—it’s a very satisfying feeling. And when the weather is nice, I like to skate from Battery Park, all the way up to Central Park.

For hair, I use Function of Beauty—personalized shampoo and conditioner—and a once-a-month hair mask. When I need to curl my hair with a curling iron, I use Bumble & bumble Hairdresser's Invisible Oil Primer before as a protectant. A great tip for those who have soft, straight and flat Asian hair like I do—use dry shampoo for volumizing. For nails, I love the brand Zoya because it’s nontoxic and free of many harmful chemicals. I only ever wear three colors—coral, baby blue, or grey, because I am ultra-lazy and only wear shades that will match anything I might wear. Needless to say, cuticle oil and hand-cream are in my bag wherever I go. Gotta protect these precious programming hands…just kidding."

—as told to ITG