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.
“Hello! I’m Sonia Patel (@soniapateljain). I was born and raised in New Orleans to traditional Indian immigrant parents. My parents were really strict, and I think in reaction to that, I was in a rush to live my own life as soon as possible. Typically you do four years of undergrad and four years of pharmacy school, but I finished undergrad in two years and got accepted to pharmacy school when I was 19. I also worked about thirty hours a week in a retail pharmacy while I was in school, and I don’t think I slept for four years. But I graduated pharmacy school when I was 23, moved to Dallas, and that’s where I started my career.
For the first few years I was a retail pharmacist—I was making a great salary, and I loved not being in school, but I wanted to see what else was out there. When I moved to New York I met so many women of all different ethnicities with careers I had never even heard of. I saw myself in them, and started to think about my retail pharmacy experience and what I would change if I had the opportunity to. For six months, a friend and I mapped out the entire pharmacy experience and worked on identifying what pieces were broken. Another six months later we launched Capsule here in New York City. It started out as a digital pharmacy, and the idea was that you should be able to get your medication delivered to you the same day you need it. The technology allows you to do everything very seamlessly and efficiently from your phone. COVID has turned the business from a convenient nice-to-have to an essential, and really changed the nature of what I do. Now I spend most of my day laying the groundwork for bringing this product to people throughout the US as quickly as possible.
As a pharmacist, I love looking up ingredients to understand what goes into my beauty products. In the morning I wash my face with Honest Beauty Gel Cleanser and then apply Skinceuticals’ C E Ferulic. I’ve been using that for years and I love how well it absorbs into my skin. Vitamin C is a very powerful antioxidant, and especially living here in New York City, it really helps protect my skin from the elements. The next product I use is a peptide eye cream, the Biossance Squalane Eye Cream, because I have a little bit of hollowness under my eyes. Because my skin is on the oiler side I tend to prefer gel moisturizers with dimethicone. It really helps trap moisture into the skin without making me shiny. Confidence in a Gel Lotion from It Cosmetics is a great lightweight gel-based moisturizer. I store all my products in a mini fridge inside my bathroom to help keep them effective for longer, and also because I love the feeling of cold products on my skin. I keep a rose quartz roller in there too, and I massage my skin for about two minutes with that in the morning. The last thing I use is sunscreen. The tinted sunscreen from Colorescience is my favorite for everyday, and I also use a layer of their SPF powder for extra protection. My most frequently used makeup product is lip balm, and either Henne Organics and Eco Lips Mongo Kiss sits on my desk while I work. I also spray Mario Badescu rosewater toner once a day to feel refreshed.
I wear a little bit of makeup, but definitely keep it simple. First I apply Bareminerals Tinted Powder to mattify excess oil and give my skin a smooth finish. I’m a really big fan of Live Tinted and their mission, and the Huesticks are amazing. If my kids kept me up all night and I didn’t get enough sleep, I use the Huestick as a color corrector under my eyes and dab MAC Studio Fix powder foundation on top with my fingers. But if I want to add a little something extra, I can use the Huestick as blush or eyeshadow. I have a couple of them, but the shade I use most often is Perk. If I use a highlighter in addition, I really like the Glossier one that’s a highlighter and a moisturizer in one. I use the shade Quartz.
For me, makeup is all about the eyes. I use Thrive Causemetics Liquid Lash Extensions Mascara, which has really cool ingredients and an amazing brush. I want a very subtle effect and don’t like clunky mascara that makes my lashes look really thick. I’ve had microblading done in the past, and to be completely honest I used a random Groupon—I didn’t realize at the time that I should probably have done a little research into it. Fortunately, they did an amazing job. To touch up, I use Benefit Brow Zing and the Bobbi Brown eyebrow brush. I’ve been using that brush for like 10 years and have probably bought four of them. The last thing that I do is line my lower waterline. In Indian culture, wearing pigment under the eyes is a very common thing—we call it kajal. Most people in America just use pencil eyeliner, but for some reason as soon as I apply pencil, the color instantly disappears into my waterline. My mom used this thick putty from India in her waterline and it gave her a darker look. Watching her do that inspired me to apply eyeshadow onto my waterline with a Sephora eyeliner brush that has a very sharp edge. I just pat it in dry, and it absorbs whatever water is there. The combination works better than a pencil to keep the pigment in place, and the line stays crisper for longer.
I have been wearing the same two fragrances forever—I’ve really never strayed. Carolina Herrera 212 my daytime fragrance. It’s very light and flowery, lasts without being overpowering, and always gets me lots of compliments. My nighttime fragrance is Chanel Coco Mademoiselle, a classic. When I put on that perfume I know I’m going somewhere, and the instant I put it on I get excited. I haven’t worn it in so long because I haven’t gone anywhere and the thought of putting it on to sit around makes me sad. With all of the chaos and unpredictability in my life, those two scents ground me and remind me of happy moments.
I don’t think anybody in my life even knows I have curly hair because I don’t leave my house without blowing it out. Throughout my life, I’ve tried every treatment under the sun: straighteners, keratin treatments, perms... I’ve also colored my hair every shade from blonde to black, so I definitely try to give it a lot of extra love. I use Grown Alchemist shampoo and Ouai conditioner, which work really well together. I also use Ouai’s leave-in conditioner. When I blowdry my hair, I use Olaplex 7 Bonding Oil before and after applying heat. I like to use a paddle brush and either a Babyliss or Dyson hairdryer. Both of them are great, but I think the Dyson is a little stronger and gets my hair straighter. I also do lots of deep conditioning treatments. I’ll wear coconut or almond oil overnight once a week, and usually on a Saturday morning I’ll put Olaplex 3 Hair Perfector in. I leave it on for three to four hours—I’ll go to the gym, make breakfast and shower a couple of hours later. That product has single handedly transformed my hair texture. It’s so great.
My hairdresser Monica cuts my hair, and then we usually cover up greys with dark brown and add warm balayage tones. I've been seeing her for a long time and I love that she knows my hair. Every month I also get this thing called a shine bomb, which is a gloss-slash-conditioner that’s a complete game-changer. For the week and a half after I get the shine bomb treatment, my hair is silky smooth. I take biotin from Life Extension for my hair and skin, and I’ve considered taking collagen as well—I’ve heard really good things about it for hair growth. In terms of beauty supplements, I’d say to look for products that are certified. Most OTC products are not regulated by the FDA, and sometimes if I read the ingredients on supplement labels, there’s nothing in the product that works at all. Or they’re formulated in doses that are not effective. Definitely do your research on brands and understand what their manufacturing processes are.
For my nighttime skincare routine, I add in retinol for fine lines. The Inkey List Retinol Serum is like $10, and I can use it every day without getting irritated. It’s a really great product. Once or twice a week I use a leave-on exfoliant to help bring out newer, fresher skin. Paula’s Choice 2% BHA works pretty well—I put it on at night, and my skin is glowing in the morning. I also really love doing masks. Glytone makes a really strong peel that you leave on for about ten minutes. I like that the Odacite Bioactive Rose Peel is really natural and has nice ingredients. And then my favorite is the Tatcha Violet-C Radiance Mask. My husband is from Japan, we had our wedding in Tokyo, and every time I go I fall in love with the beauty products there. I can only bring back a few, and then I run out. I love Tatcha because the whole line was inspired by the beauty regimens of geishas, who used all-natural ingredients and Japanese superfoods. It’s the closest I get to having access to those products here. I have three-year-old identical twin boys, and between the kids and running a business, it’s been a challenging few months. Lying down for fifteen minutes while I do a mask, with no kids around, is the time I have to myself.”
—as told to ITG
Photos via the author