The Comedian Whose Eyebrows Are Acquaintances At Best


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“Hi! I’m Catherine Shannon (@catherineshannon), and I’m a writer and comedian. When I was 14, my dad took me to see Jim Gaffigan perform standup and something inside of me clicked. I spent a long time doubting whether I could pursue comedy, even though it felt really fun and really good. Insecurity is a huge part of comedy in general—exploring those little cracks can be healing. I wasn’t a ‘cool kid,’ and I think a lot of my sense of humor has come from loneliness. I was always observing other people and my own thoughts. But I have a loud inner critic (don’t we all) and part of the difficulty was letting myself actually pursue it.

I’ve kept a note of standup ideas in my phone for as long as I can remember, and I would open up my voice recording app while I was alone to try impressions, accents, or bits. That was just for me, to make myself laugh. It took until my mid-20s to show anyone that stuff and get out there on stage. I’ve always been a little bit of a late bloomer. In January 2020 I decided I’d really go for it, and I quit my corporate job late last year to focus on writing a pilot for a satirical psychological thriller. I also have a podcast called KTR, which is a satirical news show. A lot of the comedy I do is related to beauty and the millennial facade. We live in such a status-driven, achievement-focused culture, and I want to not only expose the cracks, but offer a hopeful alternative.

My skin looks pretty good now, but I’ve had bad acne my entire life. I had bad luck with dermatologists, and I experimented with so many things that ultimately made the acne worse. I used to feel so desperate about it. Eventually I found myself on Reddit and on ITG taking matters into my own hands. I think my skin was just really dry, and all these actives I used to try and get rid of the breakouts were making it worse. A simple, moisturizing routine really helped my acne. But everything is still trial and error—for example, that CeraVe moisturizer everyone’s obsessed with gave me horrible cystic acne for two months.

When I wake up in the morning, I wash my face with a Squalane Cleanser from The Ordinary. I gua sha while it’s on—I feel like using oil is this whole thing, and this cleanser is kind of like an oil anyway. It’s been working. Or sometimes I use the Vanicream Gentle Facial Cleanser, which is super basic. I’m very high-low with my beauty routine—I’m sure beauty has a huge price markup, like wine at a restaurant, so I only buy the expensive stuff if it’s worth it. Skinceuticals’ CE Ferulic serum is worth it to me. I’ve tried other, cheaper vitamin C serums, and they’re never as effective. I have a very expressive face, so I use this Biologique Recherche Elastine Serum on fine lines. If I have an active pimple, which is pretty frequently, I use Hexomedine, which ITG turned me on to. It’s a French anti-bacterial thing—I take a Q-tip, dip it in, and then push it onto my pimple. Next I use Neutrogena HydroBoost moisturizer which, again, super basic, and then I always apply sunscreen. I have a lot of moles I have to watch carefully, so I’m pretty obsessive about it. I usually stick with the EltaMD sunscreen because it feels really nice and thin, almost like a skincare treatment or something. It’s also super moisturizing and glowy, which I like a lot.

I kind of hope that when people look at me, they’re like, ‘She’s wearing mascara, and maybe something on her lips.’ I want everything else to blend into the background. If it’s a good skin day, I use the Ilia Super Serum Skin Tint in Formosa. Or, I strategically place some Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer in Vanilla under my eyes, on any pimples, and around my nose, and then blend it out with a Beautyblender like it’s foundation. My best pimple covering technique is using the Radiant Creamy Concealer and Laura Mercier’s Secret Camouflage together. It’s a magical combination. I’ve used the Benefit Hoola Bronzer for maybe 15 years—if Benefit ever went out of business, I’d go buy 50 of these things. I’m so pale naturally that you can tell if I go overboard, but I like that it gives my skin a little more life. For blush I love the stupidly expensive but beautiful Westman Atelier Dou Dou. I also love Ilia’s blush in A Fine Romance and Glossier Cloud Paint in Storm—those are the three in rotation. I like to put my blush high up on my cheeks and a little bit over my nose, like the kids these days.

I’ve given up on having perfect eyebrows. People are like, ‘eyebrows should be sisters, not twins,’ and mine aren’t even friends. I do draw in a few strategically placed hairs with the Anastasia Dipbrow in Taupe. The way I use it isn’t what most people do—I actually wiggle an eyeliner brush in the product and then pinch it off to create a sharp tip. I splurged and got the Chanel eyeshadow in Candeur et Experience, and for day I use the lightest brown in the compact on my lashline, and at night I’ll go into my crease with the darker browns. I alternate between Lash Slick mascara, which kind of looks like lash extensions and is super easy to take off, and Telescopic from L’Oréal. That one’s really defining, which I like, and it’s super dark. Last step is lips. I’ve been using Glossier’s Gen G in Like pretty exclusively for years, but I recently started doing a new thing. I lightly line my lips with Bobbi Brown Lip Liner in Cocoa, which is kind of dark and not a color I’d ordinarily pick, and then I use Nivea cherry chapstick over it. I don’t know what it is about that combo, but it looks natural and it’s so easy to maintain. I set my makeup with MAC Fix+, which is a game changer. It feels hydrating and makes everything on my skin blur together in a really nice way—I even use it when I use the Ilia foundation. I can’t live without it.

My hair goal is always to look like a Swedish baby. I’ve actually brought my own baby photos to Colleen at Spoke & Weal, because I had really blonde hair as a kid—I remember my aunt telling me, ‘People pay a great amount of money to have their hair look like your hair,’ and that felt so crazy to me. Now, it’s a never-ending quest to get back to that. Jay Braff cuts my hair, and he convinced me to go above the shoulder. I’ve used Oribe Shampoo for Beautiful Color and Gold Lust Conditioner for seven years. My hair is naturally wavy but I like it to be sleek, so I blow it out with the Revlon round brush. Before I blow dry I use some Kérastase Blonde Absolu Heat Protectant and the Aveda Light Elements Texturizing Creme on just the ends, because otherwise it can look a little broom-y. Sometimes I’ll finish with Kérastase Oléo-Relax oil, which is anti-frizz. Consider me influenced by Into The Gloss to buy a Mason Pearson brush. It was a big-girl purchase, but I do feel like it makes my hair healthier.

In the evening, my routine is very simple. I wash my face, let it dry, then put on tretinoin. Tret is amazing because it’s good for acne and anti-aging—it’s a nice all-in-one. I just graduated up to 0.05-percent. After that, I wait a little bit and then moisturize with my Nivea cream. This is like six bucks, maybe less, and I love it. It works for me, and it doesn’t clog my pores—thankfully.”

—as told to ITG

Photos via the author