Category Archives: Beauty

Beauty Money-Saving Tips Shopping

Cleansing Oil

I’m currently on track to be the first octagenarian to still have breakouts. When I was younger, my skin was so oily that my brother suggested I offer myself to the U.S. government as an energy resource. I was experienced in all types of powders, blotting tissues and oil-decimating cleansers. I cried while watching the ProActiv infomercial. I was a blinding image in flash photos.

One of the benefits of getting older, for me at least, is that my oil production has slowed down. But what I should have done is applied some of what I learned in all those years of college chemistry courses and realized simply that using oils can be an effective way of loosening oils that are clogging pores — without stripping the skin. You see, I believed the media hype that feeling “clean” meant that your skin was as tight as a SoCal facelift.

Enter Nude Skincare Cleansing Facial Oil. I’ve waited 3 months to post about thisĀ  because I wanted to be sure. Yes, it’s great for dry and normal skin — but it also works miracles on oilier skins. My skin, while still prone to the occasional hormonal breakout, has never been clearer. And the cleanser has a nice, light jasmine scent too so you think less “french fries” and more “exotic essential oil”.

But then I thought, “If it’s just oil, can’t I make this myself?” The answer is yes. When I ran out of the Nude cleansing oil, I read this article and made my own. I actually put it right back into the Nude bottle that I got, so it retained a mild jasmine scent (I’m sure you could infuse your own oils with essential oils, but definitely test for allergies before you do that). So for a couple of bucks, I’ve got a great cleansing oil. I’ve tried both olive and safflower oil as bases and prefer safflower, and I go with 30% castor oil since I’m on the oilier side.

Happy cleansing!


Fragrance fix

I’m not good with fragrance. Having worked in the beauty industry, I’m fully aware that they’re selling an aspiration, but I really want to believe what they’re trying to sell. Problem is, even if I read “sophisticated and sexy” in the copy I still smell “flowers and lemons”. And if I were a celebrity my branded fragrances would be called “Garlic Sauteeing in Olive Oil”or “Retail” which would be the smell of clothes when I first get them home from Nordstrom.

Anyway, I’m still trying. I regularly spritz myself with testers when I see a pretty bottle, and maybe there’s an issue with the way my brain is mapped, but the smell for me never matches the bottle. For instance, I feel like perfumes in purple bottles should smell purple. But they don’t. Sometimes they smell like apples.

I do have a small collection of perfumes, from impulse purchases and gifts. Last time I was at an airport overseas I spritzed myself with Chanel Chance Eau Fraiche, which I liked. Trouble is, I tire of fragrances pretty quickly. Which is where eBay comes in: I discovered that you can actually buy samples of perfumes on eBay. Often they’re bundled with 2 or 3 samples. The beauty of this is that for ten bucks you can wear an expensive perfume, but not feel so bad once you tire of it. About 7 years ago I fell in love with the Kate Spade perfume, which is now mentally linked for me with the basic black bags of the ’90s, and as a result I can’t bring myself to wear it anymore. I still have 3/4 of a bottle left. Shoulda gone to eBay.

Beauty Hair Shopping

Back to the Basics

My latest haircare discovery costs $1.29. Pictured to the right is the upscale version of it. Yep, you got it — corn starch. If you want to trace back the blame for this idea (and you should always assign blame), I’d say it goes back circa 1995 when some Allure editor started to slip in advice from haircare gurus that washing your hair daily strips it of its natural oils and to keep it healthy, you should wait a few days between shampoos. Over the seven years following that I made at least ten failed attempts to convert from daily hair-washing, all thwarted by the fact that I could smell my hair. I really didn’t want to smell like hair.

It wasn’t til I had kids that I successfully made the transition — driven mostly by fatigue and a general loss of will (this was also around the time I started driving a mini-van and favoring elastic waistbands). Still, I was really turned off by the hair smell — I just feel like we’re beyond the evolutionary stage where it’s necessary to smell distinctly human. So I experimented with multitudes of dry shampoos, all of which were either too medicinal (some actually had copy that read “For hospital patients who can’t get out of bed”), too disgusting or had faulty packaging (the Oscar Blandi spray shampoo was the best of the bunch, but the nozzle never failed to get stuck and let all the aerosol out). I eventually moved over to baby powder, which worked just as well, but left me smelling a little too babyish and, at worst, like a baby that smelled like hair (plus, isn’t talc a carcinogen when inhaled?). I’m thinking fragrances + hair smell just don’t cancel each other out.

So a few weeks ago I tried the corn starch. And yes, the stuff right off the grocery store shelf, and the same stuff I use to thicken up gravy in the kitchen. It was good. It didn’t result in a sickening medieval-era effect of covering a bad smell with a perfume; it just neutralized the smell. It can be a bit tricky to get onto the scalp without also getting all over my clothes, but I’m sure I’ll master that at some point. Perhaps Eddie, who just moved to Oregon, might have time now to experiment in that regard and advise me on the best dispensing method?

Beauty Shopping Uncategorized


Alexander the Great wanted to conquer the world. Barack Obama wants to save the world. I have always wanted to have hair with volume.

If you’ve seen my hair, you know that I have stick-straight Asian hair with a predisposition to kick out at the bottom in the exact opposite direction from what is desired (it’s like it knows…and then does whatever I don’t want it to do just to tick me off). It is also really heavy, and I’m pretty sure that at least 20% of my brain power is dedicated to instructing my head to remain upright despite the gravitational pull from the hanks of hair. If I wanted really serious volume, I’d have to get a cut where my hair was no more than 1.5 inches all around — but it’d be the wrong kind of volume (think porcupine after electric shock). I also sleep on my hair, which doesn’t help, and I’m growing out my bangs, which, though not relevant to the volume issue, really doesn’t help in general.

Part of having good volume (and the right kind of volume) is of course having the right cut. But my hair can’t have decent volume without additional intervention. For this I have two products in the arsenal. I really like these MOP products because I’m a fan of the fresh lemongrass scent, and the products hold.

  • MOP Form Foaming Gel with Light Hold. I usually put this on near the scalp where I want volume and then blowdry my hair upside down. Pro: this has given me more volume than any other product I’ve ever tried, and I’ve tried a lot of products. Con: I should probably put in for a Prozac prescription right now, because I just found out that it’s been discontinued! Why do they forsake me?!?
  • MOP Glisten Organic Volumizing Spray. If I want major volume, I’ll put this on over the Forming Gel before blowdrying. In between washes, I spritz it at the roots and then blowdry upside down — it neutralizes grease and gives a (heat-activated) lift. And I love the lemongrass-y freshness.

Try these recommendations if you have hair like mine. Send me yours. The quest continues.

Beauty Shopping

Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Top Coat

What is it about a sunset that looks so ’70s? They’re beautiful, of course, but once you snap a picture you can’t help but want to feather your hair with your portable butane curling iron. And then you start to think you need to print cursive writing Deep-Thoughts-style over it. Whatever. I just wanted to show you what we do in the winter in San Diego. This picture was from earlier this month. The alien-like figure on the right is my daughter.

So I’ve been sick now since December. Most recently, my doctor prescribed me a nasal spray called FloNase, which is just as sexy as it sounds. At first I didn’t read the instructions that you were supposed to squirt and inhale at the same time and then breathe out of your mouth, so basically everything came right back out when I exhaled. I had seen the instructions but kind of thought, what kind of idiot needs instructions to use a nasal spray? And maybe it was not such a good idea to get in the ocean in the middle of winter.

On to more important things. I haven’t done my fingernails in a long time, but living in an open-toed culture year-round, I do mostly make sure my toenails are painted. For the past 10 years I’ve been a Seche Vite type of top-coat girl, but it was always kind of a pain to get. Easier here in SoCal than in other places (we have a ton of beauty supply stores that stock them, but for me, that involves putting two kids into the car, doing four sets of buckles, driving them there, undoing four sets of buckles, dragging them out of the car and across the street, making sure they don’t eat/break/pilfer the hair nets/wig glue/bobby pins at the beauty supply store, finding the Seche Vite, paying for it, dragging them back across the street to the car…you get it), but regardless I still have to go out of my way to get it. And it is wonderful — long-lasting, salon-looking finish that’s super duper shiny. So I was pleasantly surprised to discover that at a fraction of the price, and available at your local [insert retail location where you go to buy food, toilet paper, contact lens solution], the Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Anti-Chip Top Coat is a winner. Not as gloppy as Seche Vite, it dries in 30 seconds and keeps a solid, shiny finish for a long, long time. I’ve converted.

Beauty Health

You know you’re fat when…

  • You go to talk to a gay guy at work, and instead of making eye contact with you he makes waist contact with you — he stares at the muffin-top above your pants the entire time.
  • Someone sets up a meeting using Outlook and lists you as the location.

Both these things actually happened to me this week.

I hate exercise. This was moderately ok when I wasn’t middle-aged and when I lived in a city and was forced to walk everywhere, but now on occasion I even have debates with myself on the merits of getting up from my seat to go to the bathroom versus…just not. If I were an animal I’d be a sea anemone. I’d have a symbiotic relationship with organisms that groomed me and would wait for food to come to me.

There was a time when I ran. I only run when I’m depressed. Anyway, I kept waiting for this “runner’s high” I kept hearing about. Maybe it’s just me, but unless runner’s high consists of severe cramping and the flab on your face actually detaching from your bones due to all the turbulence, I never got runner’s high.

I live in Southern California, so I have to spend a good part of the year in a swimsuit — and often times, sadly, in front of people I know. So instead of addressing the root of my problem, I ordered 6 tankinis to try on, figuring, the more coverage, the better. I ordered them from Victoria’s Secret, which I knew right off the bat was a really bad idea. It is impossible for me to tell what those swimsuits actually look like because, unlike the models, I do not have breasts that resemble a grown person’s buttocks. In fact, I could have stopped the last phrase five words in. But I’d venture to say that outside of Southern California, most people don’t look like that. So, it is not possible to tell what the swimsuit actually looks like on any normal person based on the photo. As such, it was shocking when I actually put them on. The most fitting phrase would be “female wrestler”. I didn’t think this was possible, but I looked even worse in those tankinis than in a bikini with my midsection exposed.

My new strategy is to appear in locations where I am comparatively in shape. For instance, our next vacation is going to be in Palm Desert. Next to most octagenarians, I look young, firm, and in shape. I appear lively and full of energy.

Anyway, I eat well and I try to be healthy minus that moving-around part. You can’t win ’em all.


Toe tricks

Another thing that’s fallen off the self-maintenance priority list in the past few years is pedicures. Since I live in a place now where people wear open-toed shoes year-round (hence also killing my old east-coast habit of not shaving my legs in the winter — in, um, the name of energy conservation), I’ve had to hatch a new plan on how to appear groomed without having to actually do much at all. Why should you trust me? It fools the gay guys at work. These guys can spot a wrinkle in a shirt from a mile away. Trust me — if they’re fooled, the rest of the world will be too.

So here’s what I do:

  • Start with a coat of ridge filler — I like the Essie Ridge Filler, but any ridge filler with a creamy white appearance will likely work fine. This evens out the nail bed and gives it a polished look without much color (even less than the typical “nude” shades like Essie Mademoiselle).
  • Finish with a top coat. I like the Seche Vite formula, which gives a really hi-lacquer shine and dries in less than a minute.

And that’s it! The best part is that you can let this pedicure go for a long, long time (think a quarter of a fiscal year or more) without touching it up because chips won’t show. In fact, you’ll probably end up cutting your toenails before you need to redo the nail polish. There you go…more time for you. Sleep on, friends!


Ready to go in 5 minutes flat

Like how in the few short days since I’ve started this blog I’ve abandoned my initially proposed structure?As Monday morning rolls around I thought I’d share my thoughts on a most important Monday morning skill: making your face look presentable in 5 minutes or less. In my various incarnations as a management consultant, graduate student, Wall Street slave, beauty industry professional (with even some experience doing celebrity makeup, if you can believe this disjointed resume) and marketing / general management type, I’ve tried to maintain integrity in the area of looking decent (and actually, better than that, I try to look a little nice) and since I’ve had kids have had to make that process a lot more efficient. The steps below can be accomplished even with a person or two whining and wrapped around your legs:

    • If you have dry skin, moisturize, but I skip this step.


  • If necessary, use concealer or foundation to cover up blemishes.
  • Go over whole face with a mineral powder foundation. The benefit of a mineral powder foundation is that it provides sun protection, and is inert so just about any skin type can use it. It also provides surprisingly good coverage, particularly if you are a light- to medium- coverage type of girl. I’m currently using the L’Oreal Bare Naturale Mineral Makeup, which has an SPF of 19 (and which is really reasonably priced) — and which saves me the step of having to apply sunscreen. Powders also require less care than liquid formulas, which require blending — so a quick swipe all over your face will do the job.
  • Fill in your brows with an eye shadow or brow wax; comb out using an eyebrow comb. If you’re in a real hurry you can stop here — having your brows looked groomed really makes a huge difference in making you look polished. If you’re brow-challenged, go get your brows done professionally initially, and then you can maintain accordingly — it’s worth the investment if you don’t always want to end up looking surprised all the time.
  • Apply a rosy or peachy blush (those tones work well on just about anyone). Again, you can stop here if you want to; you’ll look fine. Blush has a way of perking up your face and making you look suddenly healthier. I find that when I wear it people often ask me if I’m feeling ok (which is not a great testament to my natural beauty).
  • Finish up with a pinky-nude lipstick or gloss. I suggest these colors because they’re the lowest maintenance; I rarely re-apply once I’m in the office, so I want shades that wear off well gradually. My go-to lipstick of the moment is Clinique’s Sweet Honey, which has a great texture, is mistake-proof, and which is for me, a shade just better than nude.
    If I’m feeling really fancy, I’ll curl my lashes and swipe on some mascara too — that generally makes me look a lot more awake.


It took me more time to describe the process than it takes to do it, so give it a try. If I can give just one woman 15 more minutes of sleep, my life will be complete.