Posts Tagged Beauty Essay

How My Crochet Braids Shaped My Identity and Helped Me Find My Confidence

My hair and I have a complicated relationship.

Growing up, I never gave my hair the self-care it needed. I would tie it up into a ponytail, get relaxers on a daily basis, and refuse to use any product other than shampoo and conditioner (which also contained high levels of sulfate – a huge no-no for curls). Point blank, my hair was damaged and thick, and I didn’t take the time to learn how to maintain my natural type 3C hair .

The only time I experimented with my hair and gave it an ounce of care that it needed was when I had braids. Sometimes I would leave the house in my usual ponytail and return home with anything from cornrows to dutch braids. I never got a massive haircut or color, so this was how I felt bold.

Braids were a way for me to connect with others and feel confident. Then I started high school, and I started to push away from the familiar styles I grew up with to fit in. I stopped wearing the style for fear of being put into a box with only people that looked like me, while also believing I wasn’t “Latina enough” or “black enough” to embrace it in the first place.

I spent years during and after college trying to figure out my identity, which included embracing the features I once stripped away. I threw out all my hot tools, stopped getting relaxers, and finally put the ponytail to rest. I decided to give my curly, coil-y hair the love it deserved.

Still, braids were always in the back of my mind. This Summer, I looked around at the different styles, colors, and textures of braids and it gave me a wave of nostalgia. I started keeping a collection of inspiration from Instagram in hopes that I would find the courage to get my hair braided again.

However, I was anxious and nervous. Although I’m a woman of color, I feared I would misrepresent or squeeze my way into a community uninvited. The thought of wearing braids again, especially a newer style, made me feel like a fraud. Braids have been around as far back as 3500 B.C. from Africa as a sign of social status, unity, and simple pure art; yet time again, women of color, specifically black women, are scrutinized and judged for wearing braids or other natural looks.

So, I asked a trusted friend for her honest opinion. She put all my worries to rest, saying I shouldn’t feel judged, and even volunteered to give me crochet braids – a protective style that uses extensions (which can be hair, yarn, or thread) and loops it into your actual hair with a crochet needle. It’s also the perfect way to maintain my dense, curly hair in the hot Summer months.

While the braiding process itself was familiar to me, nothing prepared me for the finished look. I made my way into the bathroom and couldn’t believe what I saw in my reflection. It was me, yet I felt like a totally different person. Physically, my hair was longer, but mentally, it was a little deeper than that. I felt the same way my younger self girl felt when I got my hair braided by her friends. I felt beautiful, confident, and unapologetically me.

However, the big test was leaving the confines of my friend’s house and stepping into the real world. Once I headed to the train, I felt all eyes were on me. Maybe I was paranoid, but I felt like I was holding a big neon sign over my head that said, “Look at what I did!” Finally, I took a deep breath and lifted my head up high – because dammit, I felt good!

I spent the next three weeks with my braids and all the fears I had went away. I received countless positive remarks and compliments. My appreciation also grew for women of color who continue to be leaders of the natural hair movement and celebrate their braids in every shape and form. These women ignore society’s perception of what it means to have “good hair” and continue to highlight their culture – our culture. My crochet braids didn’t just provide me with a new look, but they also gave me the permission to be the person I’ve always been.

Why I Gladly Spent $800 on the Most Perfect Hair Extensions

Something magical happened to me the month before my wedding , and it wasn’t just the idea that I was going to marry my soul mate. I discovered hair extensions , and for better or worse, they changed my life forever. (Apologies if that sounds melodramatic, but it’s true!)

To put it bluntly, hair extensions are the nose job my mane always needed. I was born with fine, flat locks that return to their natural state <a href="

“>the second I leave Drybar. Until that glorious day at Bumble and Bumble, one month before my wedding , when a talented stylist painstakingly bonded Great Lengths extensions into my hair. Great Lengths extensions are made from gorgeous, human hair, and they are fused to small sections of one’s real hair with pure keratin.

The process takes about three hours and costs around $1,200. At the time, I thought it was worth every penny. I left the salon with the hair I always wanted and never thought I could have. It was long, lustrous, and it held blowouts for multiple days. It was perfect. And as a lifestyle blogger and stylist , I quickly realized flawless hair was the one accessory I never knew I needed. Something about my new, cascading waves made everything brighter: my outfits looked better, I was more photogenic, and my extra hair seemed to give me extra confidence, too.

But unfortunately, some love stories must come to an end. (And luckily, in this case I’m not referring to my marriage!) In my opinion, Great Lengths has one major flaw: it can fall out. And it can fall out at inopportune times. Like that time I was meeting a co-worker at the Plaza Food Hall for lunch, and I had to discretely tuck a long strand of hair into my purse. How does that happen? Well, since everyone’s hair naturally sheds, sometimes the extensions come along for the ride.

Taking out hair extensions is also time-consuming. A removal gel is applied to each of the bonds and rubbed into your hair until the bond breaks down and slides off. This process could take over an hour if you have a full head of extensions. But I was willing to look past these flaws until I decided to get pregnant and go au natural. (And by au natural, I mean I went to Ricky’s, bought some clip-ins, and had a stylist cut and color them to match my hair to get me through nine salon-free months.)

I used the clip-ins throughout my pregnancy and for three more months after my beautiful baby girl was born. But I missed the ease of waking up with a full head of perfect hair that I could refresh with a quick spritz of dry shampoo . So back to Bumble I went, and my stylist, Carrie Hill, introduced me to a new tape extension that the salon launched last Fall. To be honest, I had my doubts about sticking tape onto my hair. But after several applications and removals, I’m officially hooked. Keep reading to learn more about this salon process and discover if it’s right for you!

You Are Better Than a Smoky Eye – So Don't Ask For It Again

After being a makeup artist for over a decade, I can pretty much size you up the minute I see you coming. I can quickly assess you by your outfit, your bag, your hairstyle, and your jewelry and know immediately that you want only a tinted moisturizer . I know that, even when you say you want something more than that, you won’t like it.

I know that you use retinol everyday without you telling me. I know that you have botox and fillers. I know that you only wear chapstick on your very chapped lips. When you say “Um yeah, I have an eye cream,” with hesitation, I know that you are referring to the free Clinique sample that has been in your drawer for at least a year. I also know that you are compulsively plucking your brows that “just never grow!”

I don’t judge. I really don’t care what you do at home. Please, I am asking you to just be honest.

I can also tell as soon as you sit in my chair, if you can handle a lot of makeup or not. But without fail at least once a day, a preppy, non-makeup wearing woman will sit down and look me straight in the face and say “I think I would like a smoky eye.”

I don’t know who came up with this clever term, but if I ever meet him I will punch him in the face.

You don’t want a smoky eye . You like the idea of it. You see Kim Kardashian on Pinterest and you fantasize about having this sultry look the next time you are attending a wedding or bar mitzvah. You imagine yourself as a much younger, sexier version of yourself, and you think that at the ripe age of 37 you are now ready to look like that sexy woman on Instagram with fake eyelashes and “contour” and black eyeliner rimming every inch of your eyeball.

Sometimes you have a Naked Palette from Urban Decay so you think you are edgy, but if you were to be honest you would admit you only use the lightest shades in the palette and the darker colors are untouched. You may have watched the tutorials on YouTube on “how to create a smoky eye,” so you think you are ready for it.

You’re not.

I know it.

You will have to learn the hard way.

“So do you normally wear a lot of eye makeup?” I ask innocently, while I prep your skin. I start with a soft fleshy tone on your lid and then I add a little bit of a darker tone. Never a true smoke color, because I don’t want you to cry or run away. You will clutch the hand mirror and ask if you can look. I will let you.

I know. Please stop saying this. I don’t even know how to make someone look like a clown. If you hired me to do clown makeup I would have to decline the job. I am not in the clown business. I am simply attempting to do what you requested me to do.

PS. We haven’t created any “smoke” yet.

You will clutch your mirror and try to watch what I am doing, as you give me permission to proceed. I will add some dark brown or smoky color in your crease. I add some smudgy black liner and some mascara. You don’t even have two layers of fake lashes on yet like a Kardashian . I see that you are clutching your hand mirror and your knuckles are white so I let you take a peek.

You don’t. But you also don’t look like yourself.

I ask if you would like me to take off some of the makeup and gently remind you that you are nowhere near the amount of makeup featured in the Instagram photo that you showed me when you first sat down. You sheepishly say that you would like to take off some of the liner . . . and maybe some of the dark shadow.

I take off the makeup.

You say “Maybe just do what you think looks best?”

Now we can get along.

I suggest a more realistic “eye look” that will allow you to feel comfortable while still making you look good. I say “Let’s create a look that shows off your eye color and makes you look like a better version of yourself.” The tension in your shoulders lessens and the grip on the hand mirror relaxes a bit.”Yes, let’s do that.” you say with relief.

Because you are not Kim Kardashian, nor do you want to be. You will not be followed by the flashbulbs of the paparazzi and you will not spend your days taking selfies. You simply want to look like a better version of yourself and a “smoky eye” does not do that for most women.

You will leave with hydrated glowing skin and makeup that makes your blue eyes pop and your cheekbones glow. You are simply a better version of yourself, and you will walk out the door with your head held high and a little bit of a skip in your step.

You are better than a smoky eye. So don’t ask for it again.

Too Faced Co-Founder Jerrod Blandino on Breaking into the Beauty Industry

Jerrod Blandino is the founder of Too Faced Cosmetics .

I’ll be the first to tell you that working in the beauty industry is full of glitz, glamour, and fabulous creativity. I’ll also be the first to tell you it can be tough. It’s been almost 20 years since I started Too Faced with my husband and business partner, Jeremy Johnson.

It’s been an incredible journey and along the way when people ask me for advice on breaking into the industry I always tell them it’s going to take guts, more work than you can ever imagine, prayer, and a belief in yourself and what you’re doing that will push you to the edge – but it’s worth it. Take the road less traveled and above all be prepared to work your ass off.

Along the way, you might find that people might discourage you from going for your dream, even people who love you, because they are afraid you might fail. Find the strength in yourself to go on because there will be 1,001 reasons to give up, but all of that hard work will teach you more about yourself and reap more rewards and love than you can imagine. If you’re lucky enough, all your dreams will come true and you’ll get your happy ending.

Read on for some of my best advice for anyone looking to break into the industry.

Don’t Do It Better – Do It Differently
When I started Too Faced, I was at the cosmetics lab, and I saw these amazing vessels of glitter that I wanted to have pressed into an eye shadow. The woman working at the lab said it couldn’t be done.

I said, “Well, why not?” and she told me how binders work. So I told her to just add more binders! I was so naïve that I didn’t know things were impossible.

It worked, and we created the world’s first glitter eye shadow. My entire career I have stayed true to the idea of pushing boundaries and never taking no for an answer. I’m not always concerned with trying to do things better than someone else, I want to do it differently. That’s how you change the world.

Never Say “No”
I always tell my team you can say not right now, or not today, but you can never say no. To break into an industry as tough as beauty and to stay competitive and innovative you’ve got to push yourself and your boundaries.

You don’t change the world by accepting the limitations of your circumstances, of science, or of other people’s ability to understand your vision. You have to keep pushing. True pioneers turn no’s into yes’s.

Failure Is Temporary
Listen, if you’re not failing, then you’re not risking anything or growing. Failure is temporary, but success is permanent. In the beginning, there were times where our bank account only had change and where major things didn’t go as planned or were out of our control. From each failure we learned and we pushed ourselves to succeed.

The wonderful thing about failure is that it can be your greatest gift in the end.

We’ve all heard of other brands’ success stories, when it seems like they hit it out of the park overnight. That was never us. You’re going to fall down a thousand times on your way to the top, and the wonderful thing about failure is that it can be your greatest gift in the end. Sometimes you learn more from your failures than your successes. Don’t let it define or discourage you. Let it empower you.

Sharpen Your Makeup Tools
If you can keep your eyes, heart, and makeup bag open, you will go far. Try that new product, go to that seminar, and do makeup on anyone who will let you. I started my career working behind the makeup counter, and it was a fast track through my own personal makeup school. I got to touch so many different faces, ages, skin tones, and work with so many different products. It is the best way to truly learn about makeup.

Be a makeup junkie. Live it, breathe it, own it.

The Natural Deodorant That Weaned Me Off Antiperspirants

My longtime relationship with antiperspirants was like that of a social smoker and cigarettes: I knew they were ultimately harmful and comforted myself with the notion that I would one day just give them up for good. The problem is, I was never really certain when that day would come.

I started using more intense antiperspirants just before college, which was around the same time I got more invested in working out regularly. I was so frequently going from class to the gym to the cafeteria and wherever else life took me that I developed a preemptive fear of smelling bad in front of my peers and the people I was trying to befriend.

When I started interning at the start of my sophomore year, I grew to rely upon my intense deodorant habit even more. I was suddenly having to work in professional environments that felt so out of my league, and it kinda made me sweat.

Around the same time, I kept seeing stories about the harmful effects of common antiperspirant ingredients, which can include aluminum compounds and parabens. Antiperspirants than contain aluminum are especially risky because they can be absorbed into your bloodstream and have been linked to breast cancer , according to the National Cancer Institute.

Here lies my real problem and the source of a lot of paranoia. My grandmother, my mom’s mom, passed away from breast cancer in her 30s. Though she was diagnosed at a time when research and treatment were scarce, that’s certainly not the case right now. If there’s reputable information out there about the harmfulness of antiperspirants, then why the f*ck was I using them?

I gave it some thought and realized that my health and longevity were more important than the strength of my deodorant. My next issue, however, was finding the right natural deodorant that smelled nice and was still effective – although I was prepared to be let down by the effectiveness after years of using my stronger one. After arming myself with some knowledge about other aluminum-free deodorants , I ended up settling on Milk + Honey’s cream deodorant in coconut and lemongrass scent.

Image Source: Milk + Honey

I had a bunch of initial reservations. First of all, the deodorant is $16, which definitely doesn’t make it an economical choice. Also, the notion of a cream deodorant that you have to scoop up with your hands – and thereby rub directly onto your armpits – kind of grossed me out.

While I have to admit I still feel weird about applying it by hand, the price has become slightly more understandable since I realized how a tiny amount of the thick cream can offer a lot of protection. I’ve also become obsessed with its refreshing scent. It smells crisp, fresh, and gloriously lacking in weird chemicals that my body does not need or want. Just the other day, I got a whiff of my armpit as I was working out and it actually smelled nice, ultimately passing the most difficult smell test.

I’m sure I’ll try other types of natural deodorants, but for now, I feel at peace knowing that I can throw away my intense antiperspirant and rely on this pleasant option without fear of offending my co-workers and fellow gym-goers.

The Scary Side Effect You Could Suffer After Your Next Massage

When I’m low on cash but highly stressed, I turn to affordable beauty treatments to soothe my frazzled nerves. One of my favorites is receiving a deep-tissue massage in Chinatown, NYC. I usually pay about $40 (tip included!) for a full hour of bliss. However, after a recent massage – which was wonderful, by the way – I started feeling sick. Really sick: about an hour after the rubdown, I threw up.

I couldn’t believe it. I’d felt nauseated post-massage before, but never enough to actually hurl. And by the way, after puking, I felt great (from head to toe . . . stomach included). In attempts to find out why this happened to me, I conducted a deep Google search, which revealed nothing quite informative enough for my liking.

Luckily, when I’m desperate to solve a problem, my job as a beauty editor allows me to consult experts. I reached out to Heather Wyborny, massage therapist at the esteemed Golden Door spa in San Marcos, CA, to get to the bottom of this phenomenon.

First, I needed to know what a deep-tissue massage actually did, because, yes, I was just blindly going in for treatment. “A deep-tissue massage reduces heart rate, blood pressure, and levels of stress hormones, enhances immune function, boosts levels of endorphins and serotonin, and increases blood circulation,” explained Wyborny. Therapists use firm, concentrated pressure to break through tension of deeper muscle and connective tissue – which can sometimes hurt.

That soreness is the most common side effect of deep tissue massage. My vom-fest was a pretty atypical reaction. On my short-lived Google search, I had read that nausea was due to “toxins being released into the body,” which sounded a bit hokey to me. “Massage stimulates movement of the lymphatic system and byproducts of muscle metabolism,” Wyborny clarified.

A deeper dig into the lymphatic system’s functions revealed some interesting information. In fact, one of the primary responsibilities of this part of the body is responsible for removing waste from the blood. Lymph then shuttles said waste off to be filtered through the liver and kidneys, and eventually excreted.

This waste can be anything from allergens and excess fat to viruses and bacteria. If you have too much lymph in your body, it can build up in the tissues under the skin’s surface – the same tissues that are manipulated during a massage. It would make sense, then, that a deep-tissue rubdown would cause your body to suddenly be flooded with those toxins in your lymph, making you suddenly feel icky. Not as hokey as I thought!

Headaches aren’t uncommon post-massage, especially if your therapist does a lot of deep work in the neck and shoulders, Wyborny remarked. But nausea occurs less frequently, she said, and that one could feel queasy because of dehydration.

Drinking lots of water before and after your appointment is an obvious solution to remedy dehydration (and in turn, nausea). Wyborny also advises sipping on ginger tea and “doing some deep breathing exercises and stretches ” after your massage to allay any signs of illness.

If, like me, you’ve experienced an upset stomach after what was supposed to be a relaxing experience, you might want to consider switching up the style of massage therapy you receive. Wyborny recommended opting for a light Swedish massage. This technique consists of long, gliding strokes instead of the more probing pressure of deep-tissue work. “Or just focus on scalp or feet,” suggested Wyborny.

I definitely haven’t sworn off massages for good – and I’ll even be going back to my spot in Chinatown. But I’ll be sure I’m plenty hydrated first. Otherwise, I’ll be searching for a new way to de-stress on the cheap! Pedicure, anyone?

Why Microdermabrasions Are the Best Exfoliating Treatments For Your Skin

I am a really boring beauty editor. I don’t get Botox , fillers, or any fancy cosmetic dermatology treatments (sorry, I can’t give your mom a first-hand account of Fraxel). My hair is virgin , meaning I’ve never colored it. And my best tip for antiaging is to eat cleaner , because IMHO, beauty starts from within – as in the gut .

That said, there is one treatment I get every month at the dermatologist’s office, and that’s a microdermabrasion. It takes about 15 minutes total, it’s relaxing, and it leaves me with smooth, glowing skin. I’m talking about the type of face you only see a week after a facial or when you get back from a truly hypnotic vacation. And it garners me compliments from co-workers and family members.

If you’re a beauty connoisseur, you’re probably thinking, “What?!” It’s so unexpectedly old-school. And if you’ve never heard of microderms, then you’re probably also thinking, “What?” Let me answer your questions: To the former I prefer gentle, tried-and-tested treatments over trending, invasive ones. The photo above is not photoshopped and features my true skin at 31. And to the latter, a microdermabrasion is a machine used to exfoliate the skin.

Let’s get into the science! I interviewed my dermatologist, Dr. Amy Wechsler , for a deeper analysis. She’s actually the derm who worked with Chanel to create the brand’s first ever fragrance-free face lotion, La Solution 10 . And if you haven’t used it, you need to, because it will make your face feel velvety without any fragrance or irritating ingredients .

Dr. Wechsler explained what a microderm really does: “You gently remove all the dead cells on the top of the epidermis, which is called the stratum corneum. And in removing those cells all at once, it stimulates the cells beneath it to all renew at the same time. There are no chemicals involved, it’s a mechanical treatment.”

To help you decide if microderms are a suitable treatment for your skin, Dr. Wechsler broke down everything you need to know about them:

How your skin will look after a microderm

“Skin will look smoother, more even. There will be more of a glow or a brightness to the skin. All those dead cells on the top can make your skin appear a bit dull or gray. After the microderm, you’ll have an even skin tone without those dead, grayish cells on top.”

Microderms vs. peels

“I think microderms are the best, because there are no chemicals and there is no damage to the epidermis. I like chemical peels, but the main chemical peels that we use here are salicylic acid based. Those are great if you are very acne prone or have active acne, because it calms it down. But peels are drying. When you do microdermabrasion, you’re not drying someone’s skin out or putting a chemical on their skin that stings. And it’s relaxing – some people even fall asleep!”

Microderms vs. microneedling

“I don’t like microneedling. It tries to mimic what Fraxel laser does in making little micro openings down to the dermis; so that if you damage the dermis in tiny ways, it heals by laying down new collagen. Microneedling just doesn’t make sense to me – I’m not really quite sure what the goal is. I don’t think that it’s been studied enough, and it’s just this big fad that I’m not jumping on.”

Who can get a microderm

“It’s really for everyone other than those who have chronic acne. Any skin tone, any ethnic group, men and women – it’s really great in that way. It’s not invasive, and it’s safe. You can even do it during pregnancy, because there are no chemicals involved whatsoever. You can do it if you have a tan. I don’t want people to have tans, but there are some procedures that you actually cannot do when you’re tan, and this is not one of them.”

Why acne-prone people should avoid it

“I find that if you’ve got active acne, a microdermabrasion can stimulate it and make it a bit worse. There are some doctors who absolutely disagree with me and do microdermabrasion on purpose on their acne patients. I’ve seen those patients afterwards and they’re worse.”

When should you avoid them

“Before the treatment, I don’t want people to have just done a peel, microneedling, or laser. Skin should be untouched by other procedures for at least a week, if not two.”

What to know about your skin after a microderm

“Take care of your skin post-treatment by moisturizing and wearing sunscreen. After a microdermabrasion, the skin actually absorbs and accepts moisturizer or serum much better than if you didn’t get one. So your skin can get like extra moisturized, and it lasts for a couple weeks. Since your face accepts moisture so well, it will feel smoother. Makeup artists love people who get microdermabrasions – they put primer or whatever on, it looks great.”

How often you should get them

“If you can do it once a month, that is the best. More frequently than once a month doesn’t do anything. Many people don’t have the luxury of going once a month. I certainly don’t do mine once a month – I should – but I say that the minimum should be quarterly.”

Where to get them

“I love when people do it in a doctor’s office, because then you know the instruments are sterile. If you’re doing it somewhere else and they’re using wands, I like people to be shown that the wand is in a sterile package. It’s like when you get your nails done, and they have those sterile packages.”

Why it’s more than just a facial treatment

“Getting a microdermabrasion feels good, and it’s relaxing. It doesn’t hurt, and it doesn’t sting. Your eyes are closed, and you’re not on your phone. Someone is taking care of you, and I think that’s such a good way to de-stress. It’s 15 minutes once in a while, but it’s so good for your brain and your cortisol levels to just take a little break. Whereas there are some procedures that, because they hurt, don’t give you that same relaxing, cortisol-dropping, stress-relieving feel.”

This Instagram Movement Will Make You Stop Photoshopping Your Face

The morning I took the selfie ahead , I did not feel good about my skin. It was blotchy and dull, and I had a few breakouts. I attempted to take a Snapchat but immediately deleted it, because the results were not flattering. Since I was into my hair that day (shout-out to Jen Atkin’s line, Ouai , which gave me those air-dried beach waves), I wanted to make it work. So I blended some of Charlotte Tilbury’s new Magic Foundation onto my face, along with Clé de Peau Beauté concealer , La Prairie cream blush , and Benefit highlighter . I was shocked when I stuck my camera phone in front of my mug and was able to snap a photo that needed little filtering (and I can admittedly feel very self-conscious about my #selfies ).

I didn’t want to brag – because that’s so obnoxious on Instagram, right? – but I was really excited about how glowy my complexion looked thanks to makeup. Unlike past images, I felt no need to zoom in using apps like Aviary, Snapseed, or Facetune to blur my under-eye bags, red spots, or fine lines. With a touch of brightening, the photo was ready to post. But before I pushed “share,” I wanted to call out that this was a “real” photo. So I dug around the social media tool and discovered that diverse women have been using the hashtag #nofacetune when they shared similar sentiments and images.

The message behind #nofacetune is to shed light on the fact that these close-up pictures were not photoshopped in a popular app called Facetune . Kim Kardashian famously uses a comparable one called Perfect365 , while many top vloggers rely on the former. In this essay , I coined the term Botox Instagram Face (aka BIF), which described the flat, matte complexion you often see on influencers. In person, their skin looks very different, but these aforementioned Photoshop Instagram apps can quickly change it with just a few swipes.

#Nofacetune is the antimovement to the BIF. Instead, women are calling out the foundation, self-tanner, and other makeup they’re using instead of Photoshop. And if some skin imperfections show through the coverage, so what? Makeup is not necessarily natural, but it’s a lot more realistic than photo manipulation. Instagram users are also going deeper, bravely revealing their bare skin – sunspots, wrinkles, and all – and philosophies on the matter.

Instagrammer Sarah Woodier writes: “It’s shameful that apps like ‘facetune’ and *ahem seriously* ‘cream cam’ exist, you don’t need a smooth face, no wrinkles, no freckles to be beautiful. What does it do for self confidence adjusting your face to within a inch of recognition? How does that increase your self worth when you’re not being yourself. I would revel in our differences and embrace the ageing process, you are you and nobody else can be you. That’s pretty powerful. Please embrace the you that doesn’t need to look like a generic version of beauty/womanhood. We’re all different and that’s a GREAT thing.”

Her message is empowering – as are these 15 photos shared by real women (including yours truly) incorporating the hashtag #nofacetune. There are even some familiar faces, such as a model made over by Kim’s go-to makeup artist, Mario Dedivanovic, and Jourdan Dunn . I encourage you to share your own snap and tag us (@POPSUGARBeauty ) so that the world can see your true beauty!

The One Thing You Should Never Say to a Women Over 30

Image Source: Giafrese

Last week, I struck up a conversation with my Uber driver. As the conversation continued around politics, he made an assumption that we were close in age, saying as someone in her late twenties/early thirties, surely I could relate. I pointed out that I’m actually in my mid-forties (I’ll be 45 in June), at which the driver abruptly adjusted the rearview mirror with shock and said, “There is NO WAY you’re that old! You don’t look your age!”

This situation happens to me often. I know he meant it as a sincere compliment, but I’m troubled by the concept that somehow I’m winning at life because I don’t have more visible, external signs of aging. It seems after a certain age, “You don’t look your age!” is supposed to be the Mother of All Compliments, feathered in a soft nest of “I would never have guessed!” and “OMG, are you serious?” While I appreciate the flattery, I’m always left with a very uneasy feeling: what does that say about how we feel about women and aging ?

What makes this well-meaning compliment so unsettling is it implies there’s something wrong with looking middle-aged or older. We live in a youth-obsessed culture. It’s almost as if we have invisible expiration dates on our skin, and any sign of wear and tear sets off an alarm. The catalyst makes us feel suddenly shamed and expendable.

Our societal thirst for youth is undeniable. Entire magazines dedicated to “The Age Issue.” Intense media scrutiny on the appearance of every woman in the public eye, as parodied by Amy Schumer, Tina Fey , Amy Poehler , and others in “Last F*ckable Day .” And the beauty business wages a full-scale war on time, complete with antiaging weaponry meant to eradicate, decimate, and bury all evidence that a woman might be getting older, like “age-defying lasers ” and “miracle worker ” eye creams. Every day, I watch women battling time with everything they’ve got, attempting to stay in the same jeans from high school while pushing foreign matter into their faces in order to literally freeze everything right where it is today, forever and ever more.

The fear of being seen as anything less than sexually viable, the palpable threat of being traded in for a younger model, the intense messaging that we’re going to die alone if we show a crack in the armor of our skin – all of it is crushing, pervasive, and punishing. We treat women like the newest release of the iPhone: just wait a minute, because we’ve got a hot newer model coming, and she’s so much sexier than your old one that we’ve made the old model obsolete.

I find this incredibly disturbing. The lines running across my forehead mimic those of my father’s. And I can’t imagine doing something to get rid of them. Recently, I discovered the magical power of rainbow-colored hair, and I defy someone telling me I’m too old to have it. My jawline and breasts are slowly descending, and outside of exercise, good bras, and products, I’m letting them continue on their path. I truly find softness truly sexy. But I am worried about the women my age (or older) and for the young impressionable girls who are imprinted with an unnecessary fear of aging.

My age is awesome . I know so much more than I have ever known before. The light that shines within my skin is knowledge of how amazing life can be if you just hang in there. I laugh more easily, and I’m so much better in bed because I know my body. My soul, wit, intelligence – the very spark of life within me makes for my vibrancy. I feel like I’ve done a pretty damned good job taking care of myself. I come from a long line of extraordinary black women who take incredible pride in appearance, and we all have daily rituals that reinforce that sentiment.

“The less you do to your face, the less you will ever have to do to you face,” is a mantra my mother once said. I swear by it. I don’t wear a lot of makeup, I cleanse, I treat, I moisturize; repeat daily. Outside of that, I’ve never had anything “done” (re: cosmetic dermatology). The only needles near my face have involved piercing my ears and dental work, and the only surgery has been wisdom teeth removal. No fillers, no nothing. It’s real, and it’s all mine.

That said, I did start using products at the young age of 9 years old, when my Olay -obsessed Aunt Bert used to slather my face with the legendary cream. I would stand on the stool in her bathroom as she performed her nightly beauty ritual.

Image Source: Courtesy of Kristin Booker

At first, I used moisturizers as a teenager to offset the drying effects of cleansers and astringents. And that routine has now evolved into a twice-daily regimen of cleansing, serums, and moisturizers. My regiment has guest-starring appearances from other products weekly, because I test so many things. But the mainstays remain SkinCeuticals Gentle Cleanser ($34), Simple Cleansing Micellar Water ($7), Kiehl’s Since 1851 Midnight Recovery Concentrate ($72), and, you guessed it, Olay Moisturizing Lotion For Sensitive Skin ($10).

I also admit to spending a ridiculous amount on night creams (my desert island products would be Erno Laszlo Luminous C10 Night Treatment ($135) and SkinMedica TNS Eye Repair ($102).

Since there’s no beauty cream or cosmetic procedure that can cure our obsession with youth, I’d like to propose a different solution: awareness. Instead of telling a woman she doesn’t look her age, just tell her she looks good. Really good. “Wow, you’re beautiful,” is something every single person on the planet recognizes as sincere currency, and we can live off that bank of positive energy for days.

Also, accomplishments, goals, dreams, and intelligence are incredibly beautiful. Women living unapologetically, like Angela Bassett, Halle Berry , Oprah Winfrey , Lauren Hutton, Meryl Streep , and Rita Moreno, are vibrant, exquisite beings. Smart brands are starting to recognize the sensuality that comes from a life of experience. Marc Jacobs embracing Jessica Lange, Joan Didion in a Céline campaign, NARS featuring Charlotte Rampling, and most recently Lancome signing on Isabella Rossellini are all steps in the right direction.

The childish fear of the inevitable end of our lives is forcing us to take extraordinary measures that don’t celebrate women. Ladies, if you’re with people who don’t see the sum of your beauty, ditch them and find your tribe of women who are as juicy and amazing as you. Same goes for the men in your life. Someone out there will love you right as you are . . . no further assembly required.

It’s time for a new standard of beauty. Let’s all look amazing, regardless of our age. The ultimate compliment is to recognize all of what’s in front of you, inside and out. Every single woman has something to bring to the party, and it’s time we celebrate that in all its glory.

Lasering Off My Mustache Was Worth Every Penny

I will never look the same as I did at age 28. (I’m 37, for the record.) But while I miss my 28-year-old metabolism, there is one thing I don’t miss: my mustache.

Thanks to my Sicilian genes, I am a fuzzy lady, and while I appreciate that the mane on my head is dark and thick, it’s a constant battle with my body hair. I don’t mind shaving my legs, grooming my eyebrows, or even getting bikini waxes. But having a hairy face feels decidedly unfeminine.

A few years ago, I decided to take it all off. I’d heard mixed reviews about electrolysis, so I talked to my dermatologist about laser hair removal, and she told me I was a perfect candidate due to my relatively light, olive-toned skin and dark, thick hair. As she explained, the greater the contrast between the color of your skin and the color of your hair, the more effective laser hair removal is.

My doctor’s office didn’t offer laser hair removal, so they referred me to a dermaspa while advising that any reputable spot would probably be fine. When I found an online offer for discounted treatments at LaserAway – the California chain endorsed by Kim Kardashian – I jumped. If it’s good enough for Kim, I thought, it’s good enough for me.

For years, I’d been bleaching my upper-lip hair; due to my use of Retin A and sensitive skin in general, I wasn’t able to wax. But as I got older, my hair got thicker and thicker, and I had to bleach it more and more frequently, and I wasn’t fooling anyone. A thick yellow mustache is still a mustache. I’m sure no one else noticed it as much as me, but it drove me crazy.

After my first surprisingly quick and easy lasering session, I left thinking, why didn’t I do this sooner? Basically the only barrier to lasering my whole face was the high price tag, but having laser hair removal on my upper lip was some of the best money I’ve ever spent.

Below, you can see my before shot. I’ve circled part of my furry blonde mustache for your convenience.

Everything You Can Do to Prevent Wrinkles Without Getting Botox

 This is what a pickup line sounds like in your 30s:

“Wow, your skin is so nice,” an old college acquaintance told me. “You don’t have wrinkles like some of the other girls.”

“Is this really what flirting has come to these days?” I thought, as I made my way from the bar back to my boyfriend. In my sorority years, a dude would tell me I had a great rack and nice shoes and buy me a shot. Now, at a wedding full of 30-somethings, a guy I haven’t seen since college tells me I’m aging well.

Sure, the compliment made my day – since, as a beauty editor, I put a tremendous amount of effort into my skin care upkeep. And I’m proud to say, there’s no Botox involved. But as my Champagne buzz kicked in, I had a nagging feeling that there was more to the topic: Women are obsessed with youthful skin. Men are obsessed with youthful skin. Society is obsessed with youthful skin. And this fixation keeps starting younger and younger.

My job as a beauty editor allows me to reach millions of millennial readers, so I feel a responsibility to help change the conversation about cosmetic dermatology treatments. I promise that you don’t need Botox – at least, probably not yet. While women in their 20s are now getting what’s called preventative Botox, I’m countering aging with a method I like to call “preventative moisture.” But more on that later!

Yahoo Beauty’s 30-something senior editor Joanna Douglas shares the same sentiments. In this essay about why she won’t get Botox , she explains that even though she is offered the perk of free cosmetic treatments through her job, she rejects it every time (as do I). She writes, “Yes, our society is youth obsessed, and if media is to be believed, I’ve already passed my prime. But I refuse to spend the next 30, 40, 50, 60 years fixated on looking younger.”

When I spoke to my friend Amber Katz, a beauty writer in her mid-30s who founded , she revealed that she is also needle-free. “I’m not saying I’ll never do it, but I am comfortable enough with my face right now. I don’t think freezing my forehead will make me look younger at this point. I can often tell when people I know have had injections. Many people have it done well, and you can’t tell, but I’m not willing to take the chance at this moment.”

Image Source: Instagram user kimkardashian

What Is Preventative Botox?

In 2016, Botox is relatively normal, especially in certain circles. If you’re 25 and your derm is shooting Botulinum toxin (the formula known as Botox, which temporarily paralyzes muscles) into your forehead, no one lifts an eyebrow . . . that is, if their arch area isn’t frozen.

I know a 26-year-old beauty editor who already gets Botox, despite having gorgeous, born-with-it dove-white skin. When I ask her why, she says, “I’m getting preventative.” She is referring to a hot term in the cosmetics dermatology industry called “preventative Botox.” The idea behind preventative Botox is that if you get the procedure early on, it will keep your face from making expressions that could cause lines, so you won’t get those lines later in life.

“I do a lot of Botox and I do believe it has a preventative role, but there has to be a reason,” said plastic surgeon and 111Skin founder Dr. Yannis Alexandrides. “So what is that reason? People who grimace or frown a lot; people who tend to have a special expression on their face that repeats the same movement and creates creasing in the skin.”

OK, fine. But here’s the thing: I have fine lines on my forehead. They were there 10 years ago, and they are expression lines, meaning the area around my mouth creases when I smile and my forehead crinkles when I am surprised. If I were to get injections in my forehead, I wouldn’t look younger, I would just look Botoxed. I wouldn’t look like myself.

Plus, the cosmetic treatment doesn’t always work; you can get immune to it over time. Amber brought up another point: “Sometimes it can lead to ‘bunny lines,’ which are wrinkles around the nose and inner corners of the eyes,” she noted. “Injections can be the aesthetic equivalent of course correction in time travel in a sci-fi movie: The wrinkles show up in some other form somewhere else.”
Image Source: Instagram user jadeywadey180

My Theory on Botox

You’ve probably seen the Botoxed Instagram Face (or BIF, as I am calling it) on your feed. Thanks to social media, we have access to view an endless stream of stunning makeup artists and celebrities who have the BIF. The face looks like that of a mannequin, smooth and glossy. Check out the Instagram handles of Kylie Jenner (48.6 million followers), Anastasia Beverly Hills (8 million fans), or vlogger Huda Kattan (10.6 million). While I truly enjoy admiring these inspirational accounts, the women all have the same smooth, taut look. Perhaps it’s due to skillful makeup or savvy photoshopping (via apps like Facetune ) rather than cosmetic surgery, but it still sets a BIF standard of beauty that millions of women are subscribing to. In our high-def age, everyone seems to be unnaturally ready for their close-up.

Do people who have a BIF actually look like their younger selves? In my opinion, no. Absolutely not. I am going to go out on a limb here and say it: wrinkles and facial expression lines can be totally sexy.

Recently, I met with the French head of research of a major skin care company. She was definitely older than me with fine lines peeking through her dewy skin. And I found her to be so attractive – she looked unapologetically her age. And it projected confidence!

I had a similar reaction when I visited Provence, France, and met a 70-something woman who worked in flower fields, harvesting lavender for a skin care brand. The crinkles around her eyes were hard-earned from years of smiling and being happy. (Side note: Kim Kardashian has advised against smiling in photos because it causes wrinkles, and I think that is bat-sh*t crazy.)

These two French women are clearly knowledgeable about skin care as it is what they do for a living, but they’ve chosen to age gracefully and naturally. Though I enjoy looking at the BIFs on my phone, I aspire to age like the French women do, celebrating my life however it shows itself upon my face and neck.

Meet the Solution: Preventative Moisturizing

Make no mistake: I am not letting myself go, either. And I would like to clarify that I am not against Botox and do not judge those who get it at all (some of my best friends do). And I predict that one day, probably in my 40s or 50s, I will try it. I just don’t believe we – women in our 20s and 30s – all need to get it now.

Botox is not a magical band-aid that fixes bad habits like smoking, drinking, and sunbathing. It won’t give you a lit-from-within glow – the kind that comes from being in love or eating tons of vitamin-packed fruits and vegetables. It will freeze your muscles so you can’t make certain expressions and temporary fill in fine lines. Botox does not give you perfect skin; it gives you smoother skin.

Fortunately, there are other less-invasive tools that do the same thing. And I am sharing an effective antiaging method I’ve been doing since my late 20s that I call “preventative moisturizing.” Here’s what I do: whenever I see a fine line creeping into my forehead or around my eyes or lips, I put serum , moisturizer , or oil on the area, depending on what my skin needs that day. With enough hydration, the lines go away. Poof! It sounds easy and simple, but I promise you that it works.

When I look women my age in the face, I often notice that their skin looks dehydrated. And while lotions are also not magical potions, they do plump the skin with youth-enhancing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, retinol, or vitamin C. If you are acne-prone, be sure to choose a simple, oil-free products.

Dr. Alexandrides backed up my philosophy. “I believe in preventative skin care from an early age – even in the 20s – and the reason for that is that skin progressively loses collagen from the 20s but it’s not visible,” he said. “Usually the changes start becoming visible in the mid-30s, so that’s when most people think, ‘Oh now I have some fine wrinkles, let me start using some antiaging cream.’ However, if you start earlier you would have pushed that time much later into life in a preventative way.”

Don’t freak out if you’re 30 and those crinkles start showing up. Preventative moisturizing works on them, too! “Fine changes can be reversed with high-quality products if it’s something consistent,” Dr. Alexandrides noted. “I would recommend a serum and a retinol oil at night, because that will work long term. And I would say moisturizing is the first step.”

When I asked him how much moisturizing is too much, he replied: “Well that’s similar to asking, ‘how often can I drink water?’ You can moisturize as often as you want. I would say a minimum of twice a day. If you’re in an extremely dry environment, do it more often.”

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Benjamin Stone
POPSUGAR’s executive editor Nancy Einhart is 37, has fantastic skin (pictured), and doesn’t get Botox. She believes in preventative moisturizing, too. “I know moisture makes a difference with my wrinkles, because when I don’t get enough, I look older – especially after a night of drinking or a long flight,” she told me. “So I try to stay ahead of it with eye cream and moisturizer every day and every night, a retinol every other night, and a moisture booster or serum in the Winter. Plus, I do a moisturizing mask twice a week, and I spray MAC’s Prep and Prime Finishing Mist over my finished face to make sure it doesn’t get dry and cakey.” 

Amber – who swears by Dr. Brandt Needles No More 3D Filler Mask – follows a form of preventative moisturizing that extends to her makeup routine. “My mom famously eschews powder in all forms, even eye shadow,” she explained. “I don’t subscribe to the shadow thing, but I do skip setting powder and powder bronzers and blushes, unless I’m being photographed or videoed. My mom also looks about 20 years younger than she is, so I heed this advice! There are so many great cream products on the market, I don’t feel like I’m missing out. Especially powder-to-cream formulas like Flower Beauty’s blush in Tickled Pink . It’s my favorite! ” 

It may seem like a lot of work – and you can read about my own personal skin care regime here – but it’s a price we’re willing to pay to avoid injecting chemicals into our faces. The official name of Botox (Botulinum toxin) even has the word “toxin” in it. I worry that it can’t be good for you – especially when it sits so close to your brain. Personally, I spend so much money buying organic produce and detoxing at the spa. The act of getting Botox seems to go against all the hard work I put into having a healthy lifestyle.

Image Source: Andy Barnham

Extra Natural Ways to Tackle Antiaging

In addition to my moisturizing ways, I have picked up other antiaging tips and tricks. First of all, no tanning – especially on your face. Here’s my PSA: if you lie in the sun without applying SPF 50 every 20 minutes, you will get wrinkles and sunspots. No exceptions. So don’t do it! And wear a hat and oversize sunglasses to cover your eye area.

Dr. Doris Day told me not to chew gum for more than three minutes (as it can cause lines around the mouth) and to talk with my eyes (while relaxing my forehead). During a recent Tammy Fender facial at John Barrett Bond Street , my esthetician, Natacha Delacruz, advised me that my eye area was tense from squinting at the computer screen all day. I now actively practice resting my face (it’s also good for stress levels!). Peach & Lily founder Alicia Yoon (read: the master of Korean skin care trends) told me she gently tugs her scalp every day to tighten her face. Massaging the area around the eyes when you apply eye cream is also a fantastic way to depuff the area. Get consistent facials every few months. (In the photo above, I am about to get an oxygen facial, and the image is completely unretouched.)

The rest you know: Eat clean. Drink water. Do yoga. Get enough sleep. Be mindful. All of these things add up, and they will make you look 100 times prettier and glowier than Botox ever will. On one hand, you have the older French woman who has practiced these methods throughout her life. On the other, there is the 20-year-old who stays out late partying, tans, and eats processed food. Again: Botox simply can’t fix all of that damage.

My mother is in her 60s (you can see a photo of her here ), and she has naturally crease-free, porcelain skin. She definitely hasn’t gotten Botox – the woman doesn’t even use moisturizer or wear makeup (except for special occasions), and she washes her face with water. Her secret is to stay out of the sun, and when you do go in it, wear SPF 70 and a big floppy hat. Before “organic” was a buzzword in the early aughts, she had our family on a natural diet. When it comes to my mom’s youthful skin, I will use one of her favorite phrases: “the proof is in the pudding.”

At the end of the day, you need to be your own doctor. These are only my thoughts and theories, and you need to decide for yourself how to care for your skin. Maybe I’ll see you at the dermatologist’s office one day, both of us waiting to get Botox injections. But I sincerely hope it’s not for a very long time.

10 Gym Beauty Hacks That Will Get You Ready in 10 Minutes

If we’re friends IRL, then you know I’m obsessed with working out. I can probably be found at the gym doing a HIIT training, Spin, yoga, or cardio dance class at least five times a week before 8 a.m. And if I’ve learned anything from Taylor Swift , it’s that you can leave the gym looking fresh . But if only having between 20 to 30 minutes to get ready before work stresses you out, then keep reading to learn all of the tricks I’ve discovered to help you clean up quickly!