Over the years I have received a fair amount of beauty advice and information. And let me tell you, not all of it has been beneficial. In fact, sometimes well-intentioned counsel uttered with the utmost authority has left me with beauty dilemmas way more disastrous than the original problems I was hoping to solve. Granted, some of these dramas may have occurred due to my own ineptitude—I am not terribly handy or coordinated. But sometimes, free advice is worth exactly what it costs. So I’ve compiled a list of some of the doozies past and present in the hopes of sparing you the same agony.
The Notorious NYCK 13 Worst Beauty Tips Ever
- Brush your lips with a damp, old toothbrush to rid them of flakes. I really can’t tell you the origin of this tip. It’s certainly cost-effective, but can I just say, “Ouch”? A soft washcloth works just as well and is way less irritating. Or you can use my favorite lip slougher, Body Shop Lip Scuff, $12 (bodyshop.com).
- Apply moisturizer to damp skin. The theory is that the the lotion will seal the water into your skin for extra hydration. But in reality, the moisturizer just slides off my still-slick face, as does any makeup I apply on top of it. But there is also some solid science behind waiting a few minutes for skin to completely dry, post-cleansing, before applying moisturizer: lingering water droplets can prevent some active ingredients, like prescription Retinol and anti-acne medications, from being absorbed into skin.
- Wear matte and muted tones once you’re out of your 20s, since bright and dark colors can wash you out, and shimmer can emphasize lines and wrinkles. The second half of this statement is true for me. But the first half is a joke. Nothing, and I mean nothing, sucks the life out of my 46-year old face like drying matte textures and washed out neutrals. True, some shimmer can settle into lines and wrinkles causing them to stand out in bas relief, and super bright or intensely dark hues can look ghastly. But removing all texture and color from my makeup kit yielded even more disturbing results. So I am all about velvet and satin textures, which are creamier than matte but without any sparkle, in shades that can best described as “soft” and “fresh.” And note to us girls of a certain age: a subtle shimmer on cheek and brow-bones can still look really lovely.
- Lipstick and lipgloss can double as eyeshadow or blush: It’s very alluring to think that a few quick swipes of one product can make up your whole face. Think of the time and money you can save! But lipgloss and lipstick are specifically formulated for your lips (amazing, I know). They contain emollients that aren’t in blush and eyeshadow, since your lips are prone to dryness due to their lack of oil glands. These added moisturizers make lip items way too greasy for cheeks and even more so for eyelids, which are replete with natural oils.
- You can mend split ends: No matter how luxe the product or extravagant the claims, it just ain’t true. But this beauty rumor persists. In fact, I just read an ad that says its products, “Bind up to 92% of split ends back together in one use.” Save your money; the only surefire way to get rid of splits is to snip them off. I know, I know. It often means going shorter than we want to. And I’m not telling you, you have to. But I am telling you the truth.
- Use a big fluffy powder brush to apply blush and bronzer for the sheerest, most natural-looking effect: This idea has merit because big and fluffy brushes deposit a diffuse wash of color rather than a concentrated splotch like smaller tightly-packed ones. But the color can be so diffuse that you can barely see it. Or worse still is ending up with an overall too-pink or muddy-looking complexion, since the product gets spread out all over your face. I like to use a blush brush with densely-packed bristles that are just long enough to be flexible without being floppy. This way, I can control where I put the powder so I can define my cheekbones, highlight around my eyes and add an extra pop of color to the apples of my cheeks
- Preparation H is a miracle under eye de-puffer: I haven’t seen this tip around lately, thank God. But it was huge in the 90s through the early 2000s. But just in case you see it again, repeat after me, “There’s just one place Preparation H is meant to go and that’s not underneath the eyes.” Yes, this hemorrhoid remedy does contain ingredients that soothe inflammation, a key cause of puffy eyes. But bags are also caused by fluid retention, allergies and genetics, which this cream doesn’t address. Plus, other ingredients in Prep H are drying to the skin and could really sting if they migrate into your eyes. My favorite eye de-puffer du jour is MAC Fast Response Eye Cream, $30 (maccosmetics.com). It works almost immediately and makes the whole eye area look lighter, brighter and less swollen.
- Nails need to breathe, so go polish-free whenever possible: Since the nail is only alive at the part that is below the skin, there is actually no living and breathing going on where you can see it. In fact, removing polish in the hopes of giving your tips oxygen to lengthen their lifespan will only hasten their demise, since they will be left unprotected from bangs and bumps.
- Apply Rogaine to Help Grow Back Over-Plucked Brows: While its exact mechanism isn’t fully known, Rogaine is believed to work by enlarging the hair follicles on the scalp that can shrink with age, hormonal shifts and heredity, to help prolong the hair’s life cycle. But Rogaine has neither been tested on nor is intended for usage on the eyebrows. And it burns like hell if it gets into your eyes. Besides, Rogaine doesn’t grow hair back uniformly, so you can end up with random bits of fuzz. That growth pattern isn’t tragic when it’s in your scalp, but it looks pretty strange when it’s in your eyebrows. A better bet? Brow powders and pencils to fill in sparse areas. Some pros like to use both for added staying power. Use the pencil first and then retrace your steps with the powder. Try Dior Powder Eyebrow Pencil with Brush, $29 (dior.com) and Clinique Brow Shaper, $15 (clinique.com).
- Pop an Ibuprofen or two prior to waxing or laser hair removal: It may help deaden some of the pain, but since Advil thins the blood, it can increase your chances of bruising and redness. But I’m not suggesting you simply tough it out…I certainly don’t. Before I get my bikini line done, I always spray on Gigi Anesthetic Numbing Spray, $10.99 (sallybeauty.com). Trust me, this spritz is life-changing.
- Flip your head over when you are blow drying for non-stop volume: This technique actually gives your hair width (think: Bride of Frankenstein) not height. For maximum oomph, start with a really good volumizing shampoo and conditioner. I am simply mad for Living Proof Full Shampoo, $24 and Full Conditioner, $24 (livingproof.com). They make hair beautifully shiny and bouncy without drying it out or stripping the color like most volumizing products do. To style, lift sections of hair toward the sky as you blow-dry, directing hot air toward your scalp. This dries the roots in an upright and lifted position.
- A drop of hand cream or facial moisturizer tames flyaway tresses in a pinch: Anytime I try this tip, I end up with greasy, matted down locks. These products are just too emollient for anything but desert-dry hair. Hairspray seems better suited to emergency smoothing than either lotion. Spray a tiny bit into the palms of your hands and lightly pat the outer surface of your hair to calm any rebellious strands. Nexxus Comb Thru, $9.96 (walmart.com) is a good one.
- For incredible shine and softness, brush your hair 100 strokes a day: This suggestion is ancient. Vigorous brushing was probably used as a way to remove the dulling residue that the overly alkaline cleansers of the distant past left in the hair and scalp. But today’s shampoos, for the most part, are designed to rinse out cleanly and completely. So this step is unnecessary. Brushing the hair can be a good way to help distribute the scalp’s natural oils throughout the length of the shaft, which can impart shine. But over-brushing (and anything more than 10 or so daily strokes falls into that category) actually stresses and weakens hair follicles, which leads to breakage, split ends and frizz.
Ciao for now my friends. Stay happy and healthy.
If you’ve ever wanted to visit the inside of a toilet bowl, simply hop the next flight to Vegas and check into the nearest casino. I recently spent three nights and four days on “The Strip” and was truly traumatized as a result. Yes, the shopping is spectacular; the ceiling at Cesar’s Palace does look like the sky, there are some great restaurants, the fountains at the Bellagio put on one heck of a show, the pastrami at the Carnegie Deli is authentic and Cirque de Soleil is amazing—well Beatles Love is; Viva Elvis is a travesty (Our hotel sent us for free so I guess it wasn’t as bad as it could have been).
But the thing that made me the craziest, next to the sky-high prices, indoor smoking, the constant dinging of the slots and bumping and thumping of bad music, was how frigging life-sucking the air is there. True, Vegas is in the desert but there is something about the recycled overly air-conditioned air pumped into every room that literally steals years away from your life. Under these circumstances, my bags, wrinkles, lines, red splotches and puffy under eyes grew to epic proportions. And even my husband, who has none of these issues and looks like a kid, was starting to show signs of his age. My skin was so dry and reactive that I couldn’t even use my regular vitamin C and retinol-based skin care products. In fact, it is so dry in Vegas, that I had to stand under the shower for a full 10-minutes before my body even remotely started to feel “wet.”
So I did what any New York Beauty Editor would do and checked myself into the Spa at our hotel, the Aria. And true to Vegas’ motto of “thou shalt be over-stimulated at all times”, the lounge wasn’t exactly Zen; it was outfitted with two blaring TVs set to different channels and a stereo blasting bad music. Yes, I am fully aware I am starting to sound like a grumpy old woman. Not attractive is it? But Vegas has that effect on me.
The services were God-awful expensive but very respectable and the amenities are just lovely. The salt room is pretty amazing. I had an excellent massage ($245 for 80 minutes!) and a really good facial ($225 for 80 minutes!) and a first class mani/pedi ($60/$95). The body scrub/wrap ($175 for 50 minutes) wasn’t the best ever, but it was fine. But pro-body scrubs are tough because somehow you always end up wet and shivering on the table as salt is rubbed into your shaving nicks and cuts. I am flummoxed that more spas don’t use sugar-based scrubs.
But for my money, I would rather go to the Claremont Spa in Berkeley any day of the week and twice on Sunday. It is less expensive ($200 for an 80-minute massage) and way quieter. All of the services I have had there have been terrific—even the body scrub/wrap. And FYI: Janvier is a spectacular massage therapist.
Excellent facial aside, what truly rescued me and my skin from Vegas fall-out was Clinique’s Comfort On Call, which really eased the dryness and irritation that the city of sin left me with for several days after my return to Oakland. This is a really nice cream for over-stressed skin. And so on that note, I am going to stop drinking the Vegas hater-ade and spread a little new-product love for some of the other “ah-ha” beauty solutions that I’ve recently come across.
Aveeno Active Naturals Positively Smooth Shave Gel: It really, really helps you to shave less often. I may be a little late to the party on this one but I am glad I’ve arrived. This is a great product. It minimizes shaving irritation and bumps and truly maximizes your time in between shaves. Target’s copycat Up & Up Smoothing Shave Gel, btw, is just as good and a little bit cheaper.
Pacifica Body Butter in Malibu Lemon Blossom: Rich, thick, super emollient and absolutely delicious-smelling. It makes your skin feel heavenly. Love!
NYC’s Completely Bare Spa: I’ve already written about how much I love Completely Bare for hair removal, but I have to mention it again. On a recent trip back East I stopped in at the Lower Fifth Avenue location for a Brazilian and an Intense Pulse Light Therapy (IPL) touch up of areas I had previously treated 10 years ago, and once again I was floored. Renata, who runs the place, is the most wonderful woman ever and Jen did a painless--and I mean painless--wax (no numbing spray required) and thorough IPL job. And since the hairs were so sparse and fine, the treatment didn’t hurt at all, and now those hairs are history. But even when IPL hurts, it’s so worth it. Completely Bare could be one of my favorite places on earth and at least for me, it definitely trumps Vegas. Ciao for now my friends. Stay happy and healthy.
The fashion media seems to be obsessed and I mean obsessed with this new type of product category called BB (Blemish or Beauty Balm) Creams. In fact, you can’t flip through any ‘zine or visit any site without running into a mention of one or more of these puppies. And it’s no wonder; these multi-faceted moisturizers of Asian descent purport to do everything under the sun. They can act as a makeup primer, tinted moisturizer, anti-aging serum and/or blemish blaster all at the same time. So how could you not get all sorts of excited about one small product capable of solving all of these beauty concerns? The idea was definitely blowing my skirts up. So I put three popular brands to the test.
Dr. Jart Premium Beauty Balm SPF 45, $39
Claim to fame: A moisturizer, sunscreen, treatment serum with “natural-look” coverage that minimizes the appearance of imperfections and evens skin tone, while restoring firmness and elasticity.
I love that this product has an SPF45 and it feels really nice, like it’s wholesome and good for your skin. It also does a good job of blotting out imperfections and evening out skin tone. However this balm also sucks up any naturally occurring radiance and rosiness in the process. The result is ghastly. Seriously. I am pretty sure this phenomenon is due to the copious amounts of zinc and titanium dioxide the product is formulated with ( 6.35% and 9.015% respectively.) Another minus? When you blow your nose, this tinted balm rubs off on your tissue. Yes, that is as revolting as it sounds.
So I headed back into the Sephora at Union Square in San Francisco, where I had bought the balm, hoping to inject a little life into my corpse-like complexion. The lighting in all Sephora stores is so deplorable that I looked even worse there than I did in my sunny apartment. And trust me, I looked horrifying there. So I was feeling really, really good about myself…not! But Zoe, a simply adorable and knowledgeable sales associate, took pity on my intense pallor and was somehow not surprised that Dr. Jart was the root cause. She set to work swirling Nars Laguna bronzing powder across my cheekbones, the bridge of my nose, forehead and neck. Next, came the blush in Amour, a pretty, deep rose. Considering I had just bought Oasis blush the week before I was not happy; the Amour looked way better. So wonderful Zoe said I could return Oasis for a full refund even though I had already used it and thrown out the box. How much do we love Zoe?
After Zoe worked her magic, I really did look lovely. But it seems like a whole lot of work to make this product, um, work. I never wear bronzer—ever—and this beauty balm demands it. So, in total, I not only shelled out $39 for the Beauty Balm, but also $28 for the blush and $34 for the bronzer—all for the privilege of using a multi-purpose product. And despite the tissue incident, this balm is a total bitch to remove at night—it positively adheres to the skin when you try to take it off. Go figure.
Garnier B.B. Cream Skin Renew Moisture Skin Perfector Light/Medium, $12.99
Claim to fame: “Immediately and effectively fulfills your skincare expectations with just one multi-benefit product that combines intense moisturizing skincare + immediate skin-perfecting coverage for skin that looks naturally more even, radiant and smooth.”
The drill: This SPF 15 product is lightweight, moisturizes nicely and has a pretty natural-looking tint. It does soften splotches but not in a truly meaningful way. But maybe that’s a good thing, since it also doesn’t rob your complexion completely of all signs of life. I’m assuming that’s because it gets most of its sun protection from a chemical source and doesn’t contain zinc oxide, just titanium dioxide(percentages are not listed on the label). Even so, it still required Zoe’s two-step dance of bronzer and blusher to help prevent people from asking me if I were “OK”—always such a confidence-booster.
The verdict: I really wanted to like this item. (I love it when I love drugstore products.) But I just can’t seem to work up a head of steam over it. First off, I find SPF 15 way too wimpy for every day use, and secondly, this balm doesn’t seem to do anything more than what an average drugstore tinted moisturizer can do, which costs on average a buck less and doesn’t require bronzer and blush. Garnier’s formulation also flunked the tissue test, but it was easier to remove at night than Dr. Jart’s version.
Clinique Age Defense BB Cream SPF 30 (Shade 02), $37
Claim to fame: “This instant morning routine gives skin just about everything it needs for a quick start. SPF protection, antioxidants for prevention, plus enough coverage to banish imperfections. “
The drill: Available in three light tints, this balm is geared toward people with fair complexions. The shade range didn’t quite grab me, though: 01 was too light and too pink; 02 was a tad too dark and a hair too yellow. (Zoe told me me my complexion is “neutral” so I need to find shades that contain the right balance of pink and of gold; this balm did not, at least for me.) But it did a pretty decent job of blurring redness and pigmentation splotches without totally obliterating my complexion’s vital signs, and I only needed a dusting of blush on top versus the bronzer/blush combo the other two products required. It is formulated with 3.5% zinc oxide and 1.10% titanium dioxide and thus is far less complexion-dulling than Dr. Jart’s product.
The verdict: All in all, the Clinique balm wins out in this dubious product category contest. An SPF 30 is great for daily use, the formula was comfortably moisturizing and it left the most life in my face of the three entries. Still, it did not quite pass the tissue test and was also incredibly difficult to completely remove come bedtime. This paradox is killing me. Why do these balms come off so readily when I sneeze, yet cling so tenaciously when I cleanse?
So not to pee on anybody’s parade, but Notorious just can’t jump on the Beauty Balm bandwagon. A tinted moisturizer (and you know I’m on the fence about most of those) or foundation with effective skincare ingredients seem to deliver better results without imparting that disturbing preternatural paleness. This is one beauty obsession you can let pass you by. Call me old fashioned, but I’ll stick with my tried and true Bobbi Brown Extra SPF 25 Tinted Moisturizing Balm (a foundation/moisturizer hybrid that leaves a dewy finish). It’s not a trendy “beauty balm” per se and it’s been around for several years, but it is the bomb. The reason? It actually makes me look better instead of worse when I wear it. Ciao for now my friends. Stay happy and healthy.