An Art Exhibit That’ll Get Under Your Skin

Last week at the opening of “Borderline: Depictions of Skin,” an exhibition at the Garis & Hahn gallery on the Lower East Side, I was asked to think more deeply about skin and its place in the world.

The exhibit features mixed media work by Gwen Hardie, Cynthia Lin and Diana Schmertz. Each of the three artists presents different perceptions of skin in an attempt to force the viewer to “confront their own relationship between their body and the world,” as the press release puts it. My favorite pieces on display made me feel a little bit uncomfortable–and that’s a good thing.

When I go to an art museum or gallery, the works that make a lasting impression are the ones that stir up some kind of emotion inside of me—heartache, amazement, confusion or disgust. Standing in front of a photograph, installation or what-have-you, if I don’t feel something, I move on. At Garis & Hahn, I lingered on several paintings of interlocked hands by NYC-based artist Diana Schmertz. Her figures made me think of touching, of skin on skin, and I felt sort of squirmy. It was as though I had gotten a peek of something private, something I wasn’t meant to see.

I had the pleasure of meeting Diana at the exhibit and she shared her thought process behind three of her pieces.

1. Something on the Other Side Of It: “With the works that have piles of hands, as opposed to the circular moments of contact, I am conveying ideas about interconnectedness and perception, as well as, ideas of linear versus non-linear time. I believe the idea of interconnectedness is easily assessable. We are social beings and what we do effects other people and the environment we are a part of. The idea that each interaction stays with us and effects the rest of our experiences is also evident in the pile images.”


2. The Cause of Itself: “It addresses the idea in western philosophy that something cannot come from nothing. Everything is a reaction to an action. Hence, it is believed nothing can be the cause of itself.  This leads to the question ‘What was the first action?’ In this painting, the pile of hands has no beginning or end demonstrating a lack of knowledge or understanding of ‘the cause.’”


3. Container of Time and Space: “These works are a mixture of ideas from my gridded works and the piles. I express the idea of interconnectedness by piling the moments of contact together and dissonance in the fact that each moment is mechanically separated into a geometric circle.”


In my daily life as a beauty writer, I tend to think of skin as just an organ that needs moisturizer or a blank canvas for makeup, which is why I really enjoyed the concept of “Borderline: Perceptions of Skin.” The exhibit as a whole is a reminder that skin is so much more.

Photos courtesy of Diana Schmertz
Do You Know Any Women Whose Armpits Look Like THIS?

Jasmine Tookes VS

Whenever a brand or magazine gets carried away with Photoshop, the blogosphere is quick to call them out for screwing up women’s self-esteem with unattainable images of stick-thin legs, miniscule waists and suspiciously swanlike necks. Well, I would like to shed light on another unrealistic beauty standard: perfect armpits.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that in pictures, most models and celebs have poreless, pimple-free skin, but retouchers don’t stop with their faces and limbs. Their pits always look incredibly smooth and even-toned, too. It’s as if no hair has ever grown out of them, ever. They’re like babies’ armpits. Check out these examples:

Karlie Kloss on her Muse Spring 2013 cover.


Joan Smalls on the cover of the January issue of Vogue Japan.


This model from the April issue of Elle UK.


And there’s also Jasmine Tookes, pictured at the top of this post in a Victoria’s Secret catalogue. I’ve never seen a woman over the age of 12 with such pretty pits in real life, which is why they jump out at me when I flip through mags. Watch, I bet you’ll start noticing them more now, too. It’s kind of hard not to. Those pages are filled with flawless underarms! Filled, I tell you! I’ll get over this little fixation eventually, but in the meantime, I felt compelled to drag you down with me. You’re welcome. Oh well, at least Dove might be making some money off of the whole thing. Somebody’s got to. Might as well be Dove, right?

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True Story: “I became a model at age 49.”

I went to a photo shoot on Monday and I got to bond with a great lady by the name of Cindy Joseph. She’s been modeling for 12 years, but get this: She was almost 50-years-old when she got discovered. Her story is so inspiring.

Meet Cindy Joseph, silver-haired and proud!

Cindy getting prepped on set.

Before she began working in front of the camera, Cindy was making her living behind the scenes a makeup artist. After 27 years in the biz, she retired and shortly after was approached by a casting agent on the street. “I thought it was a joke. I thought someone was playing a trick on me. But the next day the agent called and asked me to be in a D&G campaign. That was in 1999.” Once the ad hit, a friend encouraged her to get an agent and Cindy signed with Ford Models. She’s still with them today. “I’m doing the same things I did as a makeup artist—travelling and going to shoots—only as a model instead,” Cindy says. How’s that for a second career?

Cindy in More magazine.

And if that’s not impressive enough, Cindy started her own line of beauty products two years ago called Boom! By Cindy Joseph. The collection includes BOOMSILK, an allover moisturizer made with organic honey, olive oil and beeswax and three BOOMSTICKS for shimmer, color and moisture. She sent them to me and I’m so into BOOMSTICK Color ($24), which is like a berry-tinted cream blush stick you can put on your lips and eyelids, too.

One thing BOOM! doesn’t do is prey on women’s fears about getting older.  As Cindy puts it: “My line is not about concealing, fixing or covering things up, it’s about bringing out the way you look naturally when you’re turned on to life and having a good time. I don’t like the words ‘anti-aging.’ I’m pro-age!”

You gotta love this woman. Are you as inspired by her as I am?

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Women Are Getting Bikini Waxes WHEN?!

Forget “toe-besity” surgery, bird poop facials or $13,213 face creams, the most shocking beauty news I’ve heard this year came from a waxing specialist—you won’t believe what her customers do!

Yasmin Ibrahim, a waxer at Eve Salon in New York City, told me that 60% of the women who come to see her for a bikini wax are—wait for it—on their periods. “Over the last couple of years, I’ve been telling clients to come in on the fourth or fifth day of their period. Unless you’re really sensitive, your body is just better able to deal with the waxing then—it’s less painful. I’ve tested it myself,” says Yasmin, who has worked at Eve for ten years.

This blew me away. I’ve always heard that a bikini wax hurts like hell the week before Aunt Flow comes to visit, and that the week after your cycle is the ideal time for a wax down below. It never occurred to me to book an appointment during my cycle because…ew.

Clearly many women in NYC aren’t squeamish about this, but I don’t think I would feel comfortable letting a waxer get up close and personal with my lady parts when it’s that time of the month. Uh uh, no way! I would rather just pop a couple of ibuprofens and grit my teeth through the torture like I usually do. Unless I happen to find a scientific study that proves waxing on the rag makes the service considerably less uncomfortable (by at least 50%). Then maybe it would be worth the extreme awkwardness that I imagine I would feel while laying on the table, legs spread, with a tampon string hanging out of me.

But to Yasmin, working around a Tampax is no big deal. “I just move the string out of the way. And most customers are considerate and put in a fresh tampon right before their service,” she said.

I never would have known about this surprising hair removal behavior if it weren’t for my friend Amber. She went to Eve right before a recent vacation and her waxer, Maya, told her she could have—and should have—come in while on her period for a more pleasant experience. “The 11-year-old girl in me began blushing immediately,” Amber said.

I don’t blame her for being mortified, but now that I know waxing during menstruation is commonplace at one popular salon, I’m wondering if it’s going on everywhere. Is this practice more normal than I think? BTW, Yasmin said if you want to try it, call your salon or spa ahead of time to make sure that they’re comfortable doing it. And, um, I would suggest tipping a little extra.

So, have you gotten a bikini wax while on your period? If not, would you dare? 

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The Book That’ll Make You Wish You Had Freckles (Or So Happy That You Do!)

I have a bone to pick with T: The New York Times Style Magazine.  They posted a bunch of stunning black-and-white pics from the new photography book “Freckles” by Reto Caduff, and now I’m mad at them for making me want to get yet another coffee-table tome that I don’t need. Thanks a lot, guys!

As the title of the book so directly implies, it’s filled with images of freckle-faced women in all their natural glory. Caduff told T Magazine that that he wanted to showcase the beauty of freckles because at photo shoots he’s worked on, they often get masked with makeup or they’re retouched out later. And that, people, is annoying. It’s one thing to erase something like a pimple or dark undereye circles, but freckles aren’t flaws that need to be hidden. They’re beautiful! Bravo to Caduff for celebrating a feature that’s so unique–we could use more confidence-boosting projects like this in the world. Hey, Caduff, if you’re reading this, how about a sequel about gap teeth?  Seriously, it could be cool. Just think about it.

Anyway, T’s post inspired me to obsess for hours look at shots of freckles on Pinterest. Take a look at my favorites, but know that you miiiight be tempted to draw tiny little dots on your face with a brow pencil when you’re done.


Source: via it’s on Pinterest


Source: via it’s on Pinterest


Source: via max on Pinterest


Source: via it’s on Pinterest


Source: via Morrie on Pinterest


Source: Uploaded by user via markovich on Pinterest


Source: via Serena on Pinterest


Source: via Rachelle on Pinterest


Source: via max on Pinterest


Source: via Thinkin’ on Pinterest

Has your freckles envy kicked in yet? Or do you already have cute little spots? Which one (or two or three!) of these photos do you love?

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You Never Forget Your First (Sign Of Aging)

Despite what celebrities will have you believe, aging is normal.

There comes a time in every young woman’s life when she notices that her skin is acting…different. Nothing major, but enough to sound a tiny alarm inside her brain. Like the sheet marks that used to disappear in minutes, now hang out on your face for hours. Or maybe you used to pride yourself on never looking tired (or hungover). But lately, when you only get four hours of sleep, it shows. Sound familiar? Take a deep breath and calm down–something really good can come out of this.

Discovering your first sign of aging can be the kick in the pants you need in order to revamp your skincare habits for the better. In other countries like France or Japan, women are trained on proper skin care at a young age and they stick with a consistent routine throughout their lives. Here in the states, we tend to be more reactive–we’re all about fixing problems instead of preventing them in the first place.

For example, I recently met with Adriana Altuve, an Olay research and development expert who has spent a lot of time observing women’s beauty rituals around the world. She told me that there are seven (yes, seven!) steps in the typical Japanese woman’s daily skincare regimen. Think that’s extreme? Adriana told me she met a woman in Japan who splashes her face with water 40 times before she even washes it to make sure her skin gets enough hydration. Now I’m not saying you gotta do all that. I’m just suggesting that we could all stand to learn a lesson from ladies overseas: Put in some work each day and you’ll have less to panic about later on. Your first sign of aging is the perfect motivation.

My conversation with Adriana (and the new faint-but-definitely-there parenthesis lines around my mouth) inspired me to stop being so lazy. I’ve even added two products to my routine that are making a huge difference.  One of them is RoC Retinol Correxion Deep Wrinkle Night Cream, which I apply under my night moisturizer. I realize the product is probably more appropriate for an older lady, but I figure it can’t hurt to use it now. And my skin definitely looks smoother since I started using it a few weeks ago.

The other product I’m into right now is Dermalogica Precleanse, an oil-based product that feels amazing on my skin. I used to just do a quick swipe with a makeup remover wipe at night and hop into bed. Now I use this before my face wash and my skin doesn’t have that tight, dry feeling I get sometimes when I use a foaming cleanser. After I wash, I apply my retinol cream and my night moisturizer on top and I’m done. I still have to force myself to do it–old bad habits die hard–but I can see the payoff when I wake up in the morning. And I’m sure when I’m 60, I’ll be glad I spent those extra few minutes on my skin.

What’s up with your face—have you noticed any signs that you’re not 19-years-old anymore? Or are you still getting carded? Let me know the deal in the comments section and include your product picks!


The Best Thing About The Most Beautiful Issue Of ‘People’ Isn’t The Cover–It’s The Naked Pictures Inside!


Don’t worry. They’re the kind of nude pics that are safe for work–I’m talking about photos of celebrities with completely bare faces.

Not that I wasn’t excited to see Beyoncé looking all flawless on the cover of People’s Most Beautiful issue, but when I got my copy of the magazine, I only skimmed her Q&A. Instead I flipped right to the section featuring close-up shots of stars like Paula Patton, Zooey Deschanel and Rose Byrne wearing “nothing but moisturizer” on their skin. I just can’t resist a good celebrity-without-makeup photo. I click those links all the time on the internet. I even confessed my fascination on Twitter.

Paula Patton: Beautiful and brave.

It’s not that I want to see stars looking bad. I just want to see the side of them that looks more real. You know, the side that reminds me that underneath it all, celebs are just regular human beings with little flaws and insecurities like everyone else. It puts everything in perspective.

Even though the People photos are probably airbrushed–at least a little bit–I think it takes a lot of courage for famous people to go nude. We’re living in a world where people are getting chin implants to look better on Skype, for crying out loud, so going makeup-free in a major magazine is a kind of a big deal. I wonder if there are certain stars who would NEVER do it. Jennifer Lopez comes to mind. Can you think of anyone else? Do you post pictures of yourself on Facebook or elsewhere without makeup? Own up to your vanity or lack thereof in the comments section below.

P.S. You know who else looks really pretty without makeup? Olivia Wilde.



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Where Are All Of The BBBs (Brown Beauty Balms)?

BB Creams should come in shades for all skin tones.

It’s been a while since a completely new skin care category has been introduced to the beauty world, hence all the fuss about BB Creams, which have hit stores en masse over the last few months. If you haven’t heard, “BB” is a nickname for beauty balm or blemish balm. The creams, which were a hit in Asia before they made their way to the states, are have become so popular because they’re extremely multifunctional. They’re primers, tinted moisturizers and sunscreens all in one tube. Sounds amazing, right? They are—unless you have dark skin. The thing is…

…most BB Creams only come in one or two shades–sometimes three–but that doesn’t leave many options for women with brown complexions like mine. Even if your skin tone is olive, you might have trouble finding a good match.  Yo, beauty industry—what’s up with that?

Since the BB Cream genre is new, I wondered if there is something about it—like the unique texture or the formulation—that would make it difficult to produce in deeper colors. I asked my friend Trae Bodge, Senior Beauty & Lifestyle Writer for and co-founder of Three Custom Color Specialists. But Trae told me dark BB Creams are totally doable. “From a product development standpoint, foundations for darker skin are very tricky because dark skin is infinitely more complex in tone than fair skin.  Where fair skin may have around eight different tones around the face, darker skin can have over 25, which is why it’s so hard to get right. That said, there is no excuse when it comes to BB’s or tinted moisturizers. Because they have a sheer payoff, there’s a lot more wiggle room with the shades.  You could easily have one or two darker shades and call it a day,” Trae explained.

Until the day comes when more brands decide to produce some good BBBs (brown beauty balms), there are a few products out now that are worth trying:


Photo: courtesy of Smashbox

Smashbox Camera Ready BB Cream SPF 35 in Dark: The color matches my complexion really well and I love the texture. My face tends to get shiny during the day, but when I wear this I don’t have to use my oil-blotting papers. It makes my skin look smooth and even, but real–not like it’s underneath a layer of heavy coverage. This cream also has one of the larger shade ranges (it comes in five colors!) so the medium shades could be a good option for South Asian women and Latinas as well.


Photo: courtesy of Sarah McNamara Beauty

Miracle Skin Transformer SPF 20 Face in Dark: This doesn’t say “BB Cream” on the label, but based on what it does (mattifies, primes, covers, hydrates) it’s pretty much the same thing. Trae suggested I try it, and I really like it. I think as I get more sun, I’m going to have to try the Deep Dark shade, but Dark is working well for me right now. It doesn’t feel as hydrating as I would like, but if I put on a serum or light moisturizer underneath, I’m good.

Dr. Brandt Flexitone BB Cream: The back of the tube says it adjusts to “most” skin tones, but it left my face with a slightly ashy cast. But I think this product is worth mentioning because it could work for those with light to medium-light complexions that are hard to match–like biracial or multiracial women. Trae fits into this category and chalkiness wasn’t an issue for her when she tried the Dr. Brandt cream.

I want to get your take on the trend–have you jumped on the BB Cream bandwagon yet? Which one(s) have you tried? 




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Three Things I Learned From A Genius Makeup Artist


If you have to be stuck at a really long beauty presentation, pray that makeup guru Pati Dubroff is there. Up until recently when I met her at a Clarins event (she’s the brand’s celebrity makeup artist), my interactions with Pati have been limited to brief phone interviews or email exchanges. I knew she was full of great beauty tips, but I had no idea that she has that rare knack for owning a room. The woman actually had me hanging on her every word while she talked about the early days of her career, her celebrity cover shoots, and the products she swears by. I left the event totally inspired. Here are a few things I learned that night:

  1. Don’t ignore your childhood passions. If you’re struggling to figure out the right career path, or want to start a side hustle, the stuff that you were really into as a kid could give you direction. Pati said she’s been “obsessed” with makeup since she was ten-years-old. She began working as a makeup artist as a teenager, and kept paying her dues and pursuing her dream. 30 years later, she’s got dozens of major magazine covers under her belt, and a long list of A-list clients.
  2. A little primping can help you focus.  “Feeling beautiful gives you a boost of confidence so that you step out into the world feeling strong, like the best version of you. If you elevate your confidence, and you’re not worried about how you look, that allows you to be fully present. You’ll be able to give more others,” Pati told me.
  3. Facial oils are like a fountain of youth. One of Pati’s favorite Clarins products is the facial oil—she said she slathers it on her face whenever she’s not wearing makeup. She also told us that her friend and client, the gorgeous, 51-year-old Julianne Moore, is a big fan of oil, and it’s the secret to her amazing skin. Sadly, the Clarins oil wasn’t in the gift bag we all got at the event, but I hope to get my hands of some of this magical stuff soon.
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