did you hear something

So J and I get home the other day and there is a stack of Amazon boxes, not an unusual occurrence. I get clogs (smell like plastic; returning) and my favorite sunscreen (Biore Perfect Face Milk, PA+++++++++, all the way from Japan) and J gets a Gibson shirt. One big heavy box with someone else’s name and address is at the bottom. I immediately hop on Amazon to tell them and the customer service rep says the items have already been replaced, so whatever is in the box is mine to “discard or donate”.

With a little too much enthusiasm, admittedly, I dive in. It’s like Peeping Tom and Santa Claus appeared at once, even though the box is most likely to contain some banal necessities of life, like fish tank pebbles or multi packs of Windex.

Item #1: two-pack of lavender scented Baby Foot exfoliating foot masks. Okay. I don’t care for Baby Foot, but its presence suggests a certain level of beauty savvy; there could be a giant vat of La Mer underneath, or maybe an Urban Decay palette.

Items #2 and 3: PlayStation 4 games. No clue what they are but they are both marked M FOR MATURE so I can only assume lots of lifelike gore, bloodshed and pixilated boobs.

Item #4: PlayStation 4, Call of Duty flavor. V heavy. J and I have a repro Atari with wired controllers, so we are not the target audience.

Item #5: pair of rose gold tone 14 gauge nipple rings with “crystal” accents. Not even CZs, people! Why does this bug me? They’re nipples! They deserve better than this.

And at the end of this, I’m left with feeling like someone’s day was seriously ruined by not getting this box on time. Also, would it be creepy to donate a perfectly nice brand new and unworn pair of nipple rings to the humane society? Please advise.

exorbitantly overpriced yet surprisingly efficacious product of the month

No, no. Not this guy. Well, wait. I don’t know how much he is, nor his degree of effectiveness.

That sleepy/stoned looking dude is Dr. Stuart Kaplan, another “celebrity dermatologist” who’s shit out a line of pricey products. I don’t know about anything about him, except there is another Dr. Stuart Kaplan who is a neurosurgeon in Vegas, which I’m sure is a pain in the ass for both of them. Dermatologist Dr. Kaplan has a small line of stuff, most of which seems somewhat uninteresting and predictable. Neurosurgeon Dr. Kaplan may have a line of products too, but I hope none of us have any need for those kinds of things.

Regardless, one of my recent Sephora impulse purchases included Dermatologist Dr. Kaplan’s cute little lip mask and balm duo. I’m not a fan of sugar scrubs for lips — I don’t feel like they do anything. And I seriously despise dry lips. Not only does it feel and look gross, it’s impossible to get those little shreds of dry skin off without drawing blood. All around not cute. So naturally, I had to try this enzyme based “lip mask” with its twee little matching SPF 20 balm. The balm wasn’t bad — sort of minty with a perfectly mellow sheen — but it suffered from that funky sunscreen taste that all those products seem to have. I really dug the mask, but I managed to lose the tiny vial pretty quickly. It’s probably in the same place as my Becca mattifying primer, the other small loaf pan, and all the lost socks.

Despite only having had it for a few weeks, I missed it. The full size mask is FORTY EIGHT DOLLARS. This is stupid. I put it off, put it off, and put it off until my peeling wanton lips cried for resuscitation. I fucking ordered it, feeling like the biggest sucker ever. Okay. First off, the container is HUGE — one full ounce. The container is made of heavy glass and feels all fancy and shit. The smell is vaguely minty and the texture just lovely, thick and velvety. I’ll glop it on a couple times a week when I first wake up, making sure to smear it all around well past the lip line, and let it work its magic for fifteen minutes or so. It’s not burny or tingly, just feels sort of cool and mentholy. Then, when I wash my face, I’ll use the wet washcloth to scrub off whatever is left (usually not much, as a lot of it seems to get absorbed or otherwise disappear). They say you can leave it on overnight too, which I have yet to try*. I always rub whatever’s left over on my fingers into my cuticles, because why not.

The “plumping” action could certainly be due to the irritative effect of the peppermint extract, so, okay fine. There certainly is a little plumping action but what blows me away is the complete painless obliteration of every tiny shred of dry nasty skin. Just glorious baby butt smoothness is left in its wake. Total love! Insert lots of heart eyed emojis here! So even though I am thoroughly embarrassed by the admission that a $48 lip mask has become a ride or die product, so be it.

Do you guys have any favorite products or methods to eradicate the dreaded dry lip? Or how about any new embarrassing product admissions we haven’t yet discussed? Come on, enable me.

*although I may try wearing it overnight this weekend, since there is a certain Halloween costume that is going to require a dark lip, which sort of makes me itch at the mere idea.

bye september

September sucked. It just sucked. September and October are, by default, the hardest months in the desert. The rest of the world is buying sweaters and thick socks and taking deep breaths full of crisp brown leaves and the first fires. We’re still using air conditioning and wearing flip flops. It’s vile. Add to that some truly extraordinary workplace bullshit and sad family stuff and stupid medical issues and it’s really amounted to a lame month. The least of my concerns was the largest zit that I’ve had in probably two years, gracing my nose like a fungating tumor. October had better pull its shit together, because I don’t like whiners, especially when I am the whiner.

In the meantime, I will continue to slather myself in sheet masks and tequila and lust after my latest exorbitantly expensive obsession. As they say, this too shall pass.

trend whore

Face oils, double-cleansing, cushion compacts, contouring, contouring and highlighting, strobing, Korean skincare, brows on fleek (shudder – I’m sorry). It used to take a solid year or two for trends to work their way from the coasts inward to middle America. It’s quite incredible how this has changed. (Get off my lawn!) We could blame the internet, but I think it’s her bratty little sister, social media, that’s truly responsible. It would suck to be a skincare and/or makeup manufacturer today. Not only do you have to watch emerging trends with an eagle eye, you’ve got to have the resources to concoct and shit out a competitive product in the blink of an eye. Then, you’ve got to make sure your production and ingredients can stand up to the inevitable dissection that will take place across multiple platforms by self-important, otherwise uneducated individuals with loud voices. Seriously, this sucks. But I digress.

This frantic pace has led to a lot of what I find really silly products and services. Take eyelash extensions. You have to go something like every two weeks, at $75 a pop. As extravagant and superfluous as I can be, even I say really? Nail art? Same deal — pricey, time consuming, will need to be redone before you get your next period. No. I realize this is probably a function of me being a) a busy professional who b) has very little tolerance for going out in public. But still! That’s crazy money and time for something that is so temporary and insignificant.

So you can imagine how I feel about face masks. Not regular old, smear-on-allow-to-dry-wash-off masks, but those sheet masks, the ones that make you look like a serial killer, require at least twenty minutes of princess style inactivity, and are sold by the individual mask for upwards of four bucks apiece. I think they’re silly. Plus, most of the ones I’ve seen lean more towards the “moisturizing” end of the spectrum, which is horrifying to someone like me who naturally generates tidal waves of grease. So when I received a Dr Jart hydrating sheet mask in this month’s Birchbox, I sort of tucked it behind a bunch of sunscreen samples in the bathroom, not being real stoked about it. However, I must admit, there’s been some recent photos of me looking more on the haggard side, and the common denominator is that my skin looked sort of flat and dull, even in areas where I didn’t diligently apply my Becca mattifying primer. So when my SO ran out to do a couple errands this weekend (read: when I could be alone for half an hour to look stupid in peace and quiet), I thought, what the hell, Dr. Jart. Let’s give you a whirl.

I hated the way it felt, in my hands and on my face, slimy and goopy. The sheet was heavy and sticky and slid all over whenever I made a facial expression or talked. The product was everywhere, getting into my hair which I had just washed, virtually seeping out of the sheet, everywhere. The eye and mouth cutouts nowhere near matched my according anatomic features, making me wonder if my face was super fucked up or something. It was claustrophobic and cold, and that’s in a marginally well air conditioned house when the outdoor ambient temperature was at least 105 degrees. It basically drove me batty and when I saw my SO pull in the driveway ten or fifteen minutes later, I was happy to yank it off even though my time wasn’t up. I gladly dropped it in the trash can, where it landed with a wet plop, and I got to business rubbing the rest of the slimy shit into my face, neck, chest, and hands. Then my SO started making margaritas, so I forgot about it and went about my business.

When I looked in the mirror a few hours later, though, I got served a giant steaming plate of crow. My skin looked AH-mazing. Luminous, glowing, but not greasy. I couldn’t believe it. The few fine lines I have were practically unnoticeable. I almost hated to put my nighttime crap on top of it, lest I ruin the luminescence. This morning, I did my usual a.m. wash followed by P50, and somehow, through all that, my skin still looked better than usual. Unreal!

So, just what I needed — another step to add to my already convoluted and high-maintenance skin routine. What products/services have you poo-pooed and begrudgingly tried, only to end up surprised at how much you love it? 

barney’s beauty bag sept 2015 … tick, tock

Eeeeeeee!!!! It’s almost that time again. Barney’s fall beauty event is September 8-12, when a $200 purchase gets you a big bag chock full o’ high end samples (details to follow). Anything on the cosmetics floor counts — that means candles, home fragrances, etc. are included. (Perfect, since fall is the perfect time to reload on my very favorite home scent.)

In the meantime, what are you going to get? Lots of brands have really nice step up gifts with a purchase at a certain dollar amount — I’m looking forward to the details and will share when I learn more.

how it all began

My bathroom looks like a Sephora sample refugee camp. There is just no way around this. If I don’t put a sample out where I can see it, I forget about it and it languishes for all perpetuity, a wasted existence. Needless to say, the samples tend to accumulate faster than I can go through them, and like dust bunnies or cockroaches, they appear to multiply. My SO has wisely learned to just shut his mouth and look the other way, but the other day he just stopped and looked and said, “How exactly did you get so obsessed with your skin? I don’t remember you being this way [when we first dated back in college]”.

Well, no, in college I drove a Jeep with its top off for most of the year and mastered the art of driving a stick shift, maneuvering a beverage, and smoking at the same time. I had grown up rather isolated where my sole feminine role model was my mother, whose idea of skincare was a good tan, O.G. Oil of Olay, and regular enthusiastic use of a Buf Puf. She never wore much makeup to speak of and believed all hair issues could be solved with braids and/or a bandana. (Okay, I still subscribe to this.) I didn’t have sisters or cousins or girlfriends to teach me the art of makeup growing up, so I had catching up to do in college. (The catching up extended into medical school, wherein I had an extended phase of turquoise glitter eyeliner, something most women outgrow at age 17, not 27.) I learned a good deal of makeup skills in college from a girl from Texas, who espoused “the higher the hair, the closer to God” as she teased her ash-blond bob into frothy perfection. I could never tell if she was kidding about the God part. We would throw things (bras, eggs) off her 7th floor balcony at passersby and then go do our makeup. We even did one of our guy friends, just half his face, all blue eyeshadow and glossy red lips, and then took a ton of shitty pictures with a disposable camera after he agreed to the clip on earrings and feathered hat, making kissy duck faces 20 years before we had a name for it. Ah, the 90s.

The fun and games continued into medical school and even slightly beyond. The glitter eyeliner, the rockabilly red lips, the swinging pendulum of hair color from blonde to red, red to blonde. It literally never occurred to me that these sorts of shenanigans might be not entirely appropriate for the professional workplace, OR that they might look silly on someone pushing 30. Hashtag arrested development, okay? I know. In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I continued tanning through the first part of medical school. I KNOW! My first inkling that Father Time was not on my side was in a MAC store somewhere in LA, when I was an intern, so age 28, 29? I needed face wash, and asked for my usual green gel cleanser, which was supposed to be best for my oily, shiny, acne-prone skin. The salesgirl looked me up and down and said, maybe you’d be better off with something a little less drying and handed me a bottle of some creme cleanser. Of course this happened in LA, right? I was a little put off and a little offended, and remotely, a little concerned.

Around this time, my BFF and I were going to do an autopsy, and had the morgue camera out in case anything significant needed documentation. Mind you, this was before cell phones had cameras, and so it seemed perfectly novel and kitschy to take a morgue selfie all gowned and gloved before we got started. It looked really cute on the tiny digital camera screen and it made a super cute MySpace (!) profile pic. That is, until I saw it blown up on my computer screen. Warning!

M&C autopsy

PUMP. THE. BRAKES. What in the hell was going on? And I’m not even talking about the utterly tragic eyebrow situation that was happening*. The little swath of exposed skin that I had was…. spotty. Mottled. Wrinkles!? Dare I say… leathery. Seeing the forehead situation on my big computer screen was a giant slap across that hyperpigmented face. I was mortified. It was the first time when I realized all the total lack of concern for my skin was beginning to catch up to me.

Soon thereafter, I came across some ad for a Botox special in the freebie weekly newspaper where they advertise happy ending massages on the back page. It was something like $125, an unfathomable sum at that time. Seeing as I was still thoroughly traumatized by the morgue selfie (and outcome of a rudimentary photoshopping attempt), I was D-E-S-P-E-R-A-T-E. I was scared shitless, but I did it. The doctor was a bit of a jerk and didn’t have the best grasp of the English language, but I did it. The results with Botox, as we know, are impressive and quick. And so it began. Somewhere during this time, my dermatologist first tag teamed me with prescription retinol and hydroquinone. Knowing that the dermatology residents virtually slathered their entire bodies in retinol kept me using it, even though its results were less than dramatic.

I piddled around with that for a few years when the new, friendly, normal provider I’d began seeing for injections started raving about this crazy cream made of foreskins. She wouldn’t shut up about it. I think I eventually bought it hoping she would stop talking about it, even though it was stupidly, horrifyingly expensive. I wasn’t even through my first tube of it before shit got real. My skin changed. People I knew and people I didn’t know would comment on my skin and demand to know what products I used. (Wanting to just have a link to give people, as opposed to having to think and write shit down, was the main reason I wanted to have a TopShelfie on ITG: pure laziness.)

And then before I knew it, my bathroom looked like Sephora’s and Barney’s stockroom just vomited all over it.

And now it’s your turn: what was your gateway drug?

*Life lessons: any eyebrow worth Instagramming now is going to look STUPID in five years, and laughable in ten. So don’t. Just don’t.