you say potato, i say po-tah-toe


Having part Eastern European heritage means more than possessing an inherent appreciation for kolachy cookies and sturdy, big bones. It gives you random neck hairs, and sometimes chin hairs. They’re thin, transparent vellus hairs that grow to an alarming length. My other half finds it hysterical when he spies one glinting in the sunlight. I do not find this hysterical. Seeing that I otherwise lack body hair, these rebel follicles really piss me off. So, it goes without saying that I became quite verklempt upon viewing myself in just the right wrong light recently, which highlighted what to appeared to be a burgeoning lady beard. It was beyond a little charming peach fuzz, it was the whole damn orchard. WHEN DID THIS HAPPEN!?

Horrified, I frantically Googled ways to de-fur myself stat. And that’s when I learned about dermaplaning, a fancy, inoffensive way of saying shaving. You can go to a dermatologist or aesthetician and pay them a ton of money to do it, or do you can do it yourself with these so-called eyebrow shapers. I have no idea how one would shape their brows with these, but for home dermaplaning, they’re not too shabby. They’re not crazy sharp like a regular razor, but when you rake it down your face at just the right angle, they somehow manage to scrape up an incredible amount of dead skin as well as those bastard vellus hairs. It’s not easy and it gave me a whole new appreciation for boy struggles. The key is to do it on dry, clean skin and maintain that 45-degree angle, working on the lower half of the face and the neck, avoiding any serious pimples or other acute issues. If you don’t get it right the first time, resist the urge to go over the same spot multiple times — you’ll risk irritation and folliculitis. When you’ve done it right… smoooooth! You’ll have to consciously keep from rubbing your baby-butt jawline in admiration. Since you’re removing all the dulling dead junk and causing mild microtrauma, it’s a damn good time to follow up with a good serum or treatment since the ingredients will able to penetrate more easily.

And NO. You hair will NOT grow back thicker. Dear God, let that urban legend die.

If all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too

We all know that celebrity endorsement is a marketing tactic most successful with 13 year old girls (see: Kardashian hair products/makeup/self tanner) and risks backfiring when the association of some celebrities may actually be a deterrent (see: above). Allure magazine recently played a nasty trick on some hairstylists by disguising the labels on the Kardashian hair products before putting them to the test. They said most of the stuff was meh but were surprised by a couple of standout products. (Somewhat surprisingly, I was still not tempted to try it myself despite the rave reviews, another testament to the power of the Kardashian name.)

Upon playing with a sample of Kat Von D Lockit Foundation that came in both (ahem) this week’s Sephora orders, I was surprised to see a product that lived up to its (quite lofty) promises despite being celebrity endorsed (and by a cheesy celebrity of questionable decision making ability, at that). The stuff gives serious coverage and lasts for damn near ever, without a chalky or matte corpse like finish. The sample shade (48) was too pink for me but the tidal wave of grease on my face oxidized it ever so slightly to almost perfect. I felt a little grandma wearing foundation that actually looked like foundation, but this would be a nice weapon to have in the arsenal for times of dire straits. (read: It would have been nice to have this last week when my face was covered in bruises from the PRP injections.) Here it is, 12 hours after application, no primer. I took this photo in the direct blazing 5 pm sunlight which we all look like shit in. Amazing how much is still there. 

Now I feel compelled to go check out the rest of Kat’s line, as much as I don’t want to admit it. Again, fuck you, Sephora.  

youtube is corrupting my soul

“One little video about Robert Cray. I’m like, huh. I need to find that in high-def. Click, click, click. I need to find out what pickups he’s using. Your video will start in 5… 4… 3… What tuners is he using? I can’t tell. I’m watching whole sets. Then I’m on some forum. Does he use a pick. Does he use his fingers. No one knows. I had to post something. I NEVER post in those things. I saw him TWICE on the same tour when I was sixteen. I went alone, both times, because I had no friends, wearing a Misfits shirt. I loved him, I loved the blues, and I didn’t know why because I didn’t know I HAD the blues. Four hours later, my laptop battery is running low, I have to pee, and my life is over.”  (my Other Half on a recent rant.)

I’m just happy that men lose entire chunks of time in cyberspace too. Just when you think you have your shit together in life, you look at your last open window and get bitch-slapped by your ADHD reality. One tab about your Meyers-Briggs personality type (ITSP, in case you were wondering), two tabs with blog drafts, a semi-abandoned genealogy chart (who would ever think Germans would be shitty record keepers?), one tab with the cropped J. Crew trousers that are backordered until July, one tab with the local taxidermy/curiosity shop’s latest items, one tab for Sephora and another for googling swatches and/or reviews of interesting products being considered from Sephora. It’s just fucking stupid.

But, true love is getting lost in YouTube hell together. This morning, we sat, unshowered and hung over, watching Japanese game shows and prank shows. There is one show where contestants must successfully sing karaoke while getting jerked off by beautiful girls. I mean, they have a little curtain thing covering the lower half of the guy’s body, BUT STILL. I laughed so hard I cried. Jason laughed so hard he cried AND farted. True love.

Okay, please tell me the stupid shit you waste hours on so I don’t feel quite so weird.

delicious drinks with stupid names

Case in point: the “Elderflower Ginger Fizz”. This should be simple, just call it “Party In My Mouth” and move on.

serves 1 (or 0.5, depending on liver function)

1.5 oz St-Germain elderflower liqueur

1 oz ginger syrup (it’s hard to find, I subbed cheap ginger liqueur in just fine)

1/2 oz lemon juice (I usually just juice one whole lemon)

4 oz Champagne or other sparking wine (those little bitty picnic bottles are perfect)

3 (or more) maraschino cherries (the Luxardo brand is basically the Hermes of maraschino cherries, but unlike Hermes they are worth the money)

Mix it all up and party on.

i vant to suck your blood

Let’s chat about the vampire facial. The first image that will come to mind is Kim Kardashian’s blood-smeared selfie. Try to reject that. We’re going to try to have a semi-scientific discussion here, and that ain’t happening if Kimmie is around.

Blood is composed of solids (red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets) suspended in a liquid (plasma). Plasma is mostly water with a smattering of proteins, clotting factors, sugar (glucose), and electrolytes like sodium and potassium. Platelets are wee tiny in comparison to red and white blood cells. They cruise around like little security guards waiting for a distress signal. Any time there is a breach in your vascular system, like a cut, the little cells lining your blood vessels send out the red alert. The platelets spring into action and rush to the damaged area, gathering together to form a little plug to stop the bleeding. While they’re performing immediate damage control, they send up flares to attract the other proteins that will eventually help form a stable clot. They really are amazing little bastards, because they also contain a bunch of growth factors that promote tissue repair and healing. Because platelet-rich plasma is literally resplendent with healing growth factors, doctors have been injecting PRP into damaged tendons, joints, and nerves for some time. Since the PRP comes from your own blood, there is no risk for allergic reaction. My rigorous scientific research Cornering my transfusion-medicine subspecialty trained colleague in the mail room and quizzing him about PRP resulted in a shrug and an eye roll. He, daring to act like a real doctor, referenced actual studies (and, in doing so, used the term “meta-analysis”, which is why he is the big dog medical director) that were meh at best. In classic Duffy fashion, my totally unscientific comeback was, “Well, it can’t HURT!” (which is why I sit in a windowless office interacting with as few people as possible).

I digress. Gravity and sun damage degrade collagen, the connective tissue layer just underneath the skin, resulting in the usual complaints: wrinkles, loss of elasticity, sagging, loss of fullness, people commenting on how tired you look. Thankfully, collagen production is relatively easy to provoke. Collagen is produced by the body as part of the wound-healing process; it’s laid down towards the end of a new scar’s development to increase its strength. Any procedure that causes damage to the skin will promote collagen deposition — this concept has spawned no shortage of methods that do just that, from microdermabrasion to laser resurfacing to micro needling. Methods that induce thousands of little bitty sites of microtrauma allow most of the skin surface to remain intact, while still creating enough injury to provoke significant collagen deposition. Because most of the skin is undamaged, recovery time is minimal. Any of these procedures can be done on their own, but their benefit is supposedly enriched by the addition of PRP, with its abundance of growth factors that may enhance wound healing.

So let’s talk about the “vampire facial”, the actual procedure. I am deathly afraid of laser resurfacing. It hurts, and I am a pussy. Plus, it’s aggressive. There is too much of a good thing, and people who OD on lasers, too much and/or too soon, they look unnaturally smooth, like creatures from a Vegas wax museum. It’s one thing if you’re sixty and have never had any procedures done. If you’re in your 30s, just no. Micro needling, on the other hand, causes less aggressive wounds. It’s done with an instrument of torture reminiscent of a tattoo machine — multiple needles (twelve, exactly) driven upanddownandupanddownandupanddown many times a second. Their depth of penetration is adjustable, from 0.5 mm (on your forehead and other painful bony areas) to 2.0 mm (on your chubby cheeks). The actual procedure may vary somewhat between providers, but here’s how it goes down at my place, where you are tag-teamed by the facility’s co-owners (Hannah, the needle-happy RN, and Juliana, the laser expert).

We start by slathering on a nice thick layer of topical numbing cream. This sounds benign and well-meaning, but it makes your face all burny, and your lips numb, which means you sound like a wino when you try to talk. You hope you do not get pulled over on the drive home.


Slather, slather.  

Frosted like a nice cupcake.

While this takes effect, Hannah draws the blood into a specialized tube, which is then centrifuged to separate out the red cells from the plasma.

This is a wee butterfly needle. They use these on kids. It does not hurt.

Nothing makes your arm look sexier than a tight tourniquet.  

The finished product (plus gratuitous booby shot).


Centrifuged and ready to rock and roll. The red cells are on the bottom of the tube; the transparent yellow fluid is the PRP.

Once this is done, they wipe off the numbing cream, which is hysterical because you totally can’t feel your lips. It’s like the dentist, but funny.

It’s funnier than it looks.

Then, micro needling! It’s definitely a surreal sensation, as is any movement that makes your skull bones feel like they’re in an earthquake. Drip, drip, of the PRP, followed by face tattooing. Drip, drip, tattoo. It ranges from uncomfortable to relaxing, depending on where on your face they are working and if your Xanax has kicked in yet (highly recommend).

Drawing up the PRP.

Readying the torture device.  

Let the good times roll.  

This isn’t too bad.  

Just kidding, this totally fucking hurts.

You will bleed, not in dramatic spurting arterial streams but in a slow ooze from the pinpoint wounds. This is a good thing; if you’re not bleeding, you haven’t penetrated the epidermis, and you won’t effectively stimulate collagen deposition unless you do so.


Drip, drip.  

Gotta get under the chin for the wattle situation.

Following this, the sadist with the needle injects PRP directly into areas showing the most volume loss. Numbing cream or no numbing cream, I cannot lie, this is NOT comfortable. I called Hannah every vile name in the book, and she just laughed.

Ugh. This really sucks.

Dear sweet baby Jesus, no.  


Once this circle of hell is complete, she smears on whatever is left of the PRP and sends you on your merry way.


 No PRP shall go unused.

All done. Time to go back into public and try not to frighten the children.

The PRP gets dried and crusty and itchy but because you paid dearly in dollars AND pain, you’re going to follow the instructions and leave it on till the following morning. Suffice it to say you will be red, shiny, and funny looking for the rest of the day so don’t make plans.

Later that afternoon. Not the time to crack jokes about wife beating.

The next morning, you’ll be red (and possibly bruised around the injection sites) but there will be no scabs or crusties — once you put makeup on, everything looks normal.

The following morning.

The redness will improve over the next few days but you will be rewarded with extra dry skin and flaking.

The 2nd morning after. Gotta get up and go to work. 

Extra sunscreen and a little more foundation than usual and all is well.

Because it takes 4-6 weeks for collagen deposition to peak, there are no immediate dramatic effects like you’d get with fillers. Patience, kittens!

So what are you waiting for!? Have you tried micro needling yourself?  What was your impression?

sweet dreams are made of thee 

Regretfully, my most scaredy-cat cat failed to demonstrate the expected level of alarm towards this look, even when I made creepy serial-killer noises. Either he is growing complacent, or my acting skills are atrocious.  


TopShelfie in toto (note: tl;dr risk high)

Since many doctors are pretentious assholes, we use a lot of ten dollar words and like to name things after long-dead researchers with unpronounceable names. We also use a lot of Latin. In toto (or en toto, which is how I spelled it until just now when Google told me I was wrong) means “completely” or “totally”, as in “She dropped this paycheck in toto on a shearling-lined Rick Owens jacket”. For your entertainment (?), I present the original, unedited TopShelfie document in toto. 

ITG and the myriad Top Shelves have provided me with much entertainment and education and it would be my honor to give back to the community. See, I’m a physician who has no shame in treating life (read: myself) like a giant science experiment. I’ll try pretty much any product, procedure, or service as long as I can dissect the shit out of it. Vampire facial? Sure. Eyebrow tattooing? Why not. I’m 38, and I’d say something about how much I get carded, but really? I don’t want to look like I’m 25. I don’t want to look like a supermodel or blogger. I have a big nose and a wonky tooth and an underbite, and I work in an industrial park and wear OSHA-friendly clogs every day. So what? I just want to look the best — the healthiest — that I can, without looking like a plastic caricature of myself, without trying too hard. (Read: NO CONTOURING. EVER.)

That said, skincare is my jam. I don’t like to wear a lot of makeup, although one would think the opposite looking at my stash (see: bank of gym lockers). I wear it because it’s fun to put on and it’s part of presenting oneself in the traditional business world. I have five nonnegotiable staples in the skincare arsenal: SkinMedica’s TNS Recovery Serum, sunscreen, a retinol, hydroquinone, and even though it’s trite, La Mer. I’ve been using La Mer since my early 20s. I’d wait till I got a student loan disbursement, get a jar, and eek that puppy out for as long as possible. The SkinMedica, which I lovingly call “the penis cream”, is a more recent addition. It has collagen-stimulating growth hormones which are derived from the fibroblasts of discarded baby foreskins. Do not tell your boyfriend this because he will inevitably offer you a different kind of penis cream which he promises works way better. I don’t know how this shit works, but it is M-A-G-I-C. It improves texture and elasticity and produces that elusive “glow” like no other product. It literally makes you radiant, way better than the other kind of penis cream. I think the instructions say to put it on morning and night, but I just do it in the morning, because it’s pricey. One pump, and you are good to go. I am literally biting my tongue to keep from making one more boyfriend/penis cream joke. I’m sorry/you’re welcome. I am a bit of a sunscreen slut. It’s really hard to find a sunscreen that fulfills my criteria (physical > chemical; tolerates Exxon Valdez skin; will not sweat off in three seconds; no chalky residue). You really need to be putting on a shitload of the stuff to get anywhere near the promised SPF, so most tinted ones are out, because pancake face, yuck. MDSolarsciences makes a great mineral SPF 50, that’s been my go-to for a while now. La Roche Posay gets a lot of press, but it’s just as chalky white as other drugstore sunscreens, albeit not as greasy. I reserve it for days when I know I will be outside more. The good thing about sunscreens, is that even if one ends up sucking, you can use it on your hands or whatever so they never go to waste. You should be doing this with all the skincare samples you’re meh about: slather them all over your hands and arms. I’m late to the topical antioxidant party — I just started dabbling in them. I’ve picked up some sample sizes of Skinceuticals off eBay, to avoid being out $150 if a product sucks.

I love, love, love Sunday Riley skincare, even though the fragrances are questionable, ranging from late-night pizza grease (Juno, Artemis) to rotting flowers (Luna). If I was a millionaire, I would use nothing but the Cashmere sunscreen. I use the Ceramic Slip cleanser, which doubles as a mask when you mix it with Good Genes. Oh, it burns like a motherfucker, but your skin! We’re talking baby’s bottom level of smooth and unblemished. I’ll use Skin Adrenaline when it’s warmer and I don’t need as intense a level of hydration on my cheeks. I’ll add an oil if need be – sometimes Juno, other days Philosophy’s Back to Nurture oil gelee. Because I have next-level combination skin, I’ll use Makeup Artists’ Choice mattifying serum on the T-zone. It’s the best I’ve found, although nothing can control the natural disaster oil spill we call my face. So, I just resign myself to blotting with toilet seat protectors every time I make a loo trip. I refuse to powder throughout the day — it’s so dated looking, and who has time? Likewise, for work, I rely on a handful of heavy hitters to survive 12 hours on my greasy face — there will be no midday touchups. I don’t take lunch, and often my only “breaks” are to pee and reload on green tea — other than that, I’m on a conference call, on the computer, or behind the microscope signing out cases, and often all three at the same time. (I’m a pathologist.) Makeup needs to last! No smudging, no smearing, no running. I use a couple of stain-based products immediately after I wash my face in the morning — they’ll stay forever as long as they go on bare skin. I fill out my brows with Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Brow Pen in Light. It’s surprisingly natural. My eyes are smallish and deep set and a thick and/or dark brow really throws everything off. I don’t care how trendy or youthful thicker brows appear; I’m not doing them. Not everyone can pull it off – it can look just as silly and cartoonish as a super thin brow, even if it’s well done. I often do a neutral cheek stain as well, before moisturizers/sunscreens/foundations. Perricone’s No Blush Blush is a beautiful product, and a little goes a long way. You blend your BB cream or whatever out over a cheek stain, and it has much more depth, like you glow from within. As for eyes, I love By Terry Blackstar Ombre shadows, although the lighter ones are too disco ball to wear all over the lid as I’d hoped to. The Bronze Moon shade makes the most spectacular liner of all time — leave the rest of the lid bare and just smudge it into the base of the lashes. It never moves! Kevyn Aucoin’s Volume mascara is the most poorly named high performing mascara ever! It’s as lengthening as it is volumizing, and it’s bulletproof until you take it off. No smudging – none. Don’t take it off in the tub, though – it sheds these weird little pieces that can fall into the bathwater and look VERY MUCH like a spider. Especially if you’ve had one too many. Not that I would know anything about that. I have an arsenal of foundations, to prep for all kinds of coverage and conditions. If I’m going out at night, RMS Un-cover Up buffed all over is gorgeous, but its longevity is not so hot. For work, I’ll rotate between Dior’s BB cream, Perricone Un-foundation Foundation serum, and whatever samples I have, depending on any pimple situations. If I need more coverage, I’ll add a little YSL Fusion Ink — it has great staying power, but the coverage is too heavy for me. I don’t know why I whore around with foundation though – the best of all time is Chantecaille Future Skin.

At night, I’ll scrub up with Ceramic Slip or Eve Lom, and do some sort of over aggressive exfoliation most nights with Good Genes, Kate Somerville’s Exfolikate, or Fresh’s strawberry face scrub. I know they say scrubbing the shit out of your face can lead to post-inflammatory hyper- or hypo-pigmentation, but like picking zits, I sort of can’t resist. Speaking of zits, I had the same pimple on my chin throughout all of college, I swear. Thankfully, nowadays, they’re unusual. When a rogue bastard appears, I scrub my whole face with a goopy mix of powdered aspirin and honey, and glob extra on the offending spot. After that comes the nighttime swaddling: hydroquinone, followed by Sunday Riley’s retinol oil Luna, which all gets sealed in with a nice thick coat of Crème de la Mer. Sex on wheels, yes, that’s me.

Let’s be honest. I’ve done shit to my face. I started getting Botox in my forehead at 30 because I was vain. I kept getting it because I continued to be vain and my hideous tension headaches all but disappeared. It’s worth the money for that alone. I’ve done minimal fillers, mostly in the nasolabial folds, and in a dog bite scar on the left side. The scar looked like a charming little cheek dimple when I was younger, but as my face began to lose volume in my mid-30s it wasn’t really so cute anymore. I did the vampire facial once – they draw your blood and spin it to separate out the platelet-rich plasma, which has all the stem cells and growth factors and whatnot. They do the microneedling (which feels like an enthusiastic cat is licking your face) and then slather on the PRP, which you marinate in overnight. It’s sort of gross, and really fucking itchy. The results are really impressive though, for such a minimally invasive procedure. I haven’t done any of the aggressive laser treatments like Fraxel. When I hear the microincisions reach 150 microns, I cringe – I look at skin under the microscope every single day and know how deep that is! I see people who’ve gone overboard with lasers and there is a fine line between pretty skin and pretty wax mannequin. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I would rather look the best I can, flaws and all, as opposed to inhumanly smooth and even like some alien creature. There is beauty and interest in aberrations – embrace them!

I may have forgotten to put on deodorant today, but at least my face still looks okay at 5 pm.