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. 


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