The Path

How can you acquire a borderline unhealthy fixation on all things beauty/health related like me?

First, you need a dash of narcissism and a pinch of vanity. Then mix it in with some genuine concern about taking care of your body. Finally, follow these golden rules:

  • We’re all different. Yeah, obviously. But it’s important to note that some of the products I recommend work specifically for my skin type (dry) and hair (thick and stupid). This applies to anyone who gives you recommendations, including “beauty experts” at the counter or the spa.
  • Try before you buy. It’s so tempting to hand over the credit card  when you’re bonding with the salesperson, you don’t want to have to come back later, and you really, really want this product even though you only sampled it on the back of your hand. Then you get home, try the product and you realize it’s not so glorious. Always sample the product at home first and then buy it the next day. Then you can get more samples when you return! I would, however, suggest to only ask for samples of products you’re actually interested in. You don’t want to just acquire a bunch of crap for the sake of acquiring a bunch of crap (unless you do, like a good American). And one last thing…if you are asking for several samples and the salesperson is acting like you’re being greedy or annoying then they really suck at their job.
  • Avoid returner’s guilt. I’m probably on some ‘serial returner’ list, but I think I buy enough so stores don’t bar me from purchases (I don’t think they can do this, but I am suspicious). If you really don’t like a product and it’s not working for you as the label or salesperson promised take it back. Don’t worry about their reaction. It’s your face and your body. If they’re a turd to you don’t go back to them next time.
  • Read the (hidden) labels. I recently got crap from a salesperson who was miffed that I (delicately) pointed out her product wasn’t in fact all natural like she advertised. On the main label it listed 5 ingredients that yes, seemed to be all natural. But when I peeled back the label–ta da–parabens and nasty chemicals. She hissed that it was only .0001% unnatural or whatever, but I don’t like being misled and I really don’t trust products that make you pull a label back to see the full list of ingredients…they do that for a reason.
  • Substitute for natural whenever you can. This one was tough for me, since I really like the smell and feel of certain products (La Mer, Dior, Chanel, etc.). But since I started taking better care of myself in terms of what I put in my body–alcohol consumption doesn’t count in my world–it was a natural progression for me to take care of what I put on my body. This really only applies to skincare and body products though. I can’t live without certain makeup & shampoo/conditioners that I am sure are full of magical rubbish. And until yesterday I was using Aquaphor on my lips (I finally found a better, non-mineral oil alternative). But it’s really important to me that the moisturizers I put on my face & body before bed and first thing in the morning are as pure as possible.
  • Price tags don’t always equal stellar products. I am such a sucker for packaging & branding. Seriously, I won’t even consider a product if I think it looks like it was put together in someone’s basement. Not always a wise assessment, but I’m wench for aesthetics. Admittedly, there have been a few times I purchased items because looking at the bottles or tubs every morning made me feel fancy (I never said I wasn’t an idiot). In hindsight, I regret this esp. when I look at my bank account. But I did learn a valuable lesson: the whole “don’t judge a book by its cover” phrase really does apply to the health/beauty world.

  • Avoid buying in bulk. It’s always nice to save a buck or two, especially when you’re given such a “deal”. Don’t get me wrong, I am the Queen of Costco, but that’s for coffee, q-tips, and, you guessed it, wine. Whenever I buy hair/face/body/health products in bulk it’s really exciting at first, but then 5 months into it I want a change.  Another issue is that exposure to air over time can compromise the efficacy of some products. Now if there is a product you absolutely love and you know you’ll love it forever, I’d suggest putting some of it in a smaller jar and sealing the larger one until you need to refill.
  • Don’t buy at drugstores. First of all, every time I go into a Bartell’s or Rite Aid I seem to encounter the most unsavory types of people. Not to mention that the lighting is terrible. Even worse,  I get suckered in to buying things I don’t need (candy, alarm clocks, pens).  In truth, I really have never been into super cheap brands. Every time I try something from a drugstore it either doesn’t look, smell, or feel right. I’m sure some of it is subconscious snobbery, but if a brand is using rare or more pure ingredients and has a specific method to creating the product (like distilling, extracting NOT just mixing), it will likely be more expensive. Creating products full of synthetics, chemicals, etc. usually aren’t that expensive. Even those “Aveeno” brands that look natural are not. Packaging (see above)  and marketing are your worst enemy when trying to find the right product. Read the fine print.
  • Be wary of gimmicks. I don’t buy products specifically targeted to anti-aging. I think taking care of your skin (i.e. not sleeping w/ makeup on at night) body (working out and eating healthy), and good old fashioned genes (e.g. Lady babe Helen Mirren), are the key variables. Unfortunately you can’t do much about the last one, but the other two you can. My issue with anti-aging is a lot of the “magical  fountain of youth remedies” are  chemically based OR are really harsh on the skin. If I were you I’d stick products that are (1) as natural as possible, (2) as gentle as possible, and (3) are made to target your specific skin needs (in my case it’s hydration).
  • Find a salesperson you trust & stick with them: At Nordstrom in downtown Seattle, I bee-line it to my gal Michele. I trust her with all things beauty. And she’s adorable and not sales-y. My man Anderson at Barney’s in downtown Seattle is amazing. He’s not only a lovely person, but he is really passionate about beauty. And he is all about free samples. Sephora is great too, but sometimes your go-to person isn’t working. But always very helpful and friendly…and how could you not be when surrounded by glorious products all day!