history: grooming is my favorite pastime

Sure painting and drawing, sure knitting and crafts, sure cooking and organizing and shopping and eating, sure hanging out with friends and writing and photography, sure calligraphy and wine and Shakespeare and the 19th century novel…but what I really love? What I do whenever I get the chance? What I find maximally calming and therapeutic and satisfying? What I put hours of attention and effort into, and investigation, and all the money it takes?

Grooming.

I groom.

O how I groom. O the tools. O the unguents. O the potions. O the experimentation. O the time.

No centimeter of my body escapes care.

Like weeding a garden, editing a text (I find editing to be a fitting metaphor for much of my life), cultivating a path through the wilderness…

This means clipping and trimming, oiling and treating, masking and exfoliating, cleansing and brushing and smoothing and massaging and just…addressing in the most comprehensive way.

I liked what I heard someone say recently, if you had only one suit to wear for your whole life, imagine the care you would take with that suit. I like this way of thinking about the body, particularly the skin.

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into: face oils

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I have naturally oily skin but I like to treat it as if it is sensitive, dehydrated skin. Oily ≠ hydrated.

My preferred method of hydrating, protecting, and nourishing my skin is: face oils. For years now they have nearly taken the place of moisturizer altogether, especially at night, and my skin hasn’t been this soft and healthy since…before puberty. The lighter oils aren’t any greasier/heavier than a standard sunscreen, and many absorb completely within half an hour or so. They are also extremely soothing after exfoliation or skin treatments and rarely cause the stinging that the chemicals in some moisturizers can.

A good quality oil is often cheaper than a good quality moisturizer, and a little goes a long way. Most can be used for your hair or in the kitchen as well (not to mention as makeup removers and cleansers). I find dropper bottles the most convenient. Not too fussed about brands here, I just look for organic, 100% pure options and go for whatever is reasonably priced. Different oils provide different benefits, and I like to rotate several depending on how my skin is feeling on a given day.

argan oil.  Healing and nourishing, antioxidants, fatty acids, etc. I’m sure you’ve heard. Lightweight, absorbs quickly, no scent. I like this one and this one.

apricot kernel oil. Vitamin A & fatty acids. Healing and good for especially sensitive skin. Also quite light, and, like argan oil, good for when the skin is blemish-prone.

rosehip seed oil. Packed with vitamin A, vitamin C, good for skin regeneration and treatment of scarring. You can go not so cheap(though I found this one discounted at TJ Maxx), or you can go really not so cheap. Downside that this dyes your pillow orange, upside is your skin the next day. Thick and rich, can really only be used at night or on isolated dry patches.

jojoba oil. Similar to the skin’s natural oil so it absorbs beautifully and has no distinct odor. Trader Joe’s has a good price. Inexpensive enough to use all over the body as well.

sweet almond oil. I tend to use this on my body rather than my face as it is especially moisturizing, inexpensive and has almost no odor. Absorbs well into the skin (unlike, say, baby oil, which is basically mineral oil, which provides a barrier of protection  but is difficult for skin to absorb (like petroleum jelly)). Great carrier oil for making your own blends. I like to add random essential oils to scent it (many of which also have skin benefits, but do your research first). Recommend frankincense (go smell frankincense), patchouli (not just for the 60s anymore), chamomile, lavender, peru basalm, ylang ylang.

Then there are blends, which can be very expensive indeed. Watch for cheaper blends bulked up with cheap oils like safflower. They will moisturize but don’t have the benefits a concentrated, high quality oil will. I have some of these but they are for the oil-guzzling body, not the face.

I don’t regret acquiring the Clarins rebalancing oils, which are precious but smell amazing and are packed with great nutrients. The Blue Orchid one smells especially awesome. Kind of a sweet, light, compelling patchouli. [Men, go put this on your face and just see what happens.] If, like me, you have a thing for cardamom, try the Santal one. Or, you know, choose one based on your skin concern. Smell before you buy, is what I say about these.

I’ll do a separate post about the oils I like for my hair, which are many. Will also soon experiment with olive oil, avocado oil, hazelnut oil, and castor oil in various contexts. We’ll see how it goes.

N.B. I didn’t like evening primrose oil, which, without heavy dilution with some nice-smelling stuff, smells actually rancid. Some oils should be stored in the refrigerator as they will go rancid, but this one smells unbearable anyway.

SKIN LOVE: the things I do for my skin [face]

Hanna Putz, Untitled (TR1), 2012

Hanna Putz, Untitled (TR1), 2012. Image from artligue.fr

I decided a long time ago that one of those things I want in life, one of those things I will do whatever it takes to achieve (insofar as I can achieve it with the raw materials) is beautiful skin.

[Probably because mine is, in its natural, neglected state (and in its ineptly handled state), pretty awful.]

Beautiful skin is, to me, beauty. You know, the kind that is not on the inside.

So, I:

  • drink water
  • change my pillowcase every other day, or more
  • sanitize my phone regularly
  • buy it presents
  • eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and nuts
  • cleanse gently and thoroughly, taking my time with lots of massaging
  • treat with products tailored to how it feels that day, spot-treat dry or spotty areas
  • use various masks as inspired, for different effects
  • use broad-spectrum sunscreen daily
  • take birth control (this is a drastic step but has made a tremendous difference in the quality of my skin, which is prone to hormonal acne. Probably the single most effective step in combating my problem skin, and nowhere near the most expensive. Luckily I don’t experience any negative side-effects)
  • take vitamins to strengthen and nourish skin. On rotation (not every day): lysine, flaxseed oil, biotin, evening primrose oil, vitamin C, vitamin D, coconut oil
  • nourish with vitamin C serum at night (topical vitamin C and other citrus products make the skin especially sensitive to the sun), and various nourishing (alcohol-free!) toners in the day
  • drink more water
  • nourish additionally with various natural oils (see face oil post)
  • make decisions about which products to use based on the premise that my skin is sensitive (though it’s technically not in the way that skincare companies mean…really all skin is, particularly the face, neck, and chest), and should be treated gently whenever possible
  • avoid touching unless hands are freshly washed, and even then
  • clean and sanitize any tools or products that touch my face as needed (with makeup, work clean, and sanitize where relevant)
  • exfoliate gently and regularly and
  • treat with products that promote cell-turnover and regeneration to avoid congestion of the pores (my skin needs help with this)
  • treat with products that lighten or break down the melanin of hyper-pigmentation and balance skin tone
  • add extra oil or moisturizer if I it is especially cold, dry, or windy, or if I know my face is going into harsh conditions
  • ask what it needs, and watch for signs of distress
  • drink more water

Now that these are all habits I don’t consider them laborious but, writing them out, I guess it is a lot. I find it easy to keep up with regimens that show definite results, however, and each step has a purpose (and concordant logic). One thing I enjoy about skin is how individual it is [Naturally your skin will not need everything mine does.], and how attention to detail is rewarded. Give your skin what it needs and it will show.

x

fragrance: winter 2013 picks

The cold weather makes certain heavy scents particularly appealing to me. The molecules aren’t as mobile and stay closer to the skin, evaporating more gradually, and a fragrance that would be deadly or cloying in the summer is rendered subtle and fine.

Here’s what I’ve been wearing:

Montale – Red Vetyver. Just gorgeous. Pricey, but do you want to smell like a sexy, resinous tree or not? A little like Chanel’s Sycomore.

Lalique – Encre Noir (pour homme).  This actually does smell a lot like black ink, the kind you would buy for calligraphy or what have you. Like ink + a dark, earthy vetiver. Great on a man, better on a man with stubble, but maybe better still and more charming/unexpected on a woman.

C.O. Bigelow Musk perfume oil. A little goes a long way, but great to mix with a body oil to dilute and slather away. Rich, powerful musk that isn’t too…fecal. I also like to put this on as a base and temper with something sweet and light, like a simple floral like

Tea Rose by Perfumer’s Workshop. Olfactory equivalent of a photographic representation of a tea rose, or, to me at least, a wild rose. Simple, light, refreshing (not a dark, syrupy, honeyed rose), and so inexpensive. Men, try this on. Plays well with others. Mix it with Guerlain Vetiver and you become just about effervescent. This will be great for spring as well, but winter is when I miss florals. Same idea behind

CB I Hate Perfume – M2 Black March. [not pictured as I only have a sample vial] This smells precisely like a handful of freshly turned earth with crushed flower petals and roots mixed in. Incredible. Not cheap. Lovely old-school apothecary packaging. Get the perfume absolute if at all, which is a viscous oil that lasts on the skin for hours. Also great in the rain. Or give it to a gardener.

L’Occitane – Eau de Vetyver. A creamy, rich, slightly dirty vetiver. Cozy and enveloping.

Paloma Picasso EdP. A kind of sparkling chypre (which genre I usually don’t like) from the 80s that is often marked down at Marshall’s or TJ Maxx. Not for everyone, but a wonderful respite from the saccharine fruity-florals that dominate the market. Give it a while to develop on the skin before you veto, as it starts out a little green and screechy like Grey Flannel or Halston I-12 (both of which I also like in winter, but like more so in the rain). Points to guys who give this a go.

Bulgari Omnia. Now discontinued, it is superior to all of the flankers it spawned. Lactic and nutty with a distinct note of cinnamon, this will make you smell like a gorgeous, sophisticated chai latte.

Some fragrance resources:

Not familiar with vetiver yet? Get familiar.

http://www.basenotes.net/ (reviews, descriptions, note lists, and a good place to look up the year a fragrance launched or the perfumer behind it)

http://theperfumedcourt.com/ (try fragrances on your skin first if you can, blind buying full-sized bottles is risky business)