Confessions of a Cosmetic junkie
(Spoiler Alert: This is a decidedly un-Shirley bit of trivia while I am working on my next Cairo piece)
For all of my adult life, I have been addicted to the beauty pages of fashion magazines. I couldn’t wait for beauty editors to tell me what new cream or cosmetic product had been concocted to help me maintain youth and whatever semblance of good looks I possessed. Year after year, I piled it on: night creams to keep my skin hydrated overnight, day creams to prepare my face for makeup, eye creams take away dark circles, anti-aging creams to prevent wrinkles, cleansing creams to get rid of the day’s makeup, grit, and grime, and creams to remove top layers of dead skin cells so that my skin would look dewy and glowing all day long. Price be damned—if it worked, I was all in. I thought nothing (or next to nothing) of paying $300 for a miniscule pot of eye cream, or $450 for a slightly larger pot of night cream (well it did have caviar in its name), or $150 for a daytime moisturizer. Estee Lauder, La Prairie, Armani, Chanel, Clinique and I were on intimate terms.
Toss the Gloss
Then one day, I read a review of a book by Andrea Q. Robinson called Toss the Gloss: Beauty Tips, Tricks, & Truths for Women 50+. Andrea, who had been chief marketing officer for Estee Lauder, president of Tom Ford Beauty, and president of Ralph Lauren Fragrances; was the ultimate beauty insider. It came as a huge surprise when she wrote a book that revealed the tactics beauty industry professionals used to get women to spend more money on cosmetics than they needed to. News anchor Diane Sawyer also tackled the same subject in a feature that admonished women to walk away when department store cosmetics representatives asked them sit for a moment, because once they sat, they were goners. I wish I had heard the admonition a few months earlier when I went into a well-known store to buy a lip liner pencil. Asked to sit, I sat. An hour later, I walked out with a $1,000 charge on my American Express card and a bag of creams I didn’t need or even want. I didn’t get the lip liner because the company no longer made it.
But back to Ms. Robinson’s book. In it, she offered a few simple beauty rules that all women can follow:
- Let go of the idea of perfection.
- Beware of trends. Things that work at age twenty don’t necessarily work when you are fifty or over.
- Don’t try too hard. Nothing is worse than too much makeup—especially for women over fifty. Lose the glittery eye shadow, the fuchsia lipstick, and colored mascaras.
- Forget about high maintenance. Makeup routine should be effortless and not take much more than ten minutes.
- Beware of quick cosmetic fixes, like Botox (the cocaine of the upper face) and Restylane (the crack of the lower face). Be judicious in what you choose. How many people shook their heads after the Academy Awards ceremony asking what in the world happened to Kim Novak ?
- Don’t break the bank. If you add up all the money you ever spent for expensive beauty products you didn’t need, you could buy a luxury car and a few Birkin bags. (I myself could have purchased that Chanel suit I’ve been lusting over forever.) It’s okay to shell out for a few pricey items, but for the rest, head for the drug store counter.
- Be proud of yourself, and love your lines. You’ve earned them.
Walgreen's Here I Come
I took all of this to heart. I tossed all the La Prairie, Chanel, Estee Lauder, Dior, and Armani I had in my makeup cabinet. In truth, I couldn’t throw them out. I put them in a tote bag, which I had received as a “gift” for purchasing makeup, and placed the bag high on a shelf out of sight. One day, I’ll get rid of it permanently. Then, I went to Walgreens and stocked up on garden variety, inexpensive replacements: Cetaphil, Olay, Garnier, L’Oreal, Neutrogena—you get the picture. I hit the Maybelline counter for cosmetics. This spree didn’t come cheap, since I replaced everything. All told, however, it didn’t amount to the $450 pot of caviar cream.
I was feeling pretty good about myself until I went to my dermatologist a few weeks later to see about a pesky, persistent rash on my face. Now, I swear by my dermatologist. She is one of the most down to earth, smartest people I know. Plus, she has gorgeous skin. I told her what I had done and she said, “Get rid of it.” What—all of the cheap replacement stuff I had so proudly purchased? She repeated, “…all of it."
“But, what will I use to cleanse my face?” I asked. She handed me a bar of Dove soap.
“And how I will I take off my eye makeup?” She gave me a cup of water.
“Really?” I asked.
“Really,” she said.
“And what about moisturizer?” She gave me a pot of something called CeraVe—a jug of which costs about twelve dollars and will last a lifetime.
There was still the issue of makeup. She recommended either Revlon or Clinique—neither of which contains elements harmful to the skin. As for blushes and shadows, she told me a story about the time she invited a makeup artist from a prestigious department store to do the makeup for her daughter’s wedding party. She was taken aback when the artist pulled out her makeup kit—Maybelline. “Wait a minute,” she said. “You work for _______, and you use Maybelline.”
The young woman smiled. “Trade secret,” she said. “They’re all the same. Made in the same factory. The different brand names are put on afterwards.” So I could hang on to my Maybelline products. My bargain shopping wasn’t a total loss.
I now have the barest and cheapest cosmetic cabinet of anyone you know. My rash is gone, and I have nary a wrinkle on my face. To be honest, I didn’t have any wrinkles before, but that probably had less to do with expensive creams than with good genes and Marilyn Miglin. My parents were well into their nineties when they passed on and both had baby smooth skin. Years ago, Marilyn Miglin told me to stay out of the sun, a warning I heeded. So, am I advocating that everyone dump all of their beauty products for a bar of Dove? Absolutely not. I speak only for myself. Who knows, I may get that Chanel suit yet. I have no interest in the Birkin bag.
Filed under: Living in Interesting Times