Kelly and Emilee.

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How old are you?

E: I’m 27.

K: I’m 26.

What do you do?

E: I’m a legal writer at an immigration law firm.

K: I am a nonprofit fundraiser.

Describe your beauty routine:

In the morning, or anytime?

—Just throughout the day.

E: So every Sunday I wash my face with the Clarisonic thing with Cetaphil. Every day I wash  my face with Cetaphil at night, and then in the morning, I just splash cold water on my face like, 20 times. Then I put on Philosophy moisturizer.

—Does it have SPF in it?

E: No, but then I put on tinted moisturizer with SPF.

—By Laura Mercier, right?

E: Right. I love it so much. And then when I get to work I put on mascara.

—What mascara do you use? I find that, by default, mine runs or smudges, no matter which brand I use. Could be my moisturizer, but I also rub my eyes a lot.

E: That’s why I wait until I get to work. Cause my eyes water for, like, the first three hours of the day. So I wait until they’ve dried out and then I put it on.

I also use blush, which we bought together at Sephora.

—By Tarte, right? Blushing Bride?

Right. (Laughs.) And some kind of eyebrow pencil. And sometimes I wear deodorant but not all the time.

—Do you wear natural deodorant? Cause Maura, who was interviewed last night, uses Tom’s calendula, and it smells so good. I got lavender, ‘cause they didn’t have calendula at Rite Aid.

E: Interesting I need to check that out. I use Dove’s and I don’t really like it cause it gets on my clothes and then sometimes, it’ll  just like, fall out of my shirt.

K: like in clumps, yeah. What’s up with that?

—-I just don’t want to shut down my pores in there. Block them. But the other thing that happens is that um, my deodorant stains my white tees. I hate that it’s my pet peeve. It stains them yellowish brown and I feel like a dude.

E: I like the natural way people smell.

K: Yeah!

—Yeah.

E: I’m sure I don’t want to know my coworkers’ natural scent, but the people that I’m close to.. (Laughter.)

Are you gonna edit these responses so that they’re more coherent?

—Yes. I kind of want that chime in thing to happen.

K: my routine is that when I shower I use Purpose facewash and then I use coconut oil to get the mascara off my eyes. Then I put lotion on right after the shower when my skin will drink it up. I’ve been using Burt’s Bees, but it changes. And then prob once a month I’ll put coconut oil on my hair and skin and then sleep  with a towel on my head. When I put makeup on in the morning I use tinted moisturizer — whats the Ulta brand?

—It cosmetics?

K: Right. It’s more like a CC cream. Cause I was having acne and it took away the redness. So I put that on and then, actually I’ll tell you what the name of the powder I use is. It’s by Laura Geller. I cover up with her color corrector, then I put bronzer on with whatever, this one happens to be NYC.

–NYC is actually a great bronzer.

K: I think so too. And then Laura Geller blush. If I’m feeling pimply that day, Bare Minerals happens before the powders.I’m not particular about mascara, right now I’m using some Revlon one. And I use the Anastasia Brow Wiz.

—I use that too.

K: I only wear that on dates though. I never wear it to work.

E: Why?

K: I guess cause I don’t care as much what I look like at work .

E: I feel that.

What is your favorite product? 

E: Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer

K: That Mario Badescu rose spray… it refreshes my skin and it kind of sets my makeup. It’s not part of my daily routine but I use it throughout the day. If I have people over I’ll pop into the bathroom and ..’pft’. Spray it on. It keeps me dewy.

What is your desert island prod?

E: That’s a good question.

K: Coconut oil.

E: Probably sunblock. In a practical sense. If I were stranded on A desert island I don’t think I would bring product. I would bring tequila, and sunblock.

 What is beauty, to you?  What’s your definition of beauty?

E:  I think it is being comfortable in your own skin and owning your imperfections and not trying to hide them. Like, not being ashamed of any part of your body. Which is kind of cliché but I think it’s really beautiful when someone is who they is.

—A lot of women have said that.

E: Do you think that’s the hardest thing for people?

—It’s hard for me. It’s really hard. I mean I’m really trying but it’s just hard for me.

K: Until you realize that everyone is struggling with one or more things that they weird about. If you’re transparent about it, it makes you more relatable.

E: Have you heard that you should talk to yourself the way you’d talk to a friend? Like, about your body. Be as hard on yourself as you would be on a friend. And that makes it so much easier to be like, no that’s cute that you have some kind of thing. It gives you character.

K: I agree with you Em, but what I was going to say too was I feel like when I look at someone and they look most radiant is when they look natural. I’ve seen makeup tutorials and they look very beautiful and polished in an artistic way, but people like Julia Roberts or Jennifer Aniston have achieved a natural beauty where nothing is super cold or out of the ordinary. So natural.

—I always think it’s kind of ironic and funny that as a whole, we try really hard to achieve a natural beauty, so there’s all this effort put into looking like you haven’t made an effort.

E: Yeah, definitely.

—and like, I don’t know, I feel like the pictures I’ve seen of stars without makeup are so great. But that’s never the way they present themselves.

K: Its like pregnant women, taking all those prenatal vitamins. They have a glow about them. Healthy.

—yeah, you’re doing what your body is made to do.

K: It’s a healthy look, I think.

 Do you see yourselves as beautiful?

E:  I feel like I would sooner think that I look cute rather than beautiful. Beautiful seems like…I don’t know. I would never think that I look beautiful. I don’t know why. This sounds like that dove commercial.

K: I like that Dove campaign. I know what you mean though. I remember talking to this friend of mine about how no one has ever called us sexy before cause we are petite. They use pretty or cute, but never use sexy as a description. But I always felt ok about it. Its natural. Maybe I just worked out the day before, I don’t know just feel like I could go to a fancy restaurant in a grey tee and feel confident.

What is your earliest beauty memory?

E: When I first started using makeup a girl that I played volleyball with was v into makeup, she was my intro to Sephora and she wore eyeshadow that was like straight glitter, and she did it, like, to her eyebrows. So that was what I thought makeup was. I did it too, and I remember thinking, ‘I look so good.’

(Laughter.)

We went on this field trip on the bus, and I only wore it for special occasions. The guy I had the biggest crush on was like, ‘it looks like a glitter fairy exploded on your face.’ And I was so crushed. I probably never wore glitter eyeshadow again.

It was probably for the best.

Kind of dick move to say that, tho.

K: When I was in 6th or 7th grade, I had this pink shimmery lipstick.

—Frosted?

K: Yeah like the color of a seashell, and it was not good. I would just put it on in class and put it in my locker – then one day one of my friends said ‘I don’t know if that’s the right color for your skin” I remember thinking she must be jealous” (Laughs). But it was really bad. I also hate lip gloss. Getting it stuck in my hair, etc.

—Lip gloss was huge at one point. Clinique makes a chubby stick. It’s called Two ton-

K: Yes! Two-ton tomato. It’s so good. That’s gloss and lipstick though.

Glossier actually makes makeup now, and they have this lip stuff. They make this stuff for your lips,  it’s not lipstick …it’s like whenever I see it on it looks like you ate a popsicle.

E: Ooo. Cool.

—Very cool. The first one is called Cake, the second one is Like, the third is Love and the fourth one is Jam, I think. They get progressively darker. They look really natural, and I want to get one.

When do you feel most beautiful? What does that look like?

E: When I’ve been treating my body well. When I’ve been eating well, not drinking a lot, working out. It feels fresh and healthy. It’s a feeling.

K: It shows.

K: The day after a workout, and when I’m just…wearing a gray tee shirt, and I’m comfortable, my clothes aren’t too tight. I usually have to have mascara on or else my eyes feel too naked. I feel very pretty in the morning, right when I wake up. I kind of feel like an angel or something. (Laughter.)

 

Maura.

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How old are you?

35.

What do you do?

I work in Human Resources.

Describe your beauty routine.  

I don’t do much right now. But I wash my face with Neutrogena Naturals facewash. I use a face lotion from Korea. It smells like peaches. Really nice. And then I use mineral undereye cream. I use that Tom’s all natural Calendula deodorant.

–Oh, I love that stuff. I use the lavender one. And it’s been surprisingly working.

I use an herbal mask by Natural Republic— it’s called an ‘herb pack’. I think it refreshes my skin. It doesn’t look as dull after I use the mask.

–Herb pack.

Yeah.

(Laughs.)

I also in the winter, I’ll use Aveeno Oatmeal body lotion but I like my skin to breathe in the summer. I just developed an essential oil practice, where I use mainly essential oils that correlate to biomarkers that I’m lacking in. It was this test I did once with someone. And for me, the primary essential oils are frankincense, geranium and sandalwood. But I use other ones, too. I play around with them.

What is your favorite product?

Wow, that’s such a good question. I don’t know where I would be without Lavender or Eucalyptus Epsom salts to take baths in. They are so low maintenance but they drain all the toxins out of the body. And they’re relaxing.

What is your ‘desert island’ product? 

I would need some form of chapstick, absolutely.

What is beauty, to you? 

Feeling comfortable. Giving and receiving trust.Feeling gentle and safe. Being at home in my body. Feeling connected.

Do you think of yourself as beautiful? 

Sometimes.

Earliest beauty memory: 

When I was little, I had this thing for ants. We lived in a place where the sidewalks were crooked and didn’t connect, and so ants used to live in the cracks. I used to bend down and inspect them, and their movements were synchronistic and harmonious…. And beautiful. They were beautiful creatures. At that level.

When do you feel most beautiful? What does that look like? 

After I journal early in the morning when I’ve released baggage from the day before, and I feel light and fresh and ready.

Kimm.

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How old are you? 

29.

What do you do? 

I work at a University.

Describe your beauty routine.

I go to the gym. I shower. I don’t know. I don’t like, do exfoliants and stuff.

What is your favorite product? 

Facewash. Axe makes this cleanser with exfoliating beads.

What is beauty, to you?

Having a sense of humor. Kindness. The kind of person who is nice to the waiter even when their order is wrong. Someone who is confident but can also laugh at themselves.  Self-awareness.

Do you think of yourself as beautiful? 

Sometimes.

What is your earliest beauty memory? 

When I was in first grade I somehow convinced my mom to get a short haircut and it turned out like a bowl cut. It didn’t look so good. But then in middle school I had one friend who made fun of the cut, so once it was long enough to wear in a ponytail, that’s what I did. I’ve never changed it since.

When do you feel most beautiful? 

I think I usually feel most beautiful after the gym. Because I feel like I’ve accomplished something that’s healthy for me. Or when I’ve learned something new about myself.

 

Lou.

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How old are you? 

36.

What do you do? 

I work as a specialty food consultant. I’m also a mom.

Describe your beauty routine. 

In the morning, I wash my face with warm water. About 3 times a week, I use Epicuren Himalayan Superfruit Enzyme Polish with a light washcloth on my face in the shower. The polish tingles and removes old skin cells. Immediately after the shower, I apply a generous amount of Cetaphil Daily Face Moisturizer with SPF 15. In the summer I try to make it SPF 30. As a kid, I used absolutely zero sunscreen so I feel like I need to make up for that. I use Lubriderm Advanced Therapy for Dry Skin on my hands which are always dry from hand washing. I don’t wear makeup every day but when I do it’s usually just a thin coat of black mascara, Bobbi Brown concealer under my eyes, Bobbi Brown powder and some shiny lip gloss or tinted chapstick. At night, if I’m wearing makeup, I remove it with Neutrogena Naturals Makeup Remover Towelettes and rinse with warm water.

What’s your favorite product? 

The Epicuren Polish. Or maybe just a washcloth. I rely on that!

What is the one “desert island” product you’d never be without?

Any thick moisturizing hand lotion. I hate dry hands.

What is beauty, to you? 

Feeling good in your own skin.

Do you think of yourself as beautiful? 

Yes, after a really good night’s sleep!

What is your earliest beauty memory? 

Looking like a moron with crimped hair and a turtleneck at a “beauty parlor” birthday party in fourth grade.

When do you feel most beautiful? 

It doesn’t look the same every time. But I will say that it’s rarely after I’ve used a bunch of beauty products. It’s more likely to happen when I’m out doing something like getting messy with my kid, cooking something really good in the kitchen, or after I’ve had a productive day. Also, sleep has a lot to do with it!

 

Me.

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I remember being thirteen, and buying my first tube of lipstick. It was from Origins. A muddy brownish red, it was called Adobe. I went home, put it on, and stared at myself for a long, long time in a hand mirror, flipping my hair back and forth and making faces. From that point on, I was obsessed with the idea of ‘being beautiful’. I have nurtured this obsession for many years, and continue to. I buy products ad infinitum, hoping they will deliver on their promise to make me more beautiful.

As a former esthetician, I am heavily into doing whatever it takes to have and maintain ‘good skin’, but honestly, I am just as fascinated by makeup and hair products as well. What is it about the lure of these tubes and vials, sticks and potions? Why are we continually led to achieve a certain look?

Two months ago, I chopped off my hair. Two weeks ago, I purged my closet of all but a few key pieces. This process of elimination has been an attempt to get closer to the real ‘me’. Pre-pixie, pre-purge, I’d gob self-tanner on my pale, freckled skin. I’d bleach and straighten my dark, curly hair, eat only vegetables and broth in an attempt to stay at a certain weight, and do anything I could to change what I had been born with.

Now, my ideals are slowly shifting. I wear minimal makeup, and slather sunscreen on in the mornings. I eat sensibly, and for pleasure. I exercise so that I can grow strong.

Beauty means different things to different people.

For some, it means adhering to a physical standard that our society has created. For others, it means inner strength and wisdom. For me, it means cultivating, accepting and ultimately celebrating what I already have. It means many things to most of us. But all of us, myself included, have a desire to look and feel our best. Just how we do that is what this project is all about.

Each week, I will post a new discussion with a woman. These women are all ages, from all walks of life, each with her own beauty rituals, routines and stories. Every single one of these women have a beauty philosophy. In gathering these oral histories, it is my goal to widen our collective definition of beauty itself.