What happens when SELF’s beauty editors (who have a combined 26 years of experience) don’t follow their own look-good advice? Well, the results can be ugly! Now they’re coming clean about their offenses in the hopes that it will keep you out of trouble.
“I had too much of a good thing.”
— Elaine D’Farley, beauty director
I’m not anti aging; I’m into aging well. So when doctors I meet offer to, say, inject my butt fat into my face to “fix” it, I refuse. After all, I’m not broken. But for me, Botox falls in the aging-well category. It seems less extreme than a lot of other cosmetic measures. Remember when people whispered, “Does she or doesn’t she?” about hair color? Today that’s Botox, and I think, like dye, if used right, it can make you look subtly fresher, not fake.
My dermatologist, David Colbert, M.D., in New York City, is conservative with Botox, giving me just a bit in my brow, where it looks natural. And when I’m tempted by other doctors’ suggestions and ask him to inject more, he says no. He told me not to get Botox under my eyes because they wouldn’t move when I smiled. I appreciate his honesty and that he looks good for being in his 30s, 40s, whatever it is. He’s not anti his age either.
But one morning I gave in to temptation. I thought I’d be with a group of editors meeting a plastic surgeon at a press event but found myself having a one-on-one consultation. The surgeon pointed out my hooded eyes, falling brow, sagging chin. He then described all the easy things he could do for me. I knew better than to believe a brow-lift was easy, but I said yes to the Botox — I was too consumed with worrying about my hooded eyes to think about consequences. Moments later, Dr. Shot was injecting. And injecting more. I squirmed, but once I commit to letting an expert do his thing, I don’t feel as if I can extricate myself. I don’t want to offend the doctor or imply I know more than he does. Afterward, I crept to the elevator holding ice packs to my swollen face.
It wasn’t until the next week (Botox can take up to 14 days to fully kick in) that, looking in the mirror, I froze. Literally. Nothing moved! Not my brow, my forehead or anywhere around my eyes. My under-eye circles were actually more pronounced, like dark muddy puddles trapped under ice. Instead of many expressions, I had one: blasé. I looked as if I’d had work done — not good for an editor at a magazine whose credo is “Be beautiful from the inside out.” I was so self-conscious, I ended up telling everyone what had happened. It took a few months before people started saying how exhausted I looked. And I was relieved to hear it. My old face was coming back!
My advice, which I vow to follow, is stick to one doctor you trust, whose goal for you matches your own. Mine is subtlety. I want my husband to say, “You look gorgeous!” Not “You look…” and struggle to find a word. Then I won’t need to confess what I did; I can simply say thanks and enjoy the compliment.
SELF's beauty editors come clean about their beauty offenses. Senior beauty features editor Beth Janes let a stylist go too far.
Image: Beth Janes
jpg 7 of 5 crimes btybty_crimes_5_of_7.jpg6332834880000000001Pfalsefalse“I let a stylist have her way with me.”
— Beth Janes, senior beauty features editor
It all started with Nicole Richie. Bored by my long layers, I became obsessed with her side-swept bangs. They are so chic, so diagonal. I thought a similar look would give my hair more style, earning it a release from daily ponytail prison.
But who would cut my bangs? I don’t have a relationship with one stylist, as I’ve always advised; I have brief affairs. (Every job has perks. Mine includes pros who offer to save me from split ends.) Around the time I was contemplating a beauty booty call, a stylist’s publicist called me about a meeting. “I’m thinking about bangs,” I said.
A week later, sitting in the stylist’s chair, I asked her about trends. Bangs and blunt cuts are in, she said, foreshadowing the horror to come. I then proceeded to ignore more of my oft-given advice: See examples of a stylist’s work. Be exceedingly clear about what you want. Bring pictures, draw pictures, whatever. Reiterate your likes and wants. Many times. I skipped all that. I thought being a beauty editor was kryptonite against an ugly cut. All I remember saying was “I want side-swept, angled bangs.”
After the stylist finished, I saw no delicate, sweeping angle, only hacked-off, blunt ends, as if they were traditional, forehead-covering bangs that I’d simply pushed to the side. Richie’s fringe blends gently into the rest of her hair. The ends of mine formed a right angle at my temple with a wall of shoulder-length hair (also cut extremely bluntly, by the way). On the other side of my part, the hair was angled beautifully, mocking its counterpart. The two sides seemed to belong to different haircuts.
I lied about how I felt, breaking another rule: Be honest. Stylists want you to be happy and will try to correct mistakes, regardless of whose fault they were. But I was embarrassed — for both of us. I was foolish, and it was a bad cut. I felt despondent but figured I would learn to style the bangs. That night, I spritzed, moussed, blow-dried, finger-combed and flatironed. Nothing helped. Before work the next day, I pinned the bangs on top of my head. Two days later, another stylist told me my bangs were too short for her to fix. So I spent more time at the mirror, now with an imaginary Tim Gunn from “Project Runway” shouting, “Make it work!” Finally, I changed my part, blow-drying my bangs to the opposite side. Aha! They were almost Richie-esque!
If only that were the happy ending. Richie-esque bangs take time to style, and they get in your eyes. I was so hypnotized by the fabulous 45-degree angle, I broke yet another rule: Get a cut that fits your lifestyle. I’m low-maintenance; the bangs were not. They work for stars with on-call stylists. On the red carpet, it’s sexy if hair covers one eye. At work, the partial view is maddening. My bangs looked good, but they felt like a forehead toupee. I escaped ponytail prison only to land in the bobby pin big house.
Now, after four months of growth, I finally like my bangs, parted in the middle, brushed to the sides. I won’t stop salon hopping, but next time, I’ll be ready. I’ve been tucking pictures of Mandy Moore, my latest hair obsession, into my wallet.
“I was a walking skin contradiction.”
— Ilana Blitzer, associate beauty editor
I preach the importance of getting regular skin checks nearly every month in this magazine. And I’ve stared at plenty of photos of ugly, cancerous moles while reporting the latest distressing statistics. Still, I never ensured the skin I spent time exfoliating and moisturizing was, in fact, healthy. What’s worse, I’m a poster child for those at risk: pale, speckled with freckles and moles, and I have a family history of skin cancer.
I wanted to get checked. And the beauty department is inundated with names of dermatologists. But the idea of stripping down in front of a doctor who had been in my office pitching her skin-care line or whom I’d recently interviewed is not exactly an incentive. Plus, my skin never seemed like an emergency; if I ever leave work for the doctor’s office, it’s because I’m sick.
When I confessed to my crime for this story, however, my editors gave me a deadline for making an appointment. Now I had to go! Friends recommended doctors, but I couldn’t get in to see any of them for weeks. I was headed to Florida for a wedding, so my boyfriend’s family suggested their dermatologist, Kenneth Beer, M.D., of West Palm Beach. He agreed to squeeze me in. I was getting a spray tan later that afternoon, so I figured I’d make a day of baring it all. I proudly told my boyfriend, who is always examining my spots. “You’ll be there all day!” he joked. “Probably!” I shot back, nervous he might be right. “Do you think he’ll remove anything?” he asked. I thought, Was that a possibility?!
SELF's beauty editors come clean about their beauty offenses. Associate beauty editor Ilana Blitzer was a walking skin contradiction.
Image: Ilana Blitzer
jpg 7 of 6 crimes btybty_crimes_6_of_7.jpg6332834880000000001PfalsefalseAt the derm’s, I traded my sundress for a paper dress. Dr. Beer questioned me about my family history, then began meticulously inspecting my body, starting at my scalp, calling out suspicious spots to his nurse, Tausha: “There’s a 4-millimeter dysplastic nevus or seborrheic keratosis on her lower right tibia.” During the check, Dr. Beer told me 80 percent of people find their own skin cancers. Now I felt especially delinquent. Not only had I skipped the test, I wasn’t doing my homework, either.
Following the full-body exam, he asked if I’d like to have two suspicious spots biopsied right then. I hesitated. Would it interfere with my spray tan? (Yes, I know how that sounds.) Considering the rarity of my derm visits, though, I seized the moment. Dr. Beer numbed each area before scraping off the moles’ top layers. Expecting pain, I recalled all the Brazilian waxes I’d survived. But the skin fell off painlessly, like scabs. Results would take a few days. I thanked Dr. Beer and decided to postpone my tan. I didn’t even want to think about my skin for the rest of the day. I left feeling as if I’d checked off a giant to do from life’s list.
The next week, Dr. Beer called and gave me good news: The spots weren’t cancerous, which, he said, suggested my other moles are healthy, too, at least for now. I sighed with relief and told him I’d see him next year — and the next and the next.
SELF's beauty editors come clean about their beauty offenses. Senior beauty news editor Leah Wyar was fascinated with being blonde.
Image: Leah Wyar
jpg 7 of 7 crimes btybty_crimes_7_of_7.jpg6332834880000000001Pfalsefalse“I was fascinated with being blonde.”
— Leah Wyar, senior beauty news editor
Colorists are a little like boyfriends. The good ones enhance your best self; the others try to mold you into someone else. I learned this at 22, when, single and bored with my dark hair, I got highlights. My friends were into the Rachel-from-Friends cut, but it was Jennifer Aniston’s sun-kissed streaks that inspired me. So I had my colorist bleach thin pieces in front. At my next visit, he said, “It’s summer; everyone lightens up.” I agreed, and the sections got thicker. Three months later, the foils migrated to the top of my head. “You’ll look sassy as a blonde!” he said. Soon I was in his chair every 10 weeks with a full head of foils. Forget Rachel — I was on a fast track from Monica to Phoebe.
My colorist’s own bleached hair and Billy Idol obsession should have been red (blonde) flags. And I knew highlights should be no more than three shades lighter than your base and that you should space appointments 12 weeks apart to keep hair healthy. But I didn’t resist the blonding because I felt sexier. I had also started dating an ex–college crush. He was enamored of blondes and encouraged a full Pam Anderson makeover despite my strawlike strands. For my part, I enjoyed playing the light-haired hottie on the arm of a man I’d chased since freshman year. But when the relationship, built on buckets of bleach, failed, I was bitter — mostly about my overprocessed hair.
I hopscotched to every salon in New York City, yet each colorist only made me blonder — and brassier. But I did meet Nick. Unlike my previous boyfriends, Nick didn’t want to change me. He accepted me as the sometimes stubborn, overprocessed blonde I was. Then a friend told me about her colorist, the owner of the James Corbett Studio. During our first meeting, he staged an intervention.
“What if we scrapped this whole blonde thing and brought you back to your natural color?” Corbett asked. I blanched. I hadn’t been a brunette in almost seven years. And it was winter, when I crave bright, sunny things — hair color included. Would I feel depressed? Would I still feel sexy? Would I feel like me?
I weighed the options and conceded. “It’s only hair color,” I said. In seconds, he was painting my head with a tar-colored concoction, and I felt...free! There were no foils, no precise painting, no sinus-scorching bleach odor, only a cool sensation on my scalp. Within 10 minutes, I had a full head of rich, lustrous, espresso-colored hair.
“I love it!” I squealed, running my fingers through it. I felt vibrant, not depressed. Angelina-style sultry, not unsexy. I couldn’t wait to show off my hair, especially to Nick. At his apartment, he greeted me with surprised eyes and a smile. “Wow! I love it!” he said. “You know, you were actually the first blonde I ever dated. I’m a brunette guy.” Lucky me: I found not one but two gentlemen who don’t prefer blonde — at least not on me.