Who Actually Does ALL the Beautification Things?

My beauty-slash-wellness maintenance regime is fairly straightforward. I’m 75% addicted to Crest Teeth Whitening Strips and my eyebrow-threading lady knows more about me than my boyfriend. I go to the dental hygienist when I receive a postcard reminder in the mail, cut my hair whenever my hairdresser orders me to and visit the doctor regularly to ensure all bits – lady and otherwise – are achieving their yearly KPIs.

I’ve moulded my regime in to a healthy appointment cycle. However, when my personal maintenance stars recently aligned and I found myself scheduled for numerous treatments in the space of a week, I was left with two things: 1) a depleted bank account and 2) depleted self-esteem.

The first was to be expected, but the latter?

I’m always prepared for the customary how often do you floss/you should hair mask far more frequently/you’re absolutely using the wrong face cream lectures, really – they’re part of the service. But after paying to be professionally chastised for All The Things I’m not doing (or doing wrong), it was hard not to get a little despondent.

My dermatologist advised that I need to cleanse twice daily, tone in the PM, moisturize with anything SPF and use a charcoal face mask once a week, because my “skin age” is pushing its fifties.

Both my waxer and spray tan magician berated me for not exfoliating as often as I should – am I even taking my skin tone seriously?

My dentist, Boris, told me my gums were overweight (!) from a result of irregular tongue scraping. He prescribed a daily dental practice that I estimated would take north of 45 minutes.

So there you have it: a broke, fat-gummed, 25/50 year old.

It wasn’t until all of my appointments were condensed into the span of seven consecutive days that I realized how much exhausting maintenance I actually do – and how much more I was meant to be doing – that I appreciated just how unrealistic this idealistic upkeep is. Who actually does everything they’re meant to be doing? Does anyone ever use a hair mask?? There’s simply no way to follow every professional’s rules; I’d have about four and a half minutes to spare per week to do life, which is a priority most days.

An alternative solution is that I need to chill and downscale on what I think is mandatory. A standing gel manicure appointment is probably not.

So what say you? Are the societal expectations too high, or are our ideal regimes too superfluous? Isn’t some of this pampering important — “treat yo’self” and all that good stuff?

Do you do all the things? And if not, what’s your priority?

I’m personally sticking with the White Strips. Those I can handle, and Boris approves.

Photographed by Jamie Nelson for Elle Mexico June 2011


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  • They’re too high. And to quote my mother (I am slowly turning into her), we create things to make problems, and then we make more things to fix them (she says it much more elegantly). Essentially, all of the “problems” we need to fix are actually a result of other stuff. For example, we wouldn’t need to be doing all of that teeth maintenance if we didn’t consume sugar (added). Studies show that that’s what causes tooth decay. Our skin is dry and flaky because we don’t drink water, we spend time outside when we shouldn’t, and then we have to buy a ton of lotions to fix it.

    I mainly get annoyed at all of those people (like the whole foods lady who told me I have an “oily t zone” and I should buy X product) because they mostly just want your money and that’s why they judge you so openly. Maybe that’s just my own experience, though.

    • Lea Telivuo-Kupari

      Yes sure tooth decay does not happen without sugar (but you get enough sugar a day by drinking one glass of fruit juice for the bacteria to be able to cause tooth decay) but on top of that accumulation of plaque and tartar will lead to periodontitis which again will eventually lead to tooth loss unless one brushes one’s teeth twice everyday and uses toothpicks or floss just about every day. People have a little bit different microbial flora in the oral cavity, so some people get away with bad habits easier than others. And 90% of the maintenance of oral health is what you do at home. Nevertheless, i would suggest the most important part of what the professionals do is to motivate the patient and that isn’t done by making you feel guilty, no, it’s far more efficient to point out the things you are doing right and then tell you where there is room for improvement.

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  • I definitely don’t do them all. I cleanse my face twice a day, moisturize in the morning, exfoliate twice a week, get my hair done once every month or two depending on the colour, get waxed every 3-4 weeks, and try to floss daily (at least on weekdays). I’ll do masks and all that maybe a few times a year. I haven’t got any really negative criticisms from the pros so I think I’m doing ok.

    • Krista Anna Lewis

      OMG this is more than i can even manage.

  • Beatrice

    “Only floss the teeth you want to keep!” –my boss who is not a dentist but looks darn good in her 70s.

    When people (anyone ranging from my hairdresser, a lady hawking makeup at Sephora, an aesthetician, my passive aggressive friend) tell me I “should” do something, I take it with a grain of salt. “Should” is a word that can put this weird undue pressure on us to comply to other peoples’ interpretations of what is best for us, or our own pressure to comply with society’s norms. Personally, I follow the advice of my doctor (and if they’re prescribing somethin’ serious I get a second opinion), my dentist (FLOSS), and sometimes my dermatologist who has skin like a baby, which I covet. Everything else? I do what I want, when I want. Haven’t had a haircut since August, but I do a face mask at least once a week, usually more frequently. I do my own nails, but I like getting a massage or a facial every once in a while because it’s relaxing for me. It’s all about balance and what feels right.

    I also think that if you go see someone specifically FOR their expertise in a certain area, like an aesthetician or a dentist, you have to assume they will be giving you advice and counsel–you’re seeing them specifically for that reason. What you do with that counsel, how you internalize it, and how you put it into practice is up to you.

  • Heina Dadabhoy

    My top priority is my face skin. Doing my mandelic acid peel skincare routine (which includes the peel, a serum, and a moisturizer) every 4 days (with the occasional addition of a peel-off mask after to degunk the pores) keeps the pimples and the rosacea scales at bay. It also means I don’t need face makeup every day and for special occasions, everything goes on beautiful and smooth. My #2 priority is moisturizing my body so that I’m not ashy and my body hair continues to soften. Third is my lips, which I slather with goopy yet effective lip balms on nights I remember.

    Other than that, I floss 5x or more a week. I rarely cut or color my hair, stopped removing my body hair (aside from a few stray brow hairs, I either soften or trim but don’t remove), don’t get mani/pedis unless someone else is paying for them (rare), drink lots of water, and get as much sleep as I can. I decided a long time ago that boring grooming isn’t for me or my tight budget, so I focus on stuff I enjoy and that makes me feel good.

  • I am of the They’re WAY TOO HIGH persuasion. I don’t do what people tell me to do like that, except try to remember to floss (why is that so hard?) The older I get, the more I feel like less is more with beauty (for me anyway.)

    Here’s my beauty routine (and I live in the dry, DRY, mountains of utah), I use Aveeno body wash for extra dry skin. I use Aveeno lotion afterward, for extra dry skin. I try to drink enough water which is necessary in this dry weather here. I avoid sunburns at all costs (pale skin and in the mountains at high elevations causes some serious burning!)

    FACE: I wash my face once a week with Aveeno scrubbing pads, the rest of the week I just rinse it off, or wipe it softly with a wet washrag. Soap kills my skin and dries it out even more. The more I wash, the more oil and peeling my face produces. Every once in a while like 3 times a year, I do a mask on my face. I
    wear a bb cream instead of foundation, and only use it on the T zone and
    under eye areas of my face that are a different color. Makeup is
    simple. Mascara, blush, occasional eye liner, or brow pencil, and every
    once in a while a bright lipstick. Otherwise it’s lip balm.

    HAIR: I wash my hair with basic head and shoulders shampoo (again it’s so DRY HERE) and a moisturizing conditioner for the ends. And I only wash it twice a week. More washing dries my scalp out. I rarely blow dry and use only hairspray as needed, and occasionally an oil for when it’s static city. I cut my hair twice a year, and will either leave it natural or do a melt to brighten my dishwater top.

  • l:ly

    I floss daily and that’s like enough. I feel like I haven’t exfoliated since 2009 and I don’t remember the last time that I went to the derm for something other than a mole check. I think I’m failing at maintenance???? 🙁

  • Julie Meowmeows

    Face regimen: Cold water in the morning, Liz Earle cleanser, witch hazel and Ceramidin cream at night, clay mask once a week and an occasional peel. The there’s my hair . . . my poor hair. I wash it three times a week with whatever shampoo and conditioner my husband bought, and dry shampoo between.

  • My skin is most important to me. I have a longer regimen than I used to, but my mom always said that if I wanted to look good in my 60s, I had to start now. That includes moisturizing my whole body every day (do you know how much age shows in your hands?!). Brushing and flossing is also a must because root canals suck.

  • Ugh so true!! I always feel like shit after appointments. Idk I think a lot of shit (like at the hair dresser) is just trying to get you to spend more money…but I think if you feel good about yourself & healthy/happy; you should do whatever you want!!! I never floss though…..I prob should. K I’m done with this rant

  • I do admittedly far too few of the things. I think because my look falls somewhere between carefully curated disarray and absent-minded professor on the disheveled spectrum, I subconsciously justify neglecting regular haircuts and an effective skincare regime. After making it a new years resolution for all of my young-adult years, I’ve finally (mostly) broken the habit of falling asleep wearing makeup. I don’t do much to my eyebrows anymore (oh man did I ever in the early aughts when ultra-thin brows were en vogue) (the horror!) but I’ll do the occasional upper lip wax (with great eyebrows comes a great mustache, what can you do). My teeth could use a whitening treatment or two and a round of invisalign but I can convince myself they have more character this way. I floss occasionally to get my dentist off my back. I’ve broken my nose a few times and honestly relish a little in the bumps and crooked spots.

    AND YET, I am a rigid perfectionist when it comes to my twice-a-month gel manicure. I’m not sure what that’s about. I prefer to avoid looking too deliberately made-up under any other circumstance. I have bony purple witch hands with poor circulation and probably should avoid drawing attention to them. And yet

  • Greer Clarke

    If I don’t smell bad most days and occasionally pluck the black hair form my arm mole I’m doing okay

    • BK

      Finally somebody speaking my language, except my mole is on my neck

  • Jenelle

    I cleanse my face twice daily (double cleanse at night), tone, moisturize and use an overnight facial mask twice a week. Floss daily and go to my twice yearly dental appointments. Get facials about 2-3 times a year. Wax every 6 weeks. And get a blow out every two weeks. Typing this all out I suddenly feel very high maintenance but it only takes like 15 minutes to get ready in the morning.

  • Merri

    Yes, I do all the things. At night, I double cleanse (second cleanse with my clarisonic or foreo luna). Then I tone, use essence, 2-3 x per week use a clay mask and an eye mask, and often follow up with a sheet mask. Then I use eye cream, retin-a, face oil, and moisturizer. Sometimes 2 moisturizers depending on how my skin is feeling and a sleeping mask on top of that a few times a week. I love it. Washing my face is my favorite time of the day. I love pretty packaging and products that make my face feel good. It’s soothing, relaxing, and gets me ready for bed. Oh, btw I also do a full am routine! One cleanser, toner, essence, topical clindamycin + benzoyl peroxide 5% (every other day), face oil, eye cream, moisturizer, and SPF.

    One thing that I like about the recent takeover of Korean beauty is that it has made me feel unashamed about being so “high maintenance.” To each her own!

    Also, I don’t do anything to my hair. I’ve never dyed it. I never curl it, straighten it, or even blow dry it. I wash it every night, apply Biosilk to the ends, sleep on it wet, and simply brush it in the morning. My hair will never be thick or hold a curl. I’ve come to accept it for who it is and focus more on my skin.

    • BK

      Do…do you sleep

      • Alarive

        I’ve started doing the same, and honestly, it’s cut down drastically on my make up time. Western women spend 5 minutes caring for their face, and 15 doing makeup. Just invert it, how Korean women do. It’s not so much work. It feels so much better, way more than makeup does, to me anyway.

        • BK

          What an intriguing strategy. Is it allowed if I just do the 15 minute Korean skin bit and continue nixing makeup altogether?

          • Merri

            haha I do sleep! I think it helps me fall asleep faster sometimes. Like, by the time my head hits the pillow, I’m totally relaxed, if you know what I mean. It also doesn’t take me more than about 30 mins. In a 24 hour day, that’s not much! I would totally encourage spending time on skin instead of makeup. You gotta do what works for you!

          • Merri

            Oh, and I should also say that on mask nights, it takes about an hour, but I honestly enjoy it, so it doesn’t seem like I’m spending my entire life at the bathroom sink. 🙂

          • Alarive

            Absolutely. What I meant was that in the end, properly caring for your face means that you actually need less time for makeup. Your skin becomes so smooth and dewy as a result!

  • You are hilarious! I love it. Take everything with a grain of salt and as you know, everyone gets paid more the more you come back. RELAX!

  • kforkarli

    Oh I SO enjoy reading about people’s beauty routines.
    I do the face thing fairly well (now using ASAP and Dermalogica with Kiehl’s night oil) after MAN REPELLER helped me work out what my face rash was last year (an amazing discovery and my rash is now gone!). I’ve started to wear socks with hardcore foot moisturiser while I’m hanging out before bed. I’m about to do a 700km walk and worry my feet will be cracked open if I don’t give them some TLC. As for hair, I’ve gone back to my natural colour and have an at home hair dresser who texts me when she’s free. The only appointments that are religiously attended are dentist, pap smear and eyebrows. Maybe not in that order.

  • It has definitely gotten out of hand. I don’t subscribe to all of it, but I know I am a ridiculously “vain” person. I think a lot of these “things” are really a result of most of these practitioners selling shit they never used to sell. They align with brands now, and have basically become pushers, vs just doctors.

    Salons are one thing, yes, they sell and push all kinds of services and products to hit on our self esteem and vanity. That’s been that way forever. But over the course of the last, say, five years now, every doctor I see (really every doctor full stop nowadays) is selling some brand of something in their office. Mouthwash. Floss. Toothbrushes. Skincare. Retinoids and anti-aging protocols. Supplements. Diet plans. You name it. You can’t even get a scrip sent to your neighborhood pharmacy anymore. They either dispense it through their office or through some skeezy mail order pharmacy where you get it “free” through some crazy program.

    I dye my hair on a very strict schedule. And if I can’t get in to my magician on time, or something comes up, I have all the supplies to do it at home. If roots bug me halfway between, Ill do it early at home. I can’t do roots. But I refuse to change the color to prevent them at all.

    I have a lot of skin allergies, sensitivities and really allergies full stop and always have. So anything new I try is usually an “adventure” in itself. I LIKE to try stuff, usually in an attempt to streamline some step of my routine. Especially the spackling–my shiners are the bane of my existence and anything I can do to cover them in as few steps as possible, I will. But I do have a “streamlined” makeup routine, I think, and I am boring as hell about it. Yet I own a small Sephora store’s worth of stock.

  • TheOracle

    I definitely cannot do all the things. You do a Lot of Things.

    #1 priority: Skin care-2X daily wash and moisturize 2x daily/
    Face masks are pretty easy, you can slap it on and read, watch t.v, cook etc. So I can do it 1-2 times a week.

    #2. Hair- Natural African american hair usually takes A LOT of maintenance, so hair mask once a week at least, and daily styling, but I barely spend money on a hair dresser

    Those my top beauty priorities.

    You’re right you have to pick and choose. You can’t do all the things, unless you are a model/socialite where it’s your job to do all the things. I try not to be too hard on myself, the “ideal”, for 99.99% of the population is impossible. Plus complete perfection is usually a little off anyway, right?!

  • this was great! I don’t think anything is a must and many mosts do more harm than good (blowouts, manicures). And besides a daily dollop of spf, I think are skin needs less tending than we think. I mean how many serums and masks can we actually sponge up in a given day/week?

  • Ivana

    I get up, coconut oil pull while making coffee, tea, breakfast, wash my teeth, drink coffee, eat breakfast, take shower, clean my face with home made apple cider vinegar homemade toner, mix my BB La Roche Posay creme with Vichy liquid power, kill the shine with baby powder, put some blush (I don’t draw my face with all the contouring trend, I like my face), some crayon, mascara and little bit of lipstick. Body milk is obligatory, currently using Nivea classic, but will make homemade body butter. In the evening I clean my face with homemade cleansing balm (with hot cloth), then again my homemade toner (or micellar water), and Vichy liftactive supreme cream. I never go to sleep with my make up on.
    Besides, I wash my teeth at least 3 times a day, I don’t floss (I always cut myself while doing this and don’t take out anything), I shave my body hairs twice a week, I wash my hair 3 times a week and dye it by myself once a month, I go to hairdresser seldom lately due to the lack of time. I haven’t been to the massage treatment for a while, I do my nails by myself (at the end of the week I have layers of red nail polish on). I stopped to tweeze my eyebrows two years ago (I changed the shape a lot during lifetime), and I love it like this. I peel my heels once in a week while taking shower.
    What I am trying to put into routine is facelifting exercises. That is useful!
    So, I am trying to be easy, I don’t have much time, not even to sleep enough. Sometimes I think of all the things women should nurse and it would require another lifetime.
    And I’m 36.

  • For mornings, I clean, moisturize, put on makeup which take about 20 min to do total. Evenings I also tone and do a mask, which I alternate between charcoal, peel masks, and moisturizing ones. As a dentist I obvs brush twice a day and floss in the evenings. I visit my dentist twice a year for checkups. I don’t do much with my hair most days…and get a haircut about once a year. And for nails I just paint my own weekly!

    Not sure what happened to your gum there.

  • Jasmine

    I practice a fairly thorough regimen now that I think about it.
    I cull my closet once a week, go through a very extensive skincare routine everyday (oil cleanser, konjac sponge exfoliation, acid exfoliant, toner, essence, ampoule, moisturizer, eye cream), do my nails with natural nail polish (Dior Glow ftw!) every week, floss each day with a tongue scraping once a week and a Sonicare brushing 3x a day (that toothbrush is lifechanging), whiten my teeth once a month, and do a spa day once a week with is basically not relaxing since it’s my basic routine amped up. I never do professional work except my brow threader and a haircut once every 2 months. Whew. Good thing I enjoy it all!
    However, I almost never brush my hair and never use body oil.

  • Mayra

    I stand by the notion that there’s nothing you have to do, and that we should be able to be like ‘fuck it’ and be ok with it. That being said, I do stuff I like, and stuff I don’t really like but I like its results (shaving, anyone?). If I care enough, I do it, if I don’t, there’s no one on this earth capable of convincing me or making me feel bad.

  • rjt

    honestly if you’re the type of girl that wants to wear nail polish every day, the standing gel mani should probably stick around. filing, buffing and painting takes forever and can be really annoying, plus fixing chips is a pain in the ass. sometimes a little extra money spent is worth it when it cuts down on the hassle.

  • Marta Millere

    Pampering oneself is fantastic but stressful because it takes so much time! Once I almost ripped my boyfriend’s head off because he was complaining I was never around (work deadlines and part-time MBA got in the way) and when I was, I was spending time doing my nails, picking out outfits or putting on face masks. I remember – rather proudly – yelling I’M A FUCKING WOMAN! THIS SHIT TAKES TIME! I DON’T WAKE UP LOOKING LIKE THIS!

    I wash my face w/a Vichy gel in the evenings and make sure everything has properly come off with some micellar water by Madara, an organic Latvian skincare brand. In the mornings it’s just warm water & some Kiehl’s pore-tightening lotion, Vichy BB cream or Kiehl’s pore-tightening cream and MAC foundation.

    I’ve come to adore my evening rituals with Madara anti-ageing cream (I’m 27) and anti-ageing eye cream. My boyfriend hates the smell of both (Madara products generally smell like a grassy meadow)…but then again, I don’t care.
    Nails twice a week. Hair masks once a week, face clay masks once a week.

  • Katrina

    I probably don’t do as much as I should. In fact, I know I don’t do as much as I should. But I would like to!

    My focus is on my face, though my routine is very simple. I use a cleanser in the evenings after removing my makeup, and put on some Israeli face cream with dead sea salt before I go to bed. In the morning I just use some more cleanser, and stick to skin-friendly cosmetics like mineral makeup with SPF.

    Besides that, it is a work in progress. I don’t use any special products on my hair but barely ever use heating tools on it so it’s in good condition. I moisturize when I remember to, which is not often! Though I am getting better. I bought some homemade coffee ground shower scrub and body butter which are so lovely I actually enjoy using them.