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Beauty tips from a bona fide beauty editor

/ Source: TODAY

Want to look your best, always? Beauty editor Nadine Haobsh shares all of her tried-and-true tips in "Beauty Confidential: The No Preaching, No Lies, Advice-You'll-Actually-Use Guide to Looking Your Best." Here's an excerpt:

IntroductionFor five years, I worked as a beauty editor in New York City, swinging my way from magazine to magazine and quickly working my way up the masthead. I was on track to becoming a beauty director—one of the younger ones in the industry, if things kept course. Then I started writing a blog called Jolie in NYC. And then all hell broke loose.

My blog was a poor-man’s version of the popular gossip sites that were sprouting like kudzu, with regurgitated celebrity news that I posted and added my own hi-larious two-cents on. I even enjoyed a brief side foray into the public service sector, cobbling together a side blog called “Nick and Jessica Breakup Watch”, which included proof of their imminent demise. (Hey, I was right in the end.) After taking a particularly lavish press trip to Arizona, however, I briefly tabled the celebrity content and wrote instead about our journey, marveling at how beauty editors were treated to such perks as private jets, designer handbags and massages. The blog was anonymous (mistake one) and included commentary on my industry and the often tenuous dynamics between editors and publicists (mistake two). I started getting coverage in blogs like Gawker, Jossip and Mediabistro, was swiftly outed by the New York Post, and had a plum offer at Seventeen magazine rescinded … the day after I left my position at Ladies’ Home Journal. (Worst … day … of … my … life.)

Except, in retrospect, it wasn’t. I learned that flexibility and hard-work are not mutually exclusive and decided on a whim to go for broke, trying to make a career out of this craaazy blogging thing. (Cue violins.) Every second I could, I posted, noting favorite products, great tips gleaned from industry experts, celebrity beauty trends and, most importantly, answering beauty questions from readers. In the flurry of Q&A’s, I realized that there’s a serious lack of honesty in today’s beauty information: we’re sick of being lectured, talked down to, advertised at, and just generally misled.

The questions are endless. When every single dermatologist in America is touting an astronomically pricey skincare line, does that mean you’re ruining your skin if you only have money for the drugstore stuff? Why do all the magazines champion that product you spent two hundred dollars on, when it did absolutely nothing for you? Why does it feel like you read the same beauty article every single month, in every single magazine? Isn’t it a strange coincidence that the product you’re reading about on page 53 is advertised on page 55? And why is it so hard to grasp that the label “combination skin” helps nobody? (Fine, you’re dry here, you’re oily there, but all of the “right” products either make you flake or break out!)

I set out to create a beauty book for you—the girl who loves makeup, hair, perfume and skincare, but wants to find what works for her without blindly following trends or swallowing corporate-placement rubbish. There are millions of beauty books on the shelves by experts, crammed with step-by-step instructions on how to painstakingly create the look that will make you appear as if you’ve just stepped from the pages of your favorite magazine. While that’s fabulous, if you have time to read a complicated manual the size of a World War Two textbook and then spend hours aping the looks inside … most of us don’t! We want fast, accurate and real, and we want it from somebody who’s been there in the beauty trenches with us. Let’s be honest: I’m not a makeup artist, I’m not a hairstylist and I’ve singed my hair, poked out my eyes and turned myself orange more times than I’d like to count! But I have been surrounded by beauty information 24/7 for several years, and armed with enough knowledge to make over an entire village of frizzy-haired, oily t-zoned, crying-out-in-need-of-highlights women, I hereby pass it all along to you.

Thanks for reading, and stay beautiful!

CHAPTER ONEWhat beauty editors know that you don’t

Imagine a life where highlights and haircuts with the world’s top experts are free; where there is an endless supply of Crème de la Mer; where you leave work at 2 pm to get a massage or pedicure and your boss cheerfully tells you to have fun. (Are you still with me?) Now, imagine you get paid to live this life. Welcome to the world of a beauty editor.

Each month, magazines bring you advice on which eye shadow shades are hot, what the most flattering haircut is for your face shape, and which self-tanners work for pale skin. But have you ever wondered how beauty editors know all this? (For me, it’s because I was born knowing everything there is to know about beauty. Obviously.) In reality, it’s because beauty experts have free products and procedures hurled at them. It may not seem fair—why do they get endless supplies of Chanel lipgloss, and all you get at work is an endless supply of paperclips?—but expertise is the name of the game. Without batting an eyelash, a beauty editor can tell you definitively what the best cleanser is, how to get away with not washing your hair for four days, what on earth a peptide is, why the jasmine in perfumes is picked at night, and the difference between alpha and beta hydroxy acid. The advice you see in magazines each month is just a fraction of the actual knowledge they possess.

I’m here to share it with you.

I wasn’t always beauty-savvy. A childhood spent climbing avocado trees and shunning Barbies in favor of books does not necessarily a future beauty editor make. But in college, while pursuing a career as a writer, I found myself at a magazine as a beauty intern. The first time I walked into the magical thing known as a beauty closet, I almost fainted. Much like that episode of Sex and the City where Carrie goes to Vogue and has a heart-attack over the fabulosity of the fashion closet, I was shocked to see that the room (Yes! An entire room!) was stuffed to the brim with every product known to man. Better yet, it was ours for the sampling. After all, how are you going to be a beauty expert if you don’t try all the products?

There are thousands of beauty products in this world (Hundreds of thousands! Millions!), and your average girl can’t be expected to try them all. So, we tireless beauty editors do the work for you, dutifully slapping on face cream, testing hair straighteners and staring intently at nearly identical shades of lip gloss, trying to figure out which is better for olive complexions and which for fairer skin tones.

See? And you thought it was all fun and games. Beauty is very serious.

Actually, I’m kidding. Most people take beauty way too seriously, and it simply doesn’t need to be that way. Beauty should be fun! It should make you feel better about yourself and accentuate what you’ve been blessed with (and gracefully and discreetly hide what you’re less than pleased with). All that nonsense about “redheads can’t wear red lipstick” and “don’t match your manicure to your pedicure” and “young women shouldn’t wear foundation” and “never play up your eyes and lips at the same time” is just that—nonsense. It’s all about finding what works for you. If you’re in your teens or twenties and your skin is slightly blotchy and tinted moisturizer simply doesn’t give you enough coverage, I say wear foundation until the cows come home! The trick is simply finding the right foundation that doesn’t make you feel like you have on a mask.

It’s not rocket science, people. Sure, beauty is serious in that it’s terribly important for your self-esteem. Like it or not, we do live in an image-conscious society, and why not put your best face forward? But, after all, at the end of the day, it is only makeup. Lighten up, don’t be afraid to experiment and make mistakes, and have fun with it!

And when your friends ask you how you know all about about night-blooming jasmine and peptides, well, you can just smile and say that you were born a beauty genius.


Beauty editors are very stern about certain things. Now, I don’t necessarily live my life according to all of the Stepford-ish maxims, but rather take them as loose guidelines. After all, there are exceptions to every rule…

The Beauty Editor Commandments
1)      Never wash your hair two days in a row

2)      Always wear SPF 30 sunscreen, come rain or shine, winter or summer

3)      Wash your face every night before bed … even when drunk … even when tired

4)      French manicures are not an option

5)      Everybody looks better with a hint of bronzer or self-tanner

6)      Avoid frowning—just like your mom said, your face will stick that way

7)      Don’t smoke—it causes wrinkles, sallow, uneven skin and yellow teeth. (Oh, yeah, and that whole cancer thing, too.)

8)      Introduce acids into your daily routine—glycolic, salicylic, retinoids, whatever. Your skin will thank you

9)      Antioxidants are your best friend. Eat them, drink them, wear them, love them

10)  Smile. When you carry yourself beautiful, you are beautiful

But, Hey, They’re Only People, Too
There are some silly things that beauty editors are unnecessarily sticklers about,

such as nail polish shades (never wear red on your nails!) and shampooing (see above!). While this is good advice, say, if you’re a banker—who’s going to take you seriously with fire-engine red claws?—one size does not fit all. My best friend has oily, limp hair, and no amount of volumizer or hair powder is going to allow her to skip a day between washes as is normally recommended. As for the “No Red Nails” maxim, well—that’s just foolish. (A life without red nail polish is no life at all.) Become as beauty informed as you can, and take everything you read (hey, even this) with a grain of salt. Everyone is unique and reacts to different products and tips in different ways. If we were all completely the same, where would the fun be in that? Variety is the spice of life, after all.

Becoming a Beauty “Expert”: Or, The Road to Beauty Enlightenment
As a beauty editor, you have the keys to the city, metaphorically speaking. Just received a story assignment on perfumes? Call Chanel, Hermès, Dior, Guerlain and Givenchy, and within three hours, you’ll have a sampling waiting in your office of the most exclusive fragrances known to man. Have a weakness for products by Bobbi Brown, Clarins, Stila or the Body Shop? Simply shoot the publicist an email explaining that you’d like to try out the new face cream, or that you’ve just run out of your favorite eyeliner. Forgot to buy mom a birthday present? Rummage through the beauty closet until you’ve unearthed a Diptyque candle in Baies, a jar of Crème de la Mer, and the entire Calvin Klein Eternity Moment ancillary line.

When I first learned that, as an assistant, I was allowed—nay! Expected!—not only to call in products but to actually try them out, I was stunned. You mean … publicists would send me beauty products … for free? It boggled the mind. Still more shocking was the revelation that all spa and salon services—we’re talking haircuts, highlights, blowouts, glazes, massages, manicures and pedicures—were on the house. Why? Well, after all, how can you be expected to write about it if you haven’t tried it?

I went nuts. I hit every salon in town. I took my already-blonde hair blonder. (Much satisfaction ensued when one colorist had to stop mid-highlight to “take a call from Nicole”. As in Kidman.) I made it red. I made it black. I cut it all off. I had extensions put in. I got bangs. Then I went back to the exact same color and hairstyle I’d started off with when I got into the industry, satisfied that I had, quite literally, done it all. With the salon options exhausted, I dipped into spa services—a chocolate pedicure here, a paraffin wax manicure there, and all of the massages, professional self-tanning, waxing and lasering my little body could stand. At one point, with my long, blonde, Paris Hilton-style extensions, fake tan, hairless body, “color-enhancing” blue contact lenses and glossy nails, I looked like a Barbie-doll come to life. I thought I was beyond glamorous. My friends thought I had gone off the deep end.

The problem was that beauty was consuming me. In the quest to become as stereotypically pretty as possible, I was completely erasing me. For every gorgeous “perfect” celebrity like Halle Berry, Elizabeth Taylor, Elle MacPherson or Charlize Theron, there have been an equal number of “imperfect” goddesses that have captivated our imaginations. Can you imagine Gisele Bundchen with a ski-jump nose? Keira Knightly with a D-cup? Beyoncé Knowles with a non-existent booty? Barbara Streisand without her famous profile? Lucy Liu with “Western” eyes? Lauren Hutton without that sexy gap? I don’t want to. Those so-called flaws have inspired generations of girls with similar features to look in the mirror and say, “You know what? I am pretty—just the way I am.”

However, while I champion easy, natural, accessible beauty, I don’t believe in being judgmental about it. It’s not about scoffing at other’s choices, saying, “Well, I would never do that” and feeling superior as a result. If you have healthy self-esteem, but simply feel that you’d look better with, say, a nose-job, or breast implants, or botox injections—to each her own. To quote a famous Sheryl Crow song, “If it makes you happy, it can’t be that bad.” Life is just too short to spend obsessing about various imperfections. I say either learn to love ’em, or change them and move on. Simple as that.

(Important point: just because I’m now all wannabe-zen about beauty doesn’t mean I’m not still a product junkie. The excitement over Chanel perfume never fades, no matter what you look like.)

“Even I don’t wake up looking like Cindy Crawford.” – Cindy Crawford

MUST- LIST: The Products in Every Beauty Editor’s Cabinet
Some beauty editors are drugstore gals; others love department store goodies; still more are verifiable snobs, only using products that cost more than the GDP of a small country. Whatever each gal’s preferences, however, a few products exist that are just so effective, you’re guaranteed to find them in every single beauty editor’s cabinet.

NARS blush in Orgasm: A peachy-rose, universally beloved, makes-every-woman-look-sexy-no-matter-what-her-complexion, no-other-product-can-even-come-close rock star blush. The name pretty much says it all—it gives you the kind of subtle, naughty flush that only comes from … well … you know.

Terax Original Crema: Is there a better intensive conditioner in the world? If so, I have yet to find it. Crema works miracles on dry, over-processed hair, turning it from straw into silk. Bonus points because it’s Italian and has an innate glamour quotient. (Maybe it shouldn’t matter, but, c’mon—it so does.)

Essie Mademoiselle and OPI I’m Not Really a Waitress nail polish: With these two nail polish shades in your kit, you’re pretty much set for life. Mademoiselle is the ideal pale pink—not too white, not too rose—that goes everywhere and immediately makes nails look Rich Bitch chic; I’m Not Really a Waitress fulfils the elusive, eternal quest for the perfect red.

Mario Badescu Drying Potion: When it’s Thursday night, you have the biggest date of your life on Friday, and a zit the size of Mount Vesuvius has suddenly erupted, look no further than this tiny bottle of Pepto Bismol-pink pimple destroyer. Within one evening, the blemish will be considerably reduced; if you’re lucky enough to have two nights to spare, it’ll be nearly gone. (And three nights? Zit? What zit?)

Shu Uemura Eyelash Curler: Okay, so it kiiind of looks like a mechanical torture device. Don’t let that scare you. Use before applying mascara and your eyelashes will be twice as defined, as if by magic. It’s my very favorite tool, and the best thing this side of false lashes.

Bumble and Bumble Does It All Styling Spray: Whether your hair is curly or straight, frizzy or limp, thick or thin, this styling and settling spray lives up to its name. It doubles as a medium-hold hairspray, keeping tresses in places without any gross, beauty-pageant-like stiffness, but easily brushes out and works fabulously with heat styling tools.

Cetaphil Face Wash: Dermatologists swear by it for a reason—it’s gentle enough for even the most sensitive, dry or trouble-prone skin. When the mere thought of washing your face is enough to make your skin inflamed, this is your product. Beloved whether you’re 16 or 60.

Kiehl’s Lip Balm # 1: Combats chapped lips like nobody’s business, lasts for hours, and comes in both a pot and tube version. Plus, it’s unisex and scent-free, so the man in your life won’t whine that you taste like a mango-pomegranate-kiwi (and then will probably steal it for himself).

Lancôme Definicils: While other mascaras might get more press, this remains the gold standard, lengthening, defining and just generally tricking-out even the wimpiest lashes. Lancôme pumps tons of research into their mascaras—which are the best in the business—and this superstar is their bestseller.

Phytodefrisant: Plagued by frizz? Look no further than this plant-based miracle balm, which helps relaxe curls and waves, keeping locks sleek no matter what the humidity levels.

Lancôme Instant Colour Self-Tanning Leg Gel: The beauty editor favorite, as championed by industry legend (and, self disclosure, my former boss) Jean Godfrey-June, who famously uses it everywhere, not just on legs. It gives “have you been at the beach?” color with a hint of shimmer, and looks natural—not orange—even in the dead of winter.

Yves Saint Laurent Touche Éclat Radiant Touch: Tired eyes? Suspicious shadows? Gone. YSL’s cultiest product has light-reflecting particles to deflect attention from any unwanted spots or shadows while somehow—mysteriously, magically—brightening the entire face. Try it once, and you’ll be hooked.

BEAUTY CONFIDENTIAL: Getting in the Door
My first real interview was with the beauty director of one of the premiere magazines in the world. Allow me to set the scene for you. Me, a fresh-faced twenty-one year old college senior with three internships under my belt. Her, the Queen of the beauty industry and a woman who could make or break a brand with one line in her book. (“Book” is beauty editor lingo for a magazine.) In general, magazine offices do not look like a Kate Hudson or Jennifer Garner movie come to life, with assistants running about, photos of celebrities on the walls, and tasteful-yet-colorful décor. Hers did. Two underlings sat at a desk outside her office in white shirts smeared with red lipstick, examining shades as if the cure for cancer depended on it. As I cowered in my chair, facing her desk and an array of beauty products each more expensive than the cost of my outfit, accessories and haircut combined, I clutched my resumé tightly, wondering what the hell I was doing there. The meeting was blissfully sweet as she less interviewed me, more barked commands about what I would be expected to do (“You will show up promptly, call in all beauty products, conduct research and liaise with publicists”) and what I would not (“You will not call your boyfriend during office hours, play on instant messenger, check your personal emails, or waste my time.”) I didn’t get the job (surprise, surprise), but I did take away some valuable lessons from her. Number one: if you take yourself too seriously, you won’t be winning any Miss Congeniality awards. Number two: if you take beauty too seriously, you suck all the fun out of it. And what’s the point of that? (Now, in her case, it’s her job, so I suppose it’s actually to be commended that she and her staff approached it with such medical precision. It makes for a fabulous magazine, and a fabulous beauty section. I’m sure glad I didn’t end up working there, though.)

The Lazy Girls Club
Beauty editors are a fairly lazy bunch. We want pretty, we want chic, we want classic, we want impact—but above all, we want fast. Sure, we’re willing to spend two hours in front of the mirror on a random Thursday evening recreating Jennifer Aniston’s latest awards-show hairdo for the hell of it—but only, like, once a year. Otherwise? Speedy, please!

We’re also not fashion editors. Fashion editors are—generally speaking, of course—perfectly turned out, impeccably coiffed, glossy, manicured, wearing threads that won’t be available in the stores for months. Beauty editors? Let’s just say that four-days dirty hair, no makeup except for mascara and concealer, short, bare nails, and three-seasons-old clothing gifted by various beauty companies is the norm. Lest I make you think that all beauty editors are filthy, smelly hobos, let me assure you that’s not the case. Beauty editors simply operate by the “less is more” maxim. Who has time to apply a full-face of makeup, arrange a coiffed hairdo, coordinate a different outfit for everyday of the week and be a fully-functioning member of society? We’re only human, after all! (Plus, beauty sleep is really, really important, and who wants to wake up early to doll yourself up when you could sleep in?)

When you’ve missed your alarm, or simply aren’t feeling beauty motivated, here are the best tricks to get yourself out of the house in under ten minutes and still look great:

If you only have two minutes:
- Great skin is the foundation of any look and is always the first thing you should address. (And, if you’re pressed for time, is the only thing you should address.)

-If your skin is perfect (lucky you), apply a few swipes of light-reflecting concealer (with mica particles) around the eyes to brighten up the face.

-If your skin is generally good, with just a few imperfections, apply concealer to trouble spots.

-If your skin is more troublesome, with uneven tone and blemishes, apply foundation or tinted-moisturizer with fingers (for a more natural look) to even out skintone, then lightly add concealer as needed.

-No matter what your skin condition, finish with bronzer on your cheeks, temples, forehead and brow bone. It will instantly warm up your face and give you a “done” look.

If you only have five minutes:- After you’ve “fixed” skin as directed above, the next most important thing is ensuring that eyes are defined.

- First, use an eyelash curler for five seconds on each lash.

- Next, take your mascara wand out of the tube and gently wipe it on a piece of tissue to remove excess product.

- Apply mascara to both the top and bottom of lashes, for extra definition (I like to apply mascara to the top first, then follow on the bottom to “spring” lashes back up).

If you have seven minutes:- Once your skin looks ready and your mascara is done, finish accentuating your eyes.

- Use your fingers to apply a sheer wash of peach, taupe or copper eyeshadow from your eyelid to your browbone.

- Classic shades to try: Giorgio Armani Eyeshadow #12, Bobbi Brown eyeshadow in Bone, or NARS Eyeshadow in Nepal.

If you have ten minutes:- Skin? Check. Eyes? Check. Now it’s time to warm up the rest of your face and complete the look.

- Lightly dust blush on the apples of your cheeks.

- NARS blush in Orgasm is killer (as we’ve already established), but you also might try NARS blush in Sin, Benefit Dandelion, MAC blush in Pinch O’Peach or Jane Blushing Cheeks Powder Blush in Blushing Petal (

- Slick on a neutral, just-like-your-lips-but-even-better gloss such as Clinique Black Honey, Giorgio Armani Shine Gloss #4, Stila lip pot in Mure.

- All finished! Subtle-yet-gorgeous in ten minutes flat. Not bad, eh?

BEAUTY CONFIDENTIAL: A Day in the Life of a Beauty Editor
8:25 am: Wakes up.

8:38 am: Showers, not washing hair. (What’s the need? She washed it two days ago and isn’t due for another shampoo until tomorrow.)

8:56 am: Throws on beauty editor uniform of jeans, flowy top and trendy, feminine blazer. Briefly debates whether or not to wear a certain favorite shirt, then decides against it because there is an event today and the top was gifted by a public relations firm—which means every other editor has it, too.

8:59 am: Slaps on SPF 30 tinted moisturizer, curls eyelashes, applies mascara, adds a few swipes of blush and lip gloss.

9:06 am: Has a quick breakfast of non-fattening, skin-friendly foods—steel-cut oatmeal, blueberries, wild salmon or egg whites.

9:19 am: Out the front door.

9:46 am: Arrives at work. Catches up on emails, phone messages and office gossip. Opens first batch of publicist-sent beauty products and gifts. Moves to side of desk perfumes, body lotions, lip glosses and makeup palettes she plans on taking home to “test” (read: steal for herself and use … maybe eventually write about half.)

10:30 am: Goes out to reception to greet first deskside of the day, where a mid-level publicist, marketing coordinator and beauty executive will spend twenty minutes animatedly explaining why their (unfortunately) unexceptional product is in fact extremely exceptional. Nods and smiles politely while silently wondering if her beauty lunch event will feature actual food this time, or just blueberries and salmon like last time.

10:56 am: Gets back to desk, where another delivery of beauty products from companies and publicity firms is waiting. Score! It’s the new, limited-edition Marc Jacobs perfume that she surreptitiously called in yesterday evening, whispering into the phone that it was for an upcoming story … which it’s not.

11:30 am: Receives an orchid, live goldfish or box of chocolates from a publicist thanking her for last month’s article.

11:55 am: Remembers she has a beauty lunch cross-town in five minutes, grabs purse, rushes out the door frantically, fixes hair and makeup to look presentable in the waiting town-car (called by the company throwing the event, natch).

12: 13 pm: Arrives breathlessly, throwing apologies everywhere. Looks around, realizes she is only the fifth editor to arrive and everybody else is, in fact, running later than she was.

12:30 pm: Event starts half an hour late. Chats quietly with other editors while eating salmon and blueberries, taking notes on the presentation (latest skincare advances) and wondering what the hell is up with that associate editor’s outfit over there in the corner.

2: 05 pm: Cheek kisses editors and publicists as departs with goody bag in tow. Paws through bag in cab, excited to discover that it not only contains full-sized samples of the promising new line, but also a two hundred dollar gift card to Barneys. Awesome! Being a beauty editor is so worth it.

2:28 pm: Arrives back at office, spends the next hour and a half writing upcoming article, taking only short breaks to occasionally read Gawker and open new deliveries of beauty products.

3:50 pm: Calls publicists to request products for upcoming article. Stresses that they need to “rush” them over, because she’s “way past deadline”.

4:05 pm: Flips through the new issues of Allure and Vogue, dog-earing articles to read in detail later. Tears out a few ads of models and celebrities with really, really good hair and tacks them to her bulletin board for inspiration.

4:15 pm: Secretly wishes she smoked so that she could take random ten-minute breaks four times a day like the people in the art department.

4: 17 pm: Freaks out when assistant nervously reveals that she accidentally lost the bag filled with ten “comp” bottles of perfume from last month’s story. Insists that the assistant calls the companies herself to break the news. Wonders for the seventy-fifth time why publicists and beauty executives get so worked up over those stupid glass mock-up bottles, which they insist cost “thousands of dollars”. Wishes again she smoked. Thinks of the free-radicals this would cause, briefly feels both calmer and prettier.

4:30 pm: Interviews world-famous makeup artist over the phone about the best ways to create a smoky-eye.

5:05 pm: Spends twenty minutes going through products on desk, looking for new beauty trends for next week’s memo. Puts more products in a bag to bring home and test, making mental note to call in duplicates tomorrow.

5:25 pm: Quickly touches up makeup and hair, adding eyeliner, bronzer and more lip gloss, puts on spare pair of heels she keeps under desk and heads out the door to evening beauty event.

6:03 pm: Arrives downtown for the launch of a new celebrity-backed perfume. Heads straight for the open bar, orders the specialty cocktail, then spends the next two hours chatting with other beauty girls, and gobbling up hors d’oeuvres from the trays circulated by hot model waiters. Briefly meets the celebrity in question, marvels at how A) much prettier in person she is (as if that’s even possible) or; B) much of an inarticulate airhead she is (as if that’s even a surprise).

8:30 pm: Heads home in a town-car armed with a beauty bag stuffed to the brim with loot: the new perfume, a copy of the celebrity’s latest DVD or CD, a small pair of diamond earrings, and the latest iPod. Marvels at how she has the coolest, strangest job in the world.

Some beauty products and services are worth it. Some aren’t. Beauty editors quickly learn what falls into what category.

WHAT TO SPLURGE ONEyeshadow: The more finely-milled powers in prestige eyeshadows (great brands: Dior, Chanel, Lancôme, MAC) equal longer-wear and less creasing. Buy a few staple shades that you’ll wear everyday and which will carry you from boardroom to bedroom, and then save the nighttime-and-party-shade experimentation for the drugstore.

Concealer: Cheap concealers simply don’t cover up shadows, hide imperfections or last as long. They’re also more likely to crease, which will give you that lovely melting-wax look that’s so hot nowadays.

Conditioner: While there are scores of excellent conditioners available at drug and specialty stores (some with nearly identical ingredients to pricier brands—see chapter 2), there’s no denying that an effective conditioner makes a world of difference on hair, especially hair that’s coarse, frizzy or damaged. If you’ve tried various cheapie conditioners but can’t help coming back to your old, more expensive favorite, don’t feel guilty. You just have fussy hair, dahling.

Haircut: I can’t stress this enough: a good haircut is crucial. Keep searching until you find a stylist you love, and if it’s more expensive than you can afford, extend your time between cuts.

Hair Tools: When you’re dealing with several hundred degrees of heat on your hair, you’d better make sure the apparatus is the highest-quality, most evenly-heated one you can find. Unless you only use your styling tools a few times a year, the money you save now will be wasted later on treatments for your split ends and tissues for your tears.

Highlights: Hair is so demanding, isn’t it? There’s a plethora of drugstore, DIY highlighting kits available now, but I’d advise you to use at your own risk. For every success story I’ve heard or seen (which would be zero), I’ve seen literally dozens of haircolor tragedies. If orange streaks are your thing, have fun—otherwise leave it to the pros.

Pedicures: Manicures are easy to do at home when you know the proper tricks. Pedicures, on the other hand, are often more trouble than they’re worth, and can be difficult to make look salon-professional. Get a salon pedicure once a month, then just change the polish yourself every week or two (or three!) if you can’t afford the regular upkeep.

Fragrance: Now, I’m not exactly advocating cheap perfume. I, personally, can’t stand many of the lower-end scents on the market. But fragrance is a very personal thing … and what smells cheap on me might smell like gold on you. Before she created her popular scent “Lovely”, Sarah Jessica Parker was known to wear musk oil that she bought for years at the drugstore. And when I was at Lucky, several of the editors confessed to a shameful addiction: Glow by J. Lo, which may not be bargain-bin, but is hardly Clive Christian. The bottom line? If you find a scent that you love, and which smells fabulous on you, wear it proudly—no matter what the price tag.

Cleanser: It’s on your skin for less than a minute and then slides down the drain, so what’s the point of paying big bucks for a designer cleanser? Save the money and spend it instead on an effective moisturizer—with ingredients that’ll penetrate and remain on your face all day.

Nail polish: It always amazes me how otherwise intelligent, sane women are willing to shell out, say, forty bucks for a nail polish that is actually inferior to other brands, simply because it has a designer label. (So not naming names here.) In fact, some of the best quality nail polishes are available at the drugstore, such as Rimmel, Sally Hansen and Revlon. My personal favorite brand, Essie, is also a relative bargain at about $14, and the fabulousness that is OPI only costs around $7. There are some things you need a designer label for. Nail polish—which, let’s face it, chips inside of a week no matter what brand you buy, or how much top coat you slap on it—is not one of them.

Moisturizer: While it’s true that you get what you pay for—and that an effective moisturizer chock full of skin-boosting ingredients such as glycolic acid, retinol or antioxidants is the quickest and easiest way to keep your skin clear, smooth and glowing— there’s simply no reason to spend hundreds of dollars on a moisturizer when you can find one nearly as good (or in some cases, even better!) at the drugstore. Many top drugstore beauty companies spend millions on research, meaning you’ll find the same technology at your local CVS as you would at Neiman Marcus. The packaging may not be as glamorous, and the name not as exciting, but at the end of the day, your skin won’t know the difference. (In fact, a recent independent study comparing several high-end moisturizers with their drugstore counterparts labeled Olay Regenerist the best … outshining anti-aging creams literally five times more expensive.)

What is it about European products that makes us (okay, well, maybe just me) open my wallet as wide as it will allow, frantically snapping up products as if I’d never before seen shampoo, moisturizer or candles? It’s the thrill of the unknown, as well as the glamour factor that comes from proudly displaying an exotic looking bottle on your vanity, with all of the writing in Italian, French, German, or Spanish (eh, just insert your favorite high school language here), with the fantasy that an old acquaintance of yours might pop by the house, wander into your bathroom, see the array of foreign beauty products, and exclaim, “My God! I never knew you were so worldly! No wonder you always look gorgeous!” That’s the hope, right? Of course, aesthetics and fancy labels only take you so far. The reason the following products are beloved by beauty editors, experts and world travelers alike is because, quite simply, they work. Some are easily bought in boutique drugstores in New York and Los Angeles, but are not-as-easy to find in other parts of the country. So next time you’re taking that business trip to London, or honeymoon to Paris (I’m sure your new hubby won’t mind), swing by the local beauty emporium and pick up these gems:

L’oreal Elnett hairspray: A light hold, guaranteed-to-find-it-in-every-single-professional-hairstylist’s-kit favorite, this aerosol is easy to brush out, not-too-sticky, and perfect for when you don’t want anybody to know that you’re actually wearing hairspray.

Jemma Kidd Makeup School Lasting Tint Semi-Permanent Waterproof Mascara: Created by English fashion model-turned makeup artist Jemma Kidd, this hint-of-color, lasts-for-days mascara is perfect for those times (like, say, a camping trip with a new guy) when you need to look naturally pretty but can’t spend any time making yourself up. The rest of the line, with clear, easy-to-use instructions, is pretty fabulous, too.

Louise Galvin Sacred Locks: With no preservatives or synthetic ingredients, London-based celebrity colorist Louise Galvin’s hair care line is designed to revive damaged, fragile, colored hair and nourish it back to life. The cult of Sacred Locks products is slavish, indeed (and for good reason).

Santa Maria Novella: A centuries old apothecary run by monks in a church in Florence, these goodies are the very definition of Italian glamour. With everything from perfumes commissioned by Catherine de Medici (try Ambra or Acqua di Colonia, also available at to medicinal elixirs to body oils, the products are still produced by monks, and are not only guaranteed to impress aforementioned bathroom visitors, but are also deliciously decadent to use.

PORTUGAL:Claus Porto: The best, most giftable soaps in the world—not to mention adored the world over for more than a hundred years—these are less like body products and more like delectable treats, in flavors like Wild Pansy, Red Poppy and Honeysuckle and wrapped in such divine, visually-stunning packaging that it’s almost a crime to open and actually use them.

GERMANY:Dr Hauschka: A holistic, plant-based, ecologically-responsible skincare line that doesn’t test on animals and uses as many organic ingredients as possible, beloved by Madonna and those who are just as concerned about what they put on their bodies as they are about what they put in them.

FRANCE:La Roche Posay Anthelios XL: The ne plus ultra of sun protection, this product is virtually worshipped as a skin saver. To say that it’s considered the best sunscreen in the world is not an overstatement.

Diptyque candles: There’s a candle … and then there’s a Diptyque candle. With a price tag more akin to a bottle of expensive perfume, the many scents in this lush line are just as rewarding as an expert fragrance creation from Grasse. It’s hard to pick only one, but my favorite is the ever-popular black currant-and-Bulgarian-rose-infused Baies.

BEAUTY MYTH #1) French Women Are Inherently Prettier, Sexier and More Chic Than You. Oh. And They Don’t Get Fat Either.
Is Brigitte Bardot to blame? Catherine Deneuve? That cute chick from Amelie and The Da Vinci Code? I’m not here to point fingers, but simply to call a spade a spade. You, my friend, were born under an unlucky star. Why, you ask? Simple. Because you’re not French. French women, you see, have more sex appeal, more style, more je ne sais quoi (the decks are so stacked in their favor on that one, by the way, seeing as the expression comes from their native language and all) in their pinky fingers than you do in your entire Yankee-born and bred, apple-pie loving, “American Idol”-watching body. It’s not a subjective observation. It’s a fact. I mean, it must be, seeing as there are endless books devoted to it. And, it’s pretty much impossible to open up a woman’s magazine of a certain caliber without finding an article titled “Secrets of the French”, or “Ooh La La! Beauty tips from France” or, like, “American Women Should All Just Give Up and Move to Paris, Otherwise You’re Destined For a Life of Ugliness.” Don’t get me wrong—I love France. I refused to call them “Freedom Fries” a few years back; I studied in Paris during college; I cite my high-school exchange student as inarguable proof that there are seriously delightful French people in this world. But the notion that French women are born better, more beautiful and more stylish than you and me? Rubbish. (I mean, no offense to them … but have you been to France? Have you seen some of the dowdy, clunky-soled, black-nyloned, tweedy skirted, Queen Elizabeth-in-the-garden-with-the-dogs outfits they’ve got going on? Sure, the women are chic on the Avenue Montaigne, but privileged women in a small district does not a entire nation of fashionistas make.) What’s really going on here is that most of the magazine editors are in love with Paris and the romance that clings to it—not to mention the idealized version of French women they encounter once a year in the City of Lights during the couture shows. Plus, it’s an easy way to toss off a four-page piece without really trying, since the theory is pretty much accepted as Gospel by the entire beauty world. Hey! Let’s write a magazine article about it! We’ll stuff it with pretty pictures of gorgeous French celebs (of whom there are many … but what about Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Aniston, Cindy Crawford, Aisha Tyler, Grace Kelly, Demi Moore, Diane Sawyer, Tyra Banks, Lana Turner, Diane Lane, Beverly Johnson, Marilyn Monroe, Christy Turlington, Vanessa Williams, Jennifer Lopez, Rita Hayworth, Kelly Hu, Sharon Stone … need I continue?), add some good quotes en Francais, and throw a catchy title on it. Voila! And that’s how a soul crushing, nation-bashing trend is born. Vive la revolution de maquillage!

I get emailed certain questions over and over to answer on my blog. Here, a real question from a real reader, with my real response. (It’s all so real. I’m so real.)

Q: I was hoping you could offer some advice. I’m a recent college graduate, not much younger than yourself, and contemplating a possible future in magazines, specifically those dealing with fashion/beauty/all the usual suspects. I went to a good school and finished with a degree in Journalism. Writing for a magazine, rather working my way up to a writing position, is always something else I wanted to do. Any advice how to get a chance doing this though I don’t have the internship experience, etc.? Or any advice to steer clear of this? I just know you worked your way up the ladder at a young age and it is inspiring and makes me somewhat hopeful if this is what I choose to do. I appeciate your listening (er, reading)…

A: Okay, here goes: Getting a job in the magazine industry without internships is tough. I wish that weren’t the case, but people are 99% of the time simply unwilling to take a chance on somebody unproven … even if it’s for something as simple as answering phones and opening packages! In an ideal world, you’d have racked up internships during college, since most internships are unpaid and must be taken for college credit—unfair, huh? If, at the present time, you can’t get an internship (either because nobody will hire you or you simply can’t afford it), make friends with somebody who works at a magazine. Unfortunately, it’s still about who you know, and having a friend “on the inside” who can alert you to assistant openings is key. Find a mid-level editor whose work you admire and email them to ask if they’ll let you treat them to coffee; bring your resume, spend twenty minutes or half-an-hour picking their brain, and then check-in every so often to see if they’re heard of any openings or have any advice. You’ll be pleasantly surprised—most women in the industry will go out of their way to help you, often because somebody did the same for them. And finally, don’t be afraid to stalk the HR people at the big magazine companies (you can find their numbers on until they agree to set up an informational interview. Following the informational, call once a month just to check-in and see if any positions have opened. Some might disagree with this, but HR reps are only people, after all (not monsters!), and I know many, many people (including myself with my first post-college position) who have scored jobs this way. Finally, check out and daily. It will probably take a few months (maybe as long as a year), but if you’re persistent and passionate, you will eventually find something great that will, down the road, lead to something even better. Good luck!

BEAUTY CONFIDENTIAL: Learning to grow up and stop being a swag hag
When I whispered on my blog about the orgy of free designer goods sent to beauty editors, I simply marveling at the fact, not complaining about it or trying to take down the industry. (Trust me.) Who knew a job existed where you’re paid to write about lipstick and get free haircuts and visit chichi spas gratis and have a bathroom rivaling Sephora and receive free Marc Jacobs and Chanel and Louis Vuitton everything as gifts at Christmastime? Uh … who wouldn’t like that?

But then I got outed and stopped working as a magazine editor and starting focusing at the time on other stuff (freelancing, my blog, my books, Laguna Beach). I still received beauty products to test and write about, though of course not with the same frequency I did before—when you’re getting between twenty and thirty bags a day filled to the brim with shampoo, candles and eye shadow, anything less, even while still an embarrassment of riches, pales in comparison. But once I stopped working at home and didn’t have an office—or a beauty closet—to store everything in, I couldn’t have handled many more products, anyway. That’s fine. I’m been stocked with conditioner and foundation and moisturizer for the next four years or so.

It’s the purses I miss.

Ahh, the purses. Every week, a new bag, smartly wrapped from a chipper PR company and more often than not accompanied by a relevant product. Orange essence facial cleanser? Here! Try some, and while you’re at it, here’s an orange Longchamp bag to go with it! Sick of dry skin when you fly? Try our miracle moisturizing balm, perfect for long, arid flights. Oh, hell, while you’re at it, take this DVF travel bag, too! Tired of reviewing beauty products? You have had an awfully long year. Here’s a Rafe purse, with our compliments. Love ya! Write about us!

Several years of working in the industry has provided me with a varied and numerous array of duffle bags, LL Bean totes, wristlets, clutches, hobos, overnighters, and shoulder bags. I really don’t need to buy another purse … well … ever. But how can you go from all to nothing? “How will I survive Christmas without a fresh supply of totes (and scarves and wallets and sunglasses, too)?” I thought. Oh, cruel world that rains Gucci upon you and then suddenly yanks it all away!

Then I realized, um, it’s just stuff. And I started focusing on more important stuff, like, mmm, writing—and the very thing I was meant to be focusing on, which was beauty, of course. Silly me.


Price Guide$: less than $10

$$: between $10 and $24

$$$: between $25 and $49

$$$$: between $50 and $100

$$$$$: more than $100

NARS blush in Orgasm, $$$,

Terax Crema, $$,

Essie Mademoiselle, $,

OPI I’m Not Really a Waitress, $,

Mario Badescu Drying Potion, $$,

Shu Uemura Eyelash Curler, $$,

Bumble and Bumble Does It All Styling Spray, $$, for locations

Cetaphil Face Wash, $, drugstores

Kiehl’s Lip Balm # 1, $,

Lancôme Definicils, $$, lancô

Phytodefrisant, $$$,

Lancôme Flash Bronzer Instant Colour Self-Tanning Leg Gel, $$$,

Yves Saint Laurent Touche Éclat Radiant Touch, $$$,

Giorgio Armani Eyeshadow #12, $$$, for locations

Bobbi Brown Eyeshadow in Bone, $$,

NARS Eyeshadow in Nepal, $$,

NARS blush in Sin, $$,

Benefit Dandelion, $$,

Mac Pinch O’Peach, $$,

Jane Blushing Cheeks Powder Blush in Blushing Petal, $, drugstores

Clinique Black Honey, $$,

Giorgio Armani Shine Gloss #4, $$, for locations

Stila Lip Pot in Mure, $$,

Dior eye shadow, $$$,

Chanel eye shadow, $$$,

Lancôme eye shadow, $$$, Lancôme .com

MAC eyeshadow, $$$,

Sarah Jessica Parker Lovely, $$$,

Glow by J.Lo, $$$,

Clive Christian, $$$$$,,

Rimmel, $, drugstores

Sally Hansen polish, $, drugstores

Revlon nail polish, $, drugstores

Essie nail polish, $, for locations

Olay Regenerist, $$, drugstores

L’oreal Elnett hairspray: $$,

Jemma Kidd Makeup School Lasting Tint Semi-Permanent Waterproof Mascara: $$$,

Santa Maria Novella: $$,

Claus Porto: $$,

Dr Hauschka: $$$,

La Roche Posay Anthelios XL: $$$,

Diptyque candles: $$$, neimanmarcus.comExcerpted from "Beauty Confidential: The No Preaching, No Lies, Advice-You'll- Actually-Use Guide to Looking Your Best” by Nadine Haobsh. Copyright 2007 Nadine Haobsh. Reprinted with permission of HarperCollins. All rights reserved.