Wednesday, May 04, 2011


Hello, friends. How is spring treating you?

I decided to usher in the season by: sneezing copiously, bitching about the unseasonably cold weather in D.C., wearing compression stockings (which is a separate post) and getting a "Sun Safety Kit" from Sephora. "Sun Safety Kit" translates to "lots of beauty samples that seem like a bargain but probably are not and yet are irresistible."

For those of you who have actually seen me, it might surprise you to know that I have a beauty product addiction. Nonetheless, it's true. It's built into my DNA. My childhood memories involve my mother transforming herself via drawers full of cosmetics before meeting my dad for their nights out at Houlihan's in Chevy Chase. Where Proust's key sense memory was of madeleines, I remember Oscar de la Renta perfume. I liked to waltz in while she was getting ready and say, "Hi, Tammy Faye."

To this day, she has drawers and carousels booming with products, and is a V.I.B. (Very Important Beauty Insider, i.e. prime spender) at Sephora. And though Sephora is truly genius at marketing products, my mom has sold me (a mere Beauty Insider) more things than any Sephora salesperson ever would or could. (Me: "I want this Tokidoki emery board set, but it seems so silly." Her: "Why? You know, that's about the same price as you would pay in the drugstore for emery boards. And you know you'll use them. Oh, I like that case!")

Yes, I'll do the frivolous Tokidoki and the high-end skincare products and the Nars makeup that somehow evinces a lifestyle I no longer live. But kits and "deluxe samples" are my drug of choice. They allow you to flirt with various brands without really committing. They give you the quick hit in a world of long, plodding commitments to lotions and powders that overstay their welcome and sit silently judging you for leaving them to languish in the drawer. "I cost $28 and you loved me two years ago! Why are you letting me go to waste? I won't be ignored, Christina..."

I wasn't always this promiscuous. For a long time, I felt very loyal to Shiseido. That's because, when I was about 15, my mom took me to the Shiseido counter at Woodward and Lothrop (or Woodies, as it was known) in Montgomery Mall, where we got a consultation and subsequently bought some products. I underwent the "Makeup Simulator," which was very high-tech in the olden times, also known as the '80s.

It was all so seductive. Firstly, it was adult. As a teenager, I was being invited into the world of mature secrets, which for women involves various sera, tonics and masques (that's with a "que") of indeterminate but significant value. Second of all, it involved transformation, which is something any teenager desperately, desperately wants, especially if her looks are plain and her bangs are -- well, you can see the picture. Third of all, there were many smells, which in my experience is second nature to women but seems to confuse men. Fourth of all, it involved lists and cataloguing: My needs were boiled down to checkboxes such as "enchanting eyes" and "a touch of color."

Shiseido was my first.

Everything about the brand corresponds to what's appealing about many Japanese things: simple, beautiful packaging; the evocation of purity, of being immaculate; not too little, not too much; a sense of science uniting with nature. (Similarly, Tokidoki, which is a Japanese name but an American company, represents the other side of what's appealing about many Japanese things: cartoony, childlike packaging; mini, mini, mini; totally artificial.)

That's why it's sad to find myself estranged from Shiseido now that we have more information about what we are putting onto our skin every day, thanks to the Environmental Working Group and others. Of the 50+ Shiseido items in EWG's Cosmetics Database, none falls into the "green" range. It has not signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics, and apparently it conducts tests on animals.

To be honest, I haven't been super attuned to the animal-testing issue. I have been super attuned to the human-testing issue. I am convinced that the epidemic of cancer in women is linked to the beauty industry. I have no scientific proof for this. It's just common sense. The only way we can protect ourselves is to avoid products that we know to be toxic.

I bought my last Shiseido product several months ago. Unfortunately, we've grown apart, and it's time to break up.

Music: "Mirror in the Bathroom"


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  2. I think my face wash is Shiseido :(

  3. I have a lifelong habit of acquiring makeup via Clinique Bonus Time. Which accounts for all of the odd shades of lipstick in my collection. My mom's "getting ready to go out" regimen consisted of a spritz of Chanel No 5, so I never really learned how to wear makeup. I've tried to learn, and even did my own makeup for my wedding (yes, before Kate Middleton did that), but the whole process doesn't fit in with my lifestyle. Perhaps I should have been born a man.

  4. Oh, make no mistake -- I don't know how to do my own makeup either. That doesn't stop me from buying it.


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