Weekend Itinerary: A Drugstore Spa Day

Duane Reade is Shangri-La for cheap gluttons like me. I find CVS’ lighting too harsh, and any Rite Aid will forever remind me of the Rite Aid in my hometown, which is a scary place to be after 7pm. Ricky’s is legendary, but doesn’t sell Utz chips or paper towels. My good friend Duane sells everything, is usually clean, and caters to all of my weird cravings 24 hours a day. What do you call a place that sells French drugstore products and Kit Kats on the same shelf? You call it paradise.

The other great thing about Duane Reade is that you can ball out in the cosmetics section for about thirty dollars. At the drugstore, peasants are kings. Just because I spent all my money on cabs and Juice Generation smoothies during Fashion Week doesn’t mean that I can’t treat myself like the Crown Prince of Brooklyn with a few strategic drugstore buys. Which makes it the perfect place to go once you’ve canceled all of your weekend plans in search of a little R&R. Less than $100 gets you a full-body spa day. Head, shoulders, knees, toes. Here’s the menu:

The DIY Facial: Yesterday you heard from Aida Bicaj, who is arguably one of the greatest facialists in New York City. But she’s uptown and I’m in Brooklyn… Luckily for you and me, drugstore masks are abundant and are usually really, really good. Take Queen Helene’s Mint Julep Masque, a beauty school favorite and excellent May Lindstrom switch hitter—it’s got a fresh scent, major clarifying power, and a satisfying, cartoonish key lime green color. I love to keep a mask on for as long as possible, but this one should stay on for 10 minutes, max.

And then, like the spoiled babe you are, you should follow with: Another mask. Specifically, L’Oreal’s Revitalift Intensive Overnight Mask. It was invented for slumber but for the purposes of this day, shall be used as a prolonged treatment mask. I asked my roommate if she would be interested in applying this to me, à la Bicaj. She politely declined. Revitalift has that “nice mask” smell (not for the scent adverse) but when applied lightly, leaves your skin a little bouncier afterwards. Blame those hyaluronic acids.

(Total for the DIY Facial: $29)

The Deep Pamper: If you live in New York or in a small apartment anywhere, the idea of taking a bath is either 1) luxurious, because you don’t have a bathtub or 2) unsavory, because no matter how much you clean it, it still seems kind of dirty? So if you have a bathtub, I urge you to overcome your fears and take one. Boom! That’s an indulgence you can have for free. Pour in some $8 Mayfair Body Wash Bubble Bath (scent rec: Sea Lily Jasmine) and you’re all set. And because this is a total body experience, eschew your usual conditioner for Aussie’s 3 Minute Miracle Deeeeep Conditioning Treatment. There’s deep, and then there’s deeeeeep—if winter is ravaging your hair, this is the perfect antidote.

I’d also suggest a pair of Pedispa Exfoliating Foot Masks—the kind that you can feel working while you use them. Pedispa recommends an hour to 90 minutes of foot soaking, which means you get an hour-to-90-minute excuse to remain horizontal.

(Total for the Deep Pamper: $22)

The While You Watch Vanderpump Rules: Nothing goes better with schadenfreude than a lil at-home manicure. Begin with Sally’s Cuticle Remover and follow up with the 18K Gold Nail Hardener. It’s easily the best 18K gold product you’ll find at Duane Reade, for one. Flecks of gold mean a slightly shimmery, metallic clear polish (and it’s buildable if you’re looking for something more) that works as a treatment on it’s own or a topcoat over another polish. Do your toenails, too! And while you’re down there, Neutrogena Foot Cream is no-frills, but works wonders for calloused, cracked skin. It is the perfect remedy for the trench foot I acquired while trudging to shows through inclement weather this past week.

(Total for all of that: $19)

The Quick Fix: Maybe you don’t have all day to indulge. If you’re like me, your “free time” consists of the 30 minutes you’ve blocked off on Saturday in which you complete the tax forms you’ve been putting off. In that case, slap on Bioré Pore Strips and Earth Therapeutics Hydrogel Eye Gels to get the job done. The first is a cult classic cleanse. The second is, hands down, the best under eye treatment $9 can buy. That brings the grand total for the whole spa day to about $87, which might be something to consider if you’re debating shelling out for some SK-II sheet masks. Sometimes more is more.

—Brennan Kilbane

Photographed by Tom Newton.

Speaking of options, pick out a new matte lipstick while you’re there. And say hi to Duane for us.

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The Perfect Fragrance That Nobody’s Wearing

I don’t know if you’ve heard about a scent called Santal 33 by Le Labo—maybe you’ve read about it—but man, that stuff is everywhere. Anywhere south of 14th Street for sure, and now that the New York Times is on that grind, I suspect everywhere north of 14th Street is also fair game. If you don’t smell it anymore, it might be because your respiratory system relies on it. And hey, why fight it? It’s a great scent.

However, it might be time that New York City updates its fragrance of choice (or at least adds to the list of cultish options). For this task, I’d like to endorse Mark Buxton’s Emotional Rescue. Why? Because:

+ It’s one of those complex, multi-note fragrances that just makes you seem more interesting. The product copy describes the scent as “an acrobat perched over emptiness, one foot on the tightrope of life.” I would describe it like this: If you’re someone who goes to a fragrance counter and asks for a “citrus” or a “woodsy” scent, Emotional Rescue is actually both—combining neroli and gooseberry with timbered notes like balsam. Very Aspen meets Tulum. This is a collector’s fragrance, not a starter scent.
+ Mark Buxton is an olfactory genius who has done work for Comme des Garçons, Givenchy, and…LE LABO. **gasp** You can smell his expertise in Vetiver 46 and CDG’s 2 and 2 Man.
+ It’s always best to be an early adopter, right?

Also, New Yorkers love therapy. And what’s more therapeutic than a little Emotional Rescue? Your move, Santal.

—Brennan Kilbane

Photographed by Tom Newton.

Learn your fragrance ABCs (accords, base notes, and concentrations) with ITG’s very handy fragrance term dictionary.

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Things We Finish: Sachajuan Hair Repair

I’d like to tell you a hair mask horror story.

One time, I did a coconut oil hair mask. It started off pretty well: I applied a thin slather, chilled out in my bathroom for 10 minutes, and then rinsed and went to bed. But when I woke up the next day, my hair was still slick with the coco and my pillow smelled like a virgin piña colada. So I showered, scrubbed furiously with shampoo, and toweled off—but my hair was still hopelessly greasy. I dunked my head in the kitchen sink and ran the water for five minutes to no avail. My roommates laughed at me. I was late for work. The scent of coconut lingered on my person for the next three days, until I was finally able to banish the last traces of the mask down the drain.

If you are in need of an effective hair treatment, maybe opt for Sachajuan Hair Repair instead—a low-commitment alternative. One 5-to-10 minute lather after shampooing is all you need…think of it like a conditioner, but with a little more power. After your rinse (singular—hear that, coconut oil?) your hair feels better, softer, stronger, with some just-blown-out fluff that’ll last you through the weekend. And the bottle looks so good, you’ll keep it sitting in your bathroom even after it’s empty. Right next to that full tub of coconut oil.

—Brennan Kilbane

Photographed by Tom Newton.

Good hair: hard to achieve, harder to sustain, but Editor Emily Ferber can help with that.

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How To Execute The In-Flight Mask

The people who think the holidays are a time to relax should email me immediately so they can tell me what I’m doing wrong. Getting off that plane in Ohio, for me, feels what I imagine it must be like for some Hunger Games victor to return to his home district. Relief! But also constantly on guard. With all the diplomacy required of you once you land, your time spent airborne might be your last few hours of solitude. Cherish them.

Also of note come travel season: being inside of an airplane turns your skin into paper. We’ve had many a Top Shelf cite the all-important in-flight mask, but have you actually ever seen anybody doing a mask on a flight? I haven’t—but maybe that’s because I fly coach. (It’s easier to imagine applying a full face of product if you’re Jennifer Aniston flying Emirates.) Pulling off a quick mask in JetBlue economy seating is no small task, but worth it if you’re up for the challenge. Holiday stress awaits; may as well get some necessary skincare out of the way while you can.

First, what not to bring: Clay masks on the plane are nonstarters. This is not the time to deep clean, but a time to hydrate and protect. Creamy moisture masks, or even heavy-duty moisturizers applied liberally—like Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream—are the only correct answers here. However, as any frequent flyer knows, traveling with liquids can get dicey (and no one wants to see their La Mer get tossed out in security) which is why single-serving mask pods are great for on the plane. Nügg makes an assortment—this one has chamomile and shea butter, which are good for calming down skin. The Moisturizing Moon Mask pods are another solid choice, especially because you can rub the excess into your face instead of rinsing. More glow, less work. Whichever pods you go for, if you remember to bring two, they’re easy to share with the person next to you. The last time I offered a skincare product to my seatmate, a woman named Pam (!) graciously accepted, but always use context clues to suss out this type of situation. Pam ordered some white wine before we reached cruising altitude, so I figured she was game from the start.

But beyond handy, miniature-sized packaging, there’s also the option of going for something that’s full size, but more targeted, like a set of eye gels. I look for ones with hydrating glycerin, like Skyn Iceland Hydro Cool Firming Eye Gels. Also nice: a cooling rollerball pen, like First Aid Beauty’s Detox Eye Roller, which is the most discreet option of all and is especially useful when you need to look perky after several hours of ricocheting through the air in a metal tube.

As far as sheet masks on planes go, it’s a matter of pros and cons. Pro: They’re TSA approved and easy to pack! Con: You may terrify other passengers. If you’re shameless, self-assured or in possession of a window seat, BioRepublic’s Aloe Rescue Revitalizing Mask is both face and cost-effective, leaving skin plumped-up and soft.

If you’re one of the lucky ones that can fall asleep on a plane, Slip’s Silk Sleeping Mask is perfection. Not only does it feel like, well, silk, but it’s easy on the eyes in every way that high-quality silk can soothe and relax your exhausted skin. Plus, it also preserves all that moisture you just put in in your face rather than sucking it out, as lower-caliber masks are wont to do. Don’t undo all your hard work—let the alcohol at the holiday party do that.

—Brennan Kilbane

Photo via Chrissy Teigen’s Instagram.

We’ve also got the most effective masks for acne and five less-than-10 minute treatments—or, browse more mask talk here.

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