The Most Thorough At-Home Cleansing Technique

For me, face washing is an unavoidable inconvenience. Sure, I like the feeling of clean skin, and I definitely like the fact that a dirt-and-makeup-free face means fewer breakouts and a healthier overall complexion. But like flossing my teeth or doing my laundry, it’s not exactly something that I look forward to. It’s more of a means to an end.

My typical cleansing routine involves a splash or two of water, a quick rub with some kind of gentle cleanser, and a few more splashes of water to rinse. On a particularly virtuous day, I might add a minute with the Clarisonic—but to put that into perspective, I can’t remember the last time I charged it.

However, I have recently learned this is not enough. (It’s never enough!) According to the cleansing powers that be, I should be washing my face for 10+ minutes in a very specific method. This method is called 4-2-4. Walk with me.

I first heard about this technique at CAP Beauty. The store’s co-founder Kerrilynn Pamer told me that this process, touted by natural-beauty brand In Fiore, had become her new “thing.” I laughed for a good minute before realizing it wasn’t a joke.

The story behind it goes as such: Julie Elliott, founder of In Fiore, had been spending a lot of time working and traveling in Asia and found herself surrounded by flawless skin on women of all ages. She started asking them for their beauty secrets and found that, without fail, every woman had a specific (and often quite complex) cleansing routine. “Whether it was rinsing with water of various temperatures or using only a very specific washcloth, the women looked at face washing as an important ritual,” she said. She started experimenting with her own products and formulating new ones, and a few years later, the 4-2-4 method was born.

Here’s how it works:

For the first four minutes: Oil cleanse. You do this with the Lustra Illuminating Cleansing Essence. As you massage the oil into the skin, it will help remove impurities. Meanwhile, the facial massage tones the muscles and increases circulation. A few times a week, you can add in an extra scrub for exfoliation purposes.

For the next two minutes: Add a cream cleanser. In Fiore’s is called the Treate Gentle Cleansing Emulsion. You don’t rinse or wipe the oil off—you just add this right on top and massage it in for two minutes. After six minutes of cleansing, you’re finally ready to rinse.

For the last four minutes: Rinse off with warm water first. Do this for two minutes to help wash away any dirt and makeup residue. Then, finish off with two minutes of cold water to stimulate circulation and revitalize and tighten skin.

After you’ve rinsed (and, if you’re like me, soaked your entire bathroom in the process), finish with a moisturizer or serum (pictured above is In Fiore’s Fleur Vibrante Healing Floral Essence). As a side note, Julie suggests you use a toner or a face mist like In Fiore’s Vitale Toning Floral Essence after your serums and moisturizers, instead of before, to lock in moisture.

The first time I tried this method, I set a timer on my phone and diligently rubbed my face, watching the seconds go by very slowly. It felt painfully long. The second time, I was chatting on speakerphone to my mom and ended up massaging for almost 12 minutes without thinking about it. But after just a few nights of taking the correct amount of time for each step, my skin not only feels cleaner (no more makeup residue rubbing off on the towels post-wash), but I also feel more relaxed and ready to rest.

That said, I’ll be the first to admit that I probably won’t change my ways entirely. My eco-conscious attitude can’t quite justify splashing water around for so long while some parts of the world are experiencing extreme drought. Plus, after a few glasses of wine, 10 minutes is about nine-and-a-half too many for me to spend standing over the sink. And, as Julie tells me, the 4-2-4 method is more of a guideline anyway. So although my routine looks more like a 2-1-2 most nights, I think it’s safe to say that this is a major improvement.

—Victoria Lewis

Photographed by Tom Newton. 

Get more face washing tips straight from an aesthetician. Watch the video hereRead more from Water Week here.

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The Hyaluronic Acid Serum To End All Other Hyaluronic Acid Serums

These days, hyaluronic acid has joined the pantheon of tried-and-true ingredients—so much so that it’s hard to find a moisturizer (or serum or toner…) without the moisturizing light-but-heavyweight. So it wasn’t exactly groundbreaking when the newish Irish brand Pestle & Mortar launched their Pure Hyaluronic Serum. In fact, such was my enthusiasm that it took me over a month to even open and try the stuff. My mistake.

Beauty products are so complicated these days. So many steps, so many life-changing promises…it’s refreshing to open something as simple as this bottle. The clear, scentless gel-like solution goes on easily and dries quickly. And sure, it plays well with others if you feel so inclined to layer and add your own spin. But for now, I’ve crowned it my pared-down, all-in-one (it’s got things like aloe and vitamin E, too, as I can’t completely abandon my need for multiple things on my skin at once). Not for nothing, the company’s founder is a mother of five with totally flawless skin too. But the most important thing about it is that it leaves my skin looking and feeling so damn smooth (even after a 10-hour flight!). Sometimes it really is the simple things.

—Victoria Lewis

Photographed by Tom Newton. Hyaluronic acid injections are big in Korea. Will the procedure catch on in the States?

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Grow Your Hair Longer, Faster, Stronger

Of all the complaints I have about my hair (many, I assure you), the one that rings loudest is that it simply will not grow. At least it feels that way—I’m impatient, and I don’t care who knows. And while scientists are pretty adamant that the normal rate of hair growth is about half an inch a month and that there’s not a lot you can do to change that, damned if I’m not going to try.

Luckily, there’s an entire industry dedicated to coming up with pills, treatments, and other tricks to help you defy science. Sorry, science! And after a particularly traumatic (read: short) haircut, I decided to test a bunch of them in hopes that I could negate the whole experience. Having heard the mixed reviews around biotin and Viviscal (bad breakouts, crazy rashes), I went for a different approach, product-wise. What I didn’t necessarily gain in length, I certainly made up for in shine, thickness, and what honestly felt like the health of my hair. Take note:

For silkiness and shine: GROH
This all-natural, two-part system involves a scalp conditioning treatment and a daily supplement. The main active ingredients in both are vitamin D2 and ergothioneine (an extract from a blend of mushrooms) plus a bunch of essential oils. I did the Ergo Boost Hair and Scalp Conditioning Treatment twice a week and took the Ergo Boost Daily Replenishing Supplement pills. After about three weeks, my hair got significantly softer. I started actually wanting to brush it (a big step considering I didn’t even own a brush until last year) and subsequently found myself walking down the street in prime hair-swinging time.

The at-home results eventually coaxed me into the salon, where I got a professional-level GROH treatment at the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa. It involved a whole scalp massage and heat situation. After that, I didn’t work out for like six days because my hair looked and felt so good, and I was afraid to sweat and subsequently ruin my ridiculously silky hair. Eventually, I did shower—hair was still silky afterwards.

For adding fullness: Philip Kingsley Trichotherapy
The word of the day should really be trichology, of the study of the scalp and the hair follicle. That’s what Philip Kingsley specializes in, making hair products for basically every hair type, but the brand is doing an exceptionally good job for my fine-haired friends. The Trichotherapy program comes in three parts, all of which are crucial to the success of the therapy, you, and your hair. It’s a scalp treatmenta hairspray (but not of the styling variety), and a supplement. It’s made up of a bunch of nutrients like vitamin B6, Escalol (to prevent UV rays from degrading hair quality), and methyl nicotinate (to help extend the growing phase of the hair cycle). The idea being that it protects the hair you already have on your head while also helping to grow healthier new hair. In addition to hair that feels thicker (and thereby stronger), be prepared for nails that grow like crazy.

For a total hair overhaul: Phylia de M.
If you’ve tried everything else to liminal results, try this. It was formulated with recovering cancer patients in mind, if that’s any indication for its power. I did the whole Phylia Complete set, which includes a shampoo, a conditioner, a natural keratin spray called Connect, a treatment for hair follicles called Re-Connect, and a fulvic acid supplement. As Phylia founder Kazu Namise explained to me, “Hair growth is one of the primary ways to draw heavy metals and toxins out of the body, so it’s actually important for your overall health.” Fulvic acid apparently carries nutrients to the correct cells in your body, making them more receptive to those nutrients. It’s made entirely from fermented organic fruits and veggies (tastes gross, but pretty much has to be good for you).

I started taking the supplement first and noticed a pretty immediate change in my skin, nails, hair, and general well-being (I had more energy and wasn’t getting sick). Then, I added the haircare products to my routine and concluded that Phylia is really where it’s at—no shocker if you’ve ever heard a friend talk about the line like a crazed evangelist. And call me crazy now, but my hair grew at least an inch in the first month. And it looks healthier and fuller, too. The stuff is definitely not inexpensive, but if you’re in a rut that you’re willing to pay your way out of, this is the stuff.

While you’re in hair growth mode, you should also get into scalp massages, according to Rahua founder and hairstylist Fabian Lliguin. His suggestion is to train your boyfriend, girlfriend, roommate, little sister, or friendly neighbor to give you a five minute head massage every day to stimulate the hair follicles. Advice that I wholeheartedly embraced, much to my boyfriend’s dismay.

Other than that, I sipped on Bottega Organica’s Hair Health Herbal Tea in Peppermint and took Biocyte’s Keratine Forte 1,000 mg sporadically when I remembered. I did two apple cider vinegar rinses to clear up product build-up, and ate a bunch of chia seeds, because why not?

Three months later, my hair is certainly getting there. And in the meantime, my skin, hair, and nails have never looked healthier, distracting me from being so obsessed with my hair growing.

—Victoria Lewis

Photo by ITG. Know what else works? Ginger. Read about the solution for stress patches here.

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There’s A Drugstore Face Wipe For Everything

Here’s a list of things that will wreak havoc on your skin: working out with makeup on, leaving sweat on your skin for hours after said workout, sleeping with makeup on, not washing your face often enough, washing your face too often…the list goes on. And who has time for that? Not you. What do you have time for? Face wipes.

At first, I didn’t really get the point. Why not just wash your face with, you know, water? Then, I was on a 14-hour flight with only a tiny airplane bathroom sink (and questionable water quality) to cleanse with. A few weeks later, my apartment building’s water was shut off for several days, and I found myself wondering whether it was acceptable to wash my face with Evian (it’s not). And all of the sudden, I got it. Face wipes.

I went to the corner drugstore, excited to arm myself with this newfound weapon in the war against breakouts, only to realize that there certainly is no shortage of options. But instead of being overwhelmed, be discerning. Are you looking to exfoliate, to sooth, or simply to clean? Pick your issue (or issues, if you want) and find the corresponding face wipe. Some options to get you started:

For the acne-prone: Neutrogena Oil-Free Cleansing Wipes Pink Grapefruit
Like Neutrogena’s classic cleanser (you know, in the orange bottle) that every teenager swore by, these wipes are going to leave your skin feeling squeaky clean. No oil left behind ever. They are particularly well-suited for your face post-workout because they leave no sweat behind and the grapefruit scent is a welcome respite to the smells in a sweaty locker room.

For sensitive skin: Burt’s Bees Sensitive Facial Cleansing Towelettes With Cotton Extract
If you’ve got any inkling that something with fragrance, extra ingredients, or funky texture is going to throw the delicate battle that is your face out of whack, this is your pack. The fragrance-free, hypoallergenic cloths are ridiculously soft, and they have aloe so you can feel like you’re doing yourself an extra favor while wiping.

For dry skin: Yes To Coconut Cleansing Wipes
They’re loaded up with coconut water and kukui nut extract, so they smell like a piña colada and give you that two-drink confidence without having to imbibe. Sometimes, I use one of these on a totally clean face, just to get a whiff of the tropical scent.

For the French pharmacy set: Simple Micellar Makeup Remover Wipes (in stores July 20)
Yes, we all know that Bioderma still reigns supreme in the realm of makeup remover. But if your stash is running low, these micellar wipes should give you similar results. Use them to remove extra-tough makeup while rejoicing in the fact that US pharmacies are finally starting to catch up.

For a good scrub: Pond’s Exfoliating Renewal Wet Cleansing Towelettes With Citrus and Cucumber
Mainly for when your Clarisonic is running low on batteries, if we’re being honest. The beads give a good scrub and the fresh scent makes for an overall refreshing experience.

For a little glow: Aveeno Positively Radiant Makeup Removing Wipes
When I had chickenpox as a kid, the only thing that helped me to stop scratching was Aveeno’s Soothing Bath Treatment. Ever since then, I’ve trusted the company to keep my skin feeling good, and they haven’t really let me down. These wipes have soy extract to moisturize and make your skin feel crazy smooth, so I’m on board.

For no reason in particular: Olay Fresh Effects Everything Off Deluxe Makeup Removal Wet Cloths
The great thing about these is that they don’t have any crazy ingredients nor promise magical results. They’re just solid wipes that get the job done (and smell good thanks to honeysuckle and white tea). These are good for every day in your purse or on your desk. You just want these around.

—Victoria Lewis

Photographed by Tom Newton. Next-level cleansing: Washcloths.

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Behind The Makeup Of ‘Transparent’

Have you seen Amazon’s newish show Transparent? If your answer is no, a follow-up: Why the hell not? It’s only won two Golden Globes, two Critics’ Choice Awards, and a whole bunch of other accolades. And if you’re not particularly swayed by the critics’ opinions (I’m usually not), consider my personal upvote for the show. I mean it’s got Jeffrey Tambor (of Arrested Development fame) as the transgender patriarch of a dysfunctional family—really, the role was made for him. Plus each episode is only 30 minutes long (but given my experience, I recommend you prepare for a binge).

And in the realm of things that make it feel particularly “real,” hair and makeup play a significant role. I mean, figuring out how to master your hair and makeup is hard. Figuring it out when you’ve lived the first 72 of your life as a man? Decidedly harder.

Never not looking for a good beauty tip, I got in touch with the head of the show’s makeup department Emma Johnston Burton and her key assistant, Molly Tissavary, about their experience making the actors look—but mostly feel—pretty. They were kind enough to indulge me and share a few trade secrets. The conversation was long—as all good conversations are—and particularly relevant given how understanding the transgender experience has gone full-speed ahead in our current news cycle (a good thing). Below is what I learned.

—Victoria Lewis

How did you initially get involved with Transparent?

Emma: I had worked with Jill Soloway, the show’s creator, on an independent movie in 2013. Afterward, she kept calling me to do makeup for her for press tour, and we really got along. She told me that her father had recently come out as transgender and that she was going to start living as a woman now. Jill said that she had already been writing a show about her family and that this experience would play a role in it. Transparent is loosely based on that. Her dad—Kerry now—came to set and we got to meet her. She would watch a few of the scenes, but she would get tired of them, so we would offer to take her to the makeup trailer for a few hours some days.

Did Kerry give you any input for your work?

Emma: She mostly told us about her life. She’s pretty new at this as well. She didn’t give us any makeup tips because she doesn’t really wear makeup. But, we had trans consultants on the show—Zackary Drucker, Rhys Ernst, and Van Barnes—who helped every department from the writers to wardrobe to really be true to the trans-person experience. They had tons of research books, plus they’ve lived it themselves. They kept me on track. Because when I was first approached, I thought, ‘Yay, drag makeup every day!’ In my mind, there were a lot of sparkles—and that was totally wrong. As I talked to the consultants, I really came to the realization that this is just doing feminine makeup on men’s faces.

Molly: When I was working with actors like Alexandra Billings, I would ask her about her character. I always approach character work as collaboration with the actor. They have ideas about who their character is, and I think it’s important to help them bring that out with makeup.

So where did you need the most help from the consultants?

Emma: They were so crucial when we did the ’90s flashback scenes to Camp Camellia, the cross-dressing camp. They had all these amazing reference books with pictures of cross-dressers. They would wear these big press-on nails and a lot of pinks and reds—very feminine colors. There’s this one photo that I can still picture where a cross-dresser has really minimal makeup on, just maybe a little eyeliner, and he’s holding his hands up close to his face, and he’s got these big pink nails, and he’s tried to cover his beard up with foundation, and the foundation is like two shades lighter than the rest of his face. It’s an incredible picture. So, that helped us to make the whole thing a little more honest. We didn’t want to present some polished, shiny world where everyone was great at doing makeup and really in control, you know? The consultants really kept us in check reminding us that these are people’s secret lives that they’re getting to live out in public for the first time. So their own experience with it has probably been mostly hidden, and they’re probably not all that good at it.

Molly: I think also what was helpful was to recognize that the trans actors are not caricatures. Alexandra Billings is a trans woman. She’s not a man in drag makeup. She’s not a man trying to wear women’s makeup. She’s a woman who wants to look pretty.

Emma: Yeah, it was stressed to us from the beginning that self-presentation is how you address a person. So if they’re wearing female clothes or male clothes, that’s how you address them. And if you’re not sure, you can just say “them.”

Molly: Right, so for me it was really approaching it as, “OK, I need to make Alexandra look pretty within the character boundaries and within the boundaries of what Jill wants, which is minimal makeup.” She likes a more natural look, which doesn’t mean no makeup, but it means a real look. Not really glamorous. It was good to be reminded. Same with the trans men who transition from female to male—you’re not going to put makeup on them. Then of course we had the scene where we did a talent show and we did do drag makeup on Alexandra and Jeffrey. That was where we really got to spread our wings and do the full drag look. But that was because it was appropriate for the show in that particular episode and that particular scene.

And Jeffrey?

Emma: With Jeffrey’s makeup I remember at the beginning trying to do all these little things to soften his features and feminize his face, and I ended up piling on more makeup than I needed. Halfway through the season, I started using less and, all of a sudden, I took a continuity photo of him in his Maura makeup where he was sitting in a chair and we were looking at it, and Jeffrey was like, ‘Oh! Maura is elegant. Look at her! She looks beautiful!’ It kind of clicked then in my head. You don’t have to work so hard against a person’s face. Really, all I had to do was work with what I had, and she did end up looking like an elegant lady. When I had to go back to an earlier scene, he was very upset because he didn’t want to go back to looking like old Maura. He got used to looking pretty, so it was really a great acceptance moment for me to realize there was no reason to work against anything.

Let’s talk about products. What were your most-used tools?

Molly: Well, good skin prep is the cornerstone of good makeup. I really like Le Mieux skincare. I use it personally, so I’m really familiar with it. And then we used a lot of tinted moisturizers.

Emma: I used tinted moisturizers on Gaby Hoffmann, Melora Hardin, and I started using it on Jeffrey toward the end instead of something with heavier coverage. I really like the Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer. But for people who have more peach in their skin, I mix the Laura Mercier with Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetic’s OCC Tint because Laura Mercier is more yellow and OCC is more peach. Both look great on camera and really even out the skin tone.

Molly: And there’s always RCMA. All you have to do is thin it down with some moisturizer, and it’s great.

Emma: It looks the best on camera.

Molly: It’s old-school tried-and-true foundation. Also, I used the Viseart HD T.I.Q. Foundation. That looks amazing on guys, too.

Emma: That did look good on guys! On the flashback scenes for Jeffrey and Judith, I used a lot of highlighter under foundation. Because we had to take these actors back maybe 30 years without prosthetics and stuff. So, it was a combination of face tape and highlighting and shading underneath their foundation. I really liked this Smashbox Halo Highlighting Wand in Gold, which is mostly gold shimmer. I put that under their eyes and on the high points of their faces underneath their foundation. And with Jeffrey, I would put it over his foundation as well. Our lighting was really minimal because everything on the show was supposed to be as natural as possible. So, it helped their faces to look brighter and fuller. I ended up going through at least three or four of those pens.

How was the approach different for the drag scene?

Emma: Well, there was glitter. And we did huge Ardell eyelashes.

Molly: We both tried to stay pretty true to drag makeup techniques for that particular episode. So it was a lot of contour, highlight, and heavy RCMA cream foundation. We had to block out eyebrows. For the eyeshadows I used a lot of MAC and Make Up For Ever.

Emma: I think I used OCC Pure Cosmetic Pigments. I just love drag. I think it’s so much fun. I have a couple of friends who do it, and I think it’s such a great art form. But my only experience with it before this was putting a bunch of makeup on my boyfriend from time to time!

Molly: I have had experience in the trans community for camera stuff and, of course, when I was a punk rocker in San Francisco, I hung out with a lot of cross dressers. So we would sit around and do makeup all the time. That’s pretty much all we did.

What might be some good makeup tips for someone transitioning?

Molly: I would say moisturize, moisturize, and moisturize. I mean, really—most guys don’t moisturize.

Emma: It’s not a joke! For Jeffrey it was all skincare. From the beginning to the end, his skin changed so much with proper skincare every day and cleaning makeup off completely. We had a lot of amazing products from Murad and Mario Badescu that he was using. Doing it every single day totally changed the texture of his skin. It got so much smoother, so much softer, and makeup went on easier—so I didn’t have to use as much. And really, for someone who is transitioning, I think that learning how to pick some part of your face that you like and learning what to put on to accentuate it instead of trying to hide yourself with makeup is most important. Just use it to bring out things that you like, and that will ultimately make you prettier. That’s what makeup is for.

Molly: My only other major advice would be to not over pluck your brows. I tell that to everybody. That’s a humanity suggestion! But other than that, experiment, find what you like, and find the products that work for you that you’re comfortable with. Oh, and make sure that your foundation matches your neck.

Emma: Yes!

Molly: Don’t test foundations on your hand. You need to test a foundation going from your jawline down to your neck. Seriously though, makeup is fun! And it comes right off. If you don’t like it, change it. It’s not permanent.

I’m such a fan of this show. I am so ready to binge on Season 2.

Molly: I never get tired of hearing that. I am just so proud to be a part of this show and the wider discussion about trans people. I think it’s really important, and it’s so timely. I mean, now we have Caitlyn Jenner, and I’m so proud of her. The people of the trans community are warriors, and they’re so courageous and so strong. Everyone who we encounter and are involved with on this show is so loving. There’s no judgment. I feel accepted for who I am because that’s what it’s all about. It’s more about what kind of a person you are inside than what you look like or what you choose to identify with. It’s very refreshing, especially in the entertainment industry in LA.

Emma: I second everything that Molly said. I think it’s such a special show, and it’s such a good education for how you should treat people. You have to be accepting for whoever someone is. And Molly’s right—for us, it does really transfer into the set world. We are all a bunch of weirdos here and nobody is ashamed of it!

Photos courtesy of Emma Johnston Burton and Amazon. For more on male-to-female transition, read Marlyn Alarm’s story on how she used makeup to find her identity.

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