I think of my daily beauty routine sort of like I’m a mage in a tower doing these weird little esoteric rituals regularly in between my other duties, mixing up and applying potions and powders and performing these odd—but graceful!—little rituals to cast spells and influence events. The things I do in service of beauty change my mood and affect my bearing; they influence the way others view me and make my skin feel nice. It feels magical and desperately important and also deeply silly. Obviously, I love it.

The first step of my daily beauty practice (on days when it applies) takes place immediately before I go to bed at night (on every third or fourth day). I am really good about keeping it up, because I know what will happen if I don’t. I would call myself a nail biter, but that seems to conjure an image of someone persistently, daintily nibbling a nail held up to her mouth. What I do is more like, pick at the edge of one of my fingernails until I pry up a corner, which I seize between my teeth and use as purchase to rip off the tip of the nail in one swift motion. Then I grind the torn off piece of nail to powder between my front teeth, feeling horribly satisfied and immediately compelled to do it again.

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It’s disgusting—you don’t have to tell me, I am horrified by myself whenever I think about it—BUT, if I leave my fingernails naked, I know I will do it. And I will enjoy it, and then I will hate myself, because I bite my nails when I’m stressed or anxious and it feels deceptively cathartic for like, an instant, but then you’re left sitting there with a sharp, jagged stub of a fingernail and the knowledge that you literally just tore off and consumed a piece of your own body, and fuck, you already did it once, so why don’t you just start picking at the next one... It just doesn’t do anything positive for my mental state. Wear on my polish can bring my entire mental fortress crashing down around my ears, so I make a point to keep my stubby little talons continuously armored in a bright shiny coat of lacquer. Chipped polish spells doom.

These?

These are the nails of a woman who is going to have a shit-ass day tomorrow, unless she takes action now. (That polish was pretty sweet-looking before I chipped it off, though! It’s OPI’s Suzi and the 7 Dusseldorfs with a coat of Blackheart Beauty “BH Violet w/ Blu Gltr” from Hot Topic on top.) I use 100% acetone polish remover to remove polish, because when I’m ready to strip it I want that glitter gone fast.

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I paint my nails before bed rather than any other time of day because that’s just what works best for me. I am significantly less likely to damage my fresh manicure if I apply it immediately before bed, and then when I wake up in the morning it is securely set AND it is easy to pick off any polish inadvertently applied to my cuticles in the shower (which is almost as satisfying as tearing off a piece of fingernail in the first place!). I’ve been perfecting my pre-bed nail polish routine for a long time; it’s very refined.

Currently I’m using Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure Smooth & Strong base coat. (It’s all right, but not my favorite I’ve ever tried. Any recommendations for the Holy Grail of base coats?) On this particular evening I went with this awesome iridescent Sprite-bottle-green-to-Coca-Cola-caramel shade I got in the gift shop of the Atlanta Coke Museum, OPI Green On the Runway, topped with Revlon Transforming Effects glitter polish in Golden Confetti. (I adore all of the Transforming Effects polishes I’ve tried, especially Golden Confetti and Holographic Pearl. Cosmic Flakies is GORGEOUS but kind of trickier to apply and less lasting in comparison.) Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Top Coat in the red bottle is the key component here, the element that makes the whole endeavor possible. In the time it takes to read a 22-page comic downloaded to my phone (god bless Comixology!) it sets securely enough to let me fall asleep without scuffing my paint job on the sheets, and by morning it hardens into ROCK HARD IMPENETRABLE ARMOR.

I am attached at the heart to cherry-flavored Chapstick and Smith’s Rosebud Salve because they remind me of my now-deceased maternal grandmother, who let me use both as “lipstick” when I was way too wee for makeup but wanted desperately to try it. Also, she used to take me to Dollywood twice every year with her Gold Season Pass, and that’s where I bought those giant galaxy glass marbles on a return pilgrimage to the Land of Dolly as an adult! I love those things. I didn’t purposefully lay them out for this pic either, I swear! I spent twenty minutes artfully arranging and rephotographing my hand grip on the nail polish bottles, obviously, but the other stuff’s just what happens to be sitting on my bedside table and now I am sitting here with a big goofy smile on my face having unexpectedly time traveled back to an afternoon spent admiring the sequins on Dolly Parton’s 80s-era gowns with my grandmother, all because I just saw a picture of the Chapstick I like to use. BEAUTY IS MAGIC FOR REAL, dudes, I’m telling you!

Lately I’ve been using Clinique Rinse-Off Foaming Cleanser to wash my face. I like the texture of it, I like that it doesn’t really smell like anything, and my skin likes it a lot. It’s what I always used when I was in high school, and sometimes my mom gifts me a bottle of it. (♥ you, Mom!) I really like Skinfood Egg White Pore Foam when I can get my hands on it; my South Korea-born sister-in-law hooks me up when she restocks her own Skinfood supply. (♥ you, Hannah!) I’m now on my second bottle of Fresh Lotus Youth Preserve Radiance Lotion moisturizer. It’s too expensive, but I tried it and LIKED it and that’s how they get you, freakin’ fancy skin products. I use Arm & Hammer PeroxiCare toothpaste, so now you know what to stock next time I visit and stay over at your place. I photographed the products in the mirror wearing this uncharacteristically chipper morning face so I could show off this badass “Get Bent, Bro” t-shirt I bought from Patricia Z on Store Envy.

To smell good, I use this hippy-ass spray-on crystal deodorant I got at Earth Fare; I like that it doesn’t smell like anything. Then I put one spray of perfume on each of my underarms. Gotta let ‘em air out for a minute before putting a shirt on, and then the ritual is complete: the grosser and sweatier I get, the better (and stronger) I will smell. Within hugging range it makes nearly everyone’s eyes widen for a tiny stunned instant, but only women ever comment aloud. “Jenn, you smell AMAZING,” they breathe, inhaling slowly, and I’m like, “I know, right?! Perfume on my armpits!”

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I was addicted to Allure magazine as a teenager but always rolled my eyes at their continual barrage of articles about finding a signature scent. Like, variety is the whole point of beauty, right? But somehow all those thousands of words I soaked up about various Allure contributors’ paths to their own dedicated smells must have set my fate, because I have never found another perfume that mixes with my own personal armpit chemistry to smell better than Dior’s Hypnotic Poison. It smells better on me than it does in the bottle! It is perfected by the particular scent of my underarm sweat. I don’t know, man; it just works.

I didn’t bother to put on makeup yet because I had to go walk the dogs, and I am not currently in possession of any makeup-grade sunscreen. I’ve been using Blue Lizard’s sensitive skin sunscreen and it’s GREAT as far as protecting you from photons while also not giving you cancer, but it’s inconvenient as hell. Like a heavy armor in an RPG, it disadvantages movement speed; it takes FOREVER to apply and leaves my skin with a vaguely zombieish white tinge if I over-apply even slightly. I always wash it off immediately after returning from the most sun-exposed part of my day and then apply makeup. So, uh, I would appreciate any recommendations for a good light-weight non-greasy high-protection sunscreen that scores well on the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetics Database, if you got ‘em.

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When the dogs and I arrived at our favorite walking trail (far less likelihood of getting run over or encountering UPS trucks than in our neighborhood) I realized that my lips were on the verge of getting really dry and uncomfortable, but I didn’t have any Chapstick on me. Fortunately I did have a tube of NYX Liquid Suede Cream Lipstick in Cherry Skies in my car, which is surprisingly non-drying and comfortable for a matte and I am OBSESSED with the color, so I put it on along with some cat-eye sunglasses and looked very glamorous-but-shiny-zombie-skinned for my dogs and a handful of random passersby.

After walking I did a ton of other stuff and never got around to washing my face ‘til way later. I had long-held plans to attend an event at night and reeeally wasn’t feeling like it by the time evening rolled around, so I needed a reinfusion of hair color to make myself feel less anemic and antisocial. Currently wearing: Pravana ChromaSilk Vivids in Orange, pictured here in the hand of a naked-nailed man because my husband does my hair color for me. (♥ you, Justin!)

The color came out gorgeously! But I still felt unenthused at the prospect of interacting with strangers and my couch looked awwwfully comfortable. I would need a full face of paint to force myself out of the house, SO, I slapped it on.

  1. curled my lashes to keep ‘em from smudging my glasses
  2. waterlined/tightlined my eyes with my faithful lil’ stubby-because-I-sharpen-it-so-much NYX Slide On Pencil in Jet Black
  3. patted NYX Ultra Pearl Mania in Nude all over my eyelids with my fingertip (if you use a brush, you will wear a fully-pearled face for at least three days after)
  4. drew on some wings with Kat Von D Tattoo Liner in Trooper
  5. black Benefit Roller Lash mascara I got as a Sephora sample; I love it and am scheming to get my hands on another because I prefer sample-size mascara tubes
  6. Make Up For Ever HD Foundation in the lightest shade available at my local Sephora applied with this Honeybee Gardens little buffer/kabuki brush I got at Earth Fare
  7. NYX powder blushes in two shades of red, as discussed in Too Much, Girl
  8. tiny Benefit highlighter stick sample from Sephora I received probably three years ago (?) but only opened this year and it’s only going on my cheekbones anyway so I feel like it’s safe
  9. NYX Matte Lipstick in Perfect Red. (Obviously, I love NYX products. $6!! So opaque, so lasting! But be careful to distinguish between the matte lipsticks “Perfect Red” and “Pure Red”; I have and love them both but they are quite distinct shades and accidentally choosing one when you mean to apply the other can lead to undesirable results.)
  10. little bit of OCC Lip Tar in Manhunter (my ALL TIME FAVORITE Lip Tar, which apparently isn’t available anymore??!! D:) in the middle of my lips

I put on a fake leather jacket. I put on my green hat to shield my freshly dyed hair from the rain. I dragged my nicely scented, beautifully attired carcass into the passenger seat and leaned it all the way back. I made it approximately two minutes down the road, watching the trees go by, before sighing audibly. This was an event I wanted to go to, you understand! I had looked forward to it for weeks, and very much supported its happening in my town! But...you know how sometimes, in spite of your best efforts, you’re just suddenly and completely overcome with a case of premature exhaustion at the very thought of other people? Yeah, you know what I mean.

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Justin, who had graciously agreed to drive my sluggish self to an event we were primarily attending due to my involvement, got a weird little stifled smile on his face. “Are you sure you want to go to this, babe?”

“Unnnggghhheehuuhhh,” I vocalized listlessly.

“We don’t have to go, you know. Nobody will be mad at you if you don’t go.”

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A pause long enough to allow us to pass both the fire station and the gas station transpired before I finally responded. “...are you *sure* no one will be mad at me?” I whispered.

He laughed. “Look. Why don’t we take the cover charge we would have spent and pick up some ingredients. We’ll go home, I’ll make you a pitcher of bourbon slush, and we can play Dragon Age.”

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And then, my friends, I said something like, “YES YOU BEAUTIFUL MAN, TURN THIS TRUCK AROUND IMMEDIATELY.”

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I took a selfie in the grocery store to show you guys what the makeup looked like:

I was 1000% THRILLED to slip out of perceived social obligation and go back home at the instant this image was captured, and this was STILL the most enthusiastic face I could muster. I hate to think of the horrible expressions I would have inadvertently and unwittingly leveled at innocent bystanders had I avoided the intervention of my thoughtful spouse and actually set foot in a crowded coffeehouse at that point.

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We went home. He made dinner and the promised pitcher of bourbon slush, and then we played Dragon Age as intended...or Justin played DAI multiplayer uncontested for the controller all night, rather. I drank one-and-a-half glasses of the slush, read Archie #3 and then—after grudgingly rising to wash my face and put on moisturizer—passed out asleep in my warm, cozy bed. The makeup magic had failed to work in quite the fashion I’d intended, but the evening?

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It was beautiful.


Jennifer Culp is Too Much, Girl.