On my Top Shelf

I belong to a virtual writing club where we agree on a weekly writing prompt. This week was inspired by Into The Gloss’ Top Shelf series because of our shared love for makeup and skincare. It was so much fun to write, and since Emily Weiss hasn’t emailed me for my Top Shelf entry (hahaha WOW), I decided to share mine here. xoxo

My earliest memories of makeup were in my parents’ bedroom, watching my Mom put on her favourite mauve lipstick right before she left for work every morning.

She believed in a low-maintenance beauty routine and would only do a full face whenever she needed to go somewhere special. I remember begging her at 7 years old to let me try on her lipstick. I was an overweight child, and a boy in my class liked to call me Ellie Elephant. At a young age, I could already grasp the power of lipstick to make anyone look, or at least feel, more beautiful. My Mom said no, of course, reiterating the old adage, “It’s what inside that counts.”


I must have been 9 or 10 when I first discovered where she kept her makeup stash. I delicately opened her Lorea’l blue eyeshadow palette, and immediately fell in love with how the different shades seamlessly belonged together. I went crazy that morning, and looked it too: I put on the powder blush on my face like it was foundation, my eyes looked like they had just been punched, and the lipstick I had tried so hard to meticulously draw on my lips would have made the clown from It jealous. 

This was my first major makeup mistake, and I would commit so many of them throughout my life. My high school escapades are well-documented with pictures of my glowing under eye  circles due to a too-light concealer. I attended weddings wearing dreamy dresses that were weighed down by a thick, cakey face that made me look like I was well into my 40s. I had speaking engagements where I was outshone by overly applied highlighter. Makeup skills, like most things I’ve accomplished in life, are something I wasn’t born with, but something I managed to develop through stubborn determination and refusal to give up.

And while I eventually shed all my baby fat when I turned 11, the insecurities I had from all those early years of teasing would take much longer to unlearn. I think I only really saw myself as beautiful when I turned 30. Something that has less to do with how I look, but more on the insight, maturity, and experience I’ve gained into what truly matters. 

SKINCARE

No bath time of mine is complete without head to toe scrubbing. I started making a simple DIY brown sugar and honey scrub after learning about its natural antibacterial properties, and because it smells (and tastes) so good. To cleanse my face and chest, I use the Human Nature Balancing Facial Wash followed by the Human Nature Nourishing Face Toner.

I used to invest in the SK II Facial treatment essence but decided to switch to the Missha Time Revolution First Treatment Essence after my husband emailed me an excel file computing how much I spend on my anti-aging regimen year on year. I’m eternally grateful to this document for curing my skincare hoarding tendencies. 

On days I lack sleep, I put my Jade Roller on the fridge for 15 minutes, and then roll it all over my face, placing extra attention on the tired-looking parts. The cold jade stone wakes up the skin and is said to decrease puffiness. I’m not 100% sure it works, but even just the calming and meditative effect of massaging my face with a spherical crystal makes it worthwhile. I apply my trusted  Physiogel Daily Moisture Therapy Cream and VMV Armada Face and Body Shield 60 right after.

Weekends are for masking. I discovered the Innisfree My real squeeze mask when I briefly tried to do a ten-step Korean skin care. I obviously did not have the time or the EQ to sustain it but I did start including the Oatmeal, Tomato, and Green Tea facial mask in my weekly routine. 

The best skin decision I’ve ever made however is finding an awesome dermatologist and paying her a monthly visit. She used to work in a public hospital so she knows how to work with clients with a limited budget, and doesn’t try to sell you unnecessary products. I used to have a lot of facial scars from the occasional bad breakout which she immediately resolved through a combination of preventive treatment and a series of Intense Pulse Light (IPL) sessions. 

MAKEUP

Nothing has made my skin look better than the Armani Lasting Silk UV foundation in shade 5.5. It gives you medium coverage while still appearing like you’re not wearing any makeup at all. I have mild skin asthma so I perennially have dark under eye circles, and purplish-brown skin on the corners of my mouth. After almost a decade of trial and error, an overly friendly Japanese sales lady introduced me to the NARS Radiant Creamy Concealer in Macadamia, and it has been my HG since. I use a damp Beautyblender to apply both.

To this day, I find makeup palettes magical, and my vanity kit is bursting with them. For the eyes, my favourites are the Urban Decay Naked Basics and the Stila In the Know Eye Shadow which features a lovely matte burnt orange shade called Fire. Stila has discontinued the palette though so will need to find a worthwhile alternative when I run out. 

I bought the Benefit Get The Pretty Started cheek palette on the recent Black Friday Sale and I’M IN LOVE WITH IT.  I use the Hoola bronzer to contour my face; the ever reliable Watts Up to highlight my nose bridge, cheek bones, and browbones; and layer the Galifornia rose gold blush on top of my Glossier Cloud Paint in Beam for naturally flushed cheeks. 

I’ve gotten better at staying within the lines when applying lipstick but I’m still no expert. I prep my lips with Kiehl’s lip balm No.1 then swipe on a layer of Ofra in Mocha for daily use, Mac Diva at night, and the Ofra Hypno or Huda Vixen when I’m feeling extra devious.

WELL-BEING

Music is my refuge. As a friend once pointed out, we are never truly alone because there will always be music in our midst. I have a private Spotify playlist I listen to everyday called Irreplaceable. I started it while recovering from heartbreak, and because I was lazy to make a new playlist, I just kept adding songs to it through the years. I feel like it has become an audio documentation of my life journey. I like how the songs shifted from angry and depressing, to upbeat and celebratory, and then back to something melancholic again once in a while- a good reminder that life is a series of peaks and troughs.  

I also started doodling and journaling more frequently. Drawing is not my biggest strength (YET, lol) but I find it so fun and liberating! I used to hide my leather journal in a box inside my closet, but lately I’ve just been leaving it on top of my dresser along with a box of colored pencils because seeing it there compels me to write. I find that I’m kinder and more equanimous when I make time for introspection.

I believe that water heals, and I try to get as much of it everyday. I drink 12-14 glasses of water daily, and I swim at least twice a week. After doing a few laps, I would just play by myself in the pool. The older I get, the more I realize that youth is largely a state of mind. A grateful attitude, sense of wonder, an insatiable appetite for learning and adventure- these are the things that make a person timelessly young and beautiful. My Mom was right all along.