Headed by Jane Pratt, the groundbreaking cult figure in women's media publishing and the force behind Sassy Magazine, XOJane.com was conceived to be a place online for women to read and share no-holds-barred opinions, stories and information. Propelled by the controversial Cat Marnell, the beauty sector of XOJane became a star feature of the site. I pitched and wrote consistently for the XOJane beauty section between 2012-2013. My focus was on reviewing and promoting quality products and high fashion techniques.


PUBLISHED November 13, 2013




I think the whole saga begins with my mother, as most sagas do, and her vast knowledge of and need for intense moisturizers. As a teen she was always trying to slather some cream or another on my face while I wriggled and protested, brainwashed by the drugstore aisles of OIL-FREE and NON-COMEDOGENIC. I didn’t trust that what worked for her always-clear skin would ever be appropriate for my pale, acneic mess. 

It took me years of drying out my already dry skin with the wrong products, stripping my skin down to flakes and redness before I started hearing rumors of the benefits of using products with oils. My mother would practically bathe in oil daily and somehow I never made the connection that she could be on to something. (We all rebel in different ways.)

My first foray into oil-based products was finally using my mother’s favorite face lotion, Weleda Calendula Baby Cream. Yes, it is made for the butts of the innocent, but my mother astutely noted that the ingredients were extremely similar to the line’s face creams, just a bit heavier in texture, and the tube was much cheaper.

Riding off the high of that first success, I dove face first into the oil-cleansing trend. The promise of concocting my own mixtures of face cleansers and moisturizer on the cheap excited the little miserly alchemist that lives inside me. I ended up spending way more than I wanted to at Whole Foods, convinced I was the next Linda Rodin, and when I laid down in bed that night slathered in tamanu oil, my boyfriend kissed me and then recoiled.

He said I smelled horrible and slept on the other side of the bed as I pouted alone with my smelly face. I kept up with the cleansing bit of the process and my skin actually did improve.

But after I finished the little vial of my DIY oil and ran out of wash cloths, I got lazy and moved on to a fancy but traditional face cleanser that my friend was using. Within two months my face was festering with zits. I tried to chock it up to “the change in weather” or whatever, but I realized that I had been on somewhat of the right track with the oil cleansing. 

I recently discovered the wisdom of British skincare guru, Caroline Hirons, a cultish authority in the skincare world. Her blog is chock-full of super advice and I trust her implicitly because she tells it like it is and her skin looks bonkers amazing. Caroline is a staunch believer in the power of cleansing balms. They are sort of like a solid version of cleansing oil, inititally pioneered by the expensive Eve Lom cleanser. They require the hot cloth method of removal and Caroline insists on the magic of DOUBLE CLEANSING. 

Newsflash: Your face is dirty. You cannot wake up in the morning and splash water on your face like some Olay commercial and think that the skin on your face is actually clean.

Have you ever stumbled into your kitchen in the morning, hung over, and tried to rinse a dirty dish with just cold water? As your grumpy roommate will tell you, it let doesn’t work. You face gets dirty just by being a face. You sweat, there is dust in the air, bacteria on your pillow and your sleep partner probably has worse hygiene methods than your own (except if he is my hyper clean weirdo boyfriend.)

Wash your face in the morning with a normal non-foaming cleanser. I believe the need for that squeaky-clean feeling is propaganda to make your face shittier so that you buy more anti-aging/acne/dryness products. Use a milk, gel or cream cleanser without sulfates and be gentle! I am using up the last of my overpriced (but lovely!) cleanser Clark’s Botanical’s Soothing Herbal Face Wash. It is creamy and removes eye make-up like a dream without residue. After this go through the rest of your usual routine and face the world with a clean slate.

At night the double cleanse is very important. Break out your cleansing balm. Right now I am using the famed Clinique Take the Day Off Cleansing Balm. It is reasonably priced, comes in a huge purple pot and lasts forever. A lot of cleansing balms have fun fragrances, essential oils, Shea butter, or mineral oil in them, which can make those products inappropriate for those of us with the tendency to be a host to red demon zits. 

Once you have a little scoop of balm on your finger, spread across your whole face, and massage it in thoroughly. Use this as an opportunity to give your face a lymphatic massage and increase blood flow and oxygen the skin. There are 43 muscles in the face and they do a lot of work for you scowling on the subway or faking a smile at work. Massage your cheeks, the top of your orbital bone (your eyebrows) and rub outwards from your chin to your earlobes.

After about two minutes of skin and muscle massage, move on to the removal process. Take a clean muslin or terry washcloth and soak it in very warm running water. Press the cloth on your each part of your face (chin, cheeks, nose, forehead) until it cools to steam. 

Step 1: Massage

Then rinse and wipe, rinse and wipe until you have removed all the balm. To keep bacteria as far away from my face as possible, I use a new washcloth EVERY DAY. Let your cloth dry over night and then chuck it in the hamper. To keep my cleansing habit cheap, I buy towels at the discount store for $5 and cut them into washcloth size pieces. I can usually get more than 20 washcloths out of one towel. This makes them almost disposable, but feel free to be green and reuse (after laundering!). 

Step 2: Steam

Even if you believe you have removed all the grime from your face, you must take the cream/gel/milk cleanser from the morning and wash your face again normally. Your face is now open to receiving any positive ingredients from this cleanser and it ensures that your face is totally purified without the sad, tight feeling. My skin is still on its way to recovery and I’m dealing with hyperpigmentation left over from the alien zit invasion to my face, but double cleansing is giving my skin a fighting chance.

Step 3: Wipe

Do you want to hear the rest of my skin care regimen? Have you tried double cleansing? Are you team muslin or team washcloth? What other milky or balm cleansers should I try when mine runs out? 


PUBLISHED December 4, 2013



Céline ads have a running tradition of setting undeniably stylish trends, with the images being anticipated in their own right, beyond the clothes or accessories that the ad is promoting.

Juergen Teller stepped in as in-house photographer for them in 2010 with his somewhat strange decision to crop out the heads of the models, featuring actress Milla Jovovich, model Sigrid Agren and poet Emma Balfour. Juergen’s fashion photography is usually associated with blown out cheeky Marc Jacobs ads, understandably as he has shot them since 1998. For Céline, he maintained his signature lighting style but classed up the mood to fit the coveted lady-like brand. 

When Daria Werbowy became the face of Céline in 2011, clad in a loose patterned tunic and matching drawstring pants, holding both a skateboard and a structured handbag, a beautiful collision of two perfect things occurred. Daria’s look was a combination of classy, chic and cool. She wore little to no makeup and had her hair pulled back into a slick short ponytail; her expression was daring and calm. Each season since, Juergen and Daria have pulled off sensational ads for Céline.

Give me this life...

For Fall 2013, Céline released ads showing Daria against vivid Moroccan tiles wearing tartan wool capes, furs, thigh high boots, bright whites, and hairstyles ranging from a twisted topknot, a ponytail, to little low braids. What immediately jumped out to me about this season’s ads was the addition of a little more makeup. In opposition to her otherwise clean face, Daria’s bright red lip and long crimson talon-like nails stand out in the photographs like a lighthouse in the fog -- a beautiful, expensive fog.

Although red lips and red nails are both extremely classic looks, when paired together (along with super trendy clothing) they give Daria a mature yet distinctly stylish and current appearance. There always exists the trap of looking like a grandma when you get too matchy-matchy with cosmetics, but Daria plays the pops of color off so well that I want to throw out all my other nail polishes and say EEF YOU to nail art.

Nail polish has been a popular beauty product since the 1920s and '30s when manicure establishments were opening up in England, France and America. Fashion legend has it that red-nail obsessed Diana Vreeland, arguably one of the most influential fashion editors in history (and definitely the most interesting and awesome woman hands down), is responsible for enabling this boom in nail polish availability. 

She claims to have brought with her, from her French manicurist Perrera, half a bottle of quick drying nail polish to America when she moved stateside. The only polishes available in the US took several hours to dry, making manicures only feasible for the wealthiest women who could afford to keep their hands still for such a long time.

Vreeland presented the last drops of her precious red polish to the best chemist in the nail polish game, Charles Revson. He mimicked the recipe and created the fastest drying polish that America had ever seen. With a quick name change, Charles launched Revlon in 1932 and the rest is drugstore history. 

Diana Vreeland had a special love for the color red. From her always polished nails to the rouge she liberally applied to her cheeks and even ears for an almost theatrical look, Vreeland made red her signature. She designed the living room of her New York apartment using all things red to create what she called her “garden in hell.” (Check it out here.) While she was never considered a conventionally beautiful woman, she had such a sense of beauty in her work and personal life that even her strangest ideas reveal her as a timeless goddess of style and art. And it totally inspires me.

For this Diana/Daria inspired look I wanted to keep everything clean and just draw attention to the reds of my lips and nails. I painstakingly tended to my nails for the past three weeks to get them to the desired talon-like length.

I contemplated popping on some drugstore falsies for the more exaggerated effect seen on Daria, but then I realized that I still needed to do important life stuff like texting. I love red makeup but for some reason a lot of reds turns out looking really pink on me. I try to find reds that are considered “true” with of hint orange. For the base nail color I settled on OPI’s Big Apple Red. It has a crème jelly finish and great coverage. I would call it the truest drugstore red available. I have my eye set on trying Dior’s Tralfagar, but it’s a bit out of my price range at the moment. 

A shiny nail lacquer can be endlessly mesmerizing. When I have super shiny nails I find myself staring at them all day like an idiot. Gazing at my hands on the subway or (rudely) throughout dinner conversations. I’ve wanted to experiment with a matte topcoat but I can’t really get into such a dull finish.

Luckily my new favorite nail polish brand, Cult Nails, has come out with a happy medium. Cult Nails is a fabulous company with creative and beautiful lacquers with substantial formulas. I was first introduced to them through the promise of a totally opaque black polish in just one coat, Nevermore. They made good on their claims and I started collecting their pretty polishes one by one. 

They call their matte topcoat Wax That because it’s supposed to look like your polish has been sexily dripped with candle wax like you’re evoking some teenage Wiccan ennui. Wax That takes Big Apple Red from bright and bombastic to a more subtle and chic vibe. The only slight drawback to the polish is that it’s not a quick-dry formula so you either need to have some liquid quick dry on hand or just wait a few extra minutes to keep your manicure safe from nicks and smears.

Take a look at Cult Nails if you want some special polishes to add to your collection. They go for a reasonable $12 a bottle and they are DBP, Formaldehyde, Toulene, and Camphor Free. Is that 4-Free? I can’t keep up with #-Free game. They have two fab looking red polishes, Evil Queen and Quench. I have yet to try them but I’m sure Daria and Diana would approve.