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Full disclosure: I’ve written and rewritten this story about 20 times over the past few months. I know it’s of interest because the topic of beauty treatments, and more specifically cosmetic dermatology, comes up more than any other when I’ve asked what subjects you want me to cover. And I want to be transparent about my experiences because there’s so much gatekeeping around this topic (a lot of which comes from fear of judgment, so I understand why so many folks prefer to credit their glow and full lips to “drinking lots of water” and “overlining” when it’s really just lasers and filler).
But what’s holding me back is the story itself. Because, yes, I’ve tried a range of things, and yes, I have noticed positive changes, but no, you don’t need to do them—no one does. And I just want to be clear: Even though I know it’s a very mixed message, I’m not encouraging anyone to do anything. However, if you’re thinking about any of the treatments, services, or procedures discussed below, I do think it’s important to be as informed as possible. So yes, take what you want from my experiences, but also really research your providers, their track records, know possible complications, and think through your risk tolerance. Some things are reversible (filler, for example); others take time or are permanent.
And also, this is just my opinion. If there’s something you like doing and you get great results, don’t start questioning it just because I don’t think it’s worth it. Everyone is unique and has their own relationship with their practitioners, and if it works for you, that’s swell.
Okay, all of that said: I think this will be an ongoing series, so if there’s anything specific you want to know about, a treatment you want me to review, or insights you want (before-and-afters?), I'm all ears.
I have been getting Botox since I was in my late 20s, although not with any sort of strict schedule. I have an extremely expressive forehead, and that is where I started getting injections initially, as I noticed I was getting some fine lines and wanted to slow their progress. I started doing it about once a year and always asked to have some movement because I didn’t love a totally frozen forehead.
Before my wedding in 2016, I also started getting it in my neck because I tend to clench my teeth (chic!). The incredible Nurse Jamie was the first person who alerted me to the fact that all that teeth clenching was actually affecting the way my jawline and neck look. My layman’s explanation is this: When you clench your teeth, it builds up your neck muscles, which in turn pull down on your jawline, and the overall effect is a less aesthetically pleasing, less defined jawline. Note: I haven’t done it for tech neck, which is a different situation than I’m talking about.
I took a break from Botox for four years—the joys of back-to-back kids!—and finally started up again last summer during a lull in pandemic waves. Most recently, I saw Dr. Samolitis at Facile and mentioned that I felt like my brow area felt heavier than it used to. She told me that we could do a nonsurgical brow-lift (my words, not her technical language!) by injecting a small amount of a neurotoxin above the outer part of my eyebrow. My brow lifted slightly, which in turn opened up my eye area a couple of millimeters, and I love it. We also injected my neck again because, in a surprise to no one, it turns out I’m clenching my teeth again. I also get it in my forehead and in my 11s now too; it honestly makes a huge difference.
So many folks are afraid of filler, and I totally get it. But! If you find the right person—look at the experts your favorite reporters, websites, and content creators reference, and then check the provider’s content and the stuff they’re tagged in—and are clear about what you like aesthetically, it can be undetectable.
My favorite providers focus on naturally enhancing what is already there, not creating or transforming features, and achieving a balanced, harmonious, and overall optimized look. They also can help simply restore volume to areas that are hollowing out or losing bone, so basically restoring rather than remodeling. For example, I’ve had filler in my temples (an area that tends to go a little concave as we age, giving you the dreaded peanut head!) and my chin (to restore some bone loss), and honestly, I don’t think you’d know if I hadn’t told you.
And because I am not a gatekeeper, here are some specifics. Personally, I like the work of Nurse Jamie in Santa Monica, Dr. Nancy Samolitis at Facile in West Hollywood, and Dr. Jennifer Herrmann at Moy Fincher Chipps in Beverly Hills, and while I haven’t personally worked with Dr. Lara Devgan in New York, I have friends who do, and they all look incredible.
While I haven’t done tear trough filler (meaning in the hollows under your eyes) in years, that was the first thing I did about eight years ago, and when I tell you it’s a game changer, I truly mean it. I’m sure things have changed and that more providers feel comfortable doing it, but at the time I went, my dermatologist didn’t do it, because it can be a tricky and dangerous place to inject. Per their recommendation back then, I saw Dr. Robert Goldberg at UCLA, who spends his days primarily doing orbital and ophthalmic plastic surgery. He does a deeper placement, which means it lasts for a much longer time, but I also experienced some moderate bruising, just as an FYI.
Oh how I love it! I did a series of this laser before my wedding in 2016, and wow, it really was so impressive for my skin at that time. It definitely requires a series of treatments, but the downtime is minor—I was sunburn-red for about 12 hours and totally fine the next morning. My trick was to get it on a Friday afternoon, then have a makeupless night at home. Your skin is a little rough to the touch for about four or five days after, and then smooth and glowy after that. Again though, you have to do a series IMHO, so don’t expect the world after one session.
I just did my first round of this gentler CO2 laser on my face, neck, and chest with Dr. Samolitis in November and have been waiting for another pandemic lull to go back because I think it’s going to be magical. This one is much spicier than the Clear + Brilliant, both in how it feels when you’re getting it done and in the aftermath. I feel like this is more appropriate for me and my skin at this age and will be doing an in-depth story on it with before and after pictures in the near future! If you’ve stayed away from lasers because you’re prone to hyperpigmentation, this might be the one for you.
Laser Hair Removal
This one is obvi but worth restating because I recently started doing it again after a 15-year hiatus, and it’s a whole new world, meaning it doesn’t hurt at all, and numbing cream isn’t required. I’ve been going to Sev Laser on the recommendation of my friend Jen Atkin, and my results have been fast and remarkable.
This is probably the beauty thing I am most obsessed with. I have dark brows naturally, but they’re also full of little blonde hairs. The first time I saw my brow guru Kristie Streicher, she asked me if she could tint them, and WOW, it made a huge difference. The second half of my brows nearly doubled just by tinting all those little blonde hairs. It lasts for a few months and fades in a super chill way.
As I’ve mentioned before, I have never been a nail person, probably because I have crap nails and use said nails like tools, which means they break all the time. And then I had a work shoot for Cartier and had to upgrade my hands, which meant that—after consulting the nail guru to every star in the world, Tom Bachik—I decided to get Gel-X Extension nails on his recommendation. What a thrill. I despise how long it takes (about an hour and a half for a refresh and pedicure, and I go every two weeks, or maybe a little longer), but oh my god they’re flawless.
PRP Facial With Microneedling
This is the “vampire facial” where they draw your blood, spin it to separate the platelets, and then microneedle the golden goo back into your skin. Many dermatologists and plastic surgeons do this procedure and truly believe in it. Me? Not so much. Maybe I just didn’t do it enough, but the couple of times I did it, I was underwhelmed by the results and overwhelmed by the price.
Most Beauty Tools
I know there are folks out there who love their microcurrent devices, and yes, I might have purchased a handheld LED tool that was supposed to shrink my pimples, but generally speaking, when it comes to treatment tools, it’s way better to save your money for an in-office treatment with the pros. To get any level of noticeable change from an at-home device, you must be incredibly dedicated to using it—we are talking religiously—and have the patience of a saint. I want noteworthy results, quickly, so I can’t in good conscience recommend any devices.
I have seen firsthand how dramatic and wonderful the results can be. That said, I don’t feel like this is an absolute yes for me going forward. I’m glad I tried it twice, but I can achieve a similar result with brow products.
Full disclosure: I haven’t done this one. Not to yuck anyone’s yum, but almost everyone I know who has gone down this path eventually stops and regrets it. It’s expensive, time consuming, and so often damaging to your real lashes. They make it difficult to wear eye makeup, the upkeep is serious, and when they come off, most folks I know feel worse because they got used to seeing their über-full lashes and now are even more unhappy with their lashes than they were to begin with. That said, I love individual false lashes for a night but personally would skip this.
You ask questions, and I answer, kind of like a non-disappearing AMA!
What are you into right now?
BUY: A deeper review coming soon—because I’ve only had it for a week—but I am SIGNIFICANTLY enthralled with a new skincare product: Shani Darden’s Lactic Acid Exfoliating Serum. The formula is 9% lactic acid, so it’s effective but gentle, and I look so bright and glowy in the morning, even after using it like three times. (Frankly, I noticed results after the first night, but I don’t want to overhype it.)
TRY: I also recently purchased a mini bottle of Charlotte Tilbury’s Hollywood Flawless Filter, which I have been using as my only skin product not realizing that it’s supposed to go under or with foundation, not just as a standalone. Despite my semi-incorrect usage, it does look nice and glowy on social media, which is my only point of comparison since we are pretty locked down over here.
READ: If you take away nothing else from this newsletter, I hope you check out my new favorite newsletter, The Spread, which is written by two former Elle editors, Maggie Bullock and Rachel Baker. I am wildly in love with it. The weekly newsletter reminds me so much of the best editorial features meetings I attended as a print magazine editor; it’s so smart, funny, and just delicious. In addition to rounding up the most interesting, noteworthy, engaging, beautiful, thoughtful stories that are, in their words “for/by/about women,” I personally live for The Spread’s intro copy and have a hunch you will too.