By Andrea Toochin
This year has taken us from hope to chaos to holiday anxiety in what seems like mere months. From Sudan to Madrid to Nepal, we’ve seen chaos around the world, even in our own backyard, something that brought even sheltered, secluded New Yorkers out of their shells. However, chaos and corruption still reign, which is why the stock market has the lifestyle industry to thank for any profits outside technology and science. After all, no matter what the circumstances, a woman always needs her cold cream and red lipstick.
Over the last 11 months, I’ve learned more about cosmetics than anything else. I’ve developed more than a few new skin care obsessions along with my cravings for melon bubble tea and soy mistos. My apartment is now home to a seemingly endless array of products that all seem irreplaceable. The morning ritual is incomplete without a cellulite-fighting scrub like Malie Coffee Macadamia Body Polish, Juara body cream, and the miraculous Frownies Immune Shield. The skin care regimen must include a swipe of Rodan & Fields Skin Lightening Toner before an SPF moisturizer is applied. Winter days and static cling would leave hair flying in the air without the John Masters Honey & Hibiscus Hair Reconstructor and the sweet, mysteriously scented Joico K-Pak Protect & Shine Serum; but, it’s the Victoria’s Secret Mosaic Rose blush and Ziaja eye cream that provide the finishing touch.
But rituals don’t revolve around products. So as you read our suggestions for holiday gifts, keep in mind the true meaning of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. Take a moment to review the Amnesty shop online or buy a subscription to new magazines like Un Chàn and World Pulse, publications that embrace difference. Organizations like these remind us why we love America, because despite its faults, we live in a nation where we are granted the freedom to educate the public about everything from global warming to the power of dermal fillers and glycolic acid. Whatever your religion, political view, sexual orientation, or race, we can all agree that happiness and success are our goals. Whether it’s activism or an anti-aging regimen that helps realize those dreams is not to be judged.
A Glow To Go
The holiday season almost always centers around gifts and trips. Whether your sleepover is at a luxe hotel in Bequia or at a friend’s house on the UWS, you’ll need a travel skin care kit. The Freeze Holiday Miracle Kit contains four skin care staples from their line – Freeze 24/7 Anti-Wrinkle Cream, IceCream Anti-Aging Moisturizer, EyeCicles Anti-Aging Eye Serum, and PlumpLips Lip Plumper. Packaged in small red box, it’s the perfect way to try a new line and avoid another packing dilemma. If the extent of your travel is taking a different subway line, try the tropical Jamaican Punch Sampler from Carol’s Daughter. This gift set contains all the body products you need for a relaxing bath, including a votive candle and rich body jam. Sweet from floral and fruit essences including jasmine, gardenia, banana and peach, but spicy from the sandalwood and musk tones, a trip up to the Harlem outpost is all the effort required to initiate a virtual Caribbean vacation.
Freeze products are available at www.mybeautifulplace.com
For Carol’s Daughter products, head to 24 West 125th Street between Lenox and Fifth Avenue, or 1 South Elliot Place at Dekalb Ave., Fort Greene, Brooklyn www.carolsdaughter.com
After years of gift giving, it’s easy to lose patience when shopping. Though we live in the heart of commercial creativity, it’s still hard to buy holiday gifts that are interesting. Instead of heading to Sephora or a department store, why not embrace the West Coast style of bathing and purchase simplistic fine soaps and gels from the privacy of your home. Not only will you avoid the crowds, you’ll also support some innovative small cosmetic companies.
ElizabethW is a San Francisco-based company that makes woodsy and floral scented soaps, perfumes, gels, and lotions, all packaged in their signature sage-colored boxes. Their soaps are wrapped in ribbons, and they even sell hanger sachets. The unusual varieties include the vetiver and citrus vervain collections, two clean, fresh scents harvested from greens, often employed for their soothing properties.
If you thought the West Coast mentality was different from NYC lifestyle, just imagine what it’s like in Wallowa, Oregon, the home of BeeCrowBee, an incredible, independent body products company. They get points not only for the perfect choice of bottles and package design, but also for the powerful natural ingredients with aromatic and soothing properties. Their lemongrass scrub has an addictive scent and a smooth consistency that feels like small, wet sand granules. Their pumpkin soap combines spices and vegetable oils and cleans skin without stripping it.
If you’re looking for gender neutral products, Canada’s Lothantique offers a plethora of personal care options that are perfect for the modern, no-frills couple. Their ginger soap would go perfectly with the Noir de Feu, an eau de toilette that’s the perfect splash for an intentionally scruffy man, perfectly clothed in a cargos and a cream wool sweater. But, the gentle ginger soap with linseed, cotton extracts, and shea butter has a much subtler scent, and is suitable for the face in a pinch. Also under their umbrella of products, Le Bon Soin makes a simple shower gel that would perfectly accessorize a large, white porcelain pedestal sink.
Peruse the Lothantique Web site www.lothantique.ca for more ideas, but phone in orders 1-877-425-7627.
Products are excellent gifts that provide instant gratification, but services and gift certificates can provide lasting joy.
I understand that despite the pleasure and relaxation spa treatments bring, not everyone enjoys massages and facials. But, that’s exactly why you should make an appointment with Jason Smith, a licensed massage therapist at Sea Change New York in Chelsea. His first instruction showed me even modest clients would feel comfortable; while many expect you to shed down to your undergarments, Jason simply said “dress down to your level of comfort.”
Though I haven’t had many massages I spent many years learning about alternative treatments and exercise forms. Not many people know I spent all of my teenage years learning martial arts, nor do they know I learnt shiatsu in high school. Yet, despite 10 years of experience I never felt the energy and power of pressure points until I tried the Pine Needle Thai Twist at Sea Change. Don’t let the name scare you – this is a 90-minute massage that mixes eastern exercises, European-style massage techniques, and pressure point theories, to loosen muscles and relax and the body. Atop a heated blanket and underneath a cotton sheet, the essence of pine seeps in through scented pillows and candles. Soothing music and dim lighting aid the mood, but it’s the masseur’s expert abilities and specialty, Oriental Body Therapy, that makes it special. Though I haven’t had many massages, I’ve had enough to know I’d easily drop $150 on this one. For the first time I felt a sensation under my skin, as if I could actually feel the circulation improving – I now what it means to get the juices flowing. The most amazing part was when I felt the energy shooting up my arm after Jason hit a pressure point in my hand; I spent eight years taking Kempo Karate from a man who’s lifeblood was teaching Martial Arts, but it was a slight, sensitive, tattooed NYer that helped me sense the Chi.
Sea Change New York also offers massages for pregnant women, a fertility program, and detox options at their cozy Zen center located at 31 West 26th Street, 212.889.7300
If your recipient is nesting or you’re not close enough to decide on body products or services, opt for a candle. No, it’s not a skin care product, but anything that promotes relaxation indirectly combats stress-induced aging. Sure, it’s a stretch, but one well worth it considering the options Bluewick offers. The most delightful and rare, is the Yuzu candle, inspired by the addictive scent of the Asian grapefruit. Other varieties include Anjoumint and the winter holiday package, a trio of sweet scents.
Products are available online and at select boutiques. Check out www.bluewick.com for a locator.
We’ve all had a friend or colleague who was as oblivious about their halitosis as our parents are about our love lives. How do you tell someone you love talking to them, but only at a distance? How do you tell your smoker friends that both their clothes and breath stink of tobacco? The answer is a friendly gift that gives back to both the parties – the Breath Palette Water Kit. Made in Japan, Breath Palette takes exotic flavors and creates alcohol- and sugar-free toothpastes and mouthwashes, in 31 flavors. The many varieties include Sweet Salt and Japanese Plum, but foodies should opt for Mouth Gel, flavor zero, a toothpaste designed to cleanse the mouth of odors and flavors, in preparation of food and wine tasting. I opted for Indian Curry – the subtle taste was just enough to excite me, but it was the Kyoto Style Tea mouthwash that proved the company’s knack for balance.
Products are available at www.breathpalette.com
The Serious Skin Care Solution
By now we’ve covered the smokers, the acquaintances, the homebodies, the jetsetters, the crunchies, and the workaholics, but what about the informed shoppers and the label whores? What do you get the woman who knows the name and procedure list of all the hot doctors and cruises the aisles of Sephora on a monthly basis? How about a set of anti-aging products developed by a world-renowned scientist and surgeon? You may think we editors are crazy to promote a skin care gift set that costs $675. Would it help to know that Dr. Gregory Bays Brown, the man behind ReVive, won a Nobel Prize for his research on Epidermal Growth Factor and its efficacy in healing skin wounds?
Packaged in a limited edition box designed by local artist Melissa Dadourian, the set contains Intensité Crème Lustre, Intensité les Yeux, Fermitif Neck Renewal Cream, and Serum Prôtectif. Why trust this science when all others have promised the same results – cell renewal, smooth skin, intense moisture? Banking on the power of EGF, Dr. Brown recreated the molecule and used it to make a patented skin care line that promotes cell turnover and restores youthful skin by combating skin laxity.
For more information, logon to www.reviveskincare.com Revive products are also available at Saks Fifth Avenue 611 Fifth Avenue, and Bergdorf Goodman 754 Fifth Avenue.
Home Spas and Sleepovers
Once in a while a girl needs a night out with her girls to put put life on hold, by drinking or spending too much. However, if your bank balance is a painful sight, rent a movie, grab some snacks, and splurge on the new Sonya Dakar Home Spa kit.
If you’ve tested as many products as I have you’d know all masks are not created equally, and, they certainly don’t function the same. However, by now you’ve probably learned to look out for key ingredients like kaolin and chamomile. This system starts out with the enzyme peeling cream, a mild peel that exfoliates with pumpkin enzymes and cardamom extract, to prepare for the mask. Five options await – for those with normal skin, try the Berry Mask, a cleansing mask that relieves mild irritations, or the Blue Mask, a cooling and moisturizing treatment that uses marine elastin. For acne prone skin, try the Mud Lavender Mask, a winner packed with Dead Sea mud, sulfur, and Chinese kaolin. If you’ve reached the point where people offer you a seat on the subway, try the firming Green Tea Mask, or the Lightening Mask, a powerful hyper-pigmentation treatment with licorice, retinol, mulberry, and kojic acid that helps lighten sun spots, and eases melasma and rosacea.
Products are available at Barneys 600 Madison Avenue and various boutiques listed on www.sonyadakar.com
Words of Wisdom
Given the state of the hospitality industry, it may seem absurd to do a home spa now that all the new fancy chain hotels are equipped with spas. But, despite sleek designs and creative offerings, very few offer the ambiance that European and Asian spas do. In Daab’s recently released Beauty Design, you’ll find matte photos on thick stock of spas all over the world from the Kenzo location in Paris, to the Evian spa in Shanghai, and the Fit Hair Design Studio in Kanagawa Japan, adorned with pod-like structures.
Ripe, the bold book about aging from Janet Champ and Charlotte Moore, is more than a collection of images and tales – it’s a network that includes a newsletter, a blog, and could possibly inspire a movement. The title of the book tells all: Ripe: The Truth About Growing Older and the Beauty of Getting On with Your Life. These two women expound on the fables and myths about aging, focusing on menopause. Their words are powerful because they are bold declarations that force us to forgo the easy route.
We all know it’s harder to love ourselves in the natural form than it is to scrounge up the money for plastic surgery. We also know that aging is natural but we are far from the point where we’ll acknowledge and accept it. Think of Ripe as your 12-step program and the network as your support group – a virtual room where fellow women, also struggling with nasolabial lines and sagging cheeks, pipe in via remote locations, all but serenading you with a group welcome.
Jean-Claude Hagege’s The Power of Seduction: Conceptions of Beauty and Plastic Surgery, is a tell-all book about the seductive and confusing nature of plastic surgery. This French plastic surgeon divulges his experiences, good and bad, from the perspective of a doctor. It’s notable, if simply for the bold nature, because he tells what only the insurance companies know, and what surgery addicts won’t believe – that both doctors and patients are humans capable of error. Though deep down we know wrinkles and a deviated septum are not errors, it might take an honest account like this to shake the truth out.
Ripe: The Truth About Growing Older and the Beauty of Getting On with Your Life is available at www.beyondword.com and www.ripethebook.com
Beauty Design from Daab is available at www.amazon.com
The Power of Seduction: Conceptions of Beauty and Plastic Surgery is available at Barnes & Nobles
Relaxation at Restore
Still at a loss for gift ideas? A gift certificate to a discreet Central Park West spa is foolproof. Restore Spa’s devotion to their skin care lines of choice, Pevonia and True Cosmetics, proves their discerning nature when selecting treatments and products. Restore Spa’s latest addition to the menu is the Rose Buddy, a facial to combat the ruddy, dry skin that comes with a change of seasons. Janis Chakler, an esthetician and the Spa Director, cleanses the skin, applies an enzyme in conjunction with steam, and then performs extractions, after which a mask is applied. The mask, which contains green tea, licorice extracts, rose oil, and frankincense, heats and cools before it dries, and eases hyper-pigmentation through soothing yet powerful oils and extracts. A customized toner and moisturizer are applied as the final touch.
If you’re feeling particularly worn, add an Eye Opener treatment when you book your facial appointment. Choose from two options, one for puffiness or one for fine lines, which is made from 100 percent pure Marine Collagen. A powder substance, it turns to gel when mixed with water; after applied around the eye, ice packs are places on top to enhance bsorption. These treatments must be as relaxing as they sound because Janis books up almost as quickly as a popular celebrity hair stylist.
10 West 74th Street
For the last-minute gifts, opt for a gift basket from The Thymes. The Minnesota-based female-owned company makes eleven varieties of home and body products; my favorite collections are Fig Leaf & Cassis, Ginger Milk, and Fresh Basil. Packed with scrubs, lotions, and candles, the gift sets come in two sizes, priced around $50 and $100, and are perfect substitutes for the stale fruit baskets of years past, whether the recipient is a babysitter, a colleague, or a friend hosting a dinner party.
969 Madison Ave