I think I begin to understand how these fashion magazine things work. You read the same advice seven or eight times and you become struck with doubt. For example, the skin care advice always includes a serum, a facial and a mask – on top of the moisturizer and SPF that are universal. Now, I use and have talked about the moisturizer and spf, but the other stuff? No clue.

So I went to Stop and Shop (grocery store) beauty aisle. Nary a mask to be found. I went online and bought two sets: a green tea mask and a ten pack of weirdo Chinese masks. I went to Sephora while I was in the mall to check out their mask offerings… which START at $50, and walked away with a sample because I’m not about to recommend a $50 face mask to all y’all unless using it suddenly makes me look like Cate Blanchett.

How I would expect a $50 facial mask to make my skin look

All of these were supposed to “brighten” my face and provide a “luminosity”. I’m wondering how these things are measured. I bet the cosmetic scientists have control skin baseline lumens (or something), and using these creams provides a .78% increase in lumens over a 2 day period for every $100 spent.

The Sephora sample was a leave-on-overnight one, which I used while my husband was out of town. It made my face sticky all night long. Ugh. The green tea one had food colorings in it to make it look green: yellow number something and blue number something else. It made my face feel taut when I put it on – a rather satisfying “I’m doing something here!” sensation. I immediately broke out. (I’m not a very good scientist, I was changing too many variables to identify which one was the culprit – or if both were, or maybe the BB cream after all.)

So far I’ve been too chicken to try the Chinese essences ones.

A combination of chemicals and creepy sounding substances. Snail? Royal Jelly?

I carefully examined my skin after the masks. My personal brand of self-photography (aka attempting to take cell phone pictures in the bathroom mirror) is not detailed enough to capture the quite noticeable difference between makeup and no makeup, so had no hope for offering you insight into the variable luminosity of my skin. But I noticed pretty much nothing – other than the aforementioned breaking out bits.

Not worth it. In beauty, I’m noticing that it’s pretty easy and inexpensive to go from 0 to 1, or 2. But the cost, effort and challenge of going from 2 to 3 is orders of magnitude higher, and you can hardly notice the differences unless you’re obsessed. I couldn’t tell a positive difference in “brightness” (maybe I could if I paid a ton of attention, but eh.) I did break out around that time. I see all downside and no upside.

Use if:
– You get really bored
– You are having a sleepover with your girlfriends and are 17 years old
– You already have one you like and think makes a difference

Don’t use if:
– You already have decent skin
– You like getting value for your money and effort.


December 2012 Magazine Report: Marie Claire

Grade: B+

I recently took back-to-back redeyes from Boston to San Francisco (and back again!) The redeye back I lurched into a ball of unconsciousness, but on the way out I had a bit of time. As usual, I stood before the Airport Store stand o’ massive magazines and tried to pick one. I’ve reviewed Instyle and Glamour, twice.

This time I picked Marie Claire. This isn’t one I’ve ever read before, so I didn’t know what to expect. Would it be horribly upscale? Trashy? Fancy?

Here’s what I learned:

Of course it’s sold out at a mere $1,875.00

  • Glory hallelujah, they say that I can find/use holographic stuff! That’s totally one of my fashion weaknesses! Score!
  • Sadly, the stuff they show is universally way out of my budget range. They have a “Luxe for Less” page, where I’m expecting, you know, $20 – $50 items. The actual items displayed run from $29 to $595 and average about $300. For whom is a $600 skirt “less”?
  • They have a section for “Big Girl in a Skinny World” that gives some plus sized fashion tips. Better yet, they DON’T include weight loss tips. Even better and better, Nicolette Mason is actually a regular Marie Claire staffer. It’s nice to see a plus size staffer at a fashion magazine.
  • The magazine includes multiple, positive portrayals of working women. I’m not sure why that stands out to me, except it points to a more mature demographic.
  • Rejoice lovers of looking good – old school glamour is in, especially the dark lips, soft curls combination that I secretly wish I could reproduce.
  • Finally in the plus column, they include an article about a non-heterosexual relationship. It’s refreshing to read a fashion magazine that isn’t all “How to please your man in 39 completely obvious ways we include in every issue”. (Why yes, I am thinking of Cosmo….)
  • So Marie Claire includes women of color, plus sized women, working women and non-straight women. Why doesn’t it get my top ranking?

    A few things really pulled it down for me (and that was before I visited their obnoxious website):
    – The incredible cost of practically everything they showed. For anyone who is trying to, you know, not go broke… there’s hardly anything shown than you could BUY.
    – A very, very busy layout with confusingly intermixed ads. It was harder than usual to tell content from ad.
    – A lack of guidance. I felt like they had a lot of themed pages like “Designer Dossier” or “Survivor Mode” that showed themed clothes to buy… but that you had to be pretty sophisticated to be able to use their pieces. Safari themed high heeled pumps could go drastically wrong in (say) my wardrobe. Instead of explaining how something worked with current themes, or how it could be built on they had collections of extremely expensive pieces that would be risky for a neophyte to try.

    So…. good (for a fashion magazines) articles, risky fashion advice.

    This isn’t unique to Marie Claire, but I’d like to shout-out to for a series of ads that show a professionally well-dressed African American women with the tagline “Smart is Beautiful”. There’s nothing not to love in that!

    Amazon being smart

    Magazine Review: Glamour

    Glamour: Grade C

    Glamour: being progressive by claiming Venus is not hideously fat

    Glamour: being progressive by claiming Venus is not hideously fat

    When I fly, I often get girly/womanly/fashionly magazines. Especially when I’m tired, it’s fun to flip through a magazine, read the advice columns and look at the pictures. In the last year or two, I’ve come to realize that what I’ve thought of as super-light barely-reading material is actually much more in the life of a fashionable woman. These magazine are the white-papers of the fashion world. They are the TED talks and Economist, all in one glossy package. The truly fashionable women study fashion very seriously, and invest a tremendous amount of mental energy and effort into keeping up with the latest advances in their areas of study. This is the need these magazines fulfill.

    So you and I, in our desire to look like we care about fashion, had better at least read the Cliff notes version of the fashion magazines. (Note: my goal is to become your bullet-pointed, cliff-notes version. Unfortunately, that therefore requires me to read all these magazines cover to cover.)

    So I have set myself a goal of reading one fashion magazine cover to cover every month. From this, I will give you two things:

    1) What has changed in fashion since the last month
    2) Which fashion magazine is least gag-worthy and most helpful, in case you decide you need to use primary sources

    Up first was Glamour Magazine. I read it for two consecutive months – September and October 2012 – since one month is too small a sample size.

    First, the upside:
    – Glamour offers 282 pages of content (probably 50% of which is paid advertising)
    – If you buy it at the airport (my usual M.O.), it costs $7.99, which is a mid-range price.
    – Reading it will give you a good overview of the season’s fashions
    – Contains some good outfit ideas, even if most are too edgy to be attempted by amatuers
    – There were one or two half-hearted attempts at body-positive writing.

    Now, the downsides:
    – Glamour sells the sort of celebrity-centric, dumb-girl, how-to-get-the-guy kind of fashion writing that convinced me at an early age that fashion was not meant for me.
    – Representations of minorities are minimal. There was Gabby Douglas, Michelle Obama, and one smart Amazon add. By far, most of the women represented are are light-skinned.
    – Body type variation was also very limited. My jaw dropped when they considered it a legitimate question whether “The Birth of Venus” representation was too fat. Very few of their fashion suggestions were optimized for women with non-fashionable sizes.
    – It was very catty. September’s involved Posh Spice as the editor. At one point she talked about how “realistic” and “authentic” another woman was, and you could just hear the poison seeping through the pages.
    – I was very annoyed by the “Tee hee hee aren’t we stupid” affectation. This month, it was pretending that a fit man’s body might make our vocabulary desert women. Last month, it was carrying a hollowed out book as a purse in order to make us seem smart… which we would only want to do in order to attract dudes. UGH.
    – Totally ageist. There was a skin care regimen by decade. The list of things 20 year olds were expected to do was appalling. But the advice stopped at 40, because dude. After that? You’d pretty much dead.

    Gag me with a spoon.

    Gag me with a spoon. Also, it’s called an “Iliac Furrow”.

    Conclusion: Buy if you’re really, really bored. But you can find better sources of fashion information, and gossipier, more fun columns. For the most part, don’t bother.