What Beauty Secret Are You Ashamed to Talk About Out Loud?

Today, let's go on the record

THIS POST WAS SPONSORED BY PANTENE’S NEW EXPERT hair REGROWTH treatment, and contains statistics from their recent survey on women and hair loss.

Beauty Taboos | A Practical Wedding

effed if you do, effed if you don’t

When talking to people about issues of body and beauty, I hear a lot of the following: “Off the record, but…” “I obviously don’t want to talk about this in public, but…” “I don’t know that I’m doing the feminist thing here, but…”

These whispers reflect the ongoing beauty double standard that exists in our culture. On the one hand, we’re never supposed to buy into any beauty standard that asks us change something about ourselves, while on the other, we’re expected to flawlessly fit into an impossible beauty ideal (just, you know, without trying). Except, of course, these are conflicting ideas that don’t have much basis in reality (even if you have a contract with Sports Illustrated or Victoria’s Secret). Which means most of us spend a fair amount of time feeling guilty and ashamed about our beauty routines. As feminists, we feel guilty about the things we are doing that we shouldn’t have to do and shouldn’t care about. And as female citizens of our culture, we feel guilty about the things we’re not doing, because they reveal our imperfections.

“Don’t tell anyone, but I’m going grey…”

“Off the record, I totally straighten my hair…”

“I don’t want to talk about it publicly or anything, but obviously I get waxed every week…”

“I’m super embarrassed about it, but I’m losing a ton of my hair…”

“It might not be the feminist thing, but I have a weave, and I love it.”

These beauty taboos come in many shapes and sizes. They relate to our size, to our skin, to our makeup, to our hair. They relate to our cultural backgrounds, our personal history, our emotional baggage. These things are loaded, complicated, nuanced, and charged.

Pandora’s Box Of Hair

Ninety-one percent of women consider their hair to be part of their identity. Most women I know have an emotional (and complex) relationship with their hair. There are the ones who’ve shaved it off, or keep it short, to make a statement about perceived notions of femininity. There are the friends who are going natural, because how their hair looks makes an important statement about their values. The friends who are going grey and dyeing it, or not. The ones who are sick, and losing their hair in one form or another, and hiding it. There are the friends who are straightening their hair, because it makes them feel good and they want to claim that.

And the end of last year, I said that my goal for 2014 was to celebrate letting go of what the world thought. You would think that embracing not caring about what other people think would result in… not caring. But I’ve found that in so many ways, the truth is just the opposite. Part of my journey this year has been embracing the fact that my hair is something I care about. It’s something I spend time and money on, in ways that are emotionally important to me.

Not Helen Mirren Yet

I started going white at twenty-three years old. Who knows why. Genetics probably played into it, as did extreme stress and illness. But at nearly thirty-four, I’m about one-third white. It’s something I don’t talk about much, because everyone has an opinion about it. People tell me, very self-righteously, that they are going to age with grace. (Which is lovely, but I’m thirty-three years old.) People send me links to photographs of regally white or grey haired women. (Which are beautiful, but it can take twenty to thirty years to achieve all-white status. My hair is just salt and pepper.) And while everyone is well meaning in their opinions, and ultimately grappling with their own future aging and mortality, the truth for me is simpler—I’m a young-looking thirty-three with my hair colored, and I look prematurely old with my hair not colored. Mostly? I just look tired when I don’t dye it. One day, I hope to do a badass Helen Mirren platinum thing (or hell, pink thing) with my pure white hair, but for now I dye my hair to approximate my natural color. That choice, as much of an internal struggle as it was for me, has turned into a surprising blessing. Doing my hair has forced me to invest time and money in something that’s just for me. For a few hours every six weeks, I get away from my husband, my toddler, my staff, and my responsibilities. I pick some new style I like, chat with my stylist, read gossip magazines, and invest time in myself.

Three months after my baby was born, for the second time in my life, I started losing massive amounts of hair (I’m one of the lucky thirty-one percent of women who start losing hair before age thirty-five. Whee.) Handfuls of hair would come out in the shower. Simply running my hands through my hair would result in a massive clump coming free in my hands. The floor of the house was so coated in hair, and I had to sweep at least once a day. I’d heard that your hair often thinned after having a baby, but I’d failed to get the memo that three months postpartum, I’d be dealing with a hair apocalypse. Why? Because no one talks much about losing hair. Because sixty percent of women feel that it will never be socially acceptable for women to lose their hair. So instead of talking about it in public, we whisper about it behind our hands, “I’d never go on record about this… but.”

For me, there is one more step in this particular saga. After losing what I’d estimate was about twenty-five percent of my hair (which luckily or unluckily is thick, so… a lot of hair), my hair started to grow back. The good news is, of course, that it’s coming back. The bad news is, it’s totally unmanageable. At first I had a pixie cut under my hair. Now, it’s like I’m growing out bangs… but all over my head. If I leave my hair down, the regrowth pushes it up, so the roots stick straight up (flattering). And if I pull it back, the re-growth curls forward, like a nation of flyaways. On good days, it completely ruins my attempts at being effortlessly put together. And on bad days it really compounds my postpartum body struggles.

Decided: It’s okAY to care

I’ve decided that it’s okay to care about my postpartum hair loss and regrowth. I want to pretend that something as shallow as hair loss doesn’t matter to me. But I spent years not dyeing my hair, and feeling unhappy with how I looked. And then I realized, life is too short. I can dye my hair to my natural color, or ombre, or that rich dark brown I always wanted to be, or hell—purple. I can admit that I care. It’s time to admit to myself I care about this too.

So today is about beauty taboos. What are you struggling with, but feel like you can’t admit you care about? What is society telling you that you should care about, when really, you could care less? Where have you decided to embrace the fact that you really truly do give a shit, even if that makes you seem less cool? What beauty secret are you ashamed to talk about out loud?

“I’d never say it on the record, but…” Today, let’s go on the record.

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  • Jenni Kissinger

    I’m ashamed at my lack of knowledge. About the aspects of hair/face/body beauty care that I still don’t understand how to do, or how it works. I feel like ‘less’ of a woman because I don’t know or do what seems effortless to others. These beauty routines include: putting on eyeliner, doing my own nails, getting my nails done, getting waxed, being able to curl my own hair or put it into pretty hairstyles. Things I care about or would like to do, but my own uncertainty keeps me from attempting. Sometimes I find a blog post or YouTube video that leads to me attempting one of these things, with mediocre results. I know that practice makes perfect, but since I don’t see the work other women put in, I think that I must be missing some inherent ‘beauty ability’.

    I am slowly learning … I finally got the hang of makeup with the help of my sisters and good products. (Still bad at eyeliner.) But I feel like I’m learning these things at 27 when other girls figured it out in high school or college. I will say that the posts last year from APW about hair and makeup were SO HELPFUL, even if I’m still scared to try some of them (cat’s eye).

    • ItsyBit

      You’re not alone! For years the only makeup I knew how to do was stage makeup from years of high school theater which is… not helpful for the real world. I’ve gotten better with practice but still have a ways to go. I’ve been having a friend of mine give me lessons lately which, to me, is a fun and emotionally safe way to play around with trying new styles. If I were working with a professional or even on my own I think I’d end up getting too frustrated to keep trying.

    • Sarah E

      For me, the thing I didn’t know anything about was. .ahem, lady-scaping. I hated shaving down there, because I always ended up with a painful rash, and I couldn’t imagine waxing, and I had no clue what I was “supposed” to look like. Take it all off? Go for the landing strip?

      I finally tried sugaring right before a vacation, and it was one of the most painful things in my life. A few years later, I decided to give up shaving below the waist entirely. I still shave my armpits, but as for down there. . .I just use some scissors every few weeks to help stay clean. My partner is A-Okay with it, and more importantly, I feel like myself, never worrying “Is this okay? Should I have shaved? Am I going to be wearing shorts, having sex, etc. today?” I’m so glad I found what works best for me.

      • Lauren from NH

        I have found caring about this less is super liberating. I still do some grooming but the more optional it feels, the more self sexy I feel on any given day.

        • Kelsey

          So thankful for this conversation. I’ve never done any lady-scaping, except that which is visible in a bathing suit. I’m getting married in three months (no sexy time before hand) and my fiancée has told me (when asked) that he would like for me to shave, and the only women whose sex lives I’m privy to have all said that they shave. I felt like I had no choice in the matter. So I tried it a few weeks ago and HATED IT. It was uncomfortable, and I looked like I was 12 years old again, and quite frankly, I liked how I looked before. I have never had body image issues, but this was the first time I kind of freaked out about my fiancée not finding me attractive. He promised to change his mind–his new ideal is me and all my afro-greatness.

          • Helen

            Hey lady, I just wanted to give you a little bit of reassurance here. If he’s had limited or no experience with women’s bits in real life, he may not even really know what they look like. Even if he actively avoids nudity in media, I bet he’d still have picked up on the idea that ‘sexy’ ladies or ‘normal’ ladies have no hair. This rhetoric is everywhere, so it’s understandable that this would be his go-to idea of what normal and sexy is. From my experience, sex with your beloved, especially at first, is so beyond what your body looks like that a couple of inches of hair makes approximately zero difference. What will make a difference is how you feel – if you feel gorgeous, sexy and relaxed, woah nelly!

          • Kelsey

            Since this thread is all about crazy levels of openness (I just told the internet that I usually have a fro in my pants) I will go ahead and explain further. Said fiancee started viewing porn at the age of 9, and has regularly since then. It’s not something either of us, or our community, is okay with (which is a strange topic to bring up on a sex-positive, not-Christian blog) but its still a struggle for him. Its been really easy to not let that affect how I feel about my own body, because I’ve always had crazy levels of self-esteem when it comes to my body (not sure if its from having more or less the body type that society says is “right” or just a really great mother who balanced telling me I’m beautiful, with telling me it doesn’t matter if I’m beautiful). This was the first time where I felt like porn was offering something that I wouldn’t be, and it freaked me out. I had been trying to convince myself that I didn’t mind until I tried it, but that clearly was a lie, as I’ve been counting the days until it grows back. Hence the need for reassurance that starting on May 17th, I’m his definition of attractive.
            Thanks so much for the reassurance. The logical part of me knows that such things will be far from on his mind that day, but its still good to hear it from another source.

          • Alyssa

            Honestly, though my community is totally sex-positive and accepts porn consumption as a fact of life, I also occasionally struggle with jealousy that porn is providing my husband something that I can’t provide. The best thing for me has been watching the porn with him…it’s a good reminder that he’s barely paying attention to what they look like. Highly recommended once you start sexy times.

          • Jennie

            His definition of attractive can, and probably will change over time. I’m lazy about shaving and generally don’t except in the summer when I may be wearing a tank top or skirt around clients. I never gave my husband much of a choice and after 7.5 years, he randomly told me last night he finds my armpit hair sexy – he also finds it sexy when I shave (for the novelty perhaps?).

          • Helen

            Too right – novelty is totally a sexy thing! Exploring it all is dandy is as long as it comes from a place of fun and togetherness and acceptance!

          • Helen

            Porn is a hard one isn’t it (pun absolutely intended). I don’t necessarily have anything against it, but certainly it can warp people’s expectations, especially when those people are young. If it turns out your fiance takes a while to ‘relearn’ sex, you should try and not let that affect your awesome self. If he’s seen lots of porn imagery and not had much opportunity to see or experience ‘real’ intimacy or sex or bodies, the stories and images and behaviours that he has connected with ‘sexiness’ will be a bit unreal too.

            It won’t necessarily be a negative comparison either – on the one hand, he may take a while to get used to stuff like ‘real’ bodies. On the other, he’ll discover heaps of amazing stuff that you never, ever get with porn – making love is so far different from porn sex that it shouldn’t be in the same category. So I’m not trying to give you a big scary warning, just maybe a bit of insight into what porn can make our brains do, so you can adjust for it if needs be.

            And sorry it this is all a bit wise-old-owly patronising – you sound like a smart, capable self-assured woman, so just ignore all this if I’m out of line. Go sex! Go afros!

          • Anonymous Today

            I also once did the shaving thing for a boyfriend, years ago, and had a very similar reaction to you. Never again! Sometimes I will use a beard trimmer or scissors if hairs are getting painfully caught on panty/swimsuit seams, but that’s it.

            I don’t know if this will be helpful or not, but the big reason why porn started being the land of the full wax is … so the *cameras* could see the “little details.” The idea that this is the standard of sexy kind of rolled out into the culture at large from that, but it didn’t really come from a place of that this was automatically sexier for the people actually getting it on.

          • Alyssa M

            Another aspect that neither you or he may have considered, is that if you’re uncomfortable down there it makes sex less pleasant. First times can be awkward enough, I’ll bet you’ll both be happier if you start out feeling as comfortable as possible.

      • swarmofbees

        I have such a hard time with this as well. I don’t want to shave – the stubble and ingrown hairs kill me. So, I waxed for my first boyfriend. I thought it looked sexy and it made me feel sexy. Until, I realized I was doing it for him and not for me. It would be a birthday treat for him, not for me. I am in a better relationship now where I don’t wax or anything. It is liberating to know that I don’t have to, but I am ashamed for my friends to know that I don’t wax. Sometimes I wonder if I could ever wax again just for myself? But, I worry that it will set a precedent where I have to wax ever after.

        • Sarah E

          My philosophy is that if I ever decide to shave again, then I will and no shame in it. “I do what I want!” and all that. I mean, I’m a human being and I’m allowed to change my mind.

          My friends are chill with it. To be fair, I have not been in a bathing suit since I quit shaving. Give how far down my (blonde) legs the dark hair goes, I’ll probably opt for swim shorts. I’m more afraid people will *think* they’re seeing intimate space if they see different hair texture. And by people, I mean my partner’s extended family, because his parents’ house is about the only place I’ve swum in the past four+ years.

        • Tessa

          I had the opposite experience: I initially got a brazilian wax because my boyfriend said it was something he had fantasized about me doing, and heck, I’m game for new things. But once I got it done, it actually became a treat for me! I love it. Maybe I’m weird, and I feel kind of bad saying it since being hairless is like being a “child” and now it has a bad rep, but I genuinely love being completely waxed down there. My area feels so soft and it lasts for 3-4 weeks. And my hair down there…let me tell you, it’s not comfortable. It’s dark and scratchy Italian hair (enough said). Getting waxed for the first time felt like heaven in my pants. Now I do it every month despite my boyfriend saying he likes me both ways because I love it so much!

          Yeah, I’m weird.

      • jashshea

        I finally lasered. Pits and ‘bits. Worth every cent. Hurt like a fucker.

        • Sarah E

          I’ve thought about it, but I can’t afford it, so quitting was my economic alternative. I don’t mind shaving my pits, and I spend so much time with my arm up, twirling my hair, that I think not shaving would be distracting (people would look at my armpit, not at my face). Plus, I’d be fucking pissed if any hair grew back.

          • jashshea

            Yup – should add that. It’s expensive and not always permanent (especially if you get pregnant after, I’ve heard). I have see-through sensitive skin and wavy, thick, dark hair, so I always looked like I’d shaved yesterday or had a violent rash.

          • Sarah E

            I hear you on the sensitive skin. It’s like, how are bright red bumps in an area better than hair? And wtf with stubble within a day or two? I’m a weirdo so I always side-eye what other ladies are doing down there when they’re in swim suits (and totally asked my studying ob/gyn friend for a summary of common ladyscapes) and I feel like a rash is just as glaring.

            Thankfully my hair is blonde, but it grows thick and fast. My partner and I have already determined my legs are definitely hairier than his (which is saying something, if you’d see him). But you know what? They catch the sunshine really nicely.

          • Lisa

            Can you give us a quick summary of what your ob/gyn pal reported? Now I’m kind of dying to know…

      • Jenni Kissinger

        I love hearing about how liberated you feel! Now that I think about it, I guess I’m pretty happy with my lady-scaping method, I just have a vague notion that other women get waxed and maybe it would be better, but I’m far too terrified. I should just embrace that I like what I’m doing!

      • Another Meg

        I totally did the same thing. Gave up, and never looked back. Unless you count getting a trimmer (which was terrifying the first time I used it but now is nice and easy). I feel like letting go has helped with a lot of my beauty routine.

        • KC

          Any favorite trimmer brands/types/techniques/help??? “Nice and easy” is not how I would describe hair trimming at the moment…

          • Another Meg

            Here’s the one I have:


            I just use it in the tub before I take a shower. The reviews have some good tips as well, but I just set it at 3 and try to get everything. It’s lavender and small enough to hold easily, but it seems pretty sturdy. The guard keeps you from cutting yourself (definitely my biggest fear).

          • Alyssa Waddill

            Though it may sound strange, I tend to use the trimmer over the toilet. I sit on it facing backwards, and then I can maneuver as necessary and the hair all just falls in and I flush it down. I find it easiest to do when my hair is recently washed but fully dry, and I’m not super finicky about getting all the hair the same length. It’s just a trim, after all, so if I miss a few hairs I’m not worried. That means I don’t have to spend too much time maneuvering in the hard-to-reach spots. Hope that helps!

          • Rebekah

            I use the small cuticle scissors that come with the cheapo manicure kits – not too long or sharp to cause real danger. The reason I groom is really my personal hygiene. I just get cleaner and smell better when the hair’s shorter all the way back. But I almost never shave because of the irritation and ITCHING when it grows back, and I don’t wax because I don’t enjoy the experience or the prices (helps that I’m Caucasian and not terribly hairy, but enough that I’m conscious about it)

          • JAS

            Yes! I have a Wahl Peanut and it’s the best invention ever. I shave every couple of weeks, it’s super fast, and the stubble is totally soft within a day or two. It’s been a lifesaver, and I, like many women here, will not ever shave my bits with a razor again.

        • Alyssa Waddill

          I, too, stopped shaving anything below the waist a few years ago, summers and skirts be-damned. I have sensitive skin and thick, dark hair, but one thing I learned once I let my leg hair grow out is that it’s also *soft*. It’s so much nicer-feeling than stubble, and in the end I think it’s prettier than red bumps. I get my legs waxed every so often in the summer and enjoy the smoothness, but that’s usually only once or twice a year.

          And yes, trimmers are awesome. I use one on my pubes every few weeks (once a month or two, maybe?) and it’s fast, easy, and doesn’t hurt. Plus, again with the hair being more attractive than razor burn.

      • Kayla

        Other than armpits, I never shave anything that’s not visible to the general public, and most of the time I wear pants. Which means that my razor gets used only for armpits most of the year, legs in the summer, and the couple of times a year I go to the beach, I clean up what might show outside of my bathing suit. My man doesn’t care (and if he did care I’d politely inform him he’s not allowed to care unless he also takes a razor to HIS tender bits).

        • Meg Keene

          YES. THIS.

          I’m just too l lazy to even consider caring. This is the honest to goodness bottom line.

      • Roselyne

        This might be TMI, but the thing that no one ever mentions about shaving down there is that some stubble is REALLY UNCOMFORTABLE.

        As in, if you’ve ever been with a woman who shaved and wasn’t perfectly recently shaved, you do kinda end up with beard burn all over your chin (ahem). I can’t imagine it’s any more comfortable for dude-bits to be rubbing up against that…

        And, seriously, between rashes, ingrown/infected hairs, and sandpaper-like stubble, I just kinda threw my hands in the air over ever shaving that again. I have no idea how other women manage to do it in a maintain-able and comfortable way, but, for me, it’s not worth the time/effort/discomfort.

    • GCDC

      “I feel like ‘less’ of a woman because I don’t know or do what seems effortless to others.”

      I think the big secret, and the reason why this open thread is such a welcome change is that it’s not effortless. Ever. For anyone. It takes a lot of time and work to figure out how to style hair, apply makeup, shape and paint nails.

      I’m in a similar situation, in that I find myself constantly wishing that I had had an older sister or a
      mother who taught me these sorts of things. And I thought (and find
      myself sometimes still thinking) that other people look so put together that it must be easy for them. But I don’t think it is. I also try new things, and am not good at a majority of them. I’ve just started telling myself that if I wanted to be able to X badly enough (be it better updoes, or getting rid of those terrible callouses on my feet) I would have invested the time to learn. And I’m trying to embrace the fact that I don’t care enough about those certain things,and that it is okay that I don’t care enough to take the time to learn how to do that.

      • Maddie Eisenhart

        Amen. I spent most of my formative years with terrible hair and a weak grasp on makeup. And ask me about my first forays into bra buying, YIKES. But the more comfortable I’ve gotten with experimenting, the better it gets. And guys, the professionals are your friends! Sure, they want to sell you stuff, but they also know a ton of shit.

        • Jenni Kissinger

          Any advice for how to find good beauty professionals in a new town? Yelp? :-/

          • Maddie Eisenhart

            The mall! (If there is one.) Most beauty stores are staffed with people who know at least the basics. So if there’s a Sephora nearby, or any other kind of beauty hub, you’ll find someone who knows what they’re doing.

          • Sephora has always been the place I go. The reps there (or at least at the one near me) seem to strike a good balance between helpful and salesy. Like, they’ll show you techniques and give you tips, maybe give a little sales pitch, and then leave you to your own devices so they can go help other people. Which is great because I hate when people are basically dragging you to the register because you asked a question. Eek.

          • Kelsey

            Yes to sephora!!! I think I’ve accumulated five lipsticks from them in six months because they’re so dang helpful.

        • Shiri

          Seriously. And think how many of us don’t know people with bodies/skin/faces/hair like ours. The professionals, though? They’ve seen it before. And if they haven’t (hello, my hair), find one who has. Don’t be afraid to ask!!

        • Elisabeth S.

          Bras. OMG, Maddie, bras. I didn’t wear the right size until my friend dragged me into BraTenders, in Hells Kitchen, just five years ago, and I have never looked back. My bras are more expensive, but it’s an amazing, no-bull, no-shame, bra celebration of a store, and I feel so much better about the ol’ rack. So many years hunched over in crummy bras that I can never get back!

          • Maddie Eisenhart

            Dude. The best pre-wedding errand I did was going to Le Petite Coquette near Washington Square Park. (Trying to find a strapless bra. Came out with my life forever changed.) I had previously been trying to squeeze into Victoria’s Secret bras (NO) and at one point in my forever-a-D-cup life, I even wore (sigh) cotton bras from the gap with a SEAM DOWN THE FRONT. They made me look like I had four boobs. Until I went bra shopping the right way I had actually been considering a breast reduction. Now? FLAUNT THAT SHIT.

          • I love my new (expensive!) beautiful bras that are actually the right size too. (My size is almost impossible to fine except in specialty stores, unfortunately.) Over the holidays, I actually found one very plain beige bra in my size in a department store, and it was then I realized that, for me, gorgeous bras (that fit, yay!) are worth the $$$.

      • “I’m in a similar situation, in that I find myself constantly wishing that I had had an older sister or a mother who taught me these sorts of things.”

        Yep, same here. My mom never does anything to her hair and never wears makeup, so I didn’t witness the typical getting ready ritual until college. I know 2 makeup looks (psst… they’re the same except I add eyeliner for nighttime) and still have no idea how to do my hair. It’s been a different sort of path to take, but once I got over my initial fear, it’s been really fun. I realized I kind of had a blank slate (no one telling me I need more ROUGE on my cheeks over here), so I can kind of decide what I like on myself. Plus, I bought a Costco size pack of those makeup remover wipes for when I fuck up ;-).

      • Jenni Kissinger

        This … is a really good comment. If doing X is really important to me, I would put in the time to learn to do it. Since I’m not putting in the time, I should realize that X isn’t as important to me.

        I think the fear of failure is also what stops me. “Why bother trying to curl my hair if it’s just going to look bad. All that effort wasted, and I know if I do it this other way I’ll be happy with how it looks.”

        • GCDC

          I feel you. I’m super self-conscious about my hair. When I want to try new things, I do it at a “safe” time, like on a Sunday afternoon when I won’t see anyone. Then, if new style passes the test, I will wear it to work, and then, if I still am comfortable with it, I will wear it out socially. It’s a lot of mental effort, I should probably just get over it. But I definitely know where you are coming from.

          • Another Meg

            I do something similar. It’s how I’m teaching myself to french braid my hair- I try it, note errors, take it out, try it again, take it out (because it still looks like crap) and toss it into my usual bun. But! After a couple of times doing that, it’s starting to get easier. Just takes time, patience, and the stubbornness of a goddam mule. That’s mostly how I learn to do anything.

      • Shiri

        I have an older sister, and a younger one. And it’s funny to me, because my older sister never wears makeup or jewelry and doesn’t care about her clothes, I know makeup but don’t know clothes or accessories, and my little sister knows clothes and accessories and has one way of doing her makeup, basically. And we’re all constantly trying to figure out our giant hair.

        Moral of the story: sometimes sisters help.

      • Meg Keene

        Ok true story! I was out with someone yesterday (this someone is a STYLIST for god’s sake) who’s also a new mom. She commented on my manicure and how pretty it was and was like, “Of course you have a pretty manicure.” And then I put together various recent comments from her and realized she thinks I’m one of those stylish put together people.

        I was going to disillusion her, and then I was like, “Fuck it. No one’s ever thought this of me before that I know of, so I’m just going to enjoy it.”

        In short, I just don’t think it’s effortless EVER. I have this picture of me and the baby on my desk from a family session where we’re hanging out in bed. And I always think how when he’s older he’ll probably think, “Oh, what a pretty young mom I had effortlessly hanging out with me,” because it all looks so natural. But I for sure had my eyebrows done and my hair dyed and then I straightened it before the photo session. (If you’re going to have a pro take photos… amiright?) AKA, pleaz, effortless.

    • Jacky Speck

      You’re definitely not alone! I just started figuring out a few beauty things at age 23 or 24. I’m 26 now and still don’t know anything about waxing, nails, or styling my hair. I pretty much only have one hairstyle that “works,” and rely on whoever cuts it to create a style that looks good even if I do absolutely nothing to it each day. I have friends who blow dry and style their hair every day and I couldn’t imagine doing that myself– literally, I have no idea what the steps would be.

      I *sort of* want to start doing stuff to my hair, but feel like my type of hair (fine + curly) is difficult to style. Also, I’m just too lazy: I’ve found numerous tutorials on YouTube and elsewhere, but haven’t gotten around to trying a single one. I’m not even doing fancy hair stuff for my WEDDING: just the same style as always.

      • KC to KE

        I’m in the same boat as well. This tread is amazingly eye opening for me. I kind of thought I was the only one who hadn’t figured these things out yet. I think I’m going to hit Sephora on Sunday to see if I can get some kind of makeup-for-my-skin-eye-color etc crash course. And my hair? Don’t get me started! I have super thick, wavy hair and I have never been able to figure out what to do with it. I have two styles – down and ponytail. I am SO jealous of the women who wander around with this perfectly (or even imperfectly) styled hair. It’s too heavy for cute clips and I’m really at a loss. I always wish I could look as “put together” as the nice hair ladies, but my giant mop and my lack of skill leave me feeling “less.”

    • Shiri

      “I feel like ‘less’ of a woman because I don’t know or do what seems effortless to others.”

      Ugh, yes. I can’t figure out how to do my own nails, and my sisters made fun of the shape of them when I was little (someone recently told me I have toe-thumbs. Thanks.). My husband once said something about how often I get manicures and I legit started to cry, because I feel like a 12 year-old when my nails are natural because I don’t know how to shape them myself. I mean, tears over that?!

      I only figured my hair out about three years ago. I’m 30. I don’t know a single person with hair like mine, besides my mother, and I don’t think she has *ever* figured hers out.

      • My hands are almost always dry and cracked and I have so many bottles of cuticle oil and hand lotion right now. I also struggle with shaping my own nails with a file, so mine are often trimmed very short (or filed very short, and then funny shapes). I get hand stuff as gifts because of how my hands look, and I’m still trying to figure out makeup.

        • Sarah E

          Yeah, I definitely got my mom’s dry, chapped hands. I know that’s where I’ll always look older than I am (because I’ve seen her level of hand cream needs and constant band aids for the splits). Oh well. The glitter nail polish still goes on, and I try to keep bottles of hand cream everywhere.

          • I almost always have hand cream. When I don’t things get itchy and cracked :-(
            I do still wear nail polish, though right now I’m taking a break to let my nails grow in a bit (they were peeling like mad for a while), so my hands are somewhat of a hot mess right now.

        • KC

          You may already be doing this (or not be okay with doing this, or this may not work for you, etc.), but what works really well for me and dry hands/feet is an occasional before-bed thing:
          1. soak (I just use warm water or count a shower as a soak)
          2. dry off lightly with a towel
          3. generously slather on Cetaphil-from-an-unattractive-tub while the skin is still damp (not fancy smelling, but that stuff *works*)
          4. put on cotton gloves (and for feet, socks)

          And, next day, my skin is so much happier (the socks and gloves usually come off overnight and have to be fished up from the foot of the bed or whatever, but by that point the lotion has absorbed into my skin enough that it doesn’t stain sheets or whatever, at least for me). The big part of it for my skin is putting the cream on while the skin is still somewhat waterlogged or however one would describe it, and then keeping it there. I use cheapo cotton “archival” gloves from Amazon (less than $12 for 12 pairs – and I can still type and use a touchpad through them, but the lotion doesn’t get out) and ancient cotton sport socks.

          (this may be the *one* beauty secret I know. Stand in awe of my Feminine Mystique skillz here…)

          • I have not done this – thank you! I will have to try it :-)!

          • Shotgun Shirley

            Yes! I do this but w/o the soaking; I think I’ll add that. Also, I use socks on my hands too… my husband makes gentle fun of me, and sometimes my toddler asks for “mitten socks” for herself too. I am now going to look for gloves on Amazon…

          • Grace

            I also do the Cetaphil thing before bed and I use socks on my hands!!

        • Shiri

          The filing! I want to take a class in filing. I can’t do it right! I have square nails and they look SO weird unpainted and un-professionally-filed.

          • Heather

            A little late here, but a few things I’ve found:
            –Gel manicures are wonderful! They last for about 2 weeks with no chipping, and the pampering that comes with it can be magic for dry, cracked hands. Also, if there is even a chance that your cracked/chapped/what-have-you hands are a result of psoriasis or eczema, the UV light is GOOD FOR YOU. It helps! Seriously- find a good salon and treat yourself every two weeks during the rest of the winter (in NYC, runs about $35-$40, suburbs I just found somewhere for $20!), and your hands will thank you. Also, pretty! Note, though: your nails will be sort of weak if you stop, so be prepared to keep them short for 2 months or so.
            –Gold Bond Ultimate Healing Lotion and Aveeno Eczema Therapy Moisturizing Cream are worth the cost. They legit have worked when nothing else would- even prescription level stuff.
            –Filing is impossible. I have stupidly shaped fingers- some are better with round nails, others with square. Stupid.

        • Bsquillo

          Lordy, my hands look decades older than I am. They get SO dry and cracked, ESPECIALLY in the winter, and it seems like no amount of lotion can soothe them. They are angry at me!!!

        • RM

          As a necessity of my profession, I wash my hands at least 2-3 times an hour. The joys of working with kids. So my hands are perpetually in a state of dry/cracking/flaky. It bothers everyone but me… so I feel self-conscious about it. And I still can’t paint my nails. And I don’t bother filing/cutting them because I have the nervous habit of tearing them if they are long enough. So generally, I am told I either have “poor person hands” or “man hands.” But seriously, why do I feel so bad about something that doesn’t even bother me?

      • !!!! Clubbed thumbs/square thumbs! I have them too! When I was little, I believed that I had normal thumbs and everyone else had weird finger-thumbs.

    • Amanda Sorvig

      Oh Jenni! I am completely in the same boat! I am ashamed that I don’t know what I “should” know, like hairstyles and eyeliner. I am also 27 and I feel like a failure or something…like I didn’t take the same high school class everyone else did. I have a younger sister who is always on top of her beauty game and I can’t for the life of me understand how she learned it! It makes me feel like a frumpy older sister to have to defer to her for tips.

      What I try to tell myself is that I need to keep my beauty rituals for my wedding close to what I would do normally, just take it up a notch. There is nothing wrong with not styling my hair on a daily basis, or only wearing (badly applied) mascara. I care about looking “normal” and “natural” on a daily basis and especially on my wedding day. I don’t want to look like someone else, or some plastic version of me.

      • Jenni Kissinger

        Haha are we living the same life? Except I have two younger sisters who have their beauty game down.

        This is great advice for the wedding. I haven’t really thought about how I’m going to style myself yet, but that’s what I would like … me, with a bit extra zazz.

    • Kayjayoh

      Eyeliner: nope. Waxing: partly nope. Fingernails: giant nope. Toenails: only technically yes.

    • Meg Keene

      You know what? Part of the reason we do those tutorials (more coming) is I’m still learning. And recently, I’d decided to aggressively learn. Like, I never knew how to do my hair… AT ALL. I now can straighten it to be non-frizzy thanks to my stylist finally teaching me, which I do about twice a week (this morning, babies nap). And I can do a good bun, thanks to You Tube, and I’m going to keep learning, because it’s *really fun* for me, at least once I got past the fear.

      Makeup I’ve got because I taught myself young (I got a bunch of Bare Minerals as a speakers gift at Alt Summit, and LOVEEEEE). And waxing face stuff, I learned when I was belly dancing (I know). And I got my first manicure at like, 23, and my first gel manicure on Sunday.

      • M.

        I recently taught myself to French braid at age 28 from YouTube because all of a sudden I NEEDED it. And I have plans to practice curls on fine hair from the APW tutorial this weekend. Feels like I fell down a really, really pretty rabbit hole. You’re right, so fun. I feel…empowered?

      • Y’all have seriously helped me with my makeup abilities. Especially eyeliner.

      • Rachel

        I made the same commitment this year: to force myself to learn a few new makeup tricks and every year I renew the contract with myself that I will put on some makeup three days a week.

      • Anna

        Links to good YouTubers for hair stuff? I am totally clueless when it comes to YouTube and can never find anything good when searching… clearly I am not putting in the right terms!

    • Lisa

      I am TOTALLY in this boat with you. My mom is a farm girl who never did anything girly ever, and I’m the oldest of three girls. The only thing girly my mother (sort of) taught me was how to do make-up–by calling her Mary Kay lady to give me a tutorial about how to apply make-up and what colors worked best with my skin tone. (And God bless my mother for this because otherwise you know I would have been rocking the early 00s super-thick pastel eyeliner.)

      Curly hair took years of experimenting and book reading to manage. (I straightened it for 4 years before I could even kind of figure out my hair texture.)

      Nail salons and waxing and eyebrow threading still make me nervous. The way I was raised tells me, “These things are not worth spending money on. Do it yourself or don’t do it at all.” As a result of that, I still have a hard time convincing myself to ever get my nails or eyebrows done.

      All of this to say (tl;dr): I am in the same boat as you! Here I am at 26, trying to figure out what it seems like other girls were born to do.

      • Sarah

        It’s so nice to know I’m not alone with this. My mum is not a girly girl either so she didn’t teach me much, and I always felt like this was stuff that I wasn’t meant to care about. I also have curly hair which took me about 24 years to learn how to style (and I still pretty much have only one style at the age of nearly 30). To make matters worse, I am a redhead so I tend to stand out whether I like it or not and since my mum didn’t know what to do with my hair she always got it cut short. Having short hair occasionally meant that I was mistaken for a boy (this still makes me want to cry if I think about it too hard) and meant that I never felt like I was a proper girl because I didn’t wear ponytails or cute hair accessories like the other girls. I finally grew my hair out at 19 and eventually started owning my femininity a lot more. Being able to style my hair in a way that I like makes me feel more in control and put together which is great in some ways, but I also wish I could feel that way on the days that I don’t have the time or energy. Nothing like panicking about unstyled hair when you need to go out for 5min to get milk! I think receiving constant comments and questions (good, bad, ridiculous) from friends, family, strangers about my hair colour in particular means that it feels like it’s my one feature that really matters. I myself quite like the colour, and I like that it links me to my grandmother who I was very close to… but I but it is really not an interestin

        • Sarah

          Oops.. accidently cut myself off. I meant to say ‘but it’s really not an interesting topic that I want to discuss with everyone.’ And for the record, the thing about redheads dying out in 200 years is an urban myth, and feels offensive not funny.. End rant!

        • Lisa

          I can’t relate to the being mistaken for a boy, but I was teased throughout middle school because my reaction to not knowing what to do with my hair was to just grow it super long so it kind of straightened itself out into a long, frizzy blob.

          And I am super jealous of your hair color, but completely understand not wanting to have a conversation about it with every other person. The same thing happens to me when working retail; people always comment on my curly hair and ask if it’s “actually real.”


    • Rachel

      oh I’m so glad I am not alone. I often feel like a total beauty school washout for my lack of knowledge. I really try but it just isn’t a priority for me; work, baby, launching a side business are. I desperately want to know how to do all the beauty things but I just don’t know where to start. At 32 you would think I would have “grown up” by now but it is so overwhelming that I can’t even start.

  • ItsyBit

    I guess there are a few things, but a big one for me is my nails. I have never, ever, ever had fingernails like you see in nail polish ads. Ever. Practically as soon as I grew teeth I became a nail biter which didn’t help, but now even after I’ve (mostly) kicked the habit my nails are the opposite of what I want them to be. They’re so weak they bend if I so much as press on them, they peel if I’m doing something as simple as trying to scrape scotch tape off of a wall and instead of the “free edge” (or “white part” as I always knew it) being at the edge of my fingertip, it starts really low, probably d/t years of nail biting, which makes it even harder to grow them long since they’re so weak. Yikes.

    Lately I’m just trying to keep them in a relatively “normal” shape and keep them from peeling and breaking. I’m trying to own my love of nail polish even though I think the darker colors make my hands look old. I’ve been rocking light colors and metallics to prove to myself that I can wear nail polish if I want to, damnit, and it can look great.

    It honestly feels really weird to write all of this down. Who the hell cares about fingernails this much? Although it’s not my only thing, it’s been on my mind lately. Probably because I’ve been staring at hand models modeling wedding rings lately.

    So anyway, that. And I curl my eyelashes. My sisters (bless them) don’t have to EVER because they have this crazy natural curl to them which I’ve always sort of envied. I’m moderately petrified that if I keep curling my eyelashes they’ll get thinner or fall out or something, but I do it anyway because I love the way it looks. There you have it, internet.

    • Moe

      My nails never grow either. They are too thin and weak. With a gel manicure they grow out a little bit and they look nice for two whole weeks before they chip. Previous to that I always felt like such a slob because I couldn’t work at a keyboard with fancy acrylic tips. My thinking was that a ‘real woman’ could type effortlessly with long nails.
      Total BS.

      • I have short nail beds, so in order for me to look like my nails are a “normal length” (whatever that means), they have to be pretty long, and definitely long enough to break easily. I try to keep them that long so they look “normal,” and sometimes they get so long I can’t take my contacts out.

        • JessPeebs

          Short nail beds! OMG. Why have I never realized until this very second that this is why my nails have always looked “weird” to me compared to others. Huh!

    • M.

      “Who the hell cares about fingernails this much?” ::raises hand::

      I’m a stress nail biter (job! wedding! ugh!), with a nail shape that is more wide and round than you’d see in a nail ad. They are strong and grow pretty fast, but I hate the shape and can barely keep them nice. My childhood “best” friend told me I could make mine more like her beautiful ones by making fists and pressing down on my nails…hello 20+ years of nail baggage! I can grow them nice with effort, and get a manicure, but as they start to get long, I find them annoying and harder to maintain and the cycle starts over. Add in cost of regular manicures plus (rational or not) concerns about cleanliness of salons, and I am dealing with perpetual low nail self esteem. Living in NYC, I see so many beautiful nails on the subway and on my friends and coworkers. When I have to point to a document at work, I feel self-conscious if they are too short or jagged or whatever. I feel a distinct increase in confidence when I have my nails done. Now, it’s 2 months til wedding pictures. Feeling very self conscious about my hands. I plan to “be good” and get a mani day before (hot pink probs, at least there’s that). Strange to see such a private concern typed out…

      • ItsyBit

        ” Strange to see such a private concern typed out…” Yes, exactly! But good for us I guess?

        I’m also in NYC (very recently) and am getting used to everyone being far more dressed up than I am, from manicures to outfits. Re: pointing to things, exactly! I’ve actually been carrying around a little nail file with me everywhere I go for months now to attack the jagged thing as soon as I notice it. It tends to keep me from relapsing to nail biting & makes me feel like they look a little better.

        As a side note, hot pink sounds awesome for a wedding.

        • daniellela

          It’s funny, I recently moved from NYC, and in some ways it’s been a relief to live in a mid-size Midwestern city with a much more “normal” sense of style, and, let’s face it, lower standards. I don’t care about fashion trends very much and it takes the pressure off of trying to look awesome every day!

          • M.

            Yeah, I moved here 2 years ago after an interlude at home the UP of Michigan (aka TINY NOWHERE) after which I had really quelled my need to shop and gotten my debt under control, and had a really chill beauty routine. After a couple months in NYC I felt so self conscious. It’s an active struggle and I’m (obviously) still trying to find a middle ground. I live in Brooklyn and have noticed I feel way more comfortable hanging out there than during work/evenings in the city.

          • Oh yeah, I know the UP! Pretty much a different world from NYC.

            I am also from Brooklyn and definitely feel more at home there than Manhattan. The style and the pace of 14th Street give me heart palpitations.

      • loves cake

        I always envy people with fun nails. I hate the way nail polish feels. I feel like I can’t touch anything without chipping. But most importantly I get headaches when my nails are painted. So weird, but after many years of trying I have found a correlation. So no nail polish for me. I feel like I am missing out on being trendy with fun nails.
        Also, has anyone else had their nails flatter as they got older? I used to have super arched nails…now all but 4 are basically flat. Not that it matters, but it is odd.

    • Liz

      I have total nail envy for people with perfect nails. My nails just don’t grow very evenly and they break a lot and I have no skills at shaping and filing them well! They are kind of fat (which sounds hilarious)! I need to keep up with vitamins as I notice they definitely stay stronger when I’m taking them regularly. I do find, if I have them painted, that they break less. But I completely suck at painting them myself too :)

      • Amy

        My nail beds are really long and my nails grow super fast, so you think this would be awesome, right? Nope. I’ve got a toddler and I type a ton for work so I’m chopping those suckers off about once a week. It is a total PITA and I really miss living in NYC where my local nail salon would make them look all pretty for like $10 during my lunch break.

        I still get manicures for weddings or special occasions but I feel really proud of myself if I remember to shape and buff my nails once a week instead of just chopping them off bluntly.

    • ardenelise

      Co-sign. I bit my nails for years and years and hated it, but couldn’t stop. When I finally broke the habit (in high school) I was so. damn. proud of myself. For the last year or so I’ve been really into painting my nails and trying out some nail art, and I get all kinds of judgmental comments about it all the time. “How often do you paint your nails?!?!?” Umm, a couple times a week? Why is that bad? It’s my HOBBY. How often do you do your hobby?

      I’m a youth minister, and one of the girls in my youth group told me, “I just lost a lot of respect for you” when she found out about my nail art hobby. (Cue internal “Way harsh, Tai” moment.) I told her to think of it like painting little works of art on my nails, and suddenly she was totally cool with it. It’s ridiculous: if I spent time painting tiny little portraits at home, it would be a totally respected hobby, but the sheer fact that what I paint is part of my body suddenly makes it an anti-feminist act of vanity.

      • Erin E

        That is a super-interesting point and you’re so right. If you painted tiny pictures on a canvas, everyone would think it was art. Why is it different when it’s on a woman’s body? Same with makeup or clothes even… once we put it on our bodies it becomes less important and trivial almost – “girl stuff.” NOT cool!

      • Lisa

        Share! Share! Give us the lowdown.

        • ardenelise

          I’ve found that using a cuticle remover and pushing back my cuticles 1-2 a week has *drastically* improved how they look. I basically never get hangnails any more (and this is big news for me, because I would ALWAYS pick at my hangnails until they bled– not a good look). I like both CND Cuticle Eraser (you can find it on Amazon) and Julep Vanish (http://www.julep.com/shop/nail-hand-foot-care/vanish-cuticle-softener-remover.html).

          I also try to use some kind of cuticle oil or cream to keep my fingernails from getting too dried out. I keep a little tin of Burt’s Bees Lemon Butter cuticle cream (~$6 at Target) at my desk at work and put it on whenever I think they’re looking dry. I also think Julep’s Mighty Nail & Cuticle serum is a miracle worker (you can find it at Sephora or Julep.com).

          I really like Essie’s Good to Go Top Coat to help prevent chips– I can almost always go 3-4 days w/o chips with it and sometimes nearly a week!

          If you don’t feel super confident about your ability to paint your nails, you can dip a tiny make-up or art brush in acetone & use it to clean up any rough edges or polish on your fingers. (I will also say that painting your nails more often will make you better at it– I used to be super messy when I applied polish and now I’m actually pretty neat!) I’d also recommend figuring out what nail shape works for your nails and sticking with it. I desperately want to have square nails, but it just doesn’t work for me– the edges always curl under and chip faster. Once I accepted that I need to file my nails more round, they’ve lasted a lot longer!

          • Do you put the nail cream on your nails (to keep them from drying out) when you have polish on them? Or just when they are bare?

          • ardenelise

            You can do both! I almost always have my nails painted, so I just put cuticle cream on my cuticles and the skin around my (painted) nails. If your nails are bare, you can put it on the nails themselves. (If you do that and then want to paint your nails, you should use nail polish remover to clean the nails first– if there’s some kind of cream on your nails often polish won’t stick well & then will chip super fast.)

    • Kayjayoh

      I don’t bite my nails, but I do bite and peel my hand nails. They are always awful. My nails themselves are just kept trimmed down to nothing, since too many of my hobbies don’t work with nails (rock climbing with long nails? no thanks.) and I don’t even bother with polish on my fingernails.

      (In the summer I will put a layer of polish on my toenails, but it is far from a nice pedicure.)

    • lady brett

      all of this about the nails. i love nail polish (it’s my only makeup/beauty routine thing), it feels sexy and put together (and i’m not a very put together person, so that’s a big deal) – for about 12 hours. i’m a really hands-on person, and my nail polish lasts one day at best. i *really* want to be able to rock a manicure for…basically any length of time, but i haven’t found anything that helps. (i have at least given in that nail polish is like fingernail armor, so my peeling nail polish might look gross, but it keeps my actual nails from peeling up like that, which is more gross)

      • Caitlin_DD

        This. I do a lot of creative work (and, um, dishes? Anyone?) and manicures just don’t survive. Basically I’ve started to just spot-fix it if it chips. Also, I don’t know what kind of top coat you use, but Essie’s is pretty good. I also hear gel manicures are very sturdy but I have never tried myself.

        • Heather

          Gel manicures FTW! They really are magically long lasting. Lady Brett, give it a go!

    • Bsquillo

      I STILL bite my nails at the age of 24. I’ve tried stopping several times, and usually have success for a couple weeks, but inevitable stressful situations tend to send me back to biting.

      I’m currently giving it another shot and trying to keep my nails constantly painted. I find I bite them less when they are. I worried for a long time about how they would look at the wedding, but now? It’s not a really high priority. If I’m able to stop biting and they look fabulous for the wedding, then great; if not, I’ll get a heavy-duty gel manicure and move on with my life.

      I also worried about how my nails would look for our engagement pictures, but after getting them back, no once did I say, “Oh I look so happy in this picture, but my nails look horrible!” Funny how that works.

      • lizperk23

        Thank you for this. I still bite my nails too and go through the same pattern you describe. For sure stress is a huge factor and I can only imagine that’ll be increasing between now and wedding day :P. I’ve just never been able to break the habit.

        I don’t have interest in hair/makeup/etc but the nails thing is the one that gets me down (or stressed – not helpful, reinforcing the loop)

    • KH_Tas

      Reading this comment, it occurred to me that me “free edges” (they’re totally ‘white parts’) sit very low as well, and that’s contributing to some of my problems, though Youtube is being my friend.
      *Fistbumps* in solidarity and thanks

  • Moe

    I grew up with the blessing/curse of being fat, Mexican, female and poor. These things made life hard and they also made me strong. My view on beauty and acceptance is shaped by all of these things and it’s hard to pinpoint the source of what has formed my opinions.

    When I was a young girl I remember my older sister telling me things like “because we are fat, we have to try harder to look good. People will assume that fat people are lazy, dirty, careless.”

    Then I remember mom saying things like “It’s expensive to have nice things, that’s why rich people have such nice clothes.” I grew up learning to thrift shop, bargain hunt. I quickly learned that mainstream fashion stopped at size 12 or 14 and that I could not wear fabulous things at a size 22 or 26. The industry has changed a lot though! I can now bargain shop with the best of them. Fashion was once unattainable because I didn’t have money AND because I was a big girl.

    My friends and I joke about how there’s always a Mexican aunt at every wedding wearing a sequined dress and that it will most likely be me. I love bright colors, sequins, sparkle, I will live and die in leopard print and red lipstick. I can’t help it. It’s what I’m drawn too. I couldn’t be subtle or understated if I tried.

    So I don’t know if my style and love of beauty products makes me a “bad feminist” to some, I don’t think it does. I feel like I have already taken on a lot of battles and experienced a lot of closed doors. Looking good to me is a badge of pride. Sometimes it means that I value myself. Sometimes it’s an act of defiance. And
    sometimes I just like the damn red lipstick on a Tuesday. #shutupandduckface :D

    • Anne Schwartz

      eeeeee shut up and duck face!!!!!

      Also, anytime you want to be sequin dress twins, girl I an in!

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      You’re my fashion icon, Moe. :)

      • Moe

        *fist bump*
        *reapplies red lipstick*

    • KC

      This is so true. Skinny and lazy clothes and no makeup = not intimidating (provided you don’t look like a meth addict). Fat and the same (or better!) outfits = all sorts of negative judgment. It is pretty horrible.

    • Meg Keene

      I grew up around this and similar cultures, and bless. I’m always so damn admiring.

      BECAUSE YOU KNOW WHO LOOKS BETTER THAN ANYONE ON THE PLANET? Old black ladies going to church in Oakland on Sunday. Those ladies Turn. It. Out.

      • Moe

        I didn’t even mention what growing up in church did for me, but yes…damn they look good!

  • Katriel

    I’m a tomboy twenty-somthing scientist who doesn’t wear makeup or care about clothes or nails…BUT I have had blue/purple hair for the last 10 years. Blue hair is high maintenance, and I do all my own bleaching and dyeing to get the perfect shading. It’s been long, short, mohawked, but always blue. Now I have thyroid disease and my hair is falling out and it freaks me out, because blue hair is my thing! I’ve never thought of myself as vain, and I was surprised how emotional I feel about my hair loss.

    • Crayfish Kate

      You sound just like me! In college I colored my hair all sorts of crazy colors. Dark purple was my absolute favorite, because it faded so well. I also have a thyroid issue (underactive), and while thankfully, I didn’t experience the hair loss (at least not more hair loss than usual), I would imagine that would improve with meds.

  • Laura K.

    I have a really round face (partly due to German bone structure, I think). No one else in my immediate family has this shape of face. On good days, I’m totally fine with it. I’m proud to have this face that identifies my German heritage. It suits my nose. I look different from other people. On bad days (having bloated or gained weight), my face is the first to show it. It morphs from sort of squareish to circular. When photographed from certain angles (particularly when smiling), my face looks particularly round.

    I’m trying to figure out what works for me. I know what hairstyles do not suit me (hellooo, hair pulled straight back) and am fine with that because I want to look my best. When I look for inspiration from other people, I pay attention to their face shape (Diane Kruger is a big inspiration).

    I take it day-by-day. It’s not crippling self-doubt or anything, but it happens and it affects me.

  • amytriplett

    Sometimes I feel really weird about my focus on makeup. On an average day I don’t spend too much time on it, but sometimes I get really into makeup. Recently I had a makeover done at Sephora and spent a ton of money getting products, which made me feel guilty on a number of levels. As a good feminist, should I be this focused on conventional standards of beauty? As a socially-conscious person, should I spend this much money on makeup when it could keep a family of four on groceries for a few weeks?

    I have to remind myself sometimes that it’s ok for me to want to feel pretty or sexy or beautiful. That it’s ok for me to stretch my creative muscles, even if the form that ends up taking is with makeup or nails or whatever. And that it’s ok to spend money on myself sometimes if I’m making efforts to improve the world elsewhere.

    • Meg Keene

      Yeah, playing with hair or makeup is totally creative expression for me.

      • clairekfromtheuk

        same here. I don’t paint, or sing or play an instrument and my job isn’t very creative sooo makeup it is!

      • I feel this way too. My husband is one of four sons in his family and each of his brothers ended up marrying an (awesome) woman who prefers a natural/minimal look. The first time I came to stay with his family I walked in carrying my makeup case, which looked like a small carry-on and they didn’t even know what to do with me! At first, I really struggled with what I assumed his low key, artsy, true to themselves family was thinking about me: “she is superficial”, “she must not be comfortable in her skin”, “how high maintenance!”. It really caused me to think about my relationship with cosmetics and I found that at the end of the day, I think makeup is fun. I can change my entire look each day to match my mood. Plus, sparkles! I may not be able to sketch or paint or woodwork or quilt like the rest of the family, but damnit I can weild a eyeliner pencil with force.

    • Melissa the Researcher

      The more I think about clothes/makeup/hair stuff as creative expression, the more I enjoy it and the less I worry about whether or not it’s okay to spend time/money on it. The best and most creative outfits I put together (usually full of color and mixed patterns and big jewelry) make me feel the best and most like myself, and are thus totally worth it.

      Also, thanks to inspiration from some random girl I walked past on the sidewalk who had done a similar thing, I dyed the sides/underside of my brunette hair a mid-dark purple a few months ago, and it’s perhaps the best thing I’ve ever done, beauty-wise. I had to go through some trial and error on getting the right color and the right amount of visible-ness, but now I grin like a crazy fool at myself every time I pass a mirror or other reflective surface. Doing that one thing that I super love helps me see and acknowledge and mentally fist bump my favorite version of myself, regardless of what other style/beauty choices I made that day.

  • Emily

    This is totally gross but… I have to bleach my sideburns every few weeks! I have quite dark hair and for some reason it is really obvious on the sides of my face. I like to think there’s something quite glamorously Italian about it, but really… well, I haven’t ever told anyone, and hope my fiancé never finds out – it’s so embarrassing!

    • I have them too, though I don’t bleach them. A kid in high school tried to tease me by calling me sideburns, but I didn’t understand why that was considered an insult, because most women in my family have it and deal with it however they please. For me, it means trimming it, though if it went past my ears I’d probably bleach it too. Currently with a pixie cut it just looks like it’s supposed to be there.

    • emilyg25

      I shave mine! And my upper lip. I have really short hair now, and every time I go in for a trim, my hairdresser takes the clippers and buzzes the back of my neck, the sides of my face, and my ear lobes! Also, I have a major unibrow. But I’m oddly proud of my profusion of facial hair.

    • loves cake

      You should not be embarrassed! Obviously if the product exists for purchase you are not the only one who does this. I pluck out my chin hairs like it is my second job and shave my mustache, er, I mean, upper lip. And I get these really stubborn dark, yet rooted with cement hairs on the side of my jaw line that no wax or threader has ever removed…so I obsess with the tweezers.

      • Emily

        Ahhh I hear you on the chin hairs! The more I pluck the more they grow! I have a couple of really dark spiky ones, and I’ve noticed a couple on my neck too, what is with that?! My only consolation is that at least they’re black and not grey!

    • Helen

      For the record, I’ve known a fair few women who have downy sideburns and I think it’s totally hot. That’s all.

  • One of those things you can’t really say: I care about what I eat. Not in an I’m-watching-my-weight kind of way (which is absolutely fine, too!), but just that I’ve spent enough time on this Earth in my body to know how certain foods will affect how I feel, physically. Even though I loooove pizza, I don’t really have it for lunch because big lunches make me feel really tired in the afternoons, and I don’t like that. I prefer to do the grazing thing because it just makes me feel my best–more alert, on-task, ready for the rest of the day.

    I’m slender and athletic, so I tend to get food-policing statements every time I order a salad or don’t feel like dessert. It really sucks to feel like I need to prove to people that I don’t have food issues nor am I trying to lose weight. I just like what I like.

    • Lauren from NH

      I hear ya there. I like vegetables a lot. They make me feel good so I snack on carrots, bring raw spinach on the side, etc and get these silly rabbit food comments. I don’t know about everyone else, but I was taught pretty early on to not comment on other people’s food.

      • Yeah, when I worked in an office I used to bring a green smoothie for breakfast (again, because I LIKE THEM), and I actually had to ask one woman to please stop commenting on it because it was making me really self-conscious.

      • Lauren from NH

        Also people give you side-eye like it’s DIET. It’s not a diet, it’s my diet, as in the usual food stuffs consumed by this human creature called Lauren. Mind your business!

        • Yeah, I don’t know how people feel comfortable commenting on it. I never offer up judgement because 1. it’s generally rude and 2. you have no fucking idea what’s going on with that person. Maybe they have Crohn’s or are trying to gain/lose weight or are very sick. You just don’t know, and it’s none of your business anyways.

          • Lauren from NH

            Exactly. To be fair, some people do phrase it more nicely, like “it seems like you eat some healthy all the time.” Also hell yeah on the green smoothies!

      • malkavian

        I like veggies (though I don’t really like snacking on raw ones) and often order veggie-based entrees-It’s amazing how many times I get asked if I’m vegetarian even though I’m an omnivore. Apparently if you eat meat at all you have to do so at every meal and can’t just be craving a caprese or spinach-mushroom enchiladas.

    • Anon

      Why do people think it is ok to make comments like that? I’ve never really eaten big meals. I eat until I’m full, and then I stop. But people feel the need to comment every time I don’t finish a meal or skip dessert. I’m a rather slender person too, but not abnormally so. Why do people think it is ok to police what I eat? I know they aren’t asking their other coworker on the other end of the weight spectrum why she cleaned her plate and then went back for seconds. So why ask me about my food intake?

      • Anon

        And as I re-read what I wrote, I want to clarify: That coworker that cleaned her plate and went back for seconds? More power to her! I don’t think it is ok to question anyone’s food choices, no matter what size they are.

      • Alyssa M

        That’s a comment I actually had to ban from my house. My parents managed the MAGIC of raising me without any weirdness about food, so I eat what I like in moderate portions and it’s NDB. When I moved in with my partner he started making comments about when I didn’t clear my plate and I got insecure and started overeating. I actually put on 20 lbs. before I put a stop to it.

        Forcing yourself to eat food you don’t need is wasting it just as much as throwing it away, only with the added negative of feeling like you overate and gaining weight.

    • Jacky Speck

      It’s so weird to me that caring about what you eat has become a taboo “caring about your appearance” thing, because food is fuel. What you eat affects your health, regardless of your figure. But I have heard comments like you’re describing: either ordering something “healthy sounding” and hearing “you’re already thin enough!” or ordering a large amount of food and hearing something to the effect of “wow I wish *I* could get away with eating that.”

      • Maddie Eisenhart

        Our relationship with food is SOOO messed up. I feel like I need to apologize for eating healthy AND eating like crap. Makes no sense.

      • Gina

        This is so true! I find older women especially critique what I eat because “you don’t need to lose weight.” Maybe not, but I do need to feel alert, get nutrients, prevent diseases, and generally take care of myself. And the opposite is true too. I wish we could get to a place where making comments on others’ food choices was not culturally accepted. Until then, my go-to comeback will be your words– “food is fuel!” Make it work for you, not against you.

    • KC

      If you’re skinny and like vegetables, then you must have problems. If you’re not skinny and don’t like vegetables, then that’s your problem. There is no winning condition here except maybe being skinny and eating cheeseburgers (and not visiting the bathroom for hours afterwards, you know) or being not-skinny and subsisting entirely on kale.

      I recognize there are some weights that cause health issues on both ends of the spectrum, so yes, don’t go skeletal or morbidly obese, but seriously People Of The World, back off already. If someone is healthy, whatever their weight, then maybe leave what they eat alone, okay? And if someone is not healthy, then that’s their problem and their doctor’s problem, not your problem (unless you’re forcing wheat flour cupcakes on someone with celiac or whatever. Then you have a problem!).

    • Liz

      THIS! I am glad it’s not just me!

  • ap

    I’m going grey – at 27. I’m pretty sure it’s a genetic trait in my family, but everytime I quietly mention it to one of my girlfriends – they say they have no idea what I’m talking about. I can definitely see the grey, though it’s underneath my top layer of hair. I don’t even like pulling it back in a ponytail anymore. I’ve never dyed it and don’t have the $$ to get it done professionally and have NO clue what to do. I wish I was one of those girls who could go grey with grace, but I’m just not.

    • malkavian

      Ugh, I’m 26 and have been greying since I was 19 at the least. If I don’t dye, the entire front of my hair is grey. I’m seriously starting to look like Rogue from X-men whenever my roots grow in. For me it IS genetic, I have numerous family members with early grey including my mom.

      I was lucky to find a stylist who charges really fair prices for a cut and color. When I wasn’t dying it (I think I was 22 or 23 at the time) , I had a job interacting with lots of people and got funny looks and a lot of ‘aren’t you too young to have grey hair?’

      • Meg Keene

        I KNOW. The other thing those, “Well I’d go grey WITH GRACE” people don’t understand: it’s not like grey comes in evenly all the time. And having patches of white hair is possibly less flattering than you might imagine… Mine’s also really white in the front.

    • Shiri

      Me, too. I started pulling out gray hairs at 13. Seriously. And I finally learned, last year, to stop pulling them out because then they grow in absolutely haywire and super wiry. I’m lucky in that I have a lot of hair, and also hair with a lot of colors in it, so the grays don’t so much (my husband keeps telling me they look like highlights – sure).

      I don’t know what to do either, so I basically just try not to think about it – which might actually be my beauty regimen: only let yourself think about it (the grays, the wrinkle your mom and grandma have that now you do, too, the hips, etc) when you see it in the mirror and then try your damndest not to think about it until you see it again.

    • jashshea

      I started graying around 28/29. My mom was mostly gray by mid-30s, so it’s not great surprise. I color every 6-10 weeks. While I really don’t like spending money on that, I LOVE the results. My stylist is just an absolute whiz with color and gets me to try to new things. Many of my friends were graying earlier than me, so I figure at least I got a few extra years at my natural color.

    • Meg Keene

      Psssssttttt: It’s ok to dye it. I wish someone had given me emotional permission earlier. I get my hair professionally died at the moment, but I’ve done box dyes and they’re fine. Start with the temporary kind… the 3 month or so (less than that and they don’t really stick). It’s kind of…. SUPER FUN. I used to dye my hair red sometimes in my 20s. (I’d forgotten till now) with three month dye, because WHY NOT? Anyway, maybe approach it as a grand experiment and see if you like it.

      That’s why I play with color and ombre and stuff now. If I’m going to pay to dye it, I might as well have fun with it, right? And I’ve worked through it enough now that I don’t even feel guilty about the money, and I wrote it into our budget as a line item. I mean, FUCK IT. I do a lot of sacrifice for my family. My family budget can give me nice hair in return, you know?

  • Sarah E

    I always try to minimize my time in the bathroom post-shower, or my cache of toiletries when traveling. Because taking so much time in the mirror or so many products make me high-maintenance. And heaven forbid I be high maintenance- that’s a major no-no.

    What has helped is slowly finding and using natural or organic products, because they feel and smell luxurious, and I still feel good about my decision to purchase and use them.

    What hasn’t helped is fully coming into the rosacea my mom passed on to me, so the fairly clear skin I had growing up is now generally pink or red, and breaks out more easily. I’ve never been much of a foundation girl, but now I want something to even out my skin-tone and cover the red without being heavy. And I’m not sure how I feel about that. Should I accept my skin the way it is, as long as I care for it, or can I cover it up a bit and still feel authentic? Rawr.

    • Re: being high-maintenance. It’s funny how cultural this is. I’m the same way as you–I don’t carry around a compact, and I immediately try and look busy if someone catches me checking myself out in the mirror. Here in Venezuela, it is the complete opposite. Women bring entire Sally Beauty Supply Stores to the gym with them to get ready for work. EVERYONE is checking themselves out and applying lipstick in the public elevators. Men and women are all dolled up and put together everywhere, even at the beach. I used to be a bit judgey about it, but by now I’ve kind of embraced it. It’s ok to care about how you look.

      • Sarah E

        I’ve heard that about other countries, too- that the women in particular, are always dressed to the nines no matter the weather (snow and ice be damned) and no matter how small the errand. I like the idea of taking pride in how you look and showing self-care through style. That just gets so warped so easily: Sweats to class? You slob! Gym clothes at the grocery store? You’re in public! What. Ever.

        I have noticed that I put much less effort into dressing up for a night out (even just hanging at our favorite bar) now that I’m not around my girlfriends. I love the bonding of getting ready together and figuring out what to wear. Now I’m dressed for the cold or for ease of biking. I’m thinking it’s time to break out the mini skirt soon. Because if I look this good in everyday clothes? I’m fuckin’ fierce when I get dolled up. ;-)

      • K.

        Ha, yes! My fiance’s younger cousin is Venezuelan and she was apparently FASCINATED by me, because I’m on the youngish side and only wore what she thought was “minimal” makeup when she was visiting (for the record, it was tinted moisturizer, lipstick, mascara, and bronzer – not exactly free-ballin’.) She told her aunt that she admired how “easy going and carefree” I was about my appearance (still not sure if that’s a compliment or not…). But it’s probably the exact opposite of how my American friends/family see me. My best friend even cocked her head and was like, “Wait, she thought YOU were low maintenance? Did she…actually meet you?”

        Different cultures, different perspectives!

    • Lauren

      I’m fairly similar in the “don’t want to be high-maintenance” fear. Only recently (with a wedding coming up and wanting to be in control of how I look) have I gotten into makeup and skin care (beyond soap/water or simple DIY recipes) and I’m battling mixed feelings of not wanting to focus too much on my appearance, while still entering this whole new world of feeling like you HAVE to care about these things. I’ve settled on the thought that using makeup is just an extension of expression, really not any different than picking out my outfit for the day (as long as I don’t get over consumed by thoughts of not being able to go out without a “perfect” face/outfit). Everyone expresses something about themselves through their appearance, from the gamer with the referential T-shirt to the funky gal with the full makeup routine. It’s just trying to figure out what I want to express (and not express).

      Also, I’m with you on the natural/organic products. I recently bought some products from Baty’s Bath (haven’t tried them yet but all the ingredients are great) and she has a number of all-natural products for rosacea: http://battysbath.ca/

      • Sarah E

        Thanks for the rec! I agree with you on makeup as self-expression. Sometimes I put on a blazer and jeans, sometimes a sundress. Same deal with sometimes I wear certain makeup, sometimes not.

        The foundation part trips me up worse though. (Cover up for a spot or two? whatevs. “Covering up” my whole face? lots to unpack.)

        • Alyssa M

          Suggestion for the foundation thing, buy foundation that’s good for your skin, and it’s more along the lines of taking care of your face than “covering up.”

          I have very pale oily skin, so I use Neutrogena 55 SPF foundation and shine control powder. I’m not just painting my face, I’m taking care of it.

    • I also have some rosacea from my mom, and Alba Botanica CC cream works really well for me. It’s nice and light, and it also has sunscreen. You can buy it at Target.

    • I never had bad skin in high school (Sarah E can attest) and my sister had terrible skin (and still does). Once I graduated from college my skin began breaking out and while it wasn’t anywhere near what my sister went through, I was totally self conscious about it. I started using proactive after getting engaged and while I hated spending what (to me) was a significant amount of money on my skincare, it really helped. Granted, I don’t use it anymore because it totally dried my skin to a reptilian status. Now I use gentle face washes and it seems to have controlled breakouts better. By being nicer to my skin, I’ve noticed a big difference.

      Also, I used foundation regularly. My skin tone is pretty normal, but in this winter it is pretty pasty and little sick looking at times. I slather that on. Some days I feel a little high maintenance about it, but whatever makes me feel good is a go in my book.

      • Sarah E

        I’ve been using straight oil as cleanser for a few months now, because my skin is So. Dry. this winter, and I’m pleased with the results. Mild for the win :-) When it comes to the wedding, I figure a good photog can edit out blemishes (it’s not like angry red spots are more “me”) and hopefully will be skilled enough to find great light for my skin. And candles.

      • Erin E

        Bad skin has always been my achilles heel. It’s so hard because the thing about skin care is that products/methods work SOOO differently for each person. There are literally thousands of things you can try for acne (benzoil peroxide! accutane! vitamin A masks! egg white masks! salycilic acid! retin-a!) and what works for someone else may not work for you – so you spend years of your life, tons of money and all kinds of frustration figuring out your “formula”. For me it was a combination of prescription topical products and avoiding certain foods. But I’ve been a makeup user for years – to the point where I feel absolutely naked without it. Do I wish I was one of those people with beautiful, glowing clear skin who never wears makeup? Um, of course. But my reality is coverup and at least a light foundation. If that’s what it takes to make me feel “normal”, so be it.

  • Maddie Eisenhart

    I’ve been in an ongoing fight with my sweat glands since I was 12. When I was a teenager, I refused to wear anything except sweaters, because I sweat so much. These days I carry a stick of deodorant with me just about everywhere I go, because it hasn’t gotten any better. And it makes me SO self conscious. (I will happily take recommendations for natural deodorant remedies! The good chemical stuff makes my skin itch.) That said, this is the year I stop apologizing for the fact that I barely shave my legs (or anywhere else if we’re being honest) and I probably spend $2,000 on my hair each year. Because if I’m going to be that smelly girl, I am also going to be that girl with the kickass haircut. GENES BE DAMNED.

    • Jenni Kissinger

      I have sweaty hands. Sometimes soaking-through-my-notebook bad. People always think I’m nervous. And since you can’t really put deodorant on your hands, I’ve just gotten used to the embarrassment. I did read that there’s surgery, but dammit, I shouldn’t have to undergo surgery for my freaking hands.

      • Me too. I’m right with you there. I leave sweatmarks on my computer keyboard. It’s awful.

      • Szzy

        I have this too! Since I was a kid. I once pulled a pair of (clean ) socks from my backpack at school in the library so I could handle a book without sliming it up. I usually carry a few paper towels in my purse. It has somehow become less noticeable to me as I age (mid 30s now).

    • This was me in high school. I too constantly wore sweaters, and wouldn’t take them off no matter how warm I got, so no one would see the sweat marks on my shirt. I happily discovered Secret clinical strength right around the end of high school and it completely stopped the inordinate sweating. I’m sorry you haven’t found something that works for you, but I do empathize with you.

      • carolynprobably

        Oh man, that shit did nothing for me. Thankfully, after a few months of the night time “oh my god it itches” prescription stuff, it’s mostly gone away.

    • Sarah E

      I love Soapwalla deodorant cream. You can find it on etsy, and I’ve heard many other great reviews. Rachel, the owner and chef, makes it by hand in her kitchen in Brooklyn.

    • scw

      you know who else was really sweaty and hated it? david foster wallace. my FH is a pretty sweaty guy (so much so that he ruled out getting married in the summer because of it), and whenever he is feeling bad about it I remind him that dfw shared his pain!

    • Katriel

      Oh man, I have incredibly sweaty feet. Nothing helps. Not powder, not inserts, not special socks. So all my shoes smell terrible, my feet smell terrible and I have *actually slipped* in my house on bare feet because they were so sweaty. It bothers me because I know people notice, and my husband even comments on it sometimes, but I’m kinda out of options.

      • Maddie Eisenhart

        Oh yup, this too! I used to have such stinky feet as a kid that I had prescription foot odor stuff. (My friends called me SP Stinky Feet, which was short for slow poke stinky feet.) What I find particularly interesting about this conversation is that I was not a particularly awkward teenager, and for all intents and purposes, I was kind of hot during my teenage years (early developer), but I was SO SELF CONSCIOUS due to the aforementioned sweat and stinkiness. Which I guess goes to show that everyone has their personal struggles. Some you can see, and others you can’t.

        • Further proof we’re twins: my nickname was Poky (like the Poky Little Puppy).

          • Maddie Eisenhart

            <3 <3 <3

      • K.

        I have to basically run 5+ miles to get even a small amount of sweat anywhere on my body from my ankles up. But my feet? Oy. It’s awful, but I’m in the same boat…there’s really nothing to do. I have to run my workout shoes through the washer every week or it’s impossible to be in the same apartment as them (my fiance has threatened to burn them half-jokingly in the past – he’s the only one who can tease me about my stinky feet and only when I’m in a particularly lighthearted mood) So I totally feel you!

      • Jessica

        oh man I sooo feel you. I dread the summers when my feet sweat and slide in sandals, or when I go anywhere where I might have to take my shoes off–a friend’s house, fitting rooms (the gym is fairly non-judgmental though of course). I can never wear ballet flats or toms. the ONLY thing that helps me is wool socks. i am so, so grateful they keep the smelliness under wraps for at least fall and winter.

        • Hannah

          can we join a sweaty feet club? I can’t wear sandals because there is so much sliding that I end up getting blisters. I can’t go barefoot because I leave wet footprints behind me everywhere. I am sick of always wearing sneakers, and now that I just started a big-girl job I can not for the life of me figure out what I am supposed to do about professional shoes. When I am not wearing socks I get so nervous about my sweaty feet that my hands and pits sweat terribly too. Actually my hands are sweating right now just thinking about it. I was made fun of being sweaty way too many times during those awkward middle-school years too.

    • Lauren

      Kitchen Stewardship has a *really* good post on the subject of natural deodorant: http://www.kitchenstewardship.com/2013/09/13/are-your-armpits-an-exit-ramp/

      I also make and sell deodorant on Etsy that I’m really proud of and works for a lot of different people: https://www.etsy.com/listing/128457001/all-natural-deodorant-creme-1-oz

      Also, I’m with you on the barely shaving my legs. In the winter, the only time I’m going to shave is if there is a special event (wedding, etc.), otherwise it’s WAY too much work.

    • Granola

      I like shea butter mixed with a bit of baking soda. I try to stay away from the anti-perspirants because they ruin my clothes.

    • Jenn

      I am a glycopyrrolate evangelist. I have hyperhydrosis and I take one pill each morning, which greatly minimizes my armpit, back, foot, face, and everywhere else sweat. I am able to use normal deodorant and not be self conscious about sweating through shirts or shaking hands. Seriously, talk to your dermatologist. It has been life changing.

    • SuperJ

      I’ve had really good luck with the deodorant from Chagrin Valley (http://www.chagrinvalleysoapandsalve.com). I have the citrus blossom one and it’s the only natural deodorant that’s worked for me so far. It isn’t an antiperspirant so I still sweat but I don’t stink (something I’m super self conscious about).

    • Meigh McPants

      Arrrgh, SWEAT! I am a face-sweater and it makes me so stabby when I go out feeling fierce and then my makeup gets sweated away. It’s so embarrassing too, b/c I feel like I’m embodying some fat/sweaty/gross stereotype, when really it’s just how my body is wired. It just sucks that the first place I perspire is the first place everyone looks.

    • Sarah S

      Ohhhh pit stains. My own personal beauty embarrassment. I had kind of forgotten over the winter but that’s going to be a huge deal for me, as I recently moved to Texas and will be working outdoors the majority of the time so it will be even worse than usual because I’m not used to the heat. YAAY. But it’s not just heat! It’s sometimes stress or anxiety, or just being amped up in general without any negative emotions. Weird stuff.

    • Suzie

      I’ve been in a battle with my sweaty underarms for so many years (about 20 that I can recall). Hey pits – if the rest of my body is cold enough for goosebumps, you don’t need to be cranking out the juice! Antiperspirants are useless and the heavy duty stuff leaves me with skin that is red and raw like it’s been rubbed with a cheese grater and that I claw at constantly. Finally, intradermal botox injections in the underarms worked; fleetingly painful and fairly expensive but I felt like a new person. It sounds dramatic but I think it even changed my life.

      Despite that, and even recalling all the hurt that came if people asked if I hadn’t heard of antiperspirant or commented about body odour, it’s still taboo to admit to what I had done to solve it, because it sounds to others like it’s all about vanity and foolishness, especially once you mention botox. It was 100% worth it for me and I’m totally getting topped up before my wedding, because I don’t need the sweat-stress playing on my mind for that!

    • SLG

      OK, I am so glad I am not the only one who deals with this. Hands, feet, armpit sweating. Hand stains on the laptop. And as a working woman it has a serious impact on my wardrobe choices. (Silk blouses? So gorgeous. And so impossible.) Not to mention just general embarrassment.

      Just in case this helps anyone else: Just in the past 6 months I discovered that using CertainDri for armpits before bed, plus Secret solid deodorant in the morning, helps a lot. (Of course it seems to be different for everyone — I think so much of this just has to do with personal body chemistry, which is so frustrating! Why can’t there just be one answer to make it easy for me? gah.) Pro tip about the CertainDri: hold your arms over your head long enough to let it dry, so it doesn’t collect in creases in your armpits and irritate your skin. (I may or may not look ridiculous every night blowing on my armpits.) And this is really weird, but when I started using CertainDri, i still sweated a little but but the sweat stains would actually wash out of my shirts. Before that, most of my shirts/sweaters only lasted 3-6 months before I had to get rid of them. (And that did a number on my clothes budget. I just… I don’t even.)

      Also, I just tried Capitol Hill Style’s trick for spraying clothes with a mixture of 1 part vodka to 2-3 parts water to eliminate the sweaty stink. To my surprise, it actually worked.

  • Amy Elizabeth

    Oh, Meg. Your bravery knocks me over again and again.

    I was just sitting here thinking about whether or not I could be okay with putting on my bikini for a beach walk at lunch (we live in ever-sunny San Diego :). I’m insanely insecure about my belly – I’ve got some major health issues that basically make me look pregnant all the time. I find it deeply embarrassing and go to great lengths to hide it with clothes…and yet, I I LOVE being in a suit in the sunshine…

    So much love to you <3 Thank you for making me braver & more self-reflective and more self accepting.

    • scw

      belly, yes! people always tell me I’m small and I shouldn’t worry about it, but I can’t help that I am self-conscious about my stomach. I haven’t worn a bathing suit in years. I have started working out (mostly to keep myself sane in the winter) and my goal was to become comfortable enough to wear a bikini this summer… this post, and all the comments, just made me feel like “f* it!” comfort isn’t a size, it’s a feeling. I’m going to buy a new bathing suit and rock it this summer even if my big-ol-belly’s still here.

    • Meg Keene

      Maybe I’ll do a post baby bikini this summer. It’ll have to be high cut though… I have my limits. My stomach looks the same, unless I bend over.

      • Rachel

        I am right there with you. my post partum bodyis still new to me is and I am still working to accept it. I hadn’t even considered the thought of wearing a swimsuit this summer until now. shit.

        • Meg Keene

          To be fair to yourself, it’s my SECOND post baby summer. The first summer I wore one pieces that didn’t fit because BOOBS. Or I wore a huge maternity suit, because those were my options.

    • Lindsey d.

      It too me YEARS to wear anything other than a one piece or a tankini… Within the past two years, I’ve learned to embrace it and wear the damn bikini, even on my size 16 body with a bit of belly. I actually look better with less on because it’s not contorting me in weird ways or making me feel/look old. Go for it!

  • Cam

    My hair falls out. Constantly. Anytime there’s a stressful event in my life, I lose approximately a quarter of my already fine hair. It feels like the universe’s way of saying “Hey, things are pretty terrible right now, should I go ahead and pile it on? Ok!” Death in the family = hair loss. law school = hair loss. Great recession = hair loss. Blood word and endocrine all check out fine, it just seems to be my body’s reaction to stress. Whoopie!

  • Sarah Brown

    I have trich and for anyone who also has trich they know what a struggle it is for you hair self esteem. When I was in middle school it was bad enough that my mom wouldn’t buy the cool clothes because she couldn’t afford them but I also had bald patches from pulling so I was teased horribly. Now I only pull out these things called “curlies” which are little wiry hairs that give my hair volume. I can spend hours on a search and destroy session to pull them and I feel like crap afterwards, every time. It’s been a struggle for 15 years now and I’ve gotten better but I’ve accepted that I’ll always have occasional bald spots or little areas of new growth.

    • Cathi

      I’m right there with you <3 I grew my hair long so it's easier to hide the patchy spots, but I now have the problem that long hair means I desperately need a professional to cut and style it, and I desperately don't want someone commenting on the patches, which they always do. Blerg.

      • Sarah Brown

        Thankfully my hairdresser is a good friend who knows and doesn’t judge, you just gotta find one you trust. I think being upfront about it right away can help as they won’t comment on it! Fun fact, I used to say “oh I accidentally burned that piece…and that piece…” hoping they’d believe me!

    • Anon

      I have the skin-picking version of trich. That combined with cystic acne has left my face with what seems to me like a mass of scars. (I actually had a coworker ask if I had had a nose ring because of a scar there.) I also bargin with myself: only blackheads, whiteheads, and dark-colored hairs. I’m trying to come to terms with it, but it’s so hard when you feel like hiding your head in bag.

      I also worry about my daughter. She’s only 10 months, but she tugs on her hair frequently. She hasn’t started pulling it out, though. I’m trying very hard to stop my own picking so that I don’t set a bad example.

      • Anon for this

        Hey ladies, I am absolutely right there with you. I don’t have head-hair pulling, but I have been picking my skin since I was a preteen and I can totally relate to spending hours “searching” for something to fix, only to feel lower than low by the end of it. I’m really not sure what caused it, perhaps insecurity about my appearance that escalated over time. It was at its absolute worst a while back, but I still touch my face, neck or shoulders almost constantly. Acne is a huge trigger, if there’s anything on my face I would rather a cut or a welt than a “blemish”. It is the worst, and so hard to quit once it’s become a total habit. On a bad day, I can spend an hour in the bathroom scratching and picking at my skin. I also pull at hair follicles, the little bumps on your legs and arms, and once I scratched my arm so badly and persistently that it took several months to heal. I remember lying and saying it was a rash..
        It’s such an embarrassing problem because no one gets why you don’t just stop. It’s incredibly hard to break such a persistent habit. I’m actually using my wedding next winter as a bargaining chip. I keep thinking that if I can stop picking up until the wedding, maybe it will be broken for good! I’m still struggling to keep my promise to myself, because I do it almost unconsciously now.
        I’ve noticed that certainly family members do this too, so perhaps there’s some sort of genetic trigger, or just exposure that causes one to pick it up. My grandmother, cousin, and father all scratch or stroke their skin in a similar way. My sister and mother however do not.

    • Anon

      I’m a little late to the thread but SO GLAD to see this issue being discussed. I pull out my eyelashes, mostly, and it wreaks havoc on my self esteem. For several years now I always have some combination of full-length lashes, stubby regrowth, and large gaps in between, so I never leave the house without eyeliner on because I’m embarrassed at the thought that people might notice the gaps (although they sometimes do anyway…I’ve been appalled to learn that some people think “are you missing a bunch of eyelashes?” is a socially acceptable question). My natural lashes are actually really dark and full when they are grown in, so it’s incredible how devastating it can be at times that a) I’ve totally destroyed one of my favorite natural features and b) that I’ve been unable to stop.

  • Maddie Eisenhart

    Also, I work really hard to look good in photos. I try to pretend like I don’t care. But I suck in my stomach, stick out my neck, tilt my chin, you name it. Every. Damn. Time. I also wear Spanx on the daily.

    • Lauren from NH

      I only recently realized that I hunch my shoulder, not because of bad posture but apparently that occasional mirror pose started to stick, it stretches out my torso since I’m a shortie. I am trying to retrain myself to stop, unnecessary tension.

    • K.

      I take this over the top, to the point that people close to me know that they usually have to take 2-3 pictures before I finally “relax.” I’ll probably drive our wedding photog crazy (or just drink a shot of whiskey before our engagement shoot and sip champagne during the day)

      I’m also pretty cruel to myself when looking at the results of the photos, but that’s a different issue.

  • Karlee

    Does anyone have a good method to cover up (or hell, get rid of!) acne scars? I recently finished a 6-month treatment of Accutane and my horrible breakouts are finally gone! But…I am left looking like I still have acne because of the scars that were left behind. Whenever anyone tells me my face looks great, I just say “thank you.” It looks much better, yes. But I still look in the mirror and that is all I see. I am ashamed of how many makeup products I have experimented with and I am getting super frustrated trying to cover those bad boys up. I’m hoping for some advice from others who may be in a similar situation? Ugh.

    • GCDC

      I also have acne scars. I use a solid concealer (Tart’s Smooth Operator Concealer to be exact) with a loose powder foundation. It’s the best combination that I’ve come up with, but would love other suggestions too!

    • Lauren from NH

      One hint I have heard is to go a shade lighter as a counter measure. I have also found in general for getting foundations to apply evenly and stay smooth be sure to use a light face lotion after your morning face rinse or wash. I use dream matte mouse, but mostly for lightening eye bags, shadows.

    • I have A LOT of tiny circular scars, think pencil eraser size or a bit smaller, all over me from mole removals (yay melanoma, not.) and Mederma has been the best scar lightening cream I’ve used over the years. Knock on wood that I haven’t had any on my face removed (yet, ugh) but I have pretty sensitive skin so I would think it’s probably safe to use on your face.

    • Like Lucy mentioned, I’ve used Mederma for other scars, so I’m not sure why it wouldn’t work for your face. Also, maybe talk to the derm/doc who prescribed the Accutane–I’m sure a lot of their patients have similar scarring, so he or she might know of a good topical cream.

      • Emily

        I had surgery on my face and have a fairly big scar on my cheek bone. Mederma lightened/softened my scar 75 percent, and totally recommend it!

    • KaitlynwithaK

      I have acne scars, too. I can say they fade some over time. I did accutane when I was 16-17 (now 25) and I still break out lightly from hormones, but it’s no where near the cysts I used to have.

      I use Nutrogena (I swear by them because I also have sensitive skin and their stuff never bothers me) concealer and liquid foundation–both have acne fighting ingredients. If you let it dry in between coats (god that sounds awful my face is not a paint job!) it builds easily and can really even out the tone of my skin. Then I finish with Nutrogena translucent powder put on with a big soft brush using quick circular motions. I hope this is helpful!

  • Lauren from NH

    One of the kind of silly things I do is I have one mirror that however it is placed or lit, I away feel good when looking at myself. And when I encounter other mirrors as I go about my day, if the reflection seems less so, I just shrug and say to myself “eh, the lighting is not as good here” or “eh, it’s angled funny I guess” and mentally reference my morning look into the mirror at home. I think of it as choosing to see the positive.

  • Anon.

    I struggle with my body image constantly. Like, I spend approximately 50% of my mental energy throughout the day worrying about how I look. and then I feel guilty about worrying about it so much. ugh.

    I also struggle with my hair, which is partly curly, but mostly frizzy. why won’t my hair make up its mind?! I always feel great when I spend time curling or blow drying, but usually I am unwilling to spend large amounts of time on my hair every day, and usually end up with my hair in a braid.

    • oh, meredith

      I have frizzy straight wavy can’t-make-up-its-mind hair. I suck at doing any styling, I hate blow-drying, its frizz defies the flat iron. When I spend time trying to style it, I get all kinds of flyaways that I can’t deal with. I tried various techniques to encourage the curl (plopping, no poo, alloftheproducts) and it just ended up stringy. My solution? Brazilian blow-outs. They’re expensive but OMG so worth it for me. My hair is also very fine and dry, and for me it lasts 3-4 months. In that time, straight smooth hair that I can do basically nothing to. LOVE. IT.

  • scw

    I just want to say that 1) I love this open thread topic and 2) meg, your face is so stinkin’ cute in that picture!

    • Meg Keene


      Just normal face making Meg. All my kid's super animated faces are apparently carbon copies of mine. I make them a lot ;)

      • This is me and my mom. We don’t look a lot alike, but my crazy expressions are identical to hers :)

  • I do love my long hair. It took me a long time to accept that it is straight and there’s very little I can do about it though. I always thought you needed curly hair to have pretty hair. And I still hope my daughter’s hair gets some of the curl my husband has. But if not, I want to help her accept her straight hair long before she’s 28 like it took me.

    There are days I wish I was the type of person who woke up early enough to fix my hair fancy like and actually do my make-up. I think I have too many days where “good enough” is all I do.

    • jashshea

      OMG: Grass is always greener, right? My hair is thick and wavy and I ALWAYS wanted to have my mother’s gorgeous straight hair. Especially in the 90s when “natural” hair was in.

      • And it’s comments like yours that finally sunk in and let me embrace my hair for what it is instead of constantly trying to make it into something it isn’t. Thank you! :D


  • Secret Toes

    I have hideous toenails. I got athlete’s foot when I was younger, and got rid of it (or at least thought I did), but it got to my toenails and one by one over the years all but one have gotten thick, opaque, and all around ugly. I’m only 26 and I hide my toenails. Last summer I even bought an expensive groupon for a laser treatment (plus expensive follow up treatments) that claimed to be able to get rid of the underlying fungus and clear up my toenails. Not only did it not work, but people in the office made me feel like absolute crap every time I went.

    So in the summertime I rigorously buff and file and always have them covered in polish which makes it hard to notice, but I still hate to have naked feet. They make me feel ugly and dirty, and my one hope for normal toenails didn’t work out, so I’m pretty much resigned to a lifetime of covering them up.

    • Liz

      Holy hell me too (I was a ballerina when I was younger)! BUT last fall, after another summer of ugly (and painful) toes I went to a pediatrist and she game me magic pills for 10 weeks and new (not quite perfect, but much better) toe nails started growing. Its almost a year later and I still battle athletes foot flair ups and I have a nasty ingrown nail that needs TLC, but I’m beyond excited about the prospect of a french manicure with my flip-flops this summer. The pediatrist was my last-ditch effort and had pretty much planned to visit the medial nail salons for diabetic patients the rest of my life, so it might be worth a try! I never thought I would be someone who cared so damn much about their feet, but after leaving so many nail salons bleeding and crying because you KNOW they are talking about how ugly your feet are even though you can’t understand them, it is so amazing to think that I might not have to wear nail polish this summer. Crazy.

      • Another Liz

        I’m with you ladies: I’ve had infected toenails since I was a teenager and cringe every time I look at them. I keep them painted all the time and am lucky to have a husband who doesn’t give a hoot about what my feet look like, but going to yoga class makes me want to cry from embarrassment. Liz, I’m so glad the magic pills worked for you! I’ve always been tempted to try a prescription remedy but the cost put me off, and now I’m thinking, dammit, it’s time.

        • When I told my primary care physician that I was going to graduate school for cell and molecular biology, she told me that I should just work on a treatment for toe-nail fungus and I would make ALL the money. SO COMMON and so annoying to treat.

        • KH_Tas

          Prescription worked for me too, I was lucky enough to have mine paid for, but I know that varies a lot. I called my problem the Death Fungus

      • memery

        me too! I was a swimmer, so athlete’s foot got a hold of my feet in my teens and didn’t let go until I went through that prescription course, too (about 10 years after my last day in the pool in college.) I spent my adult life until 30 having polish on AT. ALL. TIMES. I now put polish on once, maybe twice a year for beachy fun, and then take it off within a couple of days. Having naked toenails that I’m not embarrassed of still feels like a miracle. seriously. Worth every penny.

    • Laura C

      Ok, I don’t have strong feelings about my toeNAILS, but my toes? RIght. I’ve got your hammer toes, I’ve got your claw toes. I just generically refer to them as monster toes. We’re talking, I have as much callousing on the very tip top of my second toe on my right foot as on the ball of either foot. There are medical reasons! I have weak ankles and high, flexible arches and second toes that are a lot longer than my big toes. My feet are the kind of mess that just makes podiatrists shake their heads. The upshot is, I only wear sandals with wide enough straps to kinda sorta hide my toes. Also, they’re flats or heavily padded low wedges or else they inflame some ligament or something in my foot that leads to agony.

      • YetAntherMegan

        For me it’s not so much my toes themselves, but the fact that I’ve had insane bunions since I was about 19.One is bad enough that I actually thought it was broken once. It looks awkward in sandals and most cute shoes are out because of either the bump or the pain. And as someone who is on the breaking point between straight sizes and plus size and dealing with the related issues of finding clothes, I tend to feel like shoes and hair are all I have going for me.

        • carolynprobably

          Don’t suffer! My podiatrist deemed my bunionectomy (and subsequent post surgery physical therapy) medically necessary so my insurance took the brunt of the cost. I am so much more comfortable. If you can, talk to your doctor.

  • swarmofbees

    I cut my own hair. It started out of desperation – I had needed a hair cut for months but couldn’t go during the day due to the baby, studying for the bar exam, and then traveling to see family. My other half was out of town and I figured I would just give it a go one night. I have been cutting my hair for a year and a half now. I don’t tell my friends because I don’t want them to think that I am cheap, or have given up on myself, or that I am being too “natural.” It looks OK, not great, but I think it looks fine. I will probably get a “real” haircut before the wedding, but otherwise it works for me!

    • My friend cuts her hair and it always looks great to me! When she started saying stuff about it I was super impressed. I’m working up the courage to maintain my undercut so I can get my hair trimmed every 6-8 weeks (rather than 4), because I want to save some money and I buzz/trim my husband’s hair all the time, but I’m still nervous I won’t get the fade right.

    • Meg Keene

      I always really admire people that do this. I feel like I want to be the kind of mom who cuts her kids hair, but… I do not know how. At least yet.

      • swarmofbees

        I am much too afraid to cut my daughter’s hair – she is 2 and I just do not know what to do with short hair. Mine is long enough that I feel like so long as it is even, it is fine. I can always throw it into a pony tail. Anything that requires some sort of a style, I am just too afraid to do. I don’t want people to look at my daughter and think she tried to cut her hair herself when it was actually me …

    • lady brett

      ha! i started cutting my own hair because…um, i cut it all off in a fit of insomniac craziness, and then i had to fix it before work the next day. ahem.

      but then, actually, i liked it. and i liked it better than any “real” haircut i’ve *ever* gotten (i think ’cause i have an idea how curly hair works).

    • Caitlin_DD

      I find cutting my own hair to be so…satisfying. I have a fantastic hair dresser, but I currently have to fend for myself and it’s actually quite fun! Probably having really short hair makes the changes more dramatic and exciting too.

    • I cut my own hair too. :)

  • AnnieP

    I didn’t know anything about postpartum hair loss until I read this great post: http://www.eatthedamncake.com/2013/12/18/losing-my-hair/

    My grandmother, who lived on a farm and endured a life of hard, hard work with no luxuries (big or small), was known for always wearing lipstick. Although people might have thought her a little vain, she owned it. It was her point of pride and her one little thing she always did for herself. Now, when I’m running errands makeup-free, I often slap on a little lipstick, remember her, and try to draw her strength.

  • While I’m sitting here reading (and thoroughly enjoying) everyone’s comments, I’m spot-treating my face and tweezing my eyebrows #beautytaboos #owningit

  • I have body acne, which leaves me super self conscious way more often than it should. It’s much improved since I talked to my doctor (my skin is *almost* clear now, which is a blessing to me), but I still fret over any blemish on my shoulders, chest, or back. It was something that I was picked on for as a young teen, and I get tired of feeling like by caring about it I am too vain. Sometimes it hurts or gets in the way or is just too much, and it’s my body and my skin and like, why can’t I care about it? It was a big struggle for me to call my doctor and say “I have acne on my upper back and my wedding dress is strapless. Please help me clear this up before my wedding,” because I felt like I wasn’t able to be vain. I’m beyond glad I called her, because she was able to help me. My skin isn’t perfect now, but it is much improved, and it’s helped my self esteem so much.

  • Anon

    The circles I run in don’t require women to do much
    upkeep, so I never learned it. And then when I was 29, terminally single, and could not figure out why I couldn’t get a 2nd date to save my life……
    I broke down and hired a stylist. I paid someone to
    thin out my closet, take me shopping, and turn me into a girl, “What Not to Wear” style. I went
    to the makeup counter, had them do my face, and bought everything they
    used on me. I got a fancy-salon haircut. I spent probably $600 on this
    transformation, and then used what I learned to spend another $2000 replacing nearly every piece of clothing I owned with things that were way more flattering. I hired a photographer for my online dating photos. I even hired a coach to revamp my profile essay. It was absolutely worth it (I met my fiance less than a year later), but I’m embarrassed to tell
    anyone the full extent of it, because “good catches” are not supposed to have to try that hard, or need professional help, or spend that much money on their appearance.

    • Don’t be embarrassed about this. AT ALL. Those supposed “good catches” out there do try. They’ve just been trying for longer periods of time, or it’s been ingrained in them to try from early on. Hiring people to help you out is an awesomely, awesome way to own your womanhood and become something YOU wanted. It’s not like you found a man and he told you he liked a perfectly maniqured lady-lawn and you immediately began a waxing regime. You obviously made this change and investment for yourself. While the result might be that you found a man shortly thereafter, don’t underestimate the effect those changes may have had on your attitude and personality, which are also used to attract a mate.

      • Sarah E

        That’s a great part re: the myth that some women don’t try and catch a man. You’re right. They’re either trained to constantly try, or have been trying for a loong time.

    • Meg Keene

      I WANNA HIRE A STYLIST TO DO WHAT NOT TO WEAR ON MY WARDROBE! I mean, I’m a kinda fancy-ish dresser (no sweats in my possession, other than a tight fitting pair of gym pants), but this just sounds… sigh… FUN.

      When nothing fit post partum, even though I was back to my normal weight, I literally just set a (large seeming) chunk of cash and just got new clothes. NOTHING. FIT. I got them all from Old Navy and Forever 21 and H&M and such so each item was cheap (all. new. clothes. is. expensive.) But… sometimes…

      • Sarah E

        Agreed. The process Anon describes sounds like luxurious vacation that you get to live with all the time. Personal preferences, yo.

        • Shotgun Shirley

          For reals. I want to go to there.

      • Caitlin_DD

        Yes, I would love to do that. Maybe I can get someone to hire me to do it for them… hmmm….

    • Liz

      Style consultants are the best!!! I did it and it totally transformed how I thought about clothes.

    • Lizzie C.

      So much respect for this! Some people might think you’re not supposed to try that hard, but I think all the work you went through shows how hard you were willing to work (and how much money you were willing to invest) in your goal. That kind of drive and follow-through is an asset. A lot of people are too lazy to change or work for what they want and just expect Mr./Ms. Awesome to fall into their laps. Tell them how it really is!

    • I am so with you on this. What you did was what so many of the rest of us did, just much more quickly. It’s terrible that what you did reads as more shameful when it’s REALLY exactly what everyone else does, just at a different pace.

    • Anna

      I wish SO HARD that I had the funds to do this… I still feel like I’m stuck as 20-year-old me, clothing and style wise.

    • Heather

      Okay, how did you find a stylist?! I’m so impressed with you. KICK. ASS.

  • Mezza

    For most of my life I’ve been really quite skinny (size 0 or 2), to the point that I was often mistaken for much younger than I am. On my 27th birthday, I got ID’d to see if I was over 18. In the past two years, though, I’ve put on 10 pounds, which granted is partly muscle because I started playing soccer and working out much more, but it’s taken me up to a size 4. And I’m really uncomfortable about it! I can’t ever talk about it because obviously this is nothing compared to many people’s weight issues/concerns, and I don’t want to seem like I’m fishing for compliments or complaining about a situation a lot of people actually WANT to be in. But even though I know I’m objectively not fat, I FEEL like it all the time. I don’t want to wear half my clothes because they fit so differently, and I’ve had to replace almost all of my jeans. I realize that the weight gain is probably just part of getting older – a person should not rationally expect to be almost thirty and still look like a teenager – but it makes me feel older (and very self-conscious) too. I hope I get used to it.

    And the other thing I never talk about – freckles and moles. I have lots (thanks, dad’s genes) including a few I really hate. Now that I have health insurance again after a while without, I’m seriously considering finding a dermatologist and having them removed. Ugh.

    • swarmofbees

      Word to the wise on the moles – cosmetic removal is often not covered.

      • Mezza

        I am pretty sure that it would be medical removal, or at least I could argue for it because they are new in the past year or so. I also had two removed to be biopsied (both negative) when I was a teenager, and there’s a strong family history of melanoma.

    • LM

      Yes. I’ve always been a thin person, and was just used to not thinking about it. In the last couple years I’ve been more conscious of relatively minor weight changes and I definitely feel uncomfortable with my discomfort. I feel shallow that it bothers me or that I think about it. But, after so many years of feeling like part of my identity was being ‘small and cute’, it’s something new to deal with.

      The other new self-conscious thing is darker upper lip hairs — not sure if it was there all along and I got better lighting, or if it’s from getting older. I go back and forth between feeling like I should just own it and wanting to get rid of it.

      • amanda

        I have started defoliating my upper lip hairs. They are definitely getting darker and coarser as I get into my 30s. My husband makes fun of me and says I don’t need to do it, but it makes me so self concious! I don’t wear lipstick if I feel like it’s too hairy up there
        I tried sugaring for a while, but it’s really messy. I like the new Olay creame with the buffer balm, it takes care of all my hairs without burning my face

      • Sarah S

        I’ve been thinking about this lately. I’m naturally thin, as were my parents when they were young, but they’ve been overweight since I can remember and when I was younger I had a personal conviction that I was thin now, but would eventually be fat. I was totally at peace with that. I’m only 24 now and I’m still essentially the weight I was ten years ago, but my body has still changed in composition or proportion or something and I’m a little more freaked out about it than I should be. It’s less about weight and more like, when did my stomach start looking like that? When did I start getting muffin top? So I’m aware that I may have more trouble than I thought when/if I do gain a more significant amount of weight.

    • Meg Keene

      I will say (though this is far from my issue, I usually have thrilled at weight gain) sudden(ish) body changes can be hard, because it’s just hard to feel comfortable. That’s post partum experience talking… it was less the weight and more that nothing fit or was working like it used to, it can be overwhelming.

    • KC

      The whole “I used to not have to think about clothes because I had things that fit me and now everything is a different shape AUGH” is a pain whether it’s weight gain, weight loss, or sheer… age-induced gravity. I suspect that if you get more clothes that fit instead of straining at the seams, you will most likely feel more okay with your body shape now. (soccer! working out! these are sources of your-body-is-an-instrument triumph… but also sources of clothes-not-fitting)

    • ardenelise

      I feel the same way! I’m 5’9″ and all during college and grad school weighed around 120-125 lbs (I was just barely on the edge of being underweight, and my mom always threatened that if my weight dipped below 120, she would insist that I see a doctor). I didn’t diet or anything– I think my metabolism was just really high. Over the last two years I’ve gained around 10 lbs, which really isn’t a lot at all and means that I’m much more solidly in the “normal” weight category, but I just have a really hard time with it because I *feel* so different. I feel like I should be working hard to lose the weight to get back to where I was before, even though now I’m probably at a much more healthy weight for my size. It’s screwed up and I know that and am working to be more ok with it. But I feel better knowing I’m not the only one!

      • This is me exactly, same height and weights! Once I turned 25 my metabolism slowed down and I added a little more than 5 and a little less than 10lbs. I go through phases of working out & I typically always eat well, but nothing seems to help me get rid of those few pounds. I just don’t feel like me and it’s definitely been a struggle. It’s really hard to talk about with my friends though, because most of them tend to hear “130 lbs” and just stop listening.

        • Mezza

          Yep, this is exactly it. I had always heard that such things happened around age 25, but when I hit 27 and hadn’t noticed it yet, I thought I’d escaped. NOPE. And I’m not even that concerned about the weight numbers (5’6″, 125lbs), I just wish I didn’t feel so wrong.

        • ardenelise

          Yep– happened when I turned 25. I’d been worried it was a product of finishing grad school and starting a (mostly) desk job, but hearing that you had the exact same experience makes me think it had nothing to do with me and was all about body chemistry. Hearing that makes me feel less guilty; it’s not my fault! But I’m totally with you– there’s no way to complain/commiserate with friends when you’re still slim, just not as slim as you once were.

    • Lindsey d.

      Downside to cosmetic removal moles is that it doesn’t remove the root and the risk of it mutating into cancer is still there, but harder to track since you can’t see changes in color/size/texture… That’s why the one on my boob (ugh) is still there…

      • Jess

        I have moles everywhere. I have large ones on my shoulder, one on my cheek, one below my eyebrow on the nose side, and one right below my belly button. I kind of love them

    • ElisabethJoanne

      Size 0-4 here too. I started working out so I could carry my briefcase and not have an aching back the next day. I was totally fine with my body’s shape. But I wasn’t able to keep it after the weight training. We have smaller files and more electronic documents at my new job, so for the first time in my life, I’m trying to change my body’s shape – back to what it was.

    • The way I like to think of it is this: it’s very emotionally disruptive when your body goes through significant changes in shape or size. You’re not necessarily feeling FAT: You’re not feeling like YOU.

      I’ve been curvy my whole life, to the point where I usually don’t notice if I gain weight, but when I lose significant amounts, I actually end up in what sounds like a similar emotional state as you do. It just feels like … I’m in someone else’s body.

      • Helen

        You’re not necessarily feeling FAT: You’re not feeling like YOU – brilliant point!

      • Mezza

        You’re totally right. It’s the identity shift that’s jarring, not the actual weight change. I’ll try to think about it like that and maybe it will be easier to adjust.

    • carolynprobably

      I feel you…. as another tiny girl who skews young, I recently realized some weight is redistributing (?!!?) Getting used to grabbing anything off a rack that isn’t a petite XS sort of feels like I have to rethink part of my identity- but also super bratty and privileged that’s is even a problem to have first place. I feel like the punchline of my own joke #skinnybitchproblems ?

  • Kayjayoh

    My mixed feelings thing is hair removal. I pluck the strays in between my brows, but don’t do any other shaping, and I’m pretty happy about the way things are. But thanks to my mom’s genetics, I also get long, dark, wiry hairs on my chin in random places. I’m not ok with those, and pluck them when I see them. I feel totally embarrassed when I notice one in the middle of the day when I am out somewhere and unable to pluck. I also hate getting caught plucking and I hate the little breakouts I sometimes get from it.

    I will happily shave my armpits, now and forever. The moment I started getting hair there in puberty I was like, “What the hell, this feels so gross!” and I’ve never gone back. It has nothing to do with looks and everything to do with the fact that I couldn’t stand how it felt. I don’t care about anyone else’s underarms, so long as they are happy with them.

    I’m more or less ok with my legs. Once I started sugaring, I find it kind of fun to grow out and then pull out the hairs. (Even better when I can have someone else do it for me.) I don’t stress too much about hairy legs, and only deal with it when the length bugs me, which can vary with the seasons.

    And then…oh god…the bikini line. I just don’t. I wish I could, but I don’t. Every method of removal ends up being a lot of trouble and never looks good. Redness, stray hairs, in-growns…gross. Doesn’t matter if I do it or pay someone else to do it. So I always find cute 2-piece suits and wear them with board shorts. And I hate it.

    I deeply envy the women I see walking around in normal swimsuits looking fine and dandy. I deeply resent the fact that our culture is so hung up on women’s pubic hair that armpit hair *might* be shocking but acceptable in a hippy/French sort of way but bikini hair is considered fucking indecent. WTF? I resent the fact that I have bought into this myself, and wish I didn’t care. And every now and then, I decide to give it another try and head off for another miserable bikini wax.

    Our big honeymoon is going to be a sailing trip in Thailand. Gods, wouldn’t I love to just wear a bathing suit and not care? So here I am, waxing Groupon in hand, seeing if I can work my way up to a clear bikini line, and ready for another round of frustation.

    • Meg Keene

      I, on the other hand, hate armpit hair on ALL people. I think it’s like an appendix, something we probably shouldn’t have anymore. Which makes me feel more than fine with my decision to shave it ;) I’d make David shave it if I could. EVERYONE GET RID OF IT. <– Meg's brain.

      • Kayjayoh

        Mine grew in during the summer. I refused to put my arms all the way down.

      • Alyssa M

        omfgyes. Ever since puberty my best friend and I have said armpit hair is the stupidest vestigial thing ever. I kind of wish the feminist push was for everybody to shave instead of for women not to… but I acknowledge I’m weird about it.

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      Sigh, hair removal. I remember BEGGING my mom to let me shave my legs (Italian + Middle School = Hairy), but other than that, I’m glad I missed out on whatever social cues tell you body hair isn’t cool. So I think I have it backwards.

      Hair I care about and obsess over on the daily:
      Hair on my head
      Hair on my eyebrows (the best investment I made this year was an unlimited eyebrow pass at the waxing place

      Hair I Think About Maybe Once a Month:

      Something SUPER fascinating though, that just occurred to me. When I was in college, I spent two months living in a very, very rural town in the Dominican Republic (like, no running water. Intermittent electricity. Showers in the latrine kind of rural.) Halfway through, my eyebrows started growing in. And no fewer than THREE people told me I needed to do something about it. To the extent that my host mom gave me a pair of tweezers and basically said, “Fix that problem on your face.” Beauty rituals are everywhere. And they are pervasive. Even though I couldn’t shower for God’s sake, I was expected to upkeep my damn eyebrows.

      • Kayjayoh

        “Even though I couldn’t shower for God’s sake, I was expected to upkeep my damn eyebrows.”


    • Sara P

      I often forget that women are expected to maintain a bikini line until I actually put on a swimsuit and notice that I’ve got some overflow. And you’re right, it’s insane that it’s somehow indecent. Fuck ’em. But you’ve got to be comfortable. Good luck with your groupon.

      • Kayjayoh

        And there is the catch. I desperately would love to say fuck ’em. But I also know that I would rather die than walk out in public in a swimsuit with visible pubic hair.

        • Sara P

          <3 that's why you have to do what makes you comfortable.

    • lady brett

      i only swim in trunks. bikinis – the hair, the public thighs, i just can’t. (which is totally my form of beauty-crazy, ’cause i’m super unapologetic about not shaving my legs, and i’d be fairly comfortable swimming topless if that was a thing, but i just can’t deal with the parts of me between my knees and waist).

      • Sarah E

        I think it’s crazy that it’s an accepted norm to expose that much inner thigh to go swimming. I mean, if it’s no big thing to you in general, great. But for me, that is WAY too close to my lady bits for general public viewing. I love that a lot of vintage swim styles are coming back, with high waists, or ruched one pieces or whathaveyou, but even the “boy short” ones just cover your ass and that’s it.

    • Aubry

      my best friend and I are chin-hair observe and report buddies. we call each other the whisker sisters. Somebody needs to tell you that stuff. Also, trying to pluck a hair you find mid-day with no tweezers sucks. And doesn’t work.

  • daniellela

    As I age further into my 30s, I’m getting more and more lines around my eyes, and have been intending to buy some of that (does-it-really-work-who-cares-it-makes-me-feel-in-control) anti-aging eye cream, but have been too lazy. I also have a WAY Jewish nose, which looks even sharper when I smile.

    These two things make me HATE my smiling face in some pictures, which is horrible! I want to love myself! That’s the feminist thing to do. But whatever… life is full of contradictions, etc.

    Sometimes I joke about getting a nose job, but it’s really just a joke. I actually like the distinctive look of my
    face. On good days.

    • Shiri

      I can’t believe I’m admitting this on the internet, but I broke my nose twice when I was a kid and had reconstructive surgery that ended up basically being a nose job (not entirely accidentally, not entirely purposely). I woke up one morning and didn’t look like me anymore, and never will again. Yes, I look a lot better, but that’s the part they don’t tell you – that you’ll know this isn’t your face, really.

      • Meg Keene

        Oh. That reminds me. I knew someone in my 20s who was working on a performance piece about Judaism and assimilation called, “It was my grandmother’s nose.” A reference to jewish girls getting nose jobs, and the unexpected emotional collateral damage.

        • Shiri

          I always think of the line from Friends where Ross asks Rachel if she’s afraid the baby will have her real nose, and she starts to cry, and squeaks “I am!”.

      • <3 <3 <3

  • I am super proud of my hair. As a Black woman, having my own, honest-to-God not a weave long hair is something I am inordinately proud of. It takes a shit ton of work and I’m sorry to all the feminists who want me to wear my hair naturally, I also relax it. My natural hair hates living in Miami (100% humdity most days) and I need to get a comb through it. Relaxing my hair makes it manageable and I have other Black feminist hills to die on.

  • Kayjayoh

    Also, for make-up: I highly recommend Karmindy’s book “The Five-Minute Face” for learning the basics. I knew how to do theater make-up like a champ but daily make-up? No clue.

    The book was super useful to me, in that it did what it said. I have a make-up look I can put on in less than five minutes (I left out a few of her steps, and skip foundation, concealer, eyeliner, and mascara) that looks good and helps me feel confident and grown-up. I don’t wear it all the time, but when I want that “AM ADULT” look, I use it. It also was helpful for picking out colors/shades and brands. I took it with me to the store for my first purchasing foray.

    I’m still thinking about heading to Sephora or something for my wedding day look. I want a slightly more finished version of that face, and they might be better at getting good colors than the local Walgreens and my guesses.

    • Jess

      Go ahead and go to Sephora. I had a friend go there for her full make-up on her wedding day (she rarely does makeup) and she looked like a more fancy version of herself. The one by me has walked me (you’re in WI too, so they will probably do it for you!) through foundation and colors and application… for whatever look I want. If you go on a not-busy day, they’ll do it without an appointment.

      Side note: I’m not fully stalking your comments, you just post interesting things and I noticed that we have that geographic connection once.

      • Kayjayoh

        Rock on Wisconsin girls!

  • jashshea

    I can barely dress myself. I buy outfits that are already laid out in stores and rarely accessorize. I buy outlandish bags/jackets/shoes and pair those with mostly grey, black, or white clothing (typically solid color). I find fashion really boring, but do my best to look presentable at work. I’d prefer to wear yoga pants (black) and a sweatshirt (solid color) all the time.

    OTOH, I almost always have pedicure and have started getting gel manicures as well.

    • Alynae

      Yes Gel Manicures! It is 40 minutes to sit and relax and turn my brain off and then even on days I have done nothing other than put pants on to leave the house I feel better and just a little more put together. It makes me feel pretty and happy at the same time.

      • jashshea

        I can chip a regular manicure within seconds. I found a place that’s reasonably priced that makes my hands look good for almost 2 weeks. It’s super. Makes me feel pulled together.

        • Alynae

          Yes! Pulled together is exactly it. And that it lasts for 2 weeks makes it easy and practical in a way that a regular manicure just wasn’t.

    • Sarah E

      Check out Liz Fabry, who has blogged about her “Never-Ending Edit.” She has written several posts about trimming her wardrobe down to just the staples, mostly black and grey, so everything goes with everything else.


      • I will check that out. I find I am wearing almost all black, grey and white, with a few pops of red and blue here and there every great once in a while. :)

  • Sara P

    I have never worn much more than mascara on anything approaching a regular basis. Part of this is a health concern, I have sensitive eyelash glands (apparently) and most eye makeup gives me styes (think a zit on your eyelash gland) – which are painful and really ugly (so also vanity, a little). My fundamental fear is not looking like me. I spent a lot of my youth looking at myself in the mirror, which drove my mom nuts. I still do it some. That’s really hard to admit, even anonymously on the internet :). So I look really weird to myself wearing much makeup. It also feels weird, and fake (just for me, not with other people wearing it). But I wish I looked better in photos – I so rarely look like myself, and I’m really self-conscious of my smile because it makes my face look weird (and I have a long nose, so that does strange things too). I’m good with how I look in person, and in the mirror (yeesh), but I can’t translate that to being good with the vast majority of photos of myself and that’s hard.

    For what it’s worth, I expend almost no energy on clothing, nails, ladyscaping, shaving, or hair styling. I did the super-short hair thing for a few years, which I loved, but I’ve grown it back out to shoulder length. I have really mixed feelings about that, in that I still sort of feel like a short-haired girl in my heart, but it needs to be such a specific length to look good and it’s just too much money/work/time to be worth it. And I feel more feminine with longer hair (I do not have a distinctly feminine shape or style).

    The strangest thing is that I think most women are beautiful, I’m just picky about how I apply it to myself. Which I don’t think is uncommon, but the women in my family are SUPER judgmental, especially about physical appearance.

  • Michelle

    When have others started getting wrinkles?

    I’m wondering if it is unusual or just pretty typical that I’m getting some deep furrowed brow kind of lines in my forehead at 26. I have a lot of anxiety and I’m also a very empathetic and expressive person who’s emotions show very visibly when I’m feeling for someone. My husband just says they’re my “beauty lines” from caring about other people so much. I wish I could believe him!

    • Shiri

      I’m horrified to actually say this, but at 27 I started trying to tone down my facial expressions because of the in-coming lines. I pay a lot of attention to how I hold my face in sustained expressions, because of the wrinkle I’m getting between my eyes.

      And I’m judging myself.

      • oh, meredith

        I furrow my brows when I’m concentrating on something, and the wrinkles are getting pretty constantly noticeable. (I’m 31). I find myself putting my fingers between my brows when I’m thinking so I don’t furrow. The oil from my fingers causes me to break out there, so ha! zits and wrinkles in the same spot!

        I have considered trying a chemical peel or something similar to help with the wrinkles. I’d do it, except for my concerns that it will only be a short-term fix. I NEVER thought I would consider anything close to plastic surgery, EVER. I’m judging myself, too.

        • Shiri

          Oh, I totally do that too, with my fingers! I apparently also furrow in my sleep, so I wake up with that crease. I did Retin-A for a while but the chemicals freak me out. I keep thinking I’ll do it in the future. And I’ve accepted that if I stay in New York, one day I’ll consider Botox.

    • Catherine McK

      I first noticed my forehead wrinkles at 23. They’re not getting any less noticeable at 30! I too have a very expressive face and apparently spent much of my first 23 years (and beyond) with my eyebrows raised. I’m looking forward to laugh lines around my eyes, now those are happy!

    • Mezza

      I smile crookedly, and I’ve recently noticed (at age 28) that the laugh line on my left side could legitimately be called a wrinkle. I’m actually fairly cool with it because yay for smiling, but it did kind of give me pause to realize that I’m getting wrinkles.

      • Elizabear

        I also smile crookedly and have a wrinkle on the left side! I had to be removed from my mother with forceps and it pinched a nerve on my tiny, baby face–so permanent crooked smile and that wrinkle has been there for as long as I can remember (and always has weird foundation caking problems).

        • Anon for this

          Huh, is that why I smile crookedly? O_O I too was delivered with forceps. Mind officially blown!

    • I’m 27 and started noticing the same lines when I was 26. I started using facial moisturizer after that. I don’t know if it’s helping, but I do think about the lines a lot less.

  • Alyssa Waddill

    As I was reading this, I did a google search to see if I could find any women with *greying* hair rather than all-grey hair since, as you pointed out, it can take a long-ass time for hair to go all grey/white. I was shocked at how few I could find. I’m keeping my greys at the temple (really rooting for a badass streak!) and it would be really nice to have some images to look at for style ideas. Sigh,

    • Meg Keene

      I feel like a LOT of people dye their hair while it’s greying. A LOTTTT.

      • KC

        I think I have maybe three people on my list of “women I know who have gone grey or who are going grey without coloring at any stage of this process”. And one of them is over 70, and another is under 30 and is only two years and a few grey hairs in.

        It’s hard, because it wouldn’t look unnaturally “old” to have grey/greying hair if everyone just let it be – so each person coloring does have a small social impact. And yet having grey hair at a culturally unusual age has such a huge personal impact (jobs; relationships; friendships), so it’s not like it’d be easy to turn that bus around. Augh.

        • Meg Keene

          I don’t know. I really don’t love when those of us who grey young, or simply decide to color, have a portion of blame put on us, like we’re all somehow letting down the sisterhood in a small way. (And give people who don’t grey early a free pass.)

          I mean, first, let’s be honest: being grey or white just makes you look older, full stop. It’s not just a cultural idea. People used to grey naturally, and they also used to age a lot faster and die a lot younger. I look at least a decade younger than I would if I’d lived 100 years ago. AT LEAST. I have good medical care, I haven’t had to do hard physical labor in the elements my whole life, I have had good nutrition, good skin care, and sure, I dye my hair. But dying my hair is the LEAST of it. I’m almost 34, which not long ago would have been SOLIDLY middle aged (and longer ago than that would have meant old age), but thanks to a million life changes (one small piece among them, hair dye) it’s just not that old anymore. I look not dissimilar to how I looked in my late teens, and that’s very multi-factorial.

          But mostly, just like I don’t like their being some patriarchal idea of beauty, I also don’t love the opposite… that the real ideal of beauty is somehow “natural” and if we don’t go natural, we’re somehow letting down our side, in some small way. At the end of the day I like dying my hair, I like wearing eyeliner, I like wearing crazy shoes. And while I’m not going to call those feminist choices, I also don’t think they’re UNfeminist choices. We’re each allowed our own standard of beauty—for Maddie that means purple hair sometimes, for me that means not being half white haired. I don’t think that’s letting down our side.

          • lady brett

            i’ve always loved grey hair (i can remember as a young child chastising my mother for plucking her grey hairs, which i thought were great), but i’ve found that with many women i know, greying is so alarming not only because of the color, but because of the texture of the hair. i know women with stick-straight hair whose grey hairs are completely curly. which will take some getting used to, but look fine when they’re 100% grey, but while it’s 2 or 10%, it’s rather more complicated.

            i say that as someone who has been greying (mildly) since 18 and *adores* my grey hairs. i wouldn’t dream of dying them (well, not until i have enough to dye them blue…i’ve always been a bit sad that my hair was too dark for good *color*), but i am a bit terrified of the long-term implications of them being twice as thick and twice as curly as the brown hairs.

            also notable with regard to age and greying: no one ever commented on my grey until i had kids. now i guess it’s okay because i have an “excuse”?

          • KC

            White/grey makes you look older, yes, but your “guessed age” is much, much older when basically the only people around with white/grey hair are senior citizens. I object to increasingly-widespread botox and plastic surgery for the same reasons (well, that, and anything that restricts the full expression of peoples’ faces stinks in my opinion, because people should rock their eyebrows, not be unable to move them) – that if/when it becomes actually abnormal for 35+ year olds to have fine lines or wrinkles, then those who opt out get disproportionately penalized. I like for people to have a real choice, not a “well, if I don’t color my hair, they’re not going to hire me” (a real thing that a friend said to me a couple of years ago), or looking ancient in your natural skin because everyone else is faked up. The norms are different for different socioeconomic classes as well, which ends up being especially problematic when you’re talking about societal advantages conferred by often-costly treatments.

            But all those “age-defying things” are things where you can choose to be a partial martyr to the general cause… or not. And it’s definitely, obviously hard when you do choose whichever direction.

          • Meg Keene

            I’d debate the socioeconomic bit on hair. Middle class people give me shit about hair dying. People back home have *helped* me box dye my hair lots of times before I could afford anything else. Being less affluent often means you spend more time making sure you look extra presentable, because the cards are already stacked against you. (Moe talks about this on this thread somewhere or other, really eloquently.)

          • KC

            I’m definitely not saying “you should not dye your hair” – just that the almost-universality of hair dying means that greater consequences fall on those who go grey and don’t choose to do anything about it. It’s not the hill you choose to die on, and that’s totally fine. Botox scares the bejeebers out of me, though, as a “standard” thing to do; really hoping it doesn’t go that way.

            I do not get why it seems that so much of the middle class does competition over community. It seems odd, when you’re no longer food/housing insecure, to get crazy-insecure over everything else.

            Convincingly dying your hair used to be either really expensive or required a lot of talented at-home pairs of hands – I don’t know what the last decade of technology has brought us, though (esp. since I don’t ask about not-great dye jobs whether they were at home or salon, and how expensive, etc.). :-) But even yep-that’s-dyed hair is societally coded as younger than grey (although coded as lower class than less-obviously dyed, unless it’s a “deliberate artistic or ironic statement”, yeesh), so that “works” to some degree.

      • Mimi

        It’s funny because my mom used to dye her naturally almost black hair red for at least a decade, but when she started going grey in her early fourties she actually stopped and just let it be. Since then she has been getting so much more compliments on her hair and has constantly been asked who gave her those great highlights ;) for the first few years everyone assumed she had bleached it on purpose and thought it looked great

      • Yep. My grandmother dyed her hair blond until it was all entirely gray-and-white. Then she stopped dyeing it entirely. I feel guilty; when I saw her for the first time with all white hair, I was like, “Huh, why is your hair that color?” -.-

  • Violet

    This is a really interesting topic, and one that I’ve been thinking about recently as I try to wrap my head around having kids in the next few years and how my body will inevitably change. I feel like one of the more serious beauty taboos is not loving your post-partum body. I wish there was more of an open discourse in the feminist community about plastic surgery. (And it feels shallow to even type that!)

    Honestly, if I dislike how my body changes after being pregnant, I could see myself eventually having surgery to perk my boobs back up or get rid of extra stomach skin or something like that. But I am also SO conflicted over it. On one hand, if I can do something to make me happier about myself, I should be empowered to do it – that’s what feminism is all about! On the other hand, the thing making me happy is a conventional beauty standard, and eff that noise – that’s what feminism is all about!

    Intellectually, I know I should learn to love myself no matter what, and be happy with my strong, lovely body the way it is. But emotionally, I’m afraid that I won’t. I think it defeats the purpose of feminism to force myself to live with a body I don’t like, but I also think it defeats the purpose to have permanent, life-altering surgery to get a body that conforms to unrealistic beauty ideals (even if it makes me personally happy).

    Thoughts? (i.e. HELP)

    • Maddie Eisenhart

      After having five kids, my mom had plastic surgery. She’s pretty open about it (she had a breast reduction and a tummy tuck.) For her, it felt like reconstructive surgery. All those births had made the muscles in her stomach really weak. On top of that, she just wanted to wear a bikini dammit. And I don’t think she’s ever lived with any regret of the decision. And she still wears a bikini. :) At some point, it becomes about what you need to do to live your life happily inside your own body. Because life is short.

      • I like the view of it being reconstructive instead of cosmetic. I mean, I know the surgery is the same, but for some reason changing the adjective changes the way my mind processes it. I guess that’s just another society thing, isn’t it? This is a hard one for me. I wonder sometimes if my mother’s poor image issues happened after we were born, she seemed a lot more confident in earlier pictures. I might be a little worried that I’ll go through something similar- and I’m trying to figure out ways that I can embrace that change without feeling pushed into loving my stripes or getting surgery. I guess we’ll find out.

    • jashshea

      I think plastic surgery is great and we’re lucky to live in a time when it’s commercially available. Alternatively, it’s super shitty that we’re acculturated to think we’d all be happier if only we had larger/smaller breasts, puffier lips, no belly, etc etc.

      I have back, neck, and shoulder problems from (the size of) my chest. As soon as I have kids, they’re getting reduced. Sure, it’s vanity to some extent, but I’m just not living the rest of my life in pain because of someone else’s ideals, you know?

    • NStyle

      I had a breast reduction when I was 16. I felt guilty about it for the longest time because I thought people would judge me for making that huge of a decision at age 16 (even though my doctor deemed the surgery medically necessary and it was covered by insurance). And 16-year-old-me wanted the surgery so I could wear cute clothes and buy a normal bra and not feel compelled to wear a sweatshirt in the summer to hide my chest. And yes, the surgery made it possible for me to do all those things, but more importantly, it made me more confident to be myself. And isn’t that what life’s all about, striving to be your most authentic self? So if plastic surgery helps you be more yourself, or a happier self, then I say go for it. What’s shallow about wanting to be happy? (I’m 30 now and the surgery remains the best decision I’ve ever made)

    • Aubry

      Absolutely. I am fully prepared to get a few things lifted or tucked if I decide to have kids and dislike what it does to my breasts/stomach. I already have large breasts and get stretch marks like a mother (ha), so I think this likelihood is pretty high. I don’t think this is cause for shame, although it is not exactly a feminist principle. A little work to boost the self esteem is a great benefit of modern society. If it makes one feel good, go ahead!

    • Karlee

      My mom recently had a tummy tuck and got breast implants. She has always been so self conscience about her body and it has been sad to see. She spend so much negative emotion on hating her body that sometimes I think she forgot to enjoy life. The night before her surgery, she had a major meltdown wondering what she was doing and if it was moral of her to alter her body in such a major way. She decided to go through with it, and now that she has a slimmer waist and her pre-baby (size C) boobs back, she has been enjoying life more, which includes an impromptu Florida vacation with my dad that involved her first bikini in a long time – she was so happy!

      She told me a few days ago that she wishes she had this surgery YEARS ago, and agreed with me that so much negative energy was spent worrying about her body. She encouraged me to not be ashamed if I ever want plastic surgery to be happy/happier.

  • Molly Pollard

    I have never been able to do my hair in anything other than a ponytail, braids or a bun. I’m just not good at it. I have started doing my makeup but I keep it very light. I find that when I try to do a heavier look it fades away after a few hours and I’m stuck with raccoon eyes (curse you, genetic under eye circles!). I want to learn how to apply makeup in a way that’s longer lasting and doesn’t leave me looking like I traipsed off the set of the walking dead after 2 hours. I have never really been very good with “girly” things… So I hope this comes to me eventually.

    • I don’t do any heavy eye make-up because of my raccoon eyes (another gal with genetic under eye circles). All those tutorials for smoky eyes just make me look like I got punched in the face.

      • Molly Pollard

        I swear, I have these dark circles (all the time… Tired or not) and not only that, my eyes are really… Deep set? So it’s hard for me. I am 25 and only just started wearing makeup regularly in the last year or so, so I still have a lot to learn.

      • YetAntherMegan

        I have the under eye circles as well (thanks mom!). I feel like they’re only made worse by the fact that I’m naturally pale so they really contrast with the rest of my face. I rotate between two different under eye concealers depending on which one I think is working that day, but still most days I really only get to a point where I look like I got 4-5 hours of sleep.

        • Molly P

          I’m pale, too, and my eyes are like pretty deep-set so even my lids look kind of dark? I don’t know. It just complicates matters a bit (thanks a lot, dad!). I totally feel you on the looking like you got 4-5 hours of sleep. I can be wide awake and people will ask me if I am tired!

    • Jess

      Seconding everything you just said. I go with simple hair and light looking make-up. I’m trying to be girlier… but finding it just doesn’t fit with my skills.

      • Molly P

        The makeup is something I feel like I just have to get down. It helps me feel better looking put-together or at least not half-dead. Hair being blah I can live with, for now.

        • Jess

          I can do make-up that makes me look like me but better. I have the foundation/concealer/bronzer/blush/soft eye/put together look down (it took going to Sephora and talking to them and having them go through all the steps, and a lot of practice).

          Dramatic make-up – smoky eyes, cat eyes, bright lips – that is beyond my skill set and I end up looking like a kid drew on my face. Hair? Nope, funny joke.

          I’m ok with looking put-together but not dramatic in the face, but I really wish I could make my hair do something that didn’t look like it was pasted to my scalp.

          • Heather

            This is me, 100%. I can even do slightly more dramatic eyes (same stuff, just more of it, so it’s darker and there’s more drama!), but I can’t do lip color and my hair….

            yeah. I suck at hair.

    • memery

      So I have this problem, too. I do (like megan below) alternate between two concealers — I got a sample of benefit’s “stay don’t stray”, which is technically meant to be a primer, but I use it as an undereye concealer and it’s awesome. My go-to for eye makeup is a bit of liner on my upper lids, and then a LIGHT colored, non-powder eyeshadow and a bit of mascara on upper lashes only. I’m using Origins ginzing eyeshadow cream in “sugar peach.” The first week I was wearing it, I had someone say I looked “bright eyed and bushy tailed” after a horrible night’s sleep, and I’ve never gone back. Having that brightness on my lids really helps make my eyes look brighter and me look rested, and the bonus of that particular product is that it STICKS. like, it comes off with face wash, but otherwise stays on your lids all day and doesn’t just rub off and/or bleed down onto your lower lids. YMMV, but I’m all about the light eye shadow now! For those who are not big makeup people and/or newbies (ie, me!), origins does free makeup application sessions!

      • Molly P

        Oh, thanks for the tip! I have a laura mercier under-eye concealer from Sephora that seems to work pretty well, but it only lasts a few hours. I’ll have to check the benefit stuff. :) I’ll have to check out eyeshadow creams, too. I’ve only ever used powder. My eyes are pretty deep-set too (is that a thing? I don’t know) so it doesn’t help with the darkness. I’ll need to try some of this stuff and see if it makes a difference.

        • memery

          yeah, that’s what I like about the benefit stuff. It stays much better. When I really need it, I sometimes add a thin layer of concealer on top of it, and both stay better. I also always set with a brushstroke of translucent powder. As for the cream eyeshadows, I’m a huge fan. I feel like the powder ones just transfer onto other things/bleed downwards/settle into crevasses and make me look dry/old.

  • Penny

    I am weirdly reeeally lazy about certain beauty-related things and fastidious about others.

    I live in a cold climate (like, we’re buried under snow six months out of the year and our “summers” are cool and rainy), so I don’t care about clothes. At. All. I work at an all-female non-profit, so I generally just wear slacks with a sweater to work, or even a fleece top on really cold days. Never skirts, dresses, cute heels, etc. During the weekends I live in jeans and fleece tops or hoodies. In the summer it’s jeans with a t-shirt and maybe a zip-up sweatshirt thrown over it. (My sister keeps threatening to submit my name to “What Not to Wear.” She… has a point.)

    I also rarely wear makeup, and when I do it’s powder and cream blush and lip gloss – I have dark eyes, so I can get away with no mascara (or at least, that’s what I tell myself). I have also never figured out how to do my hair (stick-straight, fine, and somewhat thick), so I usually just throw it back wet into a messy bun. (Any other straight-, fine-, and thick-haired gals, your recommendations please!)

    So, yeah – crappy clothes, no makeup, and I don’t do my hair. And I shave my arm pits every day, but I’m lucky if I shave my legs every two weeks (and I have dark hair, so it’s not like I’m fooling anyone or getting away with anything).


    I get my bikini area waxed about every eight weeks. I did it once for a trip to Mexico, and there was no turning back after that… I have my skin care routine down to a science, and I don’t feel guilty spending $150 on antioxident serum. I also get facials/peels about four times a year – pricey, but they really do help. I also discovered Shellac manicures about two years ago, so I spend the $35 to get my nails done once or twice a month.

    My diet is decent – gluten-free and I enjoy fruits and veggies, but I also really love french fries. So, you know. I’m a yoga addict (or I was before I got pregnant), and I keep relatively active by walking the dog, etc.

    So yeah, it’s weird. Anyone other black-and-white, all-or-nothing with regard to their appearance ladies (or gents) out there? I guess we all pick and choose our battles, and my battle lines have been drawn – even if they don’t make a helluva lot of sense.

  • Elizabeth

    I have very crooked teeth and I never, ever feel comfortable smiling with my mouth open. I tend to cover my mouth when I laugh, also.

    • Sarah S

      I got invisalign to fix my snaggletooth (which is the saddest most embarrassing name for that particular dental ailment) and I’m honestly a lot happier. And I smile a lot more in pictures! I was concerned about getting braces because people already think I’m 12-16 but the invisalign convinced me. It can be a pain while you’re doing it but never being able to smile or laugh is a big deal.

  • Kestrel

    Despite knowing that my long-ish wavy blonde hair isn’t helping my look any older (I’m 24, often mistaken for a high school student) I cannot bear to chop it. Or straighten it. Or do anything that might even possible damage it. I’ve had the same hairstyle since I was 5 and despite the fact that my bangs are usually slightly sideswept now opposed to straight across, I don’t see it as ever changing much.

    Basically, I sometimes feel like it’s my one “redeeming” quality. I’ve got boring brown eyes (some people’s brown eyes are stunning – mine look like poop), when I smile you can see as much gum as you can teeth (meaning I was called ‘horse’ a fair amount because I also have a long face), my hips and butt are huge, I don’t have much boob, my skin is uber pale, but that sickly jaundice type pale, not the uber awesome pale irish pale, my lips (which I used to really like) were damaged in a fall (punched my teeth through them) and are now lopsided.

    Basically, my hair feels like the only feminine thing I have and despite the fact I never really wanted to be a princess, it’s the closest I’ll ever get and I’m so frustrated that it never grows beyond bra-strap length despite the ridiculous amount of care I give it.

    • Lisa

      You have a lot of the same attributes that I do, down to the tiny teeth/lots of gum smile. Your hair is just blonde instead of brown!

      Have you ever looked into Curly Girl/Deva Chan cuts? They helped me find a lot of peace with my hair that I didn’t know I could have. Having a good stylist you trust and who can show you what might look good with your face shape could do wonders for your confidence. :)

      • Kestrel

        I have – but right now I have to drive 2 hours to get to the nearest Target, so there’s no one that does a Deva cut around here! But I will be moving in May to a place that isn’t the middle of nowhere and will actually have an income, so I’m hoping I can find a good stylist.

        But I do basically follow the ‘curly girl’ style, although I use the loreal sulfate and silicone free line as that’s a bit more wallet friendly!

        • Lisa

          Holy cow! A little bit remote. :)

          I love the Curly Girl book, and my Deva Chan stylist has become my best friend. My hair has changed quite a bit in the past few years (the curl has gotten looser), and my stylist has really helped me navigate through that and recommend new products/modifications to my routine.

  • ART

    my fingernails are the suck. they flake and tear and they’ve been short and ragged my whole life. they rarely even get long enough to use a file, so they look awful. i am thinking about painting them nude or pale pink for the wedding just so they don’t look as bad in photos, even though my fiance gags at the smell of nail polish even after it’s been on a day or two. i feel very unprofessional about my nails, but i’ve tried all the hardening stuff and it either doesn’t work or i’m too lazy to stick with it (or both).

    • August

      Have you ever tried buffing your nails? I get occasional flaking and I’ll buffer them. For me buffering basically sands off the flaking section and then I can’t pick at it and make it worse.

    • Lisa

      I have the same brittle nails!! I kept them short when I was a kid and playing piano so I didn’t notice them until I got to college and wanted to grow my nails out and paint them. I also used to bite my nails so the beds are le suck.

      I think, if painting your nails will make you feel better about hand pictures, your fiancé will be willing to stomach it for you for a day. :)

    • There is also the nontoxic nail polish that doesn’t really smell. I just have some trouble with it because it doesn’t last that long. But it is good for your nails and doesn’t smell. Scotch (and Hopscotch, for kids) is one line, Aquarella is another…

  • Kess

    I cry (about once a month) because I still have acne at age 24 and it just won’t go away.

    I’ve spent so much money, have tried every prescription, cream, home remedy and even homeopathy (which, as a ‘person of science’ I’m deeply ashamed of). I’ve tried limited diet, I own 12 pillowcases so I can switch them out every night, the only doctor I regularly see is the dermatologist, and the only thing that even slightly helped were hormones that caused me to go into a suicidal depression. And even that only marginally cleared up my face.

    I’m very pale, so no makeup actually covers and anything that actually does breaks me out even more. I have PCOS and just cannot get the hormones under control. I’m getting married next year and am terrified because I know the acne won’t be gone. I’ve had bad acne for over 50% of my life and it sucks. It sucks hard.

    But I try to never let anyone know how much it really annoys me. Because I know it’s not actually important.

    • daisy

      Two things in your comment are worrying me here: the only Dr you see regularly is the dermatologist and that you have PCOS. You need to get those hormones regulated lady – its likely this is the underlying reason for your skin condition. Get a good GP and go see an endocrinologist, your health is the #1 priority!

      • Kess

        I would – except I live in the middle of nowhere and the closest endocrinologist is a 2 hour drive away (which is why I can’t see them regularly). I’m moving in May to a more populated area, so hopefully that will help.

    • I just want to say that according to everyone I have talked to, acne does NOT go away after puberty. My friends in their late 30s still have plenty of zits.

      I have mild acne these days (disappears when I’m on birth control), but only because of two courses of Accutane. My mom thinks that the Accutane gave me ulcerative colitis, and I know for sure that it gave me permanent lower back pain. And it was STILL ENTIRELY WORTH IT because my acne made me so miserable.

      • How bad was Accutane? I have painful acne that just won’t go away, and I’ve been through several rounds with a dermatologist with no luck.

        Right now, they have me on retin-a, which burns and itches like a bitch, and seems to be making the teeniest bit of difference after 3 months. They’ve mentioned more than once that Accutane is the next step, but I’m very scared about the side effects.

        • Accutane is unpredictable in terms of side effects, but it’s very effective. I went on it when I was 13 and again when I was 17 (acne came back when I was 16 but not nearly as bad as before; I just figured why not zap it again?). It’s a 5-6 month course and then you’re done. It REALLY dries you out; I took vitamin E pills when I was on it, which helped a lot but not enough. I didn’t have to shower every day; my hair stayed very non-oily. I could wear contacts but only if I used re-wetting drops. My lips got severely chapped, although I admit I didn’t take care of them much beyond the occasional chapstick application. Drying out is a normal side effect, I’d say virtually universal.

          My major side effect occurred the second time I took it; the small of my back got really stiff by the time I’d go to bed. My ex-sister-in-law had the same kind of joint pain when she went on it before her wedding and asked me about it, so I don’t think it’s uncommon. It mostly went away a few months later, but it comes back from time to time.

          The first three months or so of Accutane are terrible because you dry out and your acne pretty much stays exactly the same. I felt super ugly for the first three months. And then it just kind of … went away. And if for some reason you need to not be dry as a desert, going off it for a week gives you about a week of not-dry skin. After my second course, until I went off the pill, I had pretty much no acne.

          I have no regrets. Sometimes I think about going back on it, just a milder course of it. I know it’s not for everyone, but it was one of the most life-changing decisions I made.

          • KEA1

            38, still fighting acne, and been told on a couple of occasions (by different doctors) that my acne “isn’t severe enough” to warrant Accutane even though I have had exactly zero days of clear skin since I was 16. I was fortunate (?) enough to be picked on for so many other things in school that the acne didn’t usually make the list from my peers, but I’m pretty sure I was in grad school before my mom actually listened to my request that she please STOP harping on how pretty I could be if I could just have clear skin. When I either turn 40 or get engaged, whichever comes first, if my skin hasn’t cleared on its own I am going to talk much more assertively with a dermatologist.

          • Definitely get a new derm. I know plenty of people with “not severe enough” acne that went on Accutane with great results. Honestly, my second time with Accutane, my acne was definitely much less severe and more manageable.

            I really hate to say, “Screw your doctors for not doing what you want,” but honestly, there’s no scientific threshold that determines when your acne is “severe enough” for Accutane. And it sounds like you’re at the end of your rope.

        • Karlee

          24 years old here and just finished a 6-month treatment of Accutane. I would say I had mild-moderate acne, and after my 6-month treatment of Accutane, no more acne! My face is silky smooth for the first time since I was 13. But…it doesn’t help with the scars acne leaves behind, which is where I am struggling right now.

          As far as side effects go, I mostly just got really, really dry. I carried chapstick with me EVERYWHERE (Highly recommend this chapstick which is specifically formulated for Accutane users: http://www.amazon.com/Dr-Dans-CortiBalm-Balm-Chapped/dp/B0013JE6K2/ref=pd_sim_bt_2/184-3037424-1674858). The skin on my face would peel off occasionally since it was so dry. I slathered Aquaphor on my lips before bed every night. Sometimes I slept with rubber gloves filled with lotion on my hands. My arms got scaly and dry around 2 months in, so the doctor prescribed me prescription strength cortizone cream and it has worked wonders. Aside from the dryness, I felt achy, which is a side effect my doctor told me about before use, so I expected it. I don’t feel achy anymore though.

          Accutane also has a history of leading to depression and suicide. As someone who has suffered from depression, taken medication, and gotten “better”, I didn’t see any changes in myself in that sense.

          I am SO glad I allowed myself to try Accutane. I am much more confident now that I can ever remember. The pros definitely outweigh the cons, at least from my perspective. Just know your body and be weary of the dangerous side effects.

        • Roselyne

          I took Accutane for over a year when I was 19; I’m now 30. Honestly? Best. Decision. Ever.

          Caution: when they say “dry skin” is a side effect? Don’t brush it off. While taking the medication, the skin on my ankles kept cracking and bleeding, and picking at the edge of my lips made the skin of my lip just peel off – I could do really great lip-prints in blood for about 8 months. And this was WITH full-body creams 3-4 times/day. A decade after, my skin is still really pale, burns easily, and is really dry – I need a good body butter after showers year-round, or I’m unbearably itchy. My sister has the same experience, and notes that she didn’t get sunburns at all until the Accutane (her skin also used to be darker than it is now).

          That said… I occasionally get a small blemish or two, but I haven’t had any of those deep painful lasts-for-a-week scarring pimples since the Accutane. And every time I think about it, I just remember how I felt being able to put on a sundress for the first time in years because I didn’t have huge painful cyst-y pimples all over my back, and I haven’t had them since. So, so fecking worth it for me.

      • anony

        You’re probably all over this, but with the UC, did they rule out ankylosing spondylitis as the cause of the back stiffness/pain? I have AS and it often goes hand in hand with IBD, and so many doctors totally overlook AS in women. My GI was clueless that women get it, so I’m just throwing that out there. (end of unsolicited medical advice)

    • Anon

      As a 26-year-old with acne who’s getting married in two months, I totally feel you. Hugs to you. Everyone’s different, but here are some of my experiences.

      As soon as I turned 25, my skin changed. It couldn’t tolerate harsh cleansers like benzoyl peroxide anymore without drying out massively, but I still got zits. I kind of had to learn to just accept it. Now I use a gentle oil-free cleanser twice a day, and a light moisturizer, and that’s it. I am never pimple-free, and I really don’t anticipate I ever will be. My parents both had acne well into their 40s, so I know my probable future. So that’s where I am now. Here’s how I cope:

      – I’ve re-thought my relationship with makeup. I don’t usually wear any, and when I do it’s usually BB cream and maybe some concealer. My new goal with makeup is “soften elements that might distract people from my facial features” instead of “make it look like I don’t have acne.” This means that if I have a big ugly zit I’ll use the BB cream to even out tone and hide the redness, but I accept that everyone will still know it’s there. The goal is just for them to be able to ignore it and look at my face, not what’s growing on it.
      – When I feel self-conscious, I look at pictures of people with acne and remind myself that I see their faces, not their pimples. Even if you feel like one giant zit, people can and DO look past that to see the rest of your face.
      – My fiance also has acne (him at 34), so I’ve got a support system. Even if your partner doesn’t have acne, make sure they know the best way to support you when you’re feeling bad about it. For me, just having him say “That must hurt” helps.
      – Specific to the wedding: I’m wearing a dress with sleeves and a high back because I don’t want to have to worry about body acne on the day of. It’ll still exist, but I won’t spend the morning frantically trying to apply foundation between my shoulder blades.
      – Also wedding-related: I’ve had to develop a mantra. It goes like this: “Because of my genes, I get pimples when I am stressed. Weddings are stressful. Therefore, I will have pimples on my wedding day. There is nothing I can do about this. My fiance will marry me anyway. Also, photo retouching exists.”

      I wish you the best of luck with your acne struggles, and I hope you can find some level of peace with it.

      • One of my biggest beauty indulgences is retouching my acne in 99% of my photos.

        • Yes. I am no longer worried about breaking out at the wedding because I massively broke out for the engagement session. I felt like every single spot was showing, even with my fancy concealer. Got the pictures back- you can’t see any of it. Even on the close ups. Photo retouching is the most amazing thing and has made me much less stressed.

    • I’m with you on the skin front (see my comment too). I’m 37 and my skin has changed over time although the acne never really goes away.

      However, PCOS is something else entirely. I found out about this woman named Alissa Vitti who cured her own PCOS and started a site called FLO Living and wrote a book called Woman Code which talks about how she cured herself and has helped many many women with all kinds of hormonal issues. Just by applying a few of her suggestions, I have totally helped my energy level, skin and general well-being. My issue isn’t PCOS but hyperthyroidism and adrenal fatigue from, surprise surprise, stress. Anyway, it’s worth looking at her site.

    • Anne

      Hey — I’m 29 now, and didn’t get my acne under control until I was 25. I worked with some acne specialists and now I’m a happy woman. I’m not sure if you’re looking for recommendations, but here are my two cents:

      1) Avoid anything that’ll clog your pores. I was using a “sensitive skin” sunscreen that was causing a lot of my breakouts. Try googling “Pore Clogging Ingredients in Skin Care” and avoid those ingredients like the plague.

      2) I use a combination of salicyclic acid, benzoyal peroxide, mandelic acid, and vitamin A, and my skin looks beautiful! I worked with the ladies at Face Reality Acne clinic and it made a huge difference.

    • Hi Kess, (Face Reality Acne Clinic here.) As Anne says, with a few lifestyle changes and the right products, you can get your acne under control. There’s such bad information out there and I know it’s extremely difficult (and expensive) to sift through all the recommendations. PCOS does make it more challenging; but the right products can really help to get you mostly clear. Our system has cleared thousands – let me know if you want more information.

  • Colleen

    I have some things about my appearance that I care a little more about than others and I am fine with that.

    My problem is that there are some aspects of my appearance that I would be interested in adjusting if a partner would prefer it. Because I like people (especially certain people) to find me attractive. Either people tell me on their own that they like me as a I am or don’t care about X or I don’t want to ask what they think about something. I don’t want to look shallow and like I just want to change for everyone, but if someone finds my hair extra-hot when it’s curled or something, I want to know that.

    • Jess

      R finds my hair extra hot when it’s curled. This is no end of pain for me, because I CANNOT curl it on my own. Now, he finds other parts of me extra hot too, but that particular one is something I cannot do and that sucks.

  • Lisa

    This is the best part of being 57. I truly doing give an effing anything about what people think of my beauty routine or lack thereof. On my blog I’ve had people comment about my ugly calico hair (blonde goes gray), about the horror of my untanned legs, and so on. It makes me laugh out loud, not in ridicule, but because I find it so funny that they bother to care.

    Now that I think back, history might also have a hand in my attitude. There was this brief break in You Gotta Depilate And Paint And Spray And Color, between something like 1967-1974. Can you believe we didn’t even shave our legs! Oh my god! I suspect that those of us who were impressionable pre-teens and teens right then escaped the shame and keep hoping nobody ever notices.

    The shame has come back in spades. As bad as the 50s, almost, it seems. Cue middle-aged lady, shaking her head, and wondering what to do.

    • Jess

      My goal is to rock some long grey hair when my blonde goes grey! I hope when it happens, I still think that.

  • Well, I’m 37 and I have always struggled with terrible breakouts. At about the age of 32, I started having facials done every 5 to 6 weeks. Everyone I tell that to immediately assumes it’s completely frivolous, but it’s a necessity for me. And let me tell you, extractions hurt like a mother! relaxing? my ass. I usually leave with a red and puffy face, but for the rest of the month, my skin is much improved. As a result, in the last 5 years, I’ve then started noticing the leftover mild pockmarking and “compromised pores” as my esthetician calls it, and the never fading “blemishes”. And in these lovely winter months, I am red all the time. Theoretically this could be helped by a good foundation, but that is one of the things that causes me to break out. I’ve been using Bare Minerals for ages because it doesn’t cause any problems, but cover the flaws – it does not. I once had a co-worker ask me if I even wear makeup. Initially I thought this was a compliment, that I was pulling off the natural look, but then I realized that (coming from her) it was an insult. Sometimes I catch myself staring at women with beautiful skin (nearly everyone else). And worse, I know a lot of athletes and northwest-y camper-type women that have gorgeously naturally beautiful skin. Sometimes it’s all I can do not to hate them. And I always think they are judging me for wearing makeup because I just can’t be a natural beauty.

    I also dye my hair, because at this point I’d be salt and pepper. My husband says he loves that look and I believe him, but frankly, I don’t need people to think I’m in my 50s. Maybe it’s my awkward skin, but just after a dye job, I still get carded for alcohol. Although, I’ve been using a box at home forever, but right now I’m 4 weeks in and I’m starting to look a lot shabby. I think it’s time for a pro, but with the cost of facials, and my current status as ultra underemployed/underpaid, I may have cut out eating dinner to pay for it all.

    My flaws: I have blemishes, redness, and dark circles under my eyes. Part of my dedication to the 28 days of selfies is to try to see myself as the girl with the glorious smile and smiling eyes that my husbands sees. As someone worth getting past the flaws to get to know.

    And part of me hopes this confession gets buried in the comments….

    • Erin E

      Yes, yes, yes on the breakouts. Just wanted to give you a shout out in solidarity. And I know EXACTLY what you mean about the “don’t you wear makeup?” insult. Every time I’m at a makeup counter, the women say “have you ever thought about a light concealer or a light overall foundation?” and it takes everything I have not to scream “This IS me in foundation!!!!” Incidentally, Bare Minerals was a problem for my acne. There’s an ingredient in it that can worsen reactions in some people. I ended up finding a similar powdered makeup line that had tested better for acne folks. I know everyone is different, but I just wanted to pass along that experience.

      • Right! A “light foundation” wouldn’t even scratch the surface! And a heavy one just looks – well heavy. grrr.

        • OH MY GOD all those people who asked me if I even wear makeup WERE NOT COMPLIMENTING ME! (Probably.) This is brand new information!

          • Maybe they were. And there’s nothing wrong with taking it as a compliment. I just happen to know in this specific case that the girl who said it to me was in her own self-deprecating spiral and had a habit of making rude comments. As underemployed as I am now, I’m so happy not to be working so closely with someone so cruel.

          • And I’m following your Instagram, and I think you look beautiful!

    • I use Pur Minerals makeup- they have a green-tinted primer that is great for covering up redness. And I feel you with the breakouts and acne scars. Naturally beautiful skin I have not, unfortunately.

      • I was using True for a while but then my salon stopped carrying it and switched to something not as good. I’ll look into the Pur Minerals. Thanks for the tip! :)

    • Weird question for you … how do you find a good spa for facials? I have so-so skin; my acne is back now that I’m off the pill, but I’m mostly weirded out by how many clogged pores I’ve been getting. Like, blackheads on weird non-nose parts of my face, or not-really-blackheads that definitely are pores clogged with something. I am TIRED of it!

      Also, I’ve done box dye and had my hair professionally dyed. It hasn’t made a difference for me (maybe my coverage is a little less DIY when I pay out the ass at the salon). You might see a difference, but if you’re not sure about spending all the money, I might consider changing brands and seeing if that helps.

      • I looked for a place that focused on skin specifically and then looked at reviews and awards. Amazingly, the place I’ve been going to for four years now is down the street from my house which is great being that I leave looking like I’ve been beat on.
        I’ve also tried one-million different products and went for years paying out the nose for the definitely good salon brands of dermalogica and SkinCeuticals. But I’ve now found a decently priced super-natural brand that works really well – Acure. I highly recommend one of their cleansers as well as the scrub every three days to help get the dead skin and blackheads in check and their clay mask is great for sucking out the rest of it. Also, facial serum or argan oil under moisturizer even if you have oily skin.

        • I am starring the Discus email I got with your reply because I am definitely Googling everything when I get home tonight. I definitely need to unclog these pores before I go completely mad.

        • I tried a mask with activated charcoal last weekend. Have you ever tried that? I am not sure I did it right (I just used the powder mixed with water and most recipes online include other ingredients). And I am not sure if it did much. But I will try it again because it is supposed to pull out the gross stuff… (But it is kinda scary because it is charcoal and I was afraid it would not wash off. It did…eventually.)

          • Charcoal masks are great for your skin! They smell weird and yes, take a long time to wash off but the impurities go right with the mask. Awesome!

  • ElisabethJoanne

    Sitting here in my gray pant suit and flats, with cracked toe nails (last pedicure was in November), torn fingernails, no make-up, and wet hair in a bun that took me 2 minutes, I worry that I don’t do enough. If studies show women in make-up are considered more competent and friendly, does that make it a must for the office? Can your hairstyle be so out-of-date it’s unprofessional? Obviously, there was a time when natural hair on a black woman was not considered acceptable in a professional setting. Maybe curly hair on a white woman is no longer professional. The pictures in the magazines sure suggest that. For the most part, so do my co-workers (who are in jeans, flats, and no make-up).

  • Kater

    My hair is very curly, like Keri Russell circa-Felicity curly. I like to consider myself a low-maintenance kinda gal; I rarely wear makeup and live in rural New England so clothing styles are pretty practical here (which suits me just fine).

    But I can’t stop straightening my hair. I’ve quit the chemical straightening for now, but still flat iron it basically every day that I want to look/feel presentable. I know some people like the look of curly hair, and I used to get compliments on it (I wore it curly, like Scary Spice curly, for years).

    But I hate how the curls look on me; I feel like it looks unprofessional and not put together at all, it makes me feel chaotic. Plus, it was impractical (riding in a car with the windows down? forget it. Pull it back in a ponytail? That’ll sort of flatten out the top part, but leave a curly bush at the bottom, etc. etc). Plus, the amt of time and product it took to tame it curly is no more efficient than blow drying and flat ironing into smooth straightness.

    Long story short: I wish I had wash ‘n wear hair that would just dry into something not frizzy; I feel like I expend so much energy trying to tame my hair (and then feel like a loser that I’m not just accepting myself as I am).

    • lady brett

      so, if it’s not your thing, it’s not your thing (no shaming here) – but *the* thing that has made my curly hair manageable (dare i say cute?) has been shopping for hair care supplies in the african-american hair section. because “frizz taming” doesn’t even begin to cut it. but (my current favorite) shea-butter-based paste leave-in conditioner? that can actually smooth my hair into some semblance of order (very curly order, but not fuzzy mess).

      • Kater

        that’s a great tip! I’m thinking I’ll re-visit the curls and try to coerce my hair into “some semblance of order” (love that!) this summer when it’s too hot to flatiron every day. Any particular brands that you love? I used to use L’Oreal Melting Gel back in the day (late 90s, early 2000s) which worked way better for my hair type than more expensive stuff.

        • lady brett

          I use a brand called “shea moisture” (but to be honest, i mostly picked between types based on smell =) the thing i use as a leave-in conditioner/styler is, i think, actually intended as a heavy duty regular (wash out) conditioner.

    • Beth R

      It took me ages to come to terms with my curly hair. I stopped straightening it every day about halfway through college, but it’s taken me years since then to feel like I actually have a grip on how to make it look good. It’s hard because everyone’s curly hair is different, so products that might work for one person won’t work for you and vice versa. I would recommend reading up on Texture Typing, which could help with finding products that will actually work for you (http://www.naturallycurly.com/texture-typing/).
      It also took me years to find a stylist who actually knew what they were doing, but that went a long way towards helping me accept my hair. I still find myself wishing it was just straight (god, what I wouldn’t do to be able to sleep on my hair and just be able to brush it out the next day…), but at least I don’t think it looks dumb all the time now.

      Also, I started doing the Curly Girl method of not using shampoos or any products with sulfates and silicons and that has been quite successful!

      • Guest

        Just wanted to echo this, I was totally unsure of my curly hair for years. I now wash and wear with no frizz simply by BARELY touching it. EVER. No brushing, scrunch your product in while in the shower, dry it with a tshirt, scrunching your curls instead of letting them separate (creating frizz). Curly Girl and that whole movement can do wonders for just realizing what’s happening with curly hair.

        • I recently saw some old photos of myself and was surprised at how much better my hair looks now. I almost never brush it and I do the co-wash most of the time (Giovanna Tea Tree shampoo when it), etc. I use a nontoxic, eco detangler spray and that is it. And my hair seems to really respond well to it…. Judging from those old (bad hair) photos! :)

  • Bdawg

    Body hair and paleness. I never talk about this with anyone because I find it way too embarrassing. I have thick, dark hair and super pale skin, and ever since people started making fun of me in middle school for the amount of hair on my arms, I’ve been self conscious about it. In early high school, I used to refuse to wear short sleeves (in Southern California) because I didn’t want people to see.

    For years, the only thing I ever thought about regarding my wedding was how I was going to wear a wedding dress where I didn’t feel embarrassed about my arm hair. As it turns out, I stopped caring so much as I got older and didn’t even think about it on my wedding day, thank goodness, because gloves are not actually so flattering (as I found out at prom).

    The bigger issues for me now are facial hair and leg hair. I starting plucking my upper lip in high school and it has spread to my chin and jaw line. I hate dealing with it, but I absolutely cannot handle letting it grow out in order to try any other methods (laser, etc). It is a daily time suck and I always find myself hoping that nobody notices.

    Leg hair…no matter if I shave or wax I always have dark spots where my follicles are, which (when combined with my super pale skin), make me extremely self conscious about going bare-legged. I cannot tell you how excited I was when tights came back into style, because I will not wear a dress without them (this was the number one reason I never considered a short dress for my wedding). I have spent thousands on every method of hair removal, with little success. I started using SensEpil not too long ago and actually have had some success…as long as I keep doing it, but when I stop, the hair all grows back. It has worked anough that I will keep trying it, but at some point, I’ll probably give up on that, too, since it’s not cheap.

    Can we just talk for a second about how people have no qualms about telling you how pale you are? Yeah, I know I’m pale, why do you think that you mentioning it is going to change anything? You want to know what happens to me when I’m in the sun for more than 15 minutes? I go from white to red. There is no tanning and you making fun of me for something I have no control over does not do anyone any good. Would you ever think it’s okay to tell someone “Wow, why is your skin so dark?”

    • Jess

      I pretty much could have written this post. I, too, am very pale with lots of very dark body hair. My arm hair kind of bothers me but I’ve never done anything about it because I know then I would have to always keep it up and, ugh. My lip, I used to bleach but recently discovered cream hair remover and use that.

      I also feel like my follicles always look gross but going bare legged is too damn comfy for it to be a deterrent for me, I guess.

      I do get these weird red dots between my thighs that make me super self conscious about exposing that area. Even if I were ok with the rest of my body in public, I’m not ok with wearing a swim suit because of those.

    • Aubry

      Why do people need to point out silly things that you have no control over. If I had a dollar for every time someone said “wow, you are so tall!” I would be a rich woman. I usually respond “holy shit! You’re right! When did that happen?” just to point out how silly they are being. And I love being tall most of the time.

      Also, I use a hair bleach designed specifically for the face on my upper lip and it rocks. Not sure about other locations, but for visible areas you don’t want to shave, like arms, it could be great. I use Jolen.

    • Alyssa M

      I’m sooo with you on the white skin thing. I have anglo-saxon/nordic ancestry. I live in a cold climate. I work nights and during the dead of winter will go all week without seeing the sun. This absolutely does not give people the right to start commenting on my skin color! And NO, I don’t need to “get some sun.” The paler your skin is naturally, the higher your chances of skin cancer. I’ll keep using my sunscreen when I need it, thankyou.

    • Jess

      I have SUPER hairy arms too! I remember trying to shave my arms in middle school – I wanted to shave my arms before I cared about my legs.

    • Roselyne

      Oh, god, the combination of pale skin/dark body hair/facial hair. I feel you.

      I’ve spent a fortune on electrolysis, and I don’t regret it one single second.

    • Sara P

      I feel you on the pale/leg hair/ follicle thing. I’m blonde, which means I don’t worry about most of my body hair, but my legs are so pale that my follicles all look purple :(. I love my skin pretty much everywhere but my legs, honestly, and I wonder all the time if it’s a society thing, or if it’s just because they really do look sort of pallid :(. But I hate hate hate the comments. No, I’d never noticed, thanks for pointing that out. And my legs don’t tan, at all, I’ve tried (but the rest of me does). Sigh.

  • Anonymous

    Am I the only one that has hair on my areolas? Seriously, I have only ever heard one other person admit it. To be honest, I have hair all over and most of it is so bad that if I shave or wax, I get ridiculous, huge, nasty, painful ingrowns to the max. I recently started laser hair removal and it’s helped some, but I’m afraid it will never go away :(

    • Another Liz

      *Raises hand* I don’t do anything about it, though. Guess I have other body issues that are higher priorities.

    • You are NOT the only person. And when I once asked my doctor about it, she was like not even a little bit surprised. I am seriously considering electrolysis for nipple hairs. I can’t pull them up from the root because I get such bad ingrown hairs. I don’t have the patience to just trim them; it’s so much work and it doesn’t really get rid of them. I don’t want to shave them because I think they’ll react like my bikini line or lower tummy and get ingrown and angry and red anyway. And the SAD thing is that the biggest reason the hairs bother me so much is that I’m really proud of my breasts and have this horrible fear that I’ll accidentally lose my top and everyone will see HORRIBLE NIPPLE HAIRS instead of “Wow, at least they’re nice boobs.” Isn’t that terrible?

      • Ann Onymous

        I have that EXACT SAME FEAR. Solidarity, sisters. The nipple hair battle rages on.

    • Lauren from NH

      Please don’t feel badly! I feel like this is super common, just another thing we have to thank porn and other media for falsifying our perception. I have dark thick hair which mean the hair on my head is gorgeous but I also have dark thick body hair as well. A little circle around my belly button, a little trail between my boobs and around the areoles. Sometimes I shave it, but mostly I just pluck the darkest ones and leave the rest. It’s not as noticeable as you think, you have you life to be living so constant maintenance is not nearly as important as being awesome, and it’s you partner’s job to love every bit of you, so only worry as much as you want to :)

    • Bdawg

      I have some, too, and usually pluck them out when I notice them. I do not think this is rare at all.

    • I have them. I pluck them periodically. There’s another flaw. sigh.

    • Hazel

      Oh wow, it makes me feel so much better to hear other people have this too. I assumed I wasn’t the only one, but still. I used to pluck them, but the ingrown hairs were awful. My fiance honestly doesn’t even seem to notice if I shave or not (I have PCOS and lots of dark body hair, yay). This is the first time in a long time I don’t really worry about shaving compulsively and it is great. The ones on my breasts are really long now though and it weirds me out a little. But I’m not ready to give in again. I do shave some of the hair on my chin daily though. :/

    • You’re not alone!

    • C_Gold

      You are not the only one. I hate it. If we’re talking taboos, I always have a few dark hairs growing on my areolas, so I shave them whenever I’m in the shower.

    • Jess

      I have a few. They get plucked, and I am not ashamed of that fact.

    • Amy

      Nope, me too. And dark hair up to my bellybutton and one or two on my chest between my boobs. Hate them a bit, but am aware that I only hate them because of other people’s expectations for a female body, and not my own.

      And my (male) fiancee doesn’t seem to notice/be bothered.

  • What I’ve found so weird is that over the years, my insecurities change. I used to shave my legs and armpits every time I showered. I used to shave my happy trail and then panic and shame-spiral when it came back ingrown. The worst part was that at the time, tween girls were supposed to wear low-rise jeans and shirts that juuuuust didn’t reach long enough, so my happy trail was on display all the time. I legit used concealer on my ingrown happy trail. Now I don’t care at all and usually hate shaving because it’s very hard to shave after NOT shaving for a month. I also just have my happy trail dealt with at the waxer along with my bikini line … which I do 2x a year.

    These days, I’m mostly WTFFFign about clogged pores, which got worse after I went off the pill. They’re all over; I even have two noticeably blackheads on my body that I can’t get rid of. I’ve been thinking of getting facials to see if that helps, and I’m waiting on a blackhead extracting tool from Amazon as well. I also freaked out because no-pill also gave me dandruff; the ladies at TheKnot helped me out and I now have shampoo with COAL TAR in it that gets rid of my dandruff. Wow.

    I also have weirdly pitted front teeth because of a childhood illness that occurred while my teeth were forming. For years as a kid, I tried to whiten my teeth … so that I could THEN get cosmetic bonding and have a smooth white smile. I ended up forgetting that the whiteness of my teeth wasn’t the issue, and for years gave up on whitening them and forgot to get bonding anyway. Now I’m planning on getting bonding done before the wedding because damn everything, I’ve been waiting 15 years for smooth front teeth.

    • See my other comment to you about the facials. Yes, it will help.

    • Sera’s right about the facials. I was hit with adult acne out of the blue a few years ago. It was possibly due to the Mirena IUD, but painful and made me not feel good about myself no matter what caused it. The facials REALLY, REALLY help!

      The blackhead extracting tool made it worse for me, The esthetician told me those tools can push bacterial deeper into the pore if you don’t know what you’re doing, so tread lightly.

    • KH_Tas

      My FI uses that coal tar dandruff stuff. It does amuse me that they advertise ‘contains coal tar’ while all the other brands are talking about flowers and whatnot

  • April

    At 41, I care too much about my personal upkeep and still worry I don’t do enough. My features look more relaxed and don’t have that plump tautness anymore and it freaks me out. I consider Botox and then worry I’ll have a reaction to it or look scary in 5 years from it. The problem with beauty maintenance is that once one starts, stopping isn’t an option. I’m worried if I give up, my husband will think I’m lazy. I’m worried society will think I’m lazy. I’ve been tweezing, plucking, polishing, waxing, dyeing, exfoliating, concealing, moisturizing and exercising like a fiend since I was 17, coaxing youth and bright eyes from every makeup bottle out there and guess what? I’m tired of it. Totally effing tired of it.

    How do I fix THAT?!

  • Erin

    I’m a natural blonde and have been my whole life. Blonde is totally a part of my identity–I’ve been dishing out blonde jokes and fighting stereotypes forever. The thing is, most of my blonde comes from the sun. Wen I live in warm sunny places, my hair glows. When I live in cold dark places it fades. In addition to a smudge of SAD, the grey winters make me feel shittier because my hair just looks dirty. I got a tip from my stylist that I could use sun in withy hair dryer once a month to fight the browning of the winter doldrums. It totally works and now I don’t have to convince people I HAVENT gotten a due job after I spend a week at the beach after a long New England winter. When people ask if I’m a natural blonde, I feel a smudge guilty saying yes, but I rationalize that the sun in in the winter just boosts the color to where it would be if I lived anywhere else.

    • Helen

      I’m an unashamed bottle blonde – when people ask me if it’s natural, I say, ‘yes, I blonde is my spiritual hair colour”

    • Meg

      My hair is dark blonde so I get highlights. I figure since I was blonde when I was a kid I’m just reclaiming what is mine.

    • april

      Haha – I will admit that our decision to have an autumn wedding was motivated in part by the fact that my naturally blonde hair always looks its best after a sun-filled summer (I’m not vain about much, but I am vain about my natural highlights). I may have to steal your sun-in idea! My hair looks really sad in the winter …

  • Em

    Oh man, YES. I am someone who occasionally likes to put effort in to get prettied up (eyeliner, blush, nice clothes, maybe shape my hair with a flat iron) but who mostly settles for being clean. I just naturally am not really into lots of feminine beauty routines, and the ones I am interested in I am generally too lazy to carry out.

    But! I just went and had my first laser hair removal for my armpits. I have super sensitive skin so shaving is a serious ordeal, and I’m not really into going hairy (it would mean REALLY hairy). I feel pretty good about it, but have been struggling with feeling like I’m letting my body down… and generations of women along with it. And whenever I have mentioned it to others, I have been met with veiled criticism. It’s like I’ve suddenly become a shallow, uncool bimbo because of this one choice.

    All this to say, I am loving this thread. What a radical concept, women being women in whatever way makes sense to them!

    • Jo

      So, I am reading the comments about the wonders of laser hair removal for ladies who have unwanted dark hair on light skin with interest, envy, and misgivings. I balk philosophically that women have been sold the idea that the way our bodies are naturally created must be modified to be attractive, and yet, I also get it and want to fit in to the society I live in (and entice the man I married who was raised in that society, too). So I can see myself going about the laser hair removal, LOVING the benefits, and then also feeling that struggle that I gave in. Solidarity, yeah.

  • Sally Jo

    I didn’t start wearing makeup of any sort until I was 28ish, and almost three years later it’s still minimal. I tolerate shaving my legs and armpits, but that’s as far as it goes. My back acne from my teenage years has gone away, scars included, to the point that I didn’t even think about it when I bought a wedding dress with a keyhole back. :)

    But what makes me feel the most awkward about my body is that my breasts are asymmetrical–at least a cup size. I hate the fact that I have to pad one side of my bra to make things look even (although I’ve gotten better inserts than the shoulder pads I used to stuff my bra with in middle school)–and forget anything that’s low-cut (cute demi bras, I will never own you). And swimsuits are a major source of awkwardness for me (is there any way to insert permanent padding in one side of the chest area that won’t get waterlogged?). I tease my fiance that whether he would prefer a large-breasted or small-breasted wife, he’s getting both, so he should be happy for the variety, but honestly, I wish I weren’t lopsided.

    • Anon for this

      You are not alone! I think the worst thing for me is that one side of me is an A cup, and the other a B cup, so I don’t even have much to work with on the large side! It took me years to get over it. I seriously thought my fiance was lying to me when he said he hardly noticed. Luckily, I think in the moment, men see “Boobs!” and not “Hmm, boob number one is noticeably fuller…”
      As far as swim-suits are concerned, I usually buy a padded suit that I perform a little surgery to. I actually remove the padding cup from the large side and slip it into the smaller side. That way you have double the padding on one side in a water-ready material. It really depends on the suit though, you need to find something with the right sort of lining to where it doesn’t look see-through or wonky once the padding is swapped. I think you can also buy special swim-suit inserts online. Maybe you could sew one into a favorite suit?
      I feel a little twinge of sadness every time I see a demi bra in an adorably polka-dot pattern…sigh.

  • MLCinPRC

    I have been reading for a long time and so enjoy the comment section but never have the tits to comment myself. But I do want to comment after reading all of these awesome responses. I alternate between feeling like I care way too much about my appearance and like I do not care enough. I want to be comfortable going to work without makeup but I don’t, at the same time, when I am at home or on vacation I feel like I should still want to put on makeup and get dressed everyday, but I don’t want to, so I don’t. I really express myself through clothes and makeup but sometimes I just need to give my face a break, my naturally insane hair a break and not give a shit. Similarly, I either feel like I am very very pretty (which I know I am not allowed to say) or absolutely hideous. This conversation comes at a great time because I really feel it most in photos (selfie month!)! I literally see photos of myself taken by other people and think, my god that isnt me, i thought I looked so much better…that is why selfies rock, I know my angles. I do not however know the point of this comment. I wiiish I could feel more balanced. My goal is to see myself and not feel terrible when I do not look great and feel ok with just looking okay or even ugly. But I also want to think I look pretty without feeling guilty. Anyone feel the same way or am I nuts?

    • I kind of yoyo about beauty stuff as well. Sometimes I feel really hot, other times I just want everyone to ignore me. I think that’s ok. I’m actually writing in in response to the last part- the part about pictures. I’ve always had trouble looking at pictures of myself- even fantastic pictures of me end up ruined because I cannot stop looking at one flaw that I think is very obvious (of course no one else thinks that my upper arm looks fat in that one picture, but it’s right there!). About a year ago I decided to change things. Now, every time I look at myself in a picture I have to say one good thing about the way I look. Aloud. Even if I’m the only person in the room. It’s a learned habit, and feels really weird at first, but it’s been making a big difference. A year later, I notice the good things before I see the flaws. I’m not as shy in front of cameras. I feel better about my body.

      Not sure if that helps, but you’re definitely not nuts :)

      • Heather

        Totally adopting this. I love it.

        Thank you!

    • ypi

      Not at all nuts! I feel like I could have written this. I live in NYC and… it’s rough. I want so badly to be effortlessly put together- great hair, radiant skin, never sloppy- but then I wonder why I can’t just be okay with me? I’m smart, motivated, have a great life, eat well enough, do yoga etc.These things, on paper, seem like they should add up to great self-confidence. Sometimes I feel ridiculous toggling between feeling envious of women who leave the house without a stitch of makeup, looking great, and women who are so well coifed, it’s like they have a live in stylist. Combine that with body image issues, just wanting to “blend in”, and health complications that led to thinning hair and nearly uncontrollable weight gain. I feel like I’m on a confidence roller coaster. Do I care too much? Do I not do enough? When I have a day where I feel good, look good- I immediately self doubt- like maybe it’s just in my head. And all of it feels magnified by the city environment- and an impending wedding where I know there’ll be tons of photos taken, and I need to learn to be okay with that.

      To be fair, as I near 30 (less than 6 months and counting), I have started to settle in to a different kind of confidence than I had when I was, say, 24. But it’s still such a struggle, and it seems like it’s not a unique one, which helps.

  • Della

    Firstly, I love every single one of these comments and agree with so many!

    My “I’d never say this on the record but…” is that I have big boobs and I love them. However, since they are full on the bottom, no one else realizes it until I’m naked or they are the bra specialist trying to help me. I don’t want to be objectified, but when talking to other women about busty girl problems they laugh as if I don’t belong. Can’t my Double F cup boobs get some recognition? I don’t wear push up bras either because well I feel like it is ridiculous with my size. Also my boobs jiggle when wearing the bra and I get more than a little self conscious. Yay for body insecurities…

    • Jess

      I have small boobs – but what I do have is all in the bottom. Push-up bras seem insincere to me, like I’m lying. You’re not alone!

  • Al

    Thanks so much for your story Meg. I’m going white/grey too – noticed the first ones a year ago when I was 27 and it’s getting to very salt and pepper stage. I’m not too worried about people knowing about it – I don’t shout it from the rooftops or anything – but I figure it normalises it and makes others less afraid or ashamed if I talk about it a bit with friends and co-workers. But I definitely dye it! I love the dark chocolate brown all the way!! I have an awesome pixie that I adore and I go to the hairdresser once every 4 weeks for maintenance. I really feel like it makes me feel more confident and I love the time to myself meditating while the colour sets (I dye it every 8 weeks). And the time I spend at the hairdressers saves me time in the morning – because it’s short I only have to quickly blowdry it – ‘ain’t nobody got time to straighten!’

    Also – on “I feel like ‘less’ of a woman because I don’t know or do what seems effortless to others…” I too feel like I never learned how to make myself look nice and now sheepishly ask the 21 year old girls at the beauty counter to help me with techniques. But at the same time am super lazy and like GCDC says – if I really cared that much about it I would probably spend more time perfecting it.

    I only have 2 makeup looks (does anyone else feel like their lipstick always comes off after like 2 minutes or they look like a crazy clown when they do a bright lip), have tried and failed to make myself have a ‘shave your legs’ night, am struggling to stop chewing my nails at 28 (just got engaged so want my fingers to look nice lol), definitely don’t wax – just trim occasionally and only maintain what you can see in undies (but I did do lazer hair removal on bikini line (which worked to reduce the amount of hair on the bikini line and meant less work for me with shaving and less ingrown hairs – definite plus!), creams, waxing etc etc etc – I honestly couldn’t cope with Brazilians myself – so much pain for so little time of being actually hairless and battling ingrown hairs and $$$).

    While I am lazy and am always looking for the fast fix option, I feel a lot of these rituals we have are important for investing in ourselves and feeling good about how we look – it’s just about finding the balance that works within our own values I guess.

    • I just bought some lipstick last night based on someone’s comment on APW somewhere recently and I kind you not…I put it on around 10 pm last night and when I woke up this morning it was still on and looking okay! And my lips are actually less dry than normal, which I am only now realizing as I type this, Normally I am addictively reapplying lipbalm because they are so dry and I have not once thought about it all day until now. (I have had nothing on my lips today, after the lipstick from last night eventually wore off.) This magic lipstick? L’Oréal Infallible Lipcolor Compact. It has two tubes, one of color, one of clear balm. I got Amethst and like it on me. I have a feeling I will be wearing lipstick more often because of this stuff. (Normally it comes off quickly and gets on my teeth or whatever…)

  • Caitlin_DD

    Like most other women here it seems, shaving and acne are my sticking points. I like shaving my legs, because hey soft skin! Sometimes I’m too lazy but I don’t care about that either… I always remember in middle school one of my teachers (inexplicably) discussing with some other students that *gasp* some women only shave up to their knees! I never shave past my knees…
    Oh, and of course, the mustache. Drives me nuts, sometimes I pluck it, sometimes I just cut it off, but my gosh I hate it.

    • Meg

      “I shaved above my knees for this?” -liz lemon paraphrasing

      • Caitlin_DD

        Yes, exactly!

  • hototogisu

    Real talk: i’m losing my hair. I haven’t had kids yet, and I have a suspicion that my hair loss was kicked off by hormonal birth control (it’s slowed, but not stopped, since I stopped using HBC), but I think it might be plain old fashioned hormonal.

    After a lot of frantic googling, and trying every natural, DIY aromatherapy oil, scalp massage, sulphate free solution under the sun I finally threw in the towel and started using the only FDA approved treatment – minoxidil, aka Rogaine. I’m two months in and I LOVE it. The amount of hair falling out in the shower has seriously reduced. I use a generic 5% foam, and just apply one pump at night but pumping it into my fingers, flipping my head upside down, and massaging it into my scalp.

    I’m posting this for any woman in the throes of a hair loss Google hole – sometimes big bad medicine is the way to go. My experience with Minoxidil foam has been overwhelmingly fuss-free and great. It’s too soon to tell if it’s going to make a huge difference (it takes four months to see if Minox is making your hair regrow) but it’s SO worth a shot.

  • Maria

    Speaking of hair removal…
    I am of Eastern European descent and I have olive skin with very dark hair that grows very fast. Since puberty I haven’t really been comfortable in anything that reveals much above the knee and a cool breeze comes by? Forget it. Goosebumps = stubble city. Another thing I’ve always been painfully conscious of (particularly since being bullied about it in high school) is facial hair. Threading seems to work fairly well for my upper and lower lips, but I’m considering electrolysis for my chin because plucking there is becoming less and less effective. I wish I could just not care about this, but I do and some days it literally consumes my thoughts. Lying in bed with my partner on a sunny Saturday morning is NOT a time I want to think about tiny black hairs on my face, but that’s where I’m at at this point in my life…

    • Meg

      Go for it. I’ve done electrolysis and I am so glad I did it was a nice investment in myself. I had to do it because I have light colored hair, but since you have dark hair you might be a good candidate for laser hair removal which I think hurts less and doesn’t have the red bumps the next day!

    • Rachael

      I did laser hair removal for just this reason. I am also pretty olive with really dark hair. In the past few years I started getting more and more chin hair (it’s hormonal). I would pluck it, but then it would get ingrown and look like acne. And I always felt like the little black stubble was noticeable. The upper lip hair I could deal with – I Naired it every week for almost a decade. But then I started noticing (or imagining?) discoloration of my skin from the Nair.

      My now-husband, then-fiance, pretty much pushed me (in a loving, supportive way) to get laser hair removal because I was so miserable about it. They had to be careful because of my olive complexion and ability to tan and get hyperpigmentation spots really easily, but it worked magic on the coarse chin hair. It decreased the amount of upper lip hair to a manageable amount of just very fine, sparse hair that I can hit with a razor once a week. Honestly, I felt guilty as shit about doing this, it’s and I felt extremely vain, but I am so incredibly happy about it now.

    • Roselyne

      I did electrolysis on my chin/neck/lip for similar reasons (well: pale skin/dark hair. Crappy combo) and I don’t regret it a single second.

      It’s expensive, and painful, and time-consuming, but feeling like I was growing a beard was seriously messing with my sense-of-self. So worth it (for me).

    • laddibugg

      Electrolysis won’t work on my dark skin, so lately I’ve been using a cream hair remover. NOT Nair–that crap is horrible. I use one targeted for the beard and heads of men–it’s made for the face so it doesn’t burn–I also use it for my lady parts too.

  • Sarah from MA

    When I was 14 years old I started highlighting my hair blonde. This was completely unnecessary, as when I was born my hair was so light and skin was so pale that people often asked if I was albino. But my mother died her hair (to hide the greys) and I fell in love with going to the salon with her and having some girl time and getting my hair done.
    These days, my hair grows in light brown. When I met my fiancé four years ago, he told me that he loved my natural hair color and didn’t think I should dye it anymore. This all sounded perfectly wonderful; he found the natural me to be beautiful and no more money spent on expensive monthly hair treatments. But what I have realized over time is that his preconceived notion of blondes (and, if we’re being honest here, mine) is that they are fake. I’ve maybe always felt that society sees blondes, specifically dyed-blondes, as being wannabe Barbies that care only about how they look. That they work only on the outward appearance and care nothing about inward beauty. This is so far from the truth.
    In three months we will be married, and this has really forced me to think about what I want to look like on our wedding day. Of course there are pressures to be perfectly thin with the manicured nails and softly curled hair. And this ideal is at odds with my feminist values. In my mind I play this game where I think, “Okay, I work in a male-dominated field and bring home slightly more money than my partner, surely that allows me the freedom to dye my hair without appearing as a complete airhead to the rest of society.”
    Four months ago I started highlighting my hair again. And I love it. I love the way it looks and I love my trips to the salon. When it comes down to it, my fiancé really doesn’t care as long as I am happy. I’ve had a hard time being okay with this desire for blonder hair and I just want to say thank you for this article. I’ve been looking at it all wrong. I don’t have to stop dying my hair because people might think I’m being fake. I can stop caring about what people think and just be me, highlights and all.

  • Bernadette

    Two years ago I lost about 75% of my hair. I have a condition called Alopecia Areata which causes my immune system to attack healthy hair follicles. I am one of the lucky Alopecia sufferers whose hair completely regrew (albeit finer and more curly!). I get scared when I’m under a lot of stress (which is often, and Alopecia is often triggered by stress) that it will start falling out again, and then get annoyed at myself for worrying about my hair when my world is falling to bits around me!
    At the worst point in my hair loss, girls close to me would applaud how well I was dealing with it. While it was far less devastating for me than it would have been for someone a little more beauty/image conscious, I was still surprised at how much I grieved its loss. I had never thought I had been particularly attached to my hair before, but I was. When I was alone I would cry and cry, feeling like all my good looks had washed down the drain along with my hair. I stopped making an effort with my outfits and makeup and was fucking terrified that it would never come back. It shocked me how strong my reaction was.
    Fast forward to today and I have never appreciated my hair more! I take good care of it and it thanks me with lovely shiny curls. I’m not ashamed to admit that yes, my hair makes up quite a bit of my image, identity and (dare I say it) good looks. At least if it falls out again I wont regret not appreciating it earlier!

  • Hope

    I live in a town where it looks like all professional women have straight hair. I thought my hair was a little wavy and fortunately my career doesn’t care about appearances. It took gathering a few friends with curly hair and reading Curly Girl to slowly figure out what to do to make the most of my curls. It feels like a statement in this town to wear your hair any way but flat ironed.

    I also highlight my hair twice a year. I was white blonde as a child but, unless I’m in the sun, my hair darkens. My highlights are so natural that no one apart from me notices when I get them or when they grow out. It makes me question if they’re really worth getting, especially for the money it costs.

  • april

    Ugh. I’ve always been “sheddy” (as in friends in high school who sat next to me in class would be like “Why is your hair all over my sweater?! How does that even happen?!”) but things got really bad when I was studying for the bar exam. I would run my fingers through my hair and strands would just shake loose like dead leaves. It was pretty terrifying, actually, and I eventually wound up sobbing about it to a doctor in the student clinic. She told me it was “just stress” and that it would eventually work itself out. It did – but it was a pretty good wakeup call about how connected physical and emotional wellbeing are.

  • kate

    I just went to get my haircut a few months ago and the hairdresser (who I’ve never seen before) says “honey, you’re going to dye this before your wedding, right? I mean, you have to.” Thing is, I don’t want to and tried to play it off. But she brought it up again later. I know that she’s probably just trying to make more money off me, but blah! It seems like a lot of money and maintenance time that I’d rather spend on other things. But now I’m worrying that our wedding photos will come back and I’ll regret how gray I look :(

    • Beth R

      Ugh, people telling me I “have to” do anything is such a pet peeve. Perhaps it is my immense stubbornness, but I will almost definitely NOT go back to any service professional who pulls that crap on me. She doesn’t know you, what you like or what’s important to you, so don’t let her make you feel self conscious about something that never bothered you before.

  • anon

    I don’t just work out for fitness, I work out to lose weight and maintain my figure. I also count calories most days of the week. And I don’t think I’m unhealthy or have issues with body image because of it.

  • ferrous

    I’m going gray around the temples and dead-center… and I love it, even though some beauty professionals don’t. “You’re much too young to look so old.” I often wonder if they would say that to my husband, who is also partially gray and very handsome. I dyed my hair a few weeks ago to see how it looks covered, and I don’t notice any difference in how I feel. So I’m going to keep going gray, comments be damned. I can’t be concerned with how much other people care about something on my own head that doesn’t bother me.

    • LeBlancly

      Yep, same. I’ve gotten a lot of those comments from hairdressers and I’ve been getting some greys since about 21 and have recently decided to just own it. I actually think it is a benefit at work since I have a fairly young looking face. I’ve also never had anyone that *wasn’t* a hair dresser comment, so I have to imagine most people don’t care/don’t notice, and they obviously have a vested interest in selling me hair dying services.

  • Laura

    Arrrrgh I can totally identify with the difficulties of hair re-growth! Apparently over (part or all of) the 11 years I was taking oral contraceptives, my thick, curly hair became maybe about 25% less thick and less curly (which I was totally fine with since it was very manageable). When I switched to Mirena a year ago, slowly but surely, my hair started to grow in thicker and curlier, with those lovely “all over bangs” providing a constant, frizzy halo, no.matter.what. Not to mention the fact that the long pieces of hair are a different texture at the root compared to the ends, which looks super good and not at all like I can’t take care of myself. I started taking biotin supplements to speed the regrowth, but my hair still grows at a snail’s pace. Hoping it all reaches a reasonable and consistent texture within the next six months before my wedding. The end.

  • Rachelle

    This thread is wonderful to read on this snowy day. I generally have no clue as far as beauty routines go. I wore makeup for like, 2 weeks in 7th grade and that’s it (it wasn’t successful). Therefore I have no idea what to do if I were to do it. My face is just moisturized and that’s it. Hair I’m slightly more successful with, but refuse to get up early for any styling so usually it ain’t much. I’ve never gotten a manicure or pedicure, and the only spa treatments I’ve ever gotten were a couple massages. I’m happy with these things for the most part but sometimes when I want to try something in that realm I feel very discouraged because I have no idea where to start! Then also I feel guilty because I feel like I’m being untrue to my “I woke up like this – flawless” ideals if I want to cover up my dark circles or brighten up my eyes.

    *sigh* the double standards of woman-hood abound.

  • anon for this.

    YESSS. Thank you for this! My thing is stupid and I’m embarrassed by it, but here goes–I have 2 very different sized breasts. I know most women have some difference between their boobs, but I’m a good cup to cup and a half different. Always have been, ever since puberty.

    I am not sure why it bothers me, but lately, more and more, I find myself sighing when I look in the mirror. I’m sure my husband doesn’t care and probably most people don’t notice, but I do. My doctor and I have talked about elective plastic surgery to get me more even, but I doubt my insurance company would pay, and it feels indulgent and silly to put money forth towards this. Any other lopsided gals out there with insight?

    • Anon for this

      I replied to someone earlier in the thread regarding uneven boobs (we’re out there!) but I totally feel your pain. I’m a cup difference from one to the other, and it’s been a major source of insecurity. I’ve only recently come to terms with it, though it was a huge embarrassment for me through my early twenties. When I say “come to terms with” I really mean “have elected to ignore it for the sake of my own sanity”. When considering surgery, my only insight is to listen to yourself. I decided that my breasts, while frustratingly not the “ideal” were not wrong. I feel like I could apply the same filter to my roman nose (not the “ideal” on a woman either). I think the main issue with breast insecurity is that as a highly sexualized part of the body we feel this pressure to “get it right”. I think you have to be honest with yourself, and it’s perfectly acceptable to be a “self-indulgent” when it comes to your body as it pertains to your self-esteem. If having matching breasts will make you feel beautiful and significantly happier, then you should absolutely consider it. Our appearance, our bodies are the most personal territory. We get the final word on what’s gonna fly.

  • Heather

    Thank you for this post and your honesty. I decided at a fairly young age- which I thank my mother for this- that I would get regular manicures and pedicures. I have flat, wide feet and I think they look old and ugly, if I don’t care for them. So I do, care for them and I make it a priority. It is a way to relax and find an excuse to read glossy magazines. I recently got a tattoo on my foot-an ode to my mother who passed in 2004- and that has also helped me to love my feet a bit more while reminding myself that my mother is always with me…..
    I also exfoliate my entire body including my underarms twice a week. The most intense body image choice I made about 10 years ago was to go natural and about 8 years ago, I began growing my dreads. It was at times a painful process and I often don’t feel entirely accepted by my peers or more traditional women of color, but I’ve decided I don’t care. I love myself wholeheartedly and that reward is greater than the acceptance of my peers.

  • Laura

    It is interesting to me that as we grow older our insecurities change. I used to shave my legs religiously, now I just don’t give a damn. I used to not care about the hair on my head; now it’s the thing I obsess over the most. But seriosuly, I don’t care about the hair on my legs. Sometimes I out on shorts in the summer and then a few hours later look down and realize I haven’t shaved since spring. Then I get angry that society says I have to care about that. I DO care about my back acne, my under eye circles, my hair, and my fingernails. I get regular hair cuts, give myself regular manicures, and regularly treat under my eyes. I have a spray for the back acne (which went away in birth control but came back when off it). Also I watch what I eat so I can continue to fit into my pants. Except sometimes I don’t. In fact sometimes I don’t care at all for a few months and just stick to basic cleanliness and hygiene.

  • Lara

    As a crunchy hippie feminist farmer mama with (as it turns out) some vanity issues, this totally hit home for me. I’ve been struggling lately with wanting to get more proactive with my very problematic skin, but also feeling so vain and shallow for obsessing over it as much as I do. I’ve been considering seeing a dermatologist and possibly getting a prescription for Retin-A, but it a) feels SO EXPENSIVE AND FRIVOLOUS and b) freaks me out to put chemicals on my face when in the rest of our lives I’m super vigilant about what goes on / in me. (Like, we only use Dr. Bronners and Toms of Maine and filter our tap water etc etc etc.) I feel guilty and like I shouldn’t care about my breakouts (they’re not severe), but I also know that it really effects my confidence as I go through the world.

  • Liz C.

    I skimmed down as far as I could to see if anyone else has posted this rad essay yet, and didn’t see it, so here goes: “What Getting Thin Taught Me About Being Fat” by psychologist Valerie Tarico- http://awaypoint.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/what-getting-thin-taught-me-about-being-fat/
    However you feel about your body, there’s probably some “oh hell yes!” in her story for you. I frickin’ love it.

  • Laura

    Yeah, I never know how to feel about this stuff. On the one hand, I feel really relieved that I don’t spend a lot of time on my hair because I find it boring, and also that I don’t spend a lot of money on makeup, because I don’t have a lot of money. But sometimes I wonder if I’m missing out on something, if I’d feel better if I just treated myself to a few things. I also wonder if I’ll be selling my future daughter short someday if I don’t teach her “girly” things.

  • Sharon Gorbacz

    I’m tall with broad shoulders, very rarely wear makeup, have my hair or nails done, and have some pesky facial hair. I get called “sir” a lot. I think my wedding will be the first time in a long time that I will look undeniably feminine.

  • Alex

    My darkest secret is how infrequently I shower. Even when I admit to not showering often, I tend to claim I shower more than I do. But in reality, I take a shower about once a month. More if I’m doing a lot of exercise (Though, even when I went to the gym twice a week, I still maybe showered every week and a half to two weeks) or doing a lot of dressy events, but I find it a bit of a waste of time in general.

    A lot of people when they hear that go on about how they couldn’t stand to not shower for a day, because their hair gets so greasy, or something like that. And honestly, I think that just has a lot to do with how often they are showering. My hair starts out soft after a shower, with lots of fly aways, and the next 3-4 days are generally my best hair days, with my hair gradually straightening out over the next weeks. And skin-wise, my normal day to day routine doesn’t really leave me feeling dirty. I’d rather do other things with my time than worrying about how clean I am anyways.

    • Guest

      I also don’t shower as often as I claim

  • Sarah McClelland

    My mama is a farm girl and we all have crazy curly hair. Luckily, my godfather is a hairdresser so I saw the other end of the spectrum too. I spent all of college in a sorority, so we’d be girly together and pull out all the stops… and the encouragement of sisters telling you you’re gorgeous is a balm like no other. And it would happen as often in sweats as it would at formals. I am still so thankful for those lessons in loving myself. Now out of college for 4 years I’m getting close to balance but didn’t find a happy medium till less than 6 months ago because my skin is too damn sensitive for waxing, I don’t care enough to remember to pluck my eyebrows, and it took too long for me to realize threading is a thing. I don’t always take time to put on makeup, or do my nails, but that core of tutorials from my sisters has stuck with me. We learn in community.

  • Rachel

    Short-time lurker here (like, reading every day for a couple weeks), first time commenter. I’m really disappointed to find a sponsored post– particularly a post sponsored by a publically traded company for whom it is inherently profitable that women are held to an appear-effortlessly-beautiful-while-talking-about-how-the-don’t-care standard. It just plain bums me out, man… enough that I’m considering not coming back.