Living beautifully, getting things done AND exuding a sense of style is a tall order for most of us. Working in my industry, I’m surrounded by women who have somehow figured out how to exude effortless beauty and look impossibly chic, which always causes me to ask, “How does she do it?” So, this new series on FSB is dedicated to all of who’d like to stop that fabulous gal and ask her just that question. I did.
My first interview for this series is with one of the beauty industry’s sharpest writers and most incredible talents, Annie Tomlin. Annie’s lovely spirit and impeccable use of language have her in high demand for many publications, most recently for Vogue.com. She’s also just launched a brand-new beauty site, The Glowhow, and is about to get married. All of that and she still manages to be kind and look lovely. I’m honored to call her my friend.
I reached out to Annie to see if I could capture her gentle spirit on film (I took the photos featured in this piece) as well as get her to tell us in her own words how she exudes such a great glow; you’d never guess she’s had a long-time struggle with acne through her adult life as well as some other challenges. From taking care of your skin to taking time for yourself, here’s how Annie does it:
On the battle for acne-free skin…
“It’s funny, as a teenager, I didn’t have really bad skin. I just figured skin changes were part of being a teenager, you know? But in my 20’s, I don’t know what happened, but it’s like my skin just exploded. I remember one morning while I was living in Chicago (I must have been about 24,) I woke up with nine new pimples overnight. It wasn’t just blackheads, it was cystic acne: that hard, painful acne that comes with little volcanoes that erupt on your face. I tried OTC products and they didn’t get rid of it completely so I then spent the next ten years talking to the best dermatologists and estheticians about the problem, and nothing seemed to completely control my acne; it just kept coming back.
For people who have acne, you’re never unaware of the issue. You feel self-conscious, like you’ve somehow done something to deserve it, that you’re always doing something wrong. So, it’s not just a physical issue, it’s a mental one as well. When the final dermatologist said my last option was Accutane, I knew there had to be a better solution, which brought me to an acne clinic called skinSALVATION in San Francisco. They’re loving, but really strict and quite serious. I had to go in for facials and a chemical peel every two weeks at first, just to get all the impurities out of my face and to renew cellular turnover. They had me throw out all my products (which was SO hard, especially makeup that could clog my pores) as well as change my diet: I had to cut out soy, seaweed, coffee, dairy, etc., anything that could cause hormonal changes or to affect the body internally (coffee raises cortisol, which triggers an emergency response and inflammation.) I realized through that process that dairy was my main issue; I cut that out and my skin started to clear up almost instantly. If I cheated even a little, my face erupted into a sea of acne. So, for me, that was it: dairy had to go. I literally have a tiny red mark on my face right now from when I had a little cream in something in December.
It didn’t happen overnight, it took time, but it did happen. I get a pimple now and then, but I feel that between the dietary changes, a better skincare regimen, and getting rid of certain causes of stress that my skin reflects how I feel inside: it’s calmer and has a great glow.”
On her simple-yet-effective skincare regimen now….
“I love Skinceuticals Hydrating B5 Gel, because you can actually have acne AND dehydrated skin (lucky me,) so it’s great for that. I also love their Blemish and Age Solution, which has salicylic acid in it to keep my pores clear. I wear SPF 30 every day (always have, kind of agnostic on the brand) and I’ve been using an old favorite, the Kiehl’s Since 1851 Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado; I love that it’s so nourishing and simple. If I feel a cyst coming on, I’ll use the Renee Rouleau Anti-Cyst Treatment, but I don’t get as many anymore, thank goodness. I buy a lot of my products from skinSALVATION just because I know how passionate they are about what touches the skin, so it’s easy to trust the formulas. I’ll do a mask depending on how my skin feels: a light peel, clay mask, etc. But I stopped doing so much to my skin, and it’s paid me back. Your skin will tell you what it needs.”
‘I don’t wear a lot of makeup, but the things I really love I absolutely love them. If I wear foundation, I use Bobbi Brown Luminous Moisturizing Treatment Foundation: it’s light and lets your skin show through. I love NARS Concealer and I also like the new Eve Lom Brilliant Cover Concealer; they’re both perfect for gentle coverage under the eyes since they’re essentially weightless. I love CoverGirl LashBlast Volume Mascara, and when I do use eyeliner, I love Make Up For Ever Aqua Eyes liner because it doesn’t budge. It sounds kind of fancy, but I really do love Tom Ford lipsticks. When you spend that kind of money on a beauty product, you want it to feel luxurious and his really deliver that promise. But I don’t do too much else.’
YAY for bubble baths!
“If I have the time, I like baths, and my favorite thing to add is a bath oil that smells incredibly beautiful. If you have the time for a bath, you should do it. Take the time to treat yourself well.”
On carving out time for herself with a crazy busy schedule….
“I think it was a hard-learned philosophy, that understand that you have to make time to check in with yourself. As an introvert, I like people but I need alone time to feel renewed. For women, it can be really hard to carve out time for ourselves because it feels somehow selfish, particularly for mothers. I’m not a mom, but I have friends who are and the demands on their time are extraordinary. It’s important for all of us to send that message to the world, that you as a woman are just as important and worthy of your time as your work, your family, and your community.
For a long time, I tried to fill up every single moment with trying to achieve more, being better, having some sense of accomplishment. Now, I’ve accepted the fact that I’m not really happy being “out there” all the time. I’ll feel better if I read a book or stay home with a friend and play a board game. I’m so much happier doing my own thing. Whatever that is for you, find it and prioritize that for yourself. No one else will do it for you.”
“I love taking aimless walks around the city, maybe head to a park and just people watch. We live in such a vibrant place that there’s always someone or something really inspiring if you walk outside your house. I’m also always happy and get so excited discovering a good book, something that makes me think. I just finished The Twelve Tribes Of Hattie, and I’ve just recently started a book written by a friend, The Last Illusion by Porochista Khakpour. It’s her second novel, so I’m excited to dig into it.”
On stopping the insanity of following fashion trends….
“You know, if you follow fashion, you stand the risk of being in constant acquisition mode; there’s always going to be something you don’t have. Also, whatever you acquire is rendered obsolete in a few months. Many people enjoy that shifting, that new discovery, but for me, I’d rather have only a few things and have them be really well made. For instance, two pairs of jeans that fit incredibly well than five that are so-so. I love Equipment blouses, but they’re too costly for me to have a closet full of them, so I look for great blouses on sale.
I always think you look well-presented in a great blouse, whether you’re wearing them with jeans or a pencil skirt. I like timeless pieces where you can avoid looking at a photo and knowing what period in which the photo was taken, which is the definition of ‘trendy.’ Most of us have WAY too much stuff, more than we really need. I’m trying to cull everything down to just what I need.”
On personal style….
“I think before you can really think about personal style, you have to think about your personal ‘self:’ who are you, what is the message you wish to send to the world? You need to know yourself, your lifestyle, etc. and what works best for you. You have to be able to wear the clothes, you can’t let the clothes wear you. Comfortable is different for everybody: Dita von Teese is “comfortable” in corsets and New Look silhouettes, so it’s really what works for the individual person. I think you achieve personal style when you feel like a confident version of yourself. We need more people defying trends and doing their own thing again, more original individuals, than people simply copying other people.”
On knowing her own personal style….
“I think for me, I always think the biggest compliment is if someone could mistake me for a French woman (or maybe that I have a French parent.) That effortless style from 60’s Parisian icons like Francoise Hardy or Jane Birkin who never looked like they were trying too hard; effortlessness with impeccable fit. They may have worn a casual striped shirt and jeans, but it was tailored to their body. That’s a big influence for me.
I was very much a tomboy growing up, but as an adult I wear clothes that are a bit more aware of my shape. Not necessarily form-fitting or tight but I like the idea of being smart and alluring in the way that I dress. You don’t have to show a ton of skin to be sexy.”
All photographs: Kristin Booker for Fashion.Style.Beauty.