From Ugly Duck to Pretty Swan

I was an ugly child. I was cute as an infant and kept my good looks for a few years, but once I was of school age things started going downhill. My parents opting for a bowl haircut on my behalf did not help matters. At all. My teenage years? The hair grew out, but whether that was a blessing or a curse, it was unclear. I have never had an easy hair; it’s the soft kind that turns frizzy on a whim, and being subjected to a nettle-shampoo diet back in those days only made it grouchier. I still shudder when I remember the picture on my first ID, when I was 14: dark blond thick-looking locks flowing down my shoulders in a stiff way, while the bangs were pulling in all directions, trying to leave the picture frame.

Although I have always attempted to retouch my imperfections, striving for a more feminine, I-give-a-damn-about-myself appearance, it just did not work for me in those days. Heck! I had entered my 20s and I was still struggling. Eventually I learned that for me the key to beautifying all this *pointing my index finger at myself in a circular motion* is to find people talented enough to mask and/or improve Nature’s little hiccups in the creation of me. It all comes down to the following:

 

Happy, healthy-looking locks account for about 75% of your overall appearance. At least that’s how I feel. On my worst day, when my bags under my eyes reach toward the chin, and my seborrheic glands decide to overproduce, if it’s a good-hair day, I’m good to go. Now it’s not the case anymore as I’ve been 100% natural for about 2 years, but in the past I would give all my cattle for a skilled hair colorist. Back when I lived in Amsterdam, it took me five years to find a good one (that may have had to do with the fact that I was not willing to pay that much, it’s a fact that quality hair coloring may require you to go on a bread-and-potatoes diet for a while); after I moved to LA, I was on the lookout for a bit under three years before I found my guy.

What to look for: a hair colorist who uses high-quality products, who does not rush you or himself, who advises and talks to you until you are confident with the decision you’re about to make. Stay away from those who will take the easy way out and use a single color for a blond look (those who know what they’re doing will tell you about high- and low-lights).

Then comes good skin care, which includes a monthly whenever-you-have-an -hour-to-spare cleansing facial. I can take care of my blackheads every now and again (mainly when I am having a bad day, it’s comforting picking at my face when things upset me), but I never have the patience to do a complete skincare program, although I even have the machine (galvanizing machine I think it’s called) to do it. Again, it’s key that the hands touching your face are well-trained – a bad esthetician and you’ll be covered in bruises and scratches for days to come. Before I got pregnant, I used to go almost every month all the way to Palm Spring to see an esthetician at one of the resorts there – she was that awesome!

What to look for: an esthetician who understands the importance of extractions, and the uber importance of doing them well. Steer clear of those who use tools to perform extractions, and applaud those who will use their fingers and tissue/cotton pads. Then, inquire about the line of product they use – I would prefer natural ingredients.

A thorough body scrub massage is so rejuvenating and can leave your skin glowing for weeks to come. Although you could use a scrubbing shower gel as part of your daily routine, the results are not comparable. This is not rocket science, but I would still ask for referrals, because you do want to enjoy a heavenly massage, right?

What to look for: although it is quite common that they use natural products for this treatment, make sure this is the case. I also suggest you check whether a body wrap in included with this treatment – I believe this is an important part of the treatment, and you generally have the option to choose a detoxifying or hydrating wrap (I’d go with the hydration).

Oh, the waxing… I won’t elaborate, but hair removal can leave you reaaaal smooth and feeling very feminine. There was a time when I’d wax my arms as well. I loved not having to see the sun shine through my blond hair on my upper limbs, but then I realized the fortune I was spending on this unnecessary service and since I was already married I decided there’s no real point in doing it anymore and I stopped. I do tend to other parts and have my lady, Marina at Faces European Skin Care in West Hollywood*, for whom I travel more than an hour to see every 5 weeks or so.

What to look for: salons that use natural, honey wax. Hot wax patches have never worked for me, and I believe that’s the lazy way of providing waxing service.

Manicure and pedicure. If there is one feature that I am proud of and will not be shy to brag about that’s my nails. I was blessed with beautiful, strong nails, that make it easy to wear them long, or short and look as they are well-taken care of. However, going to get my nails done at a salon can be tricky, especially if you end up in the care of someone who does not speak English (non-US residents, I am not suggesting here in the US we leave the country to get our nails done, there are just some things you’ll only understand once you stop by for a visit). In order to keep my nails healthy I refuse certain steps part of the process  – no acetone (they use acetone even when you don’t wear nail polish, did you notice that?), no buffer and I generally bring my own file (theirs is really harsh and cracks the nails), base coat, and sometimes nail polish (the “organic” kind). I sometimes get the looks, but I don’t care – this is what I need and they’d better put up with me.

What to look for: a nail salon on your way home (I mean they’re all over the place in LA), and simply make sure you tell your esthetician what you need. Also, ask about their tools disinfection practices – you want to be sure they clean those mani-pedi instruments. Luckily at the salon I am now going to, they start the sterilization process right after they’re done with me and that puts me at ease.

If you had the patience to read all the way down here, and live in the South Bay, you’re in luck. I will share with you a priceless find (well, it actually comes at about $30). For my long-shaped, aquiline-nosed face, I really need an element to balance the… imbalance and give the impression of better levels of estrogen in my organism. I am talking about my eyebrows. I was not born with perfectly arched eyebrows, far from that; they’re kinda straight and not thick enough that you can easily play around with their shape. Finding the talent that can tackle this issue was not easy; I had to come all the way to America to finally have quasi-feminine eyebrows. As it happens, the place that knows what they’re doing is Anastasia’s Beverly Hills salon* – run by a fellow Eastern European. It is expensive as hell, but for me it was worth it. Until we moved to Manhattan Beach and the commute killed it for me. One day, out of the blue, the universe sent me the greatest gift: the contact of the eyebrow girl at the Anastasia’s BH counter at Nordstrom at South Bay Galleria in Redondo Beach (I had no idea they had a booth there, let alone that they perform facial treatments). Her name is Christina, a very sociable, talented and meticulous brow artist, she’ll have you done in 15 minutes, for much less than they charge at the “headquarters”, yet you get the same results. I left with perfectly even eyebrows, and a beautiful brow arch that brightened and smoothed my facial expression.

What to look for: a brow artist who listens, and does not pluck and pluck and pluck (or wax and wax and wax) away until you have no brows left. Or hardly any. It would help to skim through the yelp reviews and take a look at the girl leaving the chair before your turn comes.

*The opinions shared herein are completely my own based on my experience.I have not received compensation of any kind for the endorsements made in this post. Yet.

 

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