Notorious NYCK
Earth Shattering Beauty, Style and Health News from a Neurotic New Yorker

The Notorious NYCK Summer in the City Survival Kit

by Notorious NYCK August 8

hot-sun-thermometerEvery time I go back home to NYC, I am amazed at how crazy loud it is. I have to turn the volume on my headset way up just so I can be one of those annoying pedestrians obliviously chattering away on the phone. One noise that is noticeably absent, however, is the mellifluous tone of swishing corduroy pants, which appears to be the soundtrack of a summer in San Francisco.  Nearly all of the city’s inhabitants are forced to wear them, as well as Uggs and fleece, from June through the end of August. No, this is not some anti-fashion movement (even if it feels that way to me).  It’s because summer in San Fran is cold, grey and gloomy. But this info. appears to be top secret, as evidenced by the scads of tourists shivering in tank tops and shorts on trolley cars come July. Summer in Oakland (where I live), however, is pretty perfect. It’s in the mid-70s and sunny nearly ever day. Still, it is the sixth most dangerous city in the country. But we hella <3 Oaktown and are proud it’s no longer in the top 5.

But back to the Big Apple. Lucky for me, I am not all that bothered by the sweltering heat and humidity that is the norm there this time of year. It feels sultry and kind of sexy to me, which makes sense since I am of mostly Mediterranean descent. Plus it lets me wear strappy sandals and sundresses at night, which you definitely can’t do in the East Bay, since temps drop into the 50s or lower once the sun sets. (Did anyone start singing that Corey Hart song from the 80s just now,  or was that just me?) Still, when the humidity makes it feel like it's in the triple digits even I start to melt, and the effects aren’t pretty. So lucky for me and the people who sit next to me on the subway, I’ve amassed a pretty amazing beat-the-heat beauty kit.

Clarins UV Plus HP Day Screen High Protection Tint SPF 40, $40 (sephora.com)
This could be my favorite beauty product ever. And I’m apparently not alone in my ardor, because it sells out faster than a New York minute. Two Sephora stores in the Bay Area were out of stock a couple of weeks ago and so was nordstrom.com. Lightweight and non-greasy, this liquidy lotion warms up my sallow complexion and provides a nice, natural coverage that evens out my skin tone and somehow makes everything look smoother and fainter (pore-size, lines and wrinkles, blotchiness, dark circles, etc.). Because Clarins uses mineral sunscreens, this product doesn’t irritate my skin and offers immediate sun protection. (You have to wait at least 15-30 minutes for chemical sunscreens to kick in.)  And bonus!  The tint doesn’t drip down my face when I’m  standing on an un-air conditioned subway platform. The one caveat is that it is really, really hard to remove (unless it is rubbing off on the neck of your shirt). So repeated, thorough, cleansings and pre-treating any “tinted” clothes are the order of the day. But they are well worth it.

L‘Oreal Sublime Sun Liquid Silk Sunshield for Face SPF 50, $10.99 (drugstore.com). Silky, non-greasy, fast-absorbing and long-lasting, this is my nirvana of sunscreens. It even has antioxidants to safeguard skin against free radicals. Because it’s formulated with chemical sunscreens, I can’t use it on my face. But it’s awesome everywhere else.

Revlon Just-Bitten Kissable Balm Stain, $8.99 (drugstore.com) Lipsticks and gloss can feel so heavy in the heat, not to mention the fact that they can both migrate out of your lip contours and give you the dreaded ring-around-the-mouth—never an attractive look. This chubby pencil lays down just the perfect amount of moisturizing stay-put pigment. “Crush,” a grapey/plum shade, never fails to draw compliments. But there are 11 lovely and virtually universal shades. I intend to score all of them.

M.A.C. Blot Film, 30 sheets for $15 (maccosmetics.com). Now that I’m 46, I don’t seem to be particularly troubled by excess oil in my T-Zone. (Hooray for middle age!) But most people need some kind of shine-sopper in the the summer.  MAC makes the gold standard. Each sheet completely absorbs grease without messing up makeup, drying out my skin or leaving a powdery film in its wake. I still carry them around with me, “just in case.”

Herban Essentials Towelettes, $15 for 20, (herbanessentials.com). These ingenious individually-wrapped wipes are saturated in amazing-smelling, germ-killing essential oils. I use them to freshen up my hands, the back of my neck--and ok, truth time, my underarms--when I am feeling extra hot and grimy. I also swipe them over not-so-clean surfaces before I sit down. Each of the 5 fragrances--orange, lavender, peppermint, lemon and eucalyptus—have other more aromatherapeutic usages. You can check out the website for particulars.

Giovanni Cool Mint Lemon Salt Scrub with Crushed Mint Leaves, $14.99 (drugstore.com).  This heavenly-scented body-slougher not not only seriously softens and smooths, but is also infused with cooling mint that actually seems to sink into the skin, serving almost as a portable air conditioner throughout the day.

Living Proof No Frizz Shampoo, $24, Conditioner, $24 and Nourishing Styling Cream, $26 (livingproof.com). Traditional frizz fighters contain silicone, which leaves my fine, wavy hair flat and greasy looking. But Living Proof incorporates a molecule called OFPMA, which was designed to coat hair evenly, keep hair cleaner, longer and control frizz--without added weight. This trio of products transforms my frizzy flyaways  into bouncy, shiny, well-defined curls. Word on the street is this a great product line for straight-haired girls, too.

Secret Fresh Effects Invisible Solid in Cucumber/Aloe, $5.95 (drugstore.com). Let me preface this entry by saying, “I don’t really think this antiperspirant/deodorant is any better than any of the others out there.” First off, it has “invisible” in the title, which means it is destined to leave white marks on your clothes (and it does). And secondly, it doesn’t appear to have any magical powers that keep me dry and sweet-smelling above and beyond the competition. That being said, this product does a decent job, has a really nice, subtle scent (no over-powering sickly sweet floral fragrance, like its counterparts) and blends into skin well. So to me, it’s one of the least offensive solids out there. But the best sweat-proof trick I’ve ever learned (and this really does work) is to apply deodorant/antiperspirant mornings and nights. Trust me. You and your neighbors will thank me for this intel.

Ciao for now my friends. Stay happy and healthy.


What a Bargain!

by Notorious NYCK May 18 Beauty

Years ago, Marie Claire invented a fabulous column called Splurge vs. Steal that showed delicious, drool-worthy designer products paired with their far more realistically priced doppelgangers. And it was genius! Everyone and their brother knocked it off. (Lust vs. Must, anyone?) No one had ever had the balls to say, “There is cheap stuff that looks just like the expensive-as-hell-stuff. And here it is.”  Talk about pissing off high-end advertisers. But somehow it worked, and I don’t think there were too many casualties.  Some people, though, didn’t get it. I remember one grande dame in the PR industry saying to me, “I think that column is ridiculous, why would anyone buy the expensive version when they can have the cheaper one? They should call the column, Smart vs. Stupid. I mean, no one is that stupid.”

OK--truth time: I am that “stupid.”  I not only prefer to make the “stupid” choice, I revel in it. I just happen to like (ok love) designer and expensive. With beauty products (and don’t get me started on shoes and handbags), the packaging is always more gorgeous, the makeup pigment richer, the textures more luscious, the moisturizers more moisturizing, the fragrances finer and the effects more profound. I know these thoughts aren’t rational because there are tons of mass market beauty products that are really, really good—probably, great, even. I just don’t get the same rush slogging my way through poorly-stocked and disarrayed drugstore aisles or even Target (sacrilege I know)  as I do blissfully strolling the beauty floor of Bergdorf Goodman. And I have a love/hate relationship with Sephora. Even though it has fabulous products, the place is always a mess, badly-stocked, crowded, noisy and deplorably lit. I feel like I am doing battle every time I go in there, unless I am meeting my star beauty advisor Zoe at the Powell Street store in SF.

But my allegiance to all things expensive is no longer feasible now that the cosmetics companies aren’t sending me all of their latest and greatest products (and my daily staples) for free. So here Notorious NYCK sits—a girl with champagne tastes on a beer budget. But with a little digging and a whole lot of resolve, I’ve found a few reasonably priced versions of my extravagantly-priced addictions. And while they don’t elicit the same passion, these cheaper products do get the job done--and I am only suffering slightly as a result of the substitutions. I know, I know, everyone should have such problems!

Splurge: Clarins Water Comfort One-Step Cleanser with Peach Essential Water : $32.50 (clarins.com) 
This is a beautiful cleanser. It’s fast, gentle, thorough and moisturizing. And Its heavenly peach fragrance makes it a pure pleasure to use.

Steal: Sephora Collection Triple Action Cleansing Water: $14
The only drawback to making this switch is missing out on the sublime scent of the Clarins version. This cleanser is every bit as good. Promise.


Splurge: Dior Snow UV Shield SPF 50: $50 (dior.com)
I’d like to pause and just take a moment to worship at the temple of Dior. I am obsessed with its beauty products; they are just beyond gorgeous. This sunscreen is silky, moisturizing, non-irritating, applies like a dream and is completely imperceptible on skin. Plus, its sleek white tube with black accents is perfectly portable and incredibly chic. And while it does contain some chemical sunscreen, Snow UV Shield’s key defensive ingredient is zinc oxide, which is great for sensitive skin. An added bonus is that natural sunscreens like zinc and titanium dioxide provide immediate protection against the sun since, they are physical blocks. With chemical sunscreens, you need to wait at least 30 minutes before their protective powers kick in.

Steal: Neutrogena Healthy Defense Daily Moisturizer Pure Screen SPF 50: $11.99 (Neutrogena.com)
The tube is nothing to write home about and the consistency a little less velvety than Dior’s, but this product is a good, daily 100% natural sunscreen with moisturizing properties that blends well and doesn’t leave a preternaturally white sheen on skin like 100% natural sunscreens can.


Splurge: Nars Monoi Body Glow II: $59 (nars.com)
God I love Nars. It is impossibly glamorous. If I could eat it, I would.  I first got turned on to the tinted version of this product (Body Glow) by this young gorgeous European couple who used to summer next door to us on Fire Island. Both he and she would frolic in the sand and surf in low SPFs and tiny bathing suits. At the end of the day, they would anoint each other’s sun-kissed skin with this divinely-scented, shimmery cocoa-colored oil. (This act was only a little less pornographic than it sounds.) They looked so golden and gleaming, I had to try this magic elixir myself. What I got for my efforts were brown streaks (I am glow-in-the-dark pale so the color didn’t blend) and stained clothes. I am also impatient and not interested in “drying time.” But I am obsessed with the clear version of this product. It makes skin crazy soft, lends a subtle shimmer and imparts a flowery coconutty scent. 

Steal: Monoi Tipanie (tahiti-iti.com, $7.98):
I am pretty darn proud of myself for finding this bargain-priced version. It looks, smells and feels just as good as the Nars product.  And while the packaging is less chic, it’s sort of retro and kitschy with a Gauguin-style Tahitian woman on the label, so you can’t help but smile every time you use it. Monoi oil was originally created in Tahiti, BTW. It’s comprised of pure coconut extract macerated with the bud of the tiare flower (Tahitian gardenia), which supposedly infuses the oil with nutrients as well as a delicate, fragrance. The Tahiti-iti (God, don’t you just love that name?) website offers several different scents of Monoi oil, but the one that most closely resembles the Nars product is the Tipanie, or Frangipani variation.

Ciao for now my friends. Stay happy and healthy.


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