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

Beauty Tips: The Dirty (Baker's) Dozen

by Notorious NYCK May 28 Beauty

Over the years I have received a fair amount of beauty advice and information. And let me tell you, not all of it has been beneficial. In fact, sometimes well-intentioned counsel uttered with the utmost authority has left me with beauty dilemmas way more disastrous than the original problems I was hoping to solve. Granted, some of these dramas may have occurred due to my own ineptitude—I am not terribly handy or coordinated. But sometimes, free advice is worth exactly what it costs. So I’ve compiled a list of some of the doozies past and present in the hopes of sparing you the same agony.

The Notorious NYCK 13 Worst Beauty Tips Ever

  1. Brush your lips with a damp, old toothbrush to rid them of flakes. I really can’t tell you the origin of this tip. It’s certainly cost-effective, but can I just say, “Ouch”? A soft washcloth works just as well and is way less irritating. Or you can use my favorite lip slougher, Body Shop Lip Scuff, $12 (
  2. Apply moisturizer to damp skin. The theory is that the the lotion will seal the water into your skin for extra hydration. But in reality, the moisturizer just slides off my still-slick face, as does any makeup I apply on top of it. But there is also some solid science behind waiting a few minutes for skin to completely dry, post-cleansing, before applying moisturizer: lingering water droplets can prevent some active ingredients, like prescription Retinol and anti-acne medications, from being absorbed into skin.
  3. Wear matte and muted tones once you’re out of your 20s, since bright and dark colors can wash you out, and shimmer can emphasize lines and wrinkles. The second half of this statement is true for me. But the first half is a joke. Nothing, and I mean nothing, sucks the life out of my 46-year old face like drying matte textures and washed out neutrals. True, some shimmer can settle into lines and wrinkles causing them to stand out in bas relief, and super bright or intensely dark hues can look ghastly.  But removing all texture and color from my makeup kit yielded even more disturbing results. So I am all about velvet and satin textures, which are creamier than matte but without any sparkle,  in shades that can best described as “soft” and “fresh.” And note to us girls of a certain age: a subtle shimmer on cheek and brow-bones can still look really lovely.
  4. Lipstick and lipgloss can double as eyeshadow or blush: It’s very alluring to think that a few quick swipes of one product can make up your whole face. Think of the time and money you can save! But lipgloss and lipstick are specifically formulated for your lips (amazing, I know). They contain emollients that aren’t in blush and eyeshadow, since your lips are  prone to dryness due to their lack of oil glands. These added moisturizers make lip items way too greasy for cheeks and even more so for eyelids, which are replete with natural oils.
  5. You can mend split ends: No matter how luxe the product or extravagant the claims, it just ain’t true.   But this beauty rumor persists. In fact, I just read an ad that says its products, “Bind up to 92% of split ends back together in one use.” Save your money; the only surefire way to get rid of splits is to snip them off. I know, I know. It often means going shorter than we want to. And I’m not telling you, you have to. But I am telling you the truth.
  6. Use a big fluffy powder brush to apply blush and bronzer for the sheerest, most natural-looking effect: This idea has merit because big and fluffy brushes deposit a diffuse wash of color rather than a concentrated splotch like smaller tightly-packed ones. But the color can be so diffuse that you can barely see it. Or worse still is ending up with an overall too-pink or muddy-looking complexion, since the product gets spread out all over your face. I like to use a blush brush with densely-packed bristles that are just long enough to be flexible without being floppy. This way, I can control where I put the powder so I can define my cheekbones, highlight around my eyes and add an extra pop of color to the apples of my cheeks
  7. Preparation H is a miracle under eye de-puffer: I haven’t seen this tip around lately, thank God. But it was huge in the 90s through the early 2000s. But just in case you see it again, repeat after me, “There’s just one place Preparation H is meant to go and that’s not underneath the eyes.”  Yes,  this hemorrhoid remedy does contain ingredients that soothe inflammation, a key cause of puffy eyes. But bags are also caused by fluid retention, allergies and genetics, which this cream doesn’t address. Plus, other ingredients in Prep H are drying to the skin and could really sting if they migrate into your eyes. My favorite eye de-puffer du jour is MAC Fast Response Eye Cream, $30 ( It works almost immediately and makes the whole eye area look lighter, brighter and less swollen.
  8. Nails need to breathe, so go polish-free whenever possible: Since the nail is only alive at the part that is below the skin,  there is actually no living and breathing going on where you can see it. In fact, removing polish in the hopes of giving your tips oxygen to lengthen their lifespan will only hasten their demise, since they will be left unprotected from bangs and bumps.
  9. Apply Rogaine to Help Grow Back Over-Plucked Brows:  While its exact mechanism isn’t fully known, Rogaine is believed to work by enlarging the hair follicles on the scalp that can shrink with age, hormonal shifts and heredity, to help prolong the hair’s life cycle.  But Rogaine has neither been tested on nor is intended for usage on the eyebrows.  And it burns like hell if it gets into your eyes.  Besides, Rogaine doesn’t grow hair back uniformly, so you can end up with random bits of fuzz. That growth pattern isn’t tragic when it’s in your scalp, but it looks pretty strange when it’s in your eyebrows. A better bet?  Brow powders and pencils to fill in sparse areas. Some pros like to use both for added staying power. Use the pencil first and then retrace your steps with the powder. Try Dior Powder Eyebrow Pencil with Brush, $29 ( and Clinique Brow Shaper, $15 (
  10. Pop an Ibuprofen or two prior to waxing or laser hair removal: It may help deaden some of the pain, but since Advil thins the blood, it can increase your chances of bruising and redness. But I’m not suggesting you simply tough it out…I certainly don’t. Before I get my bikini line done,  I always spray on Gigi Anesthetic Numbing Spray, $10.99 ( Trust me, this spritz is life-changing.
  11. Flip your head over when you are blow drying for non-stop volume: This technique actually gives your hair width (think: Bride of Frankenstein) not height. For maximum oomph, start with a really good volumizing shampoo and conditioner.  I am simply mad for  Living Proof Full Shampoo, $24 and Full Conditioner, $24 ( They make hair beautifully shiny and bouncy without drying it out or stripping the color like most volumizing products do. To style, lift sections of hair toward the sky as you blow-dry, directing hot air toward your scalp. This dries the roots in an upright and lifted position.
  12. A drop of hand cream or facial moisturizer tames flyaway tresses in a pinch: Anytime I try this tip, I end up with greasy, matted down locks. These products are just too emollient for anything but desert-dry hair.  Hairspray seems better suited to emergency smoothing than either lotion. Spray a tiny bit into the palms of your hands and lightly pat the outer surface of your hair to calm any rebellious strands.  Nexxus Comb Thru, $9.96 ( is a good one.
  13. For incredible shine and softness, brush your hair 100 strokes a day: This suggestion is ancient. Vigorous brushing was probably used as a way to remove the dulling residue that the overly alkaline cleansers of the distant past left in the hair and scalp. But today’s shampoos, for the most part, are designed to rinse out cleanly and completely. So this step is unnecessary.  Brushing the hair can be a  good way to help distribute the scalp’s natural oils throughout the length of the shaft, which can impart shine. But over-brushing (and anything more than 10 or so daily strokes falls into that category) actually stresses and weakens hair follicles, which leads to breakage, split ends and frizz.

Ciao for now my friends. Stay happy and healthy.

Retinoids Redux

by Notorious NYCK April 10

After years of denim overload, the fashion media is proclaiming the “return of the trouser,” which I’m all for; there is nothing more flattering than a pair of well-fitting pants. But for my body, the new trouser trend is  problematic. The reason? All of today’s pants seem to be skinny and cropped. And since I’m 4ft11 with muscular calves, this style totally sucks for me. So I got to thinking about my favorite pants ever.

One of the biggest regrets I have is succumbing to fashion peer pressure and ditching my Chaiken and Capone Maggie Boot Cut pants in 2000, right after I started at Elle as Beauty Director. They had been my and every other editor’s go-to pants in the mid-90s--a great cotton twill stretch with the perfect rise and a nice baby boot leg. But as with so many things, the fickle fashion industry turned on Chaiken & Capone and they became beyond “out”. High-end consignment stores actually posted signs: “No Chaikens” and an extremely fashionable industry friend harangued me to stop wearing them. So I bundled them up and brought them over to a women’s shelter. I’d kill to have them now. 

baguetteI was smarter about another high-fashion trend: The extraordinarily glamorous Fendi Baguette, which came and went in much the same manner. Vogue says it’s back and I am thrilled beyond. I kept mine when everyone else was letting theirs go. Of course I have no place to wear it out here in hippie and hiking country but I remain hopeful.

Retinoids’ Return?

retinaI’ve also been reading about the “Return of Retinoids,” which makes me smile. I wasn’t aware that Retinoids went anywhere, and if they did, they shouldn’t have. Studies have shown beyond a doubt that these vitamin A derivatives stimulate the production of new skin cells and inhibit collagen breakdown. Retinol is the non-prescription, less irritating and less potent wrinkle-fighting form. Prescription-strength tretinoin, which is the key ingredient in Retin-A and Renova, is a powerful line and wrinkle eraser but can cause inflammation and peeling.

Despite the great research behind Retinoids, in recent years other ingredients have been stealing the spotlight. Some of them have promising findings behind them, such as Lycopene, Green Tea Extract, Resveratrol, Genistein (from soy), Co-Enzyme Q-10,  Coffee Berry, Grape Seed Extract, Idebenone, and Copper Peptides. But the research isn’t as solid on any one of these puppies as it is for Retinoids and even for Vitamin C,  which has proven to be one of the strongest catalysts of collagen growth. C’s also a reliable antioxidant, can fade pigmentation spots and impart radiance. But like Retinoids, it can be irritating and increase sun sensitivity, both of which accelerate the signs of aging. So it’s a delicate balance to get the maximum benefits from these two ingredients with the least amount of irritation.

But Retinoids, for now, appear to be the hardest hitting weapon in the anti-aging arsenal. In fact, my new San Francisco derm, David MacGregor, said that along with daily use of an SPF 30 and some form of antioxidant protection, the single best thing that I could do to stop the clock was up my Renova usage from once a week to two or three times—even if it means backing off my Vitamin C, O.T.C. Retinol and exfoliating acid products to avoid irritation. It’s pricey ($210/tube) and my skin was a little angry the first week, but since then it seems to have calmed down. And I am seeing serious improvements plus I can now resume, what I and many experts believe, my killer regimen. Why is it killer?  It not only incorporates vitamin C and Retinoids but many of the other ingredients mentioned above. To me, using as many anti-aging ingredients as possible is like chicken soup for the skin: As long as I avoid irritation and wear sunscreen,  it’s unlikely those extras are going to hurt me and far, far more likely (as some research indicates) that they will help.

The Notorious NYCK Anti-Aging Night-Time Regimen

Dr. Dennis Gross Extra Strength Alpha Beta Peels
, $78 (multi-exfoliating acids, green tea extract, chamomile, anti-oxidant vitamins A, C, E, Co-Q10, retinol, genistein and resveratrol); Dr. Dennis Gross Vitamin C Serum, $95 (18% Vitamin C Complex) and Dr. Dennis Gross Firming Serum, $95 (green tea extract, vitamins A, C, E, peptides, moisture power-house hyaluronic acid, genistein, lycopene and Co-Q10).

I use the peels as directed on clean, dry skin (water droplets can inhibit the absorption of active ingredients), wait a few minutes and then apply the two serums, after first mixing them together in the palms of my hands. I try to engage in this ritual at least one hour before bed so the serums don’t rub off on my pillow.

Tues-Thurs-Sat:  Renova. Again, apply to clean, dry skin, at least one hour before bedtime, you don’t want this cream to slide into your eyes when you lie down; it burns like hell.

Sunday: Rest! I just cleanse and slather on a basic moisturizer to let my skin recover from all of the active ingredients I use throughout the week.

By day, I  keep it simple to avoid stressing my skin: Aveeno Active Naturals Smart Essentials Daily Nourishing Moisturizer with vitamins A, C, & E, $12.47. If I’m going to be outside for an extended period of time, I’ll use Neutrogena Healthy Defense Daily Moisturizer SPF 50 Purescreen, $11.19.

This is a pretty aggressive anti-aging regimen and sometimes my skin gets flaky,  dry and/or red from it, which means it's time to back off.  So then I use the Renova just around my eyes and on my lip lines, instead of all over my face and switch to Dr. Dennis Gross regular Alpha Beta Peels instead of the Extra-Strength variety.

For those seeking non-prescription strength Retinol products, I love Glow by Dr. Brandt Overnight Resurfacing Serum, $85. It contains 2% Retinol, which is high by over-the-counter standards and delivers really respectable results. I recently picked up Vichy Laboratories Reti-C Intensive Corrective Care SPF 15, $42 from the drugstore. To be honest with you, I’m not crazy about the smell and its moderate SPF 15 (I layered my Aveeno SPF 30 on top) but I love that it combines both C and Retinol to smooth wrinkles by “10% in 28 days.”

puma-californiaSo as far as Notorious is concerned, trends may come and go, but at least three things remain forever fashionable: Chaiken & Capone Maggie Bootcut pants, the Fendi Baguette and Retinoids. And Puma California's, which the company has somehow stopped making. So I am fiercely hanging onto mine. And hear this industry peeps: No amount of peer pressure is going to make me give them up!  Ciao for now my friends. Stay happy and healthy.

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