BEAUTY BOSS: Skin-Care Splurges and Tightwad Tips

Subscribe to this Blogger's RSS feed

When I’ve tried every drugstore brand in the book and can’t find satisfaction, I cadge skin-care samples from department stores so I can experiment on the cheap. And so it was at Barneys NY in Beverly Hills where I discovered my new favorite sunscreen, which has been a long time coming (it debuted in September) and might appeal if you’re an outdoor exerciser like me and have certain, um, requirements. Not that I’m difficult (!) but my sunscreen must offer tinted coverage (to even out skin tone and disguise freckles), have an SPF higher than 15 (see freckles, above), contain some treatment ingredients (if it’s going to be sitting on my face for 5 hours, it’s going to multi-task), and not be overly hydrating (I’ve already got a “glow” from my sweat).

Enter 3Lab’s Perfect BB SPF 40. To translate, 3Lab is the brand, a line of skin-care products with a high concentration of active ingredients, no oils or perfumes, and fans that include Jennifer Lopez, Kristen Chenoweth, and Sharon Stone. BB stands for Beauty Balm, in that it brightens, firms and lifts the skin (with bio-engineered growth hormone and apple stem cell technology); lightens dark spots (using biomimetic peptides); stimulates collagen synthesis (with hydrolyzed pea protein); and protects from sun damage (with titanium dioxide). This chemical-free ingredient imparts a matte finish, so I don’t look like a greaseball walking on the court—or off the court, doing errands afterwards or meeting friends for lunch. In short, this sunscreen has legs. Just don’t use it on them, as the price is a hefty $95 for 1.5 fluid ounces. My face deserves it, but the rest of my body gets slathered with what was on sale at the drugstore. Available in 3 shades: Light (for fair skin), Medium, and Dark (olive skin). Find it at all Barneys NY stores or at

* Here’s how I rationalize the above kind of splurge: by buying a workhorse product at Costco, namely generic tretinoin 0.1 % cream, which is $40.82 at its pharmacy versus $221 for the brand-name equivalent, Retin-A 0.1%. Tretinoin cream in a milder form (0.05%) is known as Renova and is clinically proven to reduce fine facial wrinkles, fade brown spots, and smooth surface roughness. With Renova and the stronger generic tretinoin, both prescription drugs, please follow your doctor’s instructions to minimize side effects like peeling and redness. Otherwise that tube of miracle cream will sit discarded in your medicine cabinet, like mine once was. Here’s what I learned the hard way: Apply it at night on dry skin (wait 20 minutes after washing your face). Squeeze no more than half an inch onto your fingertip, and cover your forehead, chin, cheeks, everywhere but the corners of your nose, mouth, and eyes. It should disappear almost immediately; if any white cream remains, too much has been applied. Dermatologists suggest starting tretinoin every other night and then, if your skin isn’t irritated, upping it to daily use.  Ah the rewards that await in 12 weeks or less: finer pores, a smoother texture, less obvious crow’s feet, a rosier tone to your skin, and (as lagniappe, since tretinoin was first approved as a treatment for acne), fewer zits.

*  If you share my frustration with getting nothing but air when pumping the last of the eye cream or wrinkle serum from the bottom of the bottle, my friend Allison doesn’t. That’s because she uncaps it and scoops out the contents with one of those wooden coffee stirrers that Starbucks includes with its Coffee Traveler (the 12-cup cardboard thermos familiar to anyone charged with bringing coffee to an event). These 7-inch-long, 5 mm-wide stirrers with rounded edges are like disposable mini-shovels. Thanks, Allison, for helping us re-purpose them in the name of thrift and beauty. A bouquet of them now sits on my bathroom counter, ready to scrape out every last ounce of cream I paid for.

* Another idea from Allison, who as a gifted illustrator thinks outside the box, is to use empty tennis-ball cans to keep her fashion closet neat and tidy. (Okay, this isn’t actually a beauty tip, but the Boss deviates at times and hopes you’ll bear with her.) If you own suede and leather boots, try placing the open sleeve of the ball can at the heel, then zip up the calf. Not only does this stop sagging and wrinkling but it helps ventilate things after a wearing. And it keeps her ducks in a row, so to speak. If you need empty cans, cruise the recycling bin at your local courts, or log onto (And if you need a portrait painted of your dog or a copy of Allison’s book Good Bugs for Your Garden, check out her website:

About Laurie Drake

A third-generation Californian, Laurie fled to New York City after college to pursue a career in publishing, where she worked at Vogue as an editor and writer for 13 years before deciding it was time to come home. (After screaming at a dry cleaner on Second Avenue who had lost her favorite dress, she realized that the mean streets were making her…mean.) So she grabbed her then-husband and has been freelancing since 1991 from a condo in Santa Monica. Beauty is her usual beat, but she also likes to travel. Over the years she has written about beauty, health, and fitness for The New York Times, Allure (where she was a contributing editor), Glamour, Self, and the Los Angeles Times. (If you still have the July 2011 issue of Vogue, catch her story on the latest wrinkle fillers, “Custom Made.”)