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A little while ago (honestly, really not that long ago) I turned 30, and while it wasn’t the all-out crisis I feared, it had more of an effect on me than I’d like to admit. For instance, I don’t think I can automatically think of myself as “a young woman” anymore. It’s iffy. I started caring about anti-wrinkle products that very day, not for any yet visible reason, but simply because I’d crossed over from the “In Your 20s” beauty recommendation column to the “In Your 30s” one. Aside from a newfound and dubious belief in eye creams, turning 30 has made me less interested in Trying Every New Thing and more interested in finding (and sticking to) the basics that really work. The way I know I’m more mature now is that I didn’t buy the purple mascara I tried on the last time I was in Sephora; I bought some other crap I didn’t need instead.
Here are five classic and totally worth-it products I plan to use throughout my 30s.
Three years ago, I bleached my dark brown hair platinum blond over the course of six months and several hundred dollars (at least). It was so fun! I highly recommend it to anyone who doesn’t care about paying an insane amount of money to slowly and systematically murder your hair. I enjoyed my two years as a blonde (and sometimes a pale pink or a lavender), but then my hair started breaking off so that I had these weird sort of… bangs… on the back of my head? It was fine, it mostly blended in, but I missed having hair that felt like hair.
When I decided to return to my natural medium-mousey brunette, I asked my hairstylist what I could do to ease the transition, and she recommended using this conditioning mask by Living Proof — not just once a week, but in place of my regular conditioner. The next time I went back for a cut and color touchup, she quite literally marveled at the improvement. This stuff has made my hair stronger and shinier in a record amount of time, and it smells amazing.
This eyeliner is… so good. The best eyeliner is the kind you sharpen like a pencil, as opposed to the twist-up, retractable kind, which are never really sharp and which sometimes leap suicidally from their tubes. This pencil is the best of both worlds — as sharp as you need, but also smooth, but also not watery. The color is bold enough to justify the all-caps “DRAMA.” My favorite color is “brique,” which looks bright red online but is more of a copper-y penny color in real life — an insanely complementary color for blue- and green-eyed people to wear on their water lines, and the Holy Grail eyeliner I’ve been searching for ever since Urban Decay discontinued its own penny-colored pencil a few years back.
I didn’t used to take people (doctors) seriously when they told me I needed to be wearing SPF 30 on my face every day, even in winter, but then I had two pre-cancerous moles removed before the age of 30. One was on my head!!! You really never can be too safe, and it’s not hard to do when you find a sunscreen as light, un-oily, and refreshing as this one. I first heard about it from Gwyneth Paltrow (not like, directly), whose recommendations are rarely this accessible. Plus, it really does smell like cucumbers! I mix mine with Glossier Perfecting Skin Tint to create a pseudo-tinted moisturizer for a light, daily coverage.
Bag Balm Vermont’s Original Moisturizing And Softening Ointment, $17.22 for a two-pack
Look, I know this is a product designed to keep dairy cows’ udders from getting chapped in the depths of winter, and that might make you feel weird. But you can get this stuff in the (human) beauty aisles of most pharmacies, so don’t even worry about it. Humans (starting with farmers) have been using the stuff on themselves since 1899, according to the product description. And in the dry, dry winter season, when I wake up in the middle of the night scratching my calves and ankles until they burn, bag balm is the ONLY thing I have found that will soothe my itchy skin. Believe me, I tried every high-intensity dermatology-grade moisturizer I could find before trying this gunk. None worked as well as this. It’s a little gross — basically a thick, yellow petrolatum jelly — but if it’s good enough for a dairy cow, it’s good enough for you. Sometimes I call it “bom bom,” which makes it a little more fun for me, but that part is totally optional.
Tropic Isle Living Castor Oil (which I use as eye makeup remover), $9.93
In my household, it is very easy to tell which pillowcases are mine and which are my girlfriend’s — hers come out of the laundry clean, and mine are the ones that come out of the laundry with permanent constellations of black streaks toward both outer edges of the fabric. You know what? I have decided to let this one go. I’m sure there’s a fancy lady way to keep all makeup off of one’s pillowcase, but I am more concerned with making sure all my makeup is off my eyes. If that means a little has to land on my pillowcase, so be it.
I used to just use your basic Neutrogena eye makeup remover (which I still do), which would leave at least 10 percent of my mascara still on to be spackled over in the morning. Then I started rubbing my eyelashes with castor oil afterward, “to make them grow,” according to some blog I read. That definitely did not happen, but it did wipe off all remaining traces of mascara and eyeliner that my so-called remover failed to remove. Now in the mornings my lashes are genuinely and completely naked, which makes it easy to put on mascara all over again, day in and day out, until I die.