I didn't realize my Tongue was dirty.

I was walking through Whole Foods the other night with my dear friend and I noticed an odd horse-shoe shaped device hanging in their beauty section. "What's that? What's a tongue scraper?" She looked at me as if I just asked who Britney Spears was. "You have never seen a tongue scraper? Weird. Yeah my boyfriend uses one all the time. That's why he has such great breath." I instantly thought to myself, 'How ridiculous. I brush and floss and I'm so glad I'm not going to have to add that to beauty routine.' My next thought changed the "mouth section" of my daily routine forever. 'Oh god! What if I am like her and I just don't know it?' See there is this woman who I really think would be cool to hang out with but I never get past the breath. It's awful and it often makes me want to vomit. Sad. Because I really do think I'd get along with her, otherwise. Anyhow I suddenly realized that since I didn't use a tongue scraper I had no way of knowing if in fact my breath was good or bad. A week later I returned to one of my best beauty secrets, The Chopra Center's website, to order my trusty new tongue cleaner. It arrived yesterday, with my new Neti Pot, and I love it. My tongue looks cleaner and my mouth feels cleaner and it takes about 10 seconds to do. For dditional encouragement, see what this cute midwestern Dentist has to say about it.

A Programing Note

One of my loveliest friends turned 30 recently and I got to enjoy a delicious brunch in her honor. While there, someone told me that there are logs made up of pictures taken every day of every thing on the Internet. Suddenly I thought, "What would my new job think of me if they knew about my nose hair/stretch marks/obsession with chemical peels?" and I rashly dismantled BeautySpot. That was on Sunday. Today is Thursday and I've been met with nothing but sadness and disappointment about the loss. Apparently my intuition was right on in starting this blog. I'm talking about stuff that no one else is. (See post number 1). I have also noticed Eminence's SPF 30 minerals and Bliss's Poutrageous slowly but surely filling my friends' purses. I realized one dear friend of mine was directly in the middle of her first harrowing experience with a chemical peel after reading this blog when I dismantled Beauty Spot. We ended up in a bathroom of a church Monday night examining the nature of her pre-peel kit's side effects. I have glimpsed that perhaps this blog and any possibly humiliation I may suffer because of it, are about something more than me. I'm talking very publicly about things women never talk about in public. I feel like most of the beauty and self care secrets I have learned in the past 14 years could have been taught in a semester long class in 8th grade if it were not for female shame. So I am reposting it - if I'm embarrassed at work because of it - So be it. I'm about to be 27. I'm too old and too fabulous to have any more shame about having a human female body. Or at least I'm too be old to be making rash decisions based on said shame. We have lost some things in the interim. I never saved the articles on Nostril Waxing, Neti Pots, or facial peels. But I have learned my lessons and will continue to write (and save). Thanks for your kind words and I promise I'll consult you before making any other silly decisions.

Poutrageous by Bliss: I'll take the Angelina Jolie Lips, Hold the Muppet Mouth

I met someone. He does things to my body I never imagined possible. Ok ok, so it's not a man it's a beauty product but by all accounts, aren't beauty products sometimes more satisfying? The product is Poutrageous by Bliss. It's a lip plumper. I've dabbled in lip plumpers for several years, knowing that there is a distinct possibility that my upper lip will one day completely disappear. All of the women on my Italian side of the family turn into Muppets after the age of 40, or at least their upper lip disappears completely in a way that only a Muppet can relate to.

See: no Muppet has an upper lip, just a dead flat end at the end of the skin their below their nose. It's called Muppet mouth and while it's cute and endearing on a Muppet, it is neither of those things on a 40 year old woman, or even in my case a 26 year old woman. But in all of my experimenting I have never found a lip plumper that worked. Until, last night when, once again, my theory was reaffirmed that most answers can be found at Bliss. I was browsing the Bliss section of Sephora at Southpoint mall last night after work and stumbled upon a pink box labeled Poutrageous, priced at $22. Having used Spiff Upper Lip (yes, my first tube is still going) I know that their product names are not exaggerations but rather accurate reflections of the often immediate results they summon from the targeted feature. I didn't even sample the product in store. Sure enough as soon as I tried the first application from my adorable new tube of product...instant tingles. In fact it was almost painful as if the product itself induced a mild bee sting and the subsequent swelling. And unlike some plumpers you can apply it as often as you like. Poutrageous goes on clear but causes reddening of the lips almost as immediately as it causes swelling. Now I don't know if using Poutrageous will prevent me from developing Muppet mouth but I do know that when I use it any inkling that I may have the Muppet mouth gene disappears. For $22 that's good enough for me.

The upper-lip cure all.

Two years ago I thought I had faced everything womanhood could throw at me: random black hairs on my face, nostril hair, stretch marks, weight gain. First of all, Why did no one warn me? Second of all, aren't the aforementioned vanity-crushing manifestations of womanhood enough? But no, mother nature had other plans. The vanity killer of all vanity killers slowly but surely started to take shape on my face. The darkening of my upper lip. No it wasn't a mustache. It was just "hormonally induced hyper-pigmentation". I tried chemical peels, cover-up, and pretending to believe my girlfriends when they kindly lied and said "We really can't see anything." Liars. So for two years I toyed with the idea of skin bleaching, truly not knowing what else to do but grin (darkly) and bear it. Oh yes, and live in constant fear that some well-meaning man would kindly say "I think you have something smeared on you upper lip." I had no idea that the whole embarrassing situation could be cured in two weeks time. Bliss, in their infinite wisdom had the answer all along in the form of their product, Spiff Upper Lip. I ordered it online and within days an adorable Tiffany-blue sack arrived at my door, complete with free samples of "Love-Handler", "Lemon-sage body butter", and "Fat girl slim". It was better than Christmas - a tube of white cream that promised to remove my hormonally painted on mustache along with creams that promised to shrink my belly and love handles. The best part? With nightly application, my upper lip began to return to normal with in three days. Two-weeks later even my hawk eyes could no longer spot it in pictures.

Now it's mostly gone - I certainly don't fear anyone pointing it out to me -although I can still see enough of it's remnants to remind me how grateful I am for Bliss and their products. I also have to mention, their design is impeccable. Instead of wasting product with finger application, Spiff Upper Lip is dispensed through a soft brush which tops off the little white tube. The product remains visible for about ten minutes and then stays on clear, working it's magic the whole night through. Also for those of you who have suffered a full on frontal assault by mother nature on your upper lip, this products magic comes in four parts, addressing "vertical lip lines, man-worthy moustache hair, that sinister shadowy below-the-nose pigmentation and the slow, subtle, awful loss of collagen that leaves your previously pouty lips limping along" Bliss, thank you.

Organic SPF 30 Minerals at Spa Physiog

Spa Physiog is an organic skincare goldmine. In fact the term goldmine is limiting because it would imply there is only one valuable ore to be found in Terri Exum's 2nd story lair. In truth ores worth more than their weight in gold abound. Hawaiian Ruby Guava Body Butter, Blueberry Soy Massage Soufflé, Sugar Plum Whip Moisturizer, and Yam and Pumpkin Enzyme Peel. It's all organic. It's all handmade in Hungary. An hour on Terri's table for her Mini-Facial proves you've never truly known the extent of pleasure that can be derived from the human senses.

This mine is large, and as such will take numerous posts to cover. I'm going to go straight to the Blood Diamond for this first post and reveal the product that I can no longer live with out.

Eminence is Terri's primary line, although she also carries Pacifica, CosMedix, and Chinese Herbs. In fact Terri has so much to offer she has recently created a virtual mine which you can shop freely from home right now - Beauty Gone Green. Back to the Blood Diamond... at some point in the last year Eminence delivered Organic Sun Defense, Water Resistant SPF 30. It's not a lotion. Its an organic mineral powder, dispensed through the brush that contains it.

Here is what it has done for me: it has cured my 15 year battle with Rosacea. I could end this post right here. As anyone who has had Rosacea and knows the embarrassment of being the only red-colored human at the party is most certainly calling Terri right now to get their hands on this, the only effective treatment I have found for the embarrassing “I have a red face” disorder. For those of you lucky enough to have been born without Rosacea, the organic mineral sun defense has also prevented an ounce of sun from over coloring my skin while gradually allowing a slight tan to soak through. It has covered every hormonally induced pimple that has appeared since I began using it. Although a chemical peel of Terri's eliminated all of my twenty something breakouts about six months ago, I do still get about three pimples a month right before my period. But you will never see them. It also completely erases any old zit scars while it’s on. Oh yes and unlike SPF lotions, it has never ever caused a pimple or anything resembling a pimple. In short it has made me willing to use SPF 30 everyday, aided the clearing of my skin and cured previously untreatable rosacea. I would like to give this product to every 15 year old I know and spare them those painful pimply sun burned years. Since I can't do that I'll have to settle for being able to point you all in the direction of skincare serenity and hope you follow the mile markers along the way.

Yesterday San Francisco, Tomorrow Winston-Salem.

I can still feel the Bliss of Angel’s massage in San Francisco. But my impending responsibilities loom in the very near future. I returned today from San Francisco. I'll spend one night in my adorable little apartment then pack up and leave for Winston-Salem tomorrow. I am a bridesmaid in my friend Sally’s wedding. Friday is filled with lingerie showers, bridesmaid brunches and of course the rehearsal dinner. Saturday night is the wedding. With hair like mine all of this socializing requires a very sound plan. I must call in the best hair straightener in town. I have come to know her as Kelley, the “new talent” at Mina’s. Because she is “new talent” she is inexpensive. A meticulous, shinny blowout for $30 plus tip. Kelley is friendly, and attacks small frizzy errant hairs as if they are the ferret from the Big Lebowski. She is very very good. And she has to be with hair like mine. As far as I know I am ethnically Caucasian, although this is called into question anytime a hand attempts to run itself through my hair. Jewish, likely. Hispanic very likely. This hair is thick, course, fizzy and unruly. Wavy to curly in back, straight in front and enough volume to easily cover the heads of three dready hippies. I’m not kidding. Usually it’s up in a clip or piled on top of my head in a hair tie. The latter creates neck problems so it usually doesn’t last long. Kelley isn’t intimidated. She leaves my hair looking like LC’s from Laguna Beach every time. Shinny and “pin-straight” as she calls it.

Since I just went to bliss I wouldn’t normally venture to Mina’s so quickly. That is a heavy assault on the pocketbook. But two days of wedding events calls for such measures. Anyhow the proximity of my Bliss and Mina’s experiences allows me to draw some comparisons. Kelley knows me. She knows my dating history over the last 6 months since we have been working together. I know hers. On this particular trip I also run into my dear dear friend Gigi who is getting her hair done. And a mutual friend of ours has also started working there. I notice a minute into my hairwash that it’s Gabriella washing my hair and doing an absolutely fantastic job. Gabriella gave me my first Brazilian. I say to her “Do you also do waxing?” She replies “Yes I have waxed you before” I shutter and recall her demanding, terrifying question from our last visit, “Don’t you want me to do back there? It’s the best part.” I decline and think, ‘See this is what no one tells you. A Brazilian also includes ‘back there’’ Seriously how would you find that out? What exactly would you Google? Gabriella learned to wax and do all things aesthetician starting at age twelve when her female relatives starting using her services. And I start to think, you know Bliss is amazing and I am willing (utterly and completely) to move my entire life across the country just to have regular access to it and all the other bliss that is San Francisco, but sometimes don’t you just want to go where everyone knows your name? Yes me too…

“Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got. Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot. Wouldn't you like to get away? Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came.”

San Francisco Bliss

“I feel like I just talked to a famous person” I confide in my road trip partner, Emily.
“The receptionist at Bliss?” Her stare makes my enthusiasm recoil just a bit. “Um yes, I know I know but It’s Bliss!”

The appointment was made somewhere from the Mojave dessert. Cross the border. Have car examined by California Department of Agriculture for any additional fruit besides the apples we are currently chomping on. Make appointment at Bliss. Isn’t that what every woman in her right mind does after driving over the California border for the first time? (Old School Feminists please address all hate mail to PO Box 694 Carrboro, NC 27510) In truth, it wasn’t part of my plan to do so either. In browsing the Bliss catalog, a mysterious stowaway in my carefully packed purse, I miraculously noticed the information that would lead me right to this very moment -post massage and pure Bliss. “There is a Bliss San Francisco!” Emily appreciated my excitement but seemed more focused on hitting Oklahoma City in time to allow us to get to the Grand Canyon the next night. “That’s great”

Deciding between the Herbie, a 90 minute facial and body treatment that leaves me stuffed like a grape leaf with layers of lavender, bergamot, lemon, thyme, peppermint, and eucalyptus essential oils and the “shrink wrap” which promised to leave me skinner in just 60 minutes, was very very difficult. The Herbie at $170 was more expensive than the Shrink wrap at $115. But was there really a 60 minute treatment that could rid me of the belly that had year after year forced me to leave behind so many adorable abdominal revealing shirts? In just one hour, years of frustration gone. A helpful receptionist made the choice more clear. The shrink wrap eliminates water from the body. Which means it is only for an event/shirt/dress to be worn/attended that night. Ok so back to the Herbie. But it’s expensive and the 75 minute Blissage included a paraffin wax foot wrap, which I had never tried. Eventually I decided on the Blissage 75.

Appointment at 4:30. Arrival at airport 8pm. The W hotel, which houses Bliss San Francisco, at 181 3rd St. kindly held my bags for the day at no charge and arranged a $13 shuttle to the airport. Great alternative to the $45 taxi ride or lugging my bags through public transit which obviously would have ruined my post-treatment bliss. Many thanks to the W hotel.

Bags and Shuttle squared away, I took the elevator to the fourth floor. As the door opened, I could barely contain my excitement. I told the receptionist, the attendant, the other robbed patrons, and my massage therapist (aptly named Angel) of my obsession with the Bliss catalogue, and that this was my first time here in person. I am in awe.

A kind young woman about my age (26) takes me back to the locker room. Each locker has a digital lock which each patron can set. Two hangers. A shoe bin (each customer is given deep blue, appropriately-sized flip flops). And a jewelry shelf organize the inside of the wood paneled locker. This kind lady shows me the two sinks outfitted with tampax tampons, hairdryers, aerosol spray deodorant, tissues and bliss's lemon sage hand soap, face soap, body lotion and face lotion. The showers double as saunas that hit 185 degrees with the touch of a button. Mine is tiled but there is also a more classic style wooden sauna. Inside the sauna/shower you will find bliss brand shampoo, conditioner, and body soap.

The real heaven of Bliss however is the waiting room. This is no ordinary spa waiting room. It is for robbed patrons only. Suede-lined modern couches and end tables. An enormous sliding door out to the patio. (I’m sorry is anyone here brave enough to sit out there in plain view of the other skyscrapers while draped only in their spa-issued white robes?) OK back to the inside waiting room. Fresh spring water and newly cut lemons and strawberries fill perfectly shaped glass pitchers. Tapas plates lay about with a selection of black, kalamata and green olives. Sliced cheese and cucumbers, matzo crackers, and an enormous bowl of gloriously green granny smith apples mingle with mango mĂ©lange hot tea. Magazines ranging from US weekly to Martha Stewart living canoodle with large modern art books which double as coasters on the end tables. "You are welcome to wait here as long as you like before and after your appointments." She means it. They’ll leave you there as long as you like. I delayed my airport shuttle an hour upon learning this information.

I disrobe, wash my face and sit in the sauna until I'm sure I might be their first customer to die of the heat in less than five minutes. I’m a sauna virgin. The kind of virgin who gives a lot of blow jobs but who claims virginity none the less. In other words, I have tried lots of them but only seem to last about 2-5 minutes. I don’t get the whole “I need a good long sauna" kind of woman.

I moved swiftly to the "robed-patron only" waiting room. I drink two dram glasses full of strawberry lemon water sure that the amino acids and vitamins and excellent chi are preparing my insides for detoxification as the water splashes down my tense toxic throat.

I attempt to flip through a couple of the glossy hardcover art books but they don’t capture my interest. I want to talk to the two women in the room with me. I want to know what treatments they are getting and why, and how they compare to other places they have been. One woman seems to be of the “Every (wo)man is an island” kind of attitude while her girlfriend seems a little more in for the social spa experience. I approach her with caution, fully respecting the sacredness of the spa experience. This is where we come. This is where we are women, in our element. An inquisitive 26 year old from North Carolina can truly ruin any busy woman’s hour of bliss. So I say casually “Are you from here?” Her face lights up realizing she has spotted a real live tourist, “Well I’m originally from Southern California but I have lived here for twenty years” We talk casually about how this is in fact the best place in America to live and my plans to move here before 365 days have passed. After all, once you find heaven on earth there is absolutely no friendship, no job, no reason to prolong your arrival. I belong in San Francisco. So the first part of our conversation went well. My massage therapist arrives before I get to brave asking my new friend which treatment awaits her. This can be potentially embarrassing when someone is there for say a chest acne facial, the “Chestacial”. But Angel arrives and I am immediately drawn elsewhere. Angel. Yes yes. I know. This is my Mecca and she is my angel. I have always been a seeker and today I seek enlightenment. I ask her lots of questions like “what are those plants lining the floor in the hallway outside the treatment rooms?” I am sure they are emitting some nerve-soothing fragrance. She says “Oh um they are fake topiary I think.” OK. Then more potentially disappointing news. “We are out of hot paraffin foot wax wrap.” My heart sinks. “But I can replace it with an aromatherapy body rub add-on instead.?" Absolutely. I get my perfect combination of the essential oils that tempted me to the Herbie and a massage. Brilliant. Soft slightly hipster flavored jazz tunes alternate with likes of Norah Jones during the massage. Angel despite looking petite is a power house. She massages, leans in, and pulls on most of my body parts. The essential oils have me in some half conscious delirium where I completely forget the week behind me of cross country driving, Muir woods hiking, china town eating, ferry riding, brilliant San Francisco. Mostly I have the feeling of deep unspeakable gratitude. I am here. I am one of those people who I only got to marvel at for years. I am now one of those people lucky enough to know Bliss. It’s worth every penny. After the massage is over I feel physical relief but also an emotional release. I am a believer that emotions are stored in the body. Massages can be (with the right therapist) a deep emotional healing. Like a spiritual subconscious conversation with angels who gently kneed every broken heart, every disappointment, and overly indulgent moment of low self-esteem. They are honoring my body and I am honoring my history, my emotions and offering up my body to the angels in the room or whatever force of the universe that brought me this far and together we all release sadness, anger, and old, old pain.
And I get to lounge in an overly indulgent sauna and munch a granny smith apple, cheese, and cucumbers before I hit the road and return to work in North Carolina. I am so grateful. Sometimes, life is blissful.

assalam aleykum

This blog has been a long time coming. Around age twenty three I started to be increasingly alarmed about the elements of womanhood that no one tells you about, or at least no one told me about. Little black hairs in places where they don't belong. Darkening upper lip. Changes in hair texture. Stretchmarks as prevalent as black stripes on a zebra. Oh yes and is it possible that my hair is getting thicker and curlier in the back while at the same time completely abandoning the hair line above my forehead? Fortunately for you my less than stellar genes have led me into a deep encompassing obsession with beauty products, treatments, spas, laser's, plumpers, and slimmers and I’m here to share the dark and dirty. I have tried everything short of a plastic surgeon and at this rate I'd be willing to bet my twenty-something day spa obsession will bloom into my thirty something plastic surgery obsession. If only I weren't raised by wasps I'd lack my hyperactive self judgment and already be instantly rid of the Pillsbury dough boy belly I’ve had since age 9.

So here I am in the lobby of the W Hotel in San Francisco. I just finished a 75 minute treatment at my Mecca, Bliss. Call me Hajji Laurie for I have reached a new level of spiritual enlightenment. Bliss. I have saved. Pined. Prayed. God please organize my life so that one day I may be graced enough to receive regular treatments at Bliss. Or maybe lucky enough for one.

So when my dear, dear mentor moved to San Francisco on a whim and asked me to drive her car out here I had no idea it was all part of the plan. I had no idea the plan would end in spring water bubbling with fresh-cut strawberry and lemon buoys in the waiting room of bliss San Francisco. But it did. And it makes a great opening for this; my tell-all, behind-the-scenes, nothing left untold, beauty blog. I'll sacrifice my ego, any remnants of self-preservation, and reveal the most embarrassing tidbits of personal information in the name of sisterhood and tearing the cloak off of all that goes unsaid about our bodies and womanhood. I know there are others like me. I know you are out there too. Maybe it wasn’t the darkening of your upper lip that brought you to the door step of your local aesthetician, but I have met you in day spa lobbies from Bali to Boston, and I know that something (errant hair, droopy waddle, whatever…) brought you there. You are the women who, like me, have been infected with some bizarre onslaught of womanhood and although you wish you could embrace and love yourself and possibly even feel sexier with that black hair on your chin - you, like me, find yourself searching for the day spa that will explain, nurture, and remedy that black hair, stretch mark, or love handle and make you feel all the more fabulous just for showing up.

If you live in a major city chances are that spa is Bliss. If you live in a smaller town, as I do, the adventure to find the cheapest, most affective treatments for each unique manifestation of your ever-evolving adulthood is infinitely more cumbersome. My goal is lighten the load. Share information and possibly at the expense of my own ego, entertain. Ok ok enough intros on to post one…