Beauty Q&A: Cheap Creams, Jeans, and Long Hair Dreams

1. I’m a 31 year old lady and am subtly freaking out over the whole getting older thing. It seems like a week before my 30th birthday, I noticed a couple of fine lines under my eyes, and now I obsess over it. It’s making me sad, partially because I feel like years of a few too many cocktails and cigarettes turned me into an old lady faster than if I’d taken better care of myself while younger. My party lifestyle is (mostly) behind me and I’ve ditched the cigarettes. I try to drink lots of water although I probably don’t do a good enough job. Is there anything else I can do to curb the wrinkles? I work at a non-profit, so I can’t shell out crazy money for ultra fancy moisturizers. I know part of me has to just be okay with getting older, but I’d like for the transition to be as graceful as possible. My skin tends to be dry and is pretty sensitive. I’ve also been breaking out but am currently lacking insurance so I can’t afford a dermatologist visit.

Anyway, advice on moisturizers that are effective and affordable would be greatly appreciated. Or even fancy stuff I could try that is worth saving up for.

My first piece of advice is to chill. Worrying about something that’s so normal it’s boring is… boring. Guess what? Every face wrinkles if it’s lucky enough to stay alive that long, and then guess what? You’re going to die anyway. Literally! Poof, gone. Stress makes it all happen so much faster, so try to stop. And about the fact that you probably ruined your skin with cigarettes and Boone’s Farm? Yep. Me too! Too bad, so sad. Let’s hope we at least looked cool once while we were doing it. Take the $8 a day you were spending on smokes and put it in a jar. Later you can use the money for an extreme makeover OR a European river cruise. Just think of it as your daily deposit into the Worry Bank and then wash your hands of the guilt, walk away from the mirror, and work on your hobby.

Normally, my answer would be half what I just said, and half a *seemingly* contradictory recommendation to save up for one doctor visit (a month of cigarette allowance will get you in the door!) in order to ask for a Retin-A prescription. In conjunction with a good sunblock, it’s the only thing that actually gets rid of wrinkles and prevents new ones, aside from lasering or chemically peeling your face off, which I am also not opposed to if you can afford it. But hey, we’re all broke as a joke right now and it’s fun to talk about beauty products, so let’s brainstorm some cheap miracle creams that purport to be as effective as that stuff from the bottom of the sea.

I got a tub of Egyptian Magic as a present once and didn’t understand what it was for because it has a weird oily texture and smells like medicine, but after Googling I’ve learned you can smear it all over your face. Some people say it gives you more zits; other people say Madonna uses it. I like it as a hand and elbow lotion, so don’t ask me. Or what about trying Vaseline as a night cream? Tyra does that. Vitamin E oil can also maybe “work” on wrinkles and crows feet. See, but now after looking back at this paragraph of hocus pocus and celebrity gossip, I’m talking myself back around to the hard science of topical tretinoin, which is Retin-A, which does work. And not over-the-counter products with retinol — they’re not the same thing. Sorry!

For another approach, I remember one Oprah long ago where this woman who was old enough to have teenagers talked about how she shaved her face “in an upward motion” with a razor every morning for maximum exfoliation, and I have to admit, her skin looked incredible.

Commenters: what is your anti-wrinkle secret, or are you busy worrying about important things you can actually do something about?

2. I really hope you can help me solve this intractable problem: last weekend I tried on at least 50 pairs of jeans, from stores like Target and Old Navy to Levi’s Curve ID, Madewell, and Nordstrom’s. Somehow, when I sit down, all of the jeans immediately expose 1–2 inches of derriere cleveage! The only pair that didn’t was an ultra high-waisted pair of total mom jeans from Target which I couldn’t bring myself to wear.

I think I have a pretty normal figure, but maybe my waist tucks in and my butt rounds out more than I think? I’m an average to small size. Belts alleviate this problem, but not completely. I don’t see butt cracks on anyone else, and 49 out of 50 unique cuts of jeans could not prevent my inadvertant mooning.

So please, dear Jane — what cuts of jeans should I be looking at? Something with a very high rise? Are there any flattering cuts of “mom jeans” out there, and how can I wear them stylishly? I like fitted to straight leg pants, not bootcut, and other than that I’d say my style is pretty average for a twenty something in Brooklyn.

It sounds like you have a great butt.

Lemme just say that of all the stores you named, I’d only be able to find a pair of jeans for myself at one of them: Nordstrom’s. (What up Midwesterners who add possessive s’s to business names! Meijer’s, anyone?) None of the other stores have jeans that are cut right for me, ever, even Levi’s, even now with their claim of having it down to a science.

First, avoid the junior’s section or any items sized in odd numbers only. Next, do not try on jeans with short zippers. Bring a tape measure with you next time. You’re looking for mid-rise or higher, so that’s at least 10″ from the crotch seam up to the button, and avoid too much stretch. I’d look for denim with less than 2% elastane or any other stretchy fiber. Finally, you want a jean that nips in at your waist, but you’re probably going to have to ask a tailor to do that for you after you get everything else you want in a pair. Take a belt with you to envision the fit after alterations.

And yeah, in the end you might end up with more of a high-rise “mom jean,” but those are hot now and available at stores with prices closer to Target’s, like Urban or the dreadful American Apparel. What about these or these or these? For styling tips, thumb through this “gallery” and see what appeals to you.

3. I have a pixie cut that I’ve been trying to grow out for a few months (resulting in those elvish, triangular sections of hair covering my ears) and I am REALLY IMPATIENT for it to return to a Conventionally Sexy Lady Hair length (shoulders or, for the love of god, at least a long bob). After initially thinking extensions were tacky, they’re now seeming not out of the question. I’m reluctant to plunk down $80+ for them, but I will if necessary because I don’t want nasty cheap ones. But basically I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE TO START. Any tips on surviving the horrid grow-out days and finding some good dark brown clip-in extensions?

Installing hair extensions in super-short hair is difficult because the extensions need something substantial to grip onto in order to stay put, plus it’s hard to blend them with hairs that don’t lay flat or have any movement. To look their best, you’ll want to hire a pro to place them for you, and that costs a million bucks. You should try a wig, or a half wig — which can also be called a “fall,” “instant weave,” or “one-piece extension.” Here are a bunch! Half wigs are fun and easy to apply and not too-too expensive and look more natural than a full wig because they incorporate your own hair in the front. Here’s an example of how to install one, though your bangs will obviously be shorter/styled a little differently:


Reverse your growing-out strategy! Instead of aiming for more length on every hair at all costs, your new goal is going to be to get the hair up on the very top of your head to grow long enough to reach your ears, while keeping everything else relatively trimmed up and short. Think Rihanna or Miley, for now. I mean, imagine continuing on the path you’re on: if you grow each hair on your head out at the same rate without trimming the stuff around your neck and ears, you’ll end up with a mullet (or a shag if you’re supremely lucky). Instead, let’s get that stuff on the very top to lay down and become all one longer length first, which’ll get you in better shape to create a bob or whatever hairstyle it is you’re dreaming of. Just look at Sheila E. and try telling me there’s anything wrong with this idea.

Previously: Do You Smell What I Smell?

Do you have a question for Jane?