Monthly Archives: January 2012

Breaking Brazilian Blowout News

1966 Spiegel catalog salon hair dryer

Hey, remember waaay back in 2010 when the supposedly “formaldehyde-free” Brazilian Blowout hair straightening treatment tested positive for — irony alert! — formaldehyde?

Lots of salon workers and customers reported all kinds of unhappy symptoms as a result of working with the product, but of course, the beauty industry had some hairs to split about it, even though their own textbooks and industry spokespeople had said years earlier  that formaldehyde doesn’t belong in beauty products. Ahem.

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[Beauty Overheard] Jennifer Aniston Used to Be An Onion

Oil Painting of Jennifer Aniston by  JonMickArtist

Jennifer Aniston tells InStyle that it took “years of peeling back the onion to finally stop using makeup as a mask and feel comfortable in my own skin.” (Via PopSugar.)

Of course she also makes the requisite Pretty Celebrity reference to her “dumpy teenage” self. By golly, Americans love an Ugly Duckling-Turned-Swan story. But I’m stuck on the creepy yet accurate onion metaphor. It reminds me of cleansing clients during facials at Beauty U. Whenever someone came in with a full face of makeup on, the process did feel rather onion-like. And the face that was revealed once I swirled, swirled, swirled with my finger tips and cotton burgers didn’t always bear much resemblance to the face they walked in with. Sometimes they really did look older or less attractive without that mask. Sometimes they just looked… clean.

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Howdy!

virginiasolesmith.com homepage screenshot

Congratulations — if you’re reading this post, it means you’ve successfully found your way to my new and improved blog on my new and improved website.

In case you missed the news on the old blog, here’s the deal. For the past few years, I’ve maintained a professional portfolio site at a whole other domain. This made sense when I first started beauty school and had to keep a low profile. But it stopped making sense awhile back and so I’ve finally rectified the matter, bringing blog and portfolio together at last.

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This Blog is Moving!

Hello, again. It’s almost the weekend and I’ve got something pretty to show you:

virginiasolesmith.com home page screenshot

I know, right?!

Here’s the deal. For the past few years, I’ve maintained a professional portfolio site at a whole other domain. This made sense when I first started beauty school and had to keep a low profile. But it stopped making sense awhile back and so I’ve finally rectified the matter, bringing blog and portfolio together at last.

Or rather, Liz and Jeff, the geniuses at Super Runaway have rectified the matter and I can’t say enough good things about them. (They also designed my best friend Amy’s website, and we joke that we maybe have a collective crush on them. If you need web folk, hire them. Stat.)

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On Really Liking All Of You

Because I like you all SO much!

I’ve been delightfully inundated with your sweet comments and emails this week, in response to Tuesday’s post about my body not liking me right now. I won’t lie — I was nervous to press publish on that post. Migraines and cysts are the kind of “female complaints” that carry no small amount of crazy girl stigma, and I worried I’d come off as unwrapped, self-indulgent or just… weak.

But you guys reminded me that we don’t fight stigma by succumbing to it. And hearing from those of you who have dealt with this same kind of nonsense reminded me that I’m not alone — which is a cliche, but also, everything.  Apologies to anyone I haven’t yet responded to directly. Please know that I’ve read what you wrote and am so thankful for it.

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On Liking Your Body When It Doesn’t Like You Back

So here’s the thing: I’m sick.

Not in a life-threatening way. Or a crazy way. But rather, in a way that makes it hard to even type “I’m sick,” because I definitely don’t identify with those words. I don’t have cancer. I’m not dying. I’m tremendously fortunate to pass with flying colors on all of the physical markers of health that they check at your annual physical (blood pressure, cholesterol, reflexes, what have you). And I spend so much of my time behaving very much like a not-at-all-sick person.

But I have two chronic medical conditions — migraines and ovarian cysts — which are what doctors call “benign,” because they don’t kill you, they just beat you up so much that sometimes, you kinda wish they would.

Since I woke up today pain-free for the first time in six days, and this is a victory, I decided it was high time for me to write about what’s been going on. Because the fact is, being sick like this profoundly impacts how you feel about your body. And that seems like something we should be talking about more, but just aren’t.   Read more…

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The Tina Fey Photoshop Problem

Tina Fey

I know Bossypants is kinda 2011, but 30 Rock is back with new episodes (thank God — does anyone else start to despair and watch The Big Bang Theory reruns on TBS ad nauseam during the dark days of December? Just me?), and so my friend Kate and I started discussing this Tina Fey question via email the other day. So, seeing as I’m tres busy making my new website all pretty for you, I thought I’d reprise that email into a blog post and… go!

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[Never Say Diet] The 2011 Diet Hall of Shame

We’re only one week into 2012 and I’ve already lost count of all the weight loss and beauty makeover-related press releases in my inbox. I could be doing a massive Fun With Press Releases series for y’all, but honestly? I’m not even finding the fun. I’m just finding it all a bit sad and exhausting.

What has been fun: Looking back over 2011 to pick my 12 nominees for the Diet Hall of Shame over on Never Say Diet. (This post obviously went live on New Year’s Eve — sorry that I’m just now telling you about it! Let’s put prompter posting on my resolution list, shall we?) Oh, Beef Fat Lady, AskMen.com A**holes, and Kelly Osbourne… what a weird and wacky year it was.

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[Never Say Diet] Do Women Need (To Be) Fat?

Why Women Need Fat Gaulin Lassek

The main thesis behind Why Women Need Fat (out this month from William Lassek, MD and Steven Gaulin, PhD of the University of Pittsburgh) is super fascinating and builds nicely on the Fat Trap business we were talking about yesterday: Your body fights weight loss tooth and nail because evolution has found fat to be quite handy in a survival of the species sort of way. So I went ahead and blogged about all of that on Never Say Diet.

But, full disclosure: I haven’t read the book yet. I’m still waiting to get a copy into my hot little hands, so I had to restrict my analysis to the unfortunate, red flag-waving subtitle (How “Healthy” Food Makes Us Gain Weight and the Surprising Solution to Losing It Forever — oh boy!) and, more encouragingly, the way Dr. Gaulin describes their research in this Salon.com interview.

So I’ll be back with a more in-depth post about the book itself once I, you know, read it. Ahem. Yes, tireless and thorough reporting is what you can expect around here.

In the meantime, let me clarify that I’m not blaming Gaulin or Lassek for the subtitle. My guess is that was the publisher’s doing, as part of their “now this is how you sell a book about evolutionary biology!” strategy. They’re probably not altogether wrong either. But it does put the researchers between a bit of a rock and a hard place because they are simultaneously trying to explain why we’re probably all supposed to be a bit fatter than the Beauty Trap (and the diet industry) allows — and yet also, that we’d all weigh less than we currently do if our diet wasn’t so heavy in highly processed omega-6 fatty acids or “bad fats.” (There’s another red flag.)

Depressingly, I guess that sounds about right: Read more…

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[Never Say Diet] Thoughts on the Fat Trap

Human Trap by Memkaos

Apologies to the friends who were sharing the New York Times around my breakfast table over the weekend and thus, have already heard all of my rantings on the subject of Tara Parker-Pope’s New York Times Magazine cover story, “The Fat Trap.

But for those of you who missed that diatribe — or perhaps, just want to digest the more articulate I’ve-had-my-coffee-now version — here’s my Never Say Diet take on the weird left turn she makes in that piece. Which is mostly, so excellent. I just read her “Behind The Cover Story” Q&A with the Times6th Floor Blog and it makes me like the first three-quarters of the article all the more. It’s the first time I can recall a major media outlet taking on a story like this. And we really do need to be talking about all of the research that shows, over and over, why permanent weight loss is such a moving target for most people: Because “a number of biological factors that have nothing to do with character or willpower can make it extraordinarily difficult,” as Parker-Pope explains.

Where Parker-Pope and I part ways is in what we want to do with this information. She views obesity “as a medical condition” and thinks the kind of all-consuming, food gram-counting measures adopted by the people she profiles are inspiring, if exhausting, preventive health strategies. So she wants to use this new scientific understanding of why weight loss attempts almost always fail… to keep on trying to lose weight. Even though it will be really difficult and ineffective for the majority of people.

In contrast, I think* the jury is still out on whether obesity itself is a medical issue (at least 20 percent of obese people have no health issues at all, and there are studies show that overweight women actually live longer than normal or underweight women) or whether it tends simply to correlate with lifestyle habits that are bad for our health in other ways. And since we don’t know for sure, but we do know for sure that diets don’t work and the war on obesity has mostly just led to a war on obese people, why don’t we stop chasing the weight loss dragon once and for all, and instead focus on the specific lifestyle habits that definitely do impact our health’s bottom line? Read more…

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