Ruminations on the Concept of Beauty

There is a concept in Kabbalah (Jewish Mysticism) that has always resonated deeply with me. A parable that has had a profound impact on my concept of self and the way I see the world. The concept -  a word which I can pronounce in Hebrew, but not spell - roughly translates into "spark of the divine." But of course, like most translations, there is inevitably something special that gets lost. 

A simplified version of the concept, which is what I was first taught in my fledgling adolescent brush with spirituality, is that the earth was created when G-d imploded himself; shattering shards of the divine throughout the entire universe. What is so compelling about this particular tidbit of Judaism is two-fold. The first is that it eerily, presciently resembles my preferred explanation for Creation, aka The Big Bang Theory, which was grounded in science. Something deeply impressive considering it was introduced in the 16th century, especially to a teenager. 

The second is that I loved the visual image that the universe is literally filled with specks of glitter. Sparkles (because obviously imploded pieces of the Creator would be sparkly) scattered everywhere, in everything. The whole entire world shimmering with gorgeous pricks of light, if only I could adjust my eyes in the right way to see them. 

Later on, I was introduced to the concept of these sparks as a source of compassion, environmentalism, even sexual decision making. What would it mean to treat every person we meet with the respect entitled to a vessel containing a spark of holiness? Every single tree, plant, and animal? I could practically see that little drop of glitter when I looked hard enough, with the right level of intention and focus. 

Here's the thing about the way that we treat cancer right now - it inevitably involves the removal of things. Huge chunks of my body surgically cut away. Essential bodily functions (like reproduction) made to vanish as if by some magic curse (but really it's chemicals, I know it's chemicals.) Locks of hair let loose from their toothsome grip on my scalp and eyelids, noticeable more when the sensation is absent then it ever was when it was present. 

But do I think my glitter, my personal spark of the divine, lived in my breast tissue? In my nipple? In my hair? 

Of course not. 

That's not where my sparkle lives. 

To imagine it as such is blatantly ridiculous. 

Now to take it a step further, into the realm of belief. Imagine that sparkle, that glitter, is beautiful. It's magical, or holy, or whatever it is you chose to believe in. It is the purest, rawest form of beauty we all possess. Your, to be a total hippie, energy. It is the way the light hits a glazed donut, and how watching someone be kind to a child or hold a puppy makes them better looking. It is that aha moment when someone you never noticed before becomes utterly captivating, and by extension, beautiful. It is the reason glitter never quite goes away in the cosmetic industry, and why I personally own at least 20 highlighters, and why we describe someone who is indefinably, indisputably compelling as having "that sparkle." 

The thing about this glitter is that is doesn't need to be excavated. The whittling away of ones self, whether physical or emotional or spiritual, will never be the function that reveals it. It is something that shines brightest, is at it's glossiest, when we are in that hard to achieve status of being complete and whole unto ourselves. 

And if it doesn't live in our right breast, or our hair, our eyelashes, our ability to make babies with just the tissue in our bodies, then losing these things cannot make us less beautiful. 

**Drops the mike.**
**Walks away.**






P.S. This is my custom  shirt from Still here. What started as a sort of Lena Dunham, free the nipple, body acceptance wink, has proliferated into the "cool girl" fashion and beauty neo-feminist movement,  appearing on rugs, t-shirts, and even neon signs. And I desperately wanted one. But something felt off to me about having two heart shaped, embroidered nipples when the reality is that I only have one. Moreover, I am more than a little proud of how beautiful that scar-where-the-nipple-should-be. So working with the amazing, talented Sonia we came up with this concept of the single nipple shirt, with my own name emblazoned across my scar.

Cloud Paint in Beam & Dusk

Ok, so we've done Puff and Haze, is anybody shocked to discover that I am obsessed with beam and dusk, too? Nope. Didn't think so. I have a face made for blush. The thing about these two is that I like them OK alone, a little bit of dusk under the jawline gives the equivalent of a nuface treatment for lift, and beam on the balls of the cheeks is just sweet and healthy. But put them together and WOWOWOWWEEEWOW. It's magic.

So behold. I just got a new foundation, and also lip pencil called Pillow Talk ,and I of course used this tip for under the eyes which I am obsessed with. Paired with my favorite jeans, and my favorite basket/purse and  my shiny hair and my cool jeans .... and I am feeeelin myself.

FEELING MYSELF.

Thus is the power of good blush. It's war paint for the amazonian warrier who's still lightly dizzy and nauseated from lack of oxygen in the air, but wants to make friends so badly she will drag her aching butt out of bed and try to shellac herself into feeling better. Those of you who saw my insta-story witnessed that I used basically one of everything in my extensive collection to fake this appearance of health. And it worked. And you know what, for awhile it made me feel better.

Take that people-who-don't-think-I'm-serious-when-I-say-I'm-a-witch.

Oh, and here's my link if you want to get some #badatthis www.glossier.com/reps/dena







How to Get Shiny Air-Dried Hair

For your pleasure I present two videos:
the one where I talk through all the products and what I've been doing
the other one where I show you a super fast trick with that wave spray
(you can also scroll all the way down and watch them here) 

Here's a handy list of all the products I used:
Klorane Magnolia Shampoo | Ouai Hair Mask | Ouai Wave Spray | Special Hair Towel

And here's some pictures of just how crazy shiny my hair is right now:















The Ultimate Under Eye Concealer DIY

Ok, here's the hot tip, and it's so easy it kills me. If you've got something going on under your eyes (bags, dark circles, whatever) there is an easy, gorgeous way to fake sleep. Simply mix haloscope and stretch concealer into a soft, luminous, light reflecting, instantly awake under eye concoction that will make you look like a film noir star. (You know, candlelight, in a perfect strip, making your eyes sparkle but masking everything else...) In case you want to see me do it, I made a handy video which you can watch below.





Spring SPF Bonanza

It's Spring! It's warm outside! That means... It's time to up my sunscreen game. Winter calls for sunscreen too, but with less time outside (and less pools involved) it's not quite the omnipresent issue. Behold, my spring awakening of beauty - I doubled up my SPF base, switched to my springy floral scent, and even went all fire and ice on my lip balm situation.

P.S. Now that you've done all that hard work on diminishing your scars - don't forget liberal application of SPF.











The full routine:

FACE
Kicho Ultra Moisturizing Sunscreen SPF50 PA+++ UVA/UVB
Murad Invisiblur SPF30 PA+++
Bare Minerals Blemish Remedy Concealer
Glossier Boy Brow in Brown, Mint Balm.Com, Soothing Face Mist & Cloud Paint in Puff
Kari Gran Cinnamon Lip Whip (Get the fire and ice? Mixing mint and cinnamon lip balm!)

BODY
Balenciaga B. Rollerball
Drunk Elephant Umbra Sheer Physical Defense SPF 30
Alba Coconut Dry Oil SPF 15 (the most delicious smelling SPF of all time, that becomes unbelievaby delicious when mixed with the aformentioned rollerball)

HAIR
Ouai Masque (I use the heat to amp up the effect on my ends)

WARDROBE
Big Hat + Big Sunglasses + Shade (physical blockers are where it's at...)

FAKE (That Healthy Glow) Till U Make It

My adorable husband has been giving me the best compliments recently. "You look amazing, I can't tell if you're wearing makeup or not." "I know you don't feel good but you look like you feel god." "I love you for your mind but you look so pretty." Etc. Etc. Obviously I has to determine what the trend was. There is my new favorite mask . I've been super diligent about using my devices. There's this fun thing. But the truth is really blush. Cloud paint to be exact. After a week of using the ethereal Puff,  I decided it was time to crack open a new flavor. The winner, chosen by random selection (I legit stuck my hand in the basket I just got, and now use to store new products I want to try out) was Cloud Paint in Haze.

This one is definitely a crowd favorite (see comments above) because while it looks almost purple in the tube, it imparts an incredibly sexy flush - like all the blood just rushed to your face because a hot boy (yes husband that's you) just checked you out. Like you just drank a gallon of water and took a facial after the best spin class of your life. Like you've been in a hot tub sipping wine for an hour but remembered to properly moisturize first. Like you've been making out, hard. This is definitely the sexy one of the bunch. It looks intimidating because it should be used with extreme caution.

Anyways, I paired it with this cinnamon organic lip balm that is moisturizing, sweet tasting and plumping. Some brown brow tint. Some blurs.  There's a super quick video you can watch on how to apply haze (crescent moon, all the way up to the eyes, weird I know but it works!) I think I will just let these pictures do the rest of the talking for me.

hydrating serum | MistMistMist | blurs | Cloud Paint | concealer | cinnamon organic lip balm | brown brow tint










I'm a Two Day Old Bagel

I'm pretty sure I've already told this story once before. I will probably tell it a million times in my lifetime. It's one of my favorite stories, and also very much at the core of my identity. It's something I return to over and over again when I feel lost, when I feel creatively drained, when I feel tired, when I want to give up. 


There was a 26 year age difference between my parents. My father, the older of the two, was taken to Auschwitz when he was 14. He spent almost two years in the camp before it was liberated. Although he ran a printshop by day, at night he hung out at City Light’s bookstore with the real bohemians, and worked for the Holocaust Center of San Francisco on capturing the stories of other survivors.

This is a story about the print shop.

Across the street from his shop was a famous bagel store. They left their two day old bagels on the street next to a side door for the large homeless population of San Francisco. They couldn’t sell the two day old bagels, but they were still delicious - having on more than one occasion bought a dozen for our family that we would munch well into the week.

There was also a trash problem on this busy, commercial street. One of the other shop owners decided that these two things were connected. The bagel bags were part of the trash - it must be the homeless people who were leaving them. It couldn’t possibly be the other more affluent customers.

A meeting was called of the neighborhood commerce association. A ballot measure was put to the floor to prohibit the leaving of the bagels.



My father stood up, in a crowd of his peers, and spoke in his booming, lightly accented voice.
“I was in a concentration camp. When I think about what I would’ve done for a two day old bagel it blows my mind. It’s clear to me that the people in this room have never known real hunger, because only someone like that would ever even consider standing in between hungry people and food that would otherwise be thrown away.”

Then he sat down.

The measure was unanimously shot down and everyone threw a few bucks into a pot to buy more trash cans.

In three sentences, I watched my father right an egregious wrong. I was 6 and I thought him to be a hero of immeasurable proportions.

It was only later I realized just how hard it is to be so open about the things that happen to you. Even harder still to tell a compelling story. Even harder to be brief. Hardest of all to use that story to galvanize some kind of action.

Lo and behold, I find myself facing my own horrible situation. This time it’s cancer. And suddenly, I find that when I tell this story to myself the character I identify with is actually the leftover bagels.



Because what I have to offer is not just my story, it is the very skin that I wear around everyday. It is my picture, my escapades, my product recommendations, my life. It's a little bit old, a little bit stale, but it's beauty comes not from the slow drying out that is aging, but from the gorgeous aftermath of being past it's prime and still being the source of something so useful. It's helping people, and being delicious.

I am not the gorgeous, lithe and idyllic beauty blogger - I am just me. But I am still moist, dewy and glistening with that egg rub. For a hungry person, starving for a beauty role model in a world of airbrushed, freckle-free, heavily contoured faces. I kind of like being the two day old bagel.

Just like my father’s story is about a printshop and bagels (as much or more than it is about the Holocaust) my own story is about beauty, self-care, redefining what makes me feel good about myself, and, as a framework, the Cancer that acted as a catalyst to all of these revelations. The cancer is not the story, what I helped to change because of it is…