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3 Things I Totally Do to Change How I Look

Laughing woman in discussion with friends in gym gym after workout
Photograph by Getty Images

I’ve reached an age and stage of maternity where most of my friends are doing something to preserve their looks, be it working out with a personal trainer or getting their leg veins zapped. It’s easy, for those of us who have no plans to go under the knife (or laser) to feel high and mighty about our “natural” looks but when I think about it more carefully I realize I’m not exactly a natural woman. Here are the ways I change my appearance—and the ways I still won’t (at least, for the time being):

Will do:


I do exercise 5 or 6 days a week and I would be lying if I said it was purely for the endorphins. I prefer the way I look if I’m in shape—but it’s really more about how I feel, because it’s not like I work out for three hours a day and I don’t always eat in a manner that complements the work I do. At certain times of the year—or month—my abs are covered up by a wine-induced layer of fat, but when I know there is a swimsuit situation arising, I will curb my boozing and carb-eating as needed.

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I’m not religious about it—I won’t put on makeup to go to the pool or take my son to preschool if I’m just going to exercise and shower right after, but otherwise, if I’m going to be out and about, yes, some mascara, concealer and blush makes me feel a little more like an attractive person. We can't all look as good as Alicia Keys does sans cosmetics.


For nearly 10 years now I’ve applied a retinoid at night because a dermatologist friend (everybody should have a dermatologist friend!) told me how effective it is both at slowing the onset of wrinkles and for fighting acne. I like Atralin a lot more than Retin-A, which made my skin red and painful and peel off in an embarrassing manner. Does Atralin work well? It’s hard to say, since this is the only face I’ve got. I am happy that acne isn't too much of a problem for me, but moreover, I’ve received some compliments on my complexion and isn’t that all you can ask for?

But on top of that, isn’t contouring just… drawing a face on top of your face?



First, I'm not interested enough in contouring to take the time to learn how to do it properly. I'm just too impatient to spend a lot of time watching instructional YouTube beauty videos and working on the technique, which seems like it involves a fair amount of practice in order to avoid looking like The Mask. But on top of that, isn’t contouring just… drawing a face on top of your face? Yes, I know you could probably say the same about blush and concealer but I argue that playing up your assets and playing down your flaws is a lot different than using colors to try to alter the look of your bone structure.

Fancy filters

I'll hit a standard Instagram filter now and then just to play something up (if I got my hair colored, for instance, I want it to pop in a picture) but I don’t understand using software magic to make yourself look younger or thinner or anything-er than you already are. If you look that bad in a photo, then maybe just don’t post the photo of yourself. Otherwise, not only will other people know what you really look like, you do, too, and what’s the point?

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Surgery or fillers

Some of my friends have decided to go under the knife (or needle) to fix their veins, lines, or boobs. I don’t see that in my future anytime soon for a few reasons—the most practical being that it’s expensive and so if I had an extra $500 or $1000 at this point I’d rather spend it on a trip or a great bag or meal or something like that—something that doesn't hurt. Additionally, I have a type of resignation about my body that I find handy. As long as I treat myself reasonably well and don’t spend too much time looking closely in the mirror, I think I’m overall… fine.

Not great, but fine.

What’s useful about that mentality is that I don’t think, “If only my boobs were two inches higher…” or “If only my forehead wrinkle weren’t there…” The general fine-ness helps me from spot-critiquing. Of course, stay tuned. I’m only 37 and absolutely reserve the right to go back on this current mentality as the mood strikes me or as cosmetic technology becomes less painful and more cost-efficient.

Until then, what you see is what you get. More or less.

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