My friend Abbey Nova (writer of the blog Design Scouting) is smart, hilarious and always has the best recommendations (including most of the products I currently wear). Here, she shares the secret to getting a good night’s sleep, a life-changing hair product and the item she never leaves home without…

What is your daily beauty routine?
My beauty routine changes all the time so this column is like a glimpse inside one woman’s beauty hurricane. One thing that never changes is that my day always starts with a Claritin-D 24 Hours. I hope this isn’t moving into TMI, but I’m allergic to everything. The Claritin decongests and de-puffs me and basically gets me to normal. Following the Claritin, which gets washed down with coffee, I shower. Some days, that’s as good a beauty routine as I get.

How about the days when you do wear makeup?
I find there’s a big difference between putting makeup on a bare face and one that’s been moisturized — it just goes on more smoothly. So I always start off with Clinique Dramatically Different moisturizing lotion. Next, I wear Tarte BB tinted treatment primer, which I apply with my fingers. Some people use those wedges, but a makeup artist once told me never to use sponges, since they absorb the product and waste it. After the BB cream, I apply Tarte Amazonian Clay brow gel in taupe, which gives my brows a little definition but keeps them natural looking. If I want a little color on my lips, I like Korres Mango Butter lipstick in Coral or Badger Balm lip tint in Red Jasper.

Do you wear eye makeup?
If the under-the-eye bags are particularly bad, I’ll put on some Tarte CC under-eye corrector. I have very light coloring, so black and brown mascaras can be too much for my face. Instead, I love to wear a blue or purple mascara! The electric blue of Diorshow Buildable Volume mascara in Catwalk Blue makes me feel great and fashionable every time.

How do you change it up for nights out?
For events with a capital E, I’ll use Tarte Amazonian Clay Full Coverage Foundation. It makes my skin look amazing. I still retain my natural skin color, but it evens me out and makes me look healthy. When I wear it, people say, “Your skin looks good!” Then I apply Tarte bronzer from my forehead to the apples of my cheeks. I love the NARS Botan Kabuki brush. It’s expensive, but makes the bronzer go on so naturally that it’s worth every penny. It gets the perfect amount of bronzer on my cheeks. The brush was actually recommended to me by a wonderful woman at the Laura Mercier counter! So I figured it must be good.

And your hair for special occasions?
I do make a big fuss over my hair for dates and events. I live by my Oribe dry texturizing spray. I apply it to my part line, and it kind of dries your hair out and gives it volume and texture. It lasts forever; it’s a little freaky. I have friends who can go for days with it. Also, I believe in having someone else style your hair for a really special event. A good blow out is like losing 10 pounds!

When did you first become interested in makeup?
I’m a late bloomer in a lot of areas of my life, and it’s fair to say I came to makeup and its pleasures later than most of my friends. For a long time — like all of my 20s — I wore none at all. I mean I didn’t do ANYTHING to my skin. No moisturizer, no sunscreen, nothing. Now I have sun spots all over the left side of my face from years of driving without sunblock! If I were to say anything to women younger than myself it would be: SUNBLOCK. Ha. I sound like a geriatric or at least my dermatologist.

Do you have a favorite sunblock?
We have a sunblock basket in our house, filled with different kinds. My Clinique moisturizer has SPF 15, and my Tarte BB Primer has SPF 30, so that’s what I wear for everyday. If I’m going to be outdoors, at the beach or playground, I love the Badger SPF 30 baby sunscreen, which might just be the cleanest product in existence. It gets the best ratings from the Environmental Working Group.

Has your beauty routine changed much over the years?
The biggest change is that I made the switch to paraben-free makeup when I was pregnant and breastfeeding. I had been really uneducated about toxins in makeup before that. Skin Deep has been a great tool for educating myself about what goes on my skin and in my body. As you can tell, I love the Tarte line, because it’s really clean. I’ve relaxed a bit about this over time; not all of the products I use are squeaky clean. I do look up every product I’m thinking of buying though, just so I know what I’m using. Knowledge is power!

What are your beloved drugstore finds?
I love Olay Regenerist Microdermabrasion System. It makes you radiant, almost like getting a facial. I actually went to a facialist, and she uses this product. It’s two steps: You apply the first product, then put on the second and it gets warm. It sloughs off your dead skin and makes you glow. I use it every few months. It really lives up to the hype.

What’s one thing you never leave the house without?
I buy boxes of individually packaged alcohol prep pads at the drugstore—they’re the same thing a doctor or nurse would use if they were drawing blood. They’re great for everything. You can wipe off your phone screen or clean a scrape. If you forget to wear deodorant, you can give yourself a swipe. I used them to clean my keyboard at work, and they can clean the tops of ballpoint pens when they get cruddy. It feels a little like MacGuyver. What can’t it do?

Do you have any tricks for getting a good night’s sleep?
I just started using a Fitbit Wristband, mostly because I love competing with my husband over the number of steps I take. But the most fantastic thing about the new Fitbit is that it tracks your sleep, which is endlessly fascinating. I’ve never been a morning person, and I’ve always found it hard to get up in the morning. But the way the Fitbit vibrates, it wakes me up very naturally. I feel clear-headed. For the last month or so, everything has felt so much easier.

What did the women in your family—or any other important women in your life—teach you about beauty?
My mother is part of the feisty 1960s bra-burning generation of feminists. As you can see from the photo, she was stunningly beautiful and never wore makeup. She did all the handy work around the house. Growing up, my mother, my sister and I were always painting and hammering while my father was more cerebral (he’s a writer, too). My grandmother, on the other hand, was a crusty Bostonian type and she wore makeup every day — I mean pancake makeup, half an inch deep. A total mask, completely obscuring what she looked like. It wasn’t until I moved to New York and started working for a female boss who was grace and beauty personified that I started to understand there was a more nuanced, and yes, more powerful, way to wear makeup.

Do you have any “game-changers”?
For me, it isn’t a product but a person! My hairdresser, Rubins, at Chris Chase Salon. He’s beyond amazing at coloring blondes and he lets me keep my hair long when so many stylists want me to cut it short. I’ve had so many women ask me where I get my hair cut and colored so I figure it’s worth sharing here. It can be surprisingly hard to find a good stylist in NYC.

This may sound strange, but, massage is my other game-changer. When I first moved to the city in 2004, I had a very chic colleague who would get a 15-minute chair massage at the local nail place every Friday night. I thought it was so odd at the time, but, now that I’m in my mid 30s I totally understand the power of a massage. If I’m not careful I carry stress and tension in my body and it makes me feel 20 years older and like a witch out of a fairy tale. I really believe in the power of touch to make us feel better and more beautiful.

Are there any foods or drinks that make you feel good?
I started taking fish oil on my pediatrician’s recommendation when I was breastfeeding my son, and suddenly everyone was complimenting me on my skin — that I was “glowing,” etc. And this was during a time when my son was up every two hours in the night! Right now I like Optimal Health Fish Oil (the kiddo takes it too).

Where do you stand on bath vs. shower?
I used to be team bath but now I am 100% team shower. I just read this article about cold showers, so I’ll start off warm and move to cool. It helps wake me up. My shower is the only time that I’m alone; I think about the day, what I’m working on, whatever’s stressing me out. My shower is so important to me that if for some reason I can’t take a shower I end up having a crappy day! My son, husband and dog all know that my shower time is sacred and I love them doubly for that.

Do you have any regrettable trends that you’ve tried?
OMG! I’ve made terrible choices of… EYE GLASSES. I look back at pictures of the crazy euro glasses I had between 2004 and 2011 and I feel so embarrassed and dated. Thank goodness my mother delicately but forcefully suggested I wear contacts in my wedding photos.

Have you ever made any major changes to your appearance?
I had a terribly crooked front tooth and as a result I never smiled. So before my wedding, I saved up and I had a veneer put on the one tooth that really made me self-conscious. It is the single best thing I ever did for myself. I mean, it was my smile we’re talking about. I think that if something about your body really bothers you, and you want to change it, you should be able to without judgment.

Last but certainly not least, do you have an overall beauty philosophy?
Isn’t beauty ultimately about feeling good about ourselves? For me, that’s eating well and having a glass of wine and making time for myself, whether that’s talking to a friend, taking a long bath with lavender epsom salts or reading a romance novel after my kiddo and husband are asleep so I can escape for a few hours. (For anyone with an interest in romance, I highly recommend this site. I probably read a book a week from their recommendations.) In a nutshell: Beauty for me is about self-care.

Thank you so much, Abbey!

P.S. Abbey’s NYC home tour, and 14 lovely women share their beauty uniforms.

(Photos courtesy of Abbey Nova. Interview by Caroline Donofrio)