Airplane Survival

My Beauty Uniform: Abbey Nova

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)

  1. Veronica says...

    Fabulous profile! I love this series! Now I have a new blog to follow as well. I also always end up buying something from these suggestions.

  2. rachel says...

    i love these!!
    i too am a Tarte girl, and i too have tons of allergies. it’s one of the few make-up brands i can use without being itchy.

  3. I love this! This girls got great natural taste. I saved almost all her recommendations. I’d love to know what brand her tunic top is in the 9th photo up!

  4. She sounds like fun!! I enjoy this series :)

  5. Abbey is by far the best beauty uniform post you have done. Relatable and real.

  6. I love the idea of massage as part of your beauty routine. I would never think to include that…but it is true that taking care of yourself is not only important for health but can make you look beautiful as well! Thanks for doing this series! I love reading them!

  7. I too adore this series, and it’s so great to see Abbey featured! I remembered her from the tour of her gorgeous home you posted a couple of years ago. Beautiful, creative woman! Thanks so much for sharing!

  8. Wonderful woman on a wonderful series.
    Thanks Caroline and Joanna. Abbey, you are very inspiring and I love your skin!!
    It would be nice to see you sister Lucy or your mum in their “beauty uniforms”.
    I hope Lucy is well. Send her kisses from me.

  9. Wonderful woman on a wonderful series.
    Thanks Caroline and Joanna. Abbey, you are very inspiring and I love your skin!!
    It would be nice to see you sister Lucy or your mum in their “beauty uniforms”.
    I hope Lucy is well. Send her kisses from me.

  10. My favorite beauty uniform by far! Just love her and her approach to beauty!

  11. This was a really great post! Though I have loved them all. Thanks for bringing clean makeup to our attention though. I’m going to think more about that.

    Joanna, can you feature Your mom or sister? I’ve been waiting for them. And Gaby too!!!

    Jenn xo

  12. Nice article and such a beautiful lady she is..comfortable in her own skin.

  13. She’s lovely. Tarte makeup is not only clean and good for your skin, but it’s not tested on animals. I love Lush products too for those same reasons. I always feel good when I exercise my “consumer vote.”

  14. Hi China – the chandelier is a favorite of mine too! It’s vinatge, bought on eBay. If you Google “atomic chandelier” there are some similar ones out there. Shades of Light has a nice one. Xoxoxo Abbey

  15. I would also love a beauty uniform from a suit-y type. Like one of the above poster, am also a lawyer, and seem to live in suits, and on more “casual” work days, sweater sets etc (I don’t usually do dresses), so would love some input…

  16. Love it – she’s awesome and lovely.

  17. So fun to hear more about Abbey, whose blog I love,a and a great opportunity to ask her a very important question: Abbey, I’m obsessed with the chandelier you have in your living room – any info about the source or designer you could share?

  18. this was so enjoyable to read! Abbey, thanks for giving us insights into your life :]

    you’re stunningly beautiful (and your halloween costume with your son is the best ever.)

  19. So so so lovely. She reminds me of my sister, who is my favorite woman on the planet. Thank you!!

  20. I loved the bit about her veneer–when I was 21 I took myself to an orthodontist and got Invisalign to correct some unruly teeth. It is, hands down, the best thing I have ever done for myself (8 years later). No one told me it looked bad, but it was something I had been super self-conscious about, but even I hadn’t realized how much more it bothered me until I got it done. Now, I smile so much more–it’s what drew my boyfriend’s eye initially!
    Also, going to the chiropractor and getting a massage are what help me feel beautiful too–I feel so good on the inside, and know I’m helping my body function as efficiently as possible!

  21. thanks for all these incredibly sweet comments! glad you love abbey as much as we do. :):):) @sumslay, loved your line: “I slow clapped to that last paragraph!” ha!

  22. Love this series SO much!! Also have to add this – I took Claritin D 24 every day for years, then finally went to an allergist and switched to Flonase. It absolutely changed my life and I didn’t even realize how much I had been struggling on Claritin. Just wanted to pass along :)

  23. Jo says...

    I absolutely adore Abbey! She is one amazing woman so it’s no surprise that this post on her beauty uniform is so down-to-earth yet totally cool! :^)

    Thank you for this great interview, Caroline!

  24. She seems amazing – I slow clapped to that last paragraph! I also loved the part about the veneer – I agree, if it matters to you, do it!

    Also, I’ve been using tarte for a few years now (got a gift set and got hooked) and I didn’t even know it was clean! :D Hooray! Also, I kind of want to try fish oil now, because that skin is no joke.

  25. This is my favorite beauty uniform post to date! She seems totally down-to-earth and I would love to be friends with her. Go Abbey!

  26. One of my favorite beauty uniforms! Her skin is so radiant. Thanks for sharing your secrets!

  27. First, thank you, everyone, for all the loving comments! I’ve read every one! Someone on Facebook asked if the Oribe hair spray was scented and I wanted to say that it does have a scent, but very low key one. I am sensitive to scents and can’t use dry shampoo for that reason, but this one doesn’t bother me, if that is any help! As a few commenters have pointed out, it lasts forever. I’ve had my bottle two years (!!) and it doesn’t seem to be in danger of running out.

  28. This is my favorite of this series post yet! Abbey seems so cool and down to earth. I am Amazon primeing (is that a verb yet) the olay microdem kit and the tarte brozer.

  29. I loved this one! She has such an easy and realistic approach to beauty. Just take care of yourself! I am all about that ;) Thanks for sharing!

  30. I love this series, but it always seems to feature women who work in more relaxed, creative industries. Lots of us work in offices where we have to dress up every day and….gasp, wear suits! I’m a public defender and half my life is being in court and rushing to jails to see my clients. It’s a crazy life where I have to dress professionally and can’t breeze into work in jeans. There are so many ladies who work in a world like that and yet still have great style. I’d love to see a woman in a more professional career give her beauty and style advice. Also, can we get some ladies with hair other than long, undone hippie locks? Where are the curl girls?

  31. Likewise, as has been said in many of the comments, I love this series. I love this one in particular for her healthy, holistic approach to beauty, as well as her conscientiousness about the ingredients in make up. Inspiring and encouraging!

  32. I’ve been waiting for the Abbey beauty uniform! What a treat.

  33. I love Abby! I like this series a lot, but this one is particularly refreshing and down-to-earth (“If the under-the-eye bags are particularly bad…”). It’s also full of great tips. I agree that Oribe dry texturizing spray is pretty much the best product in the history of hair products. And in addition to it being a long-lasting product, a bottle (which is pricey) lasts a LONG time–so much longer than regular dry shampoo!

  34. So real and so refreshing! Love her choices and I’m totally checking out her blog!

  35. WOW…best one yet! Abbey is so comfortable in her own skin and has a beauty that you don’t often see. She seems truly lovely, inside and out. Wish she was a more active blogger…love what she has to offer. Kudos to Abbey!

  36. She looks like me! This is the first time you have ever featured a person who looks anything like me (aka not a supermodel or a size 0-4) and I am delighted! Also, her life seems normal too! I love how real she is. I love this. Thank you, Jo.

  37. Like another commenter already said, I think that each new Beauty Routine is my favorite. as someone who isn’t by any means slender it is nice to see someone I can relate with, but I have loved each of the previous posts so much anyway. Abby is adorable, likable, and seems wholly sincere. Beautiful!

  38. I love this installment. Thanks!

  39. Um, could Abby’s skin be anymore perfect?! She’s beautiful. I like that she emphasized doing things for yourself such as taking a bath, or a little longer in the shower, massage, etc. isn’t a bad thing! Sometimes it can make your week that much better!

  40. I love seeing new entries in this series, and I really like this one in particular. Love her sense of style!

  41. Finally, a realistic beauty uniform that is as beautiful as it is unflinchingly sincere. BRAVO. This is the best one yet. :-)

  42. This is so great! I find it hard to relate to a lot of the women you interview about their “beauty uniforms” because I’m super duper low maintenance about that stuff, but I felt like I could really relate to her general vibe. Gonna go take some fish oil now BRB :)

  43. This is my favorites be so far! She seems so real!

  44. Thank you SO much for featuring Abbey! Even having met her only a handful of times I can verify she is gorgeous both inside and out. Xoxo

  45. First time commenting to say I LOVED this one!!! Allergy meds + coffee is my morning routine too. And I love her depth and non-predictable suggestions. And LOVED the pictures of her family. :) authentic and non contrived. Cheers.

  46. Love! Love the bright beautiful clothes she wears,too. And YES to touch being healing!

  47. Abby is a beauty inside and out , such good advice

  48. Every time I read a “My beauty uniform” post I think “This is my favourite one yet!” Thank you for featuring such beautiful women, inside and out.

  49. She is so beautiful! I love this beauty uniform, so honest and refreshing! Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  50. Thank you so much for featuring Abbey! I have always loved her guest posts and any of her advice on parenting too. Its extremely refreshing to see a lady featured here on Cup of Jo that is not rail thin and looks more like a normal person then a model. thank you!

  51. A beauty routine I can relate to! Gonna check out the Tarte line of product.

  52. KT says...

    Oh man. I want to be best friends with Abbey. Is she accepting applications?

  53. I love her, she is so real! My favorite beauty uniform so far!

  54. Love this series and especially this profile!

    Also, I’ve been using the same Oribe texturizing spray for two years and love it. One can lasts forever and now I only need to wash my hair 1-2 times a week. My stylist told me her secret was spraying it on before bed and then sleeping on it. Perfect sexy bed head every time.

  55. Abbey is absolutely lovely! I really enjoyed her advice and outlook.

  56. W says...

    Love her. What a gorgeous woman.

  57. i LOVE this. maybe my favorite beauty uniform post yet. her confidence and comfort in her body is inspiring.

  58. Great post! I absolutely love her perspective. It’s so refreshing!

  59. She seems so awesome! Love this

  60. This is my fave. Abby seems so real, and earthy and feminine. Thank you, Abby, for all the product recs! Based on your natural beauty, I’m buying them all! ;)

  61. Thank you so much for finally doing a beauty uniform of a woman who, while totally adorable and lovely, does not look like an actual model. It would be really really great to see a few plus-size beauty uniforms, too!

  62. Great to read about someone who tries to use cleaner cosmetics without all the nasties!

  63. I love this series so much. Such an insight into how other gals make it happen on the day to day!

  64. Joanna,

    I love the “my beauty uniform series” so much and the women you interview!! While it’s fun to talk about the products we use etc., what I think is more beautiful showcased by the interviews is that every woman is unique and truly has a sense of self! Beauty that products can’t provide.

  65. Thank you for this beauty uniform post. I love to see women of all shapes, races and ages (Please more variety on ages. Some of us are past the young children stage now)

  66. Her SKIN!!! On that picture on the beach… crazy beautiful. Love these too!

  67. What a wonderful series. And what a great idea that beauty comes from self care! Lovely interview.

  68. Buying that microdermabrasion peel thingy asap. She has SUCH glowy skin! Holy smokes.

  69. I love this! She seems so confident, down-to-earth, and funny, as well as super pretty. And I completely agree with the idea that beauty is ultimately feeling good about oneself. In a society that can get so caught up on the idea that beauty means looking a certain way, it’s nice to remember that real beauty stems from what’s on the inside. :)

  70. What a beautiful woman! I love the majority of the things she said. Two things really resonated: beauty being about self-care and the benefits of massage. It’s so good for you. Loved that she said “I really believe in the power of touch to make us feel better and more beautiful.” Truth!
    Love this series.

  71. love this beauty uniform! Abbey is super cool. I really like how she says that beauty is about feeling good about yourself and for her that means self-care. I totally agree. Just taking a couple of minutes to put on a pair of earrings helps me feel a little prettier. Anything helps when chasing 3 kids under 5!

  72. I love these so much.

  73. I love this one! She seems so comfortable in her own skin, yet she’s a girly girl and takes joy in making herself beautiful and taking care of herself.