Nicole Gonzalez is a social media strategist and mother of two, with incredible personal style. (Her beautiful Instagram feed always makes us want to throw on a big pair of sunglasses.) Here, she shares her drugstore savior and the relaxing nighttime ritual the whole family is in on…
Do you remember when you first became interested in beauty?
When I was 10, my class at school went on a field trip. On the bus, a boy commented that my legs were hairy. I came home and begged my mom to teach me how to shave my legs. She made me wait another two years, but after that day, I became much more aware of my body and wanted to partake in rituals like shaving and plucking my eyebrows.
Where did you grow up and how did it inform your view of beauty?
I’m a New York City girl, born and bred. I grew up with such a wide variety of friends — people with all different skin colors, hair textures, backgrounds, styles of clothing. All of my friends’ definitions of beauty are different, and we all inspire each other. It’s kind of fun because you can borrow things you’d never think would look good on you, like a lipstick that belongs to someone with a very different skin tone, and sometimes you’re pleasantly surprised!
What are some of your favorite NYC spots?
As a child, I went to school in Spanish Harlem, and nowadays when the weather gets nice, I’ll take walks uptown with my two kids. It’s changed over the years, but I love pointing out my elementary school and taking in the Spanish music, the food, the architecture, the people. It’s such a treat experiencing this with my son Lucas and giving him a taste of his culture. And we love to visit my all-time favorite spots around the city, like the Central Park Conservatory Garden, Carl Schurz Park, and Ost Café.
Do you wear makeup?
I work from home, so many days the only time I go out is to pick up Lucas from school. On those days, I’ll skip makeup and throw on a huge pair of sunnies. My fiancé actually works for the eyewear company J.F.Rey, and I like their larger frames that cover up your face and make you feel instantly dressed. On days when we go anywhere else, I’ll apply foundation, a pop of blush (NARS Sin), a little mascara (Benefit They’re Real) and ChapStick. I always splurge on buying foundation at Sephora, because in the drugstore you can’t open them up and find the right shade. It’s also the one product I wear both day and evening, so I want it to be good quality. Right now I’m loving NARS Sheer Glow, which gives a nice medium coverage. And now that it’s warmer outside, I want to wear bronzer! Diorskin Healthy Glow is great. It gives you a beautiful glow that looks natural.
What about lipstick?
My lips are naturally very dark. Sometimes I’ll post a photo on Instagram and people will ask what lipstick I have on and… I’m not wearing any! I never know what to tell them! Lipstick colors also look different on me because my lips are so dark. My fiancé really likes red lipstick, so sometimes if we’re going out at night, I’ll do that. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with colors from Colour Pop. I like their matte lipsticks, which are amazing and only $6 each! My favorite everyday color is Bumble.
What about when you’re dressed up?
I pretty much look the same whether I’m headed to lunch or a fancy dinner party, although for the latter I’ll sometimes add eyeliner. Have I watched countless YouTube videos? Yes. Have I tried to figure out contouring? Yes. But I still don’t feel like I’m great at it. And I always wind up not feeling like myself.
How did your mom inspire you?
My mother is truly the most beautiful woman I know. She moved from Puerto Rico to New York City when she was 18. She was a single mom, and I don’t know how she did it all. She worked her butt off, but I never felt that, because every day she would be ready to do homework with me, or play. I’m an only child, and every Saturday we went on a date, just the two of us, to the movies or shopping or to see a show. I didn’t realize until I was older how hard she had to work to be able to afford to do those things with me. I love looking at old photographs of her, wearing dresses and bell-bottoms. She exudes confidence and sophistication. Her accessory of choice has always been a brooch, and she has the most beautiful collection.
What’s your daily facial skincare routine?
In the morning, I just rinse my face with cold water. I pat dry with a towel, then use a dab of Cetaphil moisturizer. At night, I’ve been cleansing with Tatcha Camellia Cleansing Oil, which has legitimately changed my life. It was recommended to me, but it’s expensive, so I dragged my feet. But now that I’ve started using it, my skin looks super dewy but never greasy. Two or three times a week, I’ll use the Clarisonic brush to remove any residue from the day. New York City is a dirty, dirty city! You get kind of a sick thrill when you see everything come off on the brush.
What is your desert island item that you cannot live without?
My Shu Uemura eyelash curler. Even when I’m not wearing a stitch of makeup, I have to curl my lashes no matter what. It makes me look awake and brightens up my face. I can use that thing with no mirror! The Shu Uemura is the only curler I’ll use. I’ve tried others, but this one is the best. It’s smooth and never breaks my lashes.
How about any beloved drugstore finds?
My trusty tub of Vaseline. I use it as lip gloss, to hydrate my skin, and sometimes I even apply it on my eyelids for a little glow. It also works as eye makeup remover. It’s everything.
What do you love most about your look?
It took me a long time, but my freckles. I used to despise them, but as I got older I began to look forward to the warmer months when the sun would deepen their color and they’d start to sprinkle across my nose and cheeks. Now, I intentionally don’t wear foundation that fully covers them because I think they add character.
How do you typically style your hair?
My hair is pretty straight but very, very thick. I’m not always in the mood to blow it out because it takes forever to dry, so most days I keep it up in a towel for 20-30 minutes and then let it air dry. I always add a drop of Moroccan Oil to the ends. Every other day, when I’m between shampoos, I use Kevin Murphy Fresh Hair dry shampoo spray. My hair gets really greasy really fast, and this is the only thing I’ve tried that lets me go a day or two between washes. It makes your hair fluffy, and it smells good, too.
What about hair color?
My hair is extremely dark and has naturally red undertones (which I try to avoid, because I prefer more ashy tones). I’ve tried several colorists over the years and have never been happy with the results. Last year, I stumbled across Betsy Duggan on Instagram, and reached out to her by chance. I swear I will never go to anyone else; I leave every appointment feeling beautiful. She also recommended I use silver shampoo to help prevent brass tones between colorings.
What’s your nighttime routine?
I love putting my diffuser on at night, with lavender essential oil, which calms everyone down. That smells like nighttime to us. I go to bed after everyone else; the night is my alone time and 100% necessary for my sanity. I just decompress.
Do you ever splurge on any treatments?
I think it’s so important to take the time to treat yourself, and I wish I was better about it. Now that I’m out of the newborn haze (which is SO real!), regular pedicures are a must. I always splurge on the deluxe package with the 10-minute massage, because it gives me life. Other than that, I thread my brows every two months or so. I like how threading keeps the shape. They’ll trim them with a little scissor and it’s so cheap — usually $7. And there’s no irritation!
What’s the most drastic thing you’ve ever done to your appearance?
I never thought I would get a tattoo, but two years after my son was born, I got his middle name (León) tattooed in my handwriting on the side of my ribs. I’m very, very, very indecisive and I thought about it for months. I wrote it out a gajillion times and couldn’t make up my mind. Finally, I woke up one day like, “I have to do it today or I never will.” Now I’m so happy with it. I’m deciding where to get my daughter’s middle name (Sol) next.
How did you and your fiancé meet?
We met when we were seventeen! We’d been in the same homeroom since freshman year but didn’t speak to each other until we were seniors. I have zero memory of him from those first three years! But one day, he struck up a conversation and it just grew from there. It has been 15 years since we met, and it’s so funny to look back on that now. We’ve made all the mistakes that you make. Crying, makeups and breakups, we did it with each other. Now we can look back and be like, “We did it!” We got engaged a few years back, then immediately got pregnant with Lucas, so we put off the wedding. And then I got pregnant again! But we’re looking forward to getting married next year. We’ve been together for so long that I already call him my hubby.
Any tricks for keeping the sparks alive?
In the last few months we’ve made it a point to go out just the two of us at least once a month. It’s not always easy to swing it, but having that quality time makes us a better couple and ensures we have a moment to kiss and hold hands. The best feeling in the world is to go out with him and feel those butterflies that I had over 10 years ago. He’s still my favorite person in the world (and the hottest!).
When do you feel most beautiful?
I feel most beautiful when I’m playing with my kids — usually on the weekends — and I look up and catch my fiancé staring at me. I’m usually bare faced, most likely wearing mismatched pajamas with holes, and he just has this look of such adoration and love for the kids and me. He makes me feel like the best thing since sliced bread.
Thank you so much, Nicole!