Jen Garrido is a San Francisco-based fine artist (her colorful paintings are gorgeous) and the genius behind the textile line Jenny Pennywood. She’s the epitome of laid-back California cool, and her views on beauty are refreshingly honest. Here, she talks about how to get the perfect (curly) topknot and her ongoing relationship with her armpit hair…
Where did you grow up?
Los Angeles right by the beach — I was a very beach-y teenager. I used to be a super-tanner, like slathering on olive oil, but now I wear SPF 30 in my moisturizer every day. My freckles are partly hereditary, partly sun-related, so I try to protect my skin as much as possible. Also, I have very dark hair all over, but as a teenager I used to put Sun In on my arms and back. I thought if my hair was golden, nobody would see it.
What else is in your daily facial skincare routine?
I wash my face in the shower in the morning, for the last six months I have been using either Fresh Soy Face Cleanser or a Peter Thomas Roth Anti-Aging Cleansing Gel. I then use argan oil first on my face and apply a Fresh anti-aging serum. I use Origins Mega-Bright SPF 30 Moisturizer. I only wash and apply lotions in the morning; at night I just brush my teeth and floss. If I wash my face at night, my skin doesn’t like it.
Do you do any beauty treatments?
I get my brows and lip waxed. In middle school, Timmy Benson commented on my mustache. Still to this day, I feel a twinge of embarrassment when they apply the wax in public. But I haven’t been shaving much lately. I kind of want hairy pits, so I’m always pushing the limits on it. I can do it because it’s always cold in San Francisco, so you don’t usually wear tank tops!
What about armpit hair appeals to you?
I lean in the very hippie/granola direction, but I’m not completely a hippie. It comes from laziness, too. But also when it’s growing, I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, this is growing! How long can I grow it? Keep growing!’ But I end up breaking down and shaving after a few weeks or if I might wear a tank top. It’s hard to make the commitment.
Do you wear makeup every day?
I have a tan complexion and freckles, so makeup always looks kind of dramatic. I don’t even wear jewelry because of the too-much-drama factor. Sometimes I put on Yves Saint Laurent under-eye concealer and lip tint from Tarte or Korres. I’d also love to wear mascara, but I can’t figure out how to make it stay on my eyelashes. It sort of falls off and then I get black raccoon eyes, which I do not like.
What about for special occasions?
I change things up with cheek tint, natural eyeshadow and lipstick. I do have to say, I wore makeup at my wedding and I felt so pretty! But makeup doesn’t feel natural for me. My mom wears no makeup at all. She doesn’t even use face lotion or wash her face with anything other than a Dove soap bar.
Did other women in your life teach you about beauty?
When I was 14, my aunt asked if she could pluck my eyebrows. I said no but I wish I had let her. I didn’t do anything with them until I was 25. I look back at pictures now and am like, ‘Oh, my God, what was I thinking?’ I was in art school and nobody was talking about it. Then I moved to San Francisco and I met my husband, who worked in the fashion industry. His roommate looked at me and was like, ‘We need to do something with those.’
What’s your family background?
My mom is Eastern European Jewish; her parents came from Poland to Brooklyn. My dad is from Guam. It’s interesting, maybe 15 years ago, Rebecca Walker wrote a memoir about being biracial. When I read it, I was like, ‘Hold on, I am biracial.’ It resonated with me, where I hadn’t really voiced it before then. The author is half Jewish and half African American, and I identified with being half Jewish and half something else.
Your daughter Jemma is five. How do you approach beauty with her?
We try to downplay beauty because my husband, Josh, is a model, and we think paying attention to someone’s looks can block someone and not allow for a person’s real personality to show. She also has long curly hair, and everybody comments on it, but we don’t want it in her head that it’s an important piece of a human.
Was your husband always a model?
Yeah. He’s a fit model for Levi’s, so all their men’s jeans are exactly fit to his body! When we were dating, I think he liked me in part because I was so not into any of that stuff. I do love clothes and all that, but there is this paying attention to beauty that I don’t do.
Were you always a full-time artist?
I was a kindergarten-through-eighth-grade art teacher for five years. Then I made art while teaching part time and waiting tables. When I turned 30, I thought, if I’m not going to do my art full-time now, I’ll never do it. So I quit my teaching job and began selling my work. But when the economy crashed in 2008, all the galleries I was working with closed. To diversify, I started a line of graphic design and textiles, Jenny Pennywood. I found freedom in making up this alter art ego and working under a whole other name.
What do you do to care for your hair?
My hair is curly, really long and big. Hair in my face distracts me, so it’s usually in a top knot. I use DevaCurl No-Poo shampoo and conditioner. There are no parabens or bad stuff, so my husband and my daughter use them, too. I brush my hair with a pick in the shower and then wash and condition it, but I only wash it a few times a week. I like my hair textured and a little greasy, since when it’s freshly washed it’s very soft and gets frizzy. As far as products go, I alternate between Kevin Murphy hair oil and curl cream, straight up argan oil, DevaCurl Set It Free Spray or DevaCurl mousse. I like my hair on the bigger side, so I can get more of a dynamic top knot!
Is there a physical feature you weren’t into when you were growing up that you now like?
Actually, I have made peace with my hair. I have this thing called trichotillomania, where I pull out my hair. I’ve had it since third grade. It’s very under control now, but there was a point in my early 20s in grad school where I got bald spots because I was really nervous. I alternated between pulling out my hair and hypochondria, going to the doctor obsessively for this or that. Then I started getting acupuncture once a week, and it made it all go away.
Wow, that’s amazing.
I got acupuncture at a school in San Francisco, so it would be more affordable, and they took the whole body into account — ‘What color is your poop? Are you sweating at night?’ All those details mattered to them. There was something about that holistic approach that calmed me. I was like, ‘Oh, I’m not crazy.’ It was the beginning of me paying attention to my body as a whole. I also started exercising — which was something my family was never into growing up — and it changed the way my body felt and it also changed the way I saw all my symptoms.
How do you take care of your body now?
I don’t exercise that often anymore. In my 20s, I exercised a lot, and then life happened. But I still love hiking, aerobic activity, taking classes. I think about it like a thousand times a day, like ‘What can I do for exercise?’ If I could only find one hour in the day… that magic hour, I keep looking for it!
What’s the most dramatic thing you’ve ever done with your overall look?
In my early 30s, I started going by myself on my birthday every year to get a little tattoo. Now I have 13 tattoos on my forearms and one my hand. They don’t really mean anything, but I like shapes. The first time I went I got a circle, then I got a heart, then a star.
Which tattoo is your favorite?
I have three fish hooks on my wrist that look like “J”s — Josh, Jemma and Jen.
Finally, do you have an overall beauty philosophy?
I love the natural, healthy, not overdone feel of beauty. I’m currently planning my later 40s and 50s in the body and beauty department. Have you heard of Cameron Diaz’s The Longevity Book? The concept of aging gracefully and naturally is fascinating to me. Getting older is shifting my perspective. My soul is a 16-year-old in the summer, but the body and skin change and you have to wrap your head around that.
Thank you so much, Jen!