Allison Borstein on Hacking Your Private Type,


“I was the kind of kid who would wear a Halloween costume to school just for fun, but because I grew up in a place where there isn’t much access to fashion, I didn’t know anything about careers in the industry. I just knew I was obsessed with fashion and expressing myself through fashion. When I was at Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), I applied for an internship at Teen Vogue. I went to my first photoshoot, and I remember seeing the stylist and thinking, ‘That is what I want to do.’ As a result, I met some stylists and their assistants, and I would tell them, ‘I’m in school, but if you guys ever have a shoot on the weekend or if you need me, let me know.’

I worked with an awesome stylist for five years, and she worked with a lot of celebrities for magazines. I enjoyed that, but it didn’t feel exactly like what I wanted to do. When I started working on my own, I worked with some people who were more behind-the-scenes, like makeup artist Violette Serrat and director Cathy Yan. This was back when Violette first started doing YouTube videos in 2015, and we would create looks using the clothes already in her closet. That started the ‘shop your closet’ idea that’s defined my career. I began creating YouTube videos on my own, and a lot of people would reach out and say, ‘I would love for you to style me.’ I thought, ‘We all deserve a stylist. I guess I could go into people’s closets and help them,’ but then I would get people who’d say, ‘I’m in Boston. Will you come?’ That was a no. [Laughs]

Right before the COVID-19 pandemic, I had the idea of doing virtual styling sessions, and the day after the first lockdown I asked my Instagram followers if they would be interested. I had 20 people sign up within the first few hours; my first four people were based in Florida, Belgium, Australia, and New York. I was like, ‘Oh, wow. People really can show you your closet and you can get a real sense of somebody even just virtually.’

A part of the struggle in dressing yourself is that people over-consume. They shop a lot because they’re trying to figure out who they are, and they’re looking for that perfect thing to help them. During sessions, I say, ‘You already have style—but to understand your style is to understand your wardrobe.’ A lot of your personal style can be distilled to three words. The first word is practical because we’re looking at the things we wear on a daily basis, and we’re describing what we see. Are they comfortable? Are they functional? Are they casual?

The second word is aspirational. Say I look at your Pinterest and all the things that you are saving and adding to your mood board, how would you describe those things? Sometimes they might be totally different from your first word. That’s fine! I just need you to look at where you want to be so then I can help guide you. The third word can be emotional. Ask yourself, ‘How do I want to feel with what I’m wearing?’ Do you want to look really polished? Do you want to feel sexy? Do you want to look powerful?

Practical, aspirational, emotional. That’s my ‘Three Word Method.’ It gives you a nice framework to think of when you’re shopping, to use when you’re styling, and to understand yourself. I go into more detail in my first book, Wear It Well [due out September 26]. It shares the systems and philosophies to create a wardrobe that will reflect your truest and most authentic self.

In the morning, the first thing I use is the Ranavat Balancing Crème Cleanser—even after cleansing, my skin still feels moisturized. After that, I roll an ice roller over my eyes—I recently got one from Amazon and it feels really good. Then I use a toner from Biba De Sousa—the Herbal Toner—or sometimes I’ll use the Violette_FR Boum-Boum Milk.

I have been extremely into True Botanicals lately. They have this serum called Renew Chebula Active Serum that really brightens my skin. Then I’ll do a cream. U Beauty’s Super Hydrator is thick, and I like that because I want to feel like it’s really holding in those serums.

For SPF, I use Dr. Jart+ Cicapair Tiger Grass Camo Drops with SPF 35. The drops come out green, and they make my skin a little less red while adding sunscreen. And then I just started using Saltyface’s Tanning Water. You spray it on a brush, and you buff it on. It’s very easy to apply, leaves a very even tan, and doesn’t smell like anything at all.

I use True Botanicals Ginger Turmeric Cleansing Balm to take off my eye makeup at night. It is very thick, so a lot of the time I use the Ranavat Smoothing Facial Polish to make sure that I’m getting all the balm off. For the rest of my face, I go back to the Ranavat cleanser I use in the morning and follow it up with the True Botanicals Radiance Oil, which smells natural and fresh. Afterwards, I use the Chebula Cream or the U Beauty moisturizer again. Recently, I tried Epi.logic’s Master Plan Growth-Factor Serum. The packaging is so freaking cool.

I first got Botox when I was 29; I’m 35 now. I don’t know exactly what inspired me to start—maybe fear? At the time, I was working in the editorial and celebrity world, and I found that a lot of the 25-year-old models were getting it. In New York, I go to Dr. Lara Devgan. She’s amazing. I get Botox in my forehead and some in my jaw because I clench my teeth, but also for facial slimming. In L.A., I go to this place called Parfaire; Dr. Winnie Moses is really good. I’m very particular—I’m sure a lot of people are about their face—and I like a conservative approach. When someone’s like, ‘Oh, you look great,’ but they can’t figure out why? That’s my goal. I would go once a year at first because it’s expensive. Now, because I’m on FaceTime every day I go maybe every five or six months. I do find that when I’m working less and seeing myself less, I think about Botox less, but Botox doesn’t have to be shameful.

I don’t know what I’m doing with makeup. One of my best friends, Jayme Cyk, was my roommate when we lived in New York and she was a beauty editor at Women’s Wear Daily. She is really helpful in helping me discover products. Still to this day, every time I go to her house, I’m like, ‘What do you have? What should I try? What’s great?’

I use Skin Mimetic Concealer in shade 01 Fair N from Make Beauty. It almost reminds me of the YSL Touche Éclat Concealer Pen. I apply it under my eyes, a little bit by my nose, forehead, and chin, and I blend that in with a Merit Brush No. 1.

Growing up, I would take bronzer and a huge brush and put it all over my face. That’s what I thought makeup was. Now, I don’t contour my forehead or chin unless I’m trying to really look snatched, so I only really use the Charlotte Tilbury Liquid Contour Wand on my cheekbones. I follow it up with the Westman Atelier Face Trace Contour Stick in Biscuit. The Charlotte Tilbury wand is a lot more brown, and there’s a little bit more gray to the Westman Atelier stick, so it makes more of a shadow. I have a rounder face, which I think is great, but my whole life I’ve been told I have chubby cheeks. I remember once—maybe I was in fifth grade—there was a cartoonist that drew my picture with cheeks that were so round that you could hardly see my eyes. When I smile, my cheeks really do go up, and I’ve always thought about that, so contour is all about adding dimension in my cheekbones for me. If I do use blush, which I don’t that often, I like the Westman Atelier Baby Cheeks in Chouchette, a nude peach, with a Number 2 Blush Brush from Rose Inc.

When I get Botox, I tell them not to touch the arch of my eyebrows because it could look crazy. I get them done every six months by Jimena Garcias. She’s the Chanel Brow Artist, and she truly is an artist. I have, for some reason, curlier eyebrows than the hair on my head. They grow in really funky, but Jimena gives them layers that make them lay perfectly. In between, I use either Charlotte Tilbury Brow Cheat Pencil in Taupe or the Make Beauty Blade Line Pencil in Cool Taupe.

I use the Hermès Lip Care Balm; I like a balm that you don’t have to apply with your hands. And I only learned about lip liners this year. I love the Chanel Longwear Pencil in shade 164 Pivoine or 162 Nude Brun. 164 can be hard to find, so sometimes I use Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat in Pillow Talk Medium. Then I’ll use either the Chanel Rouge Allure lipstick in 196 À Demi-Mot or Charlotte Tilbury Pillow Talk lipstick. The Chanel one’s good every day, and the Charlotte Tilbury’s good for Zoom and for FaceTimes because it’s a little richer.

I apply eyeshadow every day, but I use the Westman Atelier Beauty Butter Bronzer in shade Soleil Riche both on my lids and below my eyes to add a little depth. I do the same with my mascara for a little bit of that ‘60s vintage, grunge aesthetic. For lashes, I truly just want length. I do not want thickness. I do not want chunkiness. I’m not looking for darkness either. It’s been very hard, but the Lancôme Définicils is the one. It has a very thin applicator, and still, I wipe off a lot of the product before I apply it.

I get freckles and I like them, but once you put all your makeup on, they’re gone. I just learned about the Freck Noir pen, and it makes it look like you’re not wearing as much makeup. Violette would always say, ‘You don’t want to put any, or just a little, makeup on your nose because that’s the center of your face. If you’re not wearing much there, it looks like you’re not wearing a lot of makeup.’ So I wipe off my nose, and then I’ll use the Freck pen.

I’m a body wash person. I’ll either use one from Nécessaire—I like all their scents—or Corpus Naturals Nº GREEN. It’s fresh and a little earthy but really good. Growing up, my mom would put oils on when her skin was wet, and I loved that. So now, right when I get out of the shower, I love oiling up my whole body. I love the Neutrogena Sesame Oil. I just got the Klur Elements of Comfort Botanical Body Oil—it smells really good, kind of like jasmine—and I also use the Costa Brazil Kaya Jungle Firming Body Oil. If I want to add some cream, especially if I’m showing my legs, I’ll use the Nécessaire Unscented Body Lotion.

My hair’s kind of shitty. It’s very fine, and it does the same thing no matter what I do to it. I run warm, and I get sweaty easily, so I wash my hair every day. I know that’s bad, and I’m sure there’s ways around this, but I can’t wake up in the morning unless there’s water on my head. For shampoo and conditioner, I like Crown Affair because I like the way the bottles look in my shower and the way they smell, but right now, I use the Aesop shampoo and conditioner just because I like the scent.

I started coloring my hair at 30, and I go to Courtney Lee at Kinloch. I actually went back to Brooklyn for a day to get my hair colored even though I live in L.A. She understands what I want and is very good at giving me that lived-in-look that is not high maintenance. I get a smoothing treatment before summer starts, too. I go to Maura Burns at The Blackstones Collective in the East Village. If I don’t get it, I have a halo of frizz.

I have a collection of perfumes that I use in specific places. My vacation perfume is Le Labo Fleur d’Oranger. One time, I used the Glossier Body Hero Daily Perfecting Cream when I was on a vacation in Turks and Caicos, and now that smell very much reminds me of it.

In New York, I wore Cardinal Flower by Frédéric Malle, but when I moved to LA, I got a new scent, Vilhelm’s Morning Chess. It’s kind of floral but not too sweet. It smells like California to me now. I use the Corpus Naturals Santalum deodorant, and they smell really good together.

This is crazy, but when I lived in Greenpoint, I would go to the Equinox in Williamsburg, and I would wear a black hoodie to the gym and spray Glossier You on it. Eventually, putting on the hoodie and having the smell of Glossier You would signal to my brain that it was workout time. Even now when I smell it, I’m like, ‘It’s time to exercise.’

I have amazing memories tied to the Signature perfume from Aedes de Venustas. I was obsessed, and I couldn’t figure out what it was that I loved so much until I realized it had tomato leaves in it; I think tomato leaves are my favorite smell in the entire world. Now, I’m equally obsessed with the Flamingo Estate Roma Heirloom Tomato Candle. It’s complicated yet also very simple.

As far as home scents, Jayme told me about Courtney Cox’s brand Homecourt. I’m obsessed with the Cece Room Deodorant. The Neroli Leaf and Cipres Mint ones are really good, too. I like to spray them before bed. I even have a Frederic Malle Cafe Society perfume gun, which is a lot. The Homecourt ones are a little bit more subtle.

CND Dark Lava shellac is my go-to nail polish. Every once in a while, I’ll get a reddish orange or a bright red, but with my rings, there’s just something about having dark nails—even in the summer. I like long nails on other people, but I wear a lot of accessories and I want to balance them with something a little bit more simple. If I had my nails done and my makeup done and the outfit and a bag, it would feel like too much.

I get a manicure every two weeks, and it crossed my mind to get anti-UV fingerless gloves, but I’m bad with all that stuff. I mean, I do a lot of things that are amazing for my body, but I also do a lot of things that are horrible for it; it’s about balance. I’m like, ‘Let’s not think about it. Let’s just have some great nails for now.’”

— As told to Daise Bedolla

Photographed by Kobe Wagstaff in Los Angeles on April 25, 2023


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