Here we are, nearly halfway through the summer, and you may be asking yourself, How can a mascara claim it's waterproof if it's not even sweatproof?! It's a question I routinely asked myself after 20-some-odd years of wearing makeup in Houston—which is a terrifically easy thing to do in our few months of "winter" each year, but otherwise our heat and humidity too often means foundation that slides off your face by noon and weepy mascara that leaves you looking like you were crying at your desk after lunch.
It took me plenty of searching through those 20-some-odd years before I found a mascara that actually held up to the intense Houston weather, and once I had I felt like I'd achieved some preposterously silly yet deeply satisfying sense of Bayou City nirvana. The longer my mascara stayed in place, the more I felt at one with my city. But makeup isn't the only tool in my thoroughly researched, exhaustively tested arsenal of tools for surviving the Houston summers intact. Below, the five products I keep on hand all summer long:
1. Witch Hazel
I began using witch hazel at the suggestion of my mother, who, at age 60, has such flawless skin she's regularly mistaken for my sister. Witch hazel cleans, tones and moisturizes at the same time, offering three beauty benefits in one, simple, outrageously inexpensive package; I picked up a giant jug of witch hazel at Target for $3 just yesterday, in fact. Its very light scent is herbaceous and fresh, and there's no sting that can often be associated with astringent solutions.
In addition to being an astringent, witch hazel—which is distilled from the leaves and bark of the North American Witch-hazel shrub—has anti-inflammatory properties, calming heat-aggravated redness and sunburn. A full-face swipe-down morning and night leaves your skin feeling cool and refreshed, and prepares your skin for whatever you lay down on top of it next. (And if you're like me and you forgo foundation/powder in the summer entirely, it keeps your face bright and oil-free for a good 12 hours.)
Dickinson's original witch hazel, $2.49 at target.com
2. Green Tea Waterfull Emulsion
Speaking of reducing redness, this lotion from The Face Shop—the Korean beauty store chain with a Houston outpost in Chinatown—contains 3,000 mg of green tea extract per 150 ml bottle. (And if you're interested in a bit of trivia, the tea comes from Korea's Boseong County, which is famous for its green tea crops.)
Like witch hazel, green tea has anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe sunburned or overheated skin. Though the price may seem a little steep at first, you only need a dime-sized amount of this silky-soft lotion for your entire face, which means a bottle will typically last for several months, if not longer. It sinks in easily and quickly, leaving a light, subtle scent and never a trace of greasiness.
The Face Shop Green Tea Waterfull Emulsion, $19.90 at yesstyle.com
3. Tom's of Maine Naturally Dry Antiperspirant
Despite the fact that organizations such as the National Cancer Institute have found no link between aluminum in deodorant and breast cancer, many women I know have made the switch to "natural" deodorants such as Tom's of Maine (or crystal deodorant which...doesn't quite hold up during a Houston summer).
That's not what attracted me to the brand, however. Instead, it was trying nearly every antiperspirant I came across until I found one that really, really worked. I cannot sweat through this stuff. Hell, I can wear this stuff two days in a row on a gross camping trip and still not get sweaty pits at the end of the weekend.
Yes, it has a slight baby powder scent to it, but that's a small price to pay for not having to feel like Swamp Thing and his family could live in my underarms.
Tom's of Maine Naturally Dry Antiperspirant, $5.79 at walgreens.com
4. Camille Rose Naturals Curl Maker
Like our lifestyle editor, Sarah Rufca, I'm a big fan of allowing hair to air-dry during the summer. You straight-haired girls have it pretty easy in this regard. Us curly-haired chicks need a little help, however, to make sure that Houston's humidity infuses our hair with a sultry wave rather than a staticky frizz. Again, I've tried every product under the sun only to find most of them leave my hair crunchy, or weighed down, or greasy, or lackluster, or basically any pejorative term for hair you can imagine.
So what's the difference here? Camille Rose contains just enough coconut oil and aloe to calm your hair, and marshmallow root extract to balance those out with bounce and volume. The trick is getting it on your hair while it's sopping wet, so I keep my pump bottle in the shower and apply a half-dollar-sized amount to the middle and ends of my hair (avoid your roots if you have oily hair, like me) before a towel ever touches it.
Use a wide-toothed comb to evenly distribute the stuff, then ever-so-barely give the ends a couple of soft scrunches with a towel to make sure your hair isn't dripping everywhere once you get out of the shower. And that's it! Let your hair dry and try to resist touching it too much while it does. The soft curl you get out of this stuff will last you a few days as long as you wrap your hair at night.
Camille Rose Naturals Curl Maker, $22, camillerosenaturals.com
5. Dolly Wink Volume Mascara
This is it. This is the stuff. This is the mascara I waited to find all my life, and I stumbled on it one day while buying eel balls at Nippan Daido. That's what you call kismet. Dolly Wink is a Japanese brand that's made for women with short, stubby eyelashes (i.e., me!). As such, there's an emphasis on volumizing and lengthening, which Dolly Wink does terrifically. It only takes a few quick coats of the mascara, which builds up very quickly (go easy!), and suddenly you've got big, doe-eyed, doll lashes.
But that's not the best part. The stuff does. not. smudge. It doesn't fade. It doesn't slide off. It doesn't crumble into weird little flakes and fibers as the day wears on. It just goes on and stays on, rather stubbornly, until you're ready to scrub it off with makeup remover (though I find Vaseline does the trick too). I've never encountered anything quite like it. It changed my life, which is something I never thought I'd say about mascara, but such is the power of having a tool in your arsenal that lets you feel pulled together, confident and carefree—all the better to tackle yet another 100-degree day.
Dolly Wink Volume Mascara, $13.70, amazon.com