Posted by: Chelsea Novak | October 7, 2014

Letting go

As we prepare to move next week, there has been a great deal of purging. While I’ve tried to keep us from being owned by the things we own, you collect a lot of things living somewhere for 11 years. It’s not unlike life. You collect experiences. Some you cherish. Some change you. And sometimes you reach a point where it’s time to let them go.

Today, while sorting through the office, I came across a notebook I purchased in Italy during our honeymoon back in 2006. It was from this amazing paper shop in Venice. When I studied there in 1998, I would visit that shop and lust over the marbled papers. I remember I bought gifts there for my mother and promised myself that I would return there one day when I wasn’t a poor student and buy something nice for myself. I just knew that I would get back there. It was so special to me that I was able to go back there with M and buy something.

Items you buy with meaning always come with pressure. The words I was going to write had to be as remarkable as the paper itself. So for years the pages sat blank. Life was good, but nothing seemed to merit being documented in the beautiful book. Then in the fall of 2010 I fell pregnant and I knew that it was time for ink to meet those pages. For 10 weeks I shared hopes and thoughts. My first lines were about the wonderful significance that I was using that very special book to chronicle this moment in time.

Then entries stopped. And then they started again. Full of heartbreak, grief and rage. Feelings that dominated me for many years to follow. The entries finally stopped as that pregnancy ended in the middle of that November.

I don’t remember putting that book away. I suppose I saved it for a reason. I had forgotten in almost entirely. But today when I found it and began to leaf through the pages, remarking to my best friend, who was with me to help with watching Felix, that I wondered what I had written in there. And we saw the dates from 2010 and both just went “Oh.”

I looked at Felix and thought for a moment. It was time to let those pages go. That experience taught me to many important lessons. How to grieve and make space for sadness. About how resilient I can be and so much insight into how we all cope with loss. That’s baked into my being now. I don’t need to carry words on a page to remember that.

That book is still beautiful. I couldn’t bear to throw it away. Instead a had a lovely moment of catharsis, tearing the pages out and realizing that I’ve moved on. Forever changed, but no longer hindered by the experience. Ready to move to a new home just a little bit lighter. Excited to write new words in that beautiful book.

Today’s sing-a-long song “Moving Through Time” by Angelo Badalamenti


Posted by: Chelsea Novak | July 8, 2014

My darling Felix


It’s just over 10 weeks since you were born. I’ve been writing notes to you in my head or shooting videos when you’re asleep on my chest, but this is the first moment that I’ve had to write.

You are a wonderful boy. I tell you this every day and I hope to tell you this as much as I can.

You are strong, sweet and clever. A combination I suspect will get you both into and out of trouble in your life.

Some days you look like your father, especially when you’re gazing intently. Other times you look like my father, with your blue eyes and lovely smile. My mother says that when you’re happy, you’re a lot like me. You’re happy at lot of the time. 🙂

I adore how after we’ve nursed, you’ll sit on my lap and smile at me, like having a full belly is the most awesome thing ever (I agree, it really is!).

When I sing you lullabies at night, you’re starting to sing along with me in your own way, though you usually only manage to sing for part of a song before you get sleepy.

I love holding you. If I could, I would do it all the time.

You have made me happy in a way I had never imagined. You’ve healed breaks in my heart that I didn’t even know that I had.

There are times when I watch your father hold you and play with you and I am so overcome with love for you both that I forget to breathe.

I try my very best for you. Even when it’s hard. Though I have to confess, that so far, the hard moments are few and far between. If you can manage, let’s try to keep it that way (either way you get my best, of course).

The first time you smiled I wanted to buy you a car or a pony or whatever you wanted. I realized very quickly that all you wanted was more smiles from me. I promise you an endless supply (and if you’re good, try your best in school and respect your parents we can totally talk about that car thing one day).

It took a long time for you to come to us. When I was younger, I was quite afraid to have children, but I worked on that. Somewhere in my mind I suppose I knew that even though I was afraid of something, that didn’t mean I shouldn’t do it. Then, there was a pregnancy before you that we lost. It was very hard on us and a few years of fruitless trying that we couldn’t explain made matters worse. I guess now we know that you were going to come to us when you were going to come to us. I’m so happy that you did.

Your family loves you so much. Here in Canada, over in Czech Republic and all over the world, as family is more than blood. They’re all so delighted that you are here. I hope you can learn from them as they are all wonderful and unique people with so much to share.

You’ve changed the way I see the world. Made me soft, emotional and gushy. I’ve never felt stronger.

It’s been 10 weeks and I’ve taken 500 photos of you. I can’t speak for how many your father has taken. I’m glad we’re not paying for film.

We have really awesome dance parties.

Sometimes I lie awake at night and think about the future. Sometimes because I’m a mummy, I worry about all the things that could hurt you in the world. But more and more I get so excited because I try to imagine moments you, your father and I might have. There’s so much we want to show you and so much that you will show us.

You are growing so much every day. Sometimes I think you’re measurably bigger when I pick you up in the morning.

I can’t wait to see you run or hear you speak. To see you experience food or what it’s like to swim. I also want you to stay my little baby forever. To be the tiny boy I rock to sleep in my arms each night. These are the tensions of parenthood. If I do my job well, you’ll be less and less dependent on me. Hopefully that’s something we’ll both grow into with some grace.

I love you my sweet boy. Thank you for these ten weeks. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Love, Mama


Posted by: Chelsea Novak | January 4, 2014


Do you think it’s possible change your thinking? To reprogram thought patterns you’ve had as long as you can remember?

I do this thing. Not even a unique thing. We all do it, but I do it pretty much constantly and increasingly to my own detriment. I’m constantly comparing.  Some of us compare ourselves to others in terms of our careers, how much money we make, how popular we may be or how well we play a sport or an instrument. It’s a totally human behaviour and with each behaviour there comes a possibility that it can go a little off the rails. We can become obsessive about it. We can develop maladaptive behaviours to help us cope with out it makes us feel.

I’m out of whack right now because I can’t walk down the street without thoughts like the following going through my head. “She’s thinner than I am. I’m so gross.” or “She’s shorter than I am. I bet she doesn’t feel like a hulking giant in every crowd.” Pick a feature and I do this. Compare and cut down. Over and over. Sometimes it’s just going in the background, but other times, it’s a soul crushing crushing monologue. I’ve been doing this since my age matched my shoe size.

The part that goes unsaid. The most insidious and hateful thought, that awful nugget of so-called truth, is that I’m trying to make myself believe that the people I’m comparing myself to deserve love, success, joy and all the other good things in life – and I don’t.

It’s really fucked up when you think about it. First off, how you look does not determine if deserve love. If anyone tried to suggest this to me, if anyone tried to tell me that they think that they don’t deserve love because of how they look, they’d get one of my rather well known and effective talkings-to. Yet in my head, my inner critic is like “Yup. That’s how it works. You’re X, X and X. Everyone else is Y. You suck.” Thanks inner critic. Thanks a bunch.

Next, it’s completely unfair to the people who actually love me. It’s offensive to suggest that their friendship and affection is really only based on bone structure. Yet I do that over and over, knowing that it’s wrong.

There are people who do this very same thing for other facets of life. “I’ll never be as smart as her. Why bother trying”, “I can’t speak as eloquently as he does. No one will care about what I have to say”,”Wow, they really have it all together. Why can’t I be like them?” We are so good at finding ways for us to make ourselves feel inadequate. In fact, I manage to give myself an additional kick in the ass because I’m crazy about something so superficial. Bravo!

What am I going to do about this? Cause it’s just not okay anymore. I’m, frankly, too old for this shit. So I’m going to reprogram my brain (with supervision from my therapist, of course). I’m going to shift my inner monolog from comparison to observation. It would be absurd to think that I’ll stop seeing people. I’m observant. I notice details. I remember so many of them. I can’t change that. But what I can change is how I think about it.

This is what I’ve started to try. Every person I see, I’m trying to notice something nice about them –”Nice hair.” “Great shoes” “Lovely smile.” – and the thought stops there. Cut. End scene. That’s it. No reflection on what that means for me. Because in reality, how other people look has no bearing on my self worth. None whatsoever.

Here’s hoping it works. At the very least I’ll be thinking nice thoughts about everyone.


Posted by: Chelsea Novak | July 9, 2012



Sharing this photo to show John S that you can post a photo to WordPress and to remember 3 years at Mozilla.

Posted by: Chelsea Novak | May 25, 2012

Travel fab

I’ve had a few requests in the last year or so to write a blog post about travel. Specifically how to travel and not look like ass. I have the great fortune to be able to travel for my work. It’s an amazing opportunity to see parts of the world I’d have never seen otherwise and to meet so many amazing people. Sadly, in these times, the process of getting from point A to point B can be a miserable slog.

I’m on planes a lot and often have to make very efficient use of my time. I’ve been lucky enough to know a lot of optimization-inclined engineers who have done a great job at figuring out how to make travel as painless as possible. I’ve learned a ton from them about frequent flyer and trusted traveler programs (sign up NOW), how to pick a seat on a plane (book early, check in early), how to not lose your luggage (easy, don’t check it) and how to spend as little time in airports as possible, cause really, they’re just miserable places sometimes.

When I started to travel with these optimzation-inclined engineers, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t holding them back by checking a bag or holding up the line at security. I didn’t want to inspire ridicule or reinforce stereotypes about women who travel, but at the same time, I’m kinda of a girly girl. There are people out there who treat travel like it’s some kind of survivalist experience. When you travel a lot, you need to make sure you’re doing everything you can to be comfortable. Otherwise, you will lose your mind and you won’t be able to do the things you traveled for in the first place. I know that if I’m not preoccupied with feeling self conscious about how I’m looking, then I can put all of my brain power behind work or play. So I have to achieve some kind of balance.  

One thing my colleagues couldn’t teach me was how to be an optimized traveler and still, well, look good. This means not just being fashionable, but also having the beauty tools I’m used to using on a daily basis on hand. It turns out, it’s not that hard. With a little preparation and thought, you can breeze through an airport with the skill of a veteran traveler AND you can have the means to beautify. I feel like I’ve achieved a balance between being a highly efficient traveler and knowing that I have the beauty tools I need to mitigate that “out of your element” feeling that comes with being away from home.

With that preamble done, I’d like to share with you a bunch of the things I’ve learned over the last few years.


  • The first thing you need for traveling well is good luggage. Personally, I recommend Briggs and Riley bags. They have a lifetime warranty, look great and are built to optimize the packing space available in the bag – a key feature in a carry on. Their larger bags are also excellent for packing dresses and suits.
  • If you can avoid it, try not to check luggage. Any time you are separated from your things, the risk of losing your luggage increases dramatically. I can usually do a little over a week (workout clothes included) in a carry on, so I generally avoid checking. Sometimes I have to. If I’m traveling to multiple climates or if I have a formal or dress-up event to attend checking is unavoidable.
  • The second thing you need to invest in is a high-quality travel hairdryer. Most hotels have hairdryers, but they’re usually terrible in terms of power and you can be stuck having to waste extra time drying your hair. I have a Babyliss ionic travel drier with a folding handle. It’s high powered and effective. Get something that works on 120 and 220 voltage to you can use it overseas too.
  • The last essential for me is a big scarf. It may sound silly but here’s how they’re useful. First, great accessory. Also, can double as blanket on a plane or, as I recently learned, as a blanket at a SF 49ers game. Always have one in your carry on.

On the plane
Planes are great. They let us be in the sky and get to places with amazing speed. However, they are also horrible for our skin. They are metal tubes filled with dehydrating circulated air. Dehydrated skin is sad skin that will start producing excess sebum to compensate for the dryness. This will lead to fun things like breakouts, clogged pores and that gross waxy look that people come off planes with.

There are a couple of things you can do to mitigate this. If you’ve gone with carry on luggage, you’ll handily have all your beauty supplies right there will you in a fashionable clear plastic ziploc bag. Put the tyranny of the TSA to your advantage and fight some of the ill effects of air travel.

  • First off, once you’re settled on the plane, put on a hydrating mask. I’m not kidding about this. Buy one that’s clear (like the Dermalogica hydrating masque). On flights longer than 4 hours, put it on twice. Don’t worry about washing it off. Your skin will absorb it all. Also, the eye cream you’ve packed, put that on too.
  • Flying is murder on your hands, so put on some hand cream and cuticle oil as well. Basically as soon as I’m settled on a plane, I’m moisturizing within an inch of my life. It goes without saying that drinking lots of water will help you as well.

Taking it with you
Sometimes I think the TSA flight regulations have less to do with keeping the skies safe and more to do with people having to  prejudice against people who like to look good. Someone once referred to it as the “war on moisture.”

  • The key to being able to take all your beauty stuff with you is travel containers. The best way to get them is to get bottles in a variety of sizes. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll need 4oz of every beauty product that you need. Usually the only things you need in that volume for a week are items like shampoo, body lotion and body wash. Other items like face cream, eye cream and masks you can use the smaller containers for. What does container size variety get you? It means you can get more things in your sad little ziploc bag. Think hard about what you can bring in smaller amounts.
  • Sample sizes rock. Whenever I’m shopping for beauty products, I usually work in that I need things that travel well and nine times out of ten I’ll get sample sizes along with my purchase. These are perfect for your sad little ziploc bag as they’re small and disposable. The containers can sometimes be reused as well if you find one that fills a need and doesn’t take much space.
  • Get a pack of beauty wipes as well. I love the ones from MAC, but there are other great ones that are good too. These solve a couple of problems. First, you don’t have to bring makeup remover with you. For years, the only thing that would ever leak in my bag was makeup remover. Like, EVERY TIME it would leak. The wipes don’t have to go in your sad little ziploc bag (saving you space for other items), they save you time at the end of the day for washing your face and they won’t leak all over your other stuff.
  • Since liquid is apparently a gateway terrorism, another way to make room in your sad little ziploc bag is to use powder-based products. I use a powder exfoliant and just add water and since that water is far away from a plane, we can all breathe easy. Dry shampoo is a great thing to bring along as well. Just a little bit can refresh your hair.  Also, try bringing as much powder-based makeup as you can manage as well. Bring mineral makeup instead of liquid foundation for example. Usually the only make-up based liquids I’ll bring are eyeliner, lip gloss and mascara. For some longer trips, I’ve gotten eyelash extensions – though not just to save space in my sad ziploc bag, but it was an additional bonus.
  • Put together an essentials bag. Here’s a photo of mine and everything in it – all TSA size approved (I usually have to take a third of the contents out and put them in the sad little Ziploc bag).

I actually carry this bag with me every day, cause life has proven to be pretty unpredictable. The only thing I add to this bag for travel is a small tub of hydrating mask and eye cream for the plane.

Included: Hand cream, toothbrush and toothpaste (never under-estimate how refreshed you can feel after brushing your teeth), travel size cuticle oil (very handy for when you’re on the streetcar and note how totally dry your cuticles are), rosebud salve (good as a lip balm, cuticle treatment, soothes burns and treats pimples), blister preventer (I hate socks. Blisters are always a danger), pill pack (always have ginger pills for upset stomach, antihistamines, Advil and Benadryl which is great for sleeping problems or treating the first stages of a serious allergic reaction), nail clippers, mini tweezers, a few Purell wipes, hair elastics and a few bobby pins, mini hair brush (I use this all the time, especially now that I have bangs), pressed powder (I love how pretty the Guerlain compact it), cheek/lip colour – it does double duty! (I usually only carry one, Poppy by Stila, but I’m kind of in love with the Coralista blush by Benefit right now so I keep it close), foundation stick, blemish cover stick (I use the Bobbi Brown one and love it. It’s tiny, fits in a pocket and does magic) and various lip glosses (usually just one or two).

Picking your makeup
As I mentioned above keeping liquid makeup to a minimum is handy for travel. Another thing is to bring a palette. When you pack your clothes, putting together things that mix and match saves space. Same thing works for face colours. Some companies even make it easy for you by putting together an essentials palette for you. Pick up a set of travel-size brushes (MAC makes some great ones) – a powder, blush, eyeshadow and concealer brush and you’re laughing.

Making it like home
My last tip about looking good while you travel has nothing to do with packing. It’s about how to treat yourself while you’re away. My mental well being has more impact on how I feel and look than any powder or cream. To that end, these are a couple of things that I do to keep me sane.

  • Unpack completely. Living out of a suitcase makes me miserable. As soon as I get to a new hotel and time permitting, I take about 15 minutes to unpack all my things, hang them up, organize my belongings and make the space comfortable.
  • Creature comforts. Sometimes I bring a travel candle with me (hotels or new cities don’t always smell awesome) to make it comfy. Also, if I’m in my hotel room I’m always playing my music off my computer. These things make hotels less sterile. Also, staying in boutique hotels helps as well as they’re decorated with a lot more warmth typically.

There’s what I’ve learned so far. Hope it helps and happy trails.

Posted by: Chelsea Novak | March 9, 2012

On validation

A few days ago a started an experiment. I stopped checking Facebook and Twitter. Cold turkey.

I was having a session with my therapist (yeah, I go to therapy. Don’t you?) trying to unravel some stuff that I had seriously raveled and I realized there was something amiss with these digital social connections I spend so much of my time on.  More and more, they were making me sad, rather than helping me feel connected to friends and events around the world. I think social media is an amazing and powerful thing. Something with so much potential for good, but I think I was doing it wrong.

So I took a couple of days off to think about it. What was I hoping to get from my interactions on social media? The primary thing is connecting with people I know and like. Check. That’s good. The secondary is exposure to news, ideas and issues like Twitter can only provide. These things are also all good, but there’s this other thing. This troublesome human thing that was also driving me to be social. I was looking for validation. Validation that people like me, that I’m funny and that my life is interesting or special in some way. Troublesome.

This kind of thinking isn’t bad. Like I said, it’s human, it’s normal and we all do it. But it got to a point where it was out of balance for me and that was a problem. A friend was telling me last night about this phenomenon, where kinds of interaction on social media can actually make people more depressed, rather than the happy glow we get from feeling connected and loved. The reason being that many of us (myself included) are conveying a life that’s usually positive, possibly a life we’re not even really living (deep thought alert). Maybe it’s because few people want to air their sadness publicly (which I get), but the result is that it feels every status update you read is that everyone else’s life is awesome while you’re feeling crappy and you can only wonder what’s wrong with you. You don’t infer that everyone is also worried about money, job security, politics, putting on a few pounds or completely overwhelmed by life. They are – they’re just not putting it in their status update. So everything appears to skew positive.

I realized during my wee break that I was feeling a lot happier being away from Twitter and Facebook (Facebook especially). M kindly passed on important news and a funny link or two. I texted (even talked!) more with friends and was able to focus better at work. I didn’t wake up in the middle of the night and reach for my phone to see what was happening in the world. I just slept. I really wasn’t missing watching arguments or seeing updates that felt like daggers in my heart. Didn’t miss that at all. I also didn’t miss the pressure I was putting on myself to live a life worthy of constant happy, awesome, fantastic updates.

So I took some action. The first action was go look at Twitter and the kinds of feeds I was following. And then I culled by a magnitude of 100s. I don’t want to get into the specifics of why, but it falls 100% into the “it’s not you, it’s me category” so don’t take it personally, please. Next, I’m limiting my participation in Facebook to private messages (there are some people I adore who only use Facebook) and a couple of private groups I enjoy. Twitter will still post there, but that’s about it for now.

We’ll see how this experiment goes and if I can get things back into balance.

Today’s sing-a-long song: “The Great Escape” by We Are Scientists


Posted by: Chelsea Novak | January 26, 2012

The Last Dance

When I was a child and I was asked “what do you want to be when you grow up?” the answer was almost always “a dancer.” I loved dancing. If my parents left me home alone, I pushed all the furniture aside and danced ’til I dropped. I spent hours in our basement watching music videos and recreating routines (I *may* still do this, but I’ll deny it if you ever call me on it). Like other kids, I took ballet and jazz. I even had an ill-advised foray into tap dancing. Was a good at it? I don’t remember and it didn’t really matter. I hit 5’9″ at the age 12 and it was the final nail in the coffin of my would-be dancing career. Dance classes were traded to make room for other activities. I never stopped loving dancing though, and it was always in my life, one way or another. More recently, it’s been a very important part of my life and at times, been key in saving it.

Almost exactly five years ago I took my first dance class with Eneli. It was at this all-girls boutique gym that I’d been to the previous summer for my bachelorette party. I stood in the back (cause a) that’s what you do when you’re new to a class and b) shy, tall girl), not knowing what to expect. Loud hip hop music blasted and what may be the world’s most terrifying awesome warm-up began. I was so hooked, like at the reptilian brain level. It’s not often that you do something and instantly feel “this is totally the thing for me.” It was a class called MTV Choreography. We learned do dance like they do in music videos. And it was the kind of fun I lack superlatives for.

This quickly led me into taking Hip Hop classes with En as well. I even dragged my best friend Tash to come along, as we were long-time workout buddies and I was about to quit the treadmill forever. As I said to Tash when I was selling her on the classes “the dancing is fun, but OMG you are going to love the instructor.”

En is this insanely talented, hilarious, whirling dervish of a person. To know her is to adore her. She taught me a lot more than just steps. In the following months and years she taught me that it didn’t matter at all how big or small you are, so long as you dance with attitude. So much so, that this tall girl stands up at the front of the class to dance now. *snap*snap*snap*

En also taught me the fine art of faking it until you make it and, even better, that when you screw up, laugh if off and own it (I even created a special dance for when I make mistakes. When I make mistakes outside of dance class, I do the dance in my head). I don’t know what it was about these classes, but they helped me not be so damn serious. And when I had an awful day, dancing it out to some moderately vulgar hip hop really made things better.

Because her classes were challenging and entertaining, there were a lot of people who became regulars. Some seriously quality people. Some have come and gone, but I’ve made some dear friends along the way. We’ve gotten into the best kinds of trouble in and out of class together.

Last year, these classes taught me something I never would have predicted. I learned that even in the darkest days of depression, dancing with your friends for an hour can be enough to keep you held together for another day. Having something like that in your life, even if only for a little while can sometimes be the difference between sinking and swimming.

As you may have guessed by all this reflection, this dancing ritual is about to come to an end. En is moving away and while I know I’ll keep dancing, it is the end of an era. Tonight is our last dance class and obviously I’m heartbroken. I knew it couldn’t have gone on forever (at some point my body was going to make it clear that we are simply to old for such silliness  – note: we’re not even close to there yet), but it would have been okay if it had lasted a few years more.

What I feel most is gratitude. For five years, my Tuesday and Thursday nights have been about doing something I love with people I really enjoy. That’s over 500 hours of dancing my ass off. And while it may never be the same as dancing with En and the other girls, I’m take the attitude I learned there with me wherever I go.

Thanks for everything En.

Posted by: Chelsea Novak | September 24, 2011

Of age and artificial deadlines

Today is my 35th birthday. In some ways that seems very young and old at the same time. I guess they weren’t kidding when they said that the 30s are the decade that really mess with your head. I actually believe that you’re only as old as you feel. This means that on any given day, I feel like I’m clocking in somewhere between 17 and 25. Maybe 27 when I’m at work :).

35. I don’t quite understand what that means. I’m in a new marketing demographic so I guess that’s something.

It is making me pause a little though. I realized last week that I put a lot of pressure on this age. I know that sometimes in life you need to make big choices and have a plan. I generally deferred those things to “after I turn 35,” category. Thinking that once I hit this magical age, I’d suddenly be “mature.” I’d be the serious person at the table who can express their thoughts without using the word “like”; Refer to myself as woman vs. girl; enjoy Margaret Atwood books; start being able to drink whiskey; watch the news; talk about investments with enthusiasm rather than wanting to shoot myself in the face; not be consistently mistaken for a 27-year-old (I know how I look has a lot to do with it, but how I act plays a big part as well).

But here I am at 35 and I have not attained any these magical powers of so called maturity. Maybe they’re not coming. Or even more importantly, maybe they’re not meant to come. I’ve just tried to be happy and avoid disaster with as much grace as I can muster. It seems to be working. Whether I’m 35 or 65, I think I’m always going to be living life the way that I do. These serious things I keep expecting to happen, I think they’d silence some of the best parts of me. And I don’t want that. I hope I always continue to laugh, dance, sing my way through each day. Maybe as I age, I’ll be less afraid to express myself and let more people in on the constant party that’s going on in my inner world.

I don’t know where I got the idea that getting old makes you serious. That the music stops because “real life” has begun. It can’t be true. I think you just get better at enjoying the song.


Posted by: Chelsea Novak | September 21, 2011

Dermalogica skin care

I needed to do a lot of healing this year. I spent a lot of time going to healers of various sorts, traditional and non. I have to say, if you’re hurting, go see a professional. They know what they’re doing. In the process of all this healing, I spent a lot of time (and money) in spas. Another healing thing I recommend. While I was there, I learned a lot. I thought I knew what I needed to know about beauty. Turns out, I had a great deal more to learn.

One of the things I learned was how to really care for my skin. I’ve been on the right course for some time now, but now I know where I’m going. That place, is the alter of moisture. As I’ve long suspected, good skin is moisturized skin. Doesn’t matter if your skin is oily, dry or combo, you need moisture and lots of it.

My esthetician has gotten me in to Dermalogica in a big way. Most of their products are unscented (my allergies say thank you) and they work well with the other products I’m pretty committed to. In terms of my skin care regimen here’s what’s going on:

Cleansing: I’m still using the very gentle Cetaphil Gentle Cleanser. It’s cheap and cheerful.

Exfoliating: I’d been told that as someone with problem skin like mine should not exfoliate. However I was convinced to try it in a controlled environment. It helps that my esthetician has similar skin to mine. As such I’ve felt comfortable getting facials and trying new skin care products with her. So I now use the Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant. It’s very gentle, but helps get gunk off my skin so that it can’t settle in my pores

Toner: I used to hate toners. Mostly because they were all sting and pain. Apparently it doesn’t have to be this way. The right toner should prepare your skin to absorb your moisturizer when you apply it. With a hearty dose of skepticism I started using the Dermalogica Antioxidant Hydramist. It smells nice, so that was something. It also actually made a difference in terms of helping my moisturizer absorb. So that’s me with egg on my face.

Moisturizer: This has always been complicated for me. Most good moisturizers come with SPF. Which is good, because sun damage ages you and that sucks. But most things with SPF make me break out. And that sucks too. But so does sun damage. So I’m usually stuck. Thankfully the Dermalogica Sheer Moisture works without too many ill effects. So for days I know I’ll be outside, I use it.

Other days, I use Darphin Hydraskin Light as it works hard, but it’s too rich (I also use it every other night before bed). Every day I use Darphin Arovita Eye and Lip Contour Gel on my eyes and lips. Aside from some favourable genes, the fact that I have been using eye cream religiously for 15 years, is why I do not look as old as I am. (Seriously, every time someone finds out my age these days it turns into an anti-aging skin care commercial).

Masques: Oh the masks we force upon ourselves. Seriously though, masques rock. I use two different ones, mostly because they aren’t a hassle for me to do. Once a week I use the Origins Clear Improvements charcoal mask. Living in the city and travelling as much as I do, there’s a lot of “ew” that I need sucked out of my skin. I usually put it on as I get in the shower and leave it on while I deep condition my hair. Yay for multitasking.

The other masque I use (and LOVE dearly) is Dermlogica’s Skin Hydrating Mask. I use this one every other night. After I’ve cleaned and toned, I put it on instead of moisturizer and then go to sleep. I then wake up with baby soft skin (and note that many of my breakouts will have healed. Win!). I also put it on when I get on a plane. Planes are awful for hydration, but with this masque, I can get off the plane without my skin drenched in oil (when your skin gets dry, it compensates by creating sebum and your skin gets crazy oily). I also always fly with cuticle oil and a big ol’ bottle of water, but that’s another blog post.

When I look back at this post, it seems like skin care is really hard and complex. Truth be told, it hardly takes me any time it’s so habituated. Also, it really helps that I get advice and treatments from someone I trust. Really, that’s the key. If you find an esthetician you know does good work, listen to them. They will not lead you astray.


Posted by: Chelsea Novak | September 20, 2011


I feel like I’ve been holding out on you all. I’ve being engaging in a beauty ritual for close to a year now and have not blogged about it. It’s scandalous.

So here’s my confession. After a lifetime of truly, truly awful nails (fan shaped, brittle, terrible cuticles), my nails are now long, strong and awesome. How have I achieved this magic? First, I stopped trying to do them myself. Sometimes you just have to acknowledge that you’re not good at something and leave it to the professionals. I suck at nails. So I get regular manicures now.

I also have to get my nails done by pros because I’ve been using Shellac since last November. I’m sure you’ve all heard about it by now. It’s like a gel, except that it can be easily removed and doesn’t do damage to your nails while it’s on. They say it can last up to 14 days. I can usually make it about 10, 12 at the most.

There are a couple of things that I adore about it:

1) It’s strong. It doesn’t chip. It doesn’t peel. I can go about my daily life and not worry about ruining my nails. I used to destroy a manicure or pedicure within 24 hours of having my nails done. My eggshell nails really weren’t good for keeping polish on, so I really gave up. I used clippers to keep them as short and inoffensive as I could. Now that I’m living in the house of Shellac, my nails are great. In fact, I’m so used to having it on, that my nails feel thin and weak without it (they are in fact, absurdly strong now, but I guess it’s all perception).

2) It’s fast. Shellac is cured onto your nails using a UV light. This means that once it’s dry, it’s completely dry. No waiting, no sitting around. You can get up and go. I have a ritual of hitting my nails against the table at the spa as soon as my nails are done because I love that I can. I’m not a person with a huge amount of spare time to waste watching nail paint dry, so the time savings is key.

3) You can layer colours on top of each other to create custom combinations. My esthetitian works with both Shellac and Gelish. The Shellac stuff is great and lasts, but Gelish has crazy colours (and sparkles). We do a lot of experimenting (and often use a lot of sparkles). Because there are several coats, things like sparkles end up looking like they’re suspended in the gel. It’s a lot of fun. I can honestly say that my nails were like the bedroom of a 12-year-old girl for a few weeks. All purple and sparkles.

Did I mention the sparkles?

4) Did I mention that it last 10-14 days? Before Shellac existed, I couldn’t justify throwing down cash for a manicure that was going to chip and peel off in a day. However, paying ~$10 more and having a manicure last almost two weeks, that seems like a better investment.

For example, to the left here, that’s my hand (yes those are actually my nails, mother would be so proud). I got that manicure on Thursday, September 8. It’s the 20th today. That’s 12 days. (Yes, I know I have strange hands. Hand model I ain’t.)

I also get Shellac on my toes. The experience is pretty phenomenal. I was going to post a photo of my feet. My horrible, gigantic, abused and deformed feet, but I am just too vain to do it. The polish is beautiful (teal, in fact), but my feet are so mangled, it’s just not okay. I got my current polish applied on August 28th. I’m pretty sure I can get another 3 weeks out of it too. Just to give you context, I’ve worn mostly flip flops, done about 6 dance classes, barefoot pilates and gone for a few sockless runs. I’m very hard on my feet and shellac has yet to chip on me. (Feet are so gross. I am sorry, I just couldn’t subject you all to mine.)

Honestly, it’s revolutionary and it’s changed my nails. I have nice nails now and boy howdy do I like it. Check out the before and after section of the CND site. They’re not joking. This stuff is that good.  For those of you who are wondering how it comes off, when you go back to your salon, they soak your nails in acetone for 5-10 mins and then gently scrape off whatever polish hasn’t come off. Peeling it off can be tempting (which I have done), but it’s pretty bad for your nails. Again, something best left to the pros.


Older Posts »