Monday, March 29, 2010

Combatting Tired Eyes

You asked, and I got them: Pooped out, puffy eyes! I wanted to know what you (my loyal readers) wanted me to write about next, and the winner was: help with puffy eyes and dark, under-eye circles. Shortly after I declared this, A started having mini-tantrums on the floor -- thrusting her head back while kicking like a champion swimmer. Evidently, her latest experiment with the world hasn't been going so well, because she can't eat raisins all day long, she can't stay up all night, and she can't shred my thesaurus. Of course, my eyes started to swell with these stressful antics, as my 19-month-old diva starting bringing down the house. That is, until I pulled out my bag of tricks.

Puffiness and dark circles under the eyes occur for a number of reasons  -- but for both, stress, caffeine, alcohol and lack of sleep are all aggravators. The first problem is easier to tackle because it's just fluid retention. When we are stressed, we tend to retain more fluids. And first and foremost, in order to flush out what's trapped inside, you need to drink lots and lots of water.

To jump-start the process of de-puffing, try my One-Minute Remedy. First, grab an ice pack from the freezer or fridge (if it's too cold, wrap a kitchen towel around it) and hold it against your eyes for about 15 to 30 seconds. The cold will help counteract the swelling. Then, gently tap the area around your eyes with your fingertips to trigger circulation and promote the fluids to move away. Tap with light, even pressure about 30 times, like you're playing the same chord repeatedly on a keyboard. I was feeling the eye-bulge the other morning so I did this before I ran out the door. When I met up with my good friend A.S., a stylist, she actually, to my great surprise, remarked on how good my eyes looked.

A nice thing of note is that the puffiness you may have woken up to may probably get better on its on throughout the day without any intervention -- as gravity helps to push the excess water out of your body naturally.

As far as dark circles go, because the reasons they occur are more often due to hereditary or pigmentation issues, and/or thinner skin causing the blood vessels to start showing off their colors more, they are a little harder to treat in a quick-fix type of way. Your quickest bet for treating them as a busy mom is to use an eye cream daily, and a concealer.  I found an all-in-one product by Olay, Total Effect Eye Cream + Touch of Concealer ($20), which you can look to as a starting point.

Daily application of eye cream or some sort of moisturizing treatment for the delicate skin around your eyes will help you overall for either issue. Essentially, taking good care of the skin by giving it the moisture and nourishment it needs is the key to radiance -- whether it's around your eyes or anywhere else on your face. As we age, our skin's natural ability to replenish moisture and repair damage diminishes, so we need to help it supplement.

If you don't have an eye cream or can't be bothered to get one, you can actually take a peek in your child's beauty bin. Look for a baby balm or salve that contains one of the following herbs: Arnica Montana, Calendula, or Chamomile, which all have anti-inflammatory properties, and therefore will also help with the puff. The key is to find one without zinc oxide, a common ingredient in diaper creams that also happens to make them powder-white, unless you want to walk around looking like you've got face paint on. I found Bamford's Organic Baby Balm ($40) in A's drawer, which has both Chamomile and Arnica Montana. It's thick, but absorbed rather well. A budget option, that has a cool, fluffy texture is California Baby's Calendula Cream ($11).

Eyes Wide Open 1-2-3:

1) Try storing your eye cream in the fridge. It'll feel great in the morning as you're prepping for the day, and the cold might just help de-swell those puffy eyes.

2) Use a broad spectrum sunscreen, with UVA and UVB protection and an SPF of at least 30, on your entire face everyday. You will be protecting your precious visage from the damaging effects of the sun, which accelerates the development of wrinkles, AND contributes to dark-circles under the eyes. Try California Baby's SPF 30+ Sunscreen ($19), which A and I use.

3) Get lots of zzz's. Easier said than done, but there's no way around it. They didn't coin it Beauty Sleep for nothing!


Disclaimer: Nuy Cho has no affiliation to any of the beauty companies mentioned on

Monday, March 22, 2010

Adventures in Hair Accessories

When you've got a girl, what is that inherent need to accessorize their hair? I remember the good old days when A was barely conscious of even having her dainty locks. I was able to put a pin or bow in at will. But soon after she started owning the streets of New York City with a walk and a skip, she realized not only that she could prance with attitude, but that she could give me attitude too -- about her hair. Now, if she keeps something in her curls for a few minutes, I consider myself lucky. Despite this, I still love that moment I see the colorful ornament set against her dark hair. I mean, they are our living dolls, our muses, our inspiration for creativity and life.

I've always been affected by the visual experience. And living in New York City is like living in a motion picture. The landscape is in constant flux because there's so much movement surrounding it -- cars, people, sound, light. Sometimes, even the buildings seem to be moving.  When A came into my life and became, in a sense, the new lead in my Urban Cinema, I had to of course, costume her, to dress and style her for the part. And the thrill of watching her dramatically pull out and throw, like a flaming log, new barrettes I've tried to surreptitiously put in her hair? Hey, every movie needs some theatrics!

Seeing tiny violets blooming during an afternoon walk along the High Line had me wanting to try colored headbands on A. I bought seven headbands from my local 99-cent store, which has a wall of items that is a children's hair accessory extravaganza. I went home and presented them to her. Taking them out of the plastic bag slowly, and individually, I added lots of WOWS and OOHS, to try and make it as suspenseful as possible -- an effort to make the headbands transform into super cool toys. I even brought A's sometime BFF, Elmo, into the mix and had her put them on him. But, as soon as I slipped a turquoise, grosgrain headband with a cluster of roses, on her (the one I'd had to have, that was so high up on the wall that I'd had to reach for it with a one-foot pack of incense), she threw me a knowing look.

Not one of the headbands stayed on A long enough for me to snap a photo -- they were tossed to the floor with pomp and passion. A was very proud of herself, like she'd been patted on the back by Jackson Pollock, and she twirled in big circles, singing to herself.

I was laughing my heart out.

Hair Peace 1-2-3:

My good friend and writer M, who `sound-checks' many of my ideas, and I were discussing how often one sees a baby girl with a hair pin desperately dangling from what seems like a single strand of hair. When it comes down to it, the "success" of the hair ornament has a lot to do with choosing the right one -- the item that will bother toddlers the least while having the right amount of grip and tension to hold securely, their more delicate hair.

1)  Japanese Ponytail Holders: These are without a doubt, truly, ouch-less elastics, which you can conveniently cut and tie to size. The tension is basically perfect. For the last 20 years,  I have used these on my baby-fine, snag-friendly hair. And now, I use them on A.

2) Fabric Barrettes: Since these are wrapped in soft fabric, the little ones are less likely to feel them. They are also designed in the clamp-style, making them easy to put on, in one, swift movement.

3) Hawaiian Plumeria Clip: A single flower in the hair is such a classic -- here's one A has that's petite, tropical, and as light as wind.


Disclaimer: Nuy Cho has no affiliation to any of the beauty companies mentioned on

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Mommy Getaway: Sporty

I went skiing for the first time the other day. I felt the need to do something completely out of my element, and for this island girl, snow athletics seemed like the perfect thing. Sure, there's ski to be had on the Big Island of Hawai'i, but I never went because my family was into dry terrain sports like golf, swimming and tennis. Essentially, I wanted a one-day Mommy Getaway -- something that didn't involve the logistical planning of an overnight stay but would still allow me to get out of the city and out of the head-space of my regular life. I speak to many mothers who say to me constantly, "If I could just get away by myself for just one day!" We all deserve a little time off from the home turf, alone.

I booked a one day trip to go to Hunter Mountain, accompanied by a good friend of mine, B, a wordsmith I frequently consult with. She hadn't skied in over 15 years and I was a ski-virgin, so we made sure a Beginner's lesson was included in our package. I have to admit that the moment the cast-like boots went on with the fasteners akin to torture devices, my heart started racing.

On the path to the bunny slope, our instructor worked with us to get our bearings on the snow. With three-foot long attachments bonded to my legs, I felt like an awkward, overgrown toddler as I learned to duck-walk in a circle. I was struggling to understand the nuances of the particular balance and movement involved, and my mind was fighting with me. It was that classic adult resistance where you know you're going to fall and you're scared -- and the awareness is biting you in the butt.

I slipped and slid, and the instructor and B herringboned ahead of me. I said to myself, "What's the worst that can happen? Okay, so you fall, big deal. A falls ten times a day and she could care less!" And with that I began to relax. Twenty minutes later, I had skied down the length of the bunny slope -- granted there were 3-year-olds in miniature snowsuits whizzing by me like pros, pole-less. But the exhiliration of riding the snow like a wave and feeling weightless? I was grinning so hard it felt like a face massage.

I did end up falling a bunch of times - off the chair lift! And each time I did I laughed it off in the same way I encourage my daughter to when she takes her spills. For those 12 hours we were away in the celestial Catskills, I thought nothing of my daily stresses.  Over the next few days I was happier than I'd been in a while, high off my ski-rides. And then, suddenly I found the courage to take A off the bottle, something I'd been slightly terrified of doing.

I had been inspired.

The Sporty Getaway 1-2-3:

The beauty of the Sporty Getaway is that it incorporates exercise, which promotes good circulation and overall fitness. And both of these contribute greatly to luminous skin and a healthy physique. With spring in the air, what better time time to get your body moving to a new beat? If you don't live in the areas the below links cover, keep in mind they are just a bouncing off point for you to brainstorm your very own, personalized, Mommy Getaway.

1) Skiing is sensational! Try NYC Ski & Board.

2) My brother J went whitewater rafting last summer and couldn't stop talking about it. Give Crab Apple Whitewater a look-see.

3) I've only ever caught one wave (I know, embarrassing for a girl from Hawaii) because I've barely surfed. I know Girls Who Surf are good teachers, and next time I'm home, I'm signing up!


Disclaimer: Nuy Cho has no affiliation to any of the companies mentioned on

Monday, March 8, 2010

Do You See What I See?

Everyday I weave through ups and downs, chaos and order, as I try to raise A alone in the best way I know how. After having her, I realized that parenting is essentially a constant vacillation between chaos and joy. A reads a book to herself in a language only she can understand: joy. A gets overstimulated at our local burger joint and I end up with french fries smeared like iron-on graphics on the back of my Levi's: chaos. It's a defining and sensational experience, but the balancing act can be rigorous. You can be the most type-A, hyper-organized and efficient person, but parenting will always find a way to change the game on you -- and the minute you think you've got something figured out, it'll dare to change on you again. It's not always easy to see clearly.

It's hard not to focus on what your child is or isn't doing at the moment -- to not worry about their future, whatever phase they may be in, etc. Like the way I'm scared of weaning A off the bottle, and stress about having a house laced in pee and painted with poo once potty training is in full effect. We naturally get caught up in all the invisibles in our lives: the hopes, heartaches, the songs of the past. And ultimately we can fall into cyclic patterns of obsessing about how things should be.

Many of us are guilty of doing the same with our faces. Since I was a teenager I coveted much bigger eyelids and deeper set eyes, like those of my non-Asian friends. I've probably over-analyzed every feature of my face at one point or another thinking it might be better to have this or that. But in the end, we have what we have. And it's good to remind oneself that more often than not, what we have is actually quite all right.

I have regular beauty discussions with my good friend and make-up artist Jason Hoffman. In response to a question I had about what he would do with my eyes and face on an everyday, easy-to-manage basis, he recently said to me: "Nuy, focus on what you see and what's right there. With you, it's brows, cheeks, lashes and lips." He prescribed a recipe of (after some basic foundation) light brow filling, mascara and lip gloss. I was trying to steer the conversation toward a whole to-do on how to work with smaller/Asian eyelids, but he was essentially reminding me: Honey, keep it simple, make what you've got, fabulous.

For some time after, I thought about what Jason had said, and how so often we forget to look closely at what is right in front of us. And to work with those things instead of wishing for something different or resisting them. I actually ditched my liquid eyeliner for the last couple of weeks as a test, and probably saved a good 3-5 minutes per day ...

It's beauty for thought.


Disclaimer: Nuy Cho has no affiliation to any of the beauty companies mentioned on

Monday, March 1, 2010

Lips: A Coloring Lesson

What is your favorite color? I love color, period. My first favorite was yellow, and I still adore it -- bright, lush and lemon bright. Over the winter I was passionate for purple. I bought a pair of punk-rock skinny jeans from Forever 21 as a way to break up the monotony of my black and blue denim collection. Then I had A's uncles get her a pair of purple Roxy Girl flare-leg jeans for Christmas. And one of my favorite ways to play with color? Lips, lips, lips. And lip color can be a sensational and easy thing.

Obviously, A is way too young for rouge at 18 months. However, one of my recent ways of engaging her in the a.m. beauty ritual is to fake-apply lipstick or gloss onto her. She delights in it -- usually walking away satisfied right then and there. The other day though, I happened to pick her up afterward, and saw she was staring at my freshly painted peach lips, noticing the difference in hue for the first time. She examined them thoroughly for a few seconds and then looked back up at me with a twinkle in her eye: Mama, I see the change …. and I like it!  I marveled at our first mommy-daughter "color conversation." And not a moment too soon before she wriggled away to go feed her Elmo doll pretzels.

So how does one pull of a pretty, colored lip? I know lipsticks can be daunting because there are so many to choose from and it can seem intimidating to wear a fully saturated, technicolor lip. Make it simple and it won't be difficult. First, keep your face fairly clear of color. Do apply some sort of foundation/powder and/or concealer to make sure your skin is even. Think of your face as you would an artist's canvas -- you want an uninterrupted, bare surface to be able to show off the featured color. Stick to just mascara, use a little bit of eyeliner if you'd like and have the time (but no colors, just black, brown or gray), and maybe a little bit of blush. That's it.

Now, what color? Be adventurous! Don't be afraid to wear a gorgeous red, a spectacular pink or why not even violet? Have the sitter for an extra half hour? Go to your favorite makeup counter and try on some colors. It's a good idea to try on different shades from varying brands to see what works for you, but if you need a cheat sheet or can't spare the time, give these a look-see ...

The Bold Lip 1-2-3:

1) Anyone can pull off a fabulous red lip. Try Ruby Woo by M.A.C. Cosmetics ($14) -- a lipstick reminiscent of the cabaret that is universally flattering.

2) Picture yourself in pink? Generally speaking, the more color you have in your skin, the pinker you can go. If you're on the pale or medium side, try one of my favorite Nars sheer lipsticks in Roman Holiday ($24). If you're on the tanner side or have a deeper complexion, check out Poetic Pink, a semi-sheer lipstick by Sephora ($12).

3) If you dare to go lavender (and do dare because it's a color that is quite flexible with skin color), be spot-on with the lighter lilacs hues that dominated the spring/summer 2010 runways with this Shiseido lip gloss in Cool ($22).


Disclaimer: Nuy Cho has no affiliation to any of the beauty companies mentioned on