Gabrielle Korn Isn't Perfect — And That's OK

The myth of "perfection" has been one that most of us have had to grapple with our entire lives. Being a woman means being constantly held to a standard of appearance and demeanor that is virtually impossible to attain. Social media, with its constant feed of influencers and their meticulously crafted and controlled image, has only exacerbated feelings of self-consciousness and not being "good enough." This is something author Gabrielle Korn knows all too well.

Gabrielle Korn

The former editor-in-chief of Nylon spent years struggling with what other people thought she should be. In her new book, Everybody (Else) Is Perfect: How I Survived Hypocrisy, Beauty, Clicks, and Likes, she details — via personal and cultural essays — how the self-destructive pursuit of perfection can be harmful to our health, well-being, and relationships. 

For this edition of The Regimen, Gabrielle shares how her beauty routine has evolved over the years as she's become more accepting of herself, plus how to break the vicious cycle of feeling inadequate (and feeling guilty about that self-doubt), and why women need to forgive themselves first in order to move forward.  

Name: Gabrielle Korn

Profession: Writer & editor

Skin type: Extremely sensitive and acne prone

Hair type: Thick and greasy

Duration of beauty routine: 10-15 minutes

Walk us through your daily beauty routine:
I have really sensitive skin, so I can't really experiment with a lot of skin care — I always break out or turn splotchy when I do, so I keep it as simple as possible. I wash my face twice a day with a gentle, Parisisan drugstore face wash and follow it with moisturizer. Three times a week, I use a chemical exfoliator. I always use eye cream, twice a day. That's it. No face masks or oils for this girl. Sometimes I use a spot treatment when I'm breaking out. 

I generally try to remember to moisturize my body after I shower. I don't shave my armpits but sometimes I'll trim them, and I would like to shave my legs but honestly most of the time I forget to. 

I wash my hair maybe three times a week and use dry shampoo the rest of the time. I prefer to let it air-dry and style it afterwards with my fingers to avoid heat damage; it generally dries with a wave that I enhance with texture spray and then leave-in conditioner on the ends so it doesn't feel too dry. 

My makeup is pretty simple; concealer under my eyes and then as a spot treatment around my nose and on breakouts, brown brow gel, black mascara, and true-pink cream blush. I only do foundation if I'm being photographed or really need to look polished, since all-over coverage tends to make me break out. Dark, matte red lipstick is my favorite way to appear pulled-together. If it's nighttime I'll do highlighter on my cheekbones and brow bones in a C-shape (a tip picked up from backstage fashion week beauty interviews) and in the inner corners of my eyes. 

Gabrielle Korn Beauty
What is your best beauty advice?
Don't overthink it. 

What is the best beauty advice you've ever been given?
My aesthetician told me for years that makeup was making my acne worse, and I knew on some level that she was right but always ignored her. Now that I've been working from home for three months, I've stopped wearing makeup altogether, and my skin has honestly never looked better. I wish I had listened sooner. 

What are your three must-have products?  
I live and die by Augustinus Bader The Cream. I was given a bottle as a gift and it's the closest thing to a life-changing experience I've ever had with a beauty product. It is on the pricey side so I'm not sure if I will reinvest in it, but then again, I can't imagine using a different moisturizer now that I know how good it can be. 

I use Haoma's Soothing Eye Cream twice a day on my undereye bags and lids — my lids get so dry otherwise! It's great for puffiness as well as darkness.
If I must wear makeup, I like this cream blush and highlighter combo from Kosas. It has very flattering colors and the texture makes it blend right it. 
What's the biggest beauty mistake you've ever made? 
When I first started as a beauty editor, I used to experiment on my own face with new products as they came in. That wasn't a singular mistake — it was more like a two-year long mistake. It took years for my skin to recover from all the damage I did! 

What do you love most about your job? 
I have always felt more comfortable expressing myself in writing than in conversation, and I feel so lucky that I am able to make a career off of it. Writing a book is like opening up your brain and letting people into the deepest parts of yourself. It's terrifying and rewarding at the same time.  

Author Gabrielle Korn
What is one key lesson from your book that you think everyone can relate to?
The book talks about how to measure your own self-worth without relying on contemporary definitions of perfection. When we were growing up, perfection was largely physical, but now, as women in 2020, being perfect is often defined as having perfect self-image and being a perfect feminist. We went from having the wrong bodies to having the wrong feelings about our bodies. We lose either way. I think everyone can relate to feeling frustrated with self-worth being tied to the zeitgeist, and subsequently, capitalism. 

You talk about these unrealistic standards of beauty that people have and how it personally affected you. What advice do you have for those of us who feel that pressure to look a certain way or feel inadequate?
Forgive yourself for those feelings. The worst part about feeling bad about how you look is feeling ashamed about feeling bad. It's such a downward spiral. I also think that beauty standards are metaphors — skinniness as a priority is a symptom of wanting women to be as small as possible, physically and metaphysically.

Feeling good about yourself aesthetically is completely intertwined with how you feel about yourself spiritually, and as adults we all have responsibility to ourselves and the people who love us to take care of ourselves in that sense. And I don't mean, like, taking a bath and setting your intentions. I mean therapy, and working really hard to access your best self. It's only when you really know yourself internally that you can start to confront the external stuff. 

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"Beauty is self care. And self care makes us feel beautiful."

-Athena Calderone