“I always thought it would be cool to work at a magazine, but that seemed like something you could do in a movie, not in real life. Before the heyday of blogging, my face was kind of pressed up against a glass door, and blogs really shattered that glass. Suddenly, it felt like all of these things were for me too—and I could write about them, I could joke about them, I could experiment with them. I started a blog called My Tomayto, and I would convince either my mom or friends to take photos of me in seriously weird outfits. The practice of doing that was hugely impactful because it confirmed that I could write on a consistent basis, and doing it daily improved my writing. But anyway, when I graduated college I didn’t get a job at a magazine. I applied to hundreds of jobs, and all the resumes I sent in were to all the most general, catch-all accounts—you know, like info-at-hearst-dot-com. Now that I’m on the other side of it, I know that’s the easiest way for your resume to get lost. I tell everyone to just find a human, guess their email if you don’t have it, or DM them on Instagram and ask if you can talk on the phone for 15 minutes. I actually applied to a job at Into The Gloss—not because I wanted to write about beauty but because I would have written about anything. I just loved sites like that.
I did not get any of those jobs, but I did get a job at Estée Lauder using social media as kind of a recruitment tool. And while I was there, I submitted a story to Man Repeller’s Writers Club, which got published on the site. I wrote a couple more things for Man Repeller, just for fun—I was not being paid. Then, out of the blue, Leandra asked if I could meet her for coffee. I ducked out of work as early as I could to meet her at a Le Pain Quotidien, and after I gushed for 10 minutes, Leandra offered me a social media job. I had only been at Estée Lauder for three months—I felt so guilty about quitting so soon. But it wasn’t like I applied for this job, and it just happened to be the one I always wanted. So I gave my two weeks notice and started at Man Repeller as their social media editor.
I tell everyone to just find a human, guess their email, and ask if you can talk on the phone for 15 minutes.
My four year anniversary was actually this week, and I’ve had four job changes since I’ve been here. I did social for about a year and a half, then moved over to the editorial team, and eventually they changed my title to Fashion Editor, just to make it make sense when I was the one going to market appointments or shows. Eventually, and like a huge nerd, I made a Powerpoint presentation and asked if I could be promoted to Fashion Director. It was very nerve-wracking, but a worthwhile experience. That happened this past spring, and this fall I realized that, although I love writing, there are so many other things I love doing maybe even more. I always want to have a finger in that pie, but being able to interact with and learn from different parts of the business through a brand strategy lens is what I’m most interested in now. So now my role is kind of serving as a brand ambassador for Man Repeller betwixt the partnerships team and the editorial team, and my title is Brand Director. I’m still writing, I’m still styling, but I’m also working a lot more on making sure that our tone and voice and aesthetic are really distinctive across everything we touch.
Sometimes I wonder if personal style is even a thing anymore in the age of the Instagram algorithm. Do I only want to wear black right now because that’s what everyone around me is wearing? Or is that an independent thought? It’s so hard to separate. I realized about a year and a half ago that I’m never going to be one of those people who photographers at fashion week want to photograph. My style does not lend itself to that—I’ll always choose what’s practical over what’s eye-catching. Whenever I put on an outfit that I know is street style bait, I feel uncomfortable the whole day. One time I wore a pink corduroy suit to fashion week, and that’s probably the most I’ve ever been photographed and the worst I’ve ever felt.
In an effort to be more sustainable I’m trying to buy not as many new things, and I also love the thrill of the hunt. The Real Real scratches both of those itches. There’s this dress from Altuzarra that I look for on The Real Real and eBay at least once a month. It’s green tie dye with a midi-length pleated skirt and asymmetrical buttons up the side—I vividly remember when it came out. I hope it comes my way eventually.
I talk a lot about my rosacea—it’s corny, but talking about the thing you’re most insecure about does make you feel less insecure. I’ve had red skin since puberty, when all good things happen, and back then I used Proactiv. It was so harsh, but at the time people thought that moisture was bad and benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid were good. Of course, that made it worse. But because I’ve been talking about it so much, I’ve gotten lots of great recommendations to soothe or mitigate my redness. The best is probably the Biologique Recherche Masque Biosensible—if I put it on for 10 minutes, my face is really less red after.
I usually don’t wash my face in the morning, and just put on some kind of light moisturizer. I really like the Creme Dermopurifiante. It has a weird foamy quality—like a very light chocolate mousse—and it absorbs really quickly with no greasy residue. I actually keep it in my fridge, which is a nice way to wake up in the morning. I also really love Dr. Jart’s Ceramidin Cream for day or night. I don’t wear sunscreen every day, and I know that makes me the devil, but I’m more serious about it in the summer. The Solid & Striped face sunscreen has a serum consistency, which makes it nicer to use.
At night, my routine is more involved. I made the mistake of using foam or gel cleansers in the past, but now I double cleanse with the Biossance cleansing oil first and then the CeraVe Hydrating Facial Cleanser. The combination makes me feel pretty clean, but not in a stripped way. Then I’ll put P50 1970 on my face, neck, and chest. When I graduated from college I had a resurgence of bad, hormonal adult acne, and tried everything to get rid of it. One of those things was P50. I’d read all these articles about it so I ordered a bottle, and it smells disgusting and it stings, but it totally cured my acne. I’ve been using it for six years, every night. I’ve heard you’re not supposed to put anything on after that for at least 10 minutes, so I’ll do stuff around the house—sometimes I get distracted, and it ends up being more like an hour, but eventually I’ll come back. Then I have a few different moisture options based on how my skin is feeling. May Lindstrom’s Blue Cocoon is my go-to winter moisturizer. It feels almost medicinal, and smells like some ancient brew. If I get in bed wearing it, my fiancé will say, ‘You put on that witch potion again tonight.’ But I like the smell, and it does the job—I don’t feel dry an hour later, which happens to me with a lot of moisturizers. It also definitely soothes the redness, which is a big plus, and doesn’t irritate me in any way. Less than a pea-sized amount is good for my whole face. If I need more hydration, I’ll layer The Ordinary’s Hyaluronic Acid under it. I’ve also started doing gua sha, because I got a stone from Wildling and it seemed like fun. On nights I gua sha I use a Le Prunier Plum Beauty Oil instead of the Blue Cocoon, and I think my skin likes it when I switch it up.
I’m so used to how I look without makeup now. A while ago I realized I was using makeup to make my face look less flawed for other people, and that felt like something I should challenge. And I thought I’d never get used to it, but eventually, after six months or so of not wearing makeup, I did. It took me a while to get used to my face, and the nooks and crannies and inconsistencies you really don’t see when you’re wearing makeup. But now, my bare face feels normal to me.
I realized I was using makeup to make my face look less flawed for other people, and that felt like something I should challenge.
I do wear makeup for special occasions, and in that case I start with Embryolisse, which is a really good moisturizer for blending foundation. It goes on very smoothly—it’s the perfect texture. Then I’ll use the Charlotte Tilbury Light Wonder Foundation all over my face, which looks like skin and almost feels like a skin tint. I’ve done the heavy foundation thing, and the powder foundation thing, but this one feels like the right consistency for me. Then I’ll cover up the little red spots on my cheeks with Glossier concealer, and if it’s humid out, I’ll put Wowder on my forehead, nose, the tops of my cheeks and my chin just to get rid of any shine.
Flesh Lipstick in Chew is my favorite lip color, but if I want something a little darker, I also really like Clinique Black Honey. If my lips are dry I’ll put on a little lip balm after that. I like Glossier’s mascara and Boy Brow if I feel like I need some sprucing, and I’ve been experimenting with Brow Flick, but it’s a tricky one. I would always rather someone say, ‘You have bad skin,’ than someone say, ‘You did a terrible job at your makeup.’
True to form, I didn’t have curly hair until puberty. That was another fun surprise from the puberty Santa. It was so unruly and dry, but I had no history of taking care of it, so I had no idea what to do. And the internet didn’t really exist then—I remember we had a family Macbook, and I would sit on it for hours and look at weird curly hair forums that felt like the dark web. I would put it up in a super tight bun, just to control it, and eventually I had a lot of hair loss. If I look at photos of myself from eighth grade, my hairline looked totally different. Eventually, I started straightening it as much as I could, and washing it as infrequently as possible. I was so desperate that I wouldn’t wash it for like, two weeks. I did that until I graduated from college—a lot of my close friends up to that point had never seen what my hair looked like in its natural form.
At like, 24, I decided to learn how to take care of it on my own. Fortunately, this time around there was just more information. One of the biggest revolutions was using a low-suds, sulfate-free conditioner and a really juicy moisturizing conditioner. I wash once a week, and right now I’m using the Davines Love Shampoo and Conditioner because they fit the bill and smell really good. I shampoo, condition and, with the conditioner in my hair, I comb through with my fingers. Then, when my hair is still soaking wet, I put a quarter-sized amount of IGK Mistress Hair Balm and the Davines Curl Building Serum in my hand and scrunch them into my hair. I was told it’s better to use your styling products when [your hair is] wet because it helps lock in the moisture. I don’t wrap my hair up in a towel, because that’s just going to make it frizzy—instead, I do this thing called plopping, which is when you wrap your hair in a T-shirt. I’ve found that’s the best way to do a preliminary dry, and it gives my curls more lift. I’ll do it anywhere from five minutes to 40 minutes, as much time as I have, and then I’ll take it out and let it dry. It takes hours and hours to dry. I try to wash my hair on weekends, because I can’t go to bed with it soaking wet.
At like, 24, I decided to learn how to take care of it on my own. Fortunately, this time around there was just more information.
I recently tried out a new salon called Spiral (x,y,z) in Tribeca and I loved my haircut, but in general a haircut isn’t where I want to spend a lot of money. What I’m really obsessed with is color—I have the most amazing colorist. Her name is Cara Craig, and she works at Suite Caroline. I am naturally dirty blonde, and Cara really understands that I want my hair color to look how it did when I was four years old. At first we were just doing regular balayage highlights, but now we dye my roots a slightly lighter color and then do balayage on top of that. It just gives a more solid blonde effect.
BODY + SUPPLEMENTS
I’m not a fragrance person, although I have all of these powerful scent memories of hugging my mom goodnight right after she had taken a bath and sprayed her fragrance. That’s what I aspire to, but right now I use Nécessaire’s Sandalwood body wash because it smells really good. When I remember, I use their moisturizer too. And I am a finicky sleeper, so I’ll take CBD most nights. I really like this one from Gossamer, called Dusk.
I take a probiotic from Garden of Life every day, and then an oil of oregano supplement from Gaia Herbs and an elderberry syrup from Elderberry Queen that I keep in the fridge. Those are both supposed to be good for your immune system. In terms of workouts, I have dabbled in classes at Forward Space, which captures all the best parts of being at a club. You’re dancing so much and it doesn’t feel like exercise. But otherwise, I love any workout where you can lie down during it—that’s my workout philosophy.”
—as told to ITG
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Harling Ross photographed by Alexandra Genova in New York on February 21, 2020.