In 1995, I was eight and my sister was 11. It was the year of my sister's big theatrical break: She had been cast in a community theater production of The King and I–a freckled Jewish kid from Long Island playing a Siamese chorus member. I was so jealous.
Each night before her show, my sister's face would have to be painted: full white makeup from her forehead to her neck. Her eyebrows had to be darkened and her lips bright red. And that was all before the half a can of hairspray and full container of bobby pins were used to construct the perfect sky-high bun. It took a full hour and a tub of cold cream to get that makeup off.
I, too, dabbled in theater. My roles (with the exception of a stellar performance as Nanna the dog) required a less severe transformation.
From an early age, makeup meant "important," "successful." If you had a lead part, you got makeup. If you didn't, you were expected to rouge your cheeks yourself and call it a day. And while I had my fair share of makeup-worthy roles (I was fantastic as Dorothy in The Wiz), I never got the full treatment my sister did back in '95.
For anyone who has done something seriously as a kid, when you hit puberty, you're faced with a decision: Is this going to be my life, or this is over? I didn't want it enough and wasn't "the best" outside of my small circle of experiences. My theater career ended without ever having the King and I-makeup treatment and the smell of red lipstick and cold cream always took me to a strange place mentally.
As a teenager, my makeup routine consisted of heavily black eyeliner and too much self-tanner, so when I got to college and realized I looked insane, I virtually retired from all beauty products. I'd use whatever was in the shower to wash my hair and, unless I was going out, wore no makeup.
Flash forward to my first job: I worked PR at a luxury brand and their offices were fully stocked with makeup straight from Paris. Still, I wasn't interested. My next job, an editor at a fashion website, provided me with a closet full of beauty products, but I was steadfast in my makeup-free resolve. I took the bubble bath and passed on the eyeliner.
The summer of 2016 was a tough one for me. I was reeling from the sudden death of two family members, struggling with health issues, and had started a job in an entirely new field, which made me feel like a failure six out of seven days of the week. I'd watch my old friends on Snapchat swiping different shades of the Kylie Lip Kit on their wrists, spritzing the new nameless Byredo perfume in the air, showing me exactly how to contour. Despite my lack of interest in my own makeup, I found myself watching the calm, hypnotic videos on loop.
I stumbled on a video of an old coworker slowly unboxing something new, the words "HOLY GRAIL" written over the snap. She slowly removed what looked like half an avocado with bristles. It was the Artis Palm Brush.
The Artis Palm Brush is specially designed to fit (you guessed it) in the palm of your hand. The hundreds of thousands of individual fibers form a dense, soft bundle, which is why (1) it's so damn soft and (2) it is able to perfectly blend makeup.
I googled. I YouTubed. I hashtag searched. It was like ASMR with a makeup brush. And while I know focusing on a material object in lieu of dealing with what's really going on is definitely not ideal, in that moment it was exactly what I needed. My mother famously says that you can't love something that can't love you back. But I was in a love affair with the Artis Palm Brush and we'd never even met.
Thanks to overnight shipping, my new lover arrived two days later. Like the YouTube videos I watched, I drizzled my newly purchased foundation on the bristles and in slow circular motions, I applied it to my face.
It was the softest thing I had ever felt. I slipped the brush back into its box for safe keeping, plopped it into my bag, and headed to work. Noon brought with it a difficult phone call. Instinctively, I took the brush out of the box. I applied a moisturizer to the bristles (yes! You can use for creams too!) and gently moved the brush against my neck throughout the entirety of the call. Instant calm.
While stuck in horrible traffic in a smelly Uber, I took out my Artis, applied NOTHING, and rubbed the bristles slowly on the back of my hand. Odd? Maybe. Obsessive? Probably. Effective means of cathartic relief? 1000%
Now that I've had my Palm Brush for a few months, the emotional connection is not as strong, although I do sometimes stroke my cheeks with it sans any product. I'm now able to see the exquisite tool for what it is: an absolutely perfect makeup brush designed for people who have absolutely no clue how to do their makeup–and loads of anxiety.