The New York-based fine art photographer and shutterbug behind Ciao, Chessa! doesn’t hold back about what’s in her beauty arsenal

Monica Shulman of Ciao, Chessa!Morning routine:
My skin is very dry and since I’m pregnant with my second child, even more so. After I shower I moisturize with Nivea Skin Firming body lotion and Clarins Tonic Body Treatment Oil, which is a miracle in a bottle for dry, pregnant bellies. I moisturize my face with either Estée Lauder DayWear or Future Perfect. Both have SPF. Recently I started applying Smashbox Photo Finish Primer on my cheeks for extra hydration after someone at Sephora recommended it (I’m a product junkie and will try anything once), and I love how lightweight it is and that it gives my face an extra boost. I apply a bit of Clarins Lisse Minute around my nose and under my eyes before applying NARS Sheer Glow Foundation in Punjab and just a bit of NARS Laguna bronzer and Orgasm blush. If I have a meeting or need to work outside of my home office I wear a light eye shadow and Lancôme Definicils or Lancôme Hypnose Star mascara. If I’m feeling super fancy I do a smoky eye but this is really rare for every day when I prefer to wear a more casual no-makeup makeup look. I wear Aquaphor or Rose Bud Salve with NARS Triple X lipgloss or Clarins Instant Light Natural Lip Perfector in Rose Shimmer on my lips all day every day, and if I want to punch it up a bit, I wear lipgloss in a fun color. It sounds like a lot but the entire process takes less than ten minutes and it’s such a part of my daily routine that I don’t even think about it anymore.

Overnight skin ritual:
I am a creature of habit and (a little) high maintenance about my nighttime routine. I never go to bed without washing and moisturizing my face. I use Neutrogena Oil Free Acne Wash in Pink Grapefruit. I mix some Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair with Estée Lauder Perfectionist and I dab it under my eyes. I first started using Advanced Night Repair in high school when my mom gave me her sample sizes from the bonuses from department stores and have been hooked ever since. Then I apply either of my Estée Lauder moisturizers. In the winter when my skin is extra dry I use a homemade moisturizer from a family recipe created by my Italian great grandmother. She was a beautician in Argentina and New York City in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, and my aunt and grandmother who live in Argentina make it in huge batches. I keep it in my refrigerator in a large tupperware with a post-it note that says “I am not dessert,” so that my husband won’t accidentally eat it—it looks like vanilla pudding but it definitely doesn’t taste like it! I like the way the cold cream feels on my face. I put Aquaphor on my lips and sometimes my hands and feet, and since pregnant, Palmer’s Tummy Butter on my belly and back. It sounds like it takes forever but the whole thing takes less than ten minutes.

Who cuts/colors your hair:
William at Martier in midtown cuts and colors my hair. A good friend recommended him a couple of years ago and I’ve never looked back. He is a magician who has absolutely changed my hair for the better. I always wore it long but after a lot of back and forth (and convincing on his part) I decided to cut and highlight it (something I always wanted but was too afraid to do) about a year ago. It takes a quarter of the time for me to actually style my hair and it’s much, much healthier.

Hair habit:
As any girl with curly hair can attest, the product you choose can make or ruin your (hair) day. Or is that just me? I wash my hair every two or three days (more often in the summer), and I don’t own a hairbrush or a comb. I don’t have a favorite shampoo or conditioner because I just can’t commit to one but I usually rotate between Kerastase, Garnier and Pantene—all for color-treated, dry hair. I feel like I’ve tried every brand and product for styling and right now I’m obsessed with Moroccanoil Curl Defining Cream. I mix it with a little TRESemmé gel before applying it to my wet hair, and I use my fingers to style it by curling a few strands that frame my face. I don’t blow dry it unless it’s really cold out and if I do, I use a diffuser on the hair dryer. On the days I don’t wash it, if it’s looking a little frizzy or sad, I spritz it with water and apply a little Moroccanoil to the ends or where ever I need it.

Favorite eye look:
I love a dark, smoky eye with NARS Thunderball when I go out at night, and I can’t live without my Anastasia brow pencil in Brunette. During the day I usually leave my eyes alone and rely on lipgloss or lipstick to brighten up my face but sometimes I apply a bit of Lancôme Definicils or Lancôme Hypnose Star mascara.

Go-to lipstick:
I wish I could just pick one! I’m addicted to trying new lipsticks, glosses, stains, you name it. I love how a color on your lips can change your entire look and completely brighten your face. I wear a color daily with Aquaphor or Rose Bud Salve underneath it. My favorite brand is NARS. Right now I love Turkish Delight and Scandal and I use the Triple X clear gloss every single day because I love the shine. I also love Clarins Instant Light Natural Lip Perfector in Rose Shimmer (it smells amazing, too). A Clarins specialist at Bloomingdale’s gave me a free sample when I was pregnant with my daughter and I’ve been obsessed ever since. I put it on top of every color I wear. My favorite lipsticks are from Make Up For Ever. I love how the color glides on and that they last so long without drying. When it does start to dry I apply NARS Triple X or Clarins Instant Light. Recently I’ve also been using Sugar Rose tinted lip treatment by Fresh.

Nail color of the moment:
I wear my nails very short and usually just paint them with a clear polish or something sheer like Essie Pink Glove Service, which is basically clear with a pink tint. You can’t go wrong with a bold, classic red nail though and my current go-to is Essie Russian Roulette.

Signature scent:
I wish I could find a “signature scent,” but it depends on the season and my mood. I have way too many perfumes but these days I’m usually wearing either Viktor and Rolf Flowerbomb or Prada Infusion D’Iris, both gifts from my parents who are acutely aware of my obsession with scents. When I’m feeling nostalgic I wear Issey Miyake because it reminds me of my early 20s when I was studying abroad in Paris.

“Never without” product:
Aquaphor, my vitamins, Goody hair bands and Clarins Instant Light Natural Lip Perfector. Actually any lipgloss! I have them in my bathroom, purse, sustainable diapering, camera bag…everything designed by Casa Bathroomware

Secret to staying young and beautiful:
If only there were a formula, I’d love to know! On one level I’ve found that working out regularly (I go to the Bari Studio in Tribeca), drinking a lot of water, and taking care of my skin help on the outside, but ultimately I truly believe that feeling good on the inside is the best and healthiest thing. My daughter and husband make me smile and laugh every day and there’s nothing that makes me feel more young and beautiful than the love of my family. Doing what I love and following my passion for art and photography helps, too!


See Monica’s work at Ciao, Chessa! and