After surviving a life-threatening battle with Lyme disease, Catherine Grace O'Connell decided to share her newfound confidence and her love of fashion with others, so she founded her blog, CatherineGraceO. Although fashion is the main topic covered on her blog, she'll tell you, "Fashion is my medium. It's not my message." By sharing her own story, she strives to inspire women to believe in themselves and to follow their passion. Today, Catherine talks about her self-care routine, including the game-changing beauty tip she learned from her daughter, the under eye concealer she swears by for covering dark circles and the inspiring advice she'd give her younger self.
What's your daily skin care regimen?
Well, it's changed since you interviewed my daughter, Maddie McCormick! Truly, I learned a great deal from my daughter. Typically, I begin with a gentle exfoliant. When I need a little deeper exfoliation, I use the Un-Wrinkle Peel Pads by Peter Thomas Roth — they are very gentle yet help even out my skin's texture so makeup glides on smoothly.
During the day, I usually begin with a skin serum and follow that up with a rich moisturizer. I use a sunscreen by Skinceuticals. It's a dry formula that's in it's own container with a brush applicator. I keep it in my car and use it to protect my skin, as I'm in the car a lot with my business. I grew up on the North Shore of Chicago and was a lifeguard, but I stopped sitting in the sun in my early twenties and use a self tanner for color now.
Are there any special skin care products you use to prep for photo shoots?
For photo shoots, there are a couple of products from Sephora that I love. One is the J. One Jelly Pack. You put it on your face and let it set for a minute — it helps to temporarily lift and tighten the skin. I follow this with Josie Maran's Surreal Skin Argan Finishing Balm, which gives my skin a subtle glow.
What's your nightly skin care routine?
At night, my regimen is a little bit different. I love Kiehls — it's a brand that is very mindful of holistic and natural skin care. I use their Nightly Refining Micro-Peel Concentrate and their Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Eye-Brightening Concentrate. What I learned from Maddie in her interview is that she's been using castor oil on her skin and it has made a huge difference. I always have a bottle of organic castor oil on hand as I use it for many different health reasons — it's absolutely incredible for your health. I've begun incorporating it into my bedtime routine and I can honestly say that it's made a big difference. I tend to have drier skin and castor oil is deeply moisturizing and healing. I rub it on my body, too, as older skin can look dry and crepey. I would highly recommend it, but I'll warn you... it's messy!
What makeup do you normally wear?
I'll be honest, I'm not well versed in makeup, but I'm getting a crash course in beauty in my new life as a fashion blogger. I have always loved Laura Mercier. Her line is very natural and fresh. I always begin with her Radiance Foundation Primer. It gives my skin a glowy look and helps makeup glide onto my skin more smoothly. I rarely wear any makeup outside of concealer and lip gloss, if I'm not shooting.
What's your makeup routine when you're prepping for a photo shoot?
Certain products I choose specifically for the camera. On the days that I have a photo shoot or an event, I follow up the Laura Mercier primer with foundation. I use a sponge to apply Ultra HD Invisible Cover Foundation by Make Up For Ever in Y365. Then, I use two different shades of under eye concealer and blend them to cover my under eye circles — I use the Make Up For Ever Ultra HD Concealer in Y31 and R32. Doesn't every woman have under eye circles? I know I do, and this product really works! Then, I use a liquid blush by Stila in Water Lily. I find that it's really subtle and gives my skin a natural flush. I have two powders that I like to use — Laura Mercier's Translucent Loose Setting Powder is a favorite of mine, and I bring along her Secret Brightening Powder that's specifically designed for the HD camera (it takes away the shine without leaving a film of powder).
I curl my lashes and use a variety of mascaras, usually cheap ones from CVS. I found one on Amazon by Lash Factory that includes a lengthening fiber, and I'll use this one for photo shoots to make my lashes stand out. If it's a dressier shoot or event, I'll add a liquid eyeliner. I love the black liner pen by Mac. It's the easiest one I've found to draw a perfect line. I use Laura Mercier eye shadows in Ginger and Ballet Pink. They're the only colors I wear on my eyes — they are very natural looking and help my eyes pop.
I recently found a product at Sephora that gives you subtle definition. It's a contouring kit by Make Up For Ever called the Pro Sculpting Face Palette and it comes with a great highlighter. Maddie also gave me a beautiful highlighter by Lorac called Moonlight for Christmas and I alternate between these two highlighters. I love that highlighters bring added light and really illuminate my skin in photos.
What's one thing you never leave the house without?
I won't leave the house without a lip of some kind. I feel naked without something defining my lips. I have quite a collection of lipsticks and lip glosses — they range from CVS brands to Neiman Marcus. For a shoot, I always take the time to apply the lipstick with a brush. It really helps the application and gives it real staying power. I like to finish with a touch of lipgloss for shine.
How do you style your hair most days?
On days when I get dressed up, I usually wear my hair straight. I have had bangs my whole life, as I have a high forehead, and I prefer the way I look with a full Goldie Hawn style bang. I love Bob Roy Salon and my colorist, Jenine, is a master at creating the perfect hair color. I don't have any grey hair yet, but I have dark, dirty blonde roots that need regular touch-ups. Jenine applies a color to lighten the base and then carefully applies highlights a few times a year.
I was lucky to find a salon in the South Bay, Haute LA, that has a monthly membership. For only $80 a month, I'm treated to a month of unlimited blowouts. It's the best deal in LA! I'd never had my hair done in my life before fashion blogging. I love the girls at Haute LA, and we've become friends as I'm in there all the time. To me, having my hair done is about changing the way that I feel. When my hair looks it's best, I feel my best. Most days, I wear it completely straight, but I love to experiment with curls and beach waves now and then.
What haircare products do you swear by?
I swear by Madison Reed products for both coloring my hair and helping my hair hold the color. I signed on to exclusively represent the products as they design their products to be as natural and holistic as possible. I love their color-preserving shampoos and conditioners. I'm partial to their Nourishing Line and have been using that lately. Their Color Reviving Gloss delivers radiance to my hair just like an in-salon treatment. I'm a fan of their entire line and always use their Revitalizer to keep my strands looking their best. They introduced a new product this year called Root Touch Up Powder. It's absolutely genius! It looks like a powder compact and you just brush it on your roots and watch them disappear.
Do you have a go-to fragrance?
Yes, I do. Maddie and I both use one scent that we both adore. I used to use a fragrance that was a gift from a friend, and honestly, I never thought I would make a change before she gave me this perfume. A friend of mine back in Chicago, Patty Talbott, created a unique scent called Saor, which means "to be free" in Gaelic. Saor infuses bergamot, fresh white tea and combines it with a hint of musk. It's the most delicious fragrance I have ever tried. People are always asking, "What is that scent?" It's the only perfume I wear. It's light and very feminine.
What's the last product you used until there was nothing left?
Are you trying out any new products you don't typically use?
As a fashion blogger, I tend to receive a lot of new products to try. There is a brand called Spa Ritual, that is all natural with the most luscious creams and body scrubs. I received a box of their products and I've been over the moon. I live at the beach and my skin can take quite a beating. I absolutely love the quality of their products.
I received a sample from a company on Instagram called Kiss Kiss Able. They create lipgloss in basic to custom shades that don't come off until you remove them. I love finding a lip gloss that has excellent staying power.
My hair colorist loves the products by It's A 10. She swears by their Miracle Leave-In Plus Keratin. I just bought it to give it a try but don't have the results yet. I tend to try and share authentically based on my experience.
I was recently treated to an incredible natural, anti-aging procedure at Thibiant Beverly Hills called microneedling with radio frequency. I'll admit there is some discomfort, but it's minimal. The results absolutely blew me away, and I highly recommend the procedure to revitalize your skin in the most natural way. I love experimenting with holistic means of turning back the clock.
Are there any DIY beauty treatments you love?
I'm a bit sporadic about it, but I'm a big believer in facial exercises. I haven't disciplined myself to do it regularly yet but the results seem pretty incredible. I love aging as naturally as possible.
I love experimenting with various hair masks as well. The salt and wind can be very hard on my hair. When it's really dry, I melt coconut oil and let it sit in overnight. As my hair is super fine, I need to shampoo several times to wash it out, but it works!
What's the most important part of your beauty routine?
The top priority in my beauty routine is my nutrition. To me, true beauty can only be found within. I discovered a superfood nutritional cleansing system just over a year ago that has been life changing. I posted my before and after photos on Facebook. The before photos are when I was in the throes of a life-threatening illness. I literally looked like a walking dead person. You truly wouldn't recognize me only two years ago. Nutrition is the key everything. When I feel my best, I look my best. Nutrition has literally changed my life and is the key to healthy aging and looking young naturally. Beauty that comes from the inside out is lasting beauty in my world.
How did your blog CatherineGraceO come to be?
How much time do you have? Seriously, my daughter, Maddie was the ultimate catalyst. I was diagnosed with Lyme disease in spring of 2014. After a month of treatment, I couldn't walk for a year. I went through a near-death experience on November 11, 2014. I went into a deep depression after that and was in a very dark place. In spring of 2015, Maddie came over one day and asked me what I would do if I were well. I said that I would travel the world, and that was the beginning of my recovery.
I began the process of creating my blog, dreaming and scheming, and I began healing rapidly. People don't understand the power of creativity and how that healing that energy can be. I'm a Reiki master teacher and have been studying spirituality and holistic healing for over 25 years.
The process of creating this blog was literally the key to saving my life. My motto is, "Fashion is my medium. It's not my message." For the first time in my life, I have confidence and I'm using my voice to share a very important message: Love yourself, believe in yourself and know yourself. Never let anyone or anything outside of you define you. Define yourself. Connect to your passion and purpose. Turn within. All the answers are there. That's much of the message and inspiration for my blog. I combine my passion for spiritual evolution with fashion. My blog is boho chic meets life revelation — it's meant to wake you up a bit!
How would you describe your personal style?
My style tends to be very boho chic, and what I mean by that is it encompasses both sides of my personality. I love getting dressed to the nines and going out at night — that's my chic side. My boho side is the more carefree yogi aspect of my personality. Most days, you will find me barefoot and makeup free at the beach or a yoga class.
I rarely think about what I'm going to wear. I never plan ahead when it comes to fashion. I live in the moment and grab whatever inspires me at that time from my closet. Even when it comes to big events, I usually never know what I'm going to wear until that day, unless I've bought something special for the occasion. I tend to be very spontaneous by nature. I'm a true free spirit and very bohemian at heart.
I'm not a big follower of trends. I prefer setting the trend rather than following the trend. I believe in spending a bit more on timeless, classic pieces and shopping for trendier pieces at stores like Forever 21. I love combing the sale racks, outlet stores, flea markets and consignment shops. I grew up on Loehmann's and the Dress Barn and that definitely influenced my style and the way that I shop.
What's the most beloved item in your closet?
Oh... that's a hard one! I'm a bit of a fashion addict, clearly. I just ordered a couple of things that I've been lusting after from the site, Farfetch. I found a gorgeous pair of the sleekest white booties by Pollini and scooped them up. I had been lusting after a bag by M2Malletier and when I found it on sale, I finally took the plunge and made the investment. I've worked really hard this year and decided to treat myself. I don't normally splurge like that.
What's one thing you do every day that makes you feel great?
I try and start my days with meditation and prayer at the beach. As I mentioned, I'm an energy worker and I've been trained in many modalities over the last three decades. I do an energy routine to ground and balance my energy and clear any negativity. I find that when I slow down and spend more time in prayer and meditation, my life seems to be more in the flow. I follow that by either a class at The Bar Method in Hermosa Beach or yoga at The Yogaloft in Manhattan Beach.
I begin the day with a product called Ionix Supreme. It's loaded with adaptogens to help your stress and mood. I take lemon and warm water to help stimulate digestion and alkalize the body. Then, it's time for a superfood smoothie shake, unless it's a cleanse day and I'm detoxing.
What's a piece of advice you'd give to your younger self?
I would tell that little girl that she's very special and all the things that are happening have nothing to do with her. I would tell her to be strong and to love herself before anything else. I would tell her that she's not alone. I would tell her that it's empowering to use her voice and to speak up for what's right. I would let her know that it's all going to be okay in the end. I would tell her that she is a very special soul with a unique mission of her own and that she's awesome. And, I would tell her that all the answers are within. True beauty begins with a beautiful heart... and I would tell her that she has a beautiful heart.
When do you feel most comfortable in your own skin?
I feel most comfortable in my own skin when I'm doing good for others. I feel my best when I'm in integrity with myself. Self worth comes from within. It took me fifty four years to be comfortable in my own skin and I highly recommend it.
Most women, like myself, have suffered from low self-worth at some point in their life. We have a tendency to judge and compare ourselves to others. I grew up believing that I was hideously ugly, and it took my entire life to clear those beliefs and formulate new, healthy ones.
When I'm being true to myself and living authentically, that's when I feel my most beautiful and comfortable. Well, that, and a kick ass class by my friend and yogi, Amanda Lee Murphy at the Yogaloft. Her classes are a slice of heaven!
How would you describe your approach to beauty?
My approach to beauty is about as simple as it comes: True beauty can only be found within. You can be the most physically beautiful person, but if your heart is ugly, that's not beauty. I see so many celebrities misusing their beauty and their platforms. I'm inspired by young women like Meredith O'Connor and her message to embrace what you feel is "weird" or different about you. In our society, we have a tendency to have a certain standard of beauty when there is no standard of beauty. True beauty is diverse and is about being yourself. True beauty is often called a light in the heart, and that's how I see it as well. We are all beautiful in our own unique way. When a woman feels confident and empowered, she naturally feels beautiful... that and a killer smile with a positive attitude... now, that's true beauty in my world!
Be sure to follow Catherine on Instagram and check out her beautiful blog, CatherineGraceO. Check back next week for the latest installment of 52 Faces, a weekly series that spotlights a real woman's beauty routine. Last week, Madison Karsenty, an LA-based attorney, florist and full-time mom, shared the surprising treatment she swears by for glowing skin and the one product she uses until there's not a drop left.