Kristina Ten "Things I Put on My Face"

PC: Mason Pippenger

PC: Mason Pippenger


Oil-based cleanser for sensitive skin. Evening primrose oil, licorice root extract, and camellia sinensis leaf extract.

I was always a sensitive child, according to my mother. She has a story about the time I said I’m sorry to a cactus after falling into it and making it lose its quills. She says the way I acted, you would’ve thought I’d bumped into someone at a party. It took two hours to pull the quills out of my knees and I cried the whole time. I was a crybaby. I cried when the dogs cried. I threw all my socks over the balcony because they felt too tight around my ankles. I couldn’t sleep when the crickets molted because I worried where their bodies had gone, their husks left hanging on the sides of our building, dozens of empty, cricket-shaped things drying in the sun. Why can’t I host the party? Because I’ll feel you across the room, having or not having a good time. Are you having a good time? There’s always someone not having a good time and I just don’t want them to be alone.


Low-pH water-based cleanser.Won’t strip your skin of its natural oils. Saccharomyces ferment, cryptomeria japonica leaf extract, and tea tree leaf oil.

Stripped down in front of the mirror, I see things I don’t like but I try not to care about them, to float somewhere above them. I try to orbit all my thoughts about my body around function: Are my legs capable of walking me to the train station every morning? Of running if I’m being chased? Are my arms strong enough to lift me out of water? Even if my eyebrows aren’t Lily Collins thick, do they rise and fall enough to tell you clearly what I’m feeling? Can my back lift dogs and babies even if it doesn’t have those two dimples that Cosmo says make it easier for you to orgasm? Even if my hips aren’t narrow. Even if my feet aren’t arched. Even if my thighs and lower legs are really different circumference. Even if my breasts are small and droopy. Even if my voice is like that of a teacher, not a tiger, can I still howl when the wolves howl?

I am apologizing and apologizing for apologizing. I am thinking whether it’s better to speak up or
avoid being a distraction.


Bird’s nest boosting toner. Boosts subsequent skincare products for optimal effectiveness. Swiftlet nest extract and marine complex.

Somewhere in southeast Asia, a bird makes a nest out if its own saliva the same way I decorate the apartment with Craigslist furniture and the parts of myself I have spit up. In the first bedroom, I hang my patience next to the air plants, and like with the air plants, you don’t notice the difference. In the hallway, I frame my ability to bend toward forgiveness. When I wash the dishes, I play a game with the water: How hot can I let it get before I have to pull my hands out of the stream? When I clean the living room, I think of the scene of the woman cleaning in that Jared Leto movie, Requiem for a Dream. She’s taking weight-loss pills and cleaning frantically, restlessly, folding laundry, scrubbing the floors, as the time lapse takes her from room to room to room. When she’s not cleaning, she’s watching TV. In my memory, I’m watching her watch TV, and in real time, you’re watching me. We’re all consuming our scenes. I feel like I’m making a home, like the bird, and you’re getting ready to eat the soup.


Collagen lifting toner. Lifts, firms, and improves elasticity. Copper tripeptide-1, cacao extract, and adenosine.

When I’m not being too sensitive, I’m being too severe. I believe I’ve heard every metaphor and euphemism for the vagina: a sheath, a seashell, a flower, a vessel, a papaya sliced in half, a kitten, a cat, a garden of peach blossoms, a monkey, a box, a cradle of filth, a pair of lips, a clam, a piggy bank, a mound, a moose knuckle, a birth cannon, a salt cellar, a flytrap, a valley, a tunnel, a taffy puller, a snake charmer, a velvet glove, a pink canoe, a cock socket, a rocket pocket, the wound that never heals.


Snail mucin power essence. Formulated with 96 percent snail secretion filtrate for when you need intensive repair.

When I was a kid, my neighbor taught me to kill snails in the garden. She was the oldest person I had ever met and I liked the way her skin reminded me of soaking paper in paste in art class to make papier-mâiché. She said snails were a nuisance. She brought the Morton Salt from the kitchen and told me to cup my hands together. We walked through the garden and whenever she saw a leaf move, she took a pinch of salt from my hands and threw it on the snail. It didn’t look like much. They stopped moving then bubbled then grew a bit smaller. I wouldn’t learn for another decade that it was like having all the water pulled rapidly out of your body.

Remember my body is a salt cellar. What if a snail crawled across the danger of my belly, left slime to match mine? From the snail, we can learn the true pain of exposure, knowing the weight and uselessness of its shelter. Imagine all the water being sucked out of your body. Remember my body kills naturally.


Goat’s milk premium cream.  Made with 50 percent raw milk from goats raised sustainably on the North Island of New Zealand. Great for the winter months.

My coworker plays a video game in the break room. He wins a round and says he’s the GOAT: the greatest of all time. He plays a few more rounds and the people who come through the break room either stay and watch or join him or shrug and grab a soda and go. I take lunch at my desk most days and one day get reprimanded for wearing jeans with a hole above the knee. One day, I go out to get lunch and walk by two men on the street in uniform. I’m tired so I yawn as I pass them and one of them makes a comment about how wide my mouth can open. I have always been so sensitive. One day in the break room, my coworker tells me that there is no wage gap, actually. It’s a myth perpetuated by people like Gillian Anderson on Twitter. Well, there might be a small difference in some industries. But here, the leadership really prides itself in men and women being treated as equals.


Raw, cold-pressed coconut oil.  Handmade in small batches using the African process of enfleurage. A single night-blooming tuberose flower is left to mature inside.

I got my first period at summer camp like a Judy Blume novel. My counselor gave me a tampon and talked me through it from the other side of a toilet stall in the bathroom nearest the 10-and-under girls’ cabin, which had no soap and smelled relentlessly of sulfur. I used the infirmary phone to call my mother, who said she wasn’t surprised, I’d always been an early bloomer. I remember being tall enough to see over the stall, that alien cotton shifting inside me. The first time someone told me I was growing like a weed was the first time I felt inconvenient. A nuisance, a ruiner of gardens. At school, there was something decidedly male about height and it made me hunch my shoulders and lean against walls and stay seated, especially in the presence of boys. Now when I walk home from the train station, the setting sun throws long, people-shaped shadows around me. One shadow starts to overlap mine and though I can’t see the person and they may be ten, fifteen feet behind me, there is a maleness to the length, to the overtaking, and I wish I were taller. I wish I had never and would never stop growing. 


Sunscreen. road spectrum PF 50 PA++++.  Absorbs quickly and evenly. Suitable for use
under makeup. Feels like you’re wearing nothing at all.

This whole time, have I been nothing at all? Or have I been only the first thing you notice about me? With long hair, a witch. With short hair, a boy. With big eyes, asking. With no makeup, hardly trying. When I’m sad, it’s forwarded emails about discounts on gym memberships and did
you know breaking a sweat can release your happy hormones? When I’m happy, it’s, okay, are you just pretending to be happy and if so have you tried a plant-based diet? When I’m fat, boutique store employees tell me I must be a size small to put me in a good mood so I buy their clothing. When I’m thin, my mother tells me not to get too thin because a man likes something to grab onto. You tell me I look beautiful. You tell me I look annoyed. No one tells me I look like an animal who is constantly escaping from and leaving behind its skin, on walls, on railings, only to eventually be recognized.

There are thousands of versions of me out there who look just the same but don’t have to carry the heart around.