Archive for the 'Beauty' Category

Further Misadventures with Home Spa

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

In November of 2010, I tried a DIY spa treatment at home. I made a brown sugar/heavy cream scrub for my scalp, which exfoliated and moisturized well, but smelled terrible. I wrote:

This should put me off any more home spa attempts for a while. Until I forget, and then I’ll be all, “I don’t know if this is a good idea, but I’m going to do it anyway.” Story of my life, I swear.

Two years and 17 days, people, is how long it took me to forget. Yesterday I consulted Curly Girl for a natural, shampoo-free solution for itchy scalp. I’d tried the brown sugar and conditioner before, and it worked OK. The newer edition of the book recommended quinoa plus conditioner. Directions: 1 tablespoon raw quinoa in 3 tablespoons conditioner. Scrub scalp and rinse. Hey, I thought, if I use it in my hair then we don’t have to eat it! (Not a fan of quinoa, or of how much 9yo Drake bitches and moans when we make it.) Plus it’s bigger, so it should scrub better than brown sugar.

It actually felt very nice and scrubbly, but as with past home-spa disasters, things started well but ended badly. Quinoa, unlike brown sugar, does not dissolve in water. And it’s a fast cooking grain. So by the time I finished scrubbing, rinsing, conditioning and showering, the walls, floor, shower curtain and my feet were covered with partially cooked grain. How had 1 Tablespoon produced so much? The hair trap was full, the water was backing up. The grains were no longer hard, but soft and more difficult to clean up.

So, here I was again, cleaning up another home spa mess. On the bright side, the scrub worked great and my scalp is in great shape.

Seeing Spots

Monday, September 10th, 2012

I have a gigantic blemish on my face. I’m not paranoid; it’s obvious. It started out as one of those deep, cystic ones. It throbbed so badly I thought it was going to spout a face and start talking to me. In the end, it was the same thing: a huge, unsightly whitehead.

Back in the day, I used to have persistent cystic acne that seemed irritated by hormonal shifts. I went to an old-school dermatologist named Myron, who would give me shots of cortisone in each cyst, and prescribe a lotion and cream that never worked well enough that I could stop going in and getting those painful shots, though they did shrink the cussers.

Eventually another dermatologist convinced me to try Accutane, which was a tough drug while I was on it, but did dramatically improve my skin. Now, though, as I approach menopause and the hormones get uppity, I’ve got cysts rearing their ugly (white)heads again. Sigh.

It seems unjust that I’m 44, and facing the same acne issues as at 14. I know not to pop it, and that covering it makes it worse AND highlights it. There’s little to do but abide and wait for it to subside. I have a cold compress on it now (the Mr. Happy cold pack that is supposedly for the kids.) Small problem, I know. But still, pretty gross.

The Emergency Bag

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

This is an uncharacteristic girl-y post, inspired by recent (mostly unsuccessful, or at least incomplete) attempts at organization.

Emergency Bag

I switch bags a lot, depending on where I’m going and what I’m doing, so I try to have a modular case like this to transfer among bags along with my wallet and cell phone. Over the years, the size of the bag has flexed up and down, and the number of items in it, too. This is the result of a recent paring down so it could fit in this smallish clear zip bag, so everything in it is easy to spot. I chose things that were likely to be wanted a lot if suddenly absent. Here’s what made the cut:

chocolate-covered Altoids (mint + chocolate fix = double duty!)
tiny tube of Prada lip balm
lipstick in neutral pink-y brown
packet of tissues
tiny bottle of hand sanitizer
mini pencil
mini pen
nail file
hand lotion
clear pony-tail holders (2)
magnifying mirror
adhesive bandages
antibacterial wet wipes
foam ear plugs
Shout wipe
a pink eyeglass polishing cloth
tiny tin with ibuprofen and a day’s worth of my medication in case I forgot to take it that morning

Another (Mis)Adventure at the Home Spa

Friday, November 12th, 2010

Spa treatments–lovely, but costly and time consuming. Just not possible, lately. I’ve often attempted to duplicate services at home, with varying results. I do a pretty good mani/pedi. However there was that time I added baking soda to my shampoo, and somehow got ammonia. There was the time I tried a salt scrub, but the salt was too coarse and wouldn’t dissolve and hurt to step on in the shower. Or the time I mixed brown sugar and olive oil to make a body scrub and the shower was so slippery I nearly fell and had to immediately wash it. Or when I tried Sally Hansen’s Airbrush Legs and turned the shower orange and immediately had to wash it.

Upon consideration, my misses outnumber my hits.

In spite of that, I keep trying. Last week’s experiment was a scalp scrub combining brown sugar and heavy cream. It felt great and I was smug, till my hair dried and I wondered what that bad smell was–my hair smelled like soured cream. Then Guppy got sick and barfed everywhere and I had a hard time distinguishing between the smell of barf and the smell of my hair. I tried to wash it out. Once didn’t do it; I think the smell was embedded in my scalp. I did a double shampoo this morning, (normally verboten on the Curly Girl care regimen, but desperate times, and all. Plus, I got the idea for the heavy cream from Curly Girl! Fail! Fail!) and I’m still not convinced it’s gone.

This should put me off any more home spa attempts for a while. Until I forget, and then I’ll be all, “I don’t know if this is a good idea, but I’m going to do it anyway.” Story of my life, I swear.

Last Pedicure of the Season

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

Sandal season is mostly over, but for those remaining warm days, I wanted one last pedicure. Funds are short, so I knew this would be a DIY endeavor using materials on hand. You can modify this for time considerations by leaving out steps, but this list will provide a comprehensive at-home pedi. (Adapted from this article by Shandley McMurray at Kaboose.

1. Remove polish. Use acetone remover for faster results, and use cotton balls, not tissue for better absorbency.

2. Soak. I added kosher salt to warm water along with a few drops of tea tree and lavender essential oils and soaked for five minutes. I’ve also used milk beyond its expiration date with cinnamon and nutmeg with good results. Rinse and pat dry.

3. Buff. Use a pumice stone or stick, like the Diamancel Food Callus Rasp, on heels and other rough spots.

4. Exfoliate. Rub a mix of oil and salt or sugar. You can use olive oil, massage or body oil mixed with brown sugar or kosher salt. Rub upward toward the heart for a few minutes, then rinse and pat dry.

5. Trim nails. Use a clipper or scissors to cut straight across.

6. Moisturize. Use a thick cream.

7. Soften. Use cuticle treatment, like Dr. Hauschka’s Neem Nail Oil (the bottle, NOT the pen), or Burt’s Bees Lemon Butter Cuticle Cream. The oil for exfoliating also works. Rub gently into cuticles.

8. Push. With a washcloth or soft stick, GENTLY push the cuticles back to make room for polish.

9. Remove again. Sweep a cotton ball soaked with polish remover over each nail again, so there’s a clean, non-oily surface for polish to stick to.

10. Polish. Apply a base coat, two coats of polish and a top coat for best results. Be patient, and give each coat a minute or two to dry between layers, then at least fifteen minutes at the end. Seche Vite is widely regarded as the best quick dry top coat. Look for polishes without toluene, formaldehyde and Dibutyl phthalate (DBP), like Sally Hanson Salon Nail Lacquer, OPI nail color, and Zoya, which is vegan-friendly.

Hey, Wake Up!

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

April’s In Style magazine has “Ten Ways to Wake Up Beautiful“, a surprisingly simple list of tips to wake looking and feeling better. For example: Wash your face early in the evening, rather than later. Sleep on your back, with your head elevated. Have more protein and fewer carbs at dinner. The article includes brief explanations and the complete list, and falls into the “can’t hurt/might help/why not?” category for me. (Link at MSN Lifestyle)

“Curly Girl: The Handbook” by Lorraine Massey with Deborah Chiel

Friday, May 1st, 2009

I found my new hair stylist the best way–by asking a woman whose hair I admired who her stylist was. The new stylist told me another of her curly-haired clients recommended Curly Girl by Lorraine Massey, and had come in after reading it with her hair looking fabulous.

If you are even vaguely curly, there’s a lot to like about this book. It’s put together in a chatty, informational way. Testimonials from women who’ve learned to love their curls, after a lifetime of trying to tame them. Massey is a curly girl herself, who’s done the research to find the best way of caring for it, and there are some surprising recommendations. Most curly girls can skip shampoo, cleansing their hair through scalp massage with conditioner. Brushes are out, too. Massey’s tips and techniques are going to take some practice, and getting used to, but I’m already loving the increased curl and definition in my hair, as well as the ideas on putting it up and tying it back. I was a little too zealous, though, when I purged our house of shampoo. I kept some for the kids, but gave away one of mine that G. Grod used too. He was not amused.

When I tried to find this book at the library, it was not yet back on the shelves. I asked one of the librarians for help. I was a little abashed when I told her the title and that it was a teen beauty book. She found it, and smiled when she handed it to me. “I own this. It’s good,” she said, as I noted her salt and pepper curls pulled back prettily from her face. While the book may be shelved in the teen section, curly girls know no age boundaries.

Hydration, Hydration, Hydration

Monday, March 30th, 2009

From The Breakfast Club:

Claire: I have a really low tolerance for dehydration.

Andrew: I’ve seen her dehydrate, sir. It’s pretty gross.

Since winter seems unable to give up its death grip around here, I had another look at “10 Ways to Great Winter Skin” originally in the Feb 2009 In Style magazine, reprinted at Shine from Yahoo.

Particularly useful, I thought, is the assurance that having any old lip balm is more important than using an expensive one. I find, though, that petrolatum and SPF in formulas like Chapstick can be drying, so they’re a mixed blessing.

I also like the DIY humidifier of a damp washcloth hung on the doorknob. The cleaning and maintenance of humidifiers is a giant PITA, so I’m much more likely to do this.

Super Fast Spring Mani, Pedi

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

With warm(er) weather this week, I’m risking spring shoes and a bag. Pushing the season? Maybe. At least I’m not wearing shorts.

But my winter-weathered feet didn’t look so cute in the cute shoes, so I did the fastest pedi ever; I slathered thick moisturizer on my feet. Then I did the same for my hands. Voila. Instant improvement.

Lotta Life-Hacking Links

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2009

From Wikipedia on “Life Hack

Today, anything that solves an everyday problem in a clever or non-obvious way might be called a life hack.

From The New York Times, “Low-Tech Fixes for High-Tech Problems.” I’ve tested using my head as an amplifier for my car remote; it works.

From Wired, “10 Geeky Tricks for Getting Out of Bed in the Morning.” I’ve adopted the glass of water upon waking up. It’s a great idea. (This and above link from The Morning News)

At Smarterware, a snapshot of good advice for getting through one’s day, “Simple Guidelines for Workday Quality Over Quantity” (My husband sent the link to me; I didn’t get it from a site.)

From In Style magazine via CNN, “Drop 5 Years in 5 Minutes” offers simple make-up techniques that have maximum impact. The day I tried a few, I got an unsolicited compliment from a makeup-artist friend.

Also from In Style’s January issue, some down-to-earth advice on losing weight:

“Restrictive diets don’t work,” proclaims nutritionist Oz Garcia, Ph.D. Instead, he suggests:

Sleep 8 to 9 hours
Massages to reduce stress
Dark chocolate in moderation to control cravings
Sunshine (the real thing or a light box)
Eat different things each day. Garcia recommends the Mediterranean plan from the Mayo Clinic.

Oscar Post Mortem

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

I thought this year’s Oscar broadcast was a big improvement over years past, and I enjoyed it a lot. I thought Jackman’s opening number was funny and well done. The later one was over-the-top, which I think even creator Baz Luhrmann knew, since he looked sheepish when Jackman thanked him and the camera panned to him at the end. But anything that features an extended bit from “You’re the One That I Want” is OK in my book.

TV critic Alan Sepinwall has some suggestions for further improvement, like going back to showing the film clips for the nominations and removing more of technical awards. I agree that they should probably remove the sound awards, though cinematography could stay. I also think the shorts should go, both animated and documentary. I know they’re important, but few people see them and the show is too long.

I have a few other ideas, too.

One, have stylists urge their clients to wear color dresses. Light silver, white with silver, off white with silver, light gold, cream, ecru, off white, white, etc. are not colors, they’re neutrals. Do you really want to look neutral? Outlier was Viola Davis in burnished gold. Wow.

Two, have stylists urge their clients to do their hair. Jessica Biel looked like she just got out of bed, plus her no-color dress looked like it threw up on itself. Her later switch to purple didn’t improve things much. And Phillip Seymour Hoffman, I don’t feel bad for you even if the announcer did get your name wrong, because anyone who wears a knit cap indoors deserves what he gets. Your haircut in Doubt looked fabulous.

Third, Reese Witherspoon, wha’ happened? Did you get bitten by brooding, soulless, vapid, teen vampire Robert Pattinson backstage? Your black and blue dress with matching(!) eyeshadow made you look undead, and you’re usually rocking the show.

For more snarky mayhem, visit Go Fug Yourself.

9021-Oh Dear

Friday, September 19th, 2008

Was anyone else concerned by EW’s cover of Jennie Garth and Shannen Doherty?

Garth & Doherty EW cover

About 14 years ago:
Kelly & Brenda

Doherty looks strangely the same, plus as if she needs a sandwich, or five. Garth’s face looks suspiciously tight. These women are only in their mid-thirties. Plastic surgery to make them look like their original-90210 selves is pretty extreme, and depressing.

One of my readers, SmallWorld Reads, commented about the movie Mamma Mia! that the movie characters, played by actors between 48 to 59, were significantly older than the characters’ ages in the play, which were supposed to be about 40ish.

I think 30-40 actors often won’t play parents because of the stigma of aging. Though her reps deny it, Rachel Weisz reportedly refused to reprise her Mummy role because she wouldn’t play the mother of the new 20yo character. (Weisz claims to have been born in 1971. A good friend of mine was in secondary school with her, and says she’s shaved a few years off.) Also, the age of parents goes up each year. I had my son Drake when I was 35, Guppy at 38. I’ll be 58 (about Meryl Streep’s age, now) when Guppy is 20. So 60 is the new 40, 40 is the new 30, and 30s are the new 90210.

Does that make 80 the new dead?

(Thanks, I think, to JV for the joke, which is ironic, since JV and his wife Rock Hack were the most fervent 90210-riginal fans I know.)

Mmm, Purple

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

Fall color is not just for trees. I’m in the midst of my annual fall-fashion magazine binge, and my most-wanted color duo is dark plum and bright yellow. They’ll go great with dark brown or gray.

Mossimo purple Vlasta flats
Purple patent ballet flats

Mossimo purple hobo bag
Purple leather hobo bag
. Both from Target.
Lincoln Park after Dark by OPI
Lincoln Park after Dark nail varnish by OPI, a favorite of my fashionable NYC friend, N, who bought me
Citrine flats
the bright yellow flats I’m wearing today, as a gift for fall.

A Few Favorite Things

Friday, May 9th, 2008

Mother’s Day in the USA is this Sunday. Mothering Day started in England as a day off for servants to visit their mothers/see their kids. In America, it was transformed to celebrate the homemaker/nanny, perhaps just putting a gloss over Sisyphean attempts to stem the tides of snot, poop, and dirt.

So here are a few ideas, in case you haven’t gotten something for the mothers in your life.

Spring flowers. Narcissus are pretty and have a lovely, delicate scent.

Treats. Raspberry-flavored cherries taste like red Swedish fish! And _good_ chocolate, from near (Legacy) or far (Maison du Chocolat’s plain truffles), is always in good taste.

A spring bag. Candy-colored, croc (mock or not), and black/white bags are in.

Unguents. It’s been a long, hard winter. Good lotion, like Golden Door Eucalyptus, is a soothing, smoothing indulgence.

Rest, peace and quiet. Good luck with this one.

Related reading: This article from the Atlantic on mother-centered architecture. We live in a four-square bungalow similar to those described in the article.

Project Runway Season 4, Episodes 2 and 3

Friday, November 30th, 2007

Both episodes 2 and 3 had special guests, but only ep 2’s caused the designers to weep with joy and quake with fear. Christian and Carmen’s 80’s flashback was horrible, and Christian’s love of it was quite bizarre. Listen to Tim, little boy. I could hardly believe that not only did bizarre and wifty puppet-mistress Elisa stay in, but she nearly won. Victorya’s dress was good, but I didn’t see it being as universal as the judges claimed. It’s a tough challenge to design something for a low-priced everywoman line, but yet still push the fashion envelope. While I liked the pretty dress by Jack, it wasn’t astonishing.

In episode 3, most people bite off more than they can chew, and Carmen and Ricky have meltdowns when confronted with their shoddy work. Jack’s conservative two-piece wins over Kit’s more ambitious ensemble. The trouble with having a guest judge, especially one who will wear the outfit, is they’re usually not as fashion-forward as they think they are–think back to Wendy Pepper’s critical win, and Austin’s auf, in the penultimate Grammy challenge from Season 1. Jack’s outfit looked very Thomas Pink to me. Nice, but not surprising, as Kit’s fleece blazer was.

There is an element of unreality to season 3 to me; it doesn’t feel like it’s really starting. Perhaps it’s because there are still SO many designers.

Also, Kevin? You doth protest your straightness too much. Get over yourself.

Go get more PR love at Blogging Project Runway.

Flight Plan: Toiletries, and TSA Restrictions

Wednesday, October 10th, 2007

Don’t want to check bags? No problem, as long as you’re familiar with the most recent Transportation Security Administration guidelines, updated last year to restrict liquids and gels. Interestingly, though, they are now more lenient with grooming tools such as nail clippers and tweezers.

To sum up, passengers are usually allowed two carryons–a small suitcase and a personal bag. Liquids or gels in carry-on bags going through security must be in 3-oz or smaller containers, and all fit in a quart size zip-top plastic bag. This can be tricky if you’re not checking a bag, and going somewhere longer than overnight. Here’s an ample sample plan, with examples from brands that carry travel sizes:



Hair product

spf moisturizerFace lotion w/ SPF

moisturizerNight Cream

body lotionBody lotion

Eye drops


Hand sanitizer


Evian mist

Cortisone cream

Other items for the kit that don’t need to be plastic-bagged:

disposable razor (use it and lose it!)
eyelash curler
lip balm
eye pencil
bandages for blisters
prescription meds (keep in original bottles for unexpected refills)
decongestant and ibuprofen
hair elastics

And one of my all-time favorite, most useful products

Dove sensitive skin barDove Sensitive Skin bar

OK, I’m off to test my theory….After about 30 minutes, I’ve got all the stuff from the first list fitting comfortably in a quart bag, and the rest of the stuff in a gallon bag. I tweaked the lists a bit, and I think this should leave me prepared, not weighed down, and get me through security.

Drugstore Mascara, Again

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

I wasn’t thrilled with Maybelline’s Define-a-Lash mascara, in spite of its lovely, metallic green tube. The weird, plastic-hedgehog brush didn’t prevent clumps. And the Neutrogena Clean Lash Tint, while good, only comes in black.

On the advice of my sister Sydney, I tried Maybelline Full n Soft mascara, and I think it’s a winner. It has a big, dense brush and a range of colors. It’s not one they’re pushing; product was on floor level. It’s more thickening and darkening than lengthening. Since that’s what I was looking for, I’m happy so far.

There’s a New Self Tanner in Town

Wednesday, September 26th, 2007

Earlier this summer I had good results from L’Oreal’s Sublime Glow moisturizing self tanner. The smell was light and not unpleasant, the color was barely orange, and streaks were minimal. Last summer, I tried Dove Energy Glow with little success. It had a faint unpleasant smell, plus it was orange and streaky.

On the advice of my knowledgeable sister Sydney, I tried Nivea Sun-Kissed Firming Moisturizer. I like it even better than the L’Oreal. The scent is light and pleasant, and the results are not orange at all. In fact, when I used it I became worried that I’d gotten some actual sun–I couldn’t tell the difference.

Review: L’Oreal Sublime Glow Daily Moisturizer and Natural Skin Tone Enhancer

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

I wonder who the copywriter was who invented the phrase “natural skin tone enhancer” to puff up “self tanner”? Yes it’s my annual attempt at self tanning. The difference is that this year wasn’t a debacle!

L’Oreals Sublime Glow (recommended by Consumer Reports) has rewarded my self-tanner perseverance! (Or at least not punished it. Much.) The beige lotion has a faint, pleasant smell; it doesn’t have the characteristic stink of most self-tanners. It’s got “micro-pearls” so it adds a little glimmer, but isn’t too Princess Sparkle. The color is only barely orange, but mostly light brown. It’s light and gradual enough to look natural, especially on my arms. I’ve had no disasters in the knee, elbow or ankle areas.

This is the best self-tanner I’ve used. It’s not perfect. It’s prone to streaks if you rush over wet skin. But it’s mostly natural-looking color, mostly easy, and not smelly.

Fashion as Therapy

Tuesday, March 27th, 2007

Guppy was born over a year ago, but the depression and anxiety that came with him are not diminishing inversely to his growth. In spite of medication and the help of a good team of healthcare professionals, I have continued to struggle. To get me unstuck, my team recommended an outpatient therapy program instead of the sporadic therapy I have been doing, and I started this morning.

A small part of me hoped that someone would wave their hand and tell me I didn’t need to be there, and send me home. And, as has happened at every step of this depression, no one did. So I guess I belong.

What does one wear to a partial hospital program? As I’ve noted here before, I take care with my appearance, perhaps more so when I’m feeling worse, both as compensation and as a way to demonstrate some control when I don’t feel I have any elsewhere, e.g., Drake won’t listen, Guppy’s screaming again, but my accessories match my outfit AND I’m wearing mascara, so things can’t be too bad. I attempted to mesh style and comfort, and found myself wearing an outfit and accessories made up almost entirely of things I got from family and friends:

Black Max Mara sweater and black Tod’s bag, presents from friend N.
Blue, green, and black patterned top and jade drops on white gold hoops, from sister Ruthie
Green spring leather jacket espied years ago in Nordstrom Rack by sister Sydney, later tried on and purchased with sister Ruthie.
Navy Gloria Vanderbilt pants with a bit of Lycra, a bargain from Valu City courtesy of sister Sydney
Nixon Mini GTO watch, picked out with and also from G. Grod
Blue Venetian beaded bracelet made by friend S from my parents’ church, given while I was pregnant with Guppy
And the only thing I bought myself: $9.99 black Chuck Taylor knock-offs from Target

I had layers, and I was comfortable yet still stylish. The therapy program went pretty well, too.