Periodically we meet someone who causes us to look at things from a different perspective. It may be a science fiction writer discussing distant galaxies. Or an inventor explaining how the Internet works. Or even a neighbor helping us solve a homeowner's problem.
We then look at a familiar problem with a new solution in hand or perhaps even through entirely new eyes. Today we'll meet a young lady who will encourage you to new and different thoughts.
Her name is Ari Solovyova and she's a PhD student in linguistics at Indiana University. What makes her unique is that she was born and raised in Russia and makes her own cosmetics from ingredients commonly found in your kitchen.
She describes herself this way. "I'm married to an American who is also a linguistics student. I've been here for two years. I'm from Kazakhstan in Central Asia. I went to college in Moscow. I'm very interested in alternative medicine and various ways to save money."
Ari learned about natural cosmetics from her mother and grandmothers. "In Russia there's a great tradition of herbal healing. Most Russians have garden plots so they grow vegtables and herbs. We drink lots of herbal teas."
For beginners Ari suggests a simple cosmetic base. "There are four main componenets; oil, honey, lemon juice and egg whites. Here I use unprocessed olive oil. Oil is good for dry skin. If you put oil directly on your skin it will prevent absorbtion of moisture from the air. So a good method it to just splash your face with some warm water and then put some oil on it. Blot away the excess oil and put your cosmetics on this base. It looks so natural."
"You can't compare it to when you put cosmetics on your bare skin. Women who use professional cosmetics use some sort of cream before they use lipstick. Oil is the cheapest thing you can use and it looks perfect right away. Usually cosmetics don't look natural until you wear it for three to five hours. This way it looks good right away."
All of Ari's recipes didn't come with her from Russia. Her favorite book is "The Handbook of Natural Beauty" by Virginia Castleton.
How strange are her concoctions? How do they to compare to commercially prepared cosmetics? "For example, most of the dandruff cosmetics all include sulphur compounds as the main component. Homemade is egg yolk shampoo which is beating up some egg yolks and rubbing them on your scalp and covering your head with a plastic bag until it dries out. Then rinsing your hair without using any shampoo. I use it as my only shampoo. Egg yolks have a lot of sulphur in it. Garlic has a lot of sulphur, too. It's anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. You can grind some garlic and mix it with honey."
What advice would she give to someone who wanted to try to begin making their own cosmetics? "Just try putting stuff you have in your kitchen on your face. Some nutritional raw stuff like juices. Any vegetable or fruit juice. Just spread it on your face with your fingers. Wait until it dries and then wash it away. This just gives such a wonderful feeling.
"The first immediate feeling is pleasure. Your skin feels so clean. It's like the feeling after a bath with mineral salts. People feel right away like they've treated themselves to a great luxury. You don't need to spend anything on it because it's already there."
Interested in an immediate wrinkle remover? Ari has a suggestion. "Honey both moisturizes the skin and removes wrinkles. It acts long term. It also visably removes them before you go to a party. Sometimes after a hard day you have a wrinkle appearing. You put the honey on and wash it off and the wrinkle goes away. Egg white is very effective as a wrinkle remover. It also dries your skin, so people with very dry skin need to apply oil afterwards."
How about a daily skin treatment? "One thing that I use and recommend is a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice. About half and half. Just put it in a small jar and apply it to your face and hands before going to sleep. You'll see that your face starts glowing. It gets this kind of babyish look.I heard it from my mother and grandmother. Now I'm using it myself."
Ms. Solovyova has shared her ideas with others. How skeptical were they? "There are people that I gave this advice to and they really liked it. I have this one good acquiantance, an American girl, who is using my advice and it's worked great for her and she really likes it." One cautionary note she passes on is to refrigerate items that could spoil at room temperature.
Hair care is a daily task and expense for most of us. As you might expect, Ari has a natural solution. "Garlic and onion applications. You make a garlic and onion tea with ground garlic. Pour some hot water on them and let it stand for a few hours and then rub it in your scalp."
Worried about hair loss? Forget the expensive commercial products. "Burdock is a really cheap herb. You make tea out of it and rub it in your hair. If you do it every day you have a good chance of stopping hair loss just in a week."
If money were no object, would Ari still use the home made cosmetics? "The reason that I'm doing this is not so much for saving money. It's for enjoying doing things the traditional way."
Ms. Solovyova brings a unique perspective to trying to balance the family budget. If she could get one point across that it is "being thankful to this country for the amazing abundance that allows people to be frugal if they like it. You can afford being poor here! You can afford practicing voluntary simplicity. Exactly because people buy so much stuff. They buy new stuff and they get all those clothes in thrift shops."
She finds the same abundance in the ingredients for her cosmetics. "There is so much garlic, potatoes and vegetables. You can thrive on good stuff. You can buy simple food and really enjoy it. It's really wonderful."While all of us may not be ready to try natural cosmetics, it's always fascinating to consider completely new and different ways to stretch our family income. Who knows, maybe my thinning hair doesn't have to completely disappear!
Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who currently edits The Dollar Stretcher.com website and newsletters. He's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report and he's a regular contributor to US News Money and CreditCards.com. You can follow Gary on Twitter or visit Gary Foreman on Google+.
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