Try this natural beauty regimen

Beauty or the Budget Beast

contributed by Van in AL

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I know that to some men and women, beauty seems trivial and vain. But, especially for females, looks are part of social status and the lack of proper grooming can actually cost women money in terms of jobs and opportunities lost. So, proper care of one's hair, face, and body are a concern that a frugal woman dare not overlook. One can waste thousands of dollars a year and still not get the "look" one desires. But, how does one sort through the thousands of advertisements and claims about beauty products? How does one know what product to invest in and what is just high-priced junk? For the answers to this important question, it is best to go back in time.

Our grandmothers did something that still has merit today. They kept it simple. A lot of women are probably shaking their heads right now and thinking that they just cannot do without this or that beauty regime. This is not true. In fact, studies have consistently shown that men prefer the natural beauty over the store bought.

First, let's cover hair. Hair should look healthy. Typically, a good stripping shampoo to clean it and a good soak in a conditioner are all that is needed to make hair shiny and healthy looking. The cheap shampoos and conditioners work as well as the expensive ones. Generally, with conditioners, it is the time you leave it on that is critical, so buy the cheap one and soak in it while you watch your favorite show on TV. A good stripping shampoo is one cup of dishwashing liquid with an egg added. This will strip hair clean and add volume. For more shine, try an apple cider vinegar rinse. If hair tends to get dry, use frequent hot oil treatments. I like to use olive oil. I warm it in the microwave, let the oil cool slightly, add it to my hair, and then wrap my hair in a towel. After I let this sit in my hair for at least ten minutes, I then rinse well with warm water.

It is best not to change your hair color. Dyeing eventually leads to unhealthy hair and scalp, and in the end, it is just plain expensive. If you do not like your color, use a rinse to add character to your natural color. There are some homemade rinses that do very well. Coffee can be used to enhance a mousy brown. Red/orange food dye can be mixed with water and used on darker hair to add red tones. Lemon juice or watered down hydrogen peroxide can be used to lighten hair. If you have red clay in your area, a clay treatment adds red undertones to hair as well as shine. A yellow food dye mixed with water can help liven up gray. Experiment with homemade rinses until you find one that enhances your natural color. I keep snips of hair that I kept after a cut in a plastic bag for experimentation. You can also purchase store-bought rinses. The key is to enhance your color, not replace it.

Hair styles are also important. Try to find a style you can cut yourself or a friend can easily trim for you. If that scares you, find a cut that you can get every six months and, in between, trim yourself. For Caucasian women, longer flowing styles work best. Pull hair back with clips and bows. Sophisticated looking up-dos are also easy for office or nights out. Just keep clips on hand. Avoid teasing, as it breaks hair and thins it. Always go with your natural hair. If you have curly hair, get a stylist who knows how to enhance it and learn their tricks. If your hair is straight, learn to love it. If you have gentle waves, learn how to scrunch and get a long-lasting cut that enhances your waves. When you try to get what you don't have naturally, two things happen. One is that the attempt will never look as good as the natural. The second is that your hair will eventually be damaged by processing.

I have heard many African American women say that they "must" process their hair. If you think this is the case, try to find a stylist who values the natural texture of your hair and can teach you how to optimize it. Avoid expensive braiding, beading, and extensions, and do not straighten. Let hair grow out naturally and rely on oil treatments or butter treatments for shine.

Next let us talk skin. Skin is the second most important and most overlooked aspect of beauty. Little girls generally have great skin. Regardless of your skin tone, you will look best if you can "keep" the skin of a young girl. Doing this requires very little money. It does require what I call "elbow grease." First, practice prevention. Prevent damage to the skin. The number one damager of skin is sunlight. Whether you are dark or light skinned, sun damages the skin. It damages light skin faster. Pull up your shirt and look at the skin on your abdomen. Looks good compared to your arms, doesn't it? That is because the abdomen is normally protected from the sun. So, your beauty mission is to never let the sun damage any part of your skin. When you go out, cover up. Keep a long sleeve shirt in your car to wear when you drive. Arms get the most exposure because we leave them in the sun unshaded and unaware. Be sure to cover the backs of hands in sunscreen. Wear sun block on any exposed areas. When you go to the beach, wear a big flowing caftan over your bathing suit. Only take it off when you get under the beach umbrella. Wear a hat. Hats keep us beautiful and add to our sense of style. I am amazed at how much women will pay to rejuvenate their skin when a straw hat from a dollar store will do more and do it for years.

The next thing to prevent is acne. Little girls have low oil output and tiny skin pores. As we near puberty, our output of sebum goes up. Sebum will harden as it hits air and form plugs. The tiny pores of childhood cannot handle the flow of sebum, so a plug forms under the skin. Bacteria in the skin invade the plug and surrounding cells and our immune system responds. We call this a pimple. The infection spreads to surrounding plugs and we call that acne. You should start preventing acne about age 10. Keep cotton balls, a small bottle of olive oil, and a small bottle of witch hazel in your purse or school backpack. Wash with witch hazel and then oil skin with a very small drop of olive oil. If pimples are already present, you can mix a small amount of broad spectrum antibiotic ointment into the olive oil. Do this regime at least three times daily. This treatment will keep the sebum from hardening (olive oil), allow it to flow through the tiny pores (witch hazel), and prevent spread of infection (antibiotics). Many youngsters who do this regularly never get the first pimple. I have had friends whose doctor told them to use topical alcohol instead of witch hazel. That seems harsh to me, but if witch hazel does not do the trick, you can try it. Each night before bed, moisturize after cleaning. Use either Vaseline® Intensive Care™ lotion or a cheap store-bought hair conditioner. Skin is keratin like hair, so hair conditioner moisturizes just fine. In fact, because hair conditioner is so cheap, you can moisturize over your entire body.

As we age, sebum output gets lower. Older women should primarily exfoliate and moisturize. An older woman should also consider using emu oil. It has been tested and shown to strengthen and moisturize aging skin.

The next thing skin must have to look healthy is exfoliation. There is no need to buy expensive gadgets for this. What works best is a wash cloth with a spoonful of sugar and a little face soap. Scrub the face and arms and back of hands lightly. Use a slightly more coarse cloth on hands and feet. Exfoliation removes dead skin cells and allows for a healthy glow.

Beware of using any base type make-up. If you must for flaws, use it only on the flaw and do not smear base all over. It clogs pores and thickens the dead skin layer. For an all-over glow, it is best to use something like bare minerals. Be sure all make-up is hypo-allergenic. Dime store make-up works just as well as expensive make-up. Don't waste your money on expensive brands. Make-up is made from oil/grease, clays/powders, and colorants. Brand names do not guarantee results. With make-up, less is more (seems to be a frequent theme). A light lip gloss or stain with sunscreen, a brow pencil, blush, and mascara are all you need. Avoid base all together unless you have flaws or uneven skin tones. Some women may also need under eye concealer if they have dark circles. Get a thin brow pencil that matches your brow color (sharpen it before each use). Avoid darkening brows. Use it to enhance your natural brow shape. Fill in any sparseness and pluck any excessive growth. Do not be tempted to embolden or thicken your brows. Generally avoid plucking altogether. If you must pluck, do not over pluck. You are not shaping. Instead, you are just removing strays. Your brows should end up symmetrical and close to their natural shape. Use the brow pencil to underline the eyes. Avoid using liner above your eyes. It looks less natural. Instead, use mascara for enhancing the upper eye lashes. Mascara is another product where you can pay a lot or a little. Go with cheap. The trick with mascara is to apply many layers. Apply at least three layers and allow to dry in between for luscious lashes. Go with dark brown or black, regardless of hair coloring. When applying blush, do it sparingly. Apply blush to the bottom and sides of the cheek apple near the lip area, not on the actual cheek. If you need to remove facial hair, pluck it or bleach it. Do not shave it. Plucking will eventually reduce facial hair.

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The last thing to discuss about skin is the need to exercise your face. Recently, there have been many expensive creams with vitamins and hyaluronic acid touted as skin rejuvenators. Those things are good for skin, but cream cannot deliver the way your circulatory system can. This is where exercising the face becomes critical. We underuse our facial muscles. The circulation gets poor, and the skin does not get fed. Look at the skin that lies over a body builder's muscles. It is tight and young looking. If you want a young face, you must exercise it. I won't go into detail here. There are many videos on YouTube that explain the art of facial exercise. It will take years off and the sooner you start, the less you will age. If you are over 25, you should be exercising your face right now.

So, what should I do with my nails? This is where many non-frugal women throw away big bucks. Again, less is more. Nails should look glossy, clean, and healthy. Good nails start with a good diet. Eat plenty of lean proteins and vegetables and drink clear water. For beautiful nails, soak the tips of fingers in hair conditioner (do it when you soak your hair) to keep them moist and supple. Use a fine buff cloth to polish the top of the nails and a nail brush to clean under the nails. Allow nails to grow only 1/8th of an inch beyond the tip of the finger. Trim any loose skin or hang nails. Use a nail mover to push back skin to reveal the moon. Shape them to an oval with an orange stick and scratch white chalk or white clay to get it up under each nail. Now, wipe nail clean and you have naturally shiny French nails. They do not chip and the polish does not wear off. If your nails are weak, you can coat them in clear nail strengthening polish. Avoid colored polish, as it needs to be constantly repaired. Those fancy synthetic nails make a woman look like she cannot work hard. My pretty, natural nails do not require polishing or polish removal. I always look neat and groomed and ready to pitch in.

Clothing is a big or little cost, depending on how you approach it. When I was young, I favored wearing the "in" styles and always being at the cutting edge. However, my older sister who was an attorney wore classic styles and cuts. She was always well-dressed. I found out her closet came entirely from thrift stores, consignment stores, and retail clearance sales. She taught me that if I go with a classic look, I can always find what I want at rock bottom prices. She favored classic suits, pants, skirts, etc. in natural colors like navy, gray, and beige. She accented with good scarves and jewelry. She always wore leather pumps and kept them polished. She bought classic leather purses in the same three colors. At home, she wore shorts or jeans and a simple shirt. Out in public, she was impeccably dressed in clothes that cost less than $10. She would put together ten outfits and revolve these over two weeks. Navy was accented with pink and white. Gray was accented with red or blue, and beige was accented with brown, coral, or aqua-marine. She told me to look for the material I wanted in the thrift store, not the cut or piece. She would rub her hand across a rack, feeling for expensive wool or silk. I still have scarves she bought for me at thrift stores, and I am still accenting with them 20 years later. Her suits were often bought at end-of-year clearance sales at high end stores. She waited and bought for the next year. Her shoes were generally bought used and of good quality. She bought next year's bathing suit at the end of the summer. She favored using just a few good pieces of jewelry.

I want to go over the care of clothing. Here again, less is more. We have a habit of over-laundering our clothing in the U.S. My sister had been partly raised in Europe, and she taught me some tricks to both save money and make clothing last many years. Purchase only washable clothing and change out of good clothing as soon as you get home. Clean shoes with a slightly damp rag before putting them away. Dry cleanable suits should be hung in a place with light and airflow and sprayed with a spritz of water and deodorizer. Look over the whole suit and clean any spots with a damp cloth. Spray arm pits and/or groin areas on clothing with a good dose of deodorizer. Instead of dry cleaning, spot clean and use rubbing alcohol on interior arm pit and groin areas.

Her rule was if it did not smell and it did not have spots, it was not in need of laundering. My sister generally paid for one dry cleaning at the end of the season per garment. Then she would store suits in the dry cleaning bag until the next year. When you must wash, use soap sparingly, use cold water, and never dry clothing in a dryer. Instead, hang it up to dry. It will last much longer. When you bleach anything, be sure to thoroughly rinse before drying, so as not to weaken the threads.

The last thing I will discuss is teeth. Healthy white teeth are part of the American ideal of beauty. Prevention is the key to beautiful teeth. See your dentist and floss and brush at least twice daily. Avoid coffee, tea, and staining foods. When you cannot do this, the whitening agents at the dollar store are every bit as effective as your expensive brands. Get obvious tooth flaws repaired. It is worth the investment.

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