My Cheap Mostly-Natural Beauty Routine

I’m one of those annoying people who will scrutinize ingredient labels on all my personal care products and eventually leave the store empty handed because nothing will match my expectations. Either that or if I find something with good ingredients, I’ll see the extravagant cost and just vow to buy the top two ingredients in their most natural form.

Now I’m not exactly a hippie. This is not my complete beauty routine – though it does represent a lot of it. I mean, I’m a blonde Asian, and my hair wasn’t bleached by any kind of natural process. But that doesn’t mean I should add to my toxic load. For me, it just makes sense to have the simplest products that I know will work without all sorts of other ingredients I don’t want. It’s also easier on the wallet. Plus, non-natural products can sometimes be filled with tons of ingredients, like silicones, that appear to make your hair healthier but are really wreaking havoc in the long run by creating a barrier to your skin and hair that prevents better ingredients from getting through.

So without further adieu, I’ve searched and found the following to be good, effective products, none costs more than $20 and they’ll last you a long time.

Skin

I don’t wash my face. I read a blogger write once that her face improved so much after she stopped washing it. So I stopped washing it and had the same result. I don’t work in a mine or some really filthy area so it’s fine. At the end of the day, I remove my makeup with coconut oil ($11) and take a cotton pad soaked in witch hazel ($2.5) and tea tree oil ($14) and remove any sweat or dirt from my face. For moisturizing my face, I alternate between Radha Argan Oil ($14) and Rosehip oil ($14).

I’ll do a weekly mask with Aztec Healing Clay ($9). I also like to do a little mini peel ($5) in the office when my skin needs a little pick me up. I know sheet masks are quite fashionable right now, so I bought a bulk order of cotton masks off eBay and I put some cocktail of oils and aloe vera gel ($9) and just zone out.

For the rest of my skin, I use grapeseed oil ($8) to keep it soft and moisturized. I will often just squirt some oil directly onto me and add it to my baths. In the summer, I use monoi oil ($15) on my legs to keep bugs away. It works as well as other bug repellants, doesn’t make me smell weird and also keeps my legs silky.

After taking some time in a sensory deprivation chamber, I’ve started paying more attention to keeping my hands in tip top condition (having little cuts on your hands and then going into a massive saltwater chamber is a new kind of pain). I’ve relied on old favorite, Burt’s Bees cuticle cream ($6). For a somewhat greasy hand lotion, I use lanolin oil. I just started this and more research may need to follow.

I find that I don’t really need deodorant but sometimes I like to use Schmidt’s rose deodorant ($10) because it smells good.

Hair

The fact that saved my hair was learning that my hair needs both moisture and protein in balance. And no matter how “moisturizing” a hair conditioner can say it is, it can actually be a major source of protein; thus, an oil may be the better way to go to get moisture without additional protein. A good, inexpensive oil that can really penetrate into your hair is castor oil ($9). Once or twice a week, or just when my hair is looking parched, I’ll pour castor oil into my hair (my hair just sucks it up) and let it sit for as long as I can stand – sometimes overnight. Then I wash it out with conditioner. Castor oil can also be applied to your lashes to make them grow or used in oil cleansing.

My hair can get really dry throughout the day, just being out in the sun or in the dry air of my office. I started using a leave-in conditioner from Mielle Organics ($13) and it makes my hair much more presentable throughout the day.  This is one of the only products on here with more than one ingredient but the ingredient list looked pretty good to me and it’s available at CVS.

Lips

The best beauty secret I have is pure lanolin($8)  for your lips. It’s super hydrating and I think makes them plump up over time. I also use a scrub made of kosher salt and olive oil to exfoliate.

What natural beauty products do you use?

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How I save over 4 hours a day (your mileage may vary)

Who couldn’t use an extra hour a day? I will admit that the ways I save time won’t work for most people, but maybe some of this could be useful to someone.
1. I combine my commute with exercise. (savings: 1 hour)
I actually exercised pretty irreglularly before I changed my commute so it’s hard to say that I actually save an hour. I really just get an hour of stuff done that I wouldn’t normally do. If you counted the time I spent feeling guilty about not working out though, that would bean hour a day in adn of itself.
2. I combine weight lifting/stretching with work and TV (savings: 20 minutes)
I try to stand while reading or on the phone. I try to do squats and lunges while working as well.
Limiting TV is important for saving time. But I still love watching TV when I get the chance (The Great British Bake Off mostly). I tend to only watch TV while working or foam rolling or doing housework. It doesn’t constitute JUST dead time. I wouldn’t allow it.
3. I only eat one meal a day (savings: 2 hours)
This counts savings in planning for, buying, prepping, cooking and eating food and cleaning up for 2 meals. This also saves the time of digestion lethargy. Technically it could count the hours I spend working to save the money to pay for these meals too but that’s a bridge too far).
4. I limit time for decisions in the morning (savings: 20 minutes)
It took me years but I finally have a work wardrobe where I would be happy to wear any outfit from. I still have favorites and there are some that I would rarely reach for if given the option, but I will wear everything. This saves me time in the mornings because sometimes I just can’t make a decision and during those moments, I just pick the next thing on the line. And it’s fine!
5. I use dead time (20 minutes)
This includes playing a language lesson while I’m brushing my teeth and getting ready. I also carry a book so I can be prepared for inevitable metro delays. I listen to podcasts when doing particularly monotonous tasks at work.
Part of this involves having these things queued up. Whenever I hear of an interesting book, I immediately add it to either my hold list or to my later list on my library account. It will go on the hold list if there’s a long list of holds but it will go on my later list if I can get the book immediately and already have books at home or coming up on holds. Every week, library holds become available and my library lets me keep them out for 3 weeks each. This is often plenty of time when some books I just skim, or ultimately don’t like, and some I read and relish.
6. I limit social media (20 minutes)
Well for the rest of you this probably could save 4 hours a day, but the only social media habit I adopted was Instagram, which I scroll through weekly instead of daily.
Basically my tips boil doing to cutting out extras (some would say, necessities), limiting choices and multitasking.
What do I do with all this extra time? To be perfectly honest, if I didn’t bike to work, I wouldn’t work out during the day. So it’s not exactly like I have an extra hour a day – I’m just getting in an hour of biking that I normally wouldn’t. The same goes for stretching and foam rolling. Overall, I’m in much better shape and probably less likely to get injured. I guess it just means I can’t use lack of time not to exercise.
But I also always make time to sleep or just stare out into space and play. If I was just a machine and wouldn’t let a second go by unproductively, I would get too stressed!
What are your tricks and tips for saving time?

Marveling At Our Dumb Luck

Sometimes I read stories on the internet about people failing on their spending bans or whining about how being in debt means they are in constant FOMO and it makes me really sad.

Sad that these people exist in the world. And that they’re typically from my generation.

When my parents came to this country, they had nothing. My mom ate rice and soy sauce as her meals and worked multiple jobs to get herself through school. My dad served in the Navy. I mean, there was a level of sacrifice that people in my generation do not have any concept of.

I’m not saying I in any way shared with the tough experiences they had. I had a much easier life because of their sacrifices. But I think it’s because I know what they went through, and because of how I was brought up, and knowing that money doesn’t grow on trees and we are so privileged to have anything at all that these little things we do to “save money” are not tough – they are ridiculously fun and wonderful.

I drove the same car for almost 18 years and I was ridiculously happy doing so. I spend on average $34/week on groceries and that’s luxurious.  Deciding NOT to buy clothes for A FEW DAYS is an AMAZING PRIVILEGE. Skipping lattes and spa services for the rest of your life – all of this stuff should be super easy to do.

I read this story recently on a Quora answer to What Motivates You. It’s got a lot of really great answers to I recommend you reading it. But this one was the one that showed up in my feed and honestly it’s something I think anyone who can’t figure out how to stop getting manicures needs to read on a daily basis.

After I read this story, I wanted to try to find it again. I remembered the man’s name was Idris and that he was a cleaner in Bangladesh, which turned up this result:

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It links to this article that discusses the worst job in the world – diving in liquid sewage to claw out blockages, without any protective gear and with only a stick for safety. I’m not sure this is the same Idris. But I can understand why Idris may have washed himself literally in public toilets to clean himself before going home.

Risking his life diving into raw sewage as his livelihood and this guy is still happy! How could I not be?

Why You Should Live Below Your Means

One of the many life skills that you want to learn at a fairly young age is the skill of being an ultra-thrifty, minimal kind of little wisp that’ traveling through time . . . in the sense of learning how little you actually need to live, not just in a survival mode, but in a contented mode . . . . That gives you the confidence to take a risk, because you say, ‘What’s the worst that can happen? Well, the worst that can happen is that I’d have a backpack and a sleeping bag, and I’d be eating oatmeal. And I’d be fine.’

-Kevin Kelly as told to Tim Ferriss in “Tools of Titans”

 

17 Meals to Cook without Going to the Grocery Store

Sometimes I feel like the laziest or most anxious person in the world but sometimes the thought of going grocery shopping seems like a huge undertaking. (In my defense, I don’t have a car and we’re currently under a monsoon watch.) Ditto going out to eat as a single person. And I’m really not a delivery kind of girl (never got into the habit). So what’s a girl to do but make meals with what she already has in the apartment she never wants to leave?
Thankfully, years of cooking and being single (and being too tired to go to the grocery store) has led me to be quite crafty with my meals. I once went a month without going to the grocery store and actually came out in the negative for grocery spending (I returned some spices I was never going to use). So long as I have eggs, rice and soy sauce, I’m pretty happy. Thankfully it doesn’t have to come to that very often.
Below are meals I can prepare for myself currently with ingredients in my pantry and fridge/freezer with the ingredients listed next to them. I will admit though that I will very soon run out of eggs and coconut milk/milk and greek yogurt, and without those options, the pickings will be much scarcer!

What I’ve Learned from Eating One Meal a Day

I’ve tried Gen. McChrystal’s one-meal-a-day diet for two weeks. For me, it hasn’t been that difficult a transition. I had already started an intermittent fasting regimen a month or so earlier. I have learned a lot about my eating habits from this little experiment – that, spoiler alert- I think I will continue.
1. I am not in tune with my hunger or my body.
So many diets come up with newfangled ways to keep you from being hungry. This diet also kept me from being hungry – by not giving me any food.

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How to Buy Clothes You Love

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The most important lesson I learned from Marie Kondo’s “get rid of what doesn’t spark joy” movement is that one can’t go through the multi-day purge without being more mindful of what’s coming back in. When shopping, it’s always in the front of your mind that this might just become more clutter. But it can be hard to go from mindless shopping to mindful shopping. Here are some tips I’ve found to make the transition from mindless shopping to consistently buying what you love, at least for your wardrobe.

1. Assess your current inventory

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