Sort of relevant, and some commentary on ogling.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jenny-g-perry/the-ugly-side-of-pretty_b_4577625.html

Just stumbled upon this. I thought it was interesting..I just wrote about how big people are treated like they are better people if they try to lose weight, and how ridiculous that is. This is mostly about the negative attention of losing weight, and it also touches on the appropriateness of ogling.

These two comments stuck out to me from the comment section:

Ok, so we have this:

“…Men, don’t objectify a woman who is dressed in a bikini or be disrespectful because you like the way a woman looks…”

Following the paragraph that included:

“…Seeing younger guys glance my way, checking me out at the gym was very flattering and motivating to keep me going on the Stairmaster. But getting out of the car at the convenience store and feeling someone’s eyes on me in a negative, disgusting, weird way felt awful… “

Where being looked at (being “checked-out” implies a sexual context, doesn’t it?) by “younger guys” was positive, presumably not interpreted as objectifying. Yet being looked at by “someone” is negative.

Does this mean the perception of being objectified depends on the potential attractiveness of the male doing the looking? (ie. if the same kind of attention is welcome it isn’t objectifying but when it is not welcome is is objectifying)

 
Michael you make an excellent point. It’s not only the attractiveness of the ogler, it’s their social status and stuff like that. Their potential as a mate (even if there is no intention of having them as a mate) generally colors whether the ogling is welcome or not. I think women need to accept that men have a reflexive sexual response when they see someone they think is physically attractive. I don’t know but I suspect this is much less of a problem for gay men than straight women. This reflex is a double edged sword for women because most of us don’t want to ONLY be objects, but we do like to be sexually attractive to men. We just wish they could shut it off when it gets in the way. It is really annoying to think that one is being sized up as a potential sexual partner while discussing business matters or you just want to have any kind of interaction without sexual tension being part of it. Really really really annoying.
 
Those of you who know me in real life know that I work in an industry mostly populated by men. Particularly men who are rather…uncouth? Rough around the edges? Ogling has been a big issue for me. 
 
I think both people who commented make some good points. Am I only squicked out by ogling because it’s usually older men who I am not attracted to? Maybe, sometimes. I can be shallow, intentionally or not, just like all humans.
 
To me, though, there is a lot more to it. The intensity of the gaze, which of my body parts a person is looking at (my face? my breasts?) can make a difference in how disturbing or invigorating an interaction is. Sometimes you just get a feeling that someone is looking you over to determine if you satisfy them…and good flirting doesn’t do that. Good flirting is meant to make the person you are flirting with feel like they are smart, pretty, and important. If you are just staring at a woman’s breasts, that is not flirting. That’s sizing her up to place a judgement call on her based on what she looks like. It’s simply not the same thing. 
 
Furthermore, one kind of interaction is threatening and the other is not. Calling me “cutie,” doesn’t usually bother me. Asking what time I get off work, does. THAT MAKES ME THINK YOU WILL FOLLOW ME TO MY CAR AND ATTACK ME. One kind of behavior is simply more…well…rapey than the other. Sorry, but that’s all there is to it. If you look at me in a way that conveys a complete disrespect of my sovereignty, in a way that implies I am merely here TO BE LOOKED AT, it’s not a big mental leap that you are the kind of person who would harm me. If you think that my body is to be enjoyed by you, and not by me, or that all I am is a body, why would you care about silly little things like consent?
 
Maybe I’m not explaining it clearly enough, but it is an incredibly subtle distinction. Flirting with a woman, by which I mean complimenting (but not excessively), joking with, etc, is not the same thing as ogling, and I feel like the commenters are treating the behaviors as one and the same. Perhaps this is one of those situations where the interaction can only be classified based on the perception of the ogglee. Like my mom always said, even if you didn’t MEAN to hurt a person’s feelings, you should still apologize. It’s not about what you meant to do, it’s about what actually happened. 
 
In some ways, that’s actually a really good way to describe it. This goes back to the is it about me or about you thing. If you are flirting, you should be paying close enough attention to realize if I am giving social cues that you are making me uncomfortable. I realize that social skills don’t come naturally to all people. I, myself, am often so focused on myself that I don’t pick up on cues from people around me. However, when it comes down to making a person feel confident or making a person feel threatened, it’s always better to err on the side of caution.

Why I hate going to the gym (warning: swear words)

I have a pretty active job, so I have stopped working out. Yes, although I am burning extra calories at work, I should still be weight-training and doing cardio blah blah blah guess what I don’t care. I hate exercising. I firmly believe the “runner’s high” to be a myth, as all that goes through my head when running (keep in mind I ran cross country in high school and junior high) is “Oh God make it stop make it stop make it stop I’m thirsty when can I take a break my feet hurt my butt hurts I can’t breathe fuck this shit.” Of course I do appreciate the relaxation and rosey checks that come with stopping, but that’s the key: I like the stuff that happens when I STOP.

So anyway,  this morning, I was feeling guilty about my exercise hatred and my hearth health and all of that and decided to try to see if Hulu has yoga videos. I did a google search, discovered a Yoga subreddit, and then found this link.

http://www.itsallyogababy.com/arm-flab-fat-shaming-clueless-yoga-teacher/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=arm-flab-fat-shaming-clueless-yoga-teacher

which contains this link

Please take a look at both of these if you have a minute.

This is why I hate the gym. Because some scrawny know-it-all bitch wants to sit there and judge you. Because fat people are treated, as the author in the first link says, like “…a fat person is only valuable when trying to get thin.” I am not even big and have taken one yoga class in my life (hi RB) where I didn’t feel like the instructor wanted me to believe I wasn’t good enough. RB’s. And my mom’s “old lady” class was pretty bitchin’ too.

When I picture my amazing, hardy ancestors, without whom I would not be here, I don’t picture skinny bitches in yoga pants who show up at the gym with impeccable makeup and have abs that you can actually see. I picture goddam Viking women with huge asses and huge boobs who can chop wood and carry around babies and basically kick. Fucking. Ass. 

I am petite. Although I have felt personally victimized by the Skinny Bitches in Yoga Pants of the world, I am not “fat” or “fit” or even “fat and fit” so I probably haven’t experienced this as deeply as larger women. Maybe this isn’t my battle to fight. But when I see women and girls around me being treated like this, it makes me want to take up arms. 

Do Not Let Your Left Hand Know What Your Right Hand is Doing

Okay, folks, I’m going to get on a soapbox for a minute. I wrestled with saying something on Facebook or not but decided that my blog is a more appropriate forum for my opinion.

We need to take a minute to talk about helping others. Helping others is amazing. I have touched on this in most of my inner beauty posts, because it’s one of the most important things you can do in your life. When you help someone else, you are given the gift of being able to focus on something other than yourself, for once.

That’s why I am so angered by what I’ve recently seen on Facebook. If I have to read another post somewhere along the lines of “I’m so great because I called 911/performed CPR/donated blood/gave a guy a ride,” etc., I am going to gag.

If you want to say, “Hey, I donate to this charity, and I think it’s a really great cause!” Go ahead! That’s helpful. That helps bring attention to something other people can join in on.

If you want to say, “I am so excited that I graduated from college, I worked so hard for this and I can’t believe this day is really here!” Yes! You have earned it and that is perfectly okay to share your happiness with the people who care about you! Ditto for getting married, buying a house, having a baby, or any other significant life events.

However, if you want to go on Facebook, or any other forum where most of the people you are interacting with are people you barely know in real life, and say, “I saved this guy’s life, he is so lucky I was nearby!” or even, “I paid for a stranger’s coffee in line behind me because I just like to help others, what a rush!” then you are a douche. Pardon the language, but really! You should do the right thing because it’s the right thing, not because you want attention for it!

As you may have guessed, this opinionated insight was sparked by something I read. It was a story about finding a man walking home in the cold, and giving him a ride. But the story didn’t stop there. It went on to describe what the man’s house look liked inside (cluttered a la the tv show Hoarders), what the man smelled like (stinky), the mental health problems he had (talking to himself). All in all, I felt like the story spent a great deal of time describing the shortcomings of the helpee and implying that the helper was some sort of great gift from God. Wow, you went  and got him groceries? That’s so great of you! How thoughtful! Nevermind that you don’t know anything about him besides what you can readily observe. The helper took it upon himself to go and “fix” someone because he found something wrong with them, and there is nothing kind or loving about that. Do I think he shouldn’t have given him a ride home, or shouldn’t have gotten him some groceries? No, I think it’s great that the helper did those things. However, for me, the bragging and the condescension that the helpee was treated with (which the helpee is not even privy to) almost overshadows the help.

The comments his friends made were almost worse. “You’re a hero, you’re an angel, I’m privileged to know you.”

This blog is mostly about makeup, beauty, and self-esteem. It is not about religion. However, I come from a religious background and I cannot help but be reminded of Matthew chapter 6, verses 1 through 8.

[But] take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise you will have no heavenly recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. 

When you pray, do not be like hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you. In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

The best people I know are humble. They do the right thing because it’s what is right- not because of what other people will think of them afterwards. True heroes live and breathe service and they NEVER brag about their deeds.

I cannot think of a better example of heroism than the 9/11 firefighters. They knew, to some extent, the risk they were taking going into that building. That’s something they volunteered for, something they would be willing to do any day. It takes true greatness to be willing to lay down your life for others, as Christ did, as firefighters do, as police do, and as our men and women in uniform do. As Aitzaz Hasan did. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-25663992?SThisFB This young man laid down his life for his friends, and if there were more people like him, the world would be a better place.

Those are real heroes, and they don’t even realize it. They’re just doing what they believe they should. If you bought a coffee for someone, or even some groceries, or gave someone a ride, you are a nice person. But you are NOT a hero. You are doing the bare minimum that we should all strive for everyday.

Something Sappy, and Some Beauty Budget Tips

Happy New Year!

A few words about 2013:

I actually had the best year of my life so far.I spent the beginning of the year subbing and traveling on weekends in order to see Boyfriend. We moved in together in May. I got a good-paying job closer to him, and frankly, we were tired of distance keeping us apart.

We had a hot, cramped summer in a tiny, non-air conditioned one-bedroom apartment. We drank a lot of beer and ate a lot of homemade Thai food, typically after failed, swear-word peppered attempts at starting the barbecue. Netflix was the entertainment of choice, preferably watched while seated in our ugly, brown, but free, recliners. Thankfully, in July, we rented a two bedroom house (with ugly, brown, not-free carpet) and had some breathing room thanks to the extra space.

I started working at the school in the fall. The holidays whizzed by and the next thing we knew we were relocating again after only six months living together. We are now settled into our new city, again in a one bedroom apartment until we find something with more space.

It has truly been a whirlwind of a year, but I couldn’t be happier. I have moved three times; worked six jobs (some concurrently); engaged in more arguments than I care to number; cried myself to sleep; slept in; participated in Sunday morning, pajama-clad foodfights in the kitchen; snuggled; baked challah in Hartville, Wy; and much more. The defining factor of this year is that I have spent it with the one person I love most in this world, and I feel so, so lucky.

Now, looking ahead to 2014:

Do you make resolutions? I know some people think they are passé, or that they’re silly because you end up going back to your bad habits anyway. However, I believe there is great power in the concept of renewal; the concept of a fresh start, even just an abstract one, can do wonders for the psyche.

I had a great year, but one thing I wish I had taken better care of was my finances. I did not save enough, and I did not even have a budget until about a week ago. For anyone interested in managing their money better, I highly recommend the (free!) Mint app. The app tracks my spending and I can tag certain purchases for certain budgets, so I know exactly how much I spend on fuel, personal care products (my favorite kind of spending), food, rent, etc.

While I do think that my biggest financial issue is simply not making very much money, there are some areas I can cut back on. In addition to budgeting out my rent, phone, insurance, and utilities, I created a spending limit for personal care and beauty products.

Here’s two ways I have been saving money on my beauty purchases:

1. Cut your own hair. No, come back! Hear me out! Hairdressers are hard-working, highly trained experts whose incredible skill can make you look gorgeous. I would never, ever discredit the profession of cosmetology, and I think everyone should have their hair professionally cared for if they have anything complicated going on, such as color, layered cuts, or perms. If you read this blog, however, you will note that I cut my own bangs. I have been doing this since a botched haircut in college left me with oddly wide and bowl-cut-like bangs that took forever to grow back out. Every time I ask my (amazing!) hairdresser if my bangs look ok, she tells me I do a good job cutting them. She’s even given me a few tips on trimming them. Trimming your own bangs can save you the time and hassle of having to run to the salon every two weeks to maintain a fresh style.

I prefer a straight across bang that is slightly longer on the edges. My stylist told me that the best way to achieve this is actually to cut straight across, using a comb as a guide. The bang will naturally be curved because the outer pieces are pulled slightly further. I used to use a comb, but lately I have been using an absurd-looking clip that has a level on it, called a CreaClip. http://creaproducts.com/store/. I found out about this product in a YouTube video and found one on Amazon for cheap. YouTube is filled with demonstration videos. After using the CreaClip for a few months, I have to say, it really is effective. It’s like having an extra set of hands, because it clips tight enough to keep my hair in place while I cut. I have the bangs-sized clip and the larger one.

Boyfriend actually trimmed my hair recently with the larger one, as my hairdresser is several hours away, and I am trying to grow out layers and 2-year-old highlight damage (I think it’s all gone but am not sure). If I were going for any other style than long and straight across, and I trusted anyone locally to cut my hair, I would not attempt to DIY it. In my mind, layers are best done by a professional, who can custom tailor them to your hair texture and facial features.

If you plan to go the DIY route with hair cutting, use very sharp scissors that are made for cutting hair, and do not use them for anything else.

Estimated money saved: between 20 and 100 dollars a month (in my area) for a monthly haircut.

2. Make your own facial cleanser!

Oil cleansing is very hot right now in the skin-care world. Oils are extremely gentle, but very effective for removing makeup, dead skin cells, and yes, even oil. Oil cleansing is based on the concept that like dissolves like, which is why oil cleansing is touted as one of the best methods to remove blackheads. For more information on the most popular and basic oil cleansing method, or OCM, visit http://www.theoilcleansingmethod.com/. Feel free to forego castor oil entirely if, like me, you have dry skin. Visit http://www.reddit.com/r/skincareaddiction and do a search for oil cleansing to learn even more and see the various mixtures other people have tried.

One of the worst things about oil cleansing is how, well…oily it is. It takes forever to get all of the gunky oil off of your face after you massage it in. A great solution to this problem is to use an easy-rinse oil cleanser!

Easy-rinse oil cleansers are really nothing new. They have been used in Japan for decades, and have been around on the US market for probably 10 years or so, although only in high-end shops and brands. I have yet to stumble across a mass-market cleansing oil, which is unfortunate, because I believe more people would be happy with their skin if they knew about this. Kose Softymo is a great starting place if you are looking for a ready-made rinse-able cleansing oil to start out with. It’s a Japanese brad that has excellent reviews and is affordable. A popular brand that is widely available in high-end US stores is Dermalogica. They make Pre-Cleanse, which is essentially an easy-rinse cleansing oil. Dermalogica Pre-Cleanse costs 37 dollars for 5.1 ounces on their website. http://www.dermalogica.com/precleanse/1,default,pd.html

If you know anything about me, you know that I’m cheap and I like crafts, so I make my own. It’s very, very easy.

You need 80% oil of your choice, and 20% emulsifier. I use Polysorbate 80. Emulsifiers bind oil and water, which is what makes it possible to rinse the oil from your face. For oils, I favor sunflower or mineral oil. If you are concerned about mineral oil, check out my article here for some pros and conshttps://fromtheinsidebeauty.wordpress.com/2013/12/17/natural-doesnt-always-mean-betterand-sometimes-it-does-how-to-decipher-bull-poop-and-find-the-products-that-work-best-for-you/. Hopefully the information provided can help you reach your own conclusions about what you put on your face.

Mineral oil costs about 5 dollars (sometimes much less) for 16 ounces, which would make 5.1 ounces about 1.60 cents. Polysorbate 80 (I purchase mine from here http://www.amazon.com/MakingCosmetics-Inc-Polysorbate-80-4-2floz/dp/B005VEE0Y2) is about 4.70. Even if  you factor in the steep shipping, you’re looking at 2.75 or so for an ounce, which is all you need to make 6 ounces of cleansing oil. 5 ounces of mineral oil and an ounce of emulsifer will yield a price of 4.35, not including the bottle.

You can also custom-pick your oils to suit your skin type, which is a value that goes beyond money.

Savings: 32.65 to DIY your cleansing oil vs. purchasing Dermalogica Pre-Cleanse. 

I hope this post finds you well. If you enjoyed it, please comment. I might make a recurring Beauty on a Budget series of posts if you like this kind of content.

Happy New Year; make the best of the future.

Winter Beauty

Winter is upon us!

Yesterday was the first day of winter! We have already experienced quite a bit of snow and cold weather where I live but I know it will become more and more intense as the New  Year comes around. I love winter because there are so many wonderful holidays to distract you from the bone-chilling weather (we have very intense winters here). My birthday is also in winter!

To me, winter beauty means Christmas parties, champagne on New Years, and reds and pinks for Valentine’s day. Here are my favorite looks for this season!

1. Glowing, luminous skin. Accentuate your now-paler skin with a swipe of shimmer! You don’t have to be sun-kissed to look radiant year-round. Try a light-handed swipe of a highlight, glow, or shimmer powder on the tops of the cheeks. I have made a horrific diagram to demonstrate where to apply these products in relation to blush and contour, if you use it. Contour is dark, which make things visibly recede on your face, i.e., it can be used to minimize a double chin or to create a false hollow under your cheekbone. Highlights and light-colored shimmers have the opposite effect; they reflect light, which accentuates that part of the face. Using them near the tearducts, on the brow bones, and on the top of the cheek can visibly widen the eye area, as well as provide your skin with the aforementioned glow.Image

I want to try Aromaleigh Laluna, which comes in three different levels of shimmer intensity, $14 each. http://www.aromaleigh.com/twsufaandbop.html I would probably start with Lustre, the most subtle of the three.

2. Statement lashes! I recently tried false eyelashes for the first time. Boyfriend and I had pictures taken, and my cousin, also a beauty junkie, insisted falsies would give my eyes more impact. She had to put them on me because after much trial and error, I couldn’t get them to work. Here is one of our pictures. The lashes are only on the outside corners.

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See how none of my other eyelashes even really show up? The lashes make a huge but subtle difference.

There’s a few problems though…for starters, I STILL cannot put them on by myself. They are also way too much work for me for daily use, even though I would love to have awesome eyelashes all day everyday. The other issue was I ripped out about half of my eyelashes trying to remove these…I soaked them in mineral oil to try to loosen the glue, and rubbed them gently like the instructions said, but I think there’s a learning curve with falsies and I am just not there yet.

Despite all the issues, I got such a high from having supernatural lashes for a day that I started looking into alternatives to falsies. Salon-applied extensions are awesome but apparently cost up to 200 bucks a session and only last a few weeks. Then, accidentally, I stumbled across this post on reddit (http://imgur.com/a/q3TM4). The girl posting is a presenter for Younique, a direct sales (think Mary Kay) company that specializes in natural/mineral makeup. I had never heard of it before so I looked at her site and fell in love with the Moodstruck 3D Fiber Lashes. I think they’re just what I’ve been looking for! They’re actually little hair-like fibers that go on after your regular mascara with a washable adhesive. They’re temporary, applied with a mascara wand (so goof-proof), and the pictures are pretty impressive:Image

This is the model from the Younique website. I pulled it off of the reddit poster’s website, so if you buy from her site, she gets the commission. She’s been very helpful with all of my questions so please take a look! Here’s the link: http://ltmakeup.com/.

And this is the picture of the reddit poster:

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Looks almost as amazing on a regular person as they did on the model…I’m convinced and will be purchasing them to test out.

PS, her Snow White complexion screams winter beauty to me and I love her red lips!

3. Classic red lips!

I have long been a fan of red lips…it’s one of the easiest bold colors to pair with very fair skin, and there is a shade of red that suits every complexion!

There are two main kinds of red…there are tons of charts and pictures online of who looks best in what shade so I will try to go with a super simple guideline. There are cool and warm reds. Cool reds tend to be more blue/purple-based, and warm more yellow/orange-based. If you have warm undertones to your skin, try a warmer lipstick. Cooler tones, try a cooler one. This is to get the most flattering color. If you want to try a really bold look, feel free to experiment.

I currently own two red lipsticks, Silk Naturals Crimson and Revlon Lip Butter in Cherry Tart.

Cherry Tart

Cherry Tart

Crimson

Crimson

Excuse the smudged edge with the Crimson, I didn’t check my lipstick after I put my sweater on (is that not the perfect sweater for a winter beauty post?).

4. A classic smokey eye! The smokey eye is like the little black dress of the beauty world. It sexes up any outfit or hair combo. It’s equally at home with jeans and a sweater as it is with a cocktail dress.

The single most helpful thing I have found for getting a perfect smokey eye is a smudge brush. I use the e.l.f. Professional Studio Small Smudge Brush. It works really well and is only three dollars but some of the bristles are a little too sharp for my delicate eyelids. It may just be that I got a bad one but I will eventually be looking for a different smudge brush. As far as function, this brush is great. You apply your liner just as you normally would, then use a back-and-forth swiping motion with the tiny smudge brush to smoke out the edges. The result is a beautifully softened lined.

The classic smokey eye uses blacks and greys. Here is a picture of me wearing the Modern Smokey Eye Kit from Silk Naturals. It was created as a clone to the Bare Escentuals Rocker Eye kit. I think it’s a beautiful kit, but it didn’t come with any instructions, so I googled the BE Rocker Eye instructions. Combined with a little direction, this kit is fool-proof.

so smokey

so smokey

If you don’t already have a decent eye brush set, I suggest a smudge brush, as mentioned above, a fluffy brush for blending, a more compact, pencil-sized brush for applying color in the crease, and a flat shadow brush to pack some color on your lids. Check out my Makeup Brush Primer post for a little more info https://fromtheinsidebeauty.wordpress.com/2013/10/05/makeup-brush-primer/.

A great tip for smokey eyes is, don’t worry too much about making a mess. Go through afterwards with a damp flocked sponge and create really clean edges, then apply your concealer. This much dark color on the lower lashline can really emphasize dark circles, and applying concealer after eyeshadow will help you hide any leftover fallout.

Stay warm out there! Enjoy the wonderful giving theme of this Christmas season and don’t worry too much about the endless feasting- it’s good for your soul to indulge every now and then.

My everyday makeup

Hi everyone! I posted a FOTD (face of the day) on Reddit’s Makeup Addiction for the first time today. 

I bought a BB cream a few days ago to try to get a little more coverage under my Lucy Minerals because my skin has been red and irritated (as you can kind of see in the before pic). Here’s the products I used: 

Face: Maybelline Dream Fresh BB in Light, Lucy Minerals Original Formula in Fair, Silk Naturals Blush in Rosie, Silk Naturals Ultimate Luxury Powder.

Eyes: Silk Naturals Stick ‘Em Eyeshadow Enhancer, Silk Naturals Cream, Silk Naturals Vogue in the crease, Silk Naturals Cream Eyeliner in Noir

Lips: Revlon Lip Butter in Sugarplum

Eyebrows: Maybelline Define-a-Brow in Light Blonde

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I trimmed my bangs a little extra short last time…do you like them?

 

“Natural” doesn’t always mean better…and sometimes, it does. How to decipher bull poop and find the products that work best for you

Like many college girls, I went through kind of a hippie phase back in the day. I tried the “no ‘poo” thing (‘poo=shampoo, this has nothing to do with bowel movements). It was gross; my scalp did not, as I was told it would, “compensate” and produce any less oil, so I used the baking soda wash more often than I was supposed to, and my hair actually suffered a lot of damage. I respect people who use and like this technique, but now that I know more about the actual science of skincare and beauty products, I have some serious concerns about the effects of the extremely alkaline baking soda on the acid mantle of the scalp. I suspect this may have been the main cause of my chagrin; my skin reacts much better when kept within its healthy pH range. The suggested vinegar rinse didn’t help my skin recover as quickly as it does for a lot of people.

I also experimented with the oil cleansing method, which I still like and use, although I modify the method that circulates the internet most frequently. My skin cannot handle castor oil (it seems to dry it out) and I also like to add an emulsifier to make the oil easier to clean off.

The point is, if there’s some kind of “natural” alternative, I have probably tried it. Most of them, like oil cleansing, and the sulfate-free shampoos I stumbled across after my failed no ‘poo attempt, are perfectly great alternatives if you are truly striving to live a greener, cleaner life. I’m not here to tell you that you should be using dish soap to wash your hair or slather your skin in a $500 face cream when your bottle of sunflower oil works great. I am, however, here to tell you that some of your concerns are misguided. The internet has lied to you. I know, it hurts; I’ve been there.

So, here are some internet myths that I will attempt to either debunk, or explain with a fuller picture.

  1. Myth one: mineral oil and petroleum jelly are toxic and will give you cancer and (gasp!) acne and will destroy everything on the planet. The truth: mineral oil and petroleum jelly (Vaseline) are both completely non-comedogenic. The molecules are too large to penetrate the skin, thereby making it impossible to either clog pores or create acne. Additionally, mineral oil is great for sensitive skin specifically because it does NOT come from a plant. There’s nothing in it but hydrocarbons. It’s nonreactive and biologically inert. It doesn’t have any essential oils or phytochemicals that could potentially irritate skin. Of course, sometimes this is why plant oils are nice for skin use. Sunflower oil, my personal favorite, contains ceramides, vitamins, and antioxidants. You won’t get these with mineral oil or petroleum jelly. They will, however, gently remove makeup, seal in moisture to prevent trans-epidermal water loss, loosen blackheads when used as part of an oil cleansing routine, and should not irritate skin except for the rare occasion where somebody might actually have an allergy to mineral oil or petroleum jelly. As for the cancer argument, I’m not sure that one should be ruled out. The best argument that I have seen against the use of petroleum products is that they contain hydrocarbons and that cancerous breast tissue contains more hydrocarbons than healthy tissue does. The place where I read this did not provide a source. Does this mean the hydrocarbon in the cancerous tissue came from Vaseline use, or that Vaseline could even penetrate the skin barrier and get into the body somehow? No. It doesn’t mean that. It also doesn’t mean that this isn’t exactly what happens. If it concerns you, I would try to limit the use of petroleum products used on the lips, where ingestion is much more likely. Also, if the idea of petroleum products bothers you because of your concerns for the health of the planet and atmosphere, that’s a perfectly noble reason not to use them. I encourage everyone to stand behind their convictions. However, to use your ideology to spread misinformation about the safety and efficacy of some of the world’s least expensive and least irritating skincare ingredients is immoral.
  2. Myth two: you should only use “natural” products, because “chemicals” are bad for you. The truth: When the word “chemicals” is used in a statement mirroring the one above, it is used as a fear tactic. “Chemical” is supposed to make you picture bottles of household cleaners with a skull and crossbones, large refineries where the workers have to wear hazmat suits to manufacture your body lotion, and strong acids bubbling away in your high school science teacher’s fume hood. The reality is, the entire universe is made of “chemicals.” Vitamin C is a chemical. Water is a chemical. Chemicals are what give coffee its flavor. Now, let’s take a look at the word “natural.” This is supposed to conjure images of flowers, smiling puppies rolling in grassy meadows. In reality, all the word “natural” means is from nature. Additionally, there is no legal definition or requirements for the use of the word “natural” on a skincare or beauty product. Of course, consumers assume this means that the product’s ingredients come from plants, don’t harm the environment, don’t contain potentially carcinogenic preservatives, etc. While there is nothing wrong with wanting those things in a product, a label that says “natural” simply does not mean anything. Lead, for crying out loud, is “natural.” I would even make the argument that Vaseline is natural. It comes from petroleum, which comes from the earth. It’s basically compressed, aged, dinosaur juice. What’s more “natural” than a frickin’ dinosaur? There is nothing wrong with wanting to leave a safer and greener life. Just please, please realize, that “natural” companies are marketing to you; they want to make money just like everyone else does and they will use any scare tactic they can come up with to brainwash you into buying their products. Personally, that makes me kind of mad. So mad I may just go rub some dinosaur oil on my face.
  3. Myth three: If it is “natural,” that means it’s safer. The truth: NO. No, it absolutely does not. For instance, baking soda is often mentioned as a great do-everything substance. Personally, I love it for household cleaning, and I used to use it on my face to scrub out blackheads. Then I started learning a little more about skincare and I realized that our skin is coated in an oily, acidic layer that helps protect it and kill bacteria. When we introduce something, such as plain old “natural” soap, baking soda, etc that is highly alkaline, this layer, called the acid mantle, is damaged. While many people don’t seem to have any problem with doing this, it’s probably one of the least helpful things you can do for your skin if you are trying to alleviate any kind of ailment such as acne, eczema, etc. Healthy skin will recover its acid mantle within a few hours, restoring the proper pH. Toners can also help bring the acidity of the skin up (SOMETIMES. Many toners contain alcohol which can be drying to your skin, and I have seen very few products that actually list the pH). However, if you are battling skin problems, it’s best to just leave your pH where it’s supposed to be: slightly acidic, 4.5 to 5.5, so that your skin can protect itself, kill bacteria, and hold onto moisture. This is just one example of misinformation, coupled with the “but it’s natural” argument. Another mistake I once made is purchasing a sunscreen from a “natural” company. The bottle claimed that the sunscreen had vitamin c in it, and it used physical sunblocks, which I still prefer for my sensitive skin. I used it for a long time and really liked it. It smelled good, didn’t irritate my skin, and went on smoothly. Come to find out, the product did not actually contain any active form of vitamin c capable of penetrating the skin barrier. While I thought my skin was getting an additional protective boost from the antioxidants, there weren’t any. It did contain citrus oils, which is presumably why they were making the vitamin C claim. Citrus oils actually increase sun sensitivity. It makes me angry that while I thought I was protecting my skin with sunblock, and even giving it a little extra protective boost, I may really have done more damage than if I had skipped sunblock entirely. I have also seen many things on Pinterest that are downright dangerous. For instance, whiten your teeth with lemon juice. Lemon juice is highly acidic and will wear away the enamel on your teeth. If you want dentures by the time you’re 25, go ahead and try this daily, let me know how it goes. Please, if you want to try out something that you’ve read, research it a little. There are plenty of methods and products in the world that will fit your preference for what is “natural” and won’t damage your teeth or skin. Homemade is not always the best route to go. Homemade with thorough research and safety precautions can be awesome. J

Thank you for listening to my rant. Please understand, I have nothing against people wanting to live a healthy lifestyle and eliminate potential carcinogens from their homes. I think that’s awesome. I just think it’s scary that people will buy into marketing hype and sometimes do things that can actually harm their body because they don’t take the time to put a little more research into what they hear or read. When we hear something that fits in with our pre-conceived notions of what is right or wrong, we are more likely to believe it without a second thought. Don’t believe anything blindly; take everything with a grain of salt and do your own research to determine what’s best for you and your family. 

How to do a basic manicure

Now, I must confess: though I love most things beauty-related, I am just not a nail polish girl. It’s a sensory thing; it feels…squicky. I wish there was an actual word in the English language to describe “squicky.” What I’m getting at, is it feels like it’s shrinking onto my nail, and my nails are coated. It makes my hands feel claustrophobic. Yes, I am insane. Funnily enough, I only experience this squicky feeling on my hands. My toes are blissfully squick-free. This is fortunate, as I have ugly cracking toenails that are best seen shrouded in candy apple red polish.

While I’m not a nail polish user, I do enjoy a good manicure to keep my hands soft and my nails clean and tidy looking. If I were a better groomed and more organized person, I would probably keep this grooming ritual up weekly, particularly before job interviews and parties. In reality, I maybe indulge twice a year. As I am not only poor but also a cheapskate, I only do home manicures. The last time I had my nails “done,” was for prom approximately a thousand years ago, before I had bills to pay. That time, the squicky feeling accompanied beautiful silver sparkly polish; totally worth it.

So, after much ado, here is my technique for basic nail grooming.

  1. I always start by trimming or filing my nails. Typically, I just use clippers because they are faster. If I’m going all out to do a manicure, I will file my nails. I always file them in one direction only because I read somewhere in some magazine that probably just made it up that this will keep your nails stronger. No back and forth motions. I always follow the natural shape of my nail and keep my nails very short. Again, this is a sensory thing; they feel dirty once they start to extend past my fingertip. You can, however, file your nails into whatever shape and length you wish.
  2. Next, I fill a bowl up with very warm water, and pour a little oil in. Today I used coconut oil, which I quite liked. I have also used olive oil in the past. You can use whichever oil you have around the house. The oil just helps soften the cuticles. Soak your fingertips (even better, your whole hands, if they will fit) for a few minutes. Probably 5 minutes or so to really soften everything up.
  3. Step three is my favorite part: scrubbing. You can do this with a homemade sugar scrub, a store-bought hand scrub, or with a microfiber cloth. Even a washcloth would work in a pinch. Today I used a microfiber cloth for the first time and I loved it. I have been using them to wash my face lately, and while I have not decided yet how much I like them for that, I definitely like them for nail use. Microfiber is just that, tiny little fibers. They are small enough that they can get into the nooks and crannies and scrub. They also attract dirt, oil, and water like a magnet, and can hold much more moisture than cotton. This is why microfiber makes great hair towels, like the Turbie Twist, which I rely on every wash day to speed up the air-drying of my thick hair. When I scrub my hands with microfiber, I gently wet the cloth, then scrub my cuticles gently in every direction, and push them back to loosen the dead skin and detach the cuticle from where it has overgrown onto the nail bed. This gives a very neat and tidy look. I find there is no need to cut them, which is good, because it would be very easy to get an infection through a cut cuticle. Scrubbing is definitely the safer and gentler method to use. Once the cuticles are pushed back, I scrub my hands and in between the fingers as well. I am particularly prone to dryness on the skin between my thumb and pointer finger so I make sure to get this area. Microfiber is such a good exfoliant that you have to be careful with it. If you scrub too vigorously, you will end up with raw, irritated skin. You can always go back and do more tomorrow, but it’s hard to undo over-scrubbing.
  4. Once your hands and nails are properly exfoliated, apply oil on your cuticles. Again, you can use any oil you prefer. Alternatively, you could use a cuticle cream at this step.
  5. The final step is to coat your hands in a thick hand cream. If you are on your way to bed, you could really step this up a notch with an occlusive like Vaseline, or Shea butter or a beeswax-based cream for a more “natural” alternative, then put cotton gloves or socks on while you sleep. Yes, socks. Yes, it looks dumb. Yes, you can’t pick anything up. It works!

Alternatives and tips:

My mother always told me to trim my nails straight out of the shower so they were softer. If this is how you prefer to do it, feel free to switch steps one and two.

The manicurist who did my prom manicure told me to push back my cuticles with my towel after every shower, when they are nice and soft. This is a great way to maintain the neat look of a manicure, but you have to keep up with it. My cuticles will quickly overgrow again if I skip a few days.

This same technique can be adapted for a pedicure. However, if the skin on your feet is thick and barnacle-like, as mine is, you will probably need to use a pumice stone. Lately the pumice stone hasn’t even been working well enough for me and I am currently searching for the best technique to exfoliate my feet. I’ve thought about using some of my 8% Alpha Hydroxy Acid on them, but I’m not sure it will be strong enough. I will report back when I know more.