real beauty = choosing to grow old gracefully

April 10, 2011 § 1 Comment

I work in advertising and this week has me thinking a lot about how I’m marketed to when it comes to beauty. I’m reminded of the Dove campaign for “real beauty” where they use real women of all shapes, sizes and ages instead of models. One of the key messages of the campaign is “Imagine a world where beauty is a source of confidence, not anxiety.” It’s a campaign I’ve always admired for trying to change perception around beauty being skin deep.

But then I remember Dove is in the business of selling skincare products. While Dove’s campaign is great and all, it’s still inevitably tying beauty to what you put on your skin, not who you are as a person. They still sell “aging” creams like the rest of them; theirs at least is deemed “pro-aging” vs “anti-aging” like the others, even though the ingredients are roughly the same. Even Dove can’t ignore that age reversal is definitively the latest trend in skincare. If Dove were about “real beauty” they wouldn’t even be doing anti-aging ads, period.

The two phrases that keep going around in my head this week are “beauty is only skin deep” and “growing old gracefully”. Do I try to force my skin into submission to retain the beauty of my youth or do I try to gracefully advance forward come what may? I think it’s safe to say which side marketing wants me on (no matter how good their intentions may be). But what does it mean to grow old gracefully?

After being in LA last week, I know what it doesn’t mean. It’s pretty common to run across women who have had more than their fair share of plastic surgery. I suppose I should say here, “to each his own”, but I’m not going to. I think it’s sad that our culture has now added another hoop to jump through to be considered beautiful…you have to look like you’re in your 20’s for the rest of your life.

I’m 36 and am definitely starting to see the signs of aging here and there. I’ve spent a bunch of money in the past trying different anti-aging products over the years to make my skin look better, clearer, less wrinkly, younger, smoother and whatever other reason I can’t remember. As far as I can tell, none of them have really done that much. For me, all those products tend to do is to serve as a daily reminder as I look in the mirror that getting older is something to be ashamed of and should be reversed at all cost (and that cost can get pretty high. I know from experience).

One actress I’ve always admired who bucks the LA trend of using plastic surgery is Meryl Streep. At an age when many actresses are simply playing overbearing mother roles, she is continuing to push herself and the boundaries of film.

I think it’s safe to say that Meryl Streep is the epitome of growing old gracefully. She doesn’t strike me as someone who is spending a lot of time and energy trying to look younger, but as someone who is comfortable in her own skin, whatever age it may be, embracing who she is and what she has to offer to the world through her acting.

I think aging gracefully isn’t about looking young, it’s about having a youthful beauty, which you can have at any age by smiling, laughing and enjoying who you are. It’s a confidence in who you are, not what you look like.

The fun thing about this project is where each week takes me. I didn’t really start this week out thinking anything about these things, but as I started examining what I do each day with my skin, it was hard not to. Buying skincare products is a slippery slope to find yourself on sometimes. It was good to stop for a second and ask myself where I was going with all of these products I was buying to “be beautiful”.

I’ve now re-directed myself down the path of growing old gracefully and accepting all the sun spots, wrinkles and fun along the way.

It felt really good to throw away all that crap.

making skincare products in the neighborhood

April 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

I love when I meet new people with this project and it’s even more fun when I meet new people who only live 4 houses away. When my friend Jessica found out I was making skincare products, she introduced me to her friend Faith who also happens to be a neighbor I had yet to meet. The 3 of us had a leisurely Sunday morning together where Faith taught us how to make cold process soap and lip balm.

When I walked in and saw all of the materials I joked that my husband said it was going to be like Fight Club for ladies when I left this morning. Sure enough there were goggles and gloves for handling the lye, which can burn your skin when it comes in contact. Faith mentioned you have to sign a waiver to get it because apparently it’s also used to make meth. We steered away from that and focused on making some nice smelling soaps instead.

Faith introduced me to a site I wish I had known about earlier in the week called It’s a much more economical way to make stuff at home vs buying stuff at Whole Foods. First we made a cold process soap. I found a similar recipe, although we added in essential oils for scent, some coloring and loofa for exfoliation. Faith mentioned an essential oil kit you can buy to try out scents you might like before you pay for them separately.

The process is fairly easy, but it’s important to be careful working with the lye. Faith was good about having “lye only” equipment vs using everyday kitchen bowls. Other than that it is a simple process and the beauty is that you can make all kinds of combinations based on your own personal taste. She had an oil called tomato leaf that smelled amazing. I think I will like trying out some almond & oatmeal, since that is one of my favorites. The soap will take about 4 weeks to sit until it’s ready to use but then lasts a year, so it’s great to make batches at a time. Cold process soap involves saponification, which you are welcome to read more about in your leisure.

Next Faith showed us how to make our own lip balm. I will have to get the recipe and post it. You can find a number of different recipes here on the Soap Queen blog to try. This was not only simple to do, but for about $10 we made about 45 tubes of lip balm. Consider you usually pay $4 for lip balm that is generally pretty waxy. These are made with really good ingredients.

We made them in two flavors: grapefruit & honey. Delicious as well as moisturizing. Faith even had fun containers to put them in.

Today was not only another fun day of learning just how easy & inexpensive it is to make your own natural products but also great to meet another great neighbor!


rub a dub dub

April 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

As part of my seven sunrises week, baths were one of the biggest recommendations as the way to wind down the day and get a good night’s rest. Surprisingly baths beat out whiskey in that regard.

If you’re going to do the bath thing, then I think it’s pretty important to embrace it. Bubbles, bath salts, rubber ducky… Apartment Therapy has a great article on how to paint old clawfoot tubs to make them more fun like the one above. I decided to settle for making bath salts since I have no clawfoot tub to speak of. I’ve gotten homemade bath salts as a gift before and have always heard they’re super easy to make.¬†My friend Amy, who is always sweet enough to put me up when I’m in LA for work, is going to help me round up some ingredients and we’re going to make them after some Shabu Shabu tonight.

As I looked into making them, they are more than easy to make. It’s kind of ridiculous actually. Why have I been paying upwards of $20 for bath salts? The best part is that I know what I’m putting in there and it’s simply:

1 c. epsom salt (recommended by doctors to disinfect & treat skin issues and a natural muscle relaxant)
2 T baking soda (naturally softens skin and leaves it smooth)
about 5 lavender oil drops or any other essential oil you like

Stir a number of times to really mix the oil into the salt & put in a cute jar of some sort. It was a perfect way to end a long 5 days of getting ready for a pitch and now I’m on a plane to San Francisco rested and ready to go!

I hope my family is ready for some bath salts for christmas.

an interesting debate about skincare

April 6, 2011 § 1 Comment

I was at an amazing conference called PopTech in Camden, Maine a few years ago and heard a woman named Nina Jablonski talk about a book she had just published called Skin: A Natural History. It was a fascinating talk from an anthropologist standpoint on what our skin does for us and what we do to it in return. Check it out when you get a chance.

This week has me thinking a bit more about how I treat my skin, my body’s largest organ. When it comes to the things I put on my skin, I would say I’ve been known to get caught up in some of the “look younger” crazes out there, although less and less these days. Might be the move from LA to Colorado, I don’t know.

As I’ve been researching homemade natural skin care products, I came across the Story of Stuff Project which has a really well made video about the Story of Cosmetics. I don’t normally get into political stuff or preachy things on my blog, but I thought I’d put this up there to see what others thought about it. I’m also posting a counterpoint by a guy who takes issue with a lot of their claims being unfounded.

While I feel like the first one is a little on the fear mongering side (did you really have to take it as far as poisoning babies?), I do think it presents some interesting facts and questions I’ve started thinking about a bit more. I think the critique also presents valid points, but I found myself wondering why the guy was countering with the fact that people have sort of studied these things that may or may not be harmful.

At the end of the day I agree with Annie Leonard that if companies can make more of an effort to make things with natural ingredients we know are good for us, much less won’t harm us, all the better.

And if I come out still looking beautiful? All the even more better.

a masque good enough to eat

April 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

That’s my husband dipping his finger in the cocoa & oatmeal masque I made for my face. It was pretty yummy.

Making these products has gotten me thinking a lot about how I am pretty good about being aware of what I put in my body but I haven’t been quite as aware of what I’m putting on it.

Here are some of the ingredients listed on the normal face masque I normally use: Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Phenoxyethanol, Citronellol, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Hexyl, Hexyl Cinnamal, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Hexyl, Linalool, Fragrance (Parfum), Red 33, Blue 1.

I have no idea what most of those are and don’t think I’d find my husband trying to eat them out of the container. Here are the ingredients I used for my homemade masque:

2 T. cocoa (a natural antioxidant to protect skin)
3 t. oatmeal powder (a gentle exfoliator)
1/4 c. honey (a natural antibacterial agent that opens pores)
1/3 c. heavy cream

blend them all together and then keep away from your husband so you can use scrub in gentle circles on your face. keep on for 20 min & rinse.



making my own skin care products

April 4, 2011 § 5 Comments

So why home skin care? Saving money week taught me about all of the natural ways you can clean your home which also got me to thinking about how easy it might be to make natural skin products as well. Products are getting more and more natural anyway, right? I can already tell from my research that I’m going to put a huge dent in how much I normally spend on skin care products. It’s kind of ridiculous really and I’m not even someone who buys a ton of that stuff.

The other reason is that I’m on a pretty fast-paced pitch again this week. I wanted to do something that was not only manageable to do but relaxing as well.

Before I get into today’s project, I will share a funny episode from yesterday that will serve as a warning if you’re trying to make your own. I was working all day yesterday and worn out by the end of the day, so I thought I’d make a coffee scrub I had read about to try out for this week using leftover coffee grounds (which I had roasted myself of course). Important lesson: ALWAYS TRY A SMALL AMOUNT TO MAKE SURE YOU WON’T HAVE A REACTION. I did not do that and ended up on the craziest caffeine high I’ve ever experienced. My heart was racing and I was seriously contemplating going to the emergency room. I can just imagine me showing up in my bathrobe telling them I’m having a heart attack because I used a homemade coffee scrub.

I was seriously thinking about calling it quits, but apparently no one else seems to have had any reaction like that as far as I can find. One person I read about even leaves the scrub on for 20 minutes which probably would have put me in a coma.

I’m just going to use the TESTING rule from now on and see what happens. As long as I don’t end up in the hospital or with a hideous rash before my presentation, all will be well. Hopefully the result from here on out will be some amazing natural skin products that make me look 10 years younger!

The first product I’m making this week is toner which is one of my favorite parts of the morning because it’s so refreshing. It also helps with skin that’s getting a bit splotchy and older looking (ahem, like mine). Above are various toners I’ve used in the past that range from $28 – $35 each. I usually use about 4-5 of them a year and it’s only one of a number of products I use daily. That definitely adds up.

My friend Jessica sent me a link to an orange & fennel toner recipe I’m planning to TEST out. Fennel seeds & fennel essential oil contain plant oestrogen s& phytohormones that firm and rejuvenate the skin by stimulating the dermal cell metabolism. Let’s hope it’s not the same type of stimulation as the caffeine was yesterday.

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
5 T. boiling water
2 t. fresh squeezed orange juice

1) crush the fennel seeds in a mortar & pestle. Cover with boiling water & leave covered for 20 minutes
2) strain the infusion, mix with juice & bottle
use within 2-3 days or refrigerate for longer use. can also freeze as ice cubes if you make more at a time & use later.

I know it’s not as convenient but it is all natural and costs a fraction of the other stuff. It also smells amazing!

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