Current Faves In The Green Beauty World

When I was in my early twenties, I went through a period of time where I was very vigilant about the strict use of green skin care, hair care, and body care products.  I changed my whole routine around age 19 to reflect a more natural approach to self-care as the result of reading up on the pervasiveness of weird, unregulated petrochemicals in the things we slather on our bodies.  I feel like I tried to change nearly everything in my home, all the way down to what kind of toilet bowl cleaner I used (and the buck stopped there; I hate to say that natural is not the way to go when cleaning the porcelain throne).

However, please note that there are still plenty of non-natural products that I’ve tried, loved, and continued to use alongside my natural ones.  I’m never a fan of being pharisaical when it comes to “greenifying” your life.  You’re not a brainwashed sheep if use a drugstore shampoo and really love it, or if you eat a fast food cheeseburger and really love it.  There’s no need to condemn or talk down at others for the way they eat or clean their homes, or assume that you’ve done the “right research”, read the truly accurate websites, and have been given special revelation.  Simply educate yourself, encourage others in love to do the same, and understand that we’re all trying to do our best.

My hair and skin both benefitted greatly from a few years of dedicated green treatment.  The excellent condition my hair and skin were in on my wedding day was, for the most part, owed to a routine that consisted almost entirely of products found at Whole Foods or any other natural grocer found near by.  I still use many, many of these products today, years after initially having discovered them.  Below, I present you with a list of my very favorite green beauty products from almost ten years of trial and error (and the most expensive one is $32).

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Shampoo- Rahua shampoo

This product is expensive, but it lasts me a very long time and I admit that I’m willing to spend a bit more on my hair (and it ultimately helps preserve my color, which cuts down on salon expenses throughout the year).  This shampoo doesn’t lather the way most shampoos do, mostly because there’s really no detergent in it (and this is a good thing).  For the past five years I’ve used this shampoo for every other wash up until a couple months ago, and I’m excited to start using it again once I run out of my Alterna Caviar Moisture.  Read the ingredients list of Rahua- it’s packed with all kinds of amazing stuff, nothing petro-ish, and I think I’ve repurchased it about four times.  If you’ve liked the way my hair has looked over the years, you can at least attribute a small part of its condition to Rahua.  And bonus- it also looks like a fancy bottle of cognac in your shower.

Deodorant- Desert Essence Organics Tea Tree Deodorant

Now, will you still sweat if you use this deodorant?  Probably.  Will you still be a little damp at the end of the day?  Maybe (though I’m usually not; I find that when I wear this deodorant, my armpits are only damp when I wear a sensitive fabric or have been stressed).  Keep in mind that this is just a deodorant; it’s not an antiperspirant and I really don’t think there’s such a thing as a natural antiperspirant on the market.  Our bodies were made to excrete waste through sweat, so the idea of stopping that sweating process all together seems a bit alarming to me.  Attempting to neutralize odor is one thing; attempting to block and stop the natural excretion process of sweat is something entirely different.  So, this deodorant has been my tool to try and achieve a happy medium.

This deodorant does an excellent job of getting rid of odor, and I’ve been using it long enough that my body has adjusted quite well to it.  The one time I always, always use it instead of a conventional deo/antiperspirant is when I’ve just shaved in the shower.  I never put conventional deo/antiperspirant on my armpits when they’re freshly shaved and the pores are open from the steam of a shower.  That’s when your pores are most vulnerable and I don’t like the thought of rubbing an aluminum compound on open pores near my lymph nodes.  So, give it a shot.  I say it’s worth it.  Oh, and a word of advice- use this deodorant, and not Tom’s of Maine, if you’re shopping for a natural solution.  Tom’s contains propylene glycol as its first ingredient; I used it for about two years and then suddenly my armpits rashed over and felt like they were on fire one day.  They had become bright red and were peeling, as if they’d been scorched by the sun. After doing some forum research I found that the same thing happened to numerous folks and the effect is attributed to propylene glycol.  Desert Essence’s deodorant contains none of this.

Night creme- Acure Organics Night Cream

This might be a forever favorite.  I’ve repurchased this four times and I don’t really see much of a reason to look for anything else.  I love this stuff.  I love its ingredient list, I love its texture, I love its price, and I love how my skin looks in the morning after I’ve used it.  Think of it as giving your skin a ton of nourishing vitamins and oils to just work their magic while you sleep.  I find that if I have a bit of pore congestion or dullness in the evening that this stuff just really, really helps to clear and brighten things up overnight.  It also has the immediate payoff of being so moisturizing.  My skin feels cool to the touch after applying it, and the scent is very calming and very “bedtime”.  It does contain lavender and lemon oils, so beware in case you know if your skin is sensitive to one or the other.

I plan on using this for years, and I hope Acure never changes the formula!

Face wash- Burt’s Bees Intense Hydration Cream Cleanser

I used this cleanser to combat the drying effects of another natural cleanser that I’d been using for a long time that had a lot of tea tree oil in it.  The tea tree oil formula had castile soap as its first ingredient, and over time it really stripped and dried out my face (as I’d been using it for half a decade by that point).  I chose this Burt’s Bees cleanser for its great ingredient list and just as something that wouldn’t try to “do too much” to my skin.  Sometimes it’s about meeting your skin’s basic needs rather than trying to “fix” things by going into overhaul mode.  You do not need some nuclear-strength regimen that is about assaulting your face from the outside-in!  I simply do not believe that’s the way our bodies were made to work in the long-run.  I’ve long been convinced that gentle and natural is the way to go when your skin is upset and showing signs of distress, along with a bit of patience and lifestyle assessment (i.e. assessing your sleep, level of activity, sun exposure, stress levels, food habits, and water intake).

This cleanser is so gentle, and the scent is soothing and relaxing (although I do like the scent of their Sensitive cleanser even more).  I’d recommend it for those with drier skin that are looking for something gentle and non-foaming.  Some folks may feel that this doesn’t “clean” the skin deeply enough, but this is actually a preference of mine.  You do not want your skin stripped dry.  I first used it one weekend up in the mountains back in California, where my skin would always get horribly dry and then kind of break out in response.  My skin was soft and moisturized all weekend, with none of the usual problems.  It’s a perfect choice for the dry winter climate out here in the Midwest, too.

Conditioner- Desert Essence Organics Moisturizing Coconut conditioner

I’ve used a lot of the shampoos and conditioners from this line because they’re very reasonably priced and have a decent ingredients list, but this particular product yielded the most noticeable results to me.  I am always looking for hair products that moisturize effectively, as dryness is my main problem when it comes to hair.  I tried the coconut conditioner on a whim, and it left my hair beautifully soft and pliable after rinsing.  I’ve now purchased it twice.  This stuff also manages to fully rinse out, which is more important than you may think.  There are those conditioners that just seem to stay on your hair like a film and weigh it down, but that’s not the case with this one.  Sometimes I’ll use it (or actual coconut oil!) as a pre-wash treatment, and the condition of my hair has been great.  I’m also addicted to the yummy scent.  Tropical scents have a special, transporting quality to me that put a smile on my face (especially out here in the Midwest).

This conditioner combined with the Rahua shampoo is my best natural hair solution.

Lip care- Burt’s Bees Beeswax lip balm

There’s no better lip balm on the market, in my opinion.  A good lip balm is one that doesn’t get you into the habit of needing to use it every hour- you shouldn’t have to; your lips should ultimately be able to bring forth their own moisture.  The menthol in this one is so soothing, works quickly to help lips replenish their own moisture, and brings forth the lips’ natural flush.  And the effects seem to last for hours!  I only find myself reapplying this balm maybe twice a day.  I also love the matte finish it gives; I never like shiny lip balm finishes (and the shine is usually a dead giveaway for petroleum, which you do not want on your lips).  I have a bajillion of these in the bottom of all my bags, but I somehow seem to go through them all.  It’s the best.

Body wash- Weleda Wild Rose Creamy Body Wash

This stuff is a bit of a splurge for the amount you get, but it’s pretty dreamy.  I love a luxurious body wash to look forward to in the shower, and this is one of the more high-end natural brands that I consider more of a treat than a staple.  There’s a pomegranate version that I’ve also tried and loved, but the rose fragrance just feels kind of clean and extra glamorous (and I’m not sure how those two marry, but they do in my mind).  My husband and I used Dr. Bronner’s soap for a long time as body wash, but it left our skin just so dry that we had to try different things (though the Dr. Bronner’s is great for just about any other household use).  When we’re not using Dove, I love to grab a tube of Weleda for some fancy Gwyneth Paltrow Goop-y vibes.

Face moisturizer- Weleda Skin Food

I have yet to find my holy grail daytime moisturizer- contains SPF, doesn’t rub off and pill to the touch, a natural formula, and a glow-giving finish, all in one.  I confess that I’m still looking for that perfect mix.  There are many moisturizers that can carry three of the four aforementioned qualities quite well, but I’ve never found one that hits all four.  Most natural formulas with SPF I’ve tried have the problem of rubbing off and pilling.  So, putting any makeup on top is out of the question, and most formulas like this also have the trouble of just sitting on top of your skin and never fully absorbing.

Weleda’s Skin Food does the following: it gives a beautiful glow, has a solid natural formula (packed with some seriously lovely fruit and botanical extracts), and doesn’t rub off (though I’d still give it a minute or two to absorb).  It is categorized under “hand and foot creams” on Weleda’s site, but I’ve read about many a makeup artist using it on the face (including me!).  If something is relatively natural and works great for the skin on the hands, chances are it’ll cause no different effect if applied to the skin on the face.  I love mixing this with liquid foundation, and the scent is kind of mellow and citrusy.  However, Skin Food contains no SPF and some may find it too heavy for everyday use.  It is very rich and can be used anywhere on the body, but those with oily skin will probably not enjoy it as a facial moisturizer.  I’ll keep you posted on if I find anything that fits all my ideal requirements, but for now, this is the one with the best ingredients list that I know of.

And there you have it!  But I’d like to offer an important sidenote- after perusing through these favorites of mine, you may have noticed that none of these products are labeled as “organic”.  That’s because none of them are.  In order for anything to truly qualify as USDA certified organic, every single ingredient within the finished product must also be USDA certified organic, and the finished product itself will be visibly labeled as “USDA Certified Organic”.  Within the realm of beauty, such a thing is still pretty difficult to find.  Now, one singular ingredient within a finished product may be organic, or the word “organic” may be used in the brand or product name, but that does not mean that the product you are using is organic.  And the use of the word “natural” in labeling and branding in beauty carries about as much weight as your body, on the moon.

So, with that having been said, you really have to just kind of learn to navigate an ingredients list.  It’s difficult to find any kind of beauty product that is entirely USDA certified organic, but it is easy to learn the difference between a list of petrochemical and synthetic ingredients as opposed to a list of easily-pronounced, familiar botanical extracts.  But again, just educate yourself, pay attention to the lists of ingredients you encounter, and keep doing your best.  I’m right there with you.  xo, MR

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#EmptiesChallenge Update

I began my Empties Challenge on September 25th.  It is now November 24th.  Let’s discuss the progress I’ve made(?) within the past two months.

As you may recall, my challenge involved a cease and desist of all beauty purchases unless I emptied out and finished two products that I already had first.  Many details and stipulations were involved in this challenge, and you can read the full run-down here.

During October, I managed to finish off one Origins A Perfect World face wash,and one Caudalie Vinosource eye cream.  My choice for my first beauty purchase?  A much needed hair trim.  I was very happy with myself for making the decision to choose a necessary service of maintenance and self-care as opposed to, say, a new shade of blush from Sephora that in all likelihood I do not need.

Since then, I have managed to go through all of my Yes To Cucumbers cleansing face wipes, my Lancome Bi Facil eye makeup remover, and a travel-size Caudalie Vinosource Moisturizing Sorbet.  I’m also closing in on finishing my beloved Rahua shampoo, a couple of my favorite CoverGirl mascaras, and my Simple Micellar Water.

But here’s the problem that I’ve run into.  All of these things that I’m running out of are, well, things I already run out frequently because I use them frequently.  Makeup remover wipes?  Cleansing solution?  My favorite shampoo?  All things I use on a regular basis, at least three times a week.  I tend to use the micellar water to cleanse my face even when I haven’t worn makeup during the day.  So, when I run out of these things, I kind of need to repurchase these same items right away.  For example, I probably need to redeem two of those aforementioned almost-empties for a pack of face wipes this week because I use them so often.  And I know I won’t be able to last too long without a mascara that I trust.

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But this just keeps me locked into a pattern of buying the same items, and using the same items.  Which then keeps me from trying to use up my less-used products, like all my color makeup or nail polishes.  Which was one of the main objectives of this challenge in the first place- to use up my less-used products.  Which means I’ve kind of defeated the purpose of this challenge.

See my dilemma?  I mean, at least I’m not adding anything new to my collection of stuff and at least I’m not spending unnecessary cash, but I’m not exactly getting anywhere with all those unused lipsticks or that bottle of nice foundation.

So what’s the solution?  It’s actually pretty simple.  On top of using the things I normally use each day, I need to also make normal use of all my less-used stuff.  What does that look like?  It looks like not only washing my face each day, not only using my favorite moisturizer each day, but also wearing makeup each day!  The fact of the matter is that this challenge will only be an exercise in redundancy unless I begin to consistently use the products that I typically neglect.  I know I may just be restating my original objectives here, but that’s what you do with research data and experiments- you measure your progress against your original goals, determine what pitfalls you’re encountering, and regroup from there.

So the implications of all this are actually quite fun and something to look forward to- I need to wear more makeup on a daily basis.  I need to stop just using my Burt’s Bees and actually top it off with one of my glosses.  I need to add a little eyeshadow along with my common look of just mascara and liner.  Not the worst thing in the world, I suppose.

But this hasn’t been my only problem.  Here’s another speed bump I encountered- I completely forgot about my challenge one afternoon a couple weeks ago and got a blowout.  Yup.  It was after work, and I knew I was going to return to work just for a little bit that evening and I wanted something relaxing to do for an hour or two, and so I passed the time by getting a $25 blowout.  Can you believe it?  The stylist was literally massaging my scalp when I remembered, and I about cracked my skull against the ceramic tub.  Ugh.

See, those are the kinds of purchases that are just so unnecessary, and it wasn’t even fun or relaxing!  The stylist was stressed and annoyed because the salon had been having a champagne and Botox party (mind you, I had not been to this place before) and she’d hated interacting with the guests all day, so by the time she got to me she was at her wits end.  The poor girl couldn’t crack a single smile for the first twenty minutes of our time together, even when we were introduced.  Her irritated state was tangible, and I apologized to her a couple times because I knew I’d booked on short notice.

I ended up trying to talk and listen to her about life in general, what frustrates us as fellow introverts, and what kind of work environment and coworkers we enjoy most.  I even tipped her a full 20% because I felt bad and I encouraged her to ask her boss if she could be done for the day after finishing with me (a request that was granted).  In other words, I came in for a relaxing blowout and instead ended up trying to meet the emotional needs of the person who was supposed to be providing me with a paid service.  If you know me, you know that these are classic McKenna problems (read: extreme people pleaser, ISFJ, “I can’t be happy unless you’re happy”, assuming responsibility for others’ well-being, etc).  Not relaxing in the least.  Truth be told, I probably shouldn’t have tipped her at all.

So, yeah.  Due consequences for me being mindless and spending money on frivolities, I suppose.  And now I’m down another two empties!  Oh well.  I can start over and look forward to the fact that the only way for this challenge to yield some exciting results will be by getting creative with my makeup on a regular basis.  And that’s certainly nothing to complain about.  xo, MR

An Autobiographical Top Shelf

This post is done in the style of Into The Gloss’s Top Shelf feature, which I’ve been obsessed with for about five years now.  So basically, I’m pretending I’m being interviewed by Emily Weiss on all the products I love, in my own home, complete with “professional” photos/selfies.  Fake it ’till you make it, right?

My routine is hard to explain briefly.  I’ll say this, though- I am not low maintenance when I don’t have to be.  There’s no shame in that.  I’m addicted to haircare, skincare, makeup, all that, but I really don’t afford myself much time to enjoy it on a daily basis.  I either want to spend an hour getting ready just the way I like, or I want to be out the door in five minutes.  All or nothing.  It’s part of how I appreciate beauty- I hate doing any of it halfheartedly.  One of my least favorite things is when I try to quickly wiggle on some mascara in the morning on the way to work and then it turns out all sloppy and incomplete by my standards.  It’s not worth it.  I’d rather bite the bullet and go bare.

SKINCARE

So, what I do depends on the day.  If I have time, I start from the bottom layer and work up, though I try to make the skincare thing happen every day.  I typically begin with a serum, and I’ve decided Caudalie’s S.O.S Thirst Quenching Serum is the best.  I tried Shiseido’s Ultimune, but I like Caudalie’s better for the money.  It feels so fresh on my skin, sometimes I forget to put on moisturizer afterwards.  It’s been hard to pin down a great moisturizer for me because I’m always looking for something natural, but effective and with SPF that doesn’t leave a weird residue.  I’ve been using Origins A Perfect World Moisturizer these past couple months.  It smells amazing and has SPF 25.  I’ve also like Desert Essence’s Daily Essential Defense Moisturizer from Sprout’s or Whole Foods, but it wouldn’t absorb well when it was hot out so I continued my hunt.  When I checked out Origins, the lady helping me gave me a quick facial and she talked me into the toner from the same line.  I haven’t used toner in forever because I feel it’s unnecessary and drying, but this stuff felt tingly and actually left my skin moisturized.  There’s a lot of white tea in it.  We’ll see if I keep it up.

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For face wash, I alternate between Origins and Desert Essence, which is entirely made of oils and some castile soap.  It sounds basic, but there’s a ton of random stuff in it like bladderwrack extract and goldenseal root extract that I hadn’t even heard of before using it.  For a night cream, I’ve been using Acure’s for a couple years and it’s really rich with lavender and chamomile.  It’s very calming.  I think they sell it at Target now, but it’s been at Whole Foods forever.  For zits, I’m pretty faithful to Mario Badescu’s Drying Lotion.  My husband loves it too.  I try to just leave zits alone for the most part these days; I find that doing anything to try and “heal” them just aggravates them or doesn’t quicken their disappearance.  Sometimes I’ll do a mask if I’m just watching Netflix late at night.  I’ll use Lancome’s Hydra Intense Masque.  It’s super cooling and smells amazing; I love putting on some I Love Lucy and having a late-night snack when I do a mask.  Best ritual ever!  I’ll also use Origins’ Clear Improvement charcoal mask for porous areas; the lady who gave me the facial at Origins gave it to me for free!  I like face wipes too, and my favorite are the Yes To Cucumbers kind.  I can’t tell you how many packs of those my mom has jammed into my Christmas stocking over the years.  I buy them in bulk at Target.

The one thing that’s still sort of a mystery to me is eye cream.  I like ones that are cooling and depuffing, and I like rollerball kinds best because they’re more sanitary than dabbing your finger into a jar of cream and then putting it on your eye.  Simple Skincare makes a good one, as does First Aid Beauty, but I don’t know.  I’m just not there yet.

HAIR

My hair stylist knows I’m a major product addict.  The funniest thing has been when I’ve asked him about products from lines that he uses before they’re even out yet or before he’s heard about them!  I read about hair stuff in magazines and then I want to go out and try it.  New hair products are what I get most excited about, so I’ve tried a lot but I can finally say I have favorites.  I wash my hair every three or four days, and I alternate between two shampoos.  I’ve been using Rahua’s shampoo for over three years now, and it’s pricey but I feel absolutely no guilt using or purchasing it because it’s so natural.  There’s really no soap in it.  It’s another product made up mostly of oils.  I’ll use another shampoo every other wash, typically an Aveda one like their Color Conserve or Dry Remedy.  I’ll try anything for conditioner.  I’ve been obsessed with conditioners since my late teens because I was always trying to find ones that would make my hair grow or repair it, but I don’t really believe conditioner does that anymore.  I’ve used one from Davines for a long time called Momo; I love it.  I’ll also ask for Kerastase samples from my friend who works at a L’Oreal salon because I can’t afford Kerastase, but their deep conditioners have the craziest reputations so I’m always desperate to try them.  I also like Alterna, mostly their treatments from their Caviar line.  They’re good for when I want to grow my hair out.  I use Unite’s 7 Seconds Leave-In Conditioner to detangle with a wide-tooth comb after I wash, but I think I like Bumble and Bumble’s Prep spray better for this.  I’ll go back to it after I run out of the Unite.  The Prep spray has hops and rosemary, the latter of which is good for lice prevention.  I work around kids, and lice is one of those things that you can’t really avoid if you’re in that environment.  It’s part of life, so you just have to do what you can.  Tea tree oil works well for this too, by the way.

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For styling, I’m a sucker for anything to do with texture.  Living Proof’s Instant Texture Mist is great for giving that pliable “chunk” feel that I love for hair, and I also like Bumble And Bumble’s stylers like their Dryspun Finish and Cityswept Finish.  If it mattifies, gives texture, or extends a blowout, I’ll try it.  Anything for the second- or third-day hair look.  I like Oribe’s Apres Beach Wave And Shine Hairspray too, though my hair does “beachy” really well on it’s own.  I love Oribe’s products for their scent.  And the best dry shampoo in the world is Klorane’s, hands down.  The non-aerosol kind has stretched out so much time between washes for me.  It can make your scalp itchy if you put too much on and don’t brush it out, but it’s still the best.  The drugstore kinds suck.  If I want a smooth or blown-out look I’ll use R&Co’s Jackpot Styling Creme.  The scent is intense but it stretches out my hair beautifully, and the effect lasts around three days.

I got into the R&Co stuff because my salon started carrying it.  I go to Salon 9 in Orange, and I’ve been going to Justin Kamm for nearly ten years!  He’s a genius.  He teaches workshops and is part of the cutting team for Davines.  We finally, FINALLY cut my hair past my shoulders just this weekend.  I’ve always had my hair long or mid-length, because I love long hair and I love playing with it.  I miss topknots and ponytails and long waves, but the bob that Justin gave me feels so right.  It’s good to do at least once, and I’m surprised at how comfortable I feel with it.  I feel reeeeeally French.  And the best part is, all those texture products work so well with this cut.  I still put a bit of wave in it with my Hot Tools iron, but roughing it up with some kind of product gives it that grit that I’m always after.

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MAKEUP

Makeup is tricky.  I’ve tried a ton, but over the years I’ve come to find that I’m actually really picky and haven’t tried quite as much as other people (which is encouraging).  Makeup is expensive, and I take forever to run out of anything so buying too much is a really wasteful choice for me.  I don’t use primer much, but I like BeneFit’s The Porefessional when I do makeup for brides.  It feels silky.  I like to use Clarins’ Beauty Flash Balm on myself and then immediately put on powder or foundation once it absorbs.  I prefer this to primer.  It sort of gives skin a brightening effect.  For foundation, I love Bare Minerals’ Original SPF Foundation because it still leaves a glow.  I don’t like a matte skin finish; I’m all about dewy skin and mattified hair.  The opposite feels too Vegas or Miss America for me.  If I want a liquid foundation, Lancome’s Teint Miracle is nice but I still haven’t landed on a favorite.  I just don’t think I like liquid foundation.  I even have a BB Cream that I like but I just don’t use it too often.  You can’t escape the feeling of liquid makeup on your face, which I hate.  I immediately want to take it off.  Concealer is nearly always Yves Saint Laurent’s Touche Eclat in Luminous Vanilla.  I used to hate it, and I’m not sure why.  It’s the most lightweight formula I can find that still gives coverage.  However, I’m not too concerned anymore with getting rid of dark circles anymore because for some reason, I like them now.  They seem to give a touch of character.  A heavy concealer under the eyes looks too finished for me.  You need that bit of wear in your face.

NARS Bronzer in Laguna is pretty standard, and I’ll try almost any blush.  NARS has the best ones.  I’ve liked their creme formula in Lokoum for a long time but I think it’s discontinued.  Their other powder shades are bonkers; I love Exhibit A and Liberte.  MAC has a gorgeous one from their Mineralize line called Warm Soul.  It super pretty for everyday, but mineral blush on top of mineral powder it can make your skin look funny.  I like it on bare skin.  MAC’s Plum Foolery is also good; I wore it for my wedding day and my mom wears it, too.  I have a couple Chanel blushes too, but I hate to admit that I bought them because they were honestly just too expensive and frankly, MAC and NARS make better ones.  The Chanel ones have perfume in them.  You feel glamorous putting them on, but they’re a murderous, stupid splurge.  Spend that kind of money on groceries or not at all, for God’s sake.

Eye makeup is a journey for me.  I take forever to decide what I’m going to do with my eyes.  Eyeshadow feels like such a commitment, which is probably why I wear it the least out of anything.  It’s takes me a lot of time and concentration, and I always need to put shadow primer on if I’m going to do it because it makes such an undeniable difference.  I think I like purple shadows on myself best.  It’s just enough of an interesting color to feel special, and it does wonders for brown eyes.  MAC’s Sketch and Embark are good.  I bought the Embark because it’s the closest thing I could find that matches this special edition Victoria’s Secret eyeshadow I have.  Christian Siriano from Project Runway did a collection for them a long time ago and it included this eyeshadow that is literally perfect.  It’s matte, smooth, has amazing concentration, and is this deep purple-brown shade called Royalty that, of course, ended with the collection.  I’m going through it really slowly, but I love using it for smokey eyes.  A lot of that stuff with a ton of MAC’s kohl liner in Feline, and boosh- I feel like Catwoman.  If I’m really going for it I’ll use Urban Decay’s eye pencil in Vice, too, and smudge it out.  The best is when a smokey eye looks sweaty and sparkly, like a hazy night at Studio 54 in 1978. This pencil does that.  Oh and my mascara is pretty much exclusively CoverGirl.  I swear, theirs are the best.

Lips are simple.  I do very little, unless it’s something like a red lip.  I like lip colors that look like just a bit of something, because I usually like to focus on my eyes.  A lot of times it’s just a few swipes of Burt’s Bees.  Everything I like tends to be pinky-nude.  I’ve liked Dior’s Addict lipstick in Tulle, L’Oreal’s Colour Riche Balm in Nourishing Nude, and Yves Saint Laurent’s Rouge Pur Couture Glossy Stain in Nude Provocateur.  I guess I gravitate toward balm stains, or gloss balms, or all those hybrid formulas we see these days.  Nothing too lipstick-y.  An exception would be NARS’ lip pencils.  Those are brilliant.

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Oh!  I almost forgot about brows.  I use one thing- CK One’s Brow Pencil and Gel Duo in Crafty Raven.  I like thick, groomed eyebrows, but I hate how many rules and standards there are with them these days.  They have to be perfectly shaped, tapered, filled in, not too thin, all that.  I’m not into it, and same goes for the contouring craze.  It’s just too much, too Kim with all the banana powder and shading and all that.  I’m not into tricks that transform your face into another face, though it’s cool that it can be done.  I like to look like myself, but with a bit of a wink I guess.  That’s the best for me, at least.  xo, MR

How to wash your hair like a crazy obsessive person.

Over the years, as I’ve become more and more conscious of how precious healthy hair is, I’ve developed some … what shall we call this … neuroticisms when it comes to my hair.  Those who’ve touched my hair and had the pleasure(?) of working with it know that I am what I like to call a hair hypochondriac.  If there were ever such a thing, I AM IT.  I always think my hair’s damaged.  I always think it’s falling out.  I always want it to be two inches longer than it is, but I can’t bear the idea of damaged ends and so I give in and go in for a trim anyhow.  And then I always think that too much is being trimmed off and now a whole foot of hair has been lopped away (and yes, you wouldn’t believe the things my brain sees that aren’t actually there).  I always ask my friends trained in cosmetology to feel it and tell me if it feels “porous”.  I always look at my coworkers’ and friends’ hair to see if their ends look less healthy than mine (and yes, I literally stare at the ends of your hair when I’m checking you out … sorry if you thought it was a more exciting part of your body).  I always have this idea of what my hair should look like, and as my friend pointed out to me just a couple weeks ago, I think I’m always a little dissatisfied because my face doesn’t match the hair inspiration pictures I always refer to (as opposed to just the hair).

Sometimes it’s a fun game I play with myself, to see just how healthy and how long I can get my hair to be.  But at other times, it’s nothing short of a neurotic fixation that causes anxiety and an endless amount of comparison.  Which, of course, will truly make my hair fall out.  But for now, I felt it may be fascinating to at least let you in on my … hair cleansing routine.

First, start with what you’d expect:  a good wash and condition.  And of course, it has been at least three days since the last wash and condition (right????).  Use a shampoo with as few sulfates as possible, and as many natural ingredients as possible (read: ingredients that you can understand, pronounce easily, and aren’t chemical-synthetic compounds).  I happen to rotate between two shampoos and two conditioners.  Be sure that once you’re in the shower, you wash your hair first so that you can immediately move on to conditioner (as Matt Damon discusses in The Informant!).  Remember not to worry about conditioning your roots; just cover your hair from mid-shaft downward to the ends.  Put your hair up in a clip so you can go about the rest of your showering business without accidentally rinsing out the conditioner, and so that any steam and heat help along the conditioning process (but do remember that it’s best to shower in tepid or even cold water if possible, as it’s better for your endocrine system and less harsh on your strands).

Once you’ve rinsed out your conditioner, blot your hair with your towel to gently dry it (and do not wring it or throw it up in a turban-style towel, as this promotes breakage in your hair’s wet, weak state).  Then, using a wide-tooth comb, detangle slowly by running the comb through your hair, with assistance from a detangling spray if you so choose. And after that, you wait.  You do some Netflix time, make some tea, let it air-dry and lay not a watt of heat to your head.  And ideally, you do not touch it with your fingers either as that promotes frizz.

Perhaps when your hair is 60% dry, you apply some kind of repairing or smoothing product, concentrating specifically on the ends.  This may be an oil, a serum, a cream, or who knows what at this point.  If your product is heat-activated, perhaps you’ll apply just a bit of warmth from a blow-dryer to produce it’s most effective results.

before

Whew!  Talk about “before”.  This is how my hair dries naturally after doing just the aforementioned.  I suppose it’s “wavy”, but it’s a little wonky, you know?  Could be worse, but not the most flattering.

After your hair is almost totally dry, see what sections need help from a curling iron or flat iron.  If you’re satisfied (because perhaps your hair is curly), then you’re done!  If not, then fix whatever kinks or create whatever waves as you see fit.  I use a 1.25′ Hot Tool Professional Ceramic + Titanium spring curling iron.  I just wrap sections around the rod and skip the clamp all together.  If I think any section of hair can forego the heat treatment, I leave it be.    What comes next all depends on my mood, quite honestly.  It’s usually a tad of Frederic Fekkai’s Glossing Creme to impart just a touch of shine and to shut down any tameable frizzies, but I usually finish by flipping my head upside-down and sort of mussing up the roots for a bit of volume and to avoid looking too neat.  A bit of dry shampoo to the roots perfects the look on day two and day three of a wash (and by day four, it’s probably up in a bun and perhaps covered in oils, treating it for the next wash).

after

Sooooo much better.  And let this be a lesson: don’t get too discouraged by how your skin looks if you’re standing in horrible bathroom lighting.  Look for some natural light for a real assessment.  And that whole makeup thing always helps, too.

So anyhow, this is what I do.  Sometimes whatever particular combination of products I’ll use will just produce a really great response from my hair, and I’ll have a great hair week.  I have to take into account what I’ve eaten too, or if I’ve worked out.  Other times, my hair will get oily quickly, or my scalp will itch.  The weather is even a factor at times.  My point is, no matter what I do to try and control my hair’s condition and growth, it just tends to operate like the rest of our bodies do- sometimes it needs a little of this, and sometimes a little of that.  Rarely will it always need the same exact same things forever.  And it’s not always going to do what I tell it to do.  So with that said, I’ll just keep up with my bi-weekly washes (and they really are some of the best parts of my week), keep eating my salmon and berries, and … oh yeah … sleep with it up in a scrunchy and on a satin pillowcase.  Less damage that way.  xo, MR

P.S. And the following is a list of my absolute favorite products that I use for my routine (and again, I alternate my use of the shampoos and conditioners, and I don’t use all the treatment/styling products at the same time):

Rahua Shampoo

Davines Momo conditioner

Aveda Color Conserve shampoo and conditioner

Davines Oi

Alterna Caviar Photo-Age Defense (YES MARIA I BIT THE BULLET SHUT UP.)

Bumble&bumble Prep.

Weleda Rosemary hair oil

Frederic Fekkai Glossing Cream

Chronicles of the Amazon Shampoo Hunter

I haven’t posted in well over one week.  That seems like forever ago.  A LOT has happened within this past week, but I’m feeling quite cozy and pleasant now that it’s Friday and the week has come to its end.  It was finals week for the kiddos at school and the Friday after is always a day off for them,  and therefore a day off for me too.  So what does one like me do on a rainy Friday off?

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DRIVE FAR TOO MANY MILES IN PURSUIT OF THE GREATEST NATURAL LUXURY SHAMPOO!!  DUH!  WHAT DO YOU THINK THIS IS? A BLOG ABOUT SPENDING TIME WISELY?!

No but really.  I don’t have kids yet, and I’m not the one grading the finals yet, so you can bet your mother’s rump that I’m going to suck the juice out of this free time while I can.  No excuses.

So I’ve been using my John Masters Organics Evening Primrose shampoo for quite some time now, and as happy as I’ve been to find a truly safe, plant-based shampoo for my precious locks, I’d been hearing through the grapevine that I could do even better.  It’s been particularly dry out lately (I mean like lips-cracked-and-bleeding-dry), and so while I know that dry scalp may be a consequence of this, I’ve been noticing that the John Masters has been leaving my own scalp feeling, um, stripped at times?  Of course, that’s nothing a healthy dose of conditioner can’t help, but you know me.  If I can do one better for my hair, you know I’ll try anything and you know by “anything”, that includes the possibility of going all Rambo on a few choice endangered plant and animal species.

The latest rumors have it that the very best in natural hair care (and don’t get me wrong- John Masters is still up there) is a name called Rahua (pronounced RA-WA as far as I know).  The key to this line is a potent restorative oil previously known only to the women of the Quechua-Shuar tribe in Ecuador’s Amazonian rainforests.  CAN’T MAKE THAT UP.  A couple blogs that I keep up with every twenty minutes have frequently boasted the name of Rahua, and so my itchy scalp and I decided to get along down south to the only location I know of that carries the line- a Planet Beauty on Bristol and MacArthur just off the 405 freeway in Newport Beach (or am I in Irvine?  Where am I?  We’ll just say I’m in a rich peoples’ shopping center).

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This Planet Beauty is huge.  It’s a legitimate planet.  Apparently it’s the original location as well, and to my surprise it had no shortage of the rare, luxury brands that I’ve been reading about for years now.  Many of them I still cannot afford and dare not spend the tuppence on, but it was still weird finding them.  It was like meeting a celebrity, like running into Alan Arkin at a Souplantation or something.

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Rodin’s Olio Lusso is the stuff of the gods for celebrity skincare.  It is literally thee product that famed makeup artist Tom Pecheaux massages in Victoria’s Secret models’ faces before applying makeup for their annual fashion show (because I’m sure they all need more pampering … dem poor widdle models!).  Rodin’s site lists the special oils that the stuff is comprised of, but at $150 per 1 fluid-ounce bottle (make sure to clean up the floor now that you’ve spit up your lunch), I have a funny feeling that there’s some other ingredient Rodin ain’t letting us in on.  TINY BITS OF JERKED SNOW LEOPARD, RODIN?!  OR THE TEARS OF THE JOLIE-PITT TWINS?!  You can’t keep secrets from the American public for long!

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Here we have the full line of Tata Harper skincare, sitting right at the front entrance like it’s no big deal.  I once used a free sample of her Reparative Moisturizer and I have to say, I got a nice case of Doutzen Kroes face for the day.  It was great!  What was even better?  Wasting my Doutzen Kroes face on five classes of freshmen who literally could not care less because they’re too busy popping their own zits.  I’ll be saving that sample for when I do something swank next time, like when I go to Mother’s Market and order a juice.

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This Planet Beauty location also carries the full lines of Sonya Dakar and Dr. Hauschka skincare, with the latter known for being very natural and very potent.  Jennifer Aniston is known to use Dr. Hauschka’s products, along with various other celebrities that can do things like buy horses for fun (unlike us lay-folk, who buy horses for transportation).  Even Madonna itself uses Dr. Hauschka’s line, and look how well-preserved that thing is!

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And finally, I happened upon this- the full line of Kerastase hair products, save for the one product from the line that I use.  Of course!  But I was still quite overjoyed to see the rest of the full spread here, which is typically so hard to find.  And this photo doesn’t even cover the whole selection they had!  I will also say that I got to feel like quite a professional for one minute as I gave a customer the run-down on the whole line and what each color family is for.  But what product did I ultimately sell her on?  My amazing Rahua shampoo harvested straight out of the rainforest!  Let’s hear it for the natives!  Did I tell her I haven’t used the stuff yet?  No!  Did I tell her it’s awesome and she’ll be amazed by the glorious Kate Beckinsale-like results?  Yes!  Who loves lying?!  ME!

There were countless other luxury brands crammed into this tiny little gem of retail space- Philip B., Mustela (a line of great baby products that make Johnson & Johnson’s look like chemical waste), Kai, Juliette’s Got a Gun, the entire Davines line, Rene Furterer, and a billion more.  I would have to say that it’s been a Friday afternoon well-spent (and fear not- I’ve balanced out my super fun times by doing a little work and reading for my thesis). I’ll be letting you know how my Amazon shampoo turns out, and hopefully it’s a success and I don’t have to fear the wrath of that stranger I sold it to.  xo, MR