ELF Exclusive Offer

If you’re like me, the holidays are a great time to play with your “look.”  Holiday parties offer the perfect excuse to glam it up, make it dramatic, or just have fun playing with color and glitter.  This is why I was oh so excited to get this offer from ELF in my inbox.  A free 100 piece eyeshadow palette with any purchase of $20.00 or more?  Yes please!

Go to ELF, pick out your cosmetics/brushes/tools/etc, and at check out enter the code 100FREE. The palette will automatically be added to your order!  The offer is only valid through 12/19/12, so take advantage of it now!


Styling Saturday: Cruelty-Free for Under $15.00

“I admire what you’re trying to do, but I just don’t think it’s practical.  I’m a single mom on a budget.  I can’t splurge on cruelty-free cosmetics.  Maybe if you were a mom you’d understand”  Dee took a sip of her latte and gave me an apologetic look.  We’ve been lamenting her 4 year-old’s attempt to make home-made crayons out of Mommy’s make up collection.  Now she’s facing a full-on restock.  I suggested she go cruelty-free, and she immediately jumped to the expensive designer brands only available in stores like Ulta, Sephora, or high-end department stores.  The thought of replacing her entire daily make up routine was daunting enough, but the idea of breaking her budget was even more frightening.  “Believe me, if I could afford that stuff, I’d do it in a heart beat, but I’m lucky if I spend more than $25.00 on an entire look.”

Challenge accepted.  Dee’s right, I’m not married and I’m not a mom, so my disposable income is a bit more flexible than that of other women my age.  That being said, I do have a budget and I don’t want it to go bust on cosmetics.  So while I do feel there are certain items that are absolutely worth splurging on, I am all about finding a good deal.  I got Dee to agree to let me go shopping with her.  I promised her that not only could I give her a great daily make up look, but that I could do it with only cruelty free cosmetics and I could do it for less than what she would pay for the standard drug store brands.  Unfortunately Dee didn’t want to model for me, but because her complexion and coloring are very similar to mine (and since the Product Purge I’ve been in need of a new “emergency kit” to keep at work) I bought myself a duplicate set.

So for this week’s Styling Saturday I give you: Cruelty-Free for Under $15.00

Primer, concealer, foundation, pressed powder, eye shadow, color stick, eye liner, mascara

Perhaps the most important thing to note here is the all-over color stick.  This may be my favorite time-saving-find ever.  It works as a cream eye shadow, cream blush, and lipstick.  It blends with your skin tone so you don’t look like you’ve put the same color in all three places, and on your cheeks it gives you that great dewy look.

Applying the cream stick as eye shadow

Sorry for the awkward photo angle, but my tripod went missing so I had to MacGyver that shit.

As blush. 

Yes, I make ridiculous faces when applying blush to the apples of my cheeks.

As lipstick.

I prefer to use a q-tip to apply lipstick.  I feel like I have more control over the color and it’s more sanitary than brushes.

Put a little more mascara on

I…am not sure I can rave about the mascara.  It came out thick and rather gloopy.  Dee, however, loves hers.  She hasn’t had the same issue with the mascara as I have.  Then again, for only $1.00 I’m not sure I can complain about the mascara either.  Also, don’t laugh guys.  Your girlfriend also makes ridiculous faces when putting on mascara.

All made-up.

Sorry I couldn’t give you guys a great big smile here.  It was Monday when these pics were taken, so really I’m lucky I didn’t break the camera.

So all in all I used: primer ($1.00), concealer ($1.00), studio foundation ($3.00), translucent powder ($3.00), cream eye shadow ($3.00), all over color stick ($1.00), eye liner pen ($1.00), and mascara ($1.00).  Final total with tax?  $14.83.  Dee got a new cruelty-free daily look for less  than what she would have spent on regular drug store brands that she loves.  She bought herself a bottle of wine with the difference.


Great Beauty Product Purge

It was a sad day in Smalltown, America.  Heavy grey clouds hung in the sky, too sad and disheartened to move on.  Our heroine, with puffy-eyes and tear-stained face, said her silent goodbyes.  Her quest, though valiant and honorable, has claimed its first victims and she mourned the loss of her dear friends, The Duchess of Olay and Lady Maybelline.

Okay, so perhaps it wasn’t quite that dramatic, but The Great Beauty Product Purge has certainly left its mark on my cosmetics and toiletries.  If you’ve read the rules you’ll remember that No. 4 states all toiletries must be cruelty free.  This includes my collection as it currently stands stood at the time.  So a week ago, I did the thing I was dreading most at the start of my year-long journey.  I compared my cosmetics collection to the Cruelty-Free Companies and Products list.  I have to admit that while the results were largely within the realm of my expectations certain things truly surprised me.

Look for this little guy on products for quick cruelty-free confirmation

If you want to live cruelty-free you can pretty much say goodbye to drugstore cosmetics.  That’s right ladies.  Cover Girl, Almay, Neutrogena, etc.  It doesn’t matter which end of drugstore price spectrum you run, none of them are on the cruelty-free lists, and neither are their various umbrella corporations.  This was, sadly, not a surprise. What did sadden me was the lack of Olay on these lists.  (I checked several different ones, and then their website.)  Olay has been my trusted skin care line for the past 9-12 months, so I suddenly find myself without a skin care line.  But never fear ladies!  There is still a budget-friendly cosmetics option. I was absolutely thrilled to discover that E.L.F. Cosmetics proudly displays the cruelty-free bunny.  Not only are their cosmetics and products a bargain, but they’re now widely available at Target stores across the country.  (Ideal for those situations where you drive 3 hours for a job interview, only to realize you’ve forgotten your make-up.  What?  You’ve never done that?  Oh, well neither have I…)  Seeing E.L.F. on these lists was a good surprise.

A not-so-good surprise was the discovery of how many of my favorite, more up-scale products were not represented on these lists.  MAC, Benefit, NARS, and Laura Mercier were all found to be cosmetic contraband.  Benefit and NARS especially surprised me because their websites boast not testing on animals, however their umbrella corporation animal-tests on both ingredients and finished products.  This led to the dilemma of “if a product is cruelty-free but the company isn’t, is it within the rules or is it contraband?”  Ultimately I had to say that yes, it counts as contraband.  It broke my heart to say goodbye to one of my favorite eye-shadow pallets, but ultimately I believe it’s truly cruelty-free if the company that makes it is not.

So what does this leave me with?  Too-Faced, Urban Decay, and Stila are all safe, along with the E.L.F. collection I’ve built.  (With most products being $1.00 a piece, they’re a little tough to resist.)  I have the beauty basics covered.  My hair care is covered, even if I did have to part with a large amount of styling products.  That is thanks in large part to a miraculous product which I’ll cover later.  Surprisingly, I still have both of my fragrances of choice.  I was expecting the designer fragrance to be okay, but fully expected Bath & Bodyworks to make the “no list.”  Way to go, B&B!  I’m also left with a rather large bin of contraband, for which I now must figure out an acceptable fate.

I was also left needing to replace some products.  Skin care products aside, at the end of this product purge I was also in need of basic things I hadn’t really thought about being affected by this whole process.  Things like toothpaste, antiperspirant, and shaving cream were never really a blip on my mental radar.  Now, they were a legitimate reason to run to the (locally owned!) health food store.

Oh, and on the way home I stopped into a thrift store where I found this little guy.  Now he sits in my bathroom as a reminder to double-check all products before I buy.

Oatmeal Banana Face Mask

I love when the seasons change.  The beautiful green of summer gives way to vibrant orange, deep red, and glittering gold leaves.  Eventually that fades away and the world is covered with a crisp white blanket of snow, which melts into explosions of flowery color.  Yes, the seasonal change has always been something filled with joy and magic.  And dry skin.

It’s no secret that nourishment and moisturizer are the key to soft, supple, youthful skin.  I follow a strict skin care regiment twice daily, and yet every time the seasons change my face does an excellent impression of the Sahara.  For a solid week it feels like there is not enough moisturizer in the world to quench my skin’s thirst.  Until the Great Beauty Product Purge, I had a lovely selection of low-to-moderately priced facial masks to help battle this desert-like dryness.  Unfortunately the change to Fall caught me by surprise, and I haven’t had time to find an appropriate replacement.  So when I woke up this morning with that tight dry feeling, only five days after turning 29, I panicked.

I was tearing through my bookshelves looking for my home remedy and holistic healing books when I saw it.  My Grandmother’s recipe notebook. My Grandmother had beautiful skin.  Even through fighting cancer, she always looked ten years younger than she was.  I didn’t expect to find anything in it regarding skin care, but seeing it made me miss her so I started looking through it.  I wasn’t really reading the recipes.  I was noticing how similar our handwriting is, how the loops and slants in our letters are the same.  Then, as I was pondering how we both use a mix of print and cursive, I saw her recipe for an oatmeal banana face mask.  “For when I need extra moisture in my face and hair.”

I’ve never tried to make a mask out of basic kitchen ingredients before, but I was desperate.  I gathered up the ingredients and started “cooking.”  Honey, milk, half of a sliced banana (the other half was a nice compliment to my breakfast), and half a cup of oats.  Slice the banana, crack the egg, blend it all together, and voila!  Baby food.  I wasn’t thrilled at the idea of putting this on my face, but I’d come this far.  I might as well finish what I started. I covered my face and neck with a generous portion and still had plenty left over.  I decided to apply it to my hair as well, (I have serious end damage, but I’m not ready to search for a salon just yet.) and left it on for the required 15 minutes.  By the time it was dry I looked like something out of George Lucas’ imagination.

Admittedly, it was not easy to remove the mask from my hair, but the results were amazing.  My skin was quenched and actually glowing!  It felt like my face had drank ten gallons of water.  And my hair?  Soft, shiny, and healthy.  Even my tragically dry ends look and feel totally nourished.  It’s amazing what you can do with a few standard breakfast foods.

Oatmeal Banana Face Mask

1/c cup oatmeal
1/2 banana, sliced

1 medium/large egg
1 tsp honey
1 tsp milk

Mash banana, and place in a blender.  Add all other ingredients and puree until creamy and smooth.  Apply liberally to face and neck.  (If using as a hair mask, apply to midshaft and ends, the pony tail section).  Leave on for 15 minutes.  Remove with soft cloth and lukewarm water.

The Rules

So how, exactly, do I learn how to “walk the talk”?  If I’m brutally honest with myself, I already have all of the tools and knowledge I need to at least get started with my challenge.  I’ve just been lazy and/or taken the easy way out.  For example, I have probably fifteen reusable grocery totes.  They are different sizes from different stores, but they are all on the back shelf in my pantry.  Inevitably I will think of them about ten minutes out of my driveway, but decide it’s too much trouble to go back and get them.  As a result my pantry has been overrun with The Plastic Bag Monster.  Currently The Monster’s sole purpose is to terrify my cat since I cannot seem to find a fitting use for the bags.  So what does this tell me?  Lazy + grocery shopping  + unbeatable Plastic Bag Monster = Kitten Night Terrors.  Seriously, this monster is the reason cats tear through the house at 2am claws a-blazing.  But I digress.  Let’s get to the rules.

1. I cannot buy anything new.*
Over the summer a friend of mine posted these recipes for lemonade.  In the dog days of summer, they really appealed to me, and I decided I simply had to try them.  I read them over, ran to the store to get various ingredients, and also picked up these new items: juicer, glass pitcher, fine strainer.  When I got home I discovered that hidden in the depths of my kitchen cabinet were two heat resistant pitchers and a juicer.  It didn’t even occur to me to look for the items first.  (I think this may have been the night I decided I needed to change some things.)  Not only did I already have two of the three things I bought, but the next day my mother informed me that she found all of those things in the local thrift stores.  Between thrift stores, craigslist, ebay, and even the option to buy used on amazon, there is no reason I should have to buy anything “new.”  This includes gifts.

*This rule does not apply to: food, unmentionables, or toiletries/beauty products.  

 2. Groceries must be purchased as locally as possible, and carried with reusable grocery totes.
I live in an area surrounded by farms, and we have a huge farmer’s market here.  Local farmers bring fresh vegetables, fruits, milk, cheeses, grass-fed beef, eggs, and free range chicken.  Local fisherman bring their fresh catches.  All of these people in an indoor, year round facility.  I have never been there.  The most locally I have bought groceries since November has been the “local produce” section at Wegman’s.  So from now on I start at the farmer’s market.  I know I won’t be able to get everything there, but I believe I can get the majority of my regular grocery purchases there.  I am also putting my grocery totes in my car.  They’ll live there from now on.

3. All Leftovers must be used.
I suck at eating leftovers.  Whether it’s left over from a meal I cooked or take-home from a meal in a restaurant I didn’t finish, the food inevitably sits forgotten in my fridge until I get around to cleaning it out.  By that point it’s usually starting to resemble a 3rd grade science project and then I lament how wasteful I am.  The same goes for fresh herbs purchased for recipes, and usually about half of the lettuce I purchase.  If I buy it, I have to use it.  Once it’s cooked, I have to eat it.

4.  All toiletries must be cruelty free.
I can’t lie, this rule scares me.  I’m a firm believer in skin care.  I love experimenting with the new colors of make up and nail polish that come out every season.  My fine, straight hair requires products  if I hope to have any volume or style throughout the day.  Seriously, I cannot get enough of beauty products.  Of course, when you’re as addicted to beauty products as I am and living on a budget, you end up with a large stock of drug store make up.  Anything quality is top of the line, but I always hit the drug store first to figure out color combinations.  I anticipate unloading a large portion of my product collection.

5. I cannot buy toiletries whenever I want.
Most toiletries come packaged, which means waste.  Buying toiletries as often as I do is wasteful, especially when I realize how many colors I buy, use once, hate, and then completely disregard.  Skin and hair care products can be replaced as needed (because, hygiene) but make up can only be purchased at the season changes, and only if I don’t already own the colors.

6. All necessary “new” purchases must be local if possible.
It’s not easy to find local shops here, but they do exist.  Hardware stores, clothing boutiques, local grocers – they all exist.  We even have plenty of local vineyards, many of which produce wonderful local wines.  I haven’t found a locally owned beauty shop yet, but I’m excited to see what types of resources I can find.

7.  Anything that’s the result of an “Experience Gathering” must not be used for myself.
I’m not sure about your area, but a real trend here is the Experience Party.  Origami Owl bridal showers, Pampered Chef birthdays, even “Color Me Mine” is considered a celebratory event.  I’ve determined that in my efforts to not buy anything “new” I cannot offend the people I care about by refusing to attend or participate in these events.  But never more than $40.00, and never anything intended for myself.

8. Reevaluate all of my charitable donations.
I need to make sure all the organizations I donate to use donations responsibly.  Some of them are local, some of them are national, but I only know one of them intimately.  Some fairly simple research should help me determine which ones I will continue to donate to, and possibly help me discover some new ones that may be more worthy of support.

9. Learn how to garden.
This skill has evaded me for years.  Partially because I’m convinced I have a black thumb.  Mostly because I’ve never found digging in the dirt appealing.  Fresh-off-the-vine tomatoes, going in my backyard to get fresh herbs – that is appealing to me.  I actually do own gardening tools.  I think it’s time I learned how to use them

10.  Enjoy this!
I’m sure this year will be challenging.  I’m sure there will be times when I don’t keep all the rules.  I love a good challenge. My hope is that by the end of this year I will have experienced more new things, gained new skills, and be generally have had a lot of fun trying to live up to this whole thing.