beauty on the cheap

Staying Pretty in Hard Times

Updated 10-01-2011

In these uncertain times, finding more ways to save money is challenging enough. A few luxuries which I enjoyed and took for granted are now just that: Luxuries I can no longer afford and can do without.

I used to buy all those expensive department store brands: Arden, Lauder, Lancome, Clinique, even the really pricey Shiseido and Erno Lazlo. However, now that I'm on a tight budget, paring down the regimen saves both time and money. All's that really needed is a good detergent-based cleanser, a water-binding toner, and a good moisturizer for your skin type, sunscreen, and something for simple exfoliation.

One big beauty secret, and it's so easy: We all need water to keep skin moist and healthy. However, say "No" to ready-made bottled water. Buy one of those counter-top filter pitchers instead and a reusable, portable bottle or canteen. The Brita and PUR systems use the same filtration method as the commercial water bottlers, but at a fraction of the cost. You also help to conserve resources by not buying and discarding bottle after plastic bottle.

Webmistress Note:
Most ingredients used in homemade cosmetics/treatments are readily available on your pantry shelf, in the medicine chest, or in the refrigerator. Some things such as floral waters may not always be available locally, so online sources are your best bet. For minimally packaged, reasonably priced specialty skin oils, waxes, bases, etc., see the following:

Making Cosmetics
Mountain Rose Herbs

Of course you can try your local natural foods/health food store for floral waters and natural oils.

Clean, Tone, and Exfoliate

For my cleanser, I buy whatever is on sale at Target, Walgreens, CVS, etc. Just something to get my skin clean. Liquid cleansers are less drying than bar soaps.

A quick pH treatment for the skin. Fill the basin with warm water then add about 1/4 cup white or cider vinegar. Splash this over your face several times to balance skin's pH level. This is crucial if you're using bar cleansers.

How about an olive oil facial? Buy regular classic or light olive oil off the grocer's shelf, not the $$$ cosmetic brand. It's the same thing, so why pay from $40 and up for a tiny bottle from the department store when a full 16 ounces goes for about $6 in the grocery store. For this use, the store's private label will do.
I use olive oil for removing makeup, weekly facials, and basic moisturizing. Just pour a small amount about a quarter-size into your hands. Warm the oil in your hands then massage all over your face. Dip a washcloth into warm to hot water and place over your face. The steam will help relax your pores and speed the oil's softening effects. Rinse with several splashes of warm water. Proceed with your regular skin care regimen. Two or three drops of olive oil make a good overnight moisturizer. It's full of anti-oxidants which fight those skin-damaging free radicals. Use in place of a standard night and/or eye cream. Your skin -- and your wallet -- will thank you!

For a toner, I say "No!" to alcohol-based astringents which are very drying. Instead, I make my own: Witch hazel mixed with a small amount of glycerin. At times I'll use floral waters (rose, orange, lavender) in lieu of witch hazel which, for some people, can irritate. In a 8 to 10-oz. bottle pour in enough glycerin to cover the bottom. Fill to top with witch hazel or floral water of choice. Shake and store in cool, dry place. Apply to cleansed face and neck with cotton OR put mixture in sprayer. Gently spritz face. Allow to air dry.
Sometimes the glycerin's water-binding qualities are enough, so I don't need additional moisturizer. However, if your skin is really dry, please use your favorite moisturizer. And don't forget the sunscreen!

Facial exfoliation usually means buying expensive kits or machines. Not for me, thank you. I use a variety of inexpensive methods to keep my skin smooth. More often it's just a soft facial brush with my cleanser. At times I use an apricot scrub. Hey, it's just ground walnut shells and apricot seeds, not plastic beads that get into our waterways -- and into a fish or bird's stomach. Another alternative is baking soda. That's right, plain old and cheap baking soda. The texture is very fine and works perfectly as a facial scrub. The old 70's standby, Buf-Puf, is another way to smooth away those dead skin cells. Please be careful with this! Buf-Puf is similar to old-school dermabrasion; if improperly used, you can actually damage the skin. Always use Buf-Puf wet, with your cleanser, and gently scrub Do not bear down! in circular patterns. Follow the contours of your facial muscles. Start with cheeks, then do chin, nose area, forehead. Do each section no more that 5 seconds. Stay away from eyes!

Quick hand scrub: Mix together equal parts sugar and vegetable oil olive, canola, soy, whatever is on hand. Add a few drops favorite essential or perfume oil if desired. Keep this in resealable plastic tub, e.g., ZipLoc, old Cool Whip bowl, margarine tub, frosting container, etc. Scoop up a spoonful, put in palm of hand, then scrub hands thoroughly. Pay special attention to cuticles, between fingers, and wrists. Rinse with warm water then pat dry. Apply lotion if desired, but it may not be needed.

More homemade exfoliation formulas can be found on this site. Lots of cost-cutting ideas here.

Notice I don't have a section for moisturizer. That's your call. I use whatever's on sale, but only if it's fragrance-free and has what every good moisturizer should: Water-binding properties to hold and attract moisture. Make sure to use a sunscreen in the daytime.

However, here is one homemade all-purpose salve that works for lips, feet, hands, even around your eyes. This also works as a light hair pomade if your hair tends to be very dry and/or dull.
In a microwave-proof bowl, melt together 2 parts petroleum jelly and 1 part beeswax. Cool slightly and pour into clean glass jars. I use those 2 and 4-ounce pimento jars; the design works quite well, or use washed and sterilized baby food jars.
If the concoction is used solely for lips, feel free to add flavor and sweetening to the base before heating. Add 1 tsp of honey and 1/2 tsp of your favorite extract/flavoring. Cinnamon oil can be used for its plumping action. Please do not use mint oils or flavorings as they can overly irritate skin.

Bath and Body

Make your own scented bath salts. Fill a big Ziploc bag with about 4 cups of Epsom Salts. Add a few drops of your favorite perfume or, if available, about 20 drops of favorite essential oils. Shake and store in cool place. For the bath, add 1 cup to warm water. Soak and relax.

Got rough feet? Try this method to get hard and yucky buildup off the heels. Soak your feet for a good 20 to 30 minutes in warm soapy water. Sit back and relax!
Dry your feet and wipe a Stridex pad over the rough places, like the heels. Yes, the same Stridex for acne, but use the Extra Strength. Its 1% salicylic acid formula is needed to break down the thicker roughies on the feet. Let your feet dry then use a good heavy moisture cream. Nivea, Eucerin, Keri, even good old Vaseline. Apply it liberally all over your feet, paying attention to the really rough spots. Then put on cotton socks. Just plain, inexpensive socks. Do not wear any sock that can bind and disrupt circulation!
This method is best done before bedtime. Repeating this procedure nightly will result in smoother, softer feet, usually within two weeks. Doesn't cost much, either.

Vaseline makes a good body moisturizer any time. I use it on my hands, elbows, legs, feet, lips, etc. Just a dab of Vaseline and a drop of glycerin in my hand after washing dishes makes my hands nice and soft again. Stock up on travel-sized plastic jars (from the Dollar store). Pile in the petroleum jelly, add a few drops glycerin. Stir it up then cap tightly. Toss that into your purse, briefcase, or book bag. It's dirt cheap softening.

Smooth baby oil or other light oil over your skin after the shower. The oil will retain water left on the skin.

Make a light talc-free dusting powder: 3 parts cornstarch, 1 part baking soda, few drops favorite perfume or essential oil. Stir this up and store in a pretty tin (The ones you find at craft shops and the like) or jar. Dust on after the bath or shower. No talc means no irritation. Cornstarch absorbs perspiration; baking soda absorbs odors.

That's all I have for now. There will be more soon. If you have a tip, please pass it on. I'll give you ample credit on this page.