Friday, June 15, 2007

Favorite Cheap Beauty Tricks

I received the following e-mail from Natalie, a reader who shared her beauty routine with FGB during the "What's Your Routine?" contest in April.

Hi Meg,

I just wanted to share with you a recent (as in this morning!) beauty emergency. So tomorrow is my birthday, and tonight I'm doing a dinner/ bar night thing with friends. Since I've been rather pale lately and am trying to start protecting my skin and stop laying out in the sun, I decided to use my absolute favorite self-tanner of all time, GlowFusion Micro-Nutrient Protein Tan.

But even the best self tanner leaves unnatural splotches when you apply it in a hurry, a lesson I learned this morning when I woke up and found bizarre lines and splotches around my ankles, on the dry skin on my heels, and on the tops of my feet. Yikes! I tried using all of the normal techniques - exfoliation, lemon juice, etc., to no avail.

When I got to work, my good friend and co-worker Colette suggested something pretty out there to remove it - but when I used it, it worked like a charm! So what's the secret weapon? Apparently, we could all learn a lesson from Mr. Portokalos from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, because it's WINDEX!

Colette first discovered this because her hairdresser told her that Windex removes hair dye from around the hairline. I can imagine that some people might get pretty freaked out to put a household cleaner on themselves, but for areas like ankles, elbows, and wrists, I feel comfortable using it.

Anyway, feel free to use this or not, but Windex definitely saved the day!

Partly because I'm cheap and partly because I get a huge kick out of discovering multiple uses for products, I loved reading Natalie's story (and Windex? Who would've thought?). I thought I'd share my own favorite cheap beauty trick and then open up the discussion to all of you.

I firmly believe that all over the counter exfoliation products are a waste of money. A long, long time ago, someone with a dry skin problem used a piece of cloth to dry off their face and body and realized, much to their amazement, that the cloth wiped off flakes and dead skin, leaving their face and body smooth and soft. That piece of cloth has evolved into today's washcloth, an item that can be bought for less than $2 at most stores.

In my experience, washing your face with a washcloth is just as effective as any high priced exfoliators, which feel good but don't make my face any smoother or softer than my K-Mart brand washcloth. To test my theory, I asked my dermatologist whether this was true, and he told me that unless you're looking for exfoliation on the level of microdermabrasion, you're sloughing off the same amount of skin. Also, for those with acne-prone or sensitive skin, anything rougher than a washcloth (like the St. Ives Apricot Scrub, which feels great but leaves my face raw) can do more harm than good.

So that's my trick- skip the exfoliators and just use a washcloth when you wash your face. It's boring, but it saves time and money. I'd love to hear your tips and tricks though, so if you've got a story or tip, share it in the comments!


Emma said...

- Slather your feet/hands in Vaseline (the petroleum jelly one) and put socks over them... yes, you'll look an idiot wearing socks on your hands, you could always wear gloves, but socks are cheaper. Go to bed. Wake up with soft soft feet :)

- Eat a cube of jelly (jello in the US) each day to strengthen your nails.

- Place a dampened (or crushed and made into a paste) aspirin tablet over a spot - the redness will go fade and it will go down faster. (*Not* if you are allergic to aspirin, are on blood meds, etc)

Anonymous said...

Another great exfoliator is baking soda. Just use about a teaspoon, mix with some water (or oil, like olive oil, if you have dry skin) to form a paste and rub gently. Fresh, soft, glowy skin. I think baking soda is basically a salt, so it might have some disinfecting properties as well. Ever since I've started using this, I've found manual exfoliators to be a complete waste of money. (A BHA lotion on the other hand, is still useful for degunking clogged pores.)


Becky said...

Along the same lines - back when I had blue streaks in my hair the first time I touched them up myself was a disaster. The bathroom looked like I'd been imitating Jackson Pollack and my face and body looked like I was ready for a role as an extra in Braveheart. While I was cleaning the bathroom walls with Simple Green, I noticed the blue dye was also coming off my hands. Wild with hope at actually being able to leave the house before it wore off on its own, I scrubbed my face with it. Like magic the blue was gone. My skin was a little dry after, but that was a small price to pay for not looking like a Smurf any more.

Suze said...

- Instead of using soap and then washing everything off again, use a shower peeling thingy. Do not shave your legs, but use this cream thing which you slather onto your legs in the shower and then all the hairs are gone - and brush your teeth at the same time.

- Spray body oil onto your still moist skin. You don´t have to massage it in.

- Combine moisturizer and make-up, and use this slightly colored moisturizer things. Or if you have oily skin: apply a powder foundation over your moisturizer.

- Apply several layers of mascara to your eyelashes in the morning. It´s in now and it will sometimes even do for an evening make-up. If you want to gain time in the evenings with wiping the make-up off, use a cleansing lotion. This way you cleanse your skin and wash the mascara off at the same time.

- The hairbands that are now in save a lot of fatiguous styling: put some gel in your hair, make a ponytail and put on a hairband or something. After washing your hair use Express Products: Your hair dries a 25% quicker this way.

- Instead of using lipstick, apply colored lip gloss every now and then: It gives your lips wonderful volume.

- Push the skin on your nails back with a manicure stick soaked in oil, when the skin is already moistened after showering or something. You don´t have to use nail oil or have a special manicure.

- After showering apply a face mask: It performs while you are getting ready.

jennifer said...

i've often questioned the effectiveness of my a true marketer's dream, i've been loyally purchasing la remede's $44 facial exfoliator from sephora. now, i love sephora but sometimes i feel like a real fool for paying high prices and still having problem skin. i'm gonna take your advice and ditch the scrub for a few days to see what happens.

how about toners? are those worth it?

Anonymous said...

I've been using baking soda mixed with Cetaphil for years now as an exfoliator, and it's the best.
I have sensitive/acne prone skin, and it's awesome!
Another even better thing, that I learned from a friend while staying in Paris, is using dry powdered milk for SO MANY skin care needs.
I pour a cup or two into the bathtub, or again mix a bit with Cetaphil to form a paste, and then use it to exfoliate or use as a mask.
beta hydroxy acid products are well worth the money.
Paula's Choice ( has the best I can find, and for a good price. I've noticed a HUGE difference in my skin since I've used the 2 percent BHA gel (the lotion is good too, I didn't like the consistency of the liquid).


sara said...

Instead of using overpriced surf sprays for my hair, I decided to make my own this summer. It is really easy, too! Just take an empty spray bottle and put several tablespoons of epsom salts or course sea salt in the bottom and fill the bottle with warm water then shake. This is optional, but you can also add a few drops of your favorite essential oils for fragrance/moisture/texture. I think many people would fair well with jojoba oil. (Just remember to shake well before each use if you add the oils.) Not only is making your own less expensive, but you may customize the amount of salt used depending on your hair type (B&B dried my hair out something fierce).
Oh, and thanks for the Windex tip! I know that will come in handy this summer!

dbli023 said...

quick hair trick-

if you notice some fly aways or frizz, lotion your hands up generously and smooth over frizz. sounds weird but the lotion smooths these down without giving your hair a wet or product filled look.

Anonymous said...

I really like mixing honey with salt into a paste to wash my face. Honey and salt are natural antiseptics and will make acne prone skin nourished and happy. The salt can be a little drying but sugar works just as well instead. I think raw Manuka honey is best but I don't know how easy that is to find outside of New Zealand

Meg said...

These are awesome suggestions, everyone! I love hearing all the interesting DIY beauty habits other people have and I'm looking forward to trying some of these.

Jennifer- I think that toners are generally a waste of money, unless you have extremely oily skin. A lot of toners are super harsh and can overdry the skin (esp. anything with an alcohol base) and a lot of times breakouts occur because acne-prone skin is too dry. As long as you use makeup remover and facial cleanser, or a cleanser that's 2 in 1, I don't see any reason to use toner, as you shouldn't have anything left on your face to remove. Hope this heps!

enna said...

I've been using a mixture of olive-oil and brown sugar as an allover exfoliator in the shower lately. It moisturizes and softens at the same time.

Corey Doyle said...

Hydrogen Peroxide works like a charm on the "spots" that self-tanner can leave behind! I found that out on accident when some dribbled down my leg when I was cleaning my incision last week and left a pale trail behind. I then took some and scrubbed my oops spots and low and behind, it worked!

Anonymous said...

I used to have problem skin (not really bad acne, but always a huge breakout) I started using ProActiv years ago and it really worked. Worked great for my brother as well. I still use it, but only in the morning and at night I use Dermalogica. All of their products are great!

Anonymous said...

The base chemical for most toners is Witch Hazel. You can get a big bottle of Witch Hazel at the drugstore for $1.

The bark and leaves are astringent Witch Hazel extracts are used in aftershave lotions and lotions for treating bruises and insect bites. Witch Hazel is the active ingredient in many hemorrhoid medications. It's cool and refreshing to skin and also helps with puffiness and redness.

Margaret said...

Cool about the Windex, I have found that facial astringents like Bonne Bell and this cheap one I bought from Suave take off the self-tan color too.

Exfoliate with one of those gloves, I got this really cheap scratchy glove that is stretchy. It takes off self-tanner mistakes like a dream.

Juggling Frogs said...

We use vegetable shortening for chapped lips, and sometimes also for chapped hands.

Anonymous said...

Proactiv is just benzoyl peroxide wash. Oxy brand makes a face wash with 10% benzoyl peroxide that you can buy at drugstores and sometimes wal-mart, k-mart, target etc. There's also a neutragena clay mask/wash with slightly less benzoyl peroxide but the clay is quite drying. Theres also a cheap bar type found at drugstores called benzobar or something similar. For the whole proactive "regimen" they try to sell you, just alternate a benzoyl peroxide wash (Oxy, Benzobar) with a product with 2% salicylic acid in it. Salicylic acid washes and face pads are super easy to find, almost every acne wash has it. Then use some type of oil free moisturizer and a benzoyl peroxide cream on spots (clearasil makes one) and you have the entire proactiv product line for way cheaper.

Anonymous said...

a "shower peeling thingy?"

Conscripted Cherry said...

next time you brush your teeth brush your lips- the soft bristles will get rid of the ridge of goo left behind by too much summer chapstick

cheap hair conditioner ($1/gallon) is the best for shaving your legs, it's slick for shaving and moisturizes your legs

Anonymous said...

My very favorite facial mask is just a beaten egg white with some honey drizzled in. Mix it up, apply a thin layer all over your face and leave until it dries and your face gets very tight. Wash off with warm water and it leaves your face so silky and glowy! If I'm oily I put a squeeze of lemon juice in, as well. It's the best.

christy said...

THe best thing I ever did for my face was start washing it with Johnson & Johnson baby wash. I had been trying to beat my skin into submission for years, and I think going easy on it helped it all even out. Plus the stuff is cheap (especially compared to designated facial washes).

Deanne said...

I agree about the conditioner for shaving legs! I use it all the time now after my friend recommended it! A great way to use up the conditioner left over in the bottles, when the shampoo is all gone!

Suz said...

Vinegar in a spray bottle helps clear up the acne in the hard to reach areas of my back

Anonymous said...

RE: Conditioner for shaving
As a beauty editor for ****** I can tell you for sure using conditioner should be a last resort (like if all the shave gel is done and your event is in a few) reasons why conditioner isn't suitable:
- it actually "clogs" the razor with makes nicks more likely
- it doesn't coat the hairs like shave gel
- Most conditioners have an oil base which you don't want when shaving as this is not able to adhere properly

A quick tip I"ll leave you with is, don't over wash your hair every 2-3 days is fine (unless you have oily hair) because if you notice hair looks best the day after washing ..the body produces THE best serum ever ! one NO expensive product can recreate and this "product" is not cheap its FREE.

Anonymous said...

I have super SUPER dry skin on my face! but when ever I use moisturizers they seem to cover it up for just an hour and then it comes right back! Is there any way I could mix some house hold products together to make an oil free moisturizers Or maybe some cheap ones I can buy?