Measuring the Year in Beauty Experiments

2010 was a big year for me. I graduated from my masters program, left Tallahassee, Florida, met my boyfriend, and began my PhD. By contrast, these past couple of years have been much tamer, although I started participating in martial arts and things have moved along with my degree, not a lot of wildly life changing things have happened. One thing that has changed drastically is my approach to skin care and hair care. In the past year I have gradually transitioned away from traditional purchased products to things I can make in my own home. I think this fits well into my own desire to research (that is what I do for a living) and my love of crafting. Regardless, sometimes the results have been excellent, other times they’ve been totally dodgy. Here is a run down of the last year:

Essential Oils in Place of Perfume/Body Spray/Whatever Else:

I have pretty dry and finicky skin and I have always been bothered by perfume. When I was at an academic conference earlier this year I realized that while one of my friends consistently smelled pleasantly like patchouli and frankincense her perfume did not make my eyes water and my nose run the way most does. It was because she uses essential oils rather than perfume. Now, the key with essential oils is to mix it with some kind of carrier. A carrier can be unscented lotion, unscented oil (I use sweet almond oil because it is inexpensive), shea butter, or cocoa butter. Carriers prevent the essential oil from irritating your skin, make it easier to apply (patchouli and frankincense are both quite sticky), and de-sensitizing your nose. You mix the carrier and essential oil in a small container. If I was using a ½ oz. glass bottle (which are commonly sold at health food stores), I would add about 15-20 drops of essential oil and fill the remainder of the bottle with the carrier. Using essential oils in place of perfume has a slight cost. I mostly use lavender and tea tree oil together, both of which are rather inexpensive (around $10 for a 1 oz. bottle) but something like patchouli or frankincense can cost $20-30 for a bottle of the same size. But, since you are only using a few drops of the oil at a time, mixed in with less expensive carriers, an ounce of essential oil goes a long way.  Anyways, I have really been happy with the results from this. I feel like switching to essential oils not only gave me more control over what I smell like, but what goes on my skin.

Shampoo to no poo to a bit of poo:

Although I had read about “no poo” (replacing shampoo with conditioner washes, apple cider vinegar, and baking soda) on various places on the internet, Golda’s articles on switching to no poo convinced me to try it out. In time, I found that the no-poo life was not totally compatible with doing martial arts and being extremely active. I get a little too sweaty, I get a bit too much of other peoples’ sweat on me for no poo to not leave my hair a bit on the stinky side. Instead of no-pooing entirely, I have started using a J.R. Liggett’s Old Fashioned Shampoo bar twice a week along with the occasional rinse of apple cider vinegar and water. If I don’t rinse or wet my hair on a given day, I brush it with a boar bristle brush to spread the sebum and oils around. This has left my hair which is usually dry and coarse much softer and more manageable. It has also helped me wean myself off of hair products in all their tempting forms. As a curly-haired gal, anti-frizz products, serums, and gels were a way of life for me and controlling my hair was something I spent a lot of time and money doing. I have definitely saved money, time, and frustration by low-pooing.


Beauty Experiments Which Failed Miserably:

While I have covered two successful experiments that I conducted this year, there are also two which I totally failed at. They helped me come to the conclusion that while I may enjoy crafting and DIYs; making one’s own soap, lotion, or deodorant is not for the faint of heart, particularly when the faint of heart live in a 350 square foot basement suite with a teeny tiny kitchen. I made my own deodorant using coconut oil, beeswax, essential oils, cornstarch, and baking powder only to discover that cornstarch and baking powder can both be extremely irritating to sensitive skin. I also attempted to make my own whipped shea butter, which, while lovely in theory, would have gone better if I had followed the directions completely correctly and was not allergic to shea butter (something I didn’t know, but does totally make sense since it’s a nut and I’m allergic to nuts). Basically, I neglected to chill my shea butter, almond oil, and essential oils once I had melted them together, moving instead to the part of the recipe which instructed me to beat the mixture with an electric mixer. I ended up spraying a fine mist of warm shea butter all over my kitchen. Eventually, the mixture that had not attached itself to my counter or stove did cool and whip up into a really lovely lotion resembling the Nivea cream which comes in those little blue pots. It smelled lovely, but the hives which crept up my hands as soon as I applied it were not as lovely. Again, I will say, I think this would be a great thing to try if you are not allergic to nuts and my shea butter concoction is currently en route via Canada Post to a good friend who lives in a small town that doesn’t have a preponderance of natural beauty products.

All in all, this has been an interesting year of trying different things. I’ve found beauty solutions that have worked and others that clearly have not. I would encourage anyone who is dissatisfied with their routine or the products that they use to change things up a bit, conduct some kooky beauty experiments, and see what happens.

By wannabemusicologist

Wannabemusicologist muses about music as her day job. She also loves martial arts, playing the flute, cycling, and getting her knit on.

9 replies on “Measuring the Year in Beauty Experiments”

I’m trying to find the balance between DIY beauty and Sephora, and so far it’s been going well. I have dry-ish skin, thin, colored hair, and minor wrinkles (in early 40s). I do ACV rinses on the hair about twice a month and don’t wash it much (maybe 2-3 times a week); I also will do a ‘leave in’ of coconut oil, rosemary oil, and castor oil 1-2 times a week which makes it less dry. But when I do wash it, I alternate between a basic Suave Aveda knockoff and the wonderful Pureology that is for ‘special hair occasions.’ I’ve done baking soda and vinegar facial cleanses, as well as oil cleanses (using coconut, castor, and/or EVOO) with success, but I alternate them with low-level peels and foaming cleansers. I want to do aspirin masks at some point but keep forgetting to.

The one thing I haven’t moved from yet is fragrance. I do have some oils that I’ll blend into products, but I have a bunch of scented products I need to burn through before making my own. My husband uses a lot of them too, so that’s making it go faster…

It’s not terribly scientific/consistent, but what I usually do is mix about a palmful of castor oil in my hand with about a dime-sized amount of the rosemary hair oil (because the castor oil is really thick on its own and this makes it runnier) and concentrate that on my scalp, then grab 1-2 glops of coconut oil and run that into the ends and work it into the hair up to the scalp. I bought the coconut oil and castor oil on Amazon, and they probably sell the rosemary oil too (I don’t think all of them are necessary, but the rosemary is supposed to be good for the scalp, and it smells nice. Castor is a good coating oil and is supposed to help hair grow. And coconut absorbs well, smells great if you like that smell, and is also supposed to help with growth). I’ve also used plain EVOO, but it seemed like it was harder to rinse out – ‘cutting’ it with the rosemary or coconut oil would probably make it work better.

Haha my year in Beauty got ridiculously First World Privilege-y

Like you I bought Essential oils for my skin and hair. Jojoba Oil for my face and Jamaican Black Castor Oil for my hair. I love it!

My shampoo was 34.00 dollars. But I think it’s worth it since I only wash or touch my hair once a month. Have you heard of Terressentials Mud Wash? I use the Left Coast Lemon. It smells WONDERFUL. It’s a great clarifying wash, and it leaves your hair super soft and hydrated. Please get on it if you haven’t. Also Darcy’s Botanicals Pumpkinseed Conditioner is the bidnezz.

I get all my makeup from That’s probably the only thing I didn’t really over splurge on (everything costs a dollar and it’s really good quality)! But damn, when it comes to my hair and natural face I go hard in the paint.

Yup- I did the no ‘poo thing too after Golda’s articles and I loooove it. Granted, I’m a runner and often bike to work, so I’ve gone back to minimal ‘poo: natural shampoo with no ‘cones once or twice a week, otherwise just water or water+cider vinegar. My hair is so awesome now. Like hair commercial hair. But without using any actual products.

magic I say. MAGIC!

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