Eco Beauty: Three steps to a more sustainable beauty routine

Don’t worry, I am not going to tell you to mash up oats and avocados and out them on your face. Who does that? Eat oats, yes. Paste them on my body? No thank you.

But after the exciting, or rather “exiting” news of the week, combined with a solo trip to the dump* I had to take a good hard look at my own footprint on this earth. What follows are ways to lesson the impact of our beauty routines on the environment, and put our money into local businesses rather than multinational corporations.

I’ve targeted three problems and come up with possible solutions. If you’re already a sustainability pro, sit back and read smugly, then please leave your best advice in the comments below. If you are still on the path to environmental enlightenment, like your blogger, choose one or two changes to make. Like any lifestyle change, small regular steps in the right direction reap more benefits than a huge leap you are unable to sustain.

Little Sam agrees, oats are for eating.

Problem #1: The waste produced in making and packaging beauty products is being dumped all over the earth in huge, nasty piles.

Solution: Local handmade products

So much waste comes from the packaging of shampoo, lotion, soaps and shaving creams. Who needs that garbage?

We can skip the trash by seeking out locally made products with minimal or reusable packaging. Find a shop (like Uncommon Scents in Eugene, http://www.uncommonscentsmeridian.com/index.php) that sells locally crafted soaps, shampoos and lotions. Not only can you reuse your containers, but these products haven’t traveled across the country, or even the world to make it to your neighborhood Target.

My favorite soaps are made by retired teacher Barbra Hascall. There is nothing more adorable than a retired teacher running around smiling and making soap. My guess is that wherever you live, you can find a similar lady, with fabulous products. Barbra’s soaps are made sustainably, with love and a minimum of packaging.

http://barbarasoaps.com/

Hello lovely handmade soap, basking in the sunlight on the window sill.

Problem #2: Beauty products are full of various chemicals that you don’t fully understand, but rub all over your body and send down the drain into our lakes and rivers.

Solution: Find natural alternatives that actually work.

We are all trying to limit the human-manipulated chemicals that we put into contact with our bodies. While it’s often easier to grab the same old BB cream and run, a little investigation can set you up with products that work. And the good news is that once a company starts down the rabbit hole of good practices, they often double and triple up. So a company that is certified cruelty free** will often go vegan, and maybe even plant based organic. The following link gives you a good place to start. The PETA website also has great information.

http://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/18-natural-organic-makeup-brands-your-face-will-love-you-for

Deodorant is a special concern for a lot of women. Mainline antiperspirants contain aluminum, which some people think is linked to breast cancer and/or dementia,*** which nobody wants. Then again, nobody wants to smell bad either.

Recently, Reviews.com tested a bazillion natural deodorants. Working with a chemist, a dermatologist and professionals in the industry, they looked for “aluminum-free formulas with pleasant scents, goop-free application, and minimal residue.” Here is a link to their results. http://www.reviews.com/natural-deodorant/

Barbra (see smiling retired teacher, above) makes a nice deodorant, too.

All I want is to be able to climb all day in 80+ degree temperature and not smell bad. Is that too much to ask???

Problem #3: You want to look good, but have limited time to spend on beauty routines, and some lady is writing blog articles about how your favorite products are destroying the soul of the earth

Solution: Invest in beauty processes, rather than products

I have always been fantastically lazy about my beauty routine, no time more so than in the summer. In The Lazy Girl’s Summer Beauty Strategies I write about a few beauty processes that allow me to skip the daily use of any product, all summer long.**** You don’t need make up/hair gel/ eye cream if your skin and hair already look great. When I go to see my wonderful hairdresser and lovely esthetician, my money goes into the pockets of local business women rather than multinational corporations. When I eat vegetables straight out of my garden, my hair and skin reap the benefits. When I ride my bike rather than drive, I glow in a way that no foundation can mimic. Better for the earth, the local economy and my psyche.

The best sustainable beauty products. Also, I have ton of lettuce right now so hit me up if you need any.

My beauty routine is by no means perfectly, ethically, environmentally pure. There are things that come in packages (toothpaste) that I am not willing to give up right now. But if we all take one step towards a more humane and eco-friendly lifestyle, then another, and just keep walking, we can do this. We have to. And if that means supporting local business, having a house full of the most amazing soaps and not ever having to go to the dump again, I’m in.

What are your tips for sustainable beauty practices? Please share in the comments below.

 

Laughing with friends is another environmentally sound practice.

* Holy Cow! The dump!!! You should totally go. You will be so inspired to cut your consumption.

** I have trouble believing it’s 2017 and we still have to seek out cruelty free beauty products. Did Legally Blond II inspire no one?

*** I can feel that my scientist mom wants me to tell you that the aluminum/breast cancer/ Alzheimer’s link has not been conclusively proven, and you should not take a style blog written by a woman who once thought that frogs perform photosynthesis as gospel for the evils of antiperspirant.

**** By all summer long I mean the extent of our family’s camping / outdoor rock climbing season, which goes from March through October. In the winter my vanity battles with my laziness, and some sort of a brow pencil / lip stain peace accord is met but not without a lot of 6 a.m. skirmishes.

Why Reading Makes You Gorgeous: Truly Natural Practices for Timeless Beauty

“How long have you been using Botox?” the L.A. society lady asked my friend Ann.

Botox? Right. Ann barely wears make up on a regular basis.

I can understand the mistake. A few months shy of 50, Ann has great skin, a ready smile, and is in excellent shape. As I look around, I see a number of women with similar, simple, healthy beauty. Rather than the propped up and patched together appearance of a woman desperately trying to maintain her youth, these women make being gorgeous look easy.

And easy is always better.

As mentioned previously, I’m super lazy about beauty routines. If I’m in the middle of a good book there’s no way I’m going to get up out of bed to go put on eye cream, much less make an appointment to go get my skin peeled off. That said, I’m not interested in judging women who engage medical beauty processes. Women should do what they want to do. But if there are way cheap, painless ways to glean beauty out of our daily routines, I’m assuming Mud and Grace women want to know about them.

I’ve come to understand there are certain lifestyle investments in beauty that do far more than any expensive cream or treatment. Some digging has led me to identify the habits of the naturally beautiful. Some research has helped me to understand why these habits profoundly influence the way we look. Here are my findings.

Ann and Lynette, my health and beauty role models.

Beautiful habits

A quick study of the lifestyle choices that lead to beauty are as follows, in no particular order; sleep, read, go outside, eat well, enjoy what you eat, exercise, see your friends, be content.

That’s all doable, but why? What is going on in the pages of that book you’re reading that the most expensive skin creams just can’t deliver?

My research suggests that it all comes down to activities that manage our natural hormones and neurotransmitters. Bring on the oxytocin, the HGH and the endorphins, keep the cortisol at bay.

Natural maintenance

Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is the stuff our body produces to build muscle, burn fat, keep our skin elastic, generally grow and repair our bodies. It’s not big shock to anyone to learn that this decreases as we age. You could roll down to California, have synthetic HGH injected illegally, and enjoy the resulting side effects like growing extra long toes.

Or, you can increase the amount of HGH your own body releases regularly. Your pituitary gland (a little pea-sized thing, nestled deep in the back of your brain) secrets it throughout the day. Here are the conditions it needs:

Sleep

The release of HGH peaks while you are sleeping. Getting your nightly 7-9 hours is essential for optimum HGH production. It’s called beauty sleep for a very real reason. The release of insulin can interfere with the production of HGH, so avoiding foods with a high glycemic index (i.e. a whole lot of sugar) right before bedtime can be helpful.

Exercise

Weight training and regular, short, intense workouts promote HGH release. Long walks in the woods are great (more on them later) but to release HGH you need to feel the burn. I like to run sprints a couple of times a week, or just run up our hill really fast. A HIIT or a true Tabata workout on the exercise bike can do the trick nicely. Go on your long runs if you are so inclined, but a couple of short, fast workouts will help release your HGH.

This climbing trip was more exciting than a spa, and significantly cheaper…

Managing stress

You know how you look when you are stressed out? The exhausted, pinched expression on you face, that fabulous little grimace you carry around with you, the way you clench your fists and slouch without even realizing it? Such a good look, right?

When we experience stress, our body pumps out cortisol to prepare us for fight or flight. This would be awesome if we were actually face to face with a bear, but more often than not we’re stuck in traffic, or sitting in a long meeting as someone describes the grueling amount of work that will be added to your already unmanageable job. Long term elevated levels of cortisol lead to a whole host of ugly: weakened immune system, weight gain around the middle, deterioration of muscles, the list goes on. Basically, when your body is dealing with stress, it shuts down everything else: skin repair, hair growth, muscle building, reproductive systems, everything. So how can we deal with this stress?

Go outside

Being outside in nature boosts your mood. Researchers have yet to discover exactly why or how a walk among the trees, sagebrush, or prairie grass affects us, but there is conclusive evidence that time outdoors reduces anxiety and depression. Anything that reduces anxiety and depression is something all of us should be doing. You don’t need to go all Cheryl Strayed and hike the PCT on your own, just ten minutes makes a difference. Go get yourself a season appropriate coat and mud boots, then go take a walk.

Maybe it’s just nature’s beauty, rubbing off on us?

Read

Reading is one of the most relaxing activities humans can do. For many women, reading lowers your heart rate and relaxes your muscles faster than yoga or even meditation. That’s because reading is relatively easy, and twisting your body all up like a pretzel and concentrating on nothingness is really hard. Relaxation is key for health and beauty.

The best news about beauty reading? Any reading material works! A good novel, a nice dense history textbook, an exhaustive Vanity Fair article, even this blog! You’re welcome.

I’m getting in a beauty read AND developing a better understanding on the influence of Mongol occupation on the trajectory of Russian history.

Be content

Psychology has placed a lot of emphasis on happiness recently, but happy is a specific mood. Contentment is a lifestyle. Accepting the life you have built for yourself as positive, the people in your life for who they are, and yourself as you are is a mindset that takes practice. But honestly, it’s got to be easier than applying liquid eyeliner. That stuff is ridiculous.

Happy afternoon with husband? Check. Eyeliner? Not on this date.

See your friends

One late December night amidst frenzied holiday preparations, my friend Julie stopped by. Her life was also crazy, celebrating both Christmas and Hanukkah with various sides of her family and heading in for knee surgery right in the middle of all of it. But for the 45 minutes we sat together, time pooled around us. We laughed and talked, other family members joined in and we discussed everything from Rouge One to the best peanut butter cookies available.

The calm I felt during her visit and for hours afterwards wasn’t due to the glass of wine I consumed. Being with friends lowers our cortisol levels. Humans are hard-wired to connect with others. Our oxytocin begins to flow with a hug hello, and endorphins follow as we laugh and talk. You know how beautiful you look in the pictures taken of you and your friends? It’s because literally make you glow, and all that cortisol is cut short by a good laugh and the comfort of companionship.

Hiking with friends? Way better than a bee-venom facial.

The key to it all – Eating well

Eating a healthy, whole food diet is good for your mood, your body, and the planet. Eating slowly, and enjoying a good meal with family, friends or the pleasure of your own company lowers stress and feeds the soul. We’ve got to drop the American, puritanical approach to eating, and enjoy good food.

But these days, with 60 million food gurus sending us conflicting messages about what to eat, it’s hard to know where to start. Here are some simple guidelines:

Eat food as close to whole as possible

Avoid ingesting any human-manipulated chemicals*

Eat plants, any plants**

Enjoy your food, and eat slowly

Don’t be weird about restricting food; just eat in moderation

For more on how crazy nutritionism has made us, check out Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food( http://michaelpollan.com/books/in-defense-of-food/)

Blackberries, butter, whole grain flour? Sounds like chemical-free, mostly plant, whole food to me.

True natural beauty can be summed up in the French phrase bien dans sa peau, to feel good in ones skin. This is deep state of satisfaction and comfort in ones’ self. A woman who feels good in her own skin is confident in the life she has chosen. She has accepted her own, particular beauty and does not long to be someone she isn’t. It’s a state of contentment that allows her to be generous with others, and with herself.

When I think about the women whose beauty I most admire, Lauren Hutton, Michelle Obama, Cameron Diaz, my sister-in-law Erika, my grandma, they all have this sense of comfort and confidence in their own particular bodies and with their individual, lovely faces. Can I suffer through reading a good book, enjoying a nice meal and taking a walk in the woods to get there? I’ll try.

My goat, feeling good in his own fur. Me, trying to learn from his example.

*A quick note on human-manipulated chemicals: we don’t know what they do. When transfat and high fructose corn syrup first came out, the food industry celebrated these modern miracles, cramming them into every corner of our diet. Fast forward a few years and they are the pariah of the grocery store. Who knows what miracle chemicals we will discover are harming us next? Recent studies suggest that artificial sweeteners are causing weight gain. http://time.com/3746047/diet-soda-weight-gain/ I figure, until we know more, I’m just going to skip as many human-manipulated chemicals as I can.

** OK, not poisonous plants or hallucinogenic plants, but all those other plants. Don’t be weird about carbs or nutrients or rainbows, just eat your veggies.

 

38 Minute Fancy

I’m not a fancy person.

Long, leisurely make-up application sessions and trial runs for a hairstyle just don’t fit into my schedule. I’ve got kids to raise, lessons to plan, and novels to write-and-not-get-published.

Who has time for a smokey cat eye?

But every year my husband and I have a few formal events to attend, and I very much enjoy getting dressed up on occasion. It just has to be quick.

This year I timed myself – it took 38 minutes from the sofa to the car. Pre-planning was (obviously) involved, but nothing so rigorous that I couldn’t move on with my life. Here’s how it all broke down:

2 weeks in advance: Decide on ensemble.

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I happened to be in Nordstrom Rack the day of the event (taking pictures for Survival Strategies for Discount Shopping) and I heard a woman talking to her young children. “Mommy has to have a dress for the event tonight,” she said, pawing frantically through the racks. The little ones were expressing their desire to be anywhere else somewhat energetically. The woman found a number of not-quite-right dresses and was beginning to panic. Not that I was totally staring and judging her for the massive shopping mistake she was about to make. It was like a gruesome, entirely avoidable train wreck.

We’ve all been there. In fact, I was at that very rack in that very store a few days before my wedding, when I got married in something that looked a lot like a grandma nightgown.

Choose your ensemble at least 2 weeks before the event, and spend the next fortnight looking forward to it. This year I bought a new dress that was so fabulous I was a little nervous about it. In general, I’m not a fan of buying a new dress for every formal occasion. Investing in two or three classic dresses that suit the level of formality you’re likely to meet makes sense. When you pull them out, it’s like seeing an old friend.

2 weeks in advance: Check shoe/wrap/bag kit

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There’s nothing worse than having a gorgeous dress ruined by the wrong shoes or an incongruous coat.*

I have a neutral wrap and pair of heels that go with everything. The color is called “oyster,” but what is that? Don’t oysters range from cream colored to dark gray, and aren’t they always covered with some sort of sauce that makes them taste good anyway?

At any rate, I like my oyster-colored shoes and wrap because they go with black, they go with brown, they go with everything, really. The cashmere wrap is incredibly cozy, more like a snuggly blanket than a piece of clothing. Shoes and a wrap that can be called upon for any occasion make the world easier.

Over the years I’ve picked up a few evening clutches at vintage and second hand stores. My simple black clutch gets the most action.

Two weeks before the event make sure everything is going to work with the dress, and have an idea of the jewelry you’ll wear.

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Here’s another wrap kit I use with a different dress.

1 week in advance: Jergens Natural Glow

Jergens Natural Glow is my wintertime friend, a great moisturizer with just the right amount of tint. I generally use it once a week, but because I was going bare arm and bare leg to this event, I doubled up applications.

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Thank you for existing.

3 days in advance: Lotion, lotion, lotion

You may be one of those women who applies lotion from toe to fingertip twice a day. For the rest of us, step it up before a formal event. Three days of double moisturizing is enough to get your skin glowing.

The day of: My count down to 38-minute fancy

Morning until 4:58 – do whatever I want.

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Me, finishing up a blog post just before 5:00. I love those slippers.

4:48 – Get off of sofa, draw bath

5:03 – Take bath

While in tub, consider painting toenails – remind self that no one will see my toes.

Consider painting fingernails. Remember that I don’t like the aesthetic of painted nails.

Consider chickening out of fabulous dress. Remind self that self is a style blogger, and style bloggers don’t chicken out of fabulous dresses.

5:12 – Hop out of tub, more lotion

5:16 – Put on fabulous dress, lose all desire to chicken out

5: 18 – BB cream, brow pencil, eye shadow, mascara and lip stain.

5:25 – Loosely French braid hair, tuck end under the main braid, secure with a clip.

5:31 – Wrestle with earrings. Why are the most beautiful earrings always the hardest to get on?

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Borrowing my mom’s earrings. Thanks mom!

5:34 – Slip into shoes, grab wrap

5:36 – Walk downstairs

Almost say “Really?” when husband says I look beautiful. Remember to kiss him instead. (Choosing Beautiful)

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38 minutes later, I’m ready to go!

5:37 – Walk back upstairs to help husband, who hasn’t even started getting dressed.

5:52 – Get into Subaru Forrester; appreciate the contrast between car and ensemble.

6:18 – Arrive not-too-late at event. Don’t think about hair, dress, or make for the next three hours.

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38 minutes? I can be ready to escape in 3.8 seconds.

38 minutes to fancy is my fastest time yet. Jeff and I have more events coming up, and I look forward to knocking a few minutes off my PR. Do you have any tricks for getting ready for a formal event? I’d love to give them a try. Please leave your ideas in the comments below.

*OK, that’s not true at all. There are many things worse than not having the right shoes and wrap. But it is a major bummer.

Choosing Beautiful

 

Humans want to look good. Through our 5,000 years of recorded history and before that, we have chased beauty. The corners of history are filled with recipes for beauty creams and makeup tips from every civilization. The covers of textbooks feature a bust of Queen Nefertiti or a tapestry of the beautiful young Medici brothers.

It’s OK to want to be pretty. It’s human.

But apparently it’s also human to make things as complicated as possible.

We shame ourselves for not being pretty enough, while shaming ourselves for wanting to be pretty in the first place.

That’s just messed up.

Choosing beauty doesn’t make you any less smart or capable. A low self-esteem is not the opposite of vanity. Deciding to be beautiful is no different than deciding to have a lovely rose bush next to your front door or a great painting hanging above your desk.

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Bobbie Willis, proof that being beautiful and capable are not mutually exclusive.

Pretty has very little to do with how closely you align with society’s beauty standards. It has everything to do with how you treat yourself. Gorgeous women comfortably walk the fine line of enhancing their looks with just the right beauty routine and wardrobe. They don’t need a truck bed full of makeup and hairspray to leave the house. They don’t walk out the door in a wrinkled blouse and ratty hair. They practice self-care, rather than self-indulgence.

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Melissa Brown has always had fabulous hair and that look of mischief in her eyes.

My journey to beauty got off to a rocky start as a pudgy, awkward kid, adding on braces, acne and a short bushy haircut in the 7th grade. I was raised by great parents who wanted me to value creativity and intelligence over beauty, which I do. But as a child, that often translated into ill-fitting clothes handed down from my cousin Danny and complete bewilderment at my own desire to be pretty. I spent hours in my bedroom, drawing dresses, imagining what my beautiful, grown–up self would look like, and studying the end-all, be-all authority on style, Princess Diana.

I grew up and out of that most-awkward stage, but the uncomfortable 7th grader had lodged herself in my psyche. Throughout my teens and 20s I didn’t like my hair, my face, the shape of the line between my hair and face. My earlobes were weird. I hated the way my cheeks looked when I smiled. I was still me, and grumbling about it.

My first experience with a woman who chose to be beautiful was Lisa. Freshman year in college she came rolling into the costume shop where we worked. She wore cute, form fitting clothes with confidence. She wore just the right amount of makeup. I thought, “If only I had a body like hers. Then I would wear great clothes and walk around with that confidence.” After two years of working on and off stage with Lisa, sharing classes and heartbreaks and endless cups of coffee, I took the opportunity to steal a glimpse of her measurements card in the costume shop. Our body stats were nearly identical.

Her body, by this empirical evidence, wasn’t significantly different from mine.

The conclusion was obvious. Lisa had some crazy magic that I didn’t have access to. She was hot and I wasn’t, and that would be that.

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Lisa Weiland is still hot, 24 years after we met in the costume shop.

As time moved on I met more and more women like Lisa; women who weren’t waiting to lose 5 pounds or for their hair to grow another 2 inches before they decided to be beautiful. These women were rocking what they had.

They wore nice clothing, took a minute to put on lotion, ate well, expected to have time to themselves, not because they were vain of self-centered, but because they valued themselves. They enjoyed looking good.

It’s taken about 20 years of observation, but I finally feel able to harness a piece of that magic. Here is a path that can get you there.

Appreciate the beauty of others

Being beautiful is never about being more beautiful than other people. That would be like saying one tree is more beautiful than another. Trees are just beautiful. One tree’s beauty does not diminish another’s.

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This sunset was beautiful. Other sunsets will be beautiful, too. We’re not going to set them all up against some arbitrary sunset standard, we’ll just enjoy each one as it happens.

Appreciating beauty in others, rather than dreading it, helps us open our eyes to our own beauty. Take a walk through a crowded public area and keep an eye out for gorgeous. You will find it everywhere, in the old, the toddling, the in-between.

If you are feeling dwarfed by a friend’s beauty, look at her a little more carefully. Chances are she is no closer to society’s standards than you are; she has just chosen to consider herself gorgeous, and grooms herself accordingly.

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Yvonne Fareas, redefining “grandma.” Yes, you can spoil your grandchildren and be crazy-gorgeous.

You do you

Recently a friend of mine was picked up in a private jet and flown to LA for a party. (This never happens to me.) She was naturally apprehensive about dressing for a hip restaurant in downtown LA. She could have bought expensive, all new clothes and tried to pass as a southern Californian, feeling awkward and inadequate every step of the way. Instead, she packed her favorite black dress, and boarded that plane with the gorgeous skin and outdoor fitness of an Oregonian woman.

We don’t need to be, and in fact can’t be, anything other than what we are. How awkward is a 14-year-old dressing like a 25-year-old? A 70-year-old working overtime to pass for a 30-year-old? Both are sad, and neither works.

But a 70-year-old, comfortable in her skin, wearing a great outfit and showing off a fabulous silver mane? That’s beauty.

I’m a mom who gets mud on her boots and really loves clothes a lot. I am beautiful when I embrace that fact. When I try to dress like the ladies in the Nordstrom catalog I just look like a poser. And I’m cold.

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Sarah Lloyd is down to earth, and she runs really fast. When you’re holding the first place ribbon and a hundred dollars cash you really don’t need anything else.

Refurbish, and maintain

When my husband and I first walked into our home, we could see its potential. Banks of windows and wood everywhere made the home feel like a well-appointed tree house. But it needed a lot of work, a ton of work, fully 2000 pounds of work. We replaced windows, repainted every wall that had paint on it, pulled up some nasty carpeting. We did this because we felt our family deserved an awesome home.

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Do I seriously live here? I am so lucky. Plus I work really hard to make it look nice.

Sometime we need to refurbish ourselves. Get rid of pilled sweaters, find a hairstyle that looks good without a lot of maintenance, sleep for 8 hours, go see an esthetician about your skin. This is an investment. It’s a message to yourself that you matter.

Of course a makeover or a remodel is exhilarating. But then there’s the maintenance…

As you get a handle on your beauty routine, you will find maintaining it takes time. Just like cleaning this big, awesome, refurbished house I live in. I’d love to skip the daily, weekly and monthly cycle of household chores. The same is true of my beauty routines. I am lazy, lazy, lazy when it comes to self-maintenance. But I do it, because I like me. I like feeling pretty.

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I dealt with my hair AND put on lip balm.

Harness the Power of Habit

Find every opportunity to engage in positivity about how you look. Thank your friend when she tells you your top is fantastic, rather than trying to dodge the compliment. Give your spouse a kiss when they say you look great, rather than asking, “Really?” Listen to you hairdresser when she tells you you’re gorgeous. Take these compliments as facts, and store them up in your heart.

Watch your words with yourself. I won’t tell you to look in the mirror and blandly yammer on about being beautiful. But when you catch yourself looking hot, acknowledge it. Thank your frontal lobe for deciding to take an extra 30 seconds to put on lip-gloss. Thank your past self for dragging you out of bed to workout, resulting in some sweet looking biceps. Compliment yourself for choosing to wear the bright blue scarf with your camel jacket.

All of this positivity will become a habit. You will begin to scan for the good in yourself, and others.

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Celina and Eva Johnson-Hess. It’s hard not to feel beautiful when your gorgeous daughter looks exactly like you.

Be Content

Go find your favorite picture of yourself. Chances are, it was taken on a day you felt fantastic. If you want to be beautiful, you need to be content with your life and yourself.

You get to shape and control your destiny. If that means reevaluating your job, taking up a particular hobby that’s always spoken to you, working through a difficult relationship in your life, get on it.

My happiness is dependent on regularly spaced chunks of time where I can be alone, doing whatever I want. I guard these chunks fiercely, and it shows in my skin. Occasionally I’ll come across a horrible picture of myself and laugh. The worst pictures are taken when I’m not tending to any of my own needs, but running around like some deranged squirrel trying to take care of every other human on this earth. And looking like a deranged squirrel, too.

 

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Ann Hettick is beautiful. Put her next to her horse and she starts glowing.

It is your decision, and your opinion matters

Several years back, a seventeen year-old student was grinning as she said, in front of the entire AP History class, “I’ve decided my body is fabulous.”

That a student came to declare her body confidence in the classroom is a long story, but suffice it to say, we were impressed.

“How?” someone asked.

“I just decided it was,” she replied. And it was.

Choosing to be beautiful is about making that decision. When you decided your body is fabulous, you begin to treat it as such, feeding yourself good food, exercising and caring for your skin and hair.

There will always be crazy standards and people who think you don’t meet them. The good news is, you make the rules for your life. You can look at your jawline and decide it’s great. I can see my earlobes as unique, rather than weird.

Most people don’t look very closely at anyone, and certainly not closely enough to opine on your earlobes. They just have an overall impression of what you look like. “Pretty.” “Sloppy.” “Elegant.” “Over-done.” You have considerable control over that impression. You’re slouched over, tugging at an ill fitting, worn out coat? “Frumpy.” You’re happy, and wearing an outfit that fits, looks and feels good? “Put together.”

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Lynette Williams always looks put together, even when it’s 100 degrees outside.

We all know people who don’t conform to traditional beauty standards yet walk around like they’re Cleopatra.* We can too. Choosing beautiful means caring for and appreciating yourself. Look for your beauty, care for it and don’t be afraid to let it surround you. Your inner 7th grader will be thrilled.

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Hi little 7th grade Anna! It all turned out OK. I do wear substantially less velvet than you had hoped, but guess what?! We have a goat! And I get to feed it and everything.

*Truth be told, even Cleopatra didn’t conform to the beauty standards of her own age. In all contemporary descriptions of her, no one ever comes out and says she’s particularly good looking. The very few likenesses we have show a fairly ordinary set of facial features. By the time she was enthralling Marc Anthony she’d had a few children and was pretty busy running the wealthiest country on earth. But she was the Queen of the Freakin’ Nile, baby, and that looks good on anybody.

 

 

Grandma’s lessons for effortless style

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Grandma, rocking the finger waves at her college graduation

Grandma was remarkable; a farm wife who raised four children, grew an enormous garden, led a 4-H club, was an active member of her faith community, helped Grandpa run the farm, and regularly got dinner for her family along with any number of hungry farm hands. Oh, and did I mention that in her spare moments she worked full time?

Grandma didn’t plan on teaching high school. In her small farming community it was hard to recruit teachers. When the home economics teacher had a nervous breakdown in 1956, Grandma was one of only a handful of people in the area with a college degree. While she might have preferred to stay home and get her chores done, she recognized that there was a need that she was uniquely qualified to meet. So Grandma taught Home Ec for the rest of the year. The next year they needed a PE teacher, and then an English teacher. All in all, Grandma taught for nearly 20 years without ever intending to.

Grandma’s farm-to-work style is something I’ve thought a lot about, because Grandma just did not fuss about clothes. She could get dressed in an instant and always looked appropriate for the situation.

Here is the best advice gleaned from Grandma’s closet.

 

Buy what you need, when you need it

I wish you all could have met my grandma, so you would understand how ludicrous it was that she was asked to teach PE. It’s not that grandma wasn’t plenty active, she was. It’s just that when you think of the typical hardened athlete that chooses to inspire by teaching PE, you don’t think of my grandma.

But Grandma could step up. When she did so, she bought a uniform of pin cord seersucker A-line skirts, and matching sleeveless blouses; adorable, practical.

She didn’t try to make her current wardrobe work for something it didn’t have the capability to cover. She didn’t postpone her shopping trip because of someone’s soccer game, or (more likely in our family) someone’s state fair 4-H project. No, Grandma went out, bought a reasonable amount of clothing for the new task at hand, and did her best.

Was Grandma ever comfortable teaching PE? Probably not. Did those adorable ensembles make the whole thing easier and more fun? Absolutely.

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If you need mud boots, get mud boots.

Modern translation: Buy what you need for the task at hand. Suddenly roped into coaching softball? Go buy a few pairs of nice joggers, fitted t-shirts, and a mid-weight jacket, immediately. Have to wade through a muddy field to get to your chickens? Get mud boots, now. Find yourself cooking for the extended family every holiday? Buy an elegant hostess outfit, comfortable flats and a coordinating apron, do not wait for post-holiday sales.

 

Wear a work dress

In the summer, my grandma would wear one of a number of light colored shift dresses she made for herself. These dresses were knee length, made of cotton, with a yoke neckline and, of course, pockets. The dresses were easy to move in, washable and looked nice enough if anyone happened to stop by the house. I’m not sure I ever saw my grandma wear anything but a dress in the summer, certainly no pants or shorts. Illinois summers are hot and muggy, and Grandma preferred the windows open to the chill of air conditioning. These dresses were perfect for work, play and relaxation.

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Patagonia makes a cute shift. Grandma wouldn’t judge you for buying new, rather than making your own.

Modern translation: Find a light summer dress that looks good on you. Buy a few different versions and don’t make yourself wear anything else. Turn off the A/C, open the windows, and let life be easy in the summer.

 

Take something off your beauty list

In 1956, Grandma decided to treat herself to a regular set and curl. Once a week, she would stop by the beauty salon and her friend Jean would do her hair. Jean continued to style Grandma’s hair for the next fifty years. Fifty. In all that time Grandma looked good, and she spent zero days fretting about her hair.

Imagine, not fretting about your hair, ever. What could you do in the world if you spent no time or energy thinking about your hair?

It’s not that Grandma had a ton of money for this indulgence. She and Grandpa kept a family farm afloat through the 70s and 80s, which is no small feat of frugality. But this small luxury allowed Grandma the time and energy to conquer so many other, more important tasks.

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My sister and me – not worrying about our hair, either.

Modern Translation: Whether it’s a blowout, a monthly pedicure, wax or laser treatments, pick a beauty issue and hand it over to a professional. You are supporting your local economy and making an investment in your own time and sanity.

 

Spend money on a perfect dress; wear it to 12 graduations, 8 weddings and every other occasion until it is out of style.

When my oldest cousin graduated from high school my grandma bought a lovely dress to wear. It was a 1980s classic, with lightly padded shoulders, a belted waist and pleated skirt. It wasn’t cheap. Grandma then wore this dress to the high school graduations of her other 11 grandchildren, assorted college graduations and weddings. By the time my younger cousins were getting married in the 21st century, Grandma invested in a couple of new, more current dresses that still suited her style.

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Should I buy this dress and wear it forever? Yep.

Modern translation: Don’t let the fashion industry tell you to buy a new dress for every occasion. Go into a high-end store, find a dress or two you love, and let them be the go-to for the special occasions in your life. Keep an eye on current trends, and invest in a new dress when styles change.

Choose calm focus over anxious busy

Make no mistake about it, my grandma had a lot to do; kids, work, chores, farm, church, grandkids, friends. She saw more sorrow and hardship in her life than most of us will ever have to face. But I never, ever saw my grandma lose her cool. She was grateful for her life. Despite the fact that she had to drive ½ an hour into town for sports, band, 4H, the Miss Pleasant Hill competition and/or a gallon of milk, Grandma got it all done. And then she’d sit back and do the crossword puzzle, in pen. I think it was Grandma’s calm assurance that she was doing the right thing, and that she was lucky to live such a full and rich life, that kept her from the anxiety that plagues so many of us today.

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Grandma, looking good at a wedding in 2001

Modern Translation: Be grateful. We are busy in this frenetic world, but women have been busy for generations. When you feel frustration building, think about how lucky we are to have our full and rich lives. Take time to care for yourself and your appearance, but don’t let it be the focus of your life. When you need to, draw in a deep breath and channel the spirit of a smart Midwestern lady with a beautiful smile and great hair.

The Lazy Girl’s Summer Beauty Strategies

Truth be told, I’ve never been one of those women who loves make up and beauty products. I didn’t experiment with make up as a child, I never took the time to learn about skin care in my teens.

If fact, my lowest grade in college was Theater Make Up (Yes, that was required for my major.) I would have failed had the poor professor not taken pity on me and gave me some credit for effort.

On my Mud and Grace style journey I’ve learned that a little really can go a long way. I’ve adopted a minimal beauty routine I can maintain for most of the year. But in the summer? Seriously? I just can’t be bothered with creams and powders and straightening agents. And even when I do make the effort, I find myself with lovely straight hair and fabulous make-up, confronted by a river I really want to jump into but can’t because I don’t want to ruin all that work.

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Me, being super lazy about my beauty routine. Lip gloss, no hair product, no make up; ready to jump in any river that comes flowing my way.

I’m motivated to find any treatments that allow me to spring out of bed looking good enough for all normal purposes. These cost a little upfront, but ultimately save money as I wear no make up, and never feel like I have to run out and buy something to look right at the last minute. Here is a collection of my findings for minimal effort summer beauty routines won’t slow you down or hold you back.

Number One: Get you eyelashes tinted

My friend Jessica illustrates the easy beauty of tinted eyelashes.
My friend Jessica illustrates the easy beauty of tinted eyelashes.

Yes, that can happen. Rather than mess around with mascara that runs and clumps no matter how water-proof it claims to be, tinted eyelashes allow you to pop out of a sleeping bag looking fantastic with absolutely no effort at all. For years I would look at summertime pictures of myself and think, “Why do my eyes look so small?” It was an eyelash thing. Tinted lashes frame my eyes but look natural. And while you are at the salon…

Number Two: Go for professionally shaped brows

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Me, not worrying about my eyebrows at Yosemite.

Finding a good wax treatment is golden. Stop in once a month for 15 minutes, then don’t waste one moment thinking about your brows in between treatments. If you’ve tried professional waxing before and didn’t like the results, find an esthetician with good reviews, and bring in several pictures of the brow shape you are looking for. A well-groomed brow polishes your look instantly and effortlessly.

Number Three: Eat your sunscreen

“Um… ew,” you’re thinking. But hang with me.

We live in an age of extreme sunscreen application, and for the very fair skinned among us this will save lives. But humans have existed on this earth for centuries with no sunscreen at all. Louis XIV lived to be 76, had no major sun damage, and he was The Sun King.

As is turns out, nature had a way of protecting us all along. Vegetables.

Such a delicious way to protect against sun damage.
Such a delicious way to protect against sun damage.

We all know that eating lots of fruits and veggies is great for out skin,  but did you know the carotenoids and antioxidants found in veggies improve our sun tolerance, helping to both prevent and repair sun damage?

Here’s what the Wellness Mamma has to say on the topic http://wellnessmama.com/2619/avoid-sunburn-tan-better/

All that said, if you live in a sun-intense climate and are fair skinned, keep on applying protection, just add veggies into your sun screen arsenal. Your skin will thank you!

Number Four: Pick between the two hairstyles of summer

Hair Style A: Short enough that you have no responsibility to do anything to it.

Hair style B: Long enough to pull up in a pony tail, or wear in braids.

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It’s hot, muggy and my hair is being funky. Braids!

Stay away from the bob and complicated layered cuts, unless your hair falls perfectly on its own. Mix up your look with a bandana, Buff or ball cap.

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Can I think of a lazier hairstyle than a ponytail?
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Yes. Yes, I can.
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A Buff says, “You don’t know how many days I’ve slept in my van with no access to a shower.”

Number Five: Keratin treatments

Being of the frizzy hair persuasion, keratin makes everything easier. I used to hesitated to swim, or even sweat, for fear of not wanting to go back and take another 45 minutes to wash, dry and straighten my hair. Keratin is, essentially, hair (or rather the chemicals that make up hair) that the stylist applies. It strengthens, thickens and smooths, moving you from fizzy lumps to smooth waves, depending on your natural hair texture. Check with a stylist about how keratin would affect your hair. After 40 years of fighting with my hair, we are now at peace. Thank you Keratin!

Number Six: Remove all non-summer clothes from your closet

Wouldn’t it be great if every piece of clothing in your closet was something you can, and want to wear right now?

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Whose turn is it today?

Clearing your drawers of winter’s sweaters and wool pants will allow your summer wardrobe to breath and expand. Hanging in your closet, and filling your drawers, should only be clothes you will wear over the next two months. Box up your ball gowns, off season clothes and ski parkas, and allow yourself a sparse and simple wardrobe for summer. (Here’s mine; Mud and Grace Summer Essentials)

Hang everything so you can see it. (Yes, I know Marie Kondo suggests folding, but there’s something so wonderful about being able to see everything!) Dressing is a snap when you don’t have to wade through three sizes of out-dated, out-of-season clothing.

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Goodbye friend! I’ll see you in late September.

So there you have it, six lazy girl summer beauty strategies. Do you have a summer beauty strategy you’d like to share with Mud and Grace readers? Send it in, along with a picture, for our Inspiration section. mudandgrace@gmail.com