After yesterday’s crochet-and-blogging fest, sad to confess, I had a ripsnorter of a painful evening. So I am typing this in brief installments, interspersed with bits of housework and rambles in the sun with the Captain and Darling Dog.
Yesterday I turned up to my sister’s just as she was finishing styling her long, thick, glossy, silky dark hair. My other sister has the same sort of hair: thick and strong and naturally straight, with the sort of healthy gloss that comes from being cared for. My two nieces on my side both have gorgeous hair too: one a soft shade of ash and the other a cheerful German icy blonde. And my mother? My MOTHER has incredibly thick perfect chestnut hair with barely a hint of grey – which, by the way, she managed not to pass on to any of her daughters. We’re still not sure how she managed that.*
My sisters also have lovely English roses-and-cream skin (which my mother has, and did manage to pass on – to those two, anyway). My nieces have the perfect complexions of youth and glorious health.
In all fairness, I have reasonable skin if you ignore the autoimmune-related butterfly rash which does make me look like I’ve been drinking gin in the sun. Being fat actually does help with the appearance of my skin, due to less opportunity for wrinkles, although when I tell people they tend to freak out. ** Also I think I have managed to settle on a skincare regime that actually works for my combination-slightly-on-the-oily-side, large-pored, inexplicably olive-toned skin. Courtesy of my Dad. (Yes, we’re English. Do we have the Romans to blame? As I also have an excellent Etruscan hump in my bumpy, sizeable nose, I suspect so.***)
But my hair, I’m sorry to say, hasn’t felt the kiss of a dye job or the caress of a pair of scissors too often in the last few months. ****
Neither have I been arsed with my eyebrows, beyond some desultory plucking of the worst of the hairs that would love to overwhelm my vision.
You might accuse me of having totally given up. But I’m here to say it’s not quite that dramatic. Indeed, since the decent painkillers kicked in, I’ve found quite the renewed interest in maintaining a basic level of decency in my appearance.
There’s nothing like pain to overwhelm any basic interest in personal appearance. And there’s nothing like cessation of pain to renew it.
Of course, being as I am a Born-Again Housewiff, I’m not in a position to haunt the salons, indulge in day spas, or lay in stocks of Crème de la Mer. Even though I tried it once and it actually was really, really amazing.
So I am currently refining and perfecting my routines de beaut-ay, a la povertay de la maison. *****
Many months ago, I got an excellent, practical cut from my favourite hair stylist in the entire world, Miss V. At which point I completely gave up on the trimming and styling, as well as abandoning the dye.
For my trouble, I now have a ‘do that is growing longer in a very easy-to-manage way, and a couple of steel grey badger-stripes at the front of my salt-and-pepper hair.
And you know what? Even after seeing my sister’s magnificent bouncing, shiny mane yesterday, I still love my steely bob. The badger-stripes are fun. I get a kick out of catching sight of the pale bits out of the corner of my eye. And my hair is long enough to pin out of the way, or put into pigtails, or a really stupid-looking ponytail, when I want to keep it out of my eyes.
But even a Terribly, Terribly Practical (snort, haw haw, stiff upper lip) ‘do needs a bit of love to stop it from becoming a frizzy nightmare full of leaves and small crawling creatures.
So for regular maintenance, I wash it with no-nonsense shampoo and then condition it by chucking in a bit of Moroccan Oil, which I bought forever ago and may last me well past Christmas. At which point I will have to decide if I can afford another bottle, but given the cost-per-use, I really hope so.
I don’t blow-dry it, by the way. Not unless I really have to. I just towel it off and let it do whatever it does, frequently going out to socialise with wet hair. Well, why not? I can manage a pretty good thirties-style wave when I want to put on the dog ******, thanks to the training of Miss V, but that I like to keep for special occasions.
One thing I have noticed, is that my greys are both tougher and dryer than my dwindling black hairs. So I have started to give it regular hot oil treatments. Which have the double benefit of being cheap and pleasantly luxurious.
Hot oil only needs to be done every month or so at the most, especially if you have oily hair. I buy lovely olive oil in bulk, so I use that, although you can get all excited about things like vitamin E or jojoba oil if you want. (But don’t. Just grab whatever you use for salad dressing. Waste not, want not.)
I put about two tablespoons of olive oil into a little glass dish, and add a few drops of lavender oil. Lavender is nice for dark hair (I still identify as dark-haired, even if that won’t last much longer) and it smells nice. You can use another essential oil if you want, as long as it is okay to use on your skin – and a lot aren’t so check it out beforehand, yes? You only need about three drops.
I gently warm the oil over a bowl of hot water (or you can use the nuke-o-matic, but it should be pleasant-to-the-skin warm, not cook-the-chips hot). Then I section my hair and use a pastry brush to cover my hair in the oil mix, focussing on the dry ends. A little goes a long way, don’t go nuts. If you have a dry scalp, massage the last few drops into your head.
Then I very elegantly wrap my head in a plastic bag or some cling-wrap, and pop on a pink floral shower cap to hold the whole lot together. Then, the idea is to relax. This is always when a delivery person comes to the door. (Go ahead and answer the door in your shower cap. They probably could use the laugh.)
After about half an hour, I get into the shower and shampoo my hair about three times to get rid of all the oil. It takes multiple shampoos! Don’t stop too early or you get crunchy, oily hair for the next three days.
But if you get it right, hot-oiled hair is shiny and happy and fragrant. I am perfectly content with my unstyled, greying hair as long as it is nice and soft and smells faintly of lavender.
Total cost of monthly treatment: stuff-all, depending on whether you use an old plastic bag or expensive cling-wrap, or artisanal local extra-virgin olive oil rather than the big bottle of canola oil you use to cook the chips.
I used to use all sorts of lovely, posh products on my visage. Now, I have narrowed it down to Natio products, and the Magic Three.
Natio makes this lovely sunscreen which I use every day because I get a photosensitive rash on my face. I tried using other sunscreens but didn’t find anything else that costs less than $20 and lasts a hugely long time and doesn’t feel like I am going out with a wet plastic bag heat-sealed to my face.
I also really like this on those days when my ageing complexion gets really really dry. Although it isn’t officially cheap (it isn’t officially expensive either) a little goes a long, long way. Plus I use my local chemist so often that I frequently end up with discounts on their loyalty scheme, and I use these for things like my Natio products.
The Magic Three are also available from my chemist. Here they are:
Tea tree oil, rosehip oil, lavender oil. Is there anything they can’t do? (Don’t answer that.)
Tea tree oil was recommended to me by a dermatologist, when one of my fingernails suddenly decided it was going to drop off, for no good reason (sorry). I now understand that may have been an immune system thingie. The dermo suggested a drop of tea tree oil onto the nail bed several times a day. My nail issue cleared up very quickly indeed.
If you feel a ‘blemish’ (snigger) coming on, pop a drop of tea tree oil onto a cotton bud and dab it on. I have to do it twice a day. Generally the pimpl… er, ‘blemish’, has vanished by the next day. I don’t have over-sensitive skin, so you may have to patch test before trying this, yes?
The other day I did this sleepily before bed, and then realised the next morning that I had accidentally used lavender oil instead. Had the same effect. Live and learn.
Lavender oil is good in my hair treatments and my bath, and I find it super-comforting so when I am having trouble sleeping I pop a bit on a tissue and stick it into my pillowcase to keep bad dreams and worrisome thoughts away. Darling Dog actually quite likes the smell too.
Darla loves linen sprays. They are pretty nice and luxurious, I must admit. It is easy enough to stick a few drops of lavender oil in a spray bottle of water and use it when ironing to get delicious fragrant laundry. Add a little vodka to the mix and you get a pretty effective fabric deodoriser, too. I’m serious. When we used to sell true vintage, we used this technique to get rid of that back-of-the-musty-wardrobe stench of old clothes. Also if you are unlucky enough to get cigarette smoke smell in your good dry clean-only clothes: spray them with this mixture and hang them somewhere airy for a few hours.
Rosehip oil is a good basic moisturiser. I rub a few drops into my damp skin after my shower. Usually this is quite enough to do the trick. Rosehip is a nice soothing skin-friendly oil and it is not very smelly either.
The trio costs me around $30 for the lot and they last for months.
When it comes to cleansing my porcelain skin *******, I used to use glamorous products full of high-fashion stuff like, I don’t know, seaweed and rubbish. As far as I can tell from my own experience, these work perfectly well, and so do my current go-to products which are considerably cheaper.
At the end of the day, I use this naff-but-nice product that has been around since the start of last century:
Since 1910. If it ain’t broke …
Rub on, wipe off, done. To my slight surprise, this really does work as well as any of my former posh cleansers. I suppose there is a reason these things become classics. The bad news is this is not widely stocked in Australia, although you can buy it online. The good news is a pot costs less than $10 and you don’t need much per use.
To complement my visage nurturage, I have recently started to try weekly oil cleansing.
To do this, I once again turn to my giant tin of olive oil. But olive oil won’t do the trick by itself, so I also use castor oil. 100 ml costs less than $10 at my chemist. It is a superb cleansing oil but too much dries out the skin, oddly, so you don’t need much.
I have made up a mix of about 30% castor to 70% olive oil.
Bonus: the jar still smells faintly of jam.
I only made a little amount because you only need a little bit at a time, and you need to chuck the oil out before it goes rancid then wash the container very thoroughly before refilling to avoid bacteria.
Here’s how you do it: put a little bit (a 20 cent coin-sized blob?) on your hand, and rub it into your face. Give yourself a good old face massage. Then wet a flannel in hot water, and lay it on your face. Enjoy the lovely warm flannel. When the flannel cools, use it to wipe the oil off. Then rinse the flannel, re-wet it with hot water, and repeat. Do the flannel thing about three times until you are certain the oil is gone. Use a few drops of the cleansing oil, or rosehip oil, to moisturise.
I was warned when I first started that you can get a bit of a breakout after the first time oil cleansing, but it really wasn’t too bad. It seems that a combo of cold cream and a weekly oil cleanse is quite enough to keep my skin on an even keel.
Not wearing makeup every day is probably helping too! Not to mention being far less in pain and far less stressed. I can totally recommend this as a treatment de beaute, and it’s free!
BECAUSE I’M BLOODY WORTH IT, YOU LOT. (I actually did comb my hair shortly after this picture was taken.)
My skin suffers, but mainly because of all my nerve pain and tingling and itching and stuff. Apart from that, it’s just a little dry.
It will run out eventually. in the meantime, I have been eyeing off recipes for making one’s own body products. What do you think? Should I give it a burl? Answers on a postcard. Also welcome: any recipes you have.
Oh, lord. I just can’t be arsed these days.
Sad isn’t it? I used to love makeup. I still lard on the slap when I’m going out somewhere that seems to call for it, but I think my energy levels are not quite up to creating maquillage on a regular basis at the moment.
My best makeup tip for middle-aged housewiffs who are on strong painkillers: don’t bother. Pretend that ‘fresh-faced’ is trendy. And wrinkles. Wrinkles are trendy too.
I have not one, but three wardrobes, plus assorted drawers (and, er, sections of floor) that are chock-full of magnificent garments, each more exquisite than the last.
One of the many benefits of co-owning a frock shop with somebody whose super power is sourcing the most beautiful garments across the globe.
However, for the last week I have lived in jeans, yoga pants (not the expensive stylish form-fitting ones, you understand, but the inexpensive baggy sort that are the only type fat people are allowed to have), tshirts and dodgy cardigans.
I did dress up a bit to fill my recent script for painkillers, because apparently they are somewhat of a big deal to be allowed to have, and I thought I’d better show some willing.
As the weather gets warmer I’m expecting to abandon the cardigan.
The salient fact is, my style efforts have shrunk from three wardrobes-full to a pile that I could fit into my small overnight bag.
Born-Again Housewiff Fashion Tip: maybe start to wear an apron or smock. Then I won’t need to wash my clothes after every singe run-in with beetroot, or my apparently incontinent budgie. And it’s slightly glamorous, in a vintage 1940s home-front sort of way. Perhaps I’ll perfect my WWII-inspired headscarf chic again?
Second tip: start to get back into the Make Do And Mend mentality. My summer casual houseworkie wardrobe is not particularly well developed. It is overwhelmed entirely by my Awesome Hardworking Fashionista wardrobe. I think I am going to need to dig up some old rubbish and re-purpose it. Which should be fun because I don’t own a sewing machine, and am not technically gifted enough to do a lot more than fixing hems and sewing zippers.
Righto! I think that’s more than enough typing for today: and anyway, I have to go and rinse this budgie poo off my tshirt.
I hope you have enjoyed Blossom’s Cheaparse Beauty Tips. As and when I encounter more I shall pass them on.
In the meantime, I would love to hear about yours. You are so ridiculously beautiful (yes, I’m actually addressing you) that surely you must have some excellent tips.
As long as they don’t involve Crème de la Mer.
* Nice one, Mum.
** People can’t bear it when I use the word ‘fat’ to describe myself, even though I only ever use it perfectly descriptively, with no particular connotations negative or otherwise. Sometimes I confess I like to chuck it into conversation, loudly, just to watch people flinch. It’s just a word, folks.
*** I love my nose. Love it. When it comes to my size Large, bumpy-humpy schnoz, I have no shame whatsoever. It is not a fashionable nose, but like a huge piece of abstract art in the middle of a gallery, it will always be a noticeable feature of my face that I believe will age very well and, over time, be accepted as a unique classic. Love Thy Nature, friends. Love Thy Nature.
**** Or, sadly, a lot of attention from the old comb.
***** If you see any of the Captain’s French relatives approaching, can you let me know? I may have to start running now.
****** This is apparently Australian for ‘dress nicely’. Nobody is actually putting a dog on anything.
******* Porcelain, terracotta, tomato, tomayto.