Vanity on a Budget

madge_soaking_in_itAs both time and budget have gotten tighter in my world, I’ve taken on a more “loving hands at home” (LHAH) approach to some of my beauty routines.  Due to the fact that my patience level has not increased, the results are not always stellar.  For those of you out there who are DIY’ers as well, I’m sure you can relate to attempting to achieve lookin’ good on the cheap and quick.

I rarely get my nails done professionally now… I reserve that as a special treat before an event or a trip – you know, for when I’d like the look to last more than 5 minutes, or it is time for a professional to hack away at my cuticles.  I’ve resigned myself to being willing to let my fingernails go naked and short more often….sure, it would be nice if they always looked great, but that’s just not my reality.  I know many of you are going to be quick to want to suggest lots of nifty at-home systems like funky nail wraps and botanical soaking processes.  Thanks, but remember what I said – I’m low on time and patience. I buy pretty much all of my polish from the local CVS or Walgreens, usually looking for something on sale.  I will from time to time plop myself down in front of the tv and paint my fingernails after attempting to shape and buff them into something that doesn’t look like I just got out of the garden or just finished doing three sinks full of dishes. They never come out beautifully, but if the tv show or movie is long enough, they might just look passingly ok.  I’m notorious for not allowing enough dry time, thus creating bubbles, knicks or smudges.  Being right handed, my left hand always comes out cleaner and nicer.  All of us DIY’ers know the PIA process of removing polish off the skin around our nails. I’ve found the best option is digging at it after getting out of the shower the next morning.  I tried the polish remover on a Q-tip thing, and really, if I can’t handle a brush with my left hand, what makes a Qtip any better?

I will give kudos to the polish companies who know there are people like me out here. They have come a long way in offering paint that dries quicker and lasts longer.  Sort of.  Nothing dries fast enough for me to not get sheet marks when I go to bed, nor does anything last longer than 3 days.  Of course, if I took care and wore rubber gloves more, I might get a whole 4 days out of my not-very-much-effort work.

Most days it is easier to go without.  However, here’s the funny thing. In the summer, I must have polish on my toes at all times.  It is almost as if I have some secret code of conduct that requires that I never don a pair of sandals with plain toes.  As if anyone else cares?   I will take marginally more time, more often, to do an at-home pedi.  Again, nothing fancy.  Keep all your nifty foot baths, foaming salts, and toe separators to yourself.  I grab a small towel, throw some warm water in a bowl, use a fairly antique pair of nail scissors, and perform contortionist positions again in front of the tv to clean, trim, shape and paint my toes.  The great thing about this is that my feet are a distance away, so blemishes and mistakes are less apparent.  And the polish lasts a whole lot longer than on my fingers.  Truth be told, there are plenty of times when I’ll throw on an extra coat of paint to cover up dings before heading out the door.  Then when I eventually do remove the polish, I feel like a home renovator struggling to remove far too many layers of wall paper.

I also tend to feel more daring with funky colors on my toes.  Blues, greens, purples, neon – yeah, bring them on. I draw the line on yellow, orange or black because they look hideous against my pale skin.   Speaking of color, let’s chat about LHAH hair, shall we?

A few years ago, thanks to recommendations from my sister and a friend, I found the joy of home hair color.  It’s come a long, way, baby – it is no longer the scary multi-step smelly process of the 70’s and 80’s, requiring special tools and hazmat suits.  Kind of like the old days of perms, remember those?  My first perm was in college. I knew I was in for a treat when the stylist prepped by donning a mask, elbow-length rubber gloves, and opened all the windows in the salon.  Sure ‘nuff, what a treat. Nothing says Holy 80’s like a blonde afro on a painfully white small town girl.

I digress.  At-home color products fit my need: inexpensive, they only take about 30 minutes to execute, and I only have to open one window.  My current stylist is kind and doesn’t give me a hard time about my LHAH…only once has she given out a small sigh and said “did you color recently?”  In my world, that box I pick up at the grocery store or pharmacy for $10 does a good enough job to cover my roots and greys without having to spend $120 and 2 hours in the salon chair.  I will, however, admit it is not without some risk.  Due to a recent packaging change, I ended up with a darker shade than usual which was a bit of a surprise.  And my BFF reported that she just tried a LHAH color application and panicked when her hair goo turned purple… until she rinsed out and determined all was well, and that’s just what it does – to her relief, she did not come away looking like Barney.

I have one more LHAH budget color-related beauty process.  Thanks again to modern vanity technology, I get my early summer tan out of a lotion bottle.  I have to slather my dry skin with lotion every morning, why not let it get to work giving me some semblance of non-paleness?  Each spring I dutifully stop at the pharmacy and determine if I need light tan, light to medium tan, medium tan, or medium to dark tan. Granted, the first time I used them, I realized the importance of even coverage.  We learn by doing.  I was thrilled this year when my favorite brand finally seemed to crack the code on not making the lotion have “that smell.”  If any of you out there use these types of lotion, you know exactly what I mean.  Happy to report that the fine scientists of Jergens have made it smell better.  I don’t want to know about the long term affects are of whatever magic chemicals are giving me that “glow” – instead, I praise myself for avoiding UV rays.  Well, until the nice days hit and I’m out there in the sun anyway.

The younger me would probably have been aghast at any of my current LHAH activities.  But with age comes wisdom, or perhaps frugality, time pressures and less desire to primp.  My vanity is still securely in place. I just take a shorter, easier route to get there.


About Real Women

A "real woman" mom, wife, worker, friend, sister, daughter....
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