Hair Drying Tips

Blow-drying is one of the worst things to do to your hair (and your hearing!).  Here are some ways to minimize the damage and/or get better results…

Step Away from the Hair Dryer:  If you absolutely don’t need to blow dry your hair, don’t.  Give your hair a break at least once a week by letting it air dry.  Find a hairstyle that works even if you don’t blow dry your hair.  I’ve only recently been able to embrace my hair’s natural (wavy) tendencies.  A couple years ago, I spent a lot of time trying to straighten it into submission because it seemed like everyone had straight hair.  I’m very thankful for the wavy “trend”.

You Don’t Have to Go “All the Way”:  If you can get away with it, only blow dry your hair most of the way.  If you dry the roots, the ends will dry pretty quickly on their own.

Save Time:  Press (don’t wring!) the excess water out of your hair. Do the “turban” thing with the towel. Wash your face or do whatever non-hair-related things need to be done.  After a few minutes, flip the towel around so the part that was at the top can absorb some more moisture. If you’re really in a hurry, use paper towels to press the extra water out of your hair.

Take It Down a Notch:  If your hair dryer has a “medium” or “warm” setting, use that instead of the insanely-high-heat setting.  (The low/cold setting feels better on hot summer days!) It’ll take your hair a little longer to dry, but it won’t get as fried.  If you’re in the market for a new hair dryer, find one that has the mid-range heat setting.

Avoidance:  Don’t use any products in your hair that claim to help “speed up the drying process”.  They’ll do what they say – because they contain alcohol.  Unless you need do disinfect your hair, you shouldn’t ever put alcohol products into it.

Setting Things Straight:   If you haven’t gotten the hang of using a huge round brush (or don’t have one) to straighten your hair, you can make your hair straighter by using a paddle brush and going in straight strokes with the brush and hair dryer at the same time.

Use Your Hands:  Your hands are surprisingly effective styling tools (and they’re free!)   Because you’re warm, “combing” your hair with your fingers as you dry can speed up the process a tiny bit, too.

In Summary:  Hair dryers are a necessary evil for most of us.  But with a little planning, we can help our hair look decent without them and save some electricity as well.


Little Ways to Stretch Your Budget

I have a philosophy when it comes to saving money:  The more money I save, the more stuff I can buy.  Here are some ways you can save cash by making the most of stuff you’ve already bought…

Hair Conditioner You Hate:  If you bought a conditioner that just doesn’t work for your hair, use it to shave your legs.  OK, it might not be as convenient as shave gel, but you’ve already paid for it – you’d might as well use it.

Gunky Concealer:  Some concealers are too pasty and can look “cakey”, especially under your eyes.  Blend them with a tiny bit of oil-free moisturizer or eye cream to get a smoother texture.

Chalky Lipstick:  Lipsticks are not all created equal.  Some are too dry and make it look like you have melted wax on your lips.  Instead of tossing it in the trash, try applying a layer of lip balm underneath. (Carmex works great.)  It might “mute” the color a little bit, but that’s better than throwing away something you just bought.

Got Oil?   Oil-absorbing sheets are nice (and conveniently packaged), but Kleenexes work pretty well.  Use the palm of your hand to press the Kleenex onto shiny spots.  Just don’t use the kind that have built-in lotion!

Aging Nail Polish:  If your nail polish is starting to get pasty, add a drop or two of nail polish remover and shake the bottle up – a lot.  (Basic nail polish remover, not the ones with conditioners.) This is really a “quick fix” kind of thing and won’t exactly bring it back to brand-new, but can help you get another use out of your favorite color until you can get its replacement.

Stuck-In-There Lotion:   Manufacturers put products in bottles that make it impossible to get all the product out.  It’s clever, but annoying.  But, if you warm it up a little bit in the microwave, you’ll be able to get more of it out.  Note: Don’t microwave any containers with “metallic” patterns/lettering/parts.

Bad Bronzer:  If you bought a brush-on bronzer that’s too extreme or just not “you”, try using it as blush instead.

Be Eco-Friendly:  Reuse not-recyclable product packaging whenever you can.  Lots of products come in zip-top bags that can be used for keeping used printer ink cartridges from making a mess until you get them to their recycling destination.  (Those little, tiny ones that hold “replacement buttons” for clothing are great for protecting memory cards.)  Other containers can be used to dump your lip/eye pencil shavings into so they don’t end up all over your bathroom floor.  Even when bottles are recyclable, sometimes the lids aren’t.  Lots of those lids are absolutely perfect for touch-up painting jobs around the house.

Get Crafty:  Lots of beauty-product rejects can be used for craft projects. Makeup sponges, cheap eyeshadow sponge applicators, and other things can be “re-purposed”. Throw them into a plastic bin and put them in the garage or closet. You might be surprised how often they’ll be useful.

Love This! Too Faced Shadow Insurance Eye Shadow Primer

I’m kind of lazy.  Consequently, I don’t love multi-step makeup processes.  I haven’t found much use for foundation primer, think lip primer is kind of ridiculous (I use lip balm), and wasn’t always sure that eyelid primer was useful.  I found one I like because it brightens the eye shadow colors, but now I’ve found one that serves more than one purpose…

Pros:  Makes eye shadow brighter.  Helps keep eye shadow from “creasing”.  Keeps eye shadow in place.  Even if you wear it without eye shadow, it minimizes the appearance of small veins and discoloration on the eyelid and makes your lids look smoother.  A little goes a long way (so don’t let the price scare you off).  Contains no parabens, sulfates, synthetic fragrances or dyes, petrochemicals or phthalates.

Cons:  This isn’t really a “con”, but a warning:  If you’re not very good at putting on your eye shadow and rely on being able to “adjust” it after application, this product might be counterproductive for you.  If you use it, your eye shadow is going to stay where you put it – even if you mess up.  It works best to kind of “dot” your eye shadow into place, instead of using a sweeping motion with the brush.

Note:  This product comes in a few different formulas.  This review is for the “regular” type.  If you need something different, there’s a yellow (color correcting) formula, one that “softly illuminates”, and one that helps bond glitter glue eye products.

Rating:  5 out of 5 stars 

Price:  $18 for .35 oz tube

Available at:  Sephora, Ulta,,, other online retailers

High-End Nail Polish, Low-End Prices

Love expensive nail polish but not the prices?  Well, here you go…

Clearance Aisles:  Ulta usually has a clearance section (location differs by store).  They usually have a good selection of brands and colors available.  OPI nail polish that normally costs $8 or $9 is generally on clearance for $4 or $5.   They have other brands, too, like Essie and China Glaze.  (I’m pretty sure you can use their  $3.50 off $10 purchase coupons for these items, too!)

Online Clearance:  Sometimes Sephora and Ulta have nail polishes online in discontinued colors.  Those sets they put out for the holidays go on clearance once they need to get them off the shelves.  When you go to, type “clearance” into the search box.  On, you can go to the “Sale” section of the site.

Be Flexible:  Stop using the same old boring nail colors.  Experiment with the ones you can get on clearance!

Be Disloyal

 My loyalty ends the moment I can get a better deal or better service somewhere else (which is why I’ve had three different cell phone providers in the last five years.)  I believe loyalty should only be reserved for your relationships – with other people and your pets, not with products…

Brand Loyalty:  OK, so you found a cleanser or moisturizer you just love.  What do you think the odds are that everything made by that company is as fantastic as the one product you love?  Yeah, it’s pretty unlikely.  And just because they make a kit, doesn’t mean everything in the kit is amazing.  It also doesn’t mean that it’s all the best choice for your skin type or that the only way to get the results you want is by using all the products together.

Store Loyalty:  One of my biggest pet peeves is stores (usually online) that offer “New Customer Discount!” for the first time you shop there.  You know what that tells me?  You don’t value my continued business and I should go be a “new customer” somewhere else.  Use the new customer discount if you find a good deal and it’s the first time you’re shopping there.  The next time you need that product, shop around for a different site that has an ongoing promotion, or a site that has loyalty rewards (and low prices!)

Loyalty to Service Providers:  The same goes with any type of service. I know tons of people who have a hair stylist they love.  Lucky them.   I haven’t had a regular stylist since 2002, and I was paying a ridiculously low price (long story).  So, since I’m not super-picky about my hair, I go where I can get a good deal.  My philosophy: It’s only hair. And mine grows back pretty quickly.  Try out different places by experimenting when you see good deals on savings sites like Groupon and Living Social.  You might just find your new favorite place to get a manicure.  If not, at least you didn’t pay full price.

So Go Ahead:   Be disloyal.  Find the products – not just the brands – that work best for you.  Find the places that give you the best services for the best prices.  Your time and money is valuable.  Don’t waste it by being loyal to products and services that don’t benefit you.

Review: Ole Henricksen Vitamin Plus Moisturizer

I recently had some time to kill in the mall, so I stopped by Sephora to see what recommendations the store associates would have for a good oil-free moisturizer.  I found one I like, but it’s been discontinued.  I have very oily skin and need something that’s not going to make me look like a shiny wreck a few hours after putting it on.  This was one of the high-end products recommended and didn’t cost $85 like one of them did, so I asked for a sample…

Pros:  Smells nice (kind of like Noxema).  Moisturizes well.

Cons:  Very thick.  Not lightweight.  Didn’t mattify as much as I was expecting.  (It says “mattifying”, and “dewy” – seems contradictory…)  Expensive.  Comes in a container that requires you to put your fingers into it.  I find this kind of disgusting, because it gets under my nails and seems unsanitary.

In Summary:  The first time I used it, I guess I put on too much (which is easy to do with its texture) and my face felt disgusting.  The second time, I was able to put on less by using a Q-Tip and placing little dots all over my face and then blending it.  It felt less heavy this time, but still didn’t “mattify” much.  It would be fine if you had normal or maybe combination (not very oily) skin.  And cost about $15 less.

Rating:  3 out of 5 stars 

Price:  $35 for 1.7 oz container

Available at:  Sephora,,,, other online retailers


Love This! Oscar Blandi At Home Salon Glaze (Shine Rinse)

I usually rely on after-the-fact products to make my hair smoother and shinier.  I  feel like if you put it in and rinse it out, you’re kind of relying on the quality of your water, making sure you don’t rinse too much, etc.  This product is going to be the exception to my “I’ll make it shiny after I style it” rule…

Pros:  Makes hair shinier and smoother.  Says it extends color life (I don’t currently have colored hair, so I wouldn’t know.)  Paraben free. Contains “sun inhibitors” and antioxidants to help protect your hair from sun damage.

Cons:  It’s pretty expensive.  If you have hair that is prone to tangling, you should comb it BEFORE you use this product.  It makes your hair harder to comb through.

Overall:  I really, really like this stuff.  It gives me some of the benefits of other products I use, except that those products all contain parabens.  (Boo!)  It not only made my hair prettier – it also made it easier to blow-dry straight.  If it were a little less expensive, I’d give it 5 stars.

Rating:  4.5 out of 5 stars  

Price:  $25 for 5 fl. oz. bottle

Available at:  Ulta (stores and online),

The Paraben Project

For a while now, I’ve been trying to limit my intake of high fructose corn syrup, because of studies that indicate possible health issues caused by it.  (Plus, I think sugar tastes better.)  Now, I’ve decided to turn my focus to my health and beauty products.  Lots of them are now advertising “Paraben Free”, which is an indication that companies are making a shift (hopefully) to produce healthier products.  The reason: a recent study indicating a possible link between breast cancer and parabens. (Read here:  While the study isn’t 100% proof that parabens cause breast cancer, it’s worth considering…

What are Parabens?  Parabens are preservatives added to health & beauty products that help prevent fungus and bacteria growth.  They’re in lots of products.

Just Out of Curiosity:  I went through my bathroom closet and medicine cabinet to see how many items contained parabens.  I was shocked.  Not only did tons of the products contain them, some had parabens listed in the first few ingredients.  Even worse, many of my all-time-favorite products (that I use every day!) contained parabens. Benefit’s “That Gal” brightening face primer contains SEVEN different parabens!

But…  Not all of the products had ingredients listed.  I guess some of them may have been on the product’s initial packaging, which I threw away.  I did some online research for some items’ ingredients list.

And…  Don’t assume that one product contains parabens just because a simliar product does.  Pond’s cold cream in “cucumber” does, the “classic” one doesn’t.

My Plan:  Use up the rest of the products containing parabens (except the stuff I don’t love, which I can justify throwing away now).  I marked all the paraben-containing products with a “P” in Sharpie so I don’t forget.  When they’re gone, I’ll find products to replace them and hope that the stuff I love is re-formulated in the future.  Yoplait stopped using high fructose corn syrup in their yogurt, so there’s hope that beauty product companies will take notice of consumer concerns and change their manufacturing process, too.

Disclaimer:  Some of the items in this photo have been in my closet for a while.  It’s possible they’ve been re-formulated to not contain parabens, due to lots of attention to this issue lately.  This photo does not show every item I own that contains parabens.  I ran out of room.

In Summary: From my point of view, it’s nearly impossible to avoid everything that might cause cancer – just like it’s impossible to consume all the food/beverages scientists say you should have to prevent this or that disease.  So, what I think everyone should do is assess their personal risk for certain diseases (due to environment, genetic factors, etc.) and make their lifestyle choices accordingly. There’s no history of breast cancer in my family, so I don’t worry about it as much as I do about other cancers, which I’m taking measures to prevent. That being said, if you do believe you’re at an increased risk of developing breast cancer, you might want to avoid using products that contain parabens.

Review: Borghese Moisturizing Lip Gloss (Kirkland Signature Limited Edition)

If you don’t have a Costco store near you, I’m sorry.  It’s a fabulous place and it has some great deals on makeup and perfume.  I’d never tried the Borghese brand products they sell before, but these were just too tempting for me, especially since I really need to part with some of my lip glosses. (Let’s just say many of them have lasted longer than the average celebrity marriage…)

Pros:  Goes on smoothly.  Not sticky or pasty.  Vitamin enriched.  Paraben and fragrance free.  Not tested on animals.  Good selection of neutral colors that would look good on almost anyone.  If you can get them at Costco, they’re super-inexpensive.  (Less expensive than some of the cheapest brands you can buy!)

Cons:  The applicator is a little brush.  I’m not a fan of brush-on lip glosses.  I prefer those fuzzy wand things.  They’re just easier to control.  Also, it’s not designed for long-wearing use (if that’s important to you).

If You Don’t Have Costco:  Some people are selling these online at about twice their Costco price.  I think they’re still decent enough to pay $5 or $6 a piece for, considering that’s what “drugstore brand” lip glosses cost, anyway.

In Summary:  These are great lip glosses. I love the colors.  They’re sheer enough that they don’t look tacky, but provide enough color to actually do their job.

Rating:  4.5  out of 5 stars 

  Price:  $10-$15 depending if it’s on sale and where you live

Available at: Costco and some online re-sellers

When Drying It Out is a Good Thing

With skin like mine (bipolar!), it’s hard to know what’s going to work.  But there’s one thing I have figured out…

Let Your Skin Dry Completely:  It seems like a simple thing, but if you’re like me, you’re usually in a hurry to get your skincare regimen done as quickly as possible.  However, you should be letting your skin dry for 10-15 minutes before you do anything else to it.

The Benefits:  Think about it.  Your skin isn’t completely dry and you’re going to put moisturizer on it.  You’re diluting your moisturizer.  Even worse, if you’re using an acne treatment product, the excess water in your skin can react with the product, making your skin itchy and flaky.  I learned this the hard way when I complained to my dermatologist that the product my regular doctor gave me was making my skin too irritated.  He said, “Are you letting your skin dry 10-15 minutes?”  Um, no.  I guess I should actually read those information sheets that come with my prescriptions…

Don’t Cheat:  Drying your face with a towel isn’t the same as letting it air dry.  You can use a towel if you like that extra scrubby sensation, but it’s not getting your skin 100% dry, so you’re still going to have to be patient.

Manage your time:  Switch your schedule around so you can brush your teeth, clip your toenails, read my blog, or whatever else you need to do while your skin is air-drying.  Wash your face during the last commercial break on the TV show you watch before bed.  You’re smart.  You can figure out how to make it work.