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Beauty Is In The Eye of The Beholder? Let It See You At Your Best.
Beauty routines are the backbone of an elegant, confident lifestyle – and don’t let anyone tell you differently. While beauty is a concept that varies from place to place and time to time, certain things remain the same.
Whether we are speaking about healthy skin, an energetic attitude, or good hygiene, true beauty is a combination of factors which all depend on your day-to-day routines. And when it comes to looking and feeling your most beautiful, it is all about the journey you take to get there.
Join Bougie on a Budget and refresh your attitude toward beauty with some quick and straightforward tips on looking your best. Here are the 5 routines you can’t afford to skip – and how to make them affordable (or free)!
Skincare – Learn It, Love It, Live It.
I would be shocked to find any post concerning beauty routines that did not include skincare as one of the main topics it covers. As Renee Rouleau put it: “Be good to your skin. You’ll wear it every day for the rest of your life.”
The basic, necessary qualities of a good skincare routine are consistency, quality, and well-roundedness. The essential steps are:
- SPF – Sun Protection
- Body Lotion (after showering, and before bed)
Also important are the use of serums, essences (like the one I use, a hydrating water essence from e.l.f), treatments, and masques to increase the skin’s retention of moisture and to combat some of the less-desirable aspects of the aging process.
There are many myths about skincare floating around in the online world, and it pays to be educated. The best way to remain on top of your skin’s health and beauty is to stick to the simple, tried-and-true facts regarding what keeps your largest organ looking its best.
A few of these facts are as follows:
- It pays to be gentle with your skin – too much rough cleansing and exfoliation will strip your skin of its natural oils, and over time will do lasting harm (such as increasing the amount of wrinkles you develop).
- Keeping to a dependable, simple skincare routine is best – especially for those of us who are very busy. This is not so much about the number of products you use overall, but more about how straightforward and time-conscious your AM & PM routines are.
- The number one, most intense cause for dermal damage is indisputably sun exposure. Having done more than a little research as well as being part of a family with widely varied skin tones (from old, pale Scottish blood to olive-toned Sicilians), I have seen the truth of this in action over and over again. SPF is a non-negotiable part of your skincare routine. Memorize this.
- Skincare is a long-term endeavor – it is not one or two actions on an occasional basis, but rather a committed set of day-by-day steps that you stick to religiously.
Daily routines should include the use of a well-chosen cleanser. Many experts recommend double-cleansing your skin, though personally I believe that one truly thorough cleanse will be perfectly effective (so far, my favorite cleanser is the Aveeno Positively Radiant Brightening Cleanser).
Toning and exfoliation are best done sparingly – as far as toner goes, it is usually better to target specific blackhead and acne-prone areas using a cotton pad, rather than using it all over your face. Exfoliation should only be done 1-2 times per week for most people, even if you have oily or clogged skin.
You can easily make your own toner by mixing ingredients such as lemon juice, rosewater, camphor, and vinegar together, and simply mixing a carrier oil (such as olive or coconut oil) with brown sugar makes an effective exfoliant.
Masks are useful, though they may not show the instant effects that product packaging may indicate. By using masks appropriate for your skin type 3 times a week, you should see strong results. A simple DIY mask is a mix of mashed ripe avocado, honey, and a whisked egg (or any of these ingredients separately). There are hundreds of other simple recipes available online, as well as many good and affordable store-bought products (my holy grail mask is, oddly enough, a very cheap one – it’s the SpaScriptions Manuka Honey and Royal Jelly wash-off mask).
Skincare is a topic I will likely post about many times on this blog, but consider this is a crash-course to get you thinking the right way about how, when, and why you ought to be sticking to an affordable routine each day.
Hair – Head in the Right Direction.
Hair comes in almost countless textures, types, colors, and varieties. Good haircare is similar to good skincare, as the components of hair and skin are almost identical.
It is difficult to sum up haircare in one post, let alone one section of a post, as each person needs to be aware of how their specific hair reacts to things like shower frequency, heat, product use, etc. Still, whether you have tight, voluminous 3C hair or fine-textured locks the color of cornsilk, certain rules apply across the board and can be modified to suit you.
Here are my personal hair-health methods, which have been tried and tested by a wide variety of friends and family as well as myself:
- Know your hair type and how it works – I have very fine, long hair, and so I am able to wash it frequently and I use very little products to style it. Curly hair, in contrast, needs more time between washings and can tolerate heavier product use. Knowing your hair can be the difference between a routine that works wonders and one that damages your follicles and scalp over time.
- Be gentle with your hair, no matter its texture – avoiding rough hair treatments, overzealous brushing, or scalp-straining hairstyles is very important. Many of us are not used to listening to our scalp when we pull our hair into tight ponytails or frizz it out with scratchy towels, but you should get into the habit of being delicate with your locks. Using a silk or satin pillowcase is a great way to go the extra mile (I use this one, but there are also cheaper options that work just fine).
- Keep a routine – this is the same concept I will hammer home throughout this post. It bears repeating. Your hair is constantly growing, falling out, regrowing, and changing from the inside out. Routines ensure that no matter how your hormones are behaving or what kind of stress you’re under, your hair will remain healthy.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money to keep your hair shiny and strong. You can make your own coconut oil spray by mixing 2-3 tablespoons of coconut oil to a spray bottle and then topping it up with hot water. Add a drop of lavender oil or other hair-safe essential oil for a lovely scent. Adding one capsule of vitamin E oil is a powerful boost.
Doing a hair mask once a week or so is a great practice. Mixing ingredients such as egg, mashed banana, greek yogurt, apple cider vinegar, pulped berries, honey, or lemon juice can create a wide variety of cheap, DIY masks that will bring your hair to the next level. Generally the mask is applied generously from root to tip and left on for about 20 minutes, same as a face mask.
There are also plenty of store-bought options – buying them as a tub of product rather than single-use packets saves you money in the long run and encourages habit-building (I use simple, low-ingredient-count argan oil masks regularly, such as the ArtNaturals Hair Mask).
Haircare really comes down to three things: knowledge, awareness, and day-to-day commitment. A few more tips which hold true for most hair types are as follows:
- Regular (gentle) brushing keeps natural hair oils evenly spread and helps the hair remain healthy and shining.
- Shampoo should be used on the scalp (and pre-poo), conditioner on the middle to ends of the hair. The vast majority of people do not need to shampoo their hair every day. Even with my fine-textured hair, I shampoo every other day most of the time. If you are used to shampooing daily you will go through a transition phase as you switch to a less frequent schedule; your hair will be oily during this time, but it will pass.
- There are a number of toxic ingredients you should avoid when purchasing any sort of hair products – among these are parabens, Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) & Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), and Phthalates.
- It is generally better not to towel dry or blow dry hair on a regular basis – gently patting it dry and then letting air do the rest is better. If you still want to use a towel, use a soft cotton one, and always use heat-protection oil on your hair before blow drying.
- It’s a good idea to have both dry shampoo and leave-in conditioner on hand – use the former between washings, the latter daily or almost-daily.
Hair is versatile, elegant, and beautiful, so treat it with respect. Good haircare can keep you looking more youthful and more put together over the years, and for many people it is a central source of pride and confidence.
Sleep – Welcome to Rest Rehab.
Sleep is a central factor to so much of our health – and yet it remains something of a mystery, in many ways. We still don’t fully understand all of what it does, why it’s necessary, or how it works.
What we do know – and what colloquialisms such as “getting your beauty sleep” tell us – is that sleep impacts how we look as much as it affects how we feel. Good rest means good skin, good hair, good teeth, better fitness, and a more positive mood.
So why do we neglect it so deeply in America and beyond? Sleep deprivation is an ongoing problem endemic to much of the modern world. Over 30% of adults don’t get enough sleep, and poor sleep quality impacts many more. The CDC has been tracking the sleep crisis for decades.
The general consensus is that technology, bad work-life balance, and cultural norms are mostly to blame. While this may be true in a broader sense, on an individual level I would venture to say that it is poor sleep hygiene that is largely responsible for the sleep problems so many of us suffer from.
Developing a proper rest routine is something many of you have probably been advised to do by other blogs, or by doctors, therapists, and countless others. Still, I find it important enough to reiterate: if you do not have a good sleep routine, you are not resting properly.
A few habits to consider building are these:
- Commit to turning off any and all screens at least 30 minutes before bed. Read, journal, write, or do something otherwise non-blue-light-related for a while. Just because you can fall asleep after being on your phone, it doesn’t mean the sleep you’re getting is as restful as the screen-free version.
- However much sleep you think you need to function at your best, add another hour onto that number. People tend to underestimate how much rest they are getting, and how much they should be getting for optimal mental and physical functioning.
- Good sleep habits are comprised of the same steps each night. An example of a typical formula would be: turn off screens, wash face, brush teeth, go to the bathroom, burn some incense, and read in bed for 20 minutes or so (or just until you are ready to sleep). By doing the same things before sleeping night after night, you train your brain to associate this routine with rest – this is proven to result in better, deeper sleep over time.
Some other advice from yours truly would be to set up an alarm that is not immediately jarring when you wake up. I use my phone’s bedtime setting – on apple products, the alarm sound options include gentle but invigorating music that starts out softly and gets louder. This helps me to wake at a better time in my sleep cycle.
I’m light sensitive, so a satin sleep mask also has helped me to sleep more deeply at night. I frequently put lavender oil on my wrists and linens, take melatonin to cement my circadian rhythm, and keep magnesium gummies near my bed to help me go back to sleep if I wake frequently in the night (which has been a reoccurring issue for me, as well as many other people who take stimulant medications for ADHD or related conditions).
Good sleep truly is the foundation for good health, and you need to take it seriously. Don’t let it be at the bottom of your priority list!
I’m Picking Up Good Hydration (And Avoiding the Bad Kinds).
Yes, this is a pretty obvious one, but if I looked you in the eye and asked you bluntly if you’re a) drinking enough water for your gender, weight, and personal needs and b) if you are limiting caffeine intake and alcohol consumption during your normal day-to-day life, what would your answers be?
I sympathize with the perpetually dehydrated. I am one of those poor souls who, in my own somewhat silly words, “just doesn’t like water that much.” While this may be all in my head, the fact of the matter is that hydrating does not come easily to me. I have had to get creative to make sure my water intake is adequate.
The first step on your hydration journey is to find out how much water you should be drinking. I used a water calculator – there are lots of them online, so just google it. Then, find a container you will be using on a routine basis, and memorize how many times you need to drink and refill the contents to reach your goal.
Keep water with you wherever you go. On your commute, in your bathroom, by your bed, on your desk…the more places you have access to water, the more likely you are to drink an adequate amount of it. Other creative options are to put slices of fruit in your water or buy flavored electrolyte powders to make it more enjoyable to drink.
My partner – who was both annoyed and worried by my perpetual dehydration – bought me a ‘Stay Hydrated’ water bottle that helps me to visualize how much I am drinking each day and track my hydration habits. This has been the most helpful change for me so far, but different people will find different ways to get them to drink their fill each day.
Proper hydration is integral to your weight, alertness, internal health, and how you look. Its impact is far-reaching and vital. It should not be left to chance or ignored.
Other important habits regard what you should not be doing. I will repeat the advice you will be told a hundred-hundred times: be aware of your caffeine and alcohol intake. Not only will these substances dehydrate you, but they also will impact your sleep cycle. This is a double whammy you do not want to deal with over the long term.
Ultimately, like with all habits, you have to want to change poor hydration routines to so much as take the first useful step. I will say that proper hydration has had a much more profound effect on my mental health, energy levels, and appearance than I ever would have expected in my old, dried-out days. I would hazard to guess that after a few days of proper water intake, you will see similar results.
Fitness – No, It Doesn’t Have To Be Torture To Work It (Out).
Beauty, of course, is largely based on health. And health is about 50% your fitness level, which is, well…disappointing, for a lot of us. While I don’t personally mind hard work or physical labor, I despise working out due to my poor attention span. I simply find it tedious beyond belief to slog through even 15 minutes of regulated exercise.
I am in good shape simply because I am lucky enough to live in a place where I have lots of woods, gardens, and space to roam and work and perform home projects. I am also a belly dancer and avid outdoorswoman in general.
Why am I telling you this? Well, it’s because I rarely have to “work out” to stay in shape. I have never had a gym membership in my life. Even when I was living in a more urban area, I found many, many ways to exercise that were not boring or awful for me. In my family, chronic illness is a constant presence, and so many of us have found creative ways to make use of our limited energy reserves to get the maximum physical benefits of exercise.
You may have heard the commonly-cited statistic that says a mere 30 minutes a day of walking can provide myriad health benefits. YouTube and other outlets have stored hundreds and hundreds of ‘easy workout’ videos that involve little or no equipment.
And, as it turns out, all of this is meaningless without the right attitude.
It isn’t about laziness – many of us are just tired. We have so many priorities, and so much we’d rather be doing, that it isn’t fair to label those who neglect exercise simply as unmotivated. It is usually more complex than that. The fact of the matter is that people need to be shown that exercise is NOT necessarily an all-or-nothing endeavor.
Routines have been a running theme in this post, but as far as exercise goes, doing it “now and then” is still far better than not doing it at all. Five minutes is better than zero. Aim for a routine, but don’t be hard on yourself when you drop it from time to time. Find as varied a number of physical exercise options as you can, and keep that list handy. Whatever you can manage at a given time is exactly what you should be doing!
One minute of planking before bed does more than you think. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator is a cliche that contains a lot of substance. Stretching when you wake up is still a form of exercise, as is setting a timer to remind you to walk or move around every hour. Do what you can, when you can – while still aiming to find a regular routine, eventually.
I have tried to integrate fitness into as many parts of my life as I can. I am now extremely fit – at 120 pounds, at 5 “3 height, I can lift, run, bend, and fight with people much larger and more experienced than I am!
Using an exercise ball (I believe this yoga ball is the one I was given) as a seat at my writing desk is an example of an everyday habit which has build up my core strength, and finding as many manual chores as I have time to do each day has helped me to fortify both my body and my mind.
So, in short, get creative! You might be surprised at your ability to find tiny changes to make, which often have large long-term impacts on your fitness. You already know that the results even a little effort have on your physical appearance will be well worth the effort.
In Conclusion – Inside to Out, But The Outside Still Matters.
This blog embraces the aesthete philosophy of beauty for beauty’s sake, as I addressed in my very first post about cultivating a self-care mentality.
Beauty is, of course, never one particular thing. There are as many ways to be beautiful as there are stars in the sky above, and it is up to you how you choose to shine.
Even so, I personally and firmly believe that physical beauty is very important to one’s happiness. Looking your best is simply a good feeling – it doesn’t need to be more complicated than that. The effort and care you take for your appearance sends signals to the world around you, and it has a definite impact on your life as a human being.
So be healthy, build good habits, and let the results bring you more pleasure and more joy in life. Stay beautiful, darlings, and I’ll see you soon!