My Vintage-Inspired Beauty Routine, Part 5: Hair

Of all my beauty practices, my hair is the most complex. It has involved more experimentation than even my skincare routine, and has gone through far more ups and downs. That’s to say, in addition to the quality of my hair, I’ve also run the gamut of length.

The Victorian women to whom I often turn for beauty inspiration wore their hair long and pinned up. For years, I grew my hair long, letting it get to my waist at one point, and I wore it up almost all the time. I still have an edited version of my vast collection of sticks and combs and hair toys from my very-long-haired days.

After my divorce, I got a pixie cut. I actually liked it a lot, and stayed pretty short for the next few years. But I haven’t had my hair pixie-cut for over a year now, and my hair has grown back out to a chin-length bob. So I can experiment with more hair styling, although the elaborate buns are out of the question. I occasionally set my hair in rollers, but the result is decidedly 20s due to the length. I look rather like Betty Boop.

As far as hair products go, this is where I feel the need to compromise quality with natural-ness. I’ve tried all sorts of totally natural and homemade hair washing techniques, including herbs, egg shampoos, soap-and-vinegar washes, and “no-‘poo,” and all left my hair pretty gross. I had resigned myself to using detergent shampoos, albeit the gentlest and most natural I could find, before I found my current shampoo and conditioner: Griffin Remedy.

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I cannot tell you how impressed I am with this line. I first found their hand lotion because I needed a pump bottle to keep on my desk and they were one of the few without a common ingredient that irritates my skin. I also loved the vintage look of their logo, and when I looked at their website and saw they had shampoo, I was intrigued. But I was wary. Looking at the ingredients list, there was nothing on it that would suggest the product would be at all effective. It just seemed too damned natural. But I looked around, and it had a lot of surprisingly good reviews. So I bit the bullet and ordered a bottle of their Daily shampoo and conditioner from the website.

I have to say, my first week using Griffin Remedy was amazing. I had to use so much less of the shampoo than my normal natural shampoo, that I actually used too much the first time and had a hard time rinsing it all out. And does it ever lather! It was like an episode of I Love Lucy on my head when I went to lather it up the first time. After that first mishap, I learned to use a quarter-sized amount and lather it up. It leaves my hair clean and very, very silky, especially the next day. I also got the accompanying conditioner. It’s rich enough for my coarse, indestructible hair, and they both smell like oranges.

Of course, over the holidays, I had another mishap: I left my shampoo at Boyfriend’s family’s house. And since I had discovered a product  I loved, I had to order more. This time, I ordered the Glossing shampoo and conditioner (they were on sale!) and I love them, too. They have a slightly different scent, but it’s still light and natural, and the conditioner is maybe a bit richer.

I’ve taken to only washing my hair about every other day. I try to stick to three days per week, but if my scalp feels funky, I go ahead and wash it. My hair is much more unhappy with under-washing than over-washing. On in-between days, I sometimes rinse my hair with plain water to refresh it, or I’ll just don my turban to keep my hair dry while I shower.

When I wash my hair, I wet it down and then lather up with my head flipped upside-down. It’s really the only way I can access my entire scalp properly to clean it. I smooth on the conditioner upside-down, too, in order to make sure I get the whole length, but avoid the scalp. Too much conditioner on my scalp has caused itching for me. I rinse well and then rinse with cold water at the end of my shower. Then I blot up moisture and twist my hair into a handtowel, securing it behind one ear. This keeps my hair up and out of the way, and takes out more moisture.

My hair is naturally quite straight and heavy, and it is difficult to get it to curl, so I don’t generally bother. Plus, I like to shower in the morning to feel fresher, so I don’t have time to let my hair dry in rollers after a shower. Most mornings, I either blow-dry my hair with a round brush and pull the crown back into a large barrette, or else I’ll pin the top back and pull it into a ponytail. I also use side combs sometimes to pull it back into a more Victorian-style hairdo.

A note about color: I used to color my hair with henna and indigo to cover the grey, but the process is time-consuming and messy. I’ve decided to embrace my grey hairs, which do stick out rather starkly from my dark hair, although I occasionally will use a temporary tint to cover them for the stage.

When I do want to curl my hair, I use a spray bottle with a mix of rosewater and tap water to mist individual dry or mostly-dry sections, and roll it with foam rollers. I also dab on a bit of mousse. I roll it and let it set for a while, until it is totally dry. I might set the hair dryer on it for a bit. Then, I remove the rollers. This yields the aforementioned Betty Boop hairdo.

Finally, sometimes I subject my hair to excessive amounts of abuse, for me. When I was in performances for my latest show, I had to do a 60s-inspired hairstyle. This involved blow-drying my hair to make it perfectly straight and fluffy, then flipping the ends out with a curling iron, pulling back the crown and securing it, and then spraying the front to look like side-swept bangs. I then secured the whole thing with hairspray. Needless to say, after two weeks of this, my ends were pretty crispy. So in order to treat my hair, I slathered on a few teaspoons of virgin coconut oil and left that in overnight before shampooing and conditioning the next day. It more or less revived my abused hair.

So that’s my hair routine. I’ve now covered most of my basic beauty routine. there are, of course, constant updates and tweaks, so in the future I can focus on those.



Musings and Updates

So I’ve been remiss about blogging the last few weeks. I was in tech for my show, and then auditioning. If my audition last night went well, things are about to calm down, I hope.

It’s been a hectic few weeks. I did not end up continuing my morning exercises, but with my show over and fewer physical demands on my person, I’ve made a plan to make the month of February my month to start the morning exercise habit. I’ve made a list of all the exercises I plan to do, sorted by warm-up, circuit, Pilates, or stretching, and set alarms three mornings per week to do a short workout consisting of a warm-up, either a circuit or a Pilates workout, and then stretching. And I’m going to go for a long walk or a light jog on the weekends. Hopefully, in addition to improving where I’ve softened over the last months, it will also improve my mood these dark, cold days of winter.

We’ve had a bit of snow lately, but not enough to close anything for any appreciable length of time. I haven’t had a chance to just go walking in the cold like I enjoy, so I will have to make time for that as well. Time outside always seems to improve my mood.

I’ve continued to refine and update my beauty routines. I tried making homemade cold cream. The recipe was a success, but I believe the cream might be a bit too much for my skin. It helped at first, but I’ve been feeling like my skin is congested. I’ve gotten samples of a cleansing oil and a cleansing balm, though, so those seem like something I could replicate with just a bit of fuss. The cleansing balm had an horrific odor, but I liked how it cleansed, so I might try making one of my own with exactly the oils, butters, and fragrance (or lack thereof) that I like. In the meantime, I’m alternating samples with my trusty Andalou cream.

I continue to enjoy the homemade facial balm I made a few weeks ago. It’s made from rendered lard, mix with grapeseed oil to make it softer, and some essential oils that are good for skin. I use it most nights, when I don’t have a fancy cream sample to play with, and still use my rosehip seed oil every other night.

Red lipstick has become a bit of a signature. I’m working on a post specifically on my thoughts about becoming a woman who wears red lipstick. Since my last makeup post, I’ve discovered unsavory things about the leadership of the company that made my go-to red lipstick, as well as discovering worries about lead in lipstick. Because I wear lipstick pretty much every day now, I’ve made some adjustments to my beauty routine. I’ve also add an eyeliner.

I’ve started buying more beauty products and doing my nails more often. I’ve joined Julep’s Maven program, but I don’t know how long I’ll keep it before starting what may prove to be the arduous process of cancelling. Maybe they’re improved over the years on that front. I can only hope.

I have some posts swirling around in my head, but I’ve been so busy and tired all the time. I ran into a friend of mine from another show who put it well: “You don’t let any grass grow under you, do you?” I enjoy chatting with him, not least because he has a very dapper sense of style. I may do a post on the dapper gentleman.

All in all, I can feel an upswing in my mood and energy, which is a good thing. Look forward to more coming in the next few weeks!

The Many Uses of Milk Bottles


This weekend I opened my play, and one of my lovely co-actors decided to surprise all of us with bouquets delivered in stealth to the dressing rooms. He’s in just one scene, while the rest of us are on stage most of the rest of the play, so he had plenty of time to leave presents. They were lovely and mysterious (for about a day, until someone spilled the beans), but I realized on the ride home that I didn’t have any vases! But I did have some milk bottles that I have yet to return.2015/01/img_0185.jpgI kind of love my little stash of milk bottles. They’re actually cream bottles. The brand of cream I like best for scones and such comes in glass bottles from a local dairy. And there’s a $2 deposit, but lately I’ve gotten lazy about returning them. But they come in so handy. As you can see, in addition to an impromptu vase, the bottles make wonderful storage for reusable straws.

When I first got my glass straws, I realized that I would have to clean them right away, and also that I would need to have some way to dry them standing up to avoid spots. I also wanted to keep them separate from the rest of the drying dishes so that they wouldn’t be overlooked and broken accidentally. The milk bottles proved to be the perfect solution. So far (knock wood) I haven’t broken any of my original straws, and I can keep them right there in the bottle with their little brush for easy drying and access.

Boyfriend even uses a milk bottle to store spare change. It’s probably about time for us to get coin rollers and turn it in at the bank, but it’s also a great way to make sure you always have quarters on hand for parking in meter-heavy areas.

I think that $2 for such a versatile little bottle is pretty nice! If I could come up with a way to cap them, they’d also make a lovely way to store drinks or homemade beauty products, or bath salts as a gift. And I love the vaguely rustic charm of having them out as a decoration. It’s easy and casual, but still not as casual as using a plastic bottle.

My Vintage-Inspired Beauty Routine, Part 4: Nails

We’ve covered face and body, and now I’d like to turn to my hands. As someone who does a lot of typing and work with my hands, nail polish is not a regular part of my beauty routine. But I do need to maintain nice-looking nails, and I occasionally like to give them the full treatment.

My main nail maintenance consists of keeping my nails trimmed and filed, and massaging some of my homemade lip and cuticle butter into my cuticles before bed every night. The mango butter and beeswax protects my hands and keeps my cuticles from drying out.


When I want pretty nails, I generally stick to classic colors: neutral pink or bright red. I also occiasionally reach for a gentle grey or a metallic gold, but red or pink are my go-to. When I’m feeling glamorous, I reach for red, but pink is for interviews and most stage shows.

When I’m painting my nails, I butter my nails the night before, but I avoid all creams and moisturizers the day I paint my nails. I trim and file them, and maybe push my cuticles after showing, but I try to keep them free of oils. I wipe them down with a bit of witch hazel just to remove and residual oil

Then, I apply two coats of nail polish, allowing my nails to dry pretty completely between each coat of polish. When that’s done, I apply a coat of Insta-Dri top coat to ensure things stay shiny and chip-free. The last time I did my nails, I was dumb enough to paint them the night before set-building for my play, and they managed to survive intact. Despite having a pretty manual job sometimes, my nails often survive four or five days with no chips at all, and a week with a moderate level of chipping.

It’s a pretty simple nail routine, but it adds just that little something to a vintage-inspired routine.

The Power of Red

The other day, I rolled into work and flashed a smile and at the security guard.

“What a bright smile!” he exclaimed as he waved me through. A nice moment.

And yet, it was a surprisingly profound moment for me. You see, as a child, I almost never smiled. I had nice enough teeth. Not so bad I needed braces, but not the perfectly-straight smile that my friends who had suffered through braces had. And I just felt awkward smiling. My childhood photos are shot after shot of my tight-lipped, awkwardly stretched, close-mouthed almost-smile. Combined with heavy eyebrows and straight, almost-black hair, I cut a severe figure as a child. And it didn’t get much better as I got older.

As I started getting back into theater and needing photos for auditions, I found one friend with a nice camera who was adept at catching my rare smiles, and even eliciting them with his dry, self-conscious humor. He said I had a lovely unconscious smile, and strove to catch those, as well as the occasional laughing, mouth-open smile. For a long time, my favorite shot was one of me looking down, hands clasped, smiling privately.

But it was effort to get those shots.

As soon as I started wearing red lipstick more often, I realized that I wanted to smile more. I felt like a movie star. I felt more outgoing. Poppy King once said that women who worry they don’t have the confidence to wear red lipstick are getting it backward because red lipstick will give you confidence, and she’s not wrong. Red lipstick is like armor for my face. I feel instantly brighter and more alive. It perks up my face and my spirits.

So even though I don’t wear it every day, I’m increasing every week. Whenever I feel tired or frustrated or run-down or some other form of not-best, I reach for my red. And when I do, I instantly feel lifted. I highly recommend it.

For years, I focused on black eyeliner as my makeup look of choice, thinking that I couldn’t wear red lipstick because the few times I tried it, the shade I chose looked off. Then, I went and tested different shades at a store that had lots of different shades. And I learned that my skin tone tends to make lipsticks look cooler on my face than in the tube. So I started gravitating towards orange-based reds rather than true or blue-based reds, at least for every day use. The little bit of orange warms up the look and tones down the red-ness of it just enough that it doesn’t feel like Halloween.

I highly recommend that every woman try to find that perfect red for her. Go to the drugstore or the beauty supply store or Sephora (if you’re so lucky) and try some on.

My Vintage-Inspired Beauty Routine, An Interlude: Stage Makeup

Tonight is opening night for the show I’m in currently. Most of the shows in which I’ve performed have been period pieces, ranging from Victorian times to the 1970s, so my vintage-inspired beauty has transitioned nicely to my stage makeup routine. But I don’t want to be without my everyday makeup for the run of a show, and it’s nice not to cart things back and forth. So I have a less expensive version of my makeup bag to keep in the dressing room.

Most of the theaters in which I perform are smaller, black-box type theaters, and don’t require formal stage makeup. Those that are larger have refined enough lighting not to require a Ben Nye or Mehron stage makeup kit. So my “stage makeup” kit is a collection of drugstore makeup that works well.

I have a heavy-duty concealer from NYX, their Full-Coverage Concealer Jar, to cover undereye circles and larger blemishes. I layer this with NYX Mineral Stick foundation. It reminds me of Pan-Stik. It’s quick, too: I can just swipe on some stripes and blend it in. I keep a second pan of NYX Cream Blush in Glow to give my cheeks color. I like NYX cosmetics for the stage because they are inexpensive, but good quality, and they make quite a few things that are free of some of the chemicals I try to avoid. If I need to have a more powdery finish, or if the stage lights are particularly hot, I can also use Rimmel Stay Matte foundation.

With my base done, I move to eyes. I have two matte eyeshadows from Jane Cosmetics: Clay, a warm light-to-medium brown, and Birch, a darker, cooler brown. I use Birch in my crease to add dimension to my eyes, and then Clay to add further definition. I have two liquid eyeliners: a brown one from e.l.f. for a subtle look and for under my eyes, and a black Milani Eye Tech Extreme pen for heavier eye liner and cat’s-eyes. I also have a L’Oreal kajal pencil for very heavy black eye makeup. I finish off with NYX Le Frou Frou mascara.

On my lips, I tend to take from my Revlon lipstick collection if I need distinctive colors. For more natural looks, I use a Burt’s Bees tinted lip balm in Sweet Violet. It’s just enough color to make my lips visible from the stage, without looking too done. My Revlon lipsticks are serving me well for this show, which is partially set in the 1940s, the era of red lipstick. Also, I’m starting to move away from my Revlon lipsticks for every day use, but that is another post.

At the end of the night, I have to take it all off. Backstage, I keep a pack of Burt’s Bees makeup wipes for sensitive skin as my first line of defense. Then, when I get home, cold cream and a warm cloth gets rid of the rest. Even though I use standard makeup, it’s still a lot more makeup than I’m used to, so I make sure to take care of my skin well. Having an ultra-simplified nighttime routine makes it even easier to force myself to wash up, even when it’s hours later than I usually go to bed. And during weekends, and after the show, I give myself plenty of drawing clay masks, and pay plenty of attention to my skin to make sure I don’t end up with congestion and breakouts. And at the end of the run of a show, I like to go for a facial, just to tune things up and make sure there aren’t any problems waiting to come out.

A Sunny Little Tea

The other night, one of the other actors in the play I’m in right now brought a packet of tea to rehearsal. You see, we keep a kettle and a tea box so we can make tea while we rehearse in the cold rehearsal space we have, and she thought she’d share the tea she makes herself. It was a sample pack of green tea with lemon flavors and herbs. Now, it just so happened that that night was the last night we were to be in the rehearsal space before moving into the theater, so when the tea hadn’t been touched by the time we were done, I decided to take it home to try it.

It’s in tea bags, which is not my usual tea vehicle, but they do sell loose versions of all their blends. Her company is called Herban Avenues and her Green Lemon tea is just delicious. It has a nice touch of lemon flavor, and isn’t too astringent from the green tea. I like it in the mornings because the bulk of herbs cuts the caffeine from the green tea and I can have a cup in the morning without worrying about having too much caffeine if I have more tea at work.

I’m thinking about making an order and trying some more of her blends. They have black tea, rooibos tea, green tea, and herbal blends. The Lavender Earl Grey sounds particularly interesting, as do some of the herbal blends. I like knowing about small companies like this to which I can turn when I don’t want to take the time making all my own blends. I foresee stocking my tea tin with these teas in the future!

Although I did technically get this tea sample for free, I’m pretty sure my friend doesn’t even know about this blog or that I’m writing about her tea on it, so my review is in no way beholden to her. I just really like her tea. I hope you’ll try it, too.

A Victorian Calisthenics Workout

It’s January, and I’ve been lazy through the holidays. Coupled with the lack of sleep from late-night rehearsals, and I’ve found myself feeling run-down. This week, I decided I ought to do something about this. I ought to get up earlier and eat healthier. And I ought to exercise.

But what to do when it’s below freezing and dark outside in the morning? I could do yoga, but I’ve found myself getting bored with my yoga routine lately. And then I found a couple articles on zero-equpiment circuit routines. It made me think, hey, how did people exercise before things like yoga and running and six thousand machines came to the US? I mean, the short answer is that they didn’t because people in the past either didn’t realize the benefits of exercise, or else they led strenuous enough lives not to need specific exercise time.

And then I did some research and found this site, which reproduces a Victorian manual for women’s calisthenics. Now, I always thought of calisthenics as zero-equipment exercises that are usually used for warm-ups. But this manual seems to make the distinction between calisthenics and gymnastics, perhaps suggesting that women ought not to do the jumping around that gymnastics involved. But even the equipment is very minimal. Most of the exercises can be done with dumbbells, a lightweight wand of wood (like a broom handle), and a resistance band. And the free exercises, in addition to being a wonderful light workout, look like great actor’s warmups. I might bring them out before performances this week.

Now, it’s interesting that this Victorian reference specifically recommends strength-building exercises for women when so much conventional wisdom of the time (persisting into the 20th century) was that exercise would harm women. But with so many women experiencing muscle atrophy from corset-wearing, the author makes a good point that strength exercises are necessary for beauty. It’s the same idea behind Pilates, which is another vintage system of exercise. In addition, dancers have trained more strenuously for centuries.

So I’ve come up with a simple, low- or no-equipment plan for increasing my strength using vintage exercise. This morning, without the benefit of having dug my weight equipment out of the closet, I did a zero-equipment workout consisting of more modern-accepted calisthenics, like pushups, squats, windmills, and planks. I warmed up with some arm and foot circles, then then alternated exercises every thirty seconds for a little over ten minutes. Then, I finished off with a stretching routine I developed to increase my flexibility as a dancer. Perhaps in the future I’ll incorporate some Pilates or some of the Victorian calisthenics with a band or dumbbells, and even add some dancing to my routine. In the spring, when the weather warms, I can even do my routine outside.

A Very Busy Weekend Indeed

Well, I’m heading into Tech Week for the play in which I am currently involved, so the coming week promises to be hectic. We actually started yesterday, when I spent almost twelve hours out, moving and building set pieces, checking costumes, doing a cue-to-cue rehearsal, and then topped it all off with another audition in the evening!

But it all started Saturday. I realized that Sunday’s busy schedule meant I would not be free to prep food for my week. It was doubly critical to have healthy homemade food this week because tech means eating dinners out and having a lot of stress and not nearly enough sleep. So homemade breakfasts and lunches were essential. But they also had to be really quick, so I could throw them together even when I chose to sleep an extra half hour instead of getting up to get ready on time. I also wanted to make sure I had a healthy choice for building day Sunday because it looked like it was going to be all donuts and pizza and soda.

So I spent Saturday cooking. I made a winter vegetable lasagna that turned out pretty well. There are still one or two more tweaks to make before I deem it perfect and put it on the blog. Perhaps next weekend I’ll make another. But it was made with a base of pureed winter squash thinned with a little broth instead of tomato sauce, and then layered with sauteed portobella mushrooms, baby spinach, grana padano cheese, and whole wheat no-bake lasagna noodles. It was just cheesy enough without being too rich, and packed full of veggies. I also made egg muffins, which are kind of like mini crustless quiches. Just eggs whisked up with some chopped steamed kale, roasted grape tomatoes, salt, pepper, and garlic powder, all poured into muffin cups and baked. Then, just because I could, I finally made Conor’s Dreaded Sausage Rolls, although I went more traditional with sage and garlic sausage, mainly because I didn’t have fennel. They were still amazing. Almost too good to dip in HP sauce. Almost. There were even a few left over!

Thoroughly exhausted, I fell into bed on Saturday. I awoke bright and early on Sunday, and showered. I put on grubby clothes for building, and packed up my audition things in one bag, and my stage prep kits in another. Audition things were nice clothes, my everyday makeup kit, my portfolio with my audition materials, and jewelry. Stage prep included my stage makeup bag, Spanx, spare stockings, heavy-duty hairspray, and styling tools. Then, I made a cup of tea in my travel mug and pureed some mango that I had defrosted the day before. This I strained and added turmeric and ginger for a base for kefir-mango lassis for breakfasts this week. I was out the door more-or-less on time to help load the truck and move all our props, costumes, and sets to the theater.

There, we assembled the set in place, which meant I got to use the drill a lot. I like using the drill; it gives one a sense of purpose. I also got to share my egg muffins with the cast, who were dubious of the idea of kale for breakfast, but tried them just the same. Still, I’ve got a few leftover for this week’s breakfasts. I was glad to have them. I lasted much longer on two of those and a single donut than I would have if I had had only donuts to keep me running. With my travel mug of good Assam tea, I was ready for the morning. The afternoon was mostly checking costumes and props, and then we did our cue-to-cue rehearsal. I got out with just enough time to change into nicer clothes and do my makeup in the car for my audition. I did my standard minimal makeup routine, with a neutral lip, so I looked like myself, only better.

After the audition, which was blessedly shorter than I thought it would be, I made my way home, where Boyfriend had saved my the leftover sausage rolls. I scarfed them down and had a glass of homemade hard cider while dozing off to an episode of Poirot. Monday has found me ready for my week, with provisions to be well fed, and the determination to face this week head-on!

My Other Tea Cup

In most of my tea photos, I tend to use one cup and saucer set. I got it from my mom years ago and it’s my favorite. The inside is becoming stained and the glaze is starting to crackle, but it’s still my tea cup.


But I do have another tea cup, shown up there filled with my Gardener’s Herbal Tea Blend. It’s a blue flowered one with a little chip on the rim. I got it as the favor at a bridal shower a couple years ago. I like the feel of it. It’s a thinner china with a more delicate handle. It’s a little easier to spill. It also feels smoother, so I like to drink matcha out of it when I drink matcha because I feel like the sediment doesn’t stick to the inside so badly.

It may seem silly to devote an entire (albeit short) blog post to a tea cup, but I actually don’t have many of them outside of my china set. It’s a holdover from my more minimalist days, when I first struck out on my own again after a divorce. I figured the fewer dishes I had, the fewer I had to pile up while living alone. But this act of restraint makes those dishes I do have so much more special and meaningful. Yes, I have service for eight if I want to have a tea party, but on a day-to-day basis, I have my tea cup that I wash in the evening and use fresh in the morning. Or I have this one. My other tea cup.