About Me,  budgeting,  motherhood

Momcuts, cosmetic hacks and how I effortlessly trimmed my beauty budget

I’m sitting in my favorite coffee shop waiting for the barber shop next store to work me in for a fresh summer lob, aka a long bob, aka a mommy cut. It finally turned summer in Denver this morning, and as soon as the mercury hit 71 degrees, I started sweating like a feral creature and decided my 4 superfluous inches of ponytail had to go.

A barber shop, you ask? Yes, but not Merle’s manly corner, or some hometown staple with that iconic stripey pole. Floyd’s styles itself as a kind of hipster unisex salon, and there were plenty of ladies in waiting when I walked in to put my name down. Plus, they do same day appointments and I’m now, at age 32, somewhere beyond Great Clips but not quite to the level of actual salon.

So, fingers crossed that this ends well. (I have stick-straight fine hair, so I can take the liberty of letting basically anyone with a human brain and sharp scissors have at it and expect to end up looking reasonably fine.)

Later this exciting afternoon I will also chug 60 grams of red dye #40 + sucrose and get all my blood work done, so you might say I’m having what they call a “girl’s day out,” just me and the bump. It’s pretty fabulous.

What else is pretty fabulous is this: I realized recently that I’ve basically spent zero dollars on anything for my hair or face in the past 3 months, and I looked up this morning to realize that I haven’t had a single breakout in that time, and that my hair has never looked better.

I don’t think it’s the pregnancy hormones, either, since historically I’ve been plagued with really oily not at all luscious looking locks during the long 9, and usually my face reverts to junior high level hijinks.

So what is different this time?

Brace yourselves.

I’m using almost nothing in the way of beauty products.

I say almost nothing because you can pry my Arbonne tinted sunscreen and bronzer from my cold dead hands, and I do still wear deodorant (Arm and Hammer natural gel stick, for reference), but I haven’t purchased shampoo, conditioner, face wash, or body wash since I really can’t remember.

I didn’t exactly set out to become a personal care minimalist, but when I stopped shopping at Target I suddenly found myself out of my usual hair products one morning in the shower, and so I reached for the baby body wash instead…and I haven’t looked back since.

I’d estimate that in the past 4 months, I’ve actual real adult shampoo maybe 4 times. And conditioner? Maybe twice. And my hair looks amazing.

I’ve dabbled in the exhilarating world of no ‘poo on and off for a while now, but I never had much success with the baking soda/apple cider vinegar regimen. I looked greasy because I was greasy, and the bathroom smelled weird too. For a while I was using my trusty Aztec magical healing clay (you know the stuff) as a kind of hair masque and then rinsing with ACV every other week or so, but I still looked, wait for it…like I was washing my hair with dirt. (Um, because I was. Stuff makes a mean face mask though.)

So why are you telling us this, Jenny? It’s really boring and weird that you keep trying to use edible ingredients in the shower.

know. But it’s just that my hair never behaves like I want it to, and I thought if I kept plugging away I’d happen upon the right combo of science experiment ingredients and bam, I’d have myself a Grace Patton mane.

And then the darndest thing happened, and it was sitting in the kids’ bathroom all along. This baby wash, used 2-3 times per week, as a shampoo, and nothing else. And my hair looks legitimately amazing. Thanks, Costco for carrying it in a double pack.

And now for the face. Now, I do still use Arbonne’s spf oil free day lotion (do not buy this from Amazon, buy it from my bff Elizabeth and get it way cheaper than this), morning and night (weird, I know, but I like the way it feels) but I’ve started washing my face with an actual old school bar of Dove. Which costs like, I don’t know, $1.35, and I can literally scrub it directly across my mascara-smeared eyelids – like take the bar itself and smear it on like eye black – and the mascara washes right off. And all the rest of my makeup. And my skin looks amazing and I’ve had zero breakouts since I began doing this.

Your takeaways from this post should be thus: 1. my deeper thoughts and more nuanced material apparently only come out when my children are actually mewling about my ankles trying to beat the laptop out of my hands, so maybe it’s good that I don’t get out more? and 2. I’ve spent approximately $50000 too much on beauty products during the last 2 decades, and I feel deep regret.

But my skin looks great.

Any stupid beauty hacks of your own to share? (I should probably also mention the baking soda-whitened smile I’ve been meaning to reclaim. I’m coming for you, pantry shelf.)


  • Tia

    I don’t use any soap, sunscreen or chemicals on my face, at all. I suffered with acne for two decades, used Retin-A, accutane, benzyl peroxide, specialized cleansers, etc. etc. You name it, I’ve tried it. The acne kept showing up and my face looked red and scaly from all the chemicals used to carpet bomb the breakouts. So I stopped after college and haven’t noticed any difference. When I feel like my face is greasy or dulled from dead skin I just use spend a lot of time in a hot shower and rub off the dead skin or toss some olive oil and sugar together for some exfoliation.
    My hair beauty secret is that I rarely brush it and try to avoid ponytail holders, instead using those little sticks or clips or braiding it. Apparently pony tail holders weaken hair at one spot, making split ends more likely. Also, I just condition the ends and just use shampoo at the top sparingly, another tip I found on a blog about how to grow your hair really long. Of course, take that with a grain of salt as my hair often looks like a rat’s nest, or as my Russian grandma-in-law would say, “starri” (old). But when I do brush my hair for special occasions, it looks really healthy. Every time I go to a salon and say it’s been 2 years since my last cut, they’re always shocked because the ends have held up so well. The secret is doing as little as possible to it.
    However, no ‘poo is a bridge too far. I saw the effects firsthand when I lived in a hippie commune-ish place. It seemed like people’s hair adjusted…eventually. Like in two years. I wasn’t ever prepared for two years of greasy dreads though.

  • Ellen Johnson

    My only beauty hack/secret is kind of duh, but I really wish I could go back in time and smack my pimply teenaged and college years self and tell her to stop eating so much sugar and drink some flipping water. Every time I make a batch of cookies (i.e., eat half the batter), I break out the very next day, but if I keep the sugar to a minimum and chug water all day, my skin is perfect.

  • Jen @ Into Your Will

    Ah, the Honest shampoo + body wash is my fave! And I totally jumped for joy when it was on sale at Costco this last month. As for my beauty hacks, I don’t really have any since I really just wash my face (Olivella bar soap, usually) and occasionally put on Arbonne day creme/moisturizer. Less is more, I think!

  • Rachel

    My most beloved beauty hack is this: I wash my hair once a week, if that, and use powder dry shampoo in the meantime. I let my long locks mostly air dry and then I do this awesome no-heat curls method where I wrap my hair up in this elastic headband and go to sleep. When I wake up, I have volume and it looks like I spent an hour on my hair, when I actually spent about 3 minutes of time. It’s the bomb.

  • Deb

    I literally have not washed my face outside of the shower in 8 years. I long suffered from acne and just got tired of the creams/magic potions that we’re supposed to work. Lo and behold, things cleared up! I would still get little breakouts around ovulation, but a better diet helped with that too. I use Cetaphil as my moisturizer in the morning but when that’s used up I’ll likely try straight up coconut oil. The only things I use in the shower are 2-in-1 Pantene (admittedly not the greatest but I love how light my hair feels) and a bar of Irish Spring.

  • Kathleen

    So I’m the one who suggested the Aztec stuff for your hair on your FB page 🙂 I think it cleans well and – hello lion mane – but I agree about the gritty feeling. I use it about twice a month on my hair.

    For my face, I use Oil Cleansing Method & I love it. Leaves the skin soft & radiant. A few times a week, I add a teaspoon baking soda for a natural microdermabrasion

    • Kathleen

      Also I’m about 10 days away from my 39th birthday… I didn’t notice under eye wrinkles till I turned 35, but I swear by Vaseline as nighttime eye cream. Best ever

      • Greta

        Vaseline really is the best – face “cream”, pat it on when your face is slightly wet. I have been using it for years. And great for so many other things (cracked heels, etc.)

  • Diana

    I had no success with the AC vinegar and baking soda method of no-poo. I realllllly tried for about 6 weeks but my hair just always felt gross. I’m glad I tried it though. If I straighten my hair I go up to 5 days between washes but that doesn’t seem to work as well when I let it be curly. Or I’m just super annoyed and need it wet every day to calm it down.

  • heather

    Ooooooh, good hacks! My suggestion for face stuff is Vitamin E oil. I get the Jason brand, and thats all I’ve used since I was pregnant (and he’s 16 months old now) no more complicated facial regimes.

    I have course, wavey hair, so Im not sure if nothing on it to weigh it down would work for me 🙁 my hair always looks best a day or two after a wash. I only wash my hair about twice a week….perhaps that’s my hack? 😀

  • Kara

    I went to the dermatologist years ago. YEARS! She mentioned several soaps to use to clean my face, one being Dove’s unscented, sensitive skin beauty bar. That was 17 years ago and it is still my go-to face cleaning product. Like you, I love the cost, but more than that – it works!!

  • Rachel

    I just found out that my beloved SPF/tinted moisturizer is discontinued. I would love to get the info on how to order one that you raved about from your friend!

  • Liz

    My favorite beauty hack is witch hazel. It is both a toner and an astringent. It has wonderful anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. It’s great for drying up a zit, or calming down the itch of a bug bite, but just nice in general for “waking up” the skin. Gives a really vibrant complexion. It also works great for razor burn! My husband uses it as an after-shave.

  • Cami

    I make my own lotion bars (like a bar of soap but it’s lotion that melts into your skin on contact) and mouthwash. We’ve saved money and I control what goes in them!

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