Even for an introvert...I'm bored.
In my neck of the woods, we've been in *lockdown* since March 13, which was my kids' last day of school. For those of you who just loooooove numbers, that's 21.5 weeks or 152 days.
At first? I was trying to look at the glass as half full. (I know, I know. Please, hold your shock.) This new pandemic is horrific; any loss of life is NEVER worth whatever values we try to justify in our feeble, self-centered human minds, and there can be no denying this has had grave consequences on health (both physical and mental), the economy, education, and the state of society at large. But those are things I have no control over. And if there's one thing I've learned after 40 years on this planet, it's to only expend precious time and energy on the things I can control. So, yeah. I was happy for a break from the rat race. Our family spent oodles of quality time together—watching shows we couldn't when we were so busy, generally enjoying each other's company, doing jigsaw puzzles, and getting our old house ready to sell then moving into our new house (that's an entirely different ball of wax all on its own).
As time crept along, and this new Big Bad humanity is facing didn't just fade away, all the novelty and silver lining of being quarantined started to well...tarnish a little.
We're all in the same boat though, and we're all coping in different ways however we can. So, I thought I'd share with you some of the things that I've been spending money on during the time of quarantine. (Besides book production because...well...that's my job.)
Y'all know how I love my Buzzfeed. I think I've actually taken every quiz they've ever created at this point. Some of their articles on my social media feeds have become quite clickbait cliché obvious though, so I'm losing my love for the site. But... BUT!
Did you know they have product recommendation articles??? Hoo boy, do they! So, naturally—with all this free time on my hands—I gobbled them up! Some of my purchases were total winners, others...not so much.
I know I'm an author, and you usually prefer book reviews from me, but, um... Did I mention I'm getting bored???
(Do not @ me with pleas for Alex's book. Don't do it. It'll happen when it happens!)
Okay, ahem, moving on.
I have seriously oily, acne-prone skin, but at 40, it's also starting to show signs of aging, so I've been looking into changing up my skincare routine. I was under the impression quality skincare had to cost a pretty penny to be effective, and I would do practically anything to have healthy, clear skin. Brands I've tried in the past include Origins, Clinique, Lush, ProActiv, Rodan & Fields, Glam Glow (honestly, I blame Nick Bateman for getting me to try that, which I, in turn, blame Colleen Hoover for getting me excited about an Ugly Love movie that never happened, but I digress), The Ordinary, Sunday Riley... The list is long. They were all...eh. And they were all EXPENSIVE.
This new routine though? Cheap, easy, and most importantly...EFFECTIVE. My skin honestly looks and feels better than it ever has.
Cleanser: CeraVe foaming face wash for oily skin
With niacinimide to reduce oil production and hyaluronic acid to hydrate without adding grease, this stuff is gold in a bottle. It cleanses thoroughly without overdrying, and really delivers on its promise to keep skin matte fresh all day long (even in the summer humidity!).
You can get it on Amazon for only $14.99. Way cheaper than the other stuff I've tried.
Toner: Thayer's witch hazel toner
It comes in several different formulations. Buzzfeed rec'd the rose, but I use the cucumber because it's hot as all get out, and I want something a little refreshing. This stuff delivers. Did I mention my skin is clearer than it has ever been? Yeah. And all without being irritated by harsh chemicals. Keep it in the fridge for an extra burst of cooling aaaah in between sweating your body weight off while weeding your garden.
Also available on Amazon for $8.75. Why did I ever spend so much before??
Moisturizer: This one's a little trickier because yeah. My skin isn't a spring chicken anymore, but the wrong kind of moisture can still leave me looking like a greased cookie sheet. (I'm not joking. Not even a little.) I used to absolutely adore Erno Laszlo White Marble Translucence Cream, but at $125/jar, I just can't afford the caviar-tier stuff on the reg. After two jars that I babied for years, I also noticed it was making me greasier than it had in the beginning. Currently, I'm trying out Paula's Choice skin balancing moisture gel with niacinimide and hyaluronic acid. (Hey, I figure that's a winning formula for the face wash, so hopefully, it'll be good as a moisturizer, too? I dunno. Jury's still out.) And also? It's only $29 on Amazon. That's a much easier to swallow price tag, even if it doesn't work out.
Eye cream: I turned the big 4-0 in November, and I'm not gonna lie. My body and skin are starting to show it. I still firmly believe that aging is a privilege not everyone gets to experience, and we need to embrace all that comes along with it, but that shouldn't also mean sacrificing self-care and age-appropriate health. (In case you're wondering, skin is the largest organ of your body, and it very much reflects your overall health. Taking good care of it isn't narcissistic. It's just smart.) I wake up with bags under my eyes; I have laugh lines and the beginnings of crow's feet, and the skin on my eyelids is becoming crepey enough to make applying eyeshadow and eyeliner a challenge. Because my skin is so naturally oily, I have a really, really difficult time with eye creams. I'm still on the hunt for a good one, so if you have any recs, please share!!!
While I haven't found the unicorn of eye creams yet, I have discovered a secret weapon for faking a full night of sleep and drinking your requisite amount of water every day—Dr. Brandt Needles No More No More Baggage eye depuffing gel. This stuff does not fall under the cheap category at $42/tube. But...it delivers on its promises. I got author KC Enders hooked on it, and she insists on calling it Dr. Bagby Eye Magic (which I love; which is true...sorta) A word of caution: it says you can apply it over makeup for a quick touch up, but this is a LIE. Don't do it! It turns into a pencil eraser shaving sort of texture, and the orange color of the gel messes with your carefully applied concealer. A little of this stuff goes a long way. You do not want to glob it on there. You also need to PAT and not rub it in. And do this BEFORE applying your makeup! Give it a few minutes to set in between and literally watch the magic unfold in the mirror! You can get it at Sephora.
Anyone who knows me—whether you've met me at a signing or just watched my randomly stupid videos on social media—knows I have thick, unruly, curly hair. And that presents its own set of challenges because curly hair is notoriously dry, coarse, and frizzy. But my skin (including my scalp) is also naturally oily. What's a woman to do?
Well...basically the same thing I do in every other aspect of my life. Wing it.
My hairdresser at Ulta (Nadine is a goddess who can tame my locks like no one else, and I miss her dearly these days), recommended Deva Curl to me. Like all the other stuff I've tried...it's pricey. And because my hair is so thick and so long, I have to use A LOT of product. I used to go through a jumbo-sized conditioner bottle in two weeks, flat. BUT! Something I didn't know before her sage advice...curly hair should NOT be washed every day. (Assuming any of us are showering every day anymore, which is likely not the case. Who do we have to impress? Our couch? And before you suggest my husband, I want you to know he freely signed on for this shit show. We have a standing agreement the only way out of our marriage is death—whether by natural causes or homicide remains to be seen if this carries on another 150 days. My kids also do not count because giving birth to them wasn't exactly a clean, refreshing, easy experience, so the way I see it, they can put up with me not showering every day.) Nadine also steered me in the direction of co-wash (short for conditioning wash), which I'd never tried before. I was hesitant. If there's no suds, then my hair and scalp aren't getting clean, right? WRONG. So, so, so wrong. Co-wash has changed my life (okay, that's a bit dramatic, but you get my point). Being the hillbilly that I am though, I went on the hunt for a cheaper knockoff that delivers the same thing. And I found it.
Shampoo: Aussie Miracle Curls Co-Wash
Delivers cleansing, softening hydration to curls every bit as well as DevaCurl for less than half the cost. It really does cleanse your scalp, too! I usually buy it at my local Wal-Mart, but it's been hit and miss in stock these days. If you're into having everything possible delivered (like me), then you can buy a 2 pack on Amazon for $17.20.
Conditioner: Aussie Miracle Curls Conditioner
Because I like matching, okay??? Also available on Amazon for $15.82/2-pack, but you can likely find it at your local Wal-Mart. I have no idea why the conditioner is cheaper than the co-wash, honestly. This is still a helluva lot cheaper than DevaCurl for the same results, and I've heard troubling rumors that DC causes hair fall. I'm not sure how true that is since I shed more than a dog every day, but...
Hair mask: Sebastian Twisted Elastic Treatment
Because curly, coarse hair needs an extra oomph of moisture at least weekly. I found a packet of this in a giant Tupperware bin of samples that I packed en masse from the old house when I decided to have a spa day with my girls in the new bathroom. I would never have considered Sebastian brand before this, but OMG. It felt amazing! Clean, not overpowering scent, spreads through even the thickest hair evenly with ease, and the results were wow! My curls were springier than when I was 13! This is now a staple in my haircare routine. I'm surprised neither Ulta nor Sephora keep it in stock, but you can find it on Amazon. I've never seen it at a salon before, so this one might be harder to hunt down in the wild. It's a little pricier at nearly $20 for a 5oz. jar, but well worth the splurge.
Styling product: Lush R&B
I literally have an entire drawerful of curly hair styling products. If it exists, I've tried it. All price ranges. I hate the crunchy texture that most styling products for curly hair create. And honestly, with the thick, long nature of my hair, I have to use a lot. Most of it flakes and just makes me look like I suffer from a horrible case of dandruff. If I can't use the amount I need to, then I look like I stuck my finger in an electrical socket. Lose-lose. Y'all know I have a slight Lush problem, but I'm hesitant about using too much of their line other than the occasional bath bomb because it just...does not work well with my skin. I suspect it's the glycerine they love to use in their formulations (which is a huge NO for acne-prone skin). Also, they're pricey. And I have a lot of hair. I mean...A LOT. Those little bottles just don't do it for me because I use them up so fast. And their amazing-smelling line of solid shampoo and conditioner? Forget it. They don't penetrate my thickness (that sounds so dirty, hehe), and they leave my hair a tangled mess. For all these reasons, I'd never tried any of their hair styling products. Until I did. Because I'm BORED.
R&B is technically listed as a hair "treatment," but I use it as a styling product. Since I only wash and need to style from scratch 2 times/week, I can stomach the price tag a little easier. The smallest size is $25, and the largest is $70. If that makes you shudder, just know it does the same for me. My hair, sadly, does not agree. Get it directly from Lush.
Refreshing spray: Davines OI All in One Milk
Since I only wash and style twice a week, I need something to tame the frizz and refresh my curls in between. (No, I'm not going live every day in my FB group. Neither am I seeing people other than my family, but honestly? Look good for yourself, my ladies. It does wonders for your mental health and productivity in these chaotic times. But you know...in moderation. I'm not slapping on false eyelashes and wearing a bra every day just to get work done either. I will wear red lipstick while doing dishes before I even THINK about putting on a bra tbh.)
I got a sample of this stuff in an IPSY bag a while back before I discontinued my subscription. (Because some c*nt stole my credit card info directly from their unsecured website and went on a shopping spree to the tune of several hundred dollars that IPSY would not correct, so I had to go through my bank to dispute the charges. This is me, blatantly warning you.)
Anyway...I loved this stuff from the first spritz. It's like perfume for your hair. Have you ever wondered what it was like to be Cleopatra with her royal beauty routine that made even Caesar stand up and take notice? This is probably as close as the modern-day woman will ever come. If historical reenactments are your thing, then go ahead and take an actual milk bath before rolling yourself up in a rug and asking your non-existent servants to deliver you to your all-powerful imaginary lover, but... Just get this stuff and spray it on your hair. It's easier. No murder-suicides necessary. I've only ever been able to find this on Amazon.
This is another splurge item at $35 for a measly 4.5oz, but hello? CLEOPATRA. HAIR.
Also? It works great on any hair type. I use it on my daughters all the time, too.
I'd love to be able to give you some makeup and clothes recs, but uh...like I said. I'm not going overboard. And...I've lost 10 lbs since being diagnosed with diabetes and going on a serious diet, so I don't want to buy anything new until my weight has stabilized.
(Yes, I'm totally bragging. Thankyouverymuch.)
So, that's it! I know this is a departure from my usual (rare) blog posts, but I hope you enjoy taking a peek into my every day life! And I really, really hope you can find some useful products for yourself, whether to save a buck or to splurge a little!
While this post has been fun to write (and hopefully, fun to read!), I'm acutely aware many of us are facing dire financial, emotional, and life-altering or endangering scenarios every day in this not-so-brave new world. I grew up so damn poor (more on that to come in a newsletter) that I'm still grateful every day for Kleenex instead of toilet paper to blow my freaking nose. No. I'm not kidding. So, I fully empathize with what so many are facing in this current landscape of uncertainty.
In my upcoming novel, Homebound, the main characters are born and raised in the poverty-stricken mountains of Appalachia (not unlike my childhood). Jesse—who is a freshly minted high school principal—institutes something in his school called "action gifts." Because actions speak louder than words.
To that end, even though the Amazon links above are affiliate links (for which I receive a percentage royalty if you purchase through that link), I'd like to offer someone a chance to win all the above products.
The only catch? Pay it forward. Nominate someone you know is going through a hard time right now and could use a pick me up. As I said before, we're all in this leaking life raft together. We can either drown each other by trying to float on someone else's back, or we can link hands and ride the waves.
You can respond directly to this blog post with your nomination or reach out to me anywhere I'm on social media. The links are all on the website. I'll also make posts on those sites for you to find everything more easily.
***Fine print: You must be able to provide shipping information for whomever you nominate. I will accept global entries, but please understand not all of the above items may be available for international shipping. I'll do my very best. I'll even throw in some extra goodies, too. Amazon is not responsible; Sephora is not responsible; Nadine is not responsible; Buzzfeed is not responsible; social media sites are not responsible, blah blah void where prohibited by law blah. You get the gist.***
Take care, my loves. Of yourself. Of each other. We're all we've got after all. <3