Beauty without breaking the bank

February 22, 2013|Alicia Notarianni | Making Ends Meet

I had a fabulous old friend drop in unexpectedly the other morning. She was in town briefly and called and stopped by on a whim early, before my kids were even up for school.

I shuffled my way to the door blurry eyed, still in my pajamas, to greet her. We hadn't seen each other for quite some time. She looked to me as if she had discovered the fountain of youth, barely aging at all in the 13 years I've known her.

Her comments to me regarding my appearance spawned confusion, in part because I was in a half-sleep state and in part because I am a woman with a basic maintenance plan.

"Your lashes! Did you have them done?" she asked.

I gazed at her in confusion as she continued to repeat the question.

"My brows?" I finally said, confused as to what I might have "had done" to my lashes.

"No, no, no. Your lashes," she insisted. "You just wake up with them looking this way?"

Many women I know have their eyebrows "done," as in waxing. Though my Italian lineage bestows upon my family a formidable brow, I tackle mine on my own the same way my grandparents did — with a set of tweezers.

As the early morning webs disembarked from my brain, I began to recall that a co-worker had recently told me she had her lashes "done." One day she arrived at work looking extra bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I knew she looked especially vibrant but I couldn't put my finger on what it was.

That's when she clued me in to semi-permanent eyelashes or eyelash extensions. Up until then, I hadn't known such a thing existed, let alone was available for a moderate fee to the average woman.

I barely have my hair trimmed on a regular basis. I certainly haven't been remunerating for lash treatments. Truth be told regarding my morning lashes, I was wearing leftover mascara from the previous day.

I'm not much for a strict beauty regimen. While I know higher maintenance women might gasp in horror, I sometimes — no — frequently, fall asleep without washing my face. I tell myself natural oils are good for preventing dry skin, that it is a relaxed, European approach. I probably should care more, work harder. But I'm tired. And regimens are costly.

So I'm likely the last person you'll want to hear dispensing upmarket, trendy beauty advice. I'll honor that.

However, like my ancestors with their tweezers, I can speak with some credence on inexpensive ideas that cover the basics. I've gathered them over the years from family, friends, magazines, and in some cases, even medical experts.

  • I fully ascribe to daily use of a good moisturizer. For wrinkles, I spoke with my teen's dermatologist. He said I could make an appointment and get my own tube, or use the Tretinoin gel that my child decided to forego. It is a component of many commercial products that are advertised as being able to slow skin aging or to remove wrinkles.
  • I don't think tooth-whitening ever occurred to my parents. Now it seems to have become the norm. While a variety of off-brand whiteners grace the shelves of discount stores for mere dollars, dentists also offer treatments at significantly lower rates than they did just a few years ago. It's still a bit of a splurge, but if it means a lot to you, ask for it as a birthday gift.

  • Many products can double for others. Instead of buying all new lipsticks, layer a couple existing shades for a fun new option. A brown and pink make a sultry rose, for example. For the nude-lip look that graces magazines, dip a makeup sponge in foundation, press it to your lips and let it dry a few seconds. A little gloss adds some shine. If you are running low on concealer, dust a thin line of taupe shadow under your lower lashes to offset under-eye circles.
  • Use instant oatmeal with lemon juice and milk for a great facial mask. Or mix a couple pumps of cleanser with a palmful of dry oats and pack it on the skin for a few minutes. It makes skin feel tight, hydrated and smooth.
  • Petroleum jelly is great for rubbing on dry feet before putting on a pair of socks. It makes a shiny lip gloss, and it works for moisturizing dry spots like knees and elbows when applying self-tanner to avoid orangey patches. If you dye your own hair, apply it around the hairline to prevent skin stains.
  • Chapstick keeps lips soft, but it can also be used to condition cuticles, and to treat a shaving knick or paper cut.
  • Witch hazel is known for its presence in aftershave lotions and hemorrhoid creams. It has the same effect as facial toner, reducing redness and puffiness.
  • Smooth down individual flyaway hairs, especially after straightening, with spiking glue intended for short styles. Some name brands cost only a couple dollars, and a very little goes a long way.

Alicia Notarianni is a reporter and feature writer for The Herald-Mail. Her email address is

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