When it comes to reckless spending, few things are more dangerous for me than beauty treatments (as discussed here). Through a terrible combination of real needs (say, ratty cuticles), and psychological desire (I want someone to make me feel pretty and successful and refreshed), I would pay hundreds of dollars a month on a wide array of treatments that I could easily do myself at home, for a fraction of the price. And while there will always be some things that I need to pay for (cutting my own hair would be less a hack, and more of a punishment), with a little effort, I’ve managed to replace nearly all of the treatments I once considered the domain of professionals.
For example, instead of spending over a thousand dollars in a year (yes, I know) on gel manicures that left my fingernails with the texture and thickness of crepe paper, I can do my own nails to a pretty competent degree (see photo), and not be stuck with the same color scheme for two weeks at a time. I’m not anywhere near the skill level of my old nail artist, but I also don’t need intricate drawings of diamonds on my ring fingers that cost me 70 dollars. I am just fine mastering the basics of things, and getting better and better as time goes on. This is true of my nails, and it’s true of pretty much all home beauty routines.
And I’ve found that all of these routines, from facials to hair masks to manicures, benefit from following five solid rules. If you make sure to take care of these things, not only are you getting the aesthetic benefits of the activity, you achieve the same level of “pampered joy” that makes up an immeasurable percent of beauty treatments’ actual value. Follow these rules, and you will find yourself just as blissed-out as you do at the salon, renewed and ready to attack life with zest and perfect almond nails.
Leave yourself a good amount of time.
My favorite moment for pampering is generally Sunday night, because it gets you pumped for the week and is usually ample in free time. But any time works, as long as you have at least 30-45 minutes more than the treatment will actually take. There is nothing worse than taking the time to do your nails well, only to mess them up because you had to reach into your purse and run out the door right afterwards. If you can’t take the time to complete the routine well and with time to spare, there is no reason to be doing it. Part of the joy is being able to take your time with something in a world that is usually full of rushing and cutting yourself short. Take the time to let your mask properly soak.
Light some candles.
Treat your beauty routines like a middle-aged housewife getting back in touch with her sensuality, full of candles and ambient music and drawn shades. The lighting should be flattering and warm, and everything should have that vaguely romantic feel about it. Whatever you are doing, it is guaranteed to be ten times more satisfying if it is done in the gentle glow of candlelight, as opposed to oppressive overhead bathroom lights and fans. And for things that need good lighting, such as a manicure, light some candles around you and use a desk lamp directly on your hands to light them. Don’t surround yourself with harsh, fluorescent vibes. Caress yourself with the soft glow of Diptyques. (The Financial Diet is morally opposed to Diptyques on principle, as no one should be spending 60 bucks on a fucking candle, but I do admit that they do make you feel immediately sexier and more elegant.)
Put on a favorite movie/TV show/podcast.
If you’re more into Enya or whatever, I get it, and I’m not about to get in your suburban Wiccan way. But! I think that one of the greatest things about home beauty treatments is the fact that you can watch three episodes of Law and Order while doing it. Waiting for nails to dry, a mask to work its magic, or hair to dry is no longer a chore. It’s something you never want to end, because as long as you’re in the middle of a process, you have an excuse to keep watching The Real Housewives, and can’t feel badly about it.
Make yourself something to drink.
You can be healthy about it and press yourself a green juice. You can make a kettle of tea just for yourself. You can pour a glass of cold white wine that sits on the edge of your steamy, bath bomb-filled tub. You can even just have a tall glace of ice water with a slice of lemon in it if you’re having a Yolanda Foster moment. It’s all about what feels right, but what matters is that you have something to enjoy while going about your treatment. Just the simple act of sipping a glass of iced coffee or whatever while doing a mask on your split ends takes it immediately to the next level, and feels like you’re a bridesmaid on one of those GiRls DaYz before the wedding. It’s all about taking care of all your senses, and feeling fully refreshed, inside and out.
Try new things.
If you are (like me) a relatively new devotee to the home makeover, chances are you only know the very tip of the iceberg that is Home Beauty Treatments. Spend an afternoon perusing a few DIY blogs you like, and start noting the things you want to try – things you might even have the supplies for in your kitchen already. Try avocado on your hair, honey on your skin, yogurt on your body, oil on your cuticles. Start making new concoctions and putting them in the little plastic squirt bottles you can get for a dollar at Sally’s. Don’t be afraid to tinker around, because for the price of one professional manicure, you can have the supplies for about five different hand treatments. Take your time in finding what really works for you, because each experiment no longer has to cost a significant portion of your monthly take-home salary. Beauty can just be fun again.
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