I simplified my beauty routine and I’m not “less of a woman” for it

Guest post by Aurora
I love Sephora, but do I really NEED all this? (Photo by: Erica KlineCC BY 2.0)

After discovering the ShamPHree method on Offbeat Home, I was super-excited to find ways to tweak and improve my beauty routine. I wanted to make it more simple, more home-made, and more vegan. Having been a goth in my youth and graduating to a pin-up chic look in my young adulthood, I had a pretty complicated beauty routine and I used a lot of products. But as much as I love me some Sephora goodies, did I really need all of them?


Before I started washing my hair with baking soda and vinegar, I had already started making my own toner. I found a recipe online that suggests ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar and ½ cup of green tea, which I sometimes substituted with rosewater. And then I realized buying rosewater is actually kind of pricey…


So I decided to make my own rosewater. It’s a pretty simple process:

  1. Take the petals off of a rose (Editor’s note: Use only homegrown roses to avoid pesticides.)
  2. Place them in a stock pot
  3. Cover the tops of the rose petals with water (don’t use too much, or the rosewater will be diluted)
  4. And simmer gently until the rose petals lose their color.

To make it last longer, I put the rosewater in an ice cube tray (use an older one, because red and pink rose petals make a highly pigmented rosewater which can stain), popped them out of the tray, and placed them in a labeled freezer bag in the fridge.

Face scrub

The second thing I switched out of my beauty routine was a standard face scrub. Instead I use fine sea salt, which I keep in an old Manic Panic container in the shower. It gently exfoliates and also helps with acne.


Unfortunately, because I use salt for a face scrub, when I started the ShamPHree method, my fiancée noted that I got out of the shower smelling like salt and vinegar chips — not super pleasant. I decided to try mixing the apple cider vinegar conditioner solution with rosewater instead of tap water, and voila — now my hair smells like roses when I get out of the shower, and it’s pretty magical.


The next item I switched out of my beauty routine came out of monetary necessity, much like the rosewater. I was going to order my facial moisturizer online when I realized… that shit is $17. I could use that $17 on something else. So I decided to try my body moisturizer, which conveniently has an SPF of 15, on my face. And you know what? Nothing terrible happened. It turns out I didn’t actually need separate lotions for my face and body, despite what the beauty industry may tell you.

And when I decided my facial cleanser was also a bit pricey, I started looking into making my own out of castor oil and olive oil. But then I thought, “Self, don’t you use Dr. Bronner’s for your body wash? And isn’t that mostly oil anyway?”

And, just like with the lotion, it didn’t kill me to use my body wash on my face.

The results

I had become trapped in societal expectations about my beauty routine. And these expectations aren’t just damaging with their interpretations of my femininity — they were damaging with their interpretations of my age. I hate that we live in such an ageist society where women like Helen Mirren and Meryl Streep are tokens, while their male counterparts are in abundance. This beauty routine I had developed wasn’t because I enjoyed the pampering and the process (and if you do enjoy the pampering and the process, then go you!) — it was because I listened to “beauty authorities” tell me that I needed to be afraid of growing old and afraid of being seen as less feminine.

I think my biggest sin when it comes to my old beauty routine was telling one of my trans friends that “women are supposed to do x/y/z when it comes to their skincare process,” because that’s what I honestly believed at the time. If you’re a femme, girly girl, or a goth princess, or a Rockabilly pin-up queen, or a guy who wants to pamper his skin, and you honestly enjoy all those products, then by all means, continue with your process and rock that shit. And if using the same soap and lotion all over your body works for you — as I have just recently learned it does for me — then go ahead and use that same soap and lotion all over your body.

The things you do to take care of your skin are not direct reflections of your gender identity or gender presentation — they’re just the things you do to take care of your skin. And as long as you’re comfortable in that skin of yours, that’s what counts.

Comments on I simplified my beauty routine and I’m not “less of a woman” for it

  1. Thank you, THANK YOU for stating this as you did–it’s so welcoming and unjudgemental.


    Love from the Girl with a Daily Hour Long Makeup Routine
    (because she enjoys it)

  2. My beauty routine consists of daily showers with Dr. Bronner’s (oooooh minty!) and washing my hair only twice a week. I use baking soda as an exfoliating scrub occasionally in the shower and love coconut oil on my skin. I’ve pretty much stopped washing my face any place other than once in the shower but sometimes I splash my face with water to freshen up.

    I’m currently looking for a more natural shampoo. Any suggestions? I did ShamPHree for a while but didn’t like it much. Switching to less frequent hair washing seemed to really help. I’d just like to upgrade my shampoo to something more natural.

    • Ducky, have you ever tried Hugo’s Naturals shampoo? They are all natural, and receive one of the lowest toxicity scores of all rated shampoos at the EWG database. I love the smell of the vanilla orange products.

        • They actually sell them in the “natural” section of lots of mainstream grocery stores, these days. But definitely at almost any natural grocer, like Whole Foods, Sprouts, Natural Grocer/Vitamin Cottage.

          When some friends and I have a lot of household and cosmetic products to buy at once, we sometimes put in an order at luckyvitamin.com ( if you spend $100 and get the free shipping, there are great deals; 10-30% less than in stores) .

  3. Ok, I have a question for ShamPhree people. I wash my hair every day and I would really like not to, but I can’t deal with it looking greasy. I have always assumed I couldn’t do ShamPhree because I dye my hair (in my head the baking soda would strip out the dye, or something, idk?) and I have to use conditioner for the same reason (my hair is really silky and nice but only because I use a ton of conditioner after dying).

    Anyone got dyed hair and had good results with ShamPhree?

    • There are a few different versions of ShamPhree: your standard baking soda/vinegar, co-washing (using conditioner), water only, clay-based shampoos (Terra Essentials is a popular shampoo), and dry shampoo. Here’s a post with more resources on the subject: http://www.naturalbeautyworkshop.com/my_weblog/2013/09/natural-shampoo-alternatives.html.
      Reddit’s r/NoPoo subreddit is also great.

      I’ve never heard of baking soda stripping dye from hair, as it’s fairly gentle, though anythings possible.

      You also might want to look into using henna as a hair dye. It naturally conditions your hair while it dyes (seriously, my hair feels AWESOME after I henna it). I use Light Mountain Henna and have found them to be a great company.

      • I’ve never dyed my hair other than henna, but I no-poo, and I was thinking of henna-ing my hair again because I’m ready for a change. Researching others’ experiences with colouring and no-poo, some say that they have to go through the whole adjustment period (a couple weeks of not-so-good hair) every time they chemical-dye their hair, since it strips the hair in much the same way shampoo does, I guess. YMMV.

    • I use ShamPhree and I color my hair red. Due to money, I’ve been seeing my hair stylist once every 12 weeks instead of 6. The last time I saw him, he commented on how surprised he was that my color had washed out . He said it had held up really well.

      You have to shampoo after your first color. Baking soda isn’t going to get globs of hair dye out. But after that, you’re good to go back to ShamPhree.

  4. “It turns out I didn’t actually need separate lotions for my face and body, despite what the beauty industry may tell you.”

    This! I continue to be super grateful for an awesome book that I got when I was a teenager called Thirteensomething that gently walks the reader through the bullshit of the beauty industry (among other things).

  5. I have a pretty simple and natural beauty routine too. I don’t use soap at all, except on what I refer to as my stinky parts: arm pits, butt, under my boobs. Oh, also my hands, just for germs. I make my own soap , nothing fancy, just olive oil and lye. I suppose it’s exactly the same as Doctor Bronners (minus the creepy label), but I feel bad ass like Tyler Durden when I make soap, so I’ll continue.

    I wash my face with hot water and a wash cloth. I suppose the washcloth counts as my exfoliation too. If I want a facial I do the oil cleanse method, that’s maybe once or twice a year. Giving up soap cured my acne and almost eliminated my eczema. The skin is essentially a self cleaning organ, like your eye ball, or your uterus. Leave it alone, and it will take good care of itself. A little warm/hot water is all it needs to rinse off most days.

    I moisturizer with food grade oils only. I really like Rose hip oil for my face. It’s high in vitamin c which helps fight antioxidant damage. Since my face is exposed to the sun the most, I feel like it needs the extra help. For my body my favorite is a body butter I make that’s one part coconut oil, one part Shea butter, and one part cocoa butter. It smells like heaven. In the winter I need to put more coconut oil in to make it softer. I might try putting a liquid oil in, like almond oil. I use that on my face with good results when I’m out of Rose hip oil. Also, when my hair was long I used it on the ends of my hair. Very nice stuff. My husband uses it for his eczema too. He has pretty severe eczema.
    I cannot make no poo work for me, so my shampoo and conditioner routine is pretty conventional. I was thinking of trying clay based shampoos though. I know using soap on my hair is the cause of my dandruff.
    I wear makeup, but not much. A little but if powder foundation (I like Larenim, it’s mineral make up), sone blush, some eyeliner, mascara, and sometimes lipstick. It takes me all of five minutes to put on.
    I use a salt crystal for deodorant, and then I dust some baking soda over it. It’s the only natural deodorant option I’ve tried that works. It worked even when I was in the Army.
    I don’t use sunscreen often anymore. Since giving up soap my skin is not nearly as sensitive to the sun. Also, the body lotion I make and my makeup all have low levels of SPF. I want my vitamin D too, so I don’t make sunscreen a daily habit. However, I am Northern European by blood and sometimes I do need it. I use a mineral sunscreen when I do. It’s great for your skin so it usually ends up like a spa treatment.
    I like to smell like a human, a clean one, but still a human. I do, however, love the smell of bay rum aftershave, so I make my own and use it sometimes. It’s pretty awesome.
    I cut my hair short thinking it would be easier a few months ago, but I spend more time styling it now on a daily basis. And I use more products. My hair care routine is not crunchy at all anymore.
    I don’t spend tons of time grooming, but I like to look nice and feminine (not implying one requires the other, they are two separate things, both of which I like to achieve). I spend a lot more time and effort on clothes. I love my quick and simple grooming routine! I can get myself and my two kids ready for the day in an hour, that’s pretty good I think!

  6. Has anyone tried making rosewater with dried rose petals, or do you know if that’s possible? I would love to make my own, but it seems like such a shame to destroy fresh beautiful petals! Also, is this something that can be made with other flowers? Too bad I love floral scents and my husband prefers fruity ones… =/

    • I’ve never made rose water, but I have made other herbal type tinctures and infusions, and I find I get my best results from using fresh. Especially with roses, I’d imagine, because the scent is so delicate, it might be hard to get good results with dry petals. You could however wait till the petals were starting to look kind of ooky and starting to turn…as long as they’re not moldy it should be OK. That way you could enjoy the rose but still take full advantage of the petals before they dry out. 🙂

  7. Wow! It seems obvious now, but I had no idea that this kind of alternative was really possible. How time-intensive is it to make these products for yourself? Do you make huge batches so the effort lasts you a long time?

    Honestly, I will probably keep up with the store-bought items for the time being, but this is the kind of thing that I’m filing away for when I have the time to figure it out down the road. Bookmarked!

    • It depends on what you make. For my “shampoo” and “conditioner,” I usually turn the shower on to get hot, take the bottle into the kitchen, mix up a new batch, and go shower. It’s super quick. The best way to get into homemade stuff is in baby steps. Pick one or two things to make to replace your store bought stuff. Stick with that until you’re sure you’re happy with it, used to it, and going to keep doing it. Then do one more thing. Same process. Soon enough, you’ll notice that you’re buying so little in the stores other than ingredients.

  8. I feel like my contributions to this discussion fall into two categories: cosmetics and grooming tools/supplies.

    As to the former:
    Sadly, I’m an aspiring actor, and so I need to maintain a certain look which I believe requires a certain amount of conventional, commercial cosmetics. I’m currently looking for vegan/eco-friendly/’natural’ (whatever that means) cosmetics, but I do regularly use a product to even my skintone, a blush, and eye defining/highlighting products, like mascara and eyeliner. Right now I use a bunch of Bare Minerals stuff, and I’m looking into Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics.

    As to the latter:
    I’ve been doing ShamPhree for about 9 months, and so far, I like it. I don’t LOVE it, but I also didn’t like the results with my old commercial shampoo, so I’m sticking with shamPhree. I tend to scrub my scalp with baking soda either 2 or 3 times a week, accepting that by the 3rd or 4th day, my hair feels oily. I’ve discovered during this time how important brushing is for the overall feel of my hair. It’s not only about detangling for me, but also about evenly distributing the oils in my hair along the length of my (very long) hair, so I don’t just get a ton of buildup at my roots. It doesn’t make my hair completely gorgeous between washings, but it feels SO much better than if I don’t brush it out very well. It’s easily the difference between washing my hair every 3 days or every 4.
    I stopped using apple cider vinegar to condition very quickly. It was expensive, and my boyfriend hated the smell. I also broke out all over my back because my skin wasn’t handling the acid well at all. I tried lemon juice, but my hair just didn’t like it – maybe it was the sugar? I dunno. Then I discovered powdered citric acid – enter the choir of singing angels! Oh man, that works perfectly. I use a TEENY amount, like a bare sprinkling in a pint of water with a drop each of lavender oil and tea tree oil. It’s an AMAZING conditioner, and it has no smell on it’s own aside from whatever essential oils I add to it. LOVE it. It’s also cheap as HELL.
    As an addendum, I often work as a bartender, and often come home with my hair smelling like cigarette smoke. This is 1) GROSS, and 2) annoying because I don’t often want to wash my hair when I get home. I have found that spraying some cheapo vodka on my hair in a quick shower and then rinsing out is a PERFECT deodorizer, and often leaves my hair feeling very conditioned. I save this for getting rid of cigarette smoke only, because my spidey senses suggest to me that maybe this isn’t the greatest for my hair all the time, but when I do use it, it works great.
    I have a TON of free samples of glorious smelling lotion from a job I worked a year ago at a cosmetics store, so I use that to moisturize my face and body, at least until I run out of it. Free beats home-made for me, so . . . yeah.
    I do still use Tom’s toothpaste and Lush Coalface face soap, but that’s mostly because I like them.

  9. It’s interesting to read this as I am upping my beauty routine. I used to use hot water and soap for my face wash. I would use the same cream for body and my face. Problem is it wasn’t doing my skin any favours. I have bad adult acne and no matter what I did I couldn’t get rid of it so I had given up, stopped wasting money on washes and creams and just used the same as I did for my body because I couldn’t see the point. I hit the jackpot when I started my new job however and can afford to see a dermatologist. Now I use expensive face wash ($40), once a week face mask ($45), face cream ($90) and eye cream ($60). Despite all the cost (I can hear all you Americans freaking but everything in Australia is more expensive, it sucks but it is what it is) my skin has never looked better, Idon’t get breakouts that hurt, I don’t look like a fifteen year old, I am finally not going to get more acne scars on my face and I finally have a facebook profile pic thats not the back of my head. Just make sure going product free is right for you. If it works then I envy your naturally healthy skin and fatter wallet but it’s not the best thing for everyone.

  10. I switched to the oil cleansing method for my face about 8 months ago and it has been amazing, I have naturally dry and sensitive skin and I always had super chapped cracked lips in the winter and dry patches on my cheeks and chin and ever since I switched to a combo of castor and avocado oil I have seen such a dramatic difference in my skin, I never need moisturizer, even with the wood stove going 24/7 right now. I love it. My success with that has been leading me to try the no shampoo method. Especially now that I am working from home and won’t need to explain the awkward transition hair to anyone

  11. Can we get an A-men on the olive oil front? I’d be interested to see if there’s a correlation to your heritage and your region’s native products for skin care & diet (I favor the Italians). You can shave with the stuff, condition, and use it with a pumice or a brush for exfoliation. And eat it. Yum. We moved recently and my bottle fell by the wayside – I’m getting a little desperate…….:)

    Also, when it comes to your face, start by getting your skin balanced, and STOP MESSING WITH IT. Any blemishes on your face will flourish if you irritate them and expose them to bacteria. I react very badly to salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, but my face loves salt scrubs, or rice scrubs, and an oil-free moisturizer. I love the crisp look of foundation, but I had to go bare and detox for a while because the foundation caking on my sad skin was making me feel like I was 13. Really, your ultimate foundation should be your own epidermis.

    When it comes to routine, I think it’s about prioritizing for your personal comfort level (I can get ready for office land in seven minutes, I love my bed more than anything). I adore the gothic/bohemian/rocker look, so eyeliner, bbcream/mineral foundation, mascara, and lipbalm go in the messenger bag to be poked at in my cubicle, if I remember. Hair is nuts. I Run quite a bit, so showers happen a lot (along with the angry tiny red bumps on my arms and thighs) but the hair doesn’t get washed more than thrice a week with an organic shampoo. Or Goat soap (omg the sooooooffffftttnessss). I love water-rinses and conditioner. But I have to be super gentle because my naturally wavy, mussy hair is COMPLETELY FAKE.
    I perm it three times/year.
    Anybody ever tried this? Holy smokes, the chemicals, they’re bonkers – I use an ammonia based perm, BUT it leaves my hairz textured and cuts down on my need to shampoo. Because I am lazy, but I wanna feel pretty. From what I read, it’s about the same level of toxic as bleaching or dyeing.

    To each his own. When it comes to the BIC, Corporations gunna take care of them – and you gotta watch out for you. 🙂

  12. My (male) fiance and I have exactly the same beauty routine when it comes to washing: cold cream as face wash/moisturizer morning and evening, Costco brand bath soap, regular shampoo and conditioner. I shower about every other day and wash my hair maybe twice a week, it lives in pincurls the rest of the time, which really stops it from getting greasy so quickly. I’ve been trying to keep some sort of lotion around for my hands lest they dry and crack in the winter, too, but otherwise, that’s about it. And I’m a super makeup-y person otherwise, but the whole skin care regime is not my thing!

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