You might be wondering why I write about beauty so much. Believe it or not, I started a beauty industry career before I became a smart shopper!
At age five, when my parents and I moved from the Bay Area in California to Massachusetts. My dad, an artist and educator, got a job teaching art to middle and high schoolers a couple of towns away. My mom, who had previously been an acrobatic dancer (she even performed at the Apollo!) decided to open a beauty boutique that stocked Body Shop products (now World Market) and products from other brands. She had worked at The Body Shop in Berkeley and loved their focus on natural ingredients.
Even as a little kid, I spent a lot of time in that shop, stocking and dusting shelves and greeting people. Eventually, I waited on customers (although I could never measure up to my mom!) and did some of the buying. During those years, I loved slathering creams and oils on my skin and hair, custom blending fragrances, learning about the beauty benefits of vitamin oils and botanical extracts and helping our customers look and feel their best. I was hooked and I dreamed of a career in the beauty business.
After high school, I headed to NYC for art school. I (very) quickly realized that while I had creativity to burn, I was not as skilled as my fellow art students. I finished my first year and decided to enter the workforce while taking academic classes part-time. I ended up working for an indie beauty brand that specialized in custom blending, which was a great fit for me with my art background.
I was a technician in the lab at first, hand-making products that had been designed for customers by the makeup artists at the counter. Eventually, I started working at the counter myself and trained to become a makeup artist. I loved how, with skillful application and the right combination of colors, you could transform the way a woman looked and how she felt about herself. The beauty of Beauty.
It was during this time that I started my journey towards smart shopping-dom. I was enjoying my financial freedom and a decent salary as a woman in my 20’s, but I was overspending just a touch. Things probably would have been ok financially, but then an unfortunate bad boyfriend situation occurred and I plunged deep into debt. I realized quickly that I had to be very careful with my money if I was going to dig myself out.
While I learned to be more frugal and chipped away at my debts, the custom blending company started having trouble because it had grown too quickly. It became clear that its days were numbered. I had been fascinated by Kiehl’s for a while because it reminded me of my mom’s store, so, assuming that I would be out of a job soon I started calling Kiehl’s periodically to ask if they were hiring. When a job finally became available there, they called me! Thankfully, there was no lag time between the two jobs, so I was able to avoid any more financial issues. Kiehl’s paid well and I was able to stay on track.
I worked there for almost 8 years and for the last few – finally out of debt – I saved the money from commission checks and tax returns so I could start my own custom blended beauty line with two friends. We launched Three Custom Color Specialists after two years of saving,
We were self-funded, so frugality was essential! We became very good at running our business on a shoestring, while the outward perception – we hoped – was that we were a well-funded machine. While I wasn’t drawing a big salary, the business gave me a chance to travel the world visiting the stores that carried our products and doing press for the brand. When I was in NYC, I spent my days in the lab creating makeup for celebrities and – my favorite – helping regular women feel beautiful. My partners also hung out and collaborated with so many talented entrepreneurs, from brands like Tarte and Deborah Lippmann to Juara, Malin + Goetz, Juice Beauty and more.
I left in 2008 to start the next phase of my professional life. It took a couple of years to find my way, so my husband and I had to tighten our belts another notch because we were living off of his salary and whatever I could contribute from writing articles about the best budget-friendly gifts and products. I finally landed at RetailMeNot as their spokesperson and senior editor of their blog. I mostly covered frugal living, but I was often able to weave beauty into my articles (yay!). Our family finances improved greatly, but we continued to live our budget-friendly lifestyle so we could sock money away for college and our retirement.
I was laid off in 2015, and have been fortunate to keep doing what I love: Helping people save money AND writing about the best skincare, haircare, nail care, and makeup products around.
Here are some of my favorite recent beauty discoveries:
Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant
A skincare product that’s great for the whole family? This exfoliating liquid is excellent for aging skin, acne-prone skin and it’s helpful with razor bumps for men! Apply it with a pad, allow it to dry and leave it. If you’re not familiar with this brand, you should be. I also really like their BOOST Peptide Booster Serum.
Get it here for $29.50 on Amazon.
Alchimie Forever Kantic Calming Cream
If your skin irritated, or dehydrated, you will love this cream. The natural antioxidants from blueberries and grape seeds will soothe, calm and nourish your skin. And it smells amazing! If you like retinol products, check out their Retinol Serum.
Get the cream here for $69 on Amazon.
La Roche-Posay PigmentClar Eye Cream
This lightweight eye cream is the perfect morning pick-me-up. It contains caffeine to help reduce dark circles and inflammation and the metal tip allows for a soothing, cooling application. It also has a touch of opalescence, which helps to camouflage darkness under the eyes.
Get it here for $43 on Amazon.
Love Beauty And Planet Murumuru Butter, Sugar & Rose Body Wash and Body Scrub
These products are heavenly. They smell amazing and take such good care of my skin, AND they are ethically-sourced, plant-based and paraben-free. I also love their Rose dry wash fabric spray and laundry detergent (sensing a theme here?).
Get it the shower gel and body scrub duo here for $14 on Amazon.
AmLactin Foot Repair Foot Cream Therapy
Now, this cream doesn’t smell great, but it works to combat dryness. If your feet are rough because you’re wearing sandals a lot, or you’re experiencing winter dryness, this cream, with its Alpha Hydroxy and Lactic Acids will help to exfoliate, soothe and soften. Make it habit to put some on before your socks. You won’t regret it!
Get it here for $9.50 on Amazon.
NatureLab Tokyo Perfect Haircare Smooth Shampoo & Conditioner Duo
I received these at an event and instantly fell in love. My hair feels smoother and more nourished when I use them and I was so received to find that that they were affordable! Plus, the packaging is cool.
Get the set here for $28 on Amazon.
Shea Moisture Strengthen & Restore Leave-In Conditioner
You can see that I love products that smell great, which this does. But, they also have to work well, which this does. It’s a rich, creamy leave-in conditioner for very dry hair, packed with very nourishing ingredients, like shea butter and black castor oil.
Get it here for $13 on Amazon.
Ruby Kisses Staining Mood Gloss (set of 4)
I took a chance on these. I was looking for a “mood” lip gloss, i.e. one that stains your lips with a natural-looking tint. I found this set and it includes one pinkish gloss, one peachy, one berry and one clear with a slight shimmer. I love the texture and the lasting power and wear them all.
Get them here for $12 on Amazon.
Revlon PhotoReady Candid Natural Finish Foundation
I love this foundation. The mess-free pump, the portable size, the flexible coverage, the long-lasting wear. Plus, it comes in over 30 shades and contains ingredients that protect the skin from pollution and blue light. I got this on a whim when I left my makeup bag at home on a business trip. I’m so glad I did.
Get it here for $11 (on sale for $5 right now!) on Amazon.
Maybelline EyeStudio Master Precise All-Day Liquid Eyeliner Makeup
I picked this up during the same emergency shopping trip as the foundation. I love so many products from Maybelline (including their Clear Mascara that I use for brow gel and their Lash Sensational Washable Mascara) so I thought, “why not?” I wear liquid eyeliner when I have a long day of events, TV segments or speaking engagements. This one is so easy to apply and it doesn’t budge ALL DAY, so I don’t have to give it another thought.
Get the liquid eyeliner here for $6.50 on Amazon.
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