Lady Elizabeth and the Quest For the Holy Grail

A rather whimsical title because I’ve always been a reader of Arthurian lore. But instead of the miraculous cup, I refer instead to Holy Grail (or HG) beauty products. I do read some modern beauty publications to get ideas for my makeup, and occasionally, they will list their HG products. I have to say, I’ve never understood such an idea.

I mean, I spent a month wearing all my red lipsticks to decide what I wanted, and then bought a lipstick that I like a lot. But it’s not the ultimate red lipstick. It’s just the best I’ve found so far. I still have complaints. And I’m going to keep buying lipsticks, even red ones. In fact, I’ve already bought two red lipsticks and a couple of sheer red lip stains since then. So no mythical status.

And yet, recently, I discovered the meaning of the HG product. It was after a years-long journey that I discovered it, and I didn’t even know how much I needed this particular product until I found it. I almost bought it on a whim, which is ludicrous considering how expensive it was, but I consider it worth every penny and I will not hesitate to buy it again.

You see, I try not to wear a full face of makeup every day. But I do need sun protection every day, and since I prefer more natural, mineral-based sunscreen products, I like a tinted sunscreen moisturizer to avoid the white cast that mineral sunscreens leave. But I have rather oily skin, and I’ve found that every tinted sunscreen I’ve tried has left my face looking shiny/oily, even the oil-free one. I had resigned myself to using a bit of powder, even though that ruins the light feel of tinted moisturizer.

Enter True Nature Botanicals. On a whim, I typed “matte finish natural tinted sunscreen” into Google, and got a bunch of hits about their Pacific Everyday Sheer Coverage sunscreen. It’s an all-natural tinted moisturizer with SPF 20 and it supposedly dries to a matte-powder finish. Huh. Sounded interesting. The price was less interesting, but after checking out their return policy (30 days, for any reason, satisfaction guaranteed), I decided it was worth it to buy a bottle, use it for a bit, and if I had to return it, the cost of return shipping was probably reasonable for a sample of a luxe product.

And it does have good ingredients. Even though it’s not oil-free, the oils are high-linoleic oils, mostly, which I know work well with my skin. Some of the oils are oils I use by themselves, or oils I’ve looked at buying. Intriguing. I ordered a bottle of the “Light” tint, and it came a few days later.

I have to say, I’m kind of hooked. I need about 2-3 pumps to cover my face generously. It smooths on and then starts to dry to a truly matte finish. The only issue I’ve had is that if I sweat profusely, it will sometimes dry a bit patchy. But other than that, it’s weightless, natural, matte sunscreen that makes my skin look flawless, but without looking like I’m wearing makeup. I’ve definitely gone a couple of days with just this moisturizer and maybe a touch of lipstick.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that my skin is actually looking really good, even bare. I generally have pretty good skin, but it started breaking out around my chin a couple weeks ago and I had two giant pimples on my chin for an audition early last week. I got my tinted moisturizer that evening and started wearing it daily on Tuesday and I’ve noticed that the pimples have gone away a lot faster than usual and haven’t left a lot of lingering marks. Perhaps it’s my new attempt at oil cleansing, but I think the botanicals in this moisturizer couldn’t be hurting. At the very least, I know it’s not causing me to break out.

So that’s the story of my quest for my first Holy Grail product. I’d be interested to hear about any Holy Grail products you readers have found!

Disclaimer: I purchased this product with my own money and have not been offered any incentive to write this review.

Homemade Beeswax Balm for Lips and Cuticles

In my post on skincare, I mentioned my homemade beeswax balm that I keep by my bedside to protect lips and cuticles while I sleep. I’ve always found beeswax has provided a superior balm for my lips. I lick and bite my lips and drink often, so I sometimes find it hard to keep my lips from getting chapped. Add the cold weather to that, and you have a recipe for flaky, sore lips. This does not give a nice canvas for lipstick, one of my favorite makeup items, so I generally have close to a half a dozen little tubes of lip balm around me in purses and drawers and makeup bags. But I’m so picky about the balms I like that I decided to make my own.

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I based this balm in on recipes I found online, but adjusted it for my own preferences. Many recipes include shea butter, which is a wonderful butter for a lot of people. The problem is that I find it makes me break out, and because I wanted this to be a sort of all-purpose balm, I needed all the ingredients to be friendly to my entire person. I chose avocado oil because it’s full of good fats, but doesn’t have as strong a smell as olive oil, and I’m planning on giving this batch away as gifts. Any other neutral oil would probably work, or you can try olive oil and see if the smell bothers you. And unrefined, yellow beeswax, gives it a lovely faint honey scent. I include a bit of Vitamin E as a preservative.

This is really an all-purpose balm, meant to protect any skin that is feeling dry or chapped. I mostly use it on lips and fingers. I keep a tin of it next to my bed, and a tube of it in each of my purses. Before I go to bed, I scratch out maybe the tip of my thumbnail’s worth and rub that on my lips, and then use a whole thumbnail’s worth to dab onto each fingernail so I can massage it into my cuticles.

This is a very waxy, rich balm, so feel free to increase the oil to 2 oz. if you want something a little softer. I like the firmer balm, especially in the winter because it really protects skin from the elements. I’ve been known to put a little on my nose when I’m out on a cold, windy day. You can also make substitutions for the oil and butter. A lot of recipes use coconut oil and shea butter. While there are vegan substitutes for beeswax, I’ve never found them equal in quality, so your mileage may vary there.

I got my ingredients and the lip balm tubes from Wild Herb Soap Co. on Etsy, and my tins thrown into a random order of herbs from another source. To make the rig for holding my little lip balm containers, I used an old egg carton flipped upside-down. I plunged my sharpest paring knife into the center of each cup in an X, and then turned the knife around and used the knob on the handle to open up each X to fit a tube. It’s really quite a handy way to keep the little guys steady while filling them and cost me nothing beyond the eggs, which I would have eaten anyway.

Homemade Lip and Cuticle Balm

1 oz. unrefined beeswax
1 oz. raw mango butter
1.5 oz. cold-pressed avocado oil
~1/16 oz. liquid Vitamin E

Heat the wax, butter, and oil just until everything melts, stirring often. Add the Vitamin E and stir in. Fill containers. Makes about 1/2 cup of liquid, by volume.

My Vintage-Inspired Beauty Routine, Part 1: Skincare

I’ve decided I ought to post a little about my beauty routine, since it is such a large part of my personal style. First, I’ll talk about my skincare routine, since it is the most complicated part of my beauty practices. I’ve based my skincare routine on what I’ve read of Victorian women. I cleanse with a cream instead of soap and use warm and cold water to close pores. I also focus on natural ingredients, like rosewater and lavender, and homemade treatments. I do most of my skincare in the evening before bed and wash only with water in the mornings before applying makeup.

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Nightly Routine:

I start by removing my makeup and cleansing. I use Andalou Naturals Lash and Lid Remover and their Apricot Probiotic Cleansing Milk. Both are thick creams, almost like a cold cream but without the nasty chemicals in Pond’s. Even though my skin tends towards oiliness, I find the cleansing milk leaves my skin clean without drying it out, so I don’t need to worry about too much in the way of moisturizer. And it has a lovely apricot smell.

After that, I rinse and pat dry. I might mist with rosewater if I’m feeling luxuriant. Then, I simply massage in some oil. I alternate rosehip seed oil and a homemade oil blend of grapeseed oil, sea buckthorn oil, a little carrot seed oil, and lavender oil. The rosehip seed oil has vitamin A, but is not recommended for daily use on acne-prone skin. I’ve noticed a big improvement in the quality of my skin since I started using it half the time. The homemade oil blend is based on a recipe from Crunchy Betty. I use a base of grapeseed oil because it’s got a lot of linoleic acid, which is better for acne-prone skin. I add sea buckthorn oil for the vitamins and beneficial fatty acids. Carrot seed oil can heal and protect against sun damage, so I add a good deal of that. But it is strong-smelling stuff, so I add lavender for scent, and because it’s mildly anti-bacterial.

This whole routine probably takes about five minutes, but I don’t notice the time. Having an enjoyable, yet not-too-complicated routine makes me look forward to my bedtime ritual. I find that my skin is pretty good, with the occasional blemish when my hormones swing, or when I’m lazy about washing my face. I also like the glow from massaging in my oil right before I go to bed. It makes me feel like a Victorian beauty. Right before I go to sleep, I massage a little homemade beeswax balm into my lips and cuticles.

Weekly Treatments:

Because I wash with a washcloth in the morning, I don’t do a lot of exfoliation otherwise, but I do find my skin gets a bit dull sometimes. I try to exfoliate once or twice a week, with a mixture of 1 Tbsp. sugar, 1 tsp. lemon juice, and 1 tsp. olive oil. This makes a very gritty scrub, so I apply it and massage it gently after removing my eye makeup but before cleansing. I rinse with hot water, and then cleanse as usual.

Once a week, I do a mask. I mix about a tablespoon of French green clay with a capsule of activated charcoal powder and enough water to make a creamy paste. I apply this after exfoliating and cleansing and let it stay on 10-15 minutes. The clay and charcoal draw out impurities and definitely shrink blemishes. I then remove the mask and tone with Thayer’s Alcohol-Free Lavender Witch Hazel before applying oil. This weekly ritual leaves my skin soft and clear and helps draw out any makeup that was left behind during the week. I especially make sure to do it after I’ve been on stage that week in heavier makeup.

A somewhat involved evening routine gives way to my incredibly simple morning routine: I massage my face with a wet washcloth and then rinse with warm and cool water. I sometimes mist my face with rosewater when I get out of the shower. On the rare morning that I don’t shower, I often just splash my face with water from the sink to remove any traces of oil from the night before that didn’t soak in. This leaves me with a clean canvas for whatever makeup I want for the day ahead.