A Word On Natural Beauty

So often the answer to what we're looking for are simpler than we'd ever expect. Don't you think?

Whether you want to decrease your anxiety, gain more free time, lose weight, save money, improve your skin, feel more present, or otherwise – of course the list goes on and on – more often than not the best you can do for yourself is less than what you're doing now.

Nowhere is this more true than when it comes to health and self care. 

Allow me to explain.

Most of us go through a similar pattern when it comes to self care, I think that's pretty safe to say. We graduate high school and head off either to college or straight into the real world. Thanks to that super sweet, new-found freedom we immediately begin filling our bodies with booze and burgers and packaged any-and-everything. When I was in my early 20s and living in New York, for dinner I used to order two Five Guys burgers rather than one. I'd eat one, and put the second in the fridge for the next night. It wasn't that I wanted food poisoning or that I was planning dinner for the week. On the contrary, I actually had an order minimum to meet and was just saving myself the walk to Five Guys. Which was at the very most a two-minute walk away.

Now that that story is out, based on my experience I would say that there's a rite of passage when it comes to self care. Spend a few years ordering in Five Guys on a weekly basis, eat more bagels than you should, and go out for drinks very regularly and after a while, you start to tire of it.

You learn to simplify, and your body exhales a sigh of relief.

Here's the trick – I'm going to blow the lid right off the whole "how to be healthy" thing. It's the exact same stuff you've heard over and over your entire life.

If you want to be in shape, you need to eat well. (Michael Pollan said it best.) If you want to look good on the outside, you need to improve your body on the inside. If you want to lose weight or gain muscle or just plain be healthy, you need to exercise. (Sorry.)

The thing is, it doesn't have to be painful. Let's go back to using myself as a shining example of someone who made desperately poor self care habits and later improved upon them hugely.

Fast forward to age 25 and I'd started a post-Five Guys life. I paid attention to what I ate. I stopped eating meat (though this is absolutely not an argument for vegetarianism), and I started eating real food. Not just fruits and vegetables, but foods with ingredient lists with words I could pronounce. I also began to develop tense shoulders from sitting at a computer for, you know, 10+ hours a day, so I began doing yoga. Nothing crazy – just some basic stretches in my room. Once I became comfortable with that, I would take the occassional class and otherwise just keep up the practice in my Brooklyn bedroom. 

Not only did I lose weight (and not in a scary way), but I gained some muscle and felt better mentally, emotionally, and physically. It was awesome.


The same thing happened with my skincare routine.

I've never been overly concerned with makeup and skincare. Blame it on laziness, but generally I prefer a low maitenance skincare and beauty routine. Before I became interested in the natural beauty world, I was always looking to add more to my skincare routine. I washed my face in the mornings with a special "morning cleanser", followed-up with toner and "daytime" moisturizer. I'd wear primer, concealer, and maybe some tinted moisturizer as the cherry on the cake.

In the evenings, I'd wash my face again, apply more toner, then a nighttime moisturizer, eye cream, and an expensive facial mist.

Then I read Skin Cleanse and decided to give the method a try. Long story short, the book basically champions simple skincare routines that incorporate natural ingredients. I read it and picked and chose what I wanted to try from the book's wealth of advice. Two months after radically decreasing my skincare routine and my skin is now legitimately better. It's clearer and overall just feels a lot more self reliant. Walden-esque, even.

Now, I splash my face in the mornings a few times with water – and that's it for a morning routine. In the evenings, I wash my face with castile soap, use this toner, this balm and I'm set. Once a week I'll do a face mask with some local honey, because I'm a total hippie and because it genuinally makes my skin feel soft and awesome. Plus, it gives me an excuse to eat honey.

The point is that it's worked amazingly, and all I had to do was less than I was already doing. That principle? It really and truly applies in a lot of ways:

Stop excess spending and you'll increase your savings. Lessen your added-sugar intake and you'll both feel better and lose weight. Stop making excuses and do ten minutes of stretching, planking, and downward dogs before bed. Say no to social engagements when you need to and gain free time. Decrease the number of products you use on your skin and you might feel happier with the way it looks.

It's odd that we look for things to add on to fix our problems, rather than take off. But I've found that by cutting the crap on a regular basis you end up adding a whole lot more to your life.

And believe me when I say that it's a whole lot simpler than you think.


Becoming Minimalist: Skincare Routine

Over the past year I've begun to embrace a more minimalistic lifestyle with an aim to use natural products whenever possible. Even though I started paying attention to the foods I put in my body a few years ago, I didn't think about what I put on my body – skincare products, makeup, and the like. Until I did, and then I became obsessed with it.

Using natural, grocery-bought skincare alternatives started out as an experiment but has now turned into my regular routine. I use raw honey for face masks, various oils for moisturizer, and baking soda for just about everything. 

Once I started using these products, I quickly discovered that not only were they cheaper but they also made my skin feel better. 

To continue my ongoing obsession of cleansing and purging my medicine cabinet, I decided to give "Skin Cleanse" by Adina Grigore of S.W. Basics a read, and I'm happy to report that it was totally legit. Full of solid advice and interesting facts, this book goes into detail about our skin, the foods we eat, the products we use, and finally encourages all of us to go on a "skin cleanse" – meaning, you go 24 hours without using skincare products. Just to try. 

I did. Nothing happened, and I mean that in the best way. I thought my skin would dry up and I would die, but it actually felt pretty much the same the next morning. Maybe even a little softer.

The book talks about the reliance we have on our skincare products and how we've come to feel like we need them now because we've trained our skin to need them. On its own, at least according to the book, our skin can exfoliate and moisturize itself – no plastic beaded face wash needed. 

This makes complete sense when you think about it. From an evolutionary perspective, why would our skin require regular, intense exfoliations and tons of products?

The best part about the book is that it's not preachy at all. Rather than telling you not to use a certain product, or not to eat wheat, the book advocates a plan of trying things out, seeing if they work, and if not then trying something else.

It's not about following a new, pre-planed skincare routine. Instead it's about doing what works for you. No preachiness whatsoever. 

Though I've finished the book, I've decided that I'm not going to stop buying skincare products all together.  I enjoy the process of buying products, and I think this whole thing is about figuring out what makes you happy, what works for you and your skin, and what you like.

But I will be sticking to a mix of grocery store products and items from natural retailers like delicious smelling, spa-like Ursa Major, S.W. Basics, and Earth Tu Face – a few of my favorites right now. I'm also really eager to try soul sunday, Herbivore Botanicals, and Meow Meow Tweet.

But what about you guys? Would love to hear your take on skincare and natural products. Do swear by them, find them too crunchy, or what? Let me know!


I received product from both S.W. Basics and Ursa Major as gifts, but all thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the businesses that support Second Floor Flat! 

Shopping List: 16 Indie Beauty + Skincare Lines

When it comes to beauty, I go through phases. Sometimes I'm out to buy every product I can find. Other times, I just can't be bothered.

Blame it on the weather or my discovery of a few great skincare lines, but right now I am beauty obsessed. I want serums and activated charcoal and body butters and natural soaps and all the rest. 

Even worse (or better) is the fact that there are so many amazing indie skincare and beauty lines out there these days. My Pinterest wishlists kept getting larger– as does my independent designer directory. So, in an effort to stay organized I've put together a list of 16 indie beauty and skincare lines I'm "lusting" after (if you will) after as of late:

toner ($22) by s.w. basics

mandarin & berry soap ($9) by birch & goldberry

unicorn oil ($18) by soul sunday

mermaid sea salt hair spray ($24) by captain blankenship

eye repair serum ($56) by earth tu face

rosy lip tint ($14) by marble & milkweed

mascara ($12) by stowaway cosmetics

facial scrub ($13.20) by fig + yarrow

portable soap sticks ($9.35) by cleanse with benefits – genius!

fantastic face wash ($26) by ursa major 

jasmine body oil ($44) by herbivore botanicals

hair serum ($22) by town & anchor

woke up on wilson lipstick ($19) by alchemy cosmetics

nourish serum ($60) by benshen

magnolia eau de parfum ($108) by commodity

palo santo solid fragrance ($12) by under aurora


skin creamerygolden apothecaryla bella figura, wary meyers, and 90k more – some of which you can find here

Shopping List: 5 Natural Beauty Products

My interest in using natural beauty products has definitely increased over the past few months.

Whether it's for health reasons, my desire to support companies who are doing good things and putting fewer chemicals into the environment, or just a want to use products with yummy, fat-kid ingredients like honey coconut, I've begun to explore different, more natural products to replace the go-tos that I've been using for years.

Here are a few of my new must-haves: 

Raw Honey  – be sure to buy this locally!

Raw Honey – be sure to buy this locally!

One thing I'm still missing: shampoo! I'd like to try a nice, relatively natural shampoo that will enhance shine. Recommendations, anyone?

And if you're thinking of taking a second look at your beauty products, you have to use GoodGuide – it's an amazing organization with a site and app that allows you to check the social, environmental, and health ratings of companies and products. Best idea, right?

Beauty Box: Jane Iredale Pencil Liner

Eyeliner has been my go-to makeup product since forever. Occasionally I'll  go sans liner, but I always end up looking 17 and feeling naked. Not like a naked 17 year old, just feeling naked and looking like a teenager. Moving on.

I'm always on the lookout for super fantastic eyeliner tips and tricks (this how-to from The Beauty Department on applying no-liner liner is my current fave), so needless to say I was glad to hear Krista's advice on her favorite pencil liner:

Product NameJane Iredale Pencil Liner in Basic Black

Price: $13

What's It For? Lining your eyes

Level of Difficulty (ie how difficult is it for the average bear to use): Easy

Will it change my life? If you are looking for a "clean" eyeliner that lasts...then yes.

Additional comments: Finding more natural yet effective eye makeup has proven difficult, but I'm so glad I finally found one that works well! Contains no synthetic FD&C dyes.

Next up? Finding a a clean mascara that stays on all day and doesn't smudge. Wish me luck!

Beauty Box: Intelligent Nutrients Pureluxe Conditioner

When it comes to winter skin care, we all have a few tricks up our sleeves. Maybe you use a heavy duty moisturizer, maybe you slather your your lips in Vitamin E (highly recommend this!), maybe you use a honey + milk face mask (this too!) or maybe you're just addicted to hand cream

As important as all of this is, it's equally important to remember your poor hair which is just as exposed to the elements as your skin. 

Moisturizing your hair and scalp is important, so a good conditioner is key. Here's the scoop on a natural conditioner that might set you back a few buckaroos but is beyond worth it:

Product Name: Intelligent Nutrients Pure Luxe Conditioner

Price: $20

What's It For? Conditioning the hair, body wash, shaving cream...

Level of Difficulty (ie how difficult is it for the average bear to use): Very easy

Will it change my life?  Probably not, but it will make your hair super shiny and smell amazing! (Editor's Note: So yes, that's a life changer.)

Additional comments:  This line is made by Horst Rechelbacher, the founder of Aveda, so you know dude knows what he's talking about. 

Beauty Box: The Wet Brush

Here's the deal: I never used to brush my hair. Like, ever. In fact, on a good day, my hair used to resemble a used-up doll's: slightly frizzy, weird kinks all over the place, tangles that would make your mom cry. 

And then I read this article which taught me that French girls brush their hair so I started brushing mine.

Since then I've had a slight obsession with brushes. Obviously, when I decided to start brushing my hair, I bought the cheapest one I could find and it's left me less than thrilled. Enter Krista, the SFF beauty resident who's shared her tips on a brand new brush that works on both wet and dry hair. Ooh la la.

Product Name: The Wet Brush

Price: $8.99

What's It For? Getting out tangles in wet (or dry) hair.

Level of Difficulty (ie how difficult is it for the average bear to use): Very easy

Will it change my life? Yes! No matter how tangled your hair is, it will literally glide though painlessly.

Additional comments: Your hair is in its weakest state when its wet, so it's very important to avoid breakage by using a tool like The Wet Brush to smoothly get out the post-shower tangles. For me, this works better than any large tooth comb I have tried. Take it in the shower too and brush your conditioner through your hair - it'll feels amazing afterwards.