Erin's Beauty Elements: Hair

I've been on a quest to go more natural with hair products, paying more attention to the unique qualities of my hair and what it likes.

I have fine wavy/curly hair that I dyed, straightened, under-conditioned and treated generally badly for years. After age 30, I felt my hair thinning a bit more and was worried that I was beginning to lose an unnecessary amount of strands due to damage. Along with a regular amount of scalp flakes and split-ends, I set out to explore ways to treat my hair differently. Now it's better than ever!

My favorite line of shower products is Trader Joe's Tea Tree Tingle. 

Wild, right? Reasons to love (shampoo, conditioner, and body wash):

  • vegan, no animal testing, lots of great natural ingredients

  • fresh scent that falls somewhere between mint and eucalyptus

  • refreshing tingling sensation, and tea tree oil helps with any dandruff

  • no parabens or laurel/laureth sulfates

  • a bottle is only $3.99!

  • lathers better than other low-poo options I've tried

  • feels pleasant, smells nice, and washes well...what else do you want?

Just look at this delightful shampoo ingredients list: water, tea tree oil, peppermint oil, eucalyptus oil, rosemary oil, nettle oil, thyme oil, birch leaf oil, chamomile, clary, lavender, coltsfoot leaf, yarrow oil, mallow, horsetail oil, soybean protein, coconut derived c12-14 olefin sulfonate (note: sulfonates are less harsh and more eco-friendly than straight up sulfates. In my opinion, what saves the TJ shampoo from being too harsh is that it's this far down on the ingredients list), cocamidopropyl betaine (natural foaming agent), tocopherol (vitamin E), trace minerals, citric acid (corn), sodium hydroxymethyglycinate (natural alternative to parabens), sea salt, grapefruit seed

Other hair improvements

- Cut it SHORT to give it a fresh start, and barely blow dried or straightened it for a year. I got in touch with my roots, if you will. The lack of damage, plus gravity, really made the curls come back into their own!

- Tried using NO SHAMPOO for a while. The theory behind "no poo" is that shampoo strips your scalp of all natural oils. Your scalp tries to make up for the sebum loss and ends up overcompensating, quickly causing a greasy head. By washing hair with a gentler alternative (people suggest baking soda and apple cider vinegar or even just water only), paired with brushing and preening any remaining natural oils toward the ends of the hair, you can achieve clean hair without the damage or dependency on daily shampooing.

The results weren't always consistent for me - I think it works better for people with thicker hair? I missed the refreshing lather and the guarantee that my hair could be made to look exactly the way I wanted at any given time. BUT after the experiment, I do feel that my hair transitioned in a very positive way. Plus, now I can shampoo my hair every 3-4 days or so without it looking bad at all! Can still rinse and finger-scritch it as much as you'd like, after workouts etc (sweat and hair sebum are different things).

- After that, I still wanted to remain more natural, with haircare that leans toward "low-poo" and AVOID DAMAGING -SULFATES and -CONES in the ingredients list. More info here. Now that I got my hair feeling so much healthier, I want to keep it that way!

- Discovered the glory of an EGG WASH as a once-a-month hair mask treatment (don't do it any more frequently, your hair can only take so much protein)! Sounds gross but it feels just like conditioner and the protein nourishes better than anything else. Most simple ingredient list ever: two egg yolks (I get rid of the whites, so they don't scramble in warm water)! Whisk em in a cup, and add a splash of water (~ a few tablespoons). Put it on dry hair in the shower, massage into scalp, clip your hair up and leave it on for 5-10 minutes while you do other shower stuff, and then rinse it out with the coolest water you can handle. Sounds crazy, but oh my god try it! Be amazed at how clean, light, and shiny your hair feels. More info here

- Bought a real BOAR BRISTLE BRUSH - helps distribute the natural oils in your hair from the roots down to the tips, leaving it shiny and smooth and extending the time between shampoos. Also helps me turn my curls into that vintage wave (see third photo below). More info here

- For hair growth, I take a BIOTIN supplement regularly (2500-5000 mcg per day is good for me, 10,000 mcg was too much and made my hair fall out more. More is not more)! I also love an occasional CASTOR OIL treatment for hair growth (I've also used it on eyebrows and eyelashes with lovely results)! More info here

- I still try to use LESS HEAT on my hair and let it do its natural thing as frequently as possible. Work with it, not against!

Everyone’s hair is different, and hair texture changes as we age. What works for me may not be great for someone who has lighter, thicker, more or less curly, or grey hair. But regardless of our hair type, I think everyone should consider haircare and read product bottles with a curious mindset: What’s in this and what does that mean for my hair? 

Maybe the answers to these questions will lead you to stop using shampoo, or maybe they'll lead you to a different product. Google has endless rabbit-holes of research you can disappear down.

Happy hair experimenting!


Makeup Vanity DIY Project

Introducing my new and improved vanity space in all its glory! I'm so pleased with how it turned out, and I love having my own lovely little corner of the world to enjoy the art of makeup.

Total cost: approx $320 for furniture, supplies and accessories

  • $100 for vanity and $30 for stool, found separately on Craigslist 

  • Paint and supplies from Lowes (the color is Dorian Gray from Sherwin-Williams in semi-gloss)

  • Drawer pull hardware – Amazon

  • Light-up makeup mirror – Amazon

  • Lamps – Amazon

  • Perfume bottles – Amazon

  • Jewlery organizer – Amazon

Come on the journey with me!

Cubs win!

I watercolored a little celebration art for my Chicago friends, after their team won the World Series (for the first time in 108 years)!

I thought last year was exciting, when my hometown Royals won the series for the first time since i was born. I should make some KC art soon :) but for now, go Cubs!

I have no idea how anyone follows sports regularly without having heart issues.

I have no idea how anyone follows sports regularly without having heart issues.

Start Swimming

I just joined a gym with a pool! I know how to swim, for fun or survival, but would love to get into athletic lap swimming for exercise.

Goals: develop more variety in my workouts, and tone up like crazy before the wedding. Lose about 10 pounds and get those Michelle Obama arms.

My Amazon wish list is ready to go...just waiting for my next paycheck!

Edit: I love it! Swimming is lovely

Kitchen Progress | Part 1

We're in the process of updating the kitchen! Here's what we've accomplished so far:

Cabinet color: Tres Blue  |  Wall color: Icy Avalance


Next round of goals for the kitchen:

Catio Bench Project

I love cats and want to keep ours indoors - but also wanted to be free from the smell and mess that comes with litter boxes in the house. 

We came up with a solution for a subtle outdoor hutch that doubles as a bench on our front porch, accessible via a small cat door in the living room. Harlow and Bogie figured it out in 20 minutes, and love having a small hideaway with some fresh air in their bathroom!

Choosing Chips and Picking Paint

Paint chip selection is a whole thing, but I love it!

Colors always look look a bit different (bolder/darker) on the walls than on the chip.

Before looking at paint chips:

Look for inspiration online. Once I had a collection of interiors that I was drawn to, I could start to identify themes and make a mood board. 

- Consider the feeling you're after. I wanted a darker blue (dark enough that the black appliances would visually disappear) but something that wasn't too bright or overwhelming. Something that felt cheerful while also relaxing and elegant.

- Obviously take your chips home and compare under your actual room's lighting.  Check out the colors at different times of day.

- Select a few favorites and get samples to paint swatches on your wall - it's worth it. I liked trying our two favorites + one darker. I think people can be too fearful of dark paint...some visual contrast is good!

- Live with the colors until a clear winner emerges (or if you think you need to go back to get another sample). You can consult with friends, but I think you'll know in your heart which color is the right one.

My Top 10 Travel Must-Haves

1. Solid Shampoo/Face/Body Wash Bar - Gone are the days of worrying about air travel spills or your liquid allotment. I've been loving Chagrin Valley Soap & Salve Co. and their organic Neem & Tea Tree Body & Hair Shampoo ($8.65).

2. A Good Travel Pillow - My REI Self-Inflating Travel Pillow ($19.50) is soft and velvety, rolls up small for easy packing, and has silicone strips on the back to keep it from slipping down (great for window-seat leaning)! It's nice that you can adjust how inflated it is, so your neck doesn't get stiff.

3. BB Cream/Sunscreen Under 3oz - It's handy to have double-duty beauty products for packing light, getting ready in a hostel, and having fewer liquid products to be hassled about. Lumene Bright Now Vitamin C BB Cream ($13) doubles as SPF 20 sunscreen and a nice light foundation. 

4. A Good Travel Purse - Nobody has dared to try to pickpocket or mug me, possibly because they are aware of the security that comes with my Travelon Crossbody Shoulder Bag ($40). It has 3 locking compartments, slash-proof construction, cut-proof shoulder strap, and RFID-blocking card and passport slots. Plus it's water-resistant (perfect for my time in London), has a good amount of pockets to stay organized, and looks pretty chic for a travel purse!

5. Trusted Traveler Memberships - If you travel frequently, these programs are well worth looking into. Basically, you can be pre-approved for clearance to get through border control faster (as an American, being able to use the UK/EU ePassport gates is a dream come true). All it takes is an application, an interview, and a fee. I have memberships with the US ($100, good for 5 years) and UK (£70, good for 1 year).

6. Selfie Stick - Don't judge, it's an incredibly helpful accessory for solo travel! I have short T-rex arms, and don't like handing my iPhone to strangers that may not speak English in touristy areas. I also don't have faith in their photography skills. A sturdy bluetooth Selfie Stick ($13) is a more reliable solution.

7. A Good Hat - Dry shampoo is great, but I think hats are better. They make you look accessorized and styled with even less effort. Enjoy a bit more sleep, or more time out enjoying your destination (and looking foxy in your photos). A simple Wool Hat ($22) makes you feel like Carmen SanDiego while you tour the world.

8. Kindle - I'm a big fan of packing lots of books while keeping my purse light with my Kindle Paperwhite ($119). It has great battery life and the adjustable back light is brilliant for any lighting situation, from bright beaches to dark hostel bunks. I'm also a fan of syncing my Kindle with my home library account to "check out" e-books for free, from anywhere!

9. Eye Mask & Ear Plugs - I love to sleep. I don't love when travel noises keep me from getting a few extra hours of precious rest – you need maximum energy for adventures! Drown out crying babies and let your neighbors know that you don't feel like chatting by going to your quiet dark place! I love my Sloth Sleep Mask ($24) from Appendage Accessories on Etsy.

10. Universal Outlet Adapter - With two USB charging ports, 1 standard plug outlet, and the ability to plug in throughout the US, EU, UK, and Australia my FosPower FUSE WorldWide International Adapter ($11.95) is one of my favorite and most essential travel gadgets. I've used it in 8 countries with no issues, and love the peace of mind that I won't find myself lost in the world with a dead phone.

Happy Travels!

xox - Erin

Prague, Czech Republic

Prague, Czech Republic