Spotlight on: Trader Joe’s Bath and Body

Recently, my friends Regan and Katie from Cardigans and Couture, posted about their go-to Trader Joe’s food recommendations. As a frequent TJ’s shopper, I couldn’t agree more with their recommendations (though I might add this and these to the list), but it also got me thinking about all of the bath products that I use from Trader Joe’s. Here’s what I’d add to their list from the TJ’s “beauty department.”

I keep this hand soap in my kitchen at all times. It’s smells great, and it lasts forever. Don’t believe me? Here’s a great review from the I’m A Trader Joe’s Fan blog.

Speaking of lavender, this all-natural scrub is great for the shower. I use it after shaving to get really smooth, soft skin. Joluxe blog happens to agree with me.

Since we’re talking about shaving, I highly recommend the honey mango shave cream from TJ’s. It’s gentle on skin, smells great, and you don’t have to deal with a rusty can of shaving cream crudding up your tub! Check out what the gloss has to say on the subject.

This is my most recent TJ’s discovery, and I’m totally in love! It gives your scalp a tingly feeling when you’re using it, and doesn’t cause unnecessary buildup. At $3.99 a pop, it’s well worth the price. Urban Bush Babes put together a great review. Oh, and there’s conditioner too!

What about you? Have any items to add to this list?

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The Clarisonic Verdict

Who knew that there were so many Clarisonic devotees out there?! I was overwhelmed with comments on my last post, and let me say ladies, you made a convincing case! Literally, there wasn’t a single person with a bad thing to say. Not one! I just placed my order.

Big thanks go to my friend Meredith, who reminded me of Capitol Hill Style’s recent post on the Clarisonic. In her post, she recommended buying from Skinstore, which had a 20% off promo code on the purchase. Holla!

You know I love a discount, so I was all over that. The Mia in graphite grey is headed my way next week. I get all of this and for only $95 (plus free shipping and free samples)!

Thanks for all of the advice, everyone. I’m excited to get started!

Considering the Clarisonic

I’ve always had issues with my skin. It’s super sensitive, fair, and prone to acne. Everyone has that one thing about themselves that they will spend any amount of money on to make better. If you’re Kim Kardashian, it’s body waxing. For my friend Liz, it’s hair products. For me, it’s skin care. After a life of crazy combination skin and breakouts, I am willing to do almost anything to keep my face looking fresh.

All that said, I don’t have a super fancy face regimen. It’s Cetaphil in the morning followed by some Oil of Olay, and at night, I take my make up off with good old Costco-brand face wipes.

But a recent birthday, and the threat of grey hair and wrinkles, has caused me to think that I might need to up the ante in the skin department to ensure a somewhat wrinkle-free existence. I am lucky that I don’t really have wrinkles yet (or perhaps I just can’t see them), but I’ve heard you should start defying your age before you start showing it.

I’ve had friends say great things about the Clarisonic. You know the magical spinning wand brush that is supposed to make you look 10 years younger each morning. At $150 (or so) a pop, it would certainly be an investment, but if I can freeze time, then won’t it be worth it? I don’t know….so I’m hoping you can tell me.

Here are my big questions:

  1. Do I need to age defy or am I being silly?
  2. Will this thing make me look awesome or like I’ve been washing my face with a brillo pad each morning?
  3. How often am I supposed use it?
  4. Do I have to use the Clarisonic product line to really make it worth it or can I load it up with Cetaphil and go on my merry way?
  5. And I guess, overall, is it worth the investment?

Calling all devotees or disbelievers – help me figure out what to do! This is your moment to dictate my spending. Do I reallocate my CVS money toward skin care greatness or save my $150 for a rainy day?

 

Home Waxing – A Cautionary Tale

Without my family’s annual winter beach vacation, I have been slacking off on – what I affectionately refer to as – routine maintenance. Part of it has been a time thing, part is a money thing (usually it’s about $50 a pop for a professional job), and part is just plain laziness.

But in the last few days, it’s started to get the better of me. My go-to salon for waxing is the Red Door Salon and Spa. They use a special kind of wax that doesn’t hurt as much (to me at least), so I’ve been a devotee for years. Plus, there is one near my office, so it’s super easy to pop out on my lunch break to take care of business.

But lately I have been really busy (and poor and lazy), so I haven’t been able to get over there. So, as I was perusing the aisles of Target this past weekend, I saw these wax strips and decided to give them a try (for a grand total of $6.99). I suppose I was feeling extra Discountess-like that day. A total savings of $43 – not bad, right?

Well now, with the full experience in the rear view mirror, I can safely say I was wrong. SO SO SO WRONG. This is not something you should do at home. AT ALL. It was awful. AWFUL! Here’s why:

1. It hurts. Of course, it hurts when a professional does it too, but something about the element of surprise when someone else does it makes it an easier pill to swallow.

2. It takes a while. What is normally a 15 minute blip in my lunch break took me 25 minutes to get it right (insert more pain here). Slow is definitely not the way to get this done.

3. Without a mirror and some serious acrobatics, you can’t entirely see what you’re doing. This is not a time for guesswork. Trust me. One misstep, and you guessed it, more pain.

4. Did I mention that you can seriously hurt yourself? Let’s just say, I managed to give myself some sort of bruise in the process. Enough. Said.

So for you Discountess readers who are looking to cut costs, my recommendation would be–cut elsewhere. This is an experience that even many professionals screw up, and I was no exception. I was too big for my britches. I failed, and I have a bruise to prove it.

Fringe Benefits

For the past several weeks, I’ve been in desperate need of a haircut. DESPERATE. I hadn’t had a cut since my Aveda Institute experience in October, so clearly it was time. Though I made it out of the Aveda Institute unscathed, I decided to try a slightly pricier, but still discount option.

Fringe Hair Studio is a wonky little salon within walking distance from my Georgetown pied-da-terre. I started going there after I became outraged at the unmemorable $90 haircut that my old salon gave me. Essam and his team are great. The place is understated, but the stylists know what they’re doing (unlike my friend from the Aveda Institute). And they are reasonably priced to boot!

I went to see Abbie last week to fix my sad situation. The Aveda cut ended up being a great one, but it had grown out too much. Abbie took the cut to the next level by adding more layers, so it has a bit more shape. Results are below (apologies for the sad photo – I’m terrible at self portraits).

haircut

Hair Cut: $55

Tip for shampoo: $5 (the man had magic fingers. MAGIC.)

Tip for the cut: $10

Total cost: $70

(Price differential between Aveda Institute is $56 – STEEP. But probably worth it for peace of mind, no?)

What do you think? Too expensive for what I got or is this the bargain of the century? I’m not above going to some other place that’s a better deal. Got an idea? Send it my way!

Splurge vs. Save – Blowouts

With New Years Eve almost upon us, I have been thinking about what I’m going to wear. Due to my reckless spending during December, I need to shop in my closet for my outfit (which makes me feel totally lame). BUT, everyone wants to look good on New Years, so I decided to treat myself to a blow out before my night on the town.

My darling brother gave me a gift certificate to DryBar for Christmas – the new blow out salon in DC. I visited the DryBar in New York during my last visit, and it was quite the experience. For $40, you got bottomless champagne, a shampoo, and a blow out. I paid $10 extra dollars to my stylist to rub my head for 10 minutes. I HIGHLY recommend this. In fact, I would wash my own hair and show up there just to have them massage my scalp. It was awesome.

Unfortunately, all of their appointments are booked for new years (and at $40 a pop, my pre-gift certificate self was not in a hurry to make an appointment). So I’ve been looking for a low-cost alternative.

Enter Bubbles Salon.

It’s about a 4 block walk from my office, and according to their website, they will do a shampoo and blow dry for $25. They say that cost depends on how long and thick your hair is, but my shoulder length blond locks shouldn’t put me in a higher price bracket. Of course, there is no champagne and no head rub, but I’m hoping that I will still get a fuss-free blow out that will make my old outfit on New Years look like new.

I have an appointment tomorrow after work. Best case scenario, I get a great look for my New Year’s party. Worst case it goes up in a bun for the evening. I’ll let you know how it goes!

 

Splurge vs. Save – Hair Care

 vs. 

I just ran out of my Moroccan oil. A friend of mine turned me onto using it about a year ago. I love the effect. It makes my hair shiny, smooth, and really, really soft. BUT, it costs $35+ a bottle. Granted it takes several months to get through a bottle, but that’s still pricey.

So I went in search of an alternative and found Organix Penetrating Moroccan Argan Oil (Light) for $7.99 on my favorite website, drugstore.com. I always, always check the reviews. If it’s cheaper, but doesn’t do the right job then you are still out $8. Luckily, this stuff has a 5 star rating on the site and very good feedback. I decided to give it a whirl.

I’ve now been using it for 5 days. My hair looks and feels the same as it did with the more expensive stuff.  It doesn’t really have a strong smell, which I like. Sometimes the cheaper versions of products are downright stinky, but this is nice and light.

I’m definitely the kind of person who is a sucker for advertising. If you tell me that using gold-plated shampoo will help me look like Gisele Bundchen, then I’ll try it.  But this little experiment has taught me 2 things:

  1. Absolutely no one can tell what kind of shampoo or hair products you use. Whether they cost $50 or $5, it is entirely undetectable.
  2. I’ve been wasting my money on expensive hair stuff for years, and I still don’t look like Gisele. DAMN.

Time to give up that ghost…

I Miss Mani-Pedis

I love a good mani-pedi. I have this great spot near my house in Georgetown that does a fabulous job, and at about $50 for a mani-pedi, it’s a pretty good price too. They even give you a back rub when you’re done – I’m a sucker for a back rub.

BUT, I started adding up the cost, and I realized I need to cut back. $50 a month for 12 months is $ 600/year. I’m not saying that I’m never going again, but I’m going to try to hold myself to once a quarter. I’m hoping that will be enough to keep my nails funk-free.

Hurricane Sandy provided a great chance for me to try out an at home manicure and pedicure. I’ve been watching my buddies at Vicky’s for years, so I’ve seen what they use on me. All happens to be available at drugstore.com and Target (oh and CVS, but buying it online is waaaay cheaper). Here are my products:

Base coat: Seche Clear

Nail Color: OPI A-Taupe the Space Needle
(Note: I prefer to buy my favorite nail colors. Even if I am getting a professional job, I take my own polish with me. That way, I can touch up any chips later on and make the work last a little longer.)

Top Coat: Essie Top Coat

I did take the time to file and buff my nails and trim the cuticle. It does take a little extra work, but I think the results look less like a home job. Then I did base, 2 coats of polish, and top coat, and here are the final results.

Not too bad if I do say so myself. If only I had my back rub…

The Grand Hair Experiment – Part 2

This was not for the faint of heart. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of great things about the Aveda Institute, but it does require patience and an open mind.

I got there at 6, but they mixed me up with another client and by 6:30 I still wasn’t with a stylist. I asked at the desk, they realized their mistake, and presented me with my stylist. She was very friendly with funky Rihanna-style hair. Like this.

After about :30 seconds, it became apparent that she was a novice and an over-sharer. I learned that she’d been to styling school 3 times, but kept quitting before learning to cut. Red flag #1. She also told me that her funky hair was a result of a “relaxer incident”. Red flag #2. Apparently, her colleague over-relaxed her hair to the point that it all burned off. At this point, I started to get nervous.

After my hair was washed, we went to work. The stylist meticulously divided my hair and put it up by sections, a la Scary spice. Then, took two sections and started to cut. I could tell she was scared, and trust me, she wasn’t alone! She cut a tiny bit in the back, and then wanted to ask the supervisor a question. When the supervisor arrived, she basically took over. I was thrilled, especially when the supe told me that my stylist didn’t know how to cut bangs yet. Say what?!

The supe gave me a great cut, and told me I looked like Heidi Klum. A bit far-fetched, but I’ll take it. The best news was my cheap haircut was 20% off because I had to wait – leaving my grand total at $18.40 INCLUDING tip at 25%.

While somewhat alarming at times, it was all in all a good experience. I would definitely go back. If you decide to do this, here’s what you need to know:

1. You can request a 2nd year or “learning student” when you make your appointment. They are about to graduate and be released into the salon world. It’ll cost you a whopping $5 more, BUT they won’t put the fear of God into you. Bonus.

2. Only go if you have a simple hair cut in mind. If you want something drastic, I’d stick with someone more seasoned.

3.  Give yourself plenty of time for the cut, i.e. don’t make dinner reservations immediately after.

4. They have other services! Scared of a haircut? Try a mani-pedi or a facial, a little bit easier and less permanent.

In case you were curious, this was the final result. Not the best picture of me, but my hair looks good!