Minimalism

Minimal skincare

As in all aspects of my life, I have tried to pare my skincare down to the bare essentials. I have sensitive skin that is prone to eczema, so I have to be very careful about what I use and avoid products that can provoke a skin reaction. Products must all be fragrance-free and as free as possible of sensitizing ingredients. I’ve gone through a lot of products in my life, and I am always resisting the temptation to try new products; this has led to a lot of wasted money as well as skin irritation. I have learned that (a) expensive does not necessarily mean high quality; (b) the longer the list of ingredients (which tends to be more common amongst expensive products), the greater the chance that my skin will be irritated; (c) eye creams are a complete waste of money, since regular moisturizer is all you need; (d) layering multiple products on your skin can lead to irritation; and (e) “natural” means very little. The term “natural” is not regulated in the cosmetics industry, so there are no assurances. Further a lot of “natural” ingredients can be very irritating, especially many essential oils that these products often contain. My goal is to use the fewest number of items, to use products for different purposes and, as always, to generate as little waste as possible

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Evening routine

I rinse with warm water, then apply CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser to damp skin, and wipe off with an Erase Your Face cloth, which I use also to remove any eye makeup. I rinse my face with warm water and pat dry with a microfibre facecloth, as I find cotton cloths too harsh on my skin. I know that these cloths can release microfibre particles into the water, but my face really can’t handle cotton well. The added advantage of both these cloths is that I can wash them in the evening and they will be dry for use the next day; this allows me to have only one of each. While my face is still slightly damp, I apply some hyaluronic acid from Canadian company The Ordinary, including to my neck and around the eyes. Once the serum has dried, I apply CeraVe moisturizing cream to my face, eye area, and neck. This moisturizing cream doubles as my hand and body cream.

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Morning routine

I don’t cleanse or rinse my face in the morning. I know this may sound a little shocking to some, but doing so dries out my face too much. I’ve checked with some dermatologists, who told me that it’s perfectly fine for me to do this. I simply apply a sunscreen on my face and neck, and some CeraVe cream around the eyes. I use the Canadian Live Clean Mineral Face Sunscreen SPF 45. Many mineral sunscreens are very greasy, but this one absorbs well. As is typical with mineral sunscreens, it leaves a bit of a white cast initially, but this is not a problem with my skin tone. I use this sunscreen on exposed body parts if I go outside during the day.

Exfoliation

I don’t exfoliate my face; my skin simply can’t tolerate it. I find that massaging the jojoba oil is enough to help shift any dead skin cells. I’ve had face burns from using exfoliators, even those that were marketed as gentle. The worst experience is when I used a facial clay; my skin was the colour of a ripe tomato and was very hot to the touch and inflamed for several hours. As for my body, I use a dry body brush once a week.

Tally of products:

  • 2 facecloths
  • Hyaluronic acid (glass bottle)
  • Moisturizing cream (face, hands, and body)
  • Facial sunscreen (doubles as body sunscreen)
  • Dry body brush (wood)
Minimalism

Paring down my makeup collection

I’ve been paring down my makeup up collection significantly over the past two years. The older I get, the less makeup I want to wear. I prefer to focus on taking very good care of my skin so that I don’t need products to cover it up.

Most of my makeup is made by Pure Anada, a Canadian company that sells vegan products with minimal packaging. I have the compact featured in the image above, which has a magnetic base. You buy items such as powder foundations, blush, and eye shadow that come in metal bases that you place in the compact to customize your mix. The refills come in cardboard containers that are infused with wildflower seeds that you can plant.

My entire makeup collection consists of the following items:

Eyebrow pencil: Pure Anada sells a loose eyebrow powder, but I’ve learned the hard way that loose powders around the eyes don’t work for me, as I invariably get some in my eyes. I have thin brows that need filling in. I prefer to use a pencil that you can sharpen, as this creates minimal waste. I use the Taupe eyebrow pencil by Annabelle, another Canadian company.

Concealer: I use concealer around my eyes. I use prescription eye drops that cause ocular hyperaemia and the darkening of the skin around my eyes. As a result, I need a concealer that has high coverage, is waterproof and won’t cake. The best concealer to meet my needs is Bye Bye Under Eye by It Cosmetics in Light Nude. The container is small, but you use very little, as the concealer is very concentrated.

Eyeliner: I use eyeliner sparingly. Most people think I’m wearing eyeliner when I’m not because I have a naturally dark lash line, especially on the lower lashes. I’m very lucky to have long, thick lashes. I will sometimes wear a very thin line on the upper lid. I use the Brown Pureline eye pencil from Pure Anada.

Eye shadow: I own only two shades, and I wear only one at a time. I couldn’t be bothered with contouring the eye area with 2-3 shades. My irises are almost black in colour, and if I wear too much around the eyes, they stand too much in contrast with my pale skin. I have the following shades: Harmony, which is matte lilac grey, and Mirage, which is a grey brown.

Mascara: Mascara is a must for me; it’s my proverbial desert island item. I use the KVD Go Big or Go Home mascara in black.

Blush: I don’t particularly like to wear blush, but if I don’t, I often get asked if I am feeling well, or told that I look tired. I use Sweet Pea pressed blush from Pure Anada.

Arrowroot starch: Yes, I know this sounds a little strange. I stopped wearing foundation over the past few months, as I got tired of staining my COVID-19 face masks. I’ve found that my skin looks better if I don’t wear foundation. I wear sunscreen every day (SPF 50) regardless of weather, and reapply it during the day; I would prefer not to do this over a layer of foundation. I wear sunscreen if I’m staying indoors, too, since UVA-A can penetrate windows. I’ve been wearing sunscreen daily since I was in my late teens, and I avoid the sun religiously at all times, which means my skin is in good shape with little discolouration. I do like a matte look to the face, however (sunscreen can add a sheen). The best translucent powder I’ve found is arrowroot starch, the plant-based starch that is used as a thickening agent for foods (similar to corn starch). I buy it in bulk and carry some in my handbag in a small container. It imparts no colour on the skin, but makes the skin look polished.

Lipstick: Lipstick is a difficult area for me, as I am very particular about what I wear. I hate lip glosses, as they always travel around the mouth. I don’t like satin lipsticks for the same reason. Because I’m pale, I need to avoid lipsticks that are too close to my lip colour, as otherwise I look too tired. My lipstick of choice is Gabriel Cosmetics in the shade walnut.

And that’s the extent of my makeup: 9 items. I have only two brushes: one for eye shadow, and one for blush and arrowroot application. Everything fits in a small bag and I use every item that I own.

Minimalism

Minimal skin care

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In my efforts to pare down my possessions, I’ve been looking to keep my skin care products to the bare essentials and, if possible, to use multipurpose products. I’ve honed in on a routine that meets these criteria and, most importantly, works for my skin. I have fair, sensitive, and dry skin that is very easily irritated, especially by fragrances, exfoliating products, retinols, glycolic acid, sunscreens, and so forth. I’ve tried many expensive creams and serums over the years, most of which have been too irritating, and which resulted in burning, stinging, eczema, or contact dermatitis. I’ve learned that I need to keep my skin care as simple as possible to avoid irritation. I’ve pared my skin care routine to four products.

In the morning, I rinse my face with warm water and pat dry with a small microfibre towel. I find most cotton towels to be too rough on my skin. This microfibre towel dries very quickly and is ideal for travelling, as well. I use my all-purpose cream (discussed later) around my eyes. I learned a very long time ago that specialized eye creams are a complete waste of money and that many can do more harm than good, especially if they tighten the skin. During scarf season, I will use my all-purpose cream on my neck; in other seasons, when my neck is exposed, I wear my sunscreen.

Sunscreen is absolutely non-negotiable. I avoid sun exposure like the plague and have done so since I was in my teens. I wear an SPF 60 on my face every day, regardless of the weather or the season. The product that works best for me is La Roche-Posay Anthelios Fluid Lotion SPF 60. This lotion is very light on the skin, is fragrance-free, non irritating, and moisturizing.



In the evening, I cleanse my face with sweet almond oil, which I buy in bulk from a local store. I’ve tried many gentle cleansers over the years, but they always made my face feel very dry afterwards. I massage a few pumps of the oil on my dry face, then wipe clean with a wet Erase Your Face cleansing cloth. I use this cloth to remove my eye makeup as well (no cleanser is needed). I rinse my face with warm water then dry with my microfibre towel.

The final step is to apply my all-purpose cream, which is highly recommended by many dermatologists. I’ve been using this product for the past two weeks and love the results: CeraVe Moisturizing Cream. I had been using a much more expensive product for the past few years, but I was going through it like water. Further, I wanted a product that I could use on both my face and my body, as it’s one less thing to buy. The product works better than the expensive cream. What’s even better is that I use the Shopper’s Drug Mart dupe for CeraVe: The ingredient list is identical, but I get a 453g tub for under $20.

This cream has no fragrance or irritating ingredients. It’s rich and moisturizing, but absorbs quickly and is non-greasy. I use this cream on my face and neck, and around my eyes. It doubles as my body cream as well and, even more importantly, as my hand cream. I’ve always needed to by separate hand creams, as body creams have never been moisturizing enough, but this one product does the trick.

I use bar soap exclusively to cleanse my hands and body. The richest soap I’ve found is L’Occitane’s Shea Butter Soap. I use a dry body brush to exfoliate my body. I avoid exfoliating my face as much as possible, as I find it too irritating. I occasionally use a paste made by wetting some kaolin powder, but I do this only every two weeks or so.

Minimalism

Simplified makeup

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Makeup is one of life’s luxuries that I have always enjoyed. I never feel fully groomed unless I have some makeup on. Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of money on makeup products that I didn’t use very often, if at all. I’ve simplified my makeup routine and products to what I now consider to be the bare essentials; as a result, I like and use everything I own.

Most of my cosmetics come from two Canadian companies: Cosmic Tree Essentials, located in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, and Pure Anada, located in Morden, Manitoba. Both companies make vegan mineral makeup and are committed to reducing their product packaging. I can buy a selection of their products from local stores in Halifax.

For the face, I use an undereye concealer from Pure Anada.

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I use a liquid foundation from Cosmic Tree Essentials. I used to wear loose mineral powder, but I find the liquid version works better for my dry skin.  I sometimes skip the foundation, as my skin tone is generally even, as put on a light dusting of arrowroot powder instead. This foundation comes in a reusable silicone food-grade container.

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I have only two eyeshadows now; gone are the days of having those multi-shade pallets. I use one shade of blush. Both the blush and the eyeshadows come in metal containers that fit into a reusable magnetic compact.

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I use a pencil eyeliner sparingly, as well as mascara, both from Pure Anada.

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I am down to two lip colours: “walnut” from Gabriel Cosmetics, and a tinted lip balm from Tin Feather, which comes in an aluminium container. If I don’t want any lip colour, I use pure shea butter as my lip balm, which I buy in bulk from The Tare Shop.

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Everything now fits into a small makeup bag, which makes me very happy, and nothing is wasted.

Minimalism, zero waste

Low impact laundry routine

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I’ve gone through a number of different low impact laundry routines over the years. I’ve tried to make this routine as simple and earth-friendly as possible. At one point, I made my own laundry powder, but I found that it didn’t clean that well over time, and buying three ingredients to make one product was inefficient and hardly low impact. The routine below is much simpler and effective.

I wash sheets separately, as well as any throws, but the rest of my laundry is unsorted. In other words, I wash towels together with cleaning rags, socks, handkerchiefs, and so forth. I use Turkish towels, which are very thin, and which do not deposit fibres on other items in the wash. I wash EVERYTHING in cold water. I know that you’re supposed to wash sheets in hot water to kill dust mites, but my mattress and pillows are all encased. Hot water requires far too much electricity. I use the Cora Ball to trap microfibres and cat hair.

I handwash my clothes, as I maintain a small wardrobe and want to ensure that my clothes last as long as possible. I invested in the Panda spin dryer for my hand-washed items, as this helps speed up the drying process enormously, and uses far less energy than the spin cycle of my washing machine.

For laundry detergent, I use soap nuts (or soap berries), which I buy in bulk. Because I use cold water, I don’t find that soap nuts release enough saponin if I place them in a muslin bag, so instead, I make a liquid detergent with them: I boil 1 litre of water with 7 soapnuts and simmer for 30 minutes, adding a half tablespoon of salt as a preservative.  I place the used soap nuts in the compost. I use 60 ml of the detergent per load. I will sometimes add an earth-friendly brightener (a combination of sodium carbonate and hydrogen peroxide) from The Soap Company. This brightener comes in a paper bag. I do not use fabric softener.

My sofa slipcover is the only thing I place in my dryer, as it’s too cumbersome and heavy to hang. I dry everything else on an indoor clothes rack.  I live in a condominium, so line drying or using the balcony are not permitted. I invested in the Juwel Twist clothes dryer, which allows me to dry even larger items like sheets.

This routine works well for me; yes, it may take 24 hours for items to dry, but I’m in no rush, and I actually find the process of putting items on a drying rack and removing them to be soothing. I even love ironing 🙂

 

 

Minimalism, zero waste

Are minimalism and zero-waste living wasteful?

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I have been increasingly struck by the irony of how wasteful zero-waste living, as well as minimalist living, can be. Two recent articles have helped to reinforce this thinking; their focus is on minimalism, which I will tackle first. These two articles were written in response to the popular Marie Kondo Netflix series. Benjamin Leszcz and Katherine Martinko argue that we should not dispose of items based on whether they spark joy; rather, that we should examine our possessions in the light of “making do”, a deeply pragmatic philosophy. It means asking of our things the only question we should ever ask of them: “Can you fulfill your intended use for me?” (Leszcz).

When I declutter my home, my approach mirrors more closely the concept that Leszcz and Martinko propose. I’m a pragmatist at heart: If something doesn’t serve a purpose, I don’t need it. I’m actually more concerned about the waste that minimalism and zero-waste living can generate. In our rush to declutter our homes, how much of our possessions end up in the landfill? It could be argued, of course, that they are destined for the landfill at some point; we’re simply doing it now rather than later. At the very least, we should donate as many of our decluttered items as possible, which is what I have tried to do.

The move to zero-waste living can generate a large amount of waste. The graphic above for a zero-waste kitchen is an example of what I mean. I know that I have been guilty of buying “zero-waste swaps” instead of making do with items I already have in my home. So, for example, I’ve bought sets of travel cutlery, when it would have been simpler to use cutlery I already owned. It’s tempting for us to want the shiny stainless steel or bamboo items that proclaim “zero waste,” but aren’t we simply creating more waste when we do this? We have, in fact, fallen prey to zero-waste marketing.

I’m cautious about articles such as the two above because I fear that they will encourage people to not declutter their homes. The article could reinforce the “I might need it someday” mentality that continues our hoarding habits. Rather, I think we need to consider the “do I use it approach” when we assess our possessions, and the “do I need it” approach when we consider purchasing something new. This is where “making do” comes in. I think the bigger question we need to tackle is why we purchase so many items that we don’t need and that we never use. I’ve been fighting this tendency for the past several years; I’ve made significant progress, but I do need to constantly question myself. Let’s look at a recent case in point. While I was in Ottawa this past month, I stopped by a favourite store, Zone, which sells home accessories. I absolutely love home accessories and, in particular, linens, so this type of store is my achilles heel. I know this, yet I still went in, as I love to look. While there I came across these linen kitchen towels. I absolutely love linen, and the price of these towels was very good. I grabbed two and walked around the store: I forced myself to take this time to mentally run through my kitchen linen drawer. I could see the large stack of perfectly usable kitchen towels in this drawer. I already have far more towels than I need, thanks to my past shopping behaviours, so I put the towels back on the shelf. Yes, they were an excellent price, and they were pretty, but I DID NOT NEED THEM. Thankfully, I wasn’t shopping with a friend, because I likely would have been convinced to buy them. It’s taken me a long time to get here. I think I go to stores such as Zone to test my resolve; it would be easier, of course, to simply avoid the stores completely, but I love beautiful things and enjoy looking at them (hence my fondness for art galleries). It’s a dangerous line, however, and I have faltered once or twice.

Making do is a philosophy I want to continue to explore and embrace. Something I’ve considered doing is creating an inventory of certain items I own that are the most tempting to buy; in my case, this would be handbags, kitchen and bathroom linens, and makeup. I can check the inventory to see whether I already own it, or something like it,  e. g., do I need a third shade of this colour lipstick? I think all of us need to make a clear distinction between wanting something and needing it; just because something is pretty, or on sale, or a steal, doesn’t mean that we need to bring it into our homes. Can we reuse what we already own, or put it to another use? Case in point: When I switched to loose-leaf herbal tea, I explored tea infusers in the stores, but I found them all to be too fiddly and awkward.  I looked at the French press in my kitchen cupboard and thought “why not use this, instead?” In other words, I shopped from my kitchen and made do with what I already owned. I recently sewed old napkins into produce bags. I have turned into my grandmother Georgina and am perfectly happy with that.

Minimalism, zero waste

Simplifying my cleaning products

I have gone through various processes to simplify my household cleaning products. My goal is to find a solution that is as minimalist and zero-waste as possible. I’m happy to say that I’ve boiled down my cleaning to two products: Laundry detergent and liquid dish soap.

I’ve used a variety of cleaning products in the past. I’ve made my own products but, frankly, found that I needed to buy too many items in the process, which is hardly cost effective or efficient. I’ve used soap nuts in the past to clean clothes and to make an all-purpose cleaner, but now that I’ve switched to a high-efficiency front-loading washing machine, I don’t find that the soap nuts work as well anymore, especially since I wash all my laundry in only in cold water. I used a bar of Savon de Marseille to wash my dishes for the longest time, but this meant having a separate product to clean surfaces.

Organic Earth market to the rescue. I am beyond excited that Organic Earth now has a refill station for Down East laundry detergent and dish soap; I take my own glass jars, which they weigh that the store (after deducting the tare weight). These two products are all I need to clean my home. The laundry detergent works very well for my HE machine as well as for hand-washing my clothes. I use the liquid dish soap to wash dishes, as well as to clean counters, the toilet, the windows, etc. It’s a simple matter of adding a small amount of dish soap to a spray bottle of water. A nice bonus: Down East products are made across the harbour in Dartmouth. I much prefer to use dish soap than the more popular castile soap. I can buy liquid castile soap in bulk from The Tare Shop, but I think it creates a little too much lather, and is also more expensive than the dish soap. Two products; that’s it.