Reluctant style – find your beauty minimum and perfect it


What is your beauty minimum?
If you can’t seem to think of it now just stay up until 4 a.m. with a sick child, and then crawl into bed and listen to your partner snore for another 2 hours.  Catch an hour of sleep and then drag your carcass out of bed at 7 a.m., realize that you have an appointment that morning which requires you to take your aching body and undereye circles out in public and you will quickly discover your beauty minimum: the barest essentials to make yourself feel like you can face the world after a long night. (PS – childless readers, you can also achieve this moment of realization after a long night of drinking, socializing, and doing fun things that parents used to do before they had kids).

Childless or with child, almost every woman has an inkling of what her beauty minimum is. Even if you don’t wear makeup, there is some sort of ritual that you perform or something that you put on before you leave the house. Hopefully, at the very least, it’s a pair of pants. Your reasons are your own – we’re not here to discuss whether and why women wear make up or jewelry. We are here to discuss those little cues we give ourselves to remind us that we are human, that we like ourselves, that feel beautiful (or handsome*).

If you are really too tired and bewildered to know what your beauty minimum is then spend a minute in front of the mirror and find 1 or 2 things about yourself that you really admire. Matrons, don’t be hard on yourselves. It is easy to succumb to negative thoughts and decide that there is nothing that we like about ourselves, but every woman is made up of many parts – some lovely, some less lovely. Don’t focus on what you don’t like, just really focus on what you love. Maybe you have shiny, long hair – then take the time to braid it! Perhaps you have a smile that could light up a whole city – then find a pretty lipgloss and floss every night. Perhaps you have swoony curves – then find that killer pair of pants that show them off to their best advantage. Maybe you have nice cheekbones, or cute feet, or beautiful eye color. You are beautiful – I know you are. 

Wow, this post is…shallow
No, it isn’t. Moms and dads are usually pretty unappreciated. We rarely have the time to stop and notice, but every day we put the needs of our children and family above our own, and after months and years of this, well, it’s easy to forget that you are beautiful and it is easy to stop caring. Beauty doesn’t mean looking flawless, it means feeling flawlessly flawed. Accepting the less attractive parts of yourself and embracing the parts that you love is beauty. Knowing that you are more than just someone who changes diapers, makes lunches, and drives the neighbor kids to soccer practice is beauty.

My beauty minimum:
I rarely feel like wearing makeup…or pants. Glowing skin and polished nails are my beauty minimum because I am essentially very lazy. I don’t have time or energy to apply makeup in the morning so I take extra care of my skin and nails so that, at the very least, I know that I can leave the house and hold my head high. I can take care of these two things in the evening, thus I avoid adding to the morning chaos.

Moisturizer, sunscreen, AND foundation in one? I'm too lazy to raise my hand...
Moisturizer, sunscreen, AND foundation in one? I’m too lazy to raise my hand…

: I inherited a few things from my father – stubborn pessimism, a fascination with completely useless facts, and good skin. After examining the things that I like about myself, I decided that my skin was worth a little time investment. Every night I wash my face with coconut oil, then I splash on some rosewater, add a thin layer of vitamin C serum to my wrinkle-prone areas (for me that is my forehead and around my mouth and décolletage), then I have a tall glass of water before bed and when I wake up. In the morning, if I am lucky enough to find the time to do more than brush my teeth, I add another layer of coconut oil to my skin and a bit of tinted sunscreen from Laura Mercier. Total time: 7 minutes evening, 3 minutes morning. Total cost: 1 giant tub of coconut oil cost $5 at the hippie store. Rosewater is about $10 for a 8oz bottle, but it lasts for a long time. The DeVita Vitamin C serum I bought was $30 at a high-end grocery store. Tinted moisturizer is the most expensive item coming in at $45. I run out of these items only about once a year, once every 2 years for the vitamin C serum, so it’s a time and money bargain. Also, although I am aging, my skin is starting to look younger than me (don’t worry, the rest of me still looks right on target).  Matrons, it is important to moisturize!

This bright teal looks both classy and trashy no matter what your skin tone.
This bright teal looks both classy and trashy no matter what your skin tone.

: Why nails? I never used to paint them until I had a kid, but colorful claws is an easy way to add an accessory that lasts for days. Sometimes when I haven’t had the time to take a shower in 2 days and I’m aching from exhaustion I can look at my pretty fingernails and tell myself that everything is going to be ok. When I started taking an interest in keeping them groomed and painted I also started purchasing higher quality polish. The better quality polish not only lasts longer, but I find they have much better color quality and some, (like my favorite brand Butter London) are also 3-free. Once a season I splurge and spend $20 on a bottle of nail polish at Nordstroms instead of spending $5 on a drugstore bottle every month or so. I have only a few colors, but they were all carefully chosen and I wear all of them still. This has also reduced the medicine cabinet clutter problem in our house. The best bets for a busy mom who wants fuss-free painted nails is to own at least 3 nice neutrals (when your neutral color starts to chip it is less noticeable), a good quality base and top coat, and a few pops of color. Keep your nails short – no one likes to accidentally scratch their baby with their fingernails – and well-shaped. For eczema-sufferers there will be times when the thought of using polish remover sounds like slow torture. At those times I would use a 4-way buffing block for nice nails without all of the searing pain. More info on mommy-manis here. My current neutral favorite is Particulére by Chanel, and Artful Dodger or Bit Faker by butter London.

So…what’s your beauty minimum?



*Men have a lot less pressure on them to make their face look pretty, but I think stay at home dads also need to have their own minimum too. Perhaps it just means a clean shave or scraping some styling gel through your hair – everyone needs a small ritual to help them remember how they managed to sire children in the first place. The Reluctant Matron is inclusive, so gentlemen-daddies, this post is for you too!



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