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Beauty and the Build

Posted Saturday, March 2, 2013 in: Nerd Life Obsessed With

When I’m not writing this blog, eating my body weight in cake or weeping because I wish I'd never started a painting project, I work as a freelance journalist. I write mostly about homes and interior design, but people who know me well will know that I also do a lot of beauty writing and a spot of spa reporting. (You can check out my hardcore investigative reporting on skincare, haircare and what to do if your neck skin is sagging in The West Australian’s Mind & Body section).

It’s probably a good thing that I write a lot on beauty, because it gives me a kick up the bum by guilting me into putting a little effort into my own appearance. (The same goes for my health and fitness articles. If I didn’t have to write about fitness my exercise regime would probably just involve walking to and from the fridge).

The fact that I am a freelance writer who works from home also factors into this, because if I were not meeting well-groomed people regularly, I would probably just plod around the house in my pyjamas every day, circulating the fridge and growing mould like a sloth. (For some reason when I picture this, I am making growling noises).

Beauty writing and spa reporting is a far cry from my home life and renovation and garden projects, which sometimes involve me grubbing around in the mud like a mudskipper.

ABOVE: This is me during our bathroom reno. I’m just joking. We haven’t renovated our bathroom yet. But seriously:

ABOVE: Sadly, what I really do look like renovating. We are doing poured liquid limestone here. Mr Nerd had just told me I look like Gollum. I'm sorry if this photo scared or upset you.

When I lived at home, for years I was used to looking at least fairly well-presented and tidy most of the time, and taking care of my skin and nails and hair and making sure I didn’t grow a unibrow like Anthony Davis (although then maybe I could have trademarked it like him). And then I bought a house that was a renovation project.

ABOVE: What I wish I looked like while renovating.

ABOVE: What I actually look like renovating (although, rarely this jubilant). This is me during our first round of home renovations a few years ago with Mr Nerd's parents' schnauzer Otto, who is obviously smiling for the camera. Clipping back my fringe on both sides became de rigeur during renovation time. Such a hot hair look. A shiny forehead and no makeup adds to this becoming style.

Goodbye long French polished fingernails. Bye shiny hair and spending 40 minutes getting ready. Farewell social life and staying awake past 8.30pm. Hello terrible hair and Feral Maya, who would realise at the end of a day spent painting, rendering and gardening that she was running completely late for dinner or a birthday drinks and only had ten minutes to rush to shower and get ready before speeding into the city with concrete caked under her fingernails and hair that smelled like cheese.

Since then I have adopted a different approach, which can be summed up by the below and which almost drives my fiance to tears of rage while he sits in the driveway with the engine running.

If you have ever had a time where you are doing renovations or working on a build every day for weeks at a time, you might know how hard it is to look beautifully groomed while doing so. (Unless you are Miranda Kerr. Miranda, stop reading now). If you are juggling full-time work it’s also harder and if you have kids, I don’t know how you do it. (It’s easy if you’re a guy. Guys can have a five minute shower, leave their hair wet, do an appreciative Blue Steel in the mirror and they look hot and ready to go).

So today I thought I would share some speedy beauty tricks - ones that I have picked up over the years from both my beauty writing and my renovating experiences, in the hope that you if you too are also working on a renovation or a new build, you will fare (and look) much better than I did.

For the squeamish, the men, and those freakish women who don’t need to wax, shave, pluck, dye, wash their hair ever or even bathe, this article is not for you. (Miranda I told you to stop reading before. Enough already).


Years ago I backpacked through Europe with one of my best friends. She has this lovely floaty blonde hair that always looks like Kate Hudson’s fairy floss hair in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. Even when she doesn’t do a thing to it for three days. She only has to wash it about twice a week too. My hair is the opposite of hers, and not only in colour. I need to wash my hair EVERY day otherwise it gets oily and Greenpeace guys come after me.  

ABOVE: My friend and I in the Swiss Alps on my 24th birthday. In good hair day times.

Anyway one day my friend and I were so busy I missed ONE DAY’S hair washing. My friend and I were in Bruges the next sunny cloudless morning, when she turned to me and said with a bemused look on her face, “How did your hair get wet?”

I tersely said that my hair wasn’t WET, I just hadn’t WASHED it that day. She looked at my roots and couldn’t conceal the look of horror that spread over her face. “Oh,” she said. “I thought you might’ve stood under a gutter pipe or something.”

I wish I had known about dry shampoo back then. I could have sprayed it in her face and I could have soaked up the excess oil in my roots too. Dry shampoo is the best. You spray it on, leave it for 30 seconds and brush through your roots. It soaks up excess oil, lifts your hair to give it a bit of volume and gives you a nice I’ve-just-been-washed look. Perfect for renovators (and backpackers) when you’ve been griming around all day and then realise in a panic that you need to be at a birthday drinks in an hour. My favourite brand is Klorane, available from Price Attack. After dry-shampooing I like to tease my roots, spray my hair lightly with hairspray and then I curl my hair up into a high, tight bun and undo it just before I get to the bar which gives it a wavy look quickly.

If you do have time to (really) wash your hair, I love Monoi Oil – this stuff is amazing. A bottle is not cheap but it will last you for ages. You only need a drop (two if you have a lot of hair like Rapunzel) rub it into your hands and work it into your hair before combing through and blowdrying – it makes hair feel super-soft and look shiny. Another good product is Kerastase Elixir Ultime.

You know how some couples or newlyweds take romantic pictures of their hands clasped together and put them on Facebook? Well, this is me and Mr Nerd’s romantic Facebook picture of our hands, covered with industrial strength glue after we glued down bamboo floorboards to our concrete pad.

If you think about the fact that this glue is meant for attaching wood to concrete so it lasts for years, think about how hard it is to get off your hands. Mr Nerd’s hands looked like this for almost a week. How disgusting is that?

And let me tell you they looked bad, but they FELT just AWFUL and having been a NIVEA moisturising freak since I was nine (that time I went to a sleepover in Year 8 and forgot my moisturiser was a major childhood trauma) I fretted like crazy. It took more than a week for Mr Nerd’s hands to look normal again, meanwhile I soaked mine in whatever I could find – dishwashing detergent, turps, olive oil, alcohol, moisturisers and scrubbed them until they hurt just trying to get that glue to come off.

If you also run into a wood glue pickle, soak your hands for 15 minutes in warm, salty water and then try to work the glue off with a rough sponge. You can also try acetone-based nail polish remover. But most of all, learn from our mistake: buy a big cheapie box of latex surgeon-style gloves from Bunnings or Coles and snap on a pair for EVERYTHING you do house-wise – painting, sanding, weeding, putting in floorboards, smoothing liquid limestone (that will dry out your skin horribly. Been there suffered through that). Better for your hands than endless soaking and scrubbing until they’re raw and they will stop your hands from looking like paws.

Alright if you get squeamish about feet, pedicures or skin in any way, stop reading now. Because I have told two people about this thing and they both nearly screamed in disgust. It’s called Milky Foot.

Have you seen that bit in The Craft where Neve Campbell is in the hospital after getting that treatment for her scars, and the doctor is scraping her skin away with that metal tong, all amazed because it's all new and smooth underneath, and she thinks it’s because of the new treatment but it’s really because Neve Campbell and her friends have done witchcraft? Well Milky Foot is like that for your feet (without the black magic).

This is a great pick-me-up for feet especially if you suffer from dry feet in summer and the standard pumice-and-moisturise-before-putting-socks-on trick doesn’t really work for you. You buy these plastic booties which are filled with the solution and pop them on your feet for an hour while you sit down – ideal to do while you watch TV or type. The solution is derived from milk and includes lactic acid and salicyclic acid (ingredients commonly found in facial peels). After five to ten days, the dead, hardened skin on your feet starts to peel off. I’ve never had sunburn so bad that my skin peels, but I imagine it’s like that! Your dead skin basically peels off to reveal soft fresh skin underneath.

Okay now I'm going to show you a pic the Milky Foot people sent me so if you get grossed out easily I would advise you to skip to something more cute and charming like this story on really tiny owls.


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This is what happens to some people's feet with use of this product. If you Google Image 'milky foot' you will no doubt be gobsmacked at the photos that will pop up – I know I was.

But individual conditions vary, so while some people will claim their feet peeled heaps for weeks and that they couldn’t wear open shoes, for me the peeling part only took two to three days and it was nowhere NEAR as full-on as the model in the pic – I soaked my feet in warm water which speeds up the process, and just rubbed off the dead skin cells in the shower. The whole process is completely painless. 

So read a few reviews before to see if Milky Foot is something you would like to try. For me the peeling really wasn’t that scary. And my feet felt and looked blissfully new and soft within two weeks of applying the booties – my rough ‘reno heels’ were gone. I love this product. It's perfect if your feet are rough and dry from days spent on your feet renovating and gardening and you don’t have time or coin to get a good pedicure.

By the way, fellow 80s babies, did you know that Fairuza Balk, the girl who played the mean witch in The Craft (the one who went mental at the end) is the same girl who played Dorothy in the super disturbing kids movie Return to Oz? Yeah I know I was like, "whaaaat" too.

Yeah I know, what the hell?

Getting back on track... I’ve been a NIVEA moisturiser junkie since I was a kid, and have dry skin to the point where I get withdrawal symptoms and feel irritable and cranky if I can’t moisturise (my dreams of winning Survivor are dashed).
I was moisturising even through renovations like after washing my hands (especially after vigorous bouts of hand scrubbing). I really don’t believe you have to spend a fortune on expensive products. A makeup artist friend of mine told me to try rosehip oil and coconut oil as moisturisers and I am hooked! Coconut oil is awesome used after a warm shower, before bed – it helps diminish fine lines and plumps up your skin, and rosehip is very nourishing.

I used to have nails before I bought a reno project. You’re going to splinter and break them so cut them short, file them squoval (a shape that is a cross between square and oval) paint with a base coat (important to stop your nail bed discolouring and to make your polish last longer) and use a long-lasting polish. The best ones I’ve tried are OPI, Revlon Colorstay and Rimmel Lycra PRO. The polishes could last through chemical warfare and the colours look good enough to eat.

Warm bright hues like OPI’s Cajun Shrimp and Strawberry Margarita and Colorstay’s Passionate Pink and Rimmel’s Lycra Pro Riviera Red look great on all skin tones and do a fab job of hiding any dirt under your fingernails - great when you need to rush out of the house for the evening. Yes I know you think I’m disgusting. I’m okay with it.

ABOVE LEFT: REVLON Colorstay in Passionate Pink. ABOVE RIGHT: Speed paint of OPI Princesses Rule. P.S. I don't actually have huge man hands, I just have this polish in the miniature size bottle.

By the way if you are rushing to get ready after a day of renovations and your nails look terrible – OPI Princesses Rule is the most forgiving nail polish ever. It camouflages chipped tips, suits any skin tone and makes your nails look like those of a Disney princess. And because of the shimmer to it, it doesn’t matter one bit if you don’t have a steady hand or don’t do a perfect paint job – you can splodge it on a bit and no-one will be able to tell. After a bout of hedge clipping that left my claws looked ragged and not exactly in great shape for the hen’s high tea I’m about to go to, I quickly used Princesses Rule and my hands look ‘done’. It dries quickly too.

If you have any speed renovation beauty tips of your own, share the love! Maya x

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