A Cheapskate’s Guide to Beauty

The past January has been in a way, my benchmark for how I hope the year would go. I have been trying to instill healthier habits on myself. One of my goals that I gave myself was to actually take care of myself better. I am fast approaching the big 3-0 and sleeping with your make up on and waking up the next day with a simple face wash, and I was ready to go, dewy-eyed, fresh and dare I say it, sexy thanks to the virtue of youth.

Oh, youth. I can’t do the same anymore. If I do, I will look like a ghoul that crawled out of my own grave the night before.

After spending the whole of 2012 pretty much moping, I had a giant checklist at the beginning of the year of what I wanted to see happen this year. Most of it was personal, like how I want to live a healthier life – eat better, exercise more, take my writing career professionally and work on The Good Tea Company to a great degree of success.

And I wanted to take care of my face. There I said it. I am shallow. I’m approaching 30 and the thought of getting wrinkles terrify me. Growing old gracefully be damned – I am going to do all I can to look as young as I possible even as I approach old age. Growing old gracefully is for those who give up.

The beginning of January, I spent a long time researching on how to do this. I’m not too keen on buying products off the shelf. I’m sure they work very well, but they are also, insanely expensive. And I am a cheapskate. A really big cheapskate. And I had a friend in university, who had the most beautiful and flawless skin I’ve ever seen. Her secret was, ‘I never use anything artificial on my skin.’

So I wanted to give it a shot.

I found this site, Crunchy Betty on the various ways on making natural beauty products at a fraction of the cost of buying products off the shelf. While sometimes the site does veer into paranoia at times – I don’t mind having flouride in water or toothpaste, and having been to countries where they don’t flouride their water like Vietnam where you can see the extent of teeth damage compared to Malaysia – I love everything else about the website. Most of the time, it means that most of my daily skincare regime is in the kitchen as opposed to having to head out to buy new stuff.

Which works out since there are days where I’m too lazy to actually eat, much less get dressed and head out to the shops.

After going at it for about a month, this is my current regime that I am quite happy with. My face is very sensitive and prone to drying out, so if you’re curious to try it out, bear in mind that it is like any new product: your skin might like it, your skin might hate it so you have to experiment to find what works for you.

Daily regime

Honey – I use honey to wash my face in the morning. One teaspoon of honey, warmed up at the tip of my fingers before massaging it into my face and wash off.

It used to be green tea with a bit of lemon juice. I used to tone my face until I realized it was the cause of my face drying out. And that Eizwan thought I looked rather ghostly, which I realized was due to the brightening (read: bleaching) effect of lemon juice.

Sweet almond oil from Culpepper. I’m going to experiment with jojoba oil and some other nourishing oils when my almond oil finishes. Which probably will be in about 6 months time since I only use about 2-3 drops a day and I have more than half a bottle left.

And boring old sunscreen to protect my face from those harmful UV rays.

Make up remover:

Eye makeup:
Plain old extra virgin olive oil on a cotton pad.

Face makeup:
Haven’t needed it yet, I don’t really use foundation or powder anymore. But honey don’t work on getting rid of make up unless you add a bit of baking soda to the mix, apparently.

Almond-Oatmeal exfoliant. Half oatmeal and half almonds blitzed in the food processor. Add a few drops of water to 1 tbs of the oatmeal and almond mixture and stir into a paste. Gently scrub your face and wash off. Almost guaranteed super soft skin.

I use this about twice a week. On Crunchy Betty she says it is gentle enough to be used daily and indeed there are a few blogs that extol the benefits of doing it daily – but I can’t. My face feels raw if I use it more than twice a week.

Face masks (weekly):

Egg-white and lemon juice mask:
And on nights when I feel like scaring the husband, I put on an egg white and lemon juice mask. The way to do it? Take one egg, use only the egg white, froth it up and then add a few drops of lemon juice. I paint my face with the mixture and leave it to dry for about 5 minutes. What I usually do after that is I put on Kleenex on my face and paint the egg-white mixture on the Kleenex.

Apparently I look something like this when I have this on:

I try to look as evil as possible too.

I try to look as evil as possible too.

Leave to dry for 30 mins and then yank off your mummy face. Well, yank it off as gently as possible. Wet a soft wash-cloth and wipe off any egg-white that remains on the face.

And since my skin is prone to dryness:

Yoghurt-honey face mask.
Mix about 1 tbs yoghurt and 1 tsp honey together. Paint it on your face and leave it for 20 mins before washing off. Your skin should be supple and soft at the end.

Am I benefiting from this way of taking of myself? I’m going to say, a resounding yes. Honestly, you can’t quite tell the difference though. I am blessed to have very good skin despite not doing anything with it – it is only recently that I felt the need to actually take care of it. My skin has been soft, more evenly toned and dare I say it, I look better today than on my wedding day.

Best of all. It has been the cheapest journey ever. A true cheapskate win.


Aglio E Olio. It’s my pesto

I have a friend, a wonderful friend who I constantly mock about his eating habits. Mainly since the day I met him in university until today, he has a bottle of pesto in his cupboard to which he eats from at least once a week. When I went over to his new flat, the first thing I did was hunt through the pantry in the kitchen and there it was, a jar of pesto waiting. Just as I thought. Never mind my creepy behaviour in stalking through someone’s kitchen.

Of course, I often pet myself on the back and tell myself I am not going to succumb to eating pesto every other day. That’s just gross. There are so many things out there to eat, I can’t be eating pesto every day. I’m not like that.

Recently though, Eizwan pointed out something. Something along the lines of *cough* hypocrisy *cough*. I may not eat pesto but for the past eight years or so but my go to meal when it comes to pasta is aglio e olio, garlic in oil pasta.

“Aglio olio. Is your pesto,’ he snarked.

I eat it at least twice a week, I can make it in my sleep if need be. Would not be surprised if one morning I would wake up with a bowl of aglio olio on my lap. Stranger things have happened. I can write an ode to aglio olio if need be. But that would be weird. *Goes off to pen an ode, never written an ode before*

I don’t eat it outside – it would be silly since I cook it so often. Besides I doubt anyone could cook it as well as I do *pats oneself on the back* So when I attended the FHM Convention (Food and Hotel Malaysia, not well, the other sexier convention), I tend to scoff at anyone who makes aglio e olio and scarf down the other pastries, roast duck, gelato, potato pancakes on offer. FHM Convention. Seriously beats the Invest Malaysia one.

I was going to ignore the chef on the convention who offered me the aglio e olio in a plastic cup until my brother tried it and started raving about it. I had to go back and try it, and he was right. It was the best garlic oil pasta I’ve ever had. I spoke to chef about it, raving about how amazing it tasted. He was so chuffed that a sweet young thing (gimme a break, I know that I’m approaching 30 but I had such a pretty dress on that day I’d like to think I came across as a SYT) was complimenting him incessantly, that in between blushes he told me it’s not the product he used (which I’m sure his boss would not be pleased to hear, considering chefs are usually hired to show off the product) but he explained to me how he did it.

‘Amazing! Best I ever had!’ I enthused.

‘Come back in half an hour’s time,’ he said. ‘I’m making basil pesto pasta,’ he continued with knowing wink. Perhaps my compliments to the chef may have been taken the wrong way, should I have returned in half an hour, I wouldn’t be surprised if I had gotten a phone number along with my samplings.

The trick I found out is in roasted garlic oil and lots of dried parsley. Of course he gave lots of advice on al dente pasta, but of course, we all know that by now, *flicks hair to the back* And despite the chef’s claim that the dish was wonderful due to his cooking prowess, I do believe that ingredients is key, so good olive oil, good spaghetti is in order.

I’ve never been keen on making garlic oil for fear of botulism. Ah, you toxic bug, you follow me everywhere in all the cooking experiments I do. But after much research online, I figure that high heat kills the bacteria, but to be safe than sorry, separate the garlic cloves from the olive oil when you’re done.

To make Roasted Garlic Oil


150 ml extra virgin olive oil
2 heads of garlic, peeled.

Cooking instructions

  1. Take about a 150ml of extra virgin olive oil and about 2 heads of garlic.
  2. Combine the two in an oven proof container. Roast the garlic at 150 degrees Celsius until the garlic turns golden. It should take about an hour.
  3. Wait till it cools. Separate the garlic cloves from the oil and store the oil in a clean, sterilized jar. Eat the garlic cloves with bread. If that is too much garlic cloves, you may store it in the fridge.

To make the Aglio Olio:

Ingredients (makes for two)

200gm spaghetti (Barilla Spaghetti no 5 for me)
6 garlic cloves minced finely (I love it garlicky)
1 tbs dried parsley (fresh is better, but I live in Asia, so…)
1 tbs dried chilli flakes (I like mine spicy)
4 tbs garlic oil we made earlier
4 cloves of roasted garlic (optional but tasty)

Freshly grated parmesan cheese, none of that canned stuff.

Cooking Instructions

  1. Cook the pasta till al-dente. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat up about 2 tbs of garlic oil per person. Add in the chopped garlic and let it simmer at a low heat until it turns golden.
  3. Season oil with a little salt. The chef used a little bit of brown sugar, but I did not feel it was necessary.
  4. Add in pasta. Toss it with dried chilli flakes and parsley.
  5. Grate parmesan on top and you’re done.

Tis a meal for writers. Really.