Sugar Scrub

In my continuing mission (or little project) to determine which bath products can be efficiently made at home, I decided to take a shot at the exfoliators.  After making hand soap, it seemed like it would be simple enough to find a decent formula and my aesthetician says it will help with leg waxes if I exfoliate more often.

The ones I have used are generally based in some kind of oil and use either sugar or salt in various concentrations to slough off dead skin in the shower.  After spending some time on Pinterest, I found that it really is that I already have all of the ingredients for a basic formula in the house:

Coconut Oil

Sugar – Plain white granulated

Essential Oils

Obviously, there are plenty of fancier ones, with Vitamin E and other types of oil, or raw sugar, but this was good enough for a first try.  I’m sorry I can’t tell you exactly how much oil I used with the sugar, because it was a bit of a “whatever is left in the jar” experiment.  But since I like my scrubs more grainy and less oily, I’m sure it was more that 50/50 in favor of the sugar.

So I stirred the sugar into a bunch of coconut oil..  The biggest trick was to break up the clumps of coconut oil without touching, and therefore melting it.  When it was good and blended, I dropped in some scented oils.  Two parts lemongrass, one part orange, if I remember correctly – citrusy goodness.  Gently stirred it a bit longer and then spooned the mixture into my containers.  I had a small mason jar handy and also washed out an old travel sized scrub container from The Body Shop.

Result:  my mother loved it, but suggested that if we used a bit of Castile Soap in the mixture, it would feel less greasy.  Yeah.  Danger of slipping if used in the shower straight up.

Other recipes I have seen use honey, or lemon/lime/orange zest in the mix.  Some have even used coarsely ground coffee beans.  But this was a good enough start that I don’t think I need to buy this stuff commercially anymore.  Win.

The Hand Soap Thing

For many years, we have been shameless consumers of Bath & Body Works Foaming Hand Soap.  It is so easy!  It smells so pretty!  You can always get a double discount!

Then last week, out of complete nowhere, all three of the sinks in my house were on their last bottles and there was no phone app discount to be found.  I started muttering to myself about how much plastic we waste buying that stuff and anti-bacterial blahblahblah is supposed to be bad for you anyway and I don’t really have to have the instant foaming soap…

I wonder if I can just make my own?

Last winter, I had a similar mini-tantrum about the mass consumption of body butter in my house.   I found a recipe and made my own.  In the end, I decided:

  1. It was not a small project.
  2. Shea butter isn’t exactly cheap in retail quantities, hence
  3. The dollars saved were not worth the trouble.

(And then I discovered massage bars at Lush, but that’s another story.)

I kinda figured that I would land in a similar spot with the hand soap, but I looked online and found a ridiculously simple formula without even trying.  Then I took a look in that section of Whole Foods.  A great big bottle of Castile soap was.. $12 or $13.  I still had that bottle of essential oil from last winter and I liked it a lot, but while I was on this kick I bought a bottle of peppermint.  Incidentally, Castile soap has its own scents, but since I was buying the big bottle I went with Unscented.

But what about the container?  Whole Foods only had one tiny bottle with a soap dispenser.  I figured I could just reuse an old one in my house.  So the total cost of this experiment was in the neighborhood of $20.

I rinsed out the old dispenser and put in a bit of the Castile soap.  Then I shook in some essential oil and filled the bottle almost to the top with water.  It didn’t take much to mix the liquids.  The post said the soap would be much thinner than we are used to, which was true.  Then I wondered..could I just use this formula in a foaming dispenser?

Why yes, I can!

Hand Soap2


The foam isn’t quite as..fluffy as the commercial brands I’ve tried, and I use a bit more each time I wash my hands.  Three pumps instead of one or two.  Still waaaaaaayy less expensive than buying bottles of the stuff.  I made four bottles of this mixture and barely put a dent into the big container of Castile Soap.

Hand Soap

Further online “research” suggested a few things:

  1. Distilled water instead of tap.  One site said that distilled should be used if you don’t think you will use up an entire bottle within a couple of weeks.  Distilled water isn’t all that expensive and of course, one can always boil water.  I’m thinking I might use distilled if I were gifting it, but my filtered tap will do for my house.
  2. The mixture settles and separates a bit.  I just turn the bottle upside down every once in awhile.
  3. I feel squeaky clean after washing my hands..and dry.  Some posts suggest putting olive/almond/choose your own oil in there.  One even suggested that would be better for the dispenser in the longer term.  I haven’t tried that yet.

Overall, I am very pleased.  My mother was thinking “stocking stuffers” and went to Amazon and found some foaming dispensers.  For gifting, I think that’s the way to go.  But I will be re-using for as long as I can.

Now I am wondering if I can do my own hand cream…

About the Hair

It flummoxes some folks to learn that – as spa-di-da as I am with regular facials – I will go to the place in the mall to have my hair cut and colored.  So here is the story:

There is nothing to cutting my hair.  It is bone-straight and baby fine.  I could almost manage it myself.  Color, however, is a pain.  I have paid to have my hair colored since I went through the agony of growing out the black dye I had been putting on it through college.  (And maybe a couple of years after.)   And particularly since I redid my bathroom and decided I like not having dye splattered all over the walls.

After Sue, the lady that ushered me through said agony, moved to Arizona, I was on my own.  I think I went to every salon in two counties and always left unhappy.  I once even returned to a salon the next day to ask that they fix it.

When I walked into this place in the mall, the guy (it was a guy!) sat me down and listened to my whiny little story about one that was too dark and too red and one that was too light and too brassy and I want to match my skin and I don’t want to be dull

“Don’t worry, I ‘ve got it,” he said.

And he totally did.  He mixed two different shades and two different highlights and it came out just right.  He told me the formula and wrote it down on a card for the next time that I came.

I was so confident.  There was a formula.  A secret combination.  I knew what it was!  I could speak the language!  I wasn’t going to be tied to any one salon or any one stylist because I had a formula for my hair color.

Not so much.  Different salons use different product lines and they don’t call the colors by the same combinations.  And even then, you might land with a stylist that says, “I know what you are talking about, but that isn’t what your color is now.”  Seriously.

And I still don’t entirely trust my own instincts.

Every time I go to the place in the mall, I leave with the color I want.  Every time I don’t, I am disappointed.  Or angry.

The moral of the story is, as my dad said: You are the client.

He was talking about the dentist, but it is a useful mantra when paying for a wide variety of services where you have to put your trust in a professional.  Doctor, dentist, mechanic, aesthetician, veterinarian, contractor, financial planner.  These, to me, are important long term relationships.

First Groupon

I joined Groupon a few months ago, and just made my first purchase.  At lunch today, a friend asked me about the process, so I figured I ought to write about it.


You register at the website.  Then Groupon informs you, by e-mail, of deals with businesses in the area.  You can also search the website if you are looking for something in particular.  It seems to me that many of the best ones are for restaurants and other personal services.

Chapter 1:

I received an e-mail saying that Asha Salon and Spa has an offer.  One hour massage and half hour facial for $82.


Asha is not my regular place by any stretch.  It is a very nice Aveda establishment, but rather pricey for my needs.  This deal was basically 50% off.  The catch with Groupon is that you pay for the service up front.  So there was no way I was waiting more than a billing cycle for my appointments.

After taking my credit card information, Groupon sent me an e-mail with an order number and redemption code.  It had a link to redeem it and was also printable.

Chapter 2:

I remembered that Asha is in Schaumburg, by my office (which is how I found it).  I hate staying in Schaumburg after work, so it was either drive out there on Saturday (rolls eyes) or take a half day off.

I chose the latter.

I went online to redeem the Groupon.  The instructions were specific that the appointment had to be made online – no phone calls to the salon.  Weird.  And worse, the website wasn’t working for me.  I logged back on later and it was fine – I think it had something to do with the pop up menus.

Asha’s web site asked me to pick three dates and times and they got back to me with which worked, and then I had to confirm the appointment.  All set.

Chapter 3:

I arrived 15 minutes early, per the instructions.  I was helped right away and led to the dressing room.  I had just stepped out the door when the aesthetician came for me.  Both appointments were great.  No one made me like less-than-a-full-fare-client, which I think is important.  (The travel industry hasn’t picked up on that trick yet.)

When I checked out, the lady at the register asked for my Groupon certificate.  And that was it.  Pleasure doing business with you.

Note:  Tipping etiquette says that we should base our gratuity of the full price of the service, not the Groupon price.  I was familiar with the practice, but appreciated the reminder from Groupon.  However, by the time I got to the appointment, I had forgotten the full prices.  I knew the total was 50% off, but hadn’t remember how much was for which service.  I may have skimped on someone.  Will know better next time.

Final Analysis:

I will certainly use Groupon’s service again if the deal is right.  But I am still not inclined to go trolling the website searching for it.

Sam Martirano’s

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A couple of weeks ago, Miss Judy, who writes the Hug the Bear blog, posted about her favorite spa in Glenview.   Not to invade her territory, but I would feel remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to mine:
Sam Martirano Salon and Spa has been in Glenview for as long as I can remember.  When you walk in the front door, there is so much activity that it is hard to believe you can find a relaxing massage.  Head to the back, through the glass door.  You’ll find it.
But here’s the truth – I am not a connoisseur of the massage.  I go for the facials.  As I get older, taking care of my skin has become more important.   Marilyn and her colleague, Dorota have helping me for years.
The great thing about Marilyn is that she doesn’t just go through the process – cleansing, exfoliating, masks, etc.   She gives me an education on skin care:
Those break outs on my chin are from stress.  Yes, I do need SPF.  Even when I sit in an office all day.  My freckles may be cute, but they are also called sun damage. 
She tests out all kinds of products herself.  I remember asking her, “Doesn’t your skin ever freak out from trying new products all the time?”
“Yes,” was her answer.
But in my experience, no one at Sam Martirano’s ever pushes product sales.  They give recommendations, and answer questions, but I never feel pressured to buy more.
That makes for a relaxing experience. 
Sam Martirano’s Glenview location is in Plaza del Prado at Willow and Pfingsten.  You can visit them on the web at: .      

Cross Posted to Glenview Patch.

The Eyebrow Thing

In a funny twist, after I wrote about botching an eyebrow wax, my friend Fluffycat asked me to post about home waxing.  I do not want anyone to learn technique from me.  However, I am happy to talk about product, so as to save some time and money.

When I first started, I bought one of those roll-on waxers.  It seemed to me that something with an applicator would be easier to use than freehand with the popsicle sticks.  I thought I would be able to control the amount of wax better.

Wrong. I could not control the flow of the wax.  And, as Marilyn reminds me all the time, you either have to keep the head of the roll on really, really clean – or replace it after each use.  So I went to the next level.

Still not convinced that I wanted to invest in the whole shebang, I bought Gigi’s microwavable creme wax kit.  (I still have the box because I keep my cut muslin strips and popsicle sticks in there, as it fits really nicely on my medicine cabinet shelf):

This kit includes everything one needs to get get started and worked just fine. It retails at Sally Beauty Supply for $18.99 Once I was confident with the tools, I bought the full sized stuff:

Obviously, one isn’t required to use all of the products in the line.  In fact, most people just use astringent to cleanse their faces, baby powder to prep and baby oil to clean up the skin.  and Marilyn isn’t all that impressed with the Gigi wax – she prefers Satin Smooth products.  But I am satisfied with this stuff, particularly because I shop at Sally and it is all right there.

Here are my tips:

  1. Go conservative.  The reason I have been making mistakes lately is that I’ve become lazy about taking the time with tweezers to clean up loose hairs in the brow line.  Don’t be lazy.
  2. Keep everything clean.  Use the collar on the wax warmer.  Use the cover when not in use.  Keep the applicator sticks and muslin strips clean and dry.  If bacteria starts to grow on supplies and equipment, the very least that will happen is that your skin will start to break out.
  3. Don’t get fancy.  One reason I decided I could do this at home is that I am not interested in the artistic shaping.  I want my brows to be symmetrical, with clean lines and just a bit thinner. 
  4. You are not committed until you tear off the strip.  If you applied the wax badly, or even if you just have a bad feeling about it, you can use the oil-based stuff to remove it and start over.  It’s better than botching it.
  5. Have the appropriate cosmetics handy in case you botch it.
Because I refuse to make a video of myself, I spent a good hour on YouTube looking for the best demo.  (You would not believe some of the people they have demonstrating this.  Teenagers.  Ugh.)  This is the best one I saw in that the demonstrator, Ms. Judith, is so conservative with her wax that she literally cuts the strips in such a way to minimize mistakes.  Her technique is way better than mine.

The first year or two, I would do two or three waxes at home and then go to the salon once just to get another perspective.  It wasn’t really necessary, but it made me feel better.
That ought to get you started.

King Spa and Sauna

I read an article about the King Spa and Sauna in the Chicago Tribune, so I went to check it out this morning.  Yes.  I realize that it is slightly ridiculous to go to the Sauna on a 95 degree day.  But it is new and local (as in suburban with free parking) and interesting.  The entrance fee is $25 (reduced to $20 for the Grand Opening this month), which gives you access to the facility for the next 24 hours.  I would never stay for the full 24 hours because:

  1. No outside food or drink
  2. Once you leave the building, you are not allowed to come back in.

The attraction is a whole bunch of different saunas, tons of comfortable chairs, televisions, a movie room and even nap rooms.  There are a couple of different spa services available for additional fees.

The tough part, for me, is the communal nudity of the spas – showers, hot tubs and cool pools off the locker rooms.  These, of course, are separated by gender.  But I don’t do naked.  So I used the private shower, threw on the the “uniform” (t-shirt and shorts that do not come in black) and scurried out to the main lounge to find the salt sauna.  And the Egyptian one:

The saunas were all great.  My only complaint is that you really hear all of the noise in the lounge – people talking, television programs, vaccuum cleaners running – and that takes a bit away from the whole “relaxation”.  I was there early, so I mostly had the saunas to myself – maybe my time would overlap with another person for a few minutes.  The trouble with being there early is that not everything is available.  There were at least two rooms that weren’t open yet, there was no movie running and the massage staff didn’t even arrive until I was near-ready to leave.

The restaurant, like the rest of the spa, is Korean.  I have no sense of foodie adventure, so I had a simple glass of papaya juice.  It was more like a smoothie and very tasty.  But I have read that the baked eggs are fabulous and I saw one family that walked in the door and headed straight for the restaurant for huge bowls of soup.  At 8:30 in the morning, so they must be good.

I will be happy to go there again.  An annual membership is $1,500.  I would never get my money’s worth out of that, but they do have a 10-visit package for $170.  That might get me through next winter.