Natural’s Not In It: I’m Back and Blonde

Back and Blonde | Those

After a two month hiatus from blogging, I’m back! For awhile life was hard and I couldn’t find much joy in my once beloved hobby, but you know what they say. Distance makes the heart grow fonder, which is exactly what happened so I’m back! And BLONDE! So, so blonde. And I love it!

Let’s jump right in talk about the hair. I needed a major change and highlights weren’t going to cut it. I went to see my colorist and friend Andrae at Mirage Hair Design in Natick. When I got there I was on the fence about going really blonde, so Andrae and I debated back and forth about the merits of being really blonde versus just kind of blonde. Once I sat down in the chair, I told Andrae, “I just want to feel like I’m doing a big change.” He jumped in immediately and said, “Let’s go for it, let’s do all blonde.” I was sold!

Going blonde isn’t the most glamorous process. It takes time and you look silly. Which I guess is probably how I felt the the first time I was blonde, except my friends did it, which definitely was not a salon experience. I can tell you right now that if you want to go from brunette to blonde, do it at a salon unless your best friend is also a colorist. Just trust me on this.

The whole process took about two hours, which seemed short to me. I swear when I was blonde before and I would go for highlights, it took four hours. Needless to say, Andrae is amazing at what he does and I’m sure that’s why the process was quick and painless. No really, it didn’t hurt at all. I even have such a sensitive scalp that I tear up when people brush my hair. This was the fourth or fifth time Andrae did my hair. He’s done everything on me from ombre to brunette to blonde and it always turns out amazing.

I’m glad I took the leap to go back to blonde. I’m under no delusions that it will be easy to maintain, but I’ll tell you what, it sure does look great.

You can (and should!) follow Andrae on Twitter and Instagram. He’s hilarious, genuine and gives great advice along with doing amazing hair.

Going on Hiatus

I hate to become one of those bloggers who writes primarily about blogging, but I guess that’s happening right now. I wanted to write this post to let you all know that I’m going to be going on a hiatus from Those Graces for an undetermined period of time.

In the past blogging was one of my only hobbies because I didn’t have a creative outlet in my work. Now that I’m working for myself, I have a huge sense of fulfillment from being able to get to do the work I want to do when I want to do it, kind of like I did with blogging.

I’ve begun to reflect upon the desire for more privacy. It’s true that bloggers choose what they put out there, and I’ve made a conscious decision to share less online. At some point, I became uncomfortable with strangers knowing my thoughts and feelings on subjects. Being open can be so fulfilling, but it can also feel like I’m giving away pieces of myself without knowing what will happen. Just to clarify, only good things have come from this blog, but I’m at the point where I want to turn inward.

As I’ve gotten more comfortable with myself, I’ve been able to open up with friends and be myself fully, which was something that was hard in the past. Sad to say, but now that I have more of a support system in my life, I feel less of a need to blog. Blogging was always a way to share my thoughts and interests that I didn’t share with people around me. I’m happy to share more now have an amazing group of friends.

I’m not sure where this hiatus will go. I could see starting over on another blog or coming back to this one. I’m honestly not sure. It feels kind of sad to admit that this might be the end of the road, but I’m not really sure yet. I just wanted to share this so you all weren’t thinking, “Where did Courtney go? Is she coming back?”

In the mean time, I’m still addicted to Twitter and Instagram so those are probably the best places to find me for now.

Until next time, xo.

Going Ad Free and Other Blogger Reflections

Lately I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about life as a blogger. I started writing online about 15 years ago and complained about homework, babysitting and boys. Somehow I made friends with amazing people who I’m still close with today. Some of them I’ve met, others I haven’t. Some have given me the best advice ever. And I met them all though blogging. But somehow blogging changed for me along the way and not necessarily for good, which is why I’ve decided to go ad free on Those Graces.

When I started Those Graces in 2010, I had no clue I could earn money blogging. I didn’t know that companies would send products or that I would be featured in a national newspaper. Most of all, I had no clue that people would want to read my blog. I started Those Graces for the same reason I started blogging in 1999: Because I wanted to connect with people.

I got lost along the way when I set my mind on becoming a full-time blogger. I started thinking strategically and from a marketing perspective. When I realized the full-time blogging thing wasn’t for me, I knew I needed refocus and move away from worrying about every single post. I didn’t want to worry about pageviews and visitor stat day after day.And after all, the main reason why these numbers is for advertising.

I realized when I stopped caring about advertisers, I stopped caring about numbers and started caring about my writing more. This is ultimately why I decided to go ad free.

I’ll still be accepting products for review, but know that 90% of what gets sent almost never makes it to the light of day on my blog. I am never obligated to post about these products and future product review posts will be clearly labeled as such There will be no affiliate links. I want to share things I love whether readers want to buy it or not.

I don’t feel pressure to do this and readers have never complained. It’s a personal choice that works best for me moving forward in my blog life, which is turning out to be forever evolving.

5 Road Trip Myths Debunked

Road Trip Myths Debunked
In the months following my cross country road trip,  it was hard to process my  experience. However as I’ve spent more time thinking, I realized I debunked five myths about road trips. Before I set out, many warned me about a lot of things that turned out to be utterly false. I’m sure they were well meaning, but their advice was totally wrong. (Sorry, mom!)

Myth 1: If you travel alone as a female, you will be abducted, raped and disappear forever.

About 30% of people espoused this myth. They seemed almost certain that I’d be raped and murdered. The terror people had was overwhelming. However, I decided I wasn’t going to listen to this myth. I didn’t buy a gun. I didn’t even purchase mace. I had my wits and street smarts. After all, my hometown experienced a terrorist attack just three months before I left for my trip. The potential risk of a road trip seemed safe compared to that experience.

Don’t let fear control you.

Myth 2: You’re going to kill your car.

I heard this one from people apparently unfamiliar with Toyotas and basic car maintenance. If you have a reliable vehicle that’s well maintained, chances are you’ll be fine. The worst that happened to me was I got a flat tire in Biloxi, Mississippi.

But come on, flat tires can happen anywhere.

Myth 3: People will know you’re not from around there and judge you.

I admit that this was my own myth. I thought my Massachusetts plates and accent would make me stand out like a sore thumb.  I deliberately packed my most boring, nondescript clothing for middle America where I thought it’d be more likely to be judged.

The truth is, I don’t think anyone cared but me.

Myth 4: Your trip will cost a fortune and you’ll come back totally broke.

If you do it right, traveling doesn’t have to cost a fortune.  I read a lot of books on how to save money and the best one I came across was Matt Kepnes’ How to Travel the World on $50 a Day: Travel Cheaper, Longer, Smarter. I created a $50 per day budget for fun, food and accommodations. (Gas was a separate budget!) I bought groceries instead of eating out, stayedwith friends along the way and in hostels. Ultimately, my best advice is to get a credit card that rewards you for using it. Through the card I signed up with, I earned about $400 from my trip alone.

Including gas, I spent about $2,900 ($72 per day) over about 40 days. Pretty cheap if you ask me!

Myth 5: You won’t want to drive the whole way.

If you don’t like driving long distances, by all means, do not go on a cross country road trip by yourself. However, if you love driving or have help, chances are you won’t tire of it. There wasn’t a day where I said to myself, “I can’t drive anymore.” That was until the last day when, yes, I was a bit over it.

I’m really proud that I drove all 10,000 miles by myself.

What Turned Out to Be True

Though I debunked these five myths, I found some road trips were real. It was lonely. It was incredibly hard, both emotionally and physically. I was scared at times, but not of people. Mostly of torrential downpours, hydroplaning and driving up and down the Rockies. But these are all posts for another day.

That being said, the lessons I learned were immeasurable.

9 Steps for Unearthing Products with Harmful Plastic Microbeads (Updated)

How to Find Out if Your Exfoliator has Plastic Microbeads {Those Graces}
My heart sunk last week after reading the article Don’t Lather, Don’t Rinse, Don’t Repeat, which describes a study of the Great Lakes that revealed something quite disturbing. The microbeads, or microplastics, found in beauty products are ending up in the world’s lakes, rivers and oceans. What damage are they doing exactly? On Earth reports,

While microbeads may be less visible than plastic bags, they are no less environmentally problematic. For one thing, they “look just like fish eggs, and thus like food” to a variety of aquatic organisms . . .  All marine micro-plastics are troublesome, given their tendency to absorb and concentrate persistent organic pollutants that can potentially accumulate in the fatty tissues of anything that eats them. Moreover, when plankton, lugworms, mussels, or fish fill up on toxic junk food, they may well lose their appetite for healthier fare. Dutch scientists who fed mussels tiny nano-particles of polystyrene found that the shellfish subsequently ate less and grew less.

Since they are small enough to pass through pipes without issue,  they are also small enough to get through wastewater treatment systems. And Americans buy cosmetics containing more than 573,000 pounds of microbeads each year. This has become such an important issue that New York is now seeking to ban products containing microbeads.

Chances are you probably own products containing the plastic microbeads. If you’re concerned about the environment, you’ll want to invest some time figuring out if the products you use hurt our valuable water sources. In this post, I’ll teach you how to do that as well as provide natural alternatives to these harmful products. 

9 Steps for Unearthing Beauty Products with Plastic Microbeads

To figure out if your products contain plastic microbeads, you’ll have to perform an amateur science experiment. OK, I’m not sure it’s actually scientific, but it worked for me.

Step 1: Gather suspected products. This means cleansers, masks and exfoliators. If you’re unsure if something contains microbeads, squeeze a small amount of product between your fingers and rub them together. If it feels gritty or sandy, it most likely has microbeads.

Step 2: Grab the number cups or containers that corresponds to how many products you’re testing. Make sure you choose a container  you can easily fit your hand into. Line each product in front of its corresponding cup.

Step 3: Fill the container with lukewarm water similar to the temperature you use to wash your face.

Step 4: Squeeze about half a teaspoon of product into the water. I recommend using more than you would on your face so you can get a larger sample.

Step 5: Swirl the product in the water to break the product up.

Step 6: Let the container sit overnight. Make sure to leave the corresponding product in front of the container so you remember what’s in there.

Step 7: The next morning, slowly empty your container halfway.

Step 8: Put your hand inside of the container and feel for any product that settled at the bottom.

Step 9: If you feel that same gritty texture you felt in Step 1, you have plastic microbeads on your hands. Literally. It didn’t dissolve over 8 hours and probably never will.

I did this test for all my products with microbeads. Sadly, there was plastic in every single one. I’m still questioning what to do next. I’m definitely not going to use them, but I feel just as bad by sending them to the  landfill. What an eco-friendly dilemma! My plan is to throw them under my sink, pretend they don’t exist and then toss them out next time I move. I figure in the end, they’re probably less harmful in the landfill than they are in our lakes and streams.

Natural Alternatives

Do not fret! There are tons of natural exfoliators out there that you can make yourself. From baking soda to lemons to salt, I promise you there are options. I pinned about 17 natural exfoliators and recipes to my Beauty Board on Pinterest to help you get started!

What to Do With Them

Microbeads have been in the news lately, and like me, a lot of people are wondering what to do with their microbead-filled products. You can read more about what to do with yours here.

More Information

Thank you to readers who contributed more information in the comments section.

I know some brands are aware of the problem and are planning on phasing them out. I found this link:

I have been telling my clients for years to stay away from microbeads. Very harmful to the skin.People tend to rub so had without realizing it that they cause micro tears in the skin. Unseen to their eyes. These micro tears thin the skin making it age faster. It can also cause hyperpigmentation since the body is trying to repair those tears quickly.
Susie of Esthetic Goddess