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My minimalist, natural beauty routine (a different kind of spring cleaning)

Last night, as we were packing for our next journey from Italy to Slovenia, Kyle found something I’ve been looking for since Thailand (which was now four months ago)—my facial cleanser. It’s funny, that with such a scant amount of possessions to our name, something would still get lost in the shuffle of stuff.

Sure, facial cleanser is no big deal. I could technically buy more anywhere, and with the amount of makeup I’ve worn this year (read: almost nil), I don’t need to sweat scrubbing my face more than a few times per week. But still… it made me happy to find it.

It’s around this time of year on the blog, in the spirit of spring cleaning, when I recap a few of my minimal life patterns—my wardrobe, our kitchen gear, the family schedule, and the like. Seeing as I don’t currently have a home to declutter and organize, I thought throughout the spring I’d share other ways I keep current parts of my life to a happy minimum.

Today? Let’s talk about beauty and hygiene routines.

How I clean and moisturize my face

What Kyle found deep down in one of our bags was my simple, homemade mix of olive oil cleanser. Here are the details behind how and why it works.

It’s a simple recipe I’ve used since 2009, and it still works great on my skin—about three parts extra virgin olive oil to one part castor oil. I also like adding a drop of melaleuca (tea tree) oil for its antiseptic properties. I hear frankincense is great for wrinkles, so I may try that next.

a simple, minimalist beauty routine

And yes, I was surprised as you might be now that it hasn’t gotten mildewy. I’m pretty sure it’s because I have it stored in one of these travel containers; it’s completely airtight. (I’m smitten with GoToobs after this year—not one thing has come even close to leaking.)

In the morning, I splash my face with water, then moisturize either with Hair Butter (it smells heavenly) or with a simple dollop of coconut oil. Easy peasy.

How I care for my hair

After six years, this post about going poo-free remains the blog’s most popular post. I’ve since discovered that there are climates more conducive to going completely sans shampoo, and for me, the more humid the environment, the harder it is on my hair.

Baking soda also lightened my hair, which I didn’t like, so I stopped using it a few years ago and switched to—well, nothing. I just scrub my scalp with my fingertips every few days in the shower. It works well for me in super-dry central Oregon, but on our worldwide trip, I’ve needed a bit more.


I now use a mild, natural shampoo, just on the roots around my face, about every two weeks (this brand is my current favorite). I haven’t used conditioner in years, since my ends aren’t stripped with anything but a mild water rinse.

In dry climates, I tame frizzes and ends with a tiny smattering of hair butter after letting it air dry.

And since I’ve been growing out my gray hair since last year, I haven’t had to worry about keeping up with color. Most days, I really like the look, but the verdict is still out on how I feel about the whole process. There’s a certain freedom to being myself and letting the gray naturally add its sparkle, but I still feel humorously like a bit of a rebel by being a thirty-something who isn’t masking the aging process.

(No pressure, but if more of you join in the fun, we’ll collectively remind culture that this is normal and to be celebrated—women can be silver foxes, too!).

(And if you follow me on Instagram, I’ll take a gray hair update pic soon. It’s changed a bit since last summer.)

Everything else

I still use Dr. Bronner’s castile soap on my body.

coconut oil

I still moisturize with either Hair Butter or coconut oil.

I still use Mineral Fusion makeup, though when I return to the States, I’ll be in the market for finding a better mineral-based mascara. (If you have ideas, I’m all ears!)

I use a tiny smudge of whatever natural toothpaste is on sale, and use a sprinkling of just baking soda about once per week as a polish—and our whole family loves these battery-operated toothbrushes.

…and I still haven’t found a natural deodorant I like. Some work alright in dry climates (I like the Weleda brand when I’m in central Oregon), but otherwise, nothing feels strong enough to me.

This is about all I keep on hand, whether I’m traveling or at home. Years ago I’d hold on to “extra” products just in case, but I tossed them all once I realized I’d never really use them. I love having just what I need—no need for any extra bathroom storage.

If you’re curious, here’s how all this works as we travel!

travel kit

And if you’re curious about your own favorite products, check out the Skin Deep Database to see if they’re as ick-free as you prefer.

Alright, your turn—how do you keep your beauty and hygiene routines to a delightful minimum?

Reading Time:

3 minutes





  1. Aimee

    Love this list! I use Frankincense on my face and it’s great! I think it is awesome that you are owning your wisdom highlights, aka gray hairs. And I would like to recommend Physicians Formula Organicwear mascara. Not sure if it’s mineral, but it’s awesome. I add a drop of lavender to it and it smells great and strengthens lashes. 🙂 Love following your adventures on Instagram!

    • Chris Floyd

      I use an Aveeno face scrub and Aveeno baby lotion or the thicker lotion/cream version, depending on how dry my face feels. It’s the kind I buy for my youngest baby, so it seems easiest to just share and it doesn’t smell like anything. I don’t usually wear make up and don’t miss it anymore, although it took a little getting used to. I’m 32 and have quite a few silver strands, although my overall color is still definitely dark. I have zero interest in coloring it at this point and really hope it continues to come in evenly so I can move smoothly to shimmering. 😉

    • Joy

      How do you use the frankincense? I have been using straight coconut oil for about 6 months now and have wondered about adding an essential oil.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      So lavender on your lashes doesn’t irritate your eyes? Color me intrigued…

      And Joy, if she uses frankincense similar to how I use melaleuca, you simply add a drop to the oil cleanser and give it a shake. 🙂

      • Heather Allard

        Tsh, I recently read a tip about adding a drop of lavender, frankincense or melaleuca to your mascara to strengthen lashes and nix eyelash mites (which I’m still a bit horrified about…LOL).

        I use an essential oil blend called Immortelle around my eyes each night, and it’s minimized my little lines quite a bit. I also feel like my vision has improved from it, which may be from the frankincense in it.

        After “going natural” for about 6 months, I had my hair highlighted last weekend. I’m almost 46, and have grey around my temples and hairline, and it makes me feel totally haggard. LOL. The blonde highlights make me feel better – I’m convinced my spirit is blonde. 😉

        Thanks for sharing your routine! I love this kind of stuff.


  2. Bethany V.

    I recommend mascara from Cowgirl Dirt or Redeeming Beauty. For almost everything else I use Everyday Minerals and Cowgirl Dirt. (Though I recently read about the high percentage of mica that is mined by very young children, so I’m also trying to find makeup that ethically sources their mica or doesn’t contain it. Some of the Cowgirl Dirt meets those requirements, but not all).

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Yes! Agreed.

  3. Megan M.

    I second all the above brands. I especially love Cowgirl Dirt’s eye firming cream and face serum. They both smell amazing, go on without a mess and make my skin feel amazing. And Physician’s Formula OrganicWear mascara has been my favorite natural option.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      I’ve never heard of Cowgirl Dirt, so I’ll have to look into it! Thanks for the tip, Megan and Bethany.

  4. Anjeanette Himes

    I love the simplicity of your bag. I recently cleaned out my bathroom cabinet so that it held only things I actually am using and now there is plenty of room!! I discovered Ava Anderson Nontoxic this year and have really loved everything I have tried. They have a whole range of products, but the makeup is what I have been using most since I’ve decided not to try my hand at DIY makeup. I like their product and what they stand for so much I recently signed on as a consultant. There are no questionable ingredients in any products!!

  5. Ell

    Have you tried primal pit paste for deoderant?

    My husband’s just started using it, and even with bike riding to and from work he barely smells!

    • Karen

      Have you tried Funk Butter natural deodorant by Oyin . It’s amazing!!!! The only all natural that has worked for me. Especially love the fig scent. Also love the body oil in same scent.

  6. Sarah M

    I definitely have a fairly minimalist take on beauty/hygiene, though I don’t use ‘all natural’ ingredients. When I wash my face, I use Dove unscented. When I wash my hair, I love Aveeno’s sulfate-free (HUGELY helps with curls, the sulfate-free stuff) daily shampoo + conditioner. Because I work out 5X/week, I shower nearly every day because I’m super sweaty. I don’t find it dries out my hair, but I can tell when I need it cut to just get rid of the dead ends. I use a dollop of hair mousse and fluff it just a bit.
    For my face, I use chap stick (just regular old whatever brand) and then under-eye concealer since I’ve had bags under my eyes since I was about 15. Then I add a bit of blush, and I’m done. I like to wear nearly no-makeup, but I sort of feel that if I leave the under-eye concealer off I look like I’m dying. Haha.
    I have never found a strong enough natural deodorant/antiperspirant, though I’ve tried a LOT of organic/natural brands. If there is one out there, please tell!
    Sarah M

  7. Zoe - SlowMama

    I’ve tried tons of natural deodorants over the years and none of them worked. I figured I was just too stinky. The first one I finally had success with was a brand called Real Purity. It’s a roll on. But then, I tried SoapWalla and Primal Pit Paste (both pastes, though PPP comes in a stick now, too) and these two really work! I can’t believe I finally found some products that actually do the job as well as antiperspirant. (Here’s a post where I wrote about these products if anyone’s interested:

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Thanks, Zoe!

  8. Tina

    This is interesting. I use a mix of natural and traditional products. For moisturizer I’ve used just coconut oil for about a year now and I love it. I have dry skin and live in a dry climate and the coconut oil has been amazing for my skin. I used Redmond Clay toothpaste and Kiss My Face deodorant. Not sure if the deodorant counts as natural or not–just going on packaging claims there. I’ve tried a few other natural deodorants and I like this one the best. The rest of my beauty routine is traditional which is why I’m curious about natural routines. I use Paula’s Choice skincare products because their cleanser is a gentle moisturizing one my skin needs. They do have a natural line and I keep thinking I should try it. I use a sulfate free shampoo by Bioterra along with a Bioterra conditioner. My hair has been amazing since I stopped using any soap or shampoo with sulfates. I work out everyday and my hair gets yucky sweaty. Maybe I’ll try going ‘poo free though!

    As for castille soap as a body wash–how to you get it to spread? It doesn’t really lather, right? I tried using it in a hand pump but it didn’t work.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Hmm… It lathers up well for me. Not sure what I do differently! 🙂 Though I should add that lathering doesn’t really equal cleaning—it’s not necessary for a product to work (in fact, that’s a reason why a lot of products have petroleum added—to lather, and therefore give it that clean “feeling”).

  9. Kells

    We use pure grain alcohol in a spritzer bottle as deodorant and it works SO WELL! I’ll often add 15-20 drops of whatever essential oils I have lying around. Full disclosure: it definitely has to be applied daily in warmer climates, but even then I think it’s the most effective deodorant I’ve ever used.

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Ooh! I’ll have to try this when we return. Thanks, Kells!

    • Sarah

      Sprayed on your skin, or on your clothes?

      I’ve been using the crystal deodorant for years, and while *I* don’t smell bad, my clothes sometimes do if they absorb a lot of sweat. So I feel less stinky in the summer (because I’m wearing less clothes and my sweat evaporates) than in the spring/fall when constant temperature changes often make me sweaty in heavier clothes.

  10. Zala

    I enjoy reading your blog but am not one to leave comments. However seeing you are headed for Slovenia, my homeland, I just had to wish you and your family a wonderful stay!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Thanks, Zala! I’m here right now, and having a lovely time. You have a beautiful country!

  11. Ariane

    I must highly recommend Silverbear Sundries deoderant. I love the midnight sun scent. My friends sister makes it and uses all natural and homegrown products. It works all day for me when none other has. She sells through Etsy.

  12. Christyn

    My sister-in-law wipes her underarms with apple cider vinegar for deodorant. I’ve never tried, but she says it works and that after a bit, you don’t even have to do it daily…

  13. Leigh Ann

    I love Pacifica’s Stellar Gaze mineral mascara. It’s a bit more expensive than traditional drugstore brands, but a tube seems to last longer than most. Plus, Target carries it in their natural makeup section.

    Love your blog/Instagram!!!

  14. MJ

    I have argan oil that I use as a moisturizer and I put melaleuca and frankincense in it too, and I love it! I also make my own deodorant and while I don’t feel that it is strong enough on its own , I have started to use magnesium oil in my armpits first and then apply the deodorant once it’s dried. There have been times where I’ve forgotten the deodorant and the magnesium oil works great all on it’s own!

  15. Melissa

    Thanks for the great post! What do you use for sunscreen? Do you use different products for face and body?

  16. Elizabeth

    When you mentioned gray hair I worried you were going to say you started dying again. While it’s certainly OK to do what you want with your own hair, your next paragraph was just what I was feeling. I wish there were more of us embracing our natural gray!

    I’ll be 38 in three months. I first tried letting my hair be its natural color a few years ago, but it just didn’t feel like me. I also worried, if my husband looks 10 years younger than he really is, and I look 10 years older than I really am, will people mistake me for his mother? After about 5 inches of natural growth I broke down and dyed my hair. At the time, it felt good to be “me” again. That good feeling eventually wore off and I was left with the reality of regularly dying my hair once again.

    The truth is, dark haired me was the old me. The new me has dark hair with a fair amount of gray, the gray becoming more pronounced all the time. What I want is to be comfortable with who I am, not who I’ve been, but who I really am right now. I’ve been growing out my gray again since around the time you announced you were doing the same so I’ve been interested to see if you keep it up.

    The fact that we change as we age is a good thing! The mental preparation I’ve done just to let my hair be its natural color has done wonders for me to accept and love more about myself than just something as superficial as hair color. I really like who I am and the trajectory of who I’m becoming.

  17. Miriam B

    I made my own facial scrub and body scrub. I also use some organic shampoo and conditioner because I am still dealing with oil.

  18. Lindsay

    Hi Tsh! Great list. I’ve been trying oil cleansing on and off for awhile with mixed results. I’ll have to give your blend a try :).
    My beauty cabinet has a mix of natural and more traditional items, but I’m trying to find quality natural products all the time. We also use Castille soap in the shower and I like Trader Joes tea tree tingle shampoo and conditioner.
    As for deordorant, I LOVE LOVE LOVE Truly’s. It’s made with only coconut oil, baking soda, powdered sugar and beeswax. It works better than any deordorant I’ve ever tried. Safe and happy travels!

  19. Amy

    Tsh, how did you make the decision to take a disposable razor on your trip this year? Is that what you use at home? Whenever I have to buy new razor blades for my razor (the prices!!!!) I re-think the decision not to use disposable. I’d love to have someone convince me that disposable is better!

  20. Absolutely Tara

    I love hearing about your routines and how you keep life minimalistic. It’s refreshing to hear you’re growing out your grey and using natural products. Thanks for sharing.


  21. Holly

    I’m in love with w3ll people mascara (and all thier makeup), which has a store in Austin, but you can also purchase online. I’ve been using your coconut oil deodorant recipe for years and I still swear by it, but I know it doesn’t travel well. Have you tried a similar recipe with beeswax to keep it from melting?

  22. Veronica

    I highly recommend Tarte’s Amazonian Clay mascara and La Vanilla’s natural deodorant. Both are so good and natural.

  23. Stacy @awellstockedlife

    I have dealt with adult acne…well, since I was an adult…one day I decided not to use anymore stuff on my face and just rinse with water and use castile soap if I really needed it. My skin is so much better now (not perfect…much better). If it is really dry I rub in a drop or two jojoba oil and I’m good. I’m going to go completely anything free this summer with my hair and see how it goes. The human body is miraculous in its ability to beautify naturally. I’m letting my gray hair come out this summer too–we’ll see how it feels–I’m nervous. Thanks for the information. Appreciate it every year:)

  24. Lauren

    I’m sure you hear this a lot, but your post about no poo was one of the ones that I kept camping out on when I made the switch last year! But because of hard water I’m hybrid low-no poo. I love Alaffia as well, and am using a swimmer’s shampoo from Aubrey Organics to cut the mineral deposits – but even then I still prefer my egg yolk wash and coffee rinse every other week 😀

    I don’t wash my face a ton because of hard water, but when I do it’s mostly water (with a Norwex face cloth) and argan oil or face cream from Shea Butter Market to moisturize.

    I hardly EVER wear makeup, though I’d like to more, but I’m looking forward to trying out Cowgirl Dirt.

    And for deodorant, I can highly recommend Young Living’s! it is the only one I have found I don’t react adversely to and stink to high heaven.

  25. Sarah

    I am 34 and have had acne problems ever since I was 10–until about two months ago when I changed my skin care routine. Now, this could be a fluke because I’m 9 months pregnant and all those glowy, girly hormones are stamping down the acne-causing testosterone, or it really is the change of products! What I do now is simply a hot washcloth to the face followed by a few drops of Bio-Oil, morning and night. My pores are no longer clogged and my skin no longer has this weird oily/flaky combo. I gently exfoliate with a baby wash cloth maybe two times a week with a bit of Dial Pure & Natural bar soap rubbed on it. Granted, I have no idea what is in Bio-Oil or what “Pure & Natural” really means, but it’s working for me, so I’m happy 🙂 I would like to try almond oil as I’ve heard great things about it over at The Elliot Homestead, as well as going poo-free. I’m down to about 2 washes a week with regular shampoo and conditioner, though I’ll have to check out your no-poo post to see how it’s done. Onward!

  26. Cheryl

    I really love the makeup from Alima Pure (, especially the mascara.

    Thanks for posting this, btw. My skin looks pretty good, but the number of products I use every day is a little embarrassing. I’ve been thinking about simplifying my routine, but I’m nervous I’ll go back to the blotchy, pimpled, flaky skin I had in my 20s. This might be a good place to start.

  27. Maggie

    I know this post was really more about make up and skincare and haircare, but all I can think about it is your miraculous discovery of a container that doesn’t leak… I am off to find gotoobs!

  28. Erica

    I recommend Primal Pit Paste too!! And I always love these kinds of posts. Thank you for sharing. ☺️

  29. Liz H

    MY favor mascara is Black Oil mascara from Josie Maran. I was using Amazonian Clay mascara from Tarte but I like the Josie better. I have cut way back this year, nixing eye shadow (too fussy) and just wearing mascara and black kohl eyeliner. I use Argan oil as a moisturizer and I have one with sunscreen too (both from Josie Maran). My skin loves it. At 41 I am trying to avoid too much sun and keeping things moisturized to diminish the look of any crinkles. I have found that washing off makeup with coconut oil is easy and leaves your skin really nice. You can always do a quick second wash with a little soap if it’s too greasy for you but I like how it makes my skin feel. I make my own toothpaste with baking soda, salt and EO’s and use it dry. Just dip your wet toothbrush in and brush. When I’m working I use a dab of primer on my eye lids to keep the grease away and just a dab of chapstick or maybe Bite lip balm. I use Josie Maran powder foundation to lightly even everything out and then I just don’t worry about it!
    I have also given up coloring my “natural highlights” (for now) and am embracing what comes. Blessedly I don’t have a lot right now but as my hair grows out from a pixie I actually am noticing them more. Oh well. Maybe I will do something , maybeI won’t . For now I’m trying it out. Why not? It’s just another way to make a fashion statement 😉

  30. Christine @ Taste of Divine

    Hey Tsh!

    I tried the whole water-only hair washing thing for six months. I feel like I gave it a good go, but it just didn’t work for me. Now I wash with castile soap once a week (sometimes longer) and rinse with apple cider vinegar as conditioner, and so far it’s been working pretty well (three months now).

    Have you ever tried making your own deodorant? I’ve been doing it for a few years now and I love it. It’s lasted through super hot days and half marathons 🙂

    How long will you be in Slovenia? I live in Ljubljana 🙂

  31. Diana

    I’ve been making deodorant with coconut oil and baking soda, and it actually works for me. I’d never have believed it. But I know it works because I can tell a big difference between wearing it and wearing nothing! 🙂 It actually works better than the Suave I used before. Hope you find one you love! 🙂

    Also, on makeup, I’m about to place an order with Jaydancin makeup company. (Google that word and you should find the site. I think it’s based in Canada.) It has just about the same ingredients as my previous, friend-made makeup (and she no longer makes it), so I am looking forward to seeing how it works. My previous makeup gives just enough coverage to minimize pores and even out skin tone, but definitely doesn’t look caked on or feel heavy. The reason I haven’t ordered yet is because I can’t decide which color to choose 🙂

    Thanks for sharing! Enjoyed reading 🙂

  32. Kate

    Hello!! I love this post. It’s always interesting to me what others use in terms of products!! For me I wash my face with a cleanser from dermalogica (probably not the most natural brand, but it really helps my acne prone skin) I also cleanse my face with a mixture of olive oil, castor and tea tree oil, three times per week. I truly think that this has helped with my awful adult acne (30 year olds should NOT have acne!!) Recenlty I started using Rosehip oil as my facial moisturizer and I’m very pleased by the results. I’ve noticed my face starting to even out and some of my acne scars have lightened.

    My favorite deoderant is by Poofy Organics I think it works great and I don’t ever feel stinky. I just recently stopped wearing make-up and I couldn’t be happier. My skin feels better, I have more time in the morning to spend doing something I actually enjoy like walking my dog. It definetly took some getting used to but I really love it. I’m sure I will still wear makeup for special occasions but I just don’t see the real need for it everyday. I’m totally in love with my 100% pure shampoo, with this shampoo I only need to wash my hair every couple of days instead of every day. Lastly I started using earthpaste toothpaste and I think the jury is still out on this one. I can’t decide if I like it or not.

    Love your blog!!!

  33. Jessica Sherrill

    I just recently discovered and started using the schmidt’s deodorant. It’s a company based out of Portland. They have about 4-5 different scents you can try. The deodorant is made of all natural ingredients, the primary ones being baking soda and arrowroot powder. They come in little 2 oz glass jars so they’re a great size for travel and they can be easily repurposed or recycled. It’s a bit strange getting used to the application as it’s a kind of dry cream consistency. You only use a small pea sized amount (or smaller even) that you scoop out with an included tiny plastic spatula. You rub it between your fingers to warm and soften it then apply to underarms. Some people say it takes awhile to dry but I haven’t had that problem at all. I’m currently using the lime and bergamot scent which is refreshing but not overwhelming. I live in Tennessee and it’s currently the middle of summer so it’s extremely hot and humid. This deodorant has held up extremely well! They’re also great about giving discounts. Hope that helps!

  34. kimberly

    Hippi stick by Trim Healthy Naturals

  35. Karil

    Hi! Thanks for sharing. I LOVE the natural deodorant by Arbonne. Try it! Also I love using my DIY salves and soaps and am currently looking to make s very nourishing non drying oil cleanser that DOESNT have coconut oil -as I have found that it totally clogs my pores. Thanks again for your insights!

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