1001 water-wise ways: the lipstick factor and the very cute tip

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During World War II, lipstick sales soared. There was something about that bright splash of colour that made folk feel better. It reminds me of something Shirley Conran wrote decades ago: that when undergoing a sudden and huge change in standards of living (e.g., bankruptcy, eviction, running out of water -- OK, I added the last one), try to hang onto one small treat or luxury. In her family's case, it was real coffee once a week. Having one little thing to look forward to boosts morale tremendously.

So as I've been preparing to jump off the water grid, I've been wondering what one frivolity I could keep without feeling too much like Marie Antoinette. And I'm afraid it's my hair. Having it washed, cut and dried is something I love. And I colour it. At first, I decided that come Day Zero, I'd crop it short-short and finally embrace the grey. But I confess I quail at the thought. So instead, I'll try to harvest enough non-potable water to allow me to indulge in this one thing: hair-rinsing at the hairdresser.

This leads to worry about how hairdressers are going to keep going in the months ahead: one I know is planning, at vast expense, to pump well water up a hill, filter it and run it into her salon. But it got us chatting about glass-half-full scenarios: I suggested that she offer weary Capetonians the chance to get their hair washed, not even dried, for a modest sum -- they could arrive with their own towel, and it would be one less drain on the groaning municipal supply. I bet she'd do a roaring trade. Being an angel, she's already thinking about ways to offer her space to colleagues, on a time-share basis: those dependent on premises with municipal water could temporarily relocate to her salon, say, from 3 to 8pm. A barber colleague could come by for the late shift -- a lot of schedules are going to be thrown out by water collection, and businesses offering flexitime services are going to hang in there and even thrive -- I hope. People need to keep their jobs in the challenging months ahead: the losses in the agricultural sector alone are already nightmare-inducing.

But all this got me to thinking about "beauty" routines, and how we can adapt these so that they're water-wise and hygienic. Y-chromosomes: now may the time to grow a beard, if you use water to shave. Those who shave their legs with soap and water: switch to waxing, if you can afford it (or go gorilla). If you have a high tolerance for pain, consider embracing the full Hollywood wax: the hygiene advantages this offers, now that we're showering only twice a week (WE ARE, AREN'T WE?), are obvious.

And now I must tell you something equal parts funny and horrifying. A friend decided that she needed lady-grooming topiary tools. All the research told her the shaving bingabobs for "lil ladies" were crap (this is absolutely true, in my limited experience), and the best by far for the job would be a small travel electric shaver for men. I'll let her take over:

So I make my choice and call the tannie who works at Clicks over to unlock the cabinet. The men's, being more desirable, are locked up, whereas the women's are just on the shelf.

"What kind of beard does he have?" she asks.

I explain that it's for me, not a man. She tells me men and women have very different skin and she can't advise me to buy that one. Instead she points to the shelf of pink useless lady shavers. I explain that I've read the reviews for each, and they suck. Still, she insists on pointing out each and every one to me. I tell her, again, which one I want. To which she replies: "I'm not allowed to sell it to you."

She tells me it's store policy not to sell men's shavers to women. Let me repeat: she says it's Clicks store policy not to sell men's shavers to women.

Why any store or store employee would think that a grown-ass woman can't make a purchasing decision for herself is beyond me. So, dear women, if you're ever in the market for an appliance the tannies at Clicks think is for men, order it online. Because no store, or store tannie, has the right to decide what women can or can't use on their own bodies.

Well, now that your minds are totally boggled (c'mon Clicks, you have some explaining to do), back to that NB issue of feeling fresh: given that we're showering ONLY TWICE A WEEK (looks round with basilisk stare), try using a shower gel or soap that's cool and tingly -- mint, tea-tree, pine. Or maybe something citrusy, but it's not really the moment for "honey coconut" or "amber musk".

It's a bit of a hop to the next topic, but I got a lot of laundry feedback, and I'd like to dedicate this tip to all businesses that require staff to wear a uniform or "professional" outfits for reasons other than safety. Inspired by the news that some schools are letting children wear PE or sports clothes to school to save on washing, I want to suggest businesses do something similar. I'm thinking especially of those (also schools) that require the wearing of white or "uniform" shirts that require daily washing and ironing if one wants to avoid that dingy look (or growing a little whiffy). This is cruel in the current conditions. At the same time, many families don't have the budget for extra clothing, especially not for their kids.

Here's a branding tip for free: take the money for the T-shirt you were going to issue at the team-building conference, and make one instead that says "[insert business name here] Water Ninja" (or similar) and give to all your staff to wear for work. With colder weather coming in a few months, start planning to issue similar tracksuits: you can wear those puppies all week without washing. Same goes for schools: let kids wear T-shirts with gym-slips and grey pants. And have a little pity: we have the two hottest months of the year ahead and strict water rations: unless your employers or pupils need to wear closed shoes for safety reasons, allow them all to wear sandals, flip-flops, whatever -- as long as it doesn't need socks or stockings. Or just make EVERY DAY "Casual Friday".

Finally, and this has nothing to do with either lipstick or laundry, here's the cutest tip I've received so far, from someone called Mara: "i keep all used teabags to wipe dregs, oil, foodstuffs from plates, forks, pots, peanut butter bottles ... many kitchen items can be cleaned by wiping all food gunk off with one or two damp used teabags and then drying with one or two dried used teabags. i'm uncertain about any bacterial health hazard but i have been doing it for a couple years now and (i think) i'm not ill or dead. [HM note: I especially loved this detail.] i sometimes reuse the cleaned item (same plate and cutlery for several meals) or else let these wiped dishes pile up for awhile unstinkily and have a marathon dish wash in as little water as possible. wet bags clumped together can get mouldy so separate them out. or maybe design a special teabag line? with used dental floss. and used ... toothpicks? ok enough!"

The last detail (the dental floss washing line) made me wonder if I was having my leg massively pulled by a rather sweet elf with a penchant for lower case, but I tried her tip, and ... it WORKED! Certainly with the wet/damp teabags, and it feels much better chucking them in the compost bucket afterwards than kitchen paper. However, when I tried the dried teabags follow-up, they fell apart. It may be that I lack elf technique. Let me know how you fare.

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Helen Moffett