Facial TLC, Part Deux

Two years of a full-time job and part-time degree program kept me from indulging in a lot of the kitchen beauty maintenance I grew up with. And I started to wonder if the annoying Indian auntie where I get my eyebrows threaded was right when she pointed out all the dark spots and clogged pores on my face. So after completing my degree 2 weeks ago and a lovely Sunday afternoon yesterday, I decided it was finally time for a little post-graduation skin TLC.

I take great pleasure in doing these little things for myself at home instead of paying for a service at a salon/spa, and I consider having the time, space, and freedom to do my nails or use facial masks a great luxury. More importantly, I really value my solitude - as in, the ability to walk around in my PJ's, watch my never-ending DVR queue of crime shows, fiddle around with my iTunes playlist, sip tea, and nibble on a snack. This makes me feel incredibly liberated, calm, refreshed, relaxed, and also relieved that I can do something to take care of my skin (and my self) without spending a fortune. My very lovely home-made facial on Sunday consisted of a quick oil massage, a sweet-smelling steam, and a scrub/mask. Just what my skin and spirit needed, and maybe yours does, too (I've refined this a bit since my last home-facial back in January 2009 - yes, believe it).

A few of the things you will need:
- A large mixing bowl
- 2 bath towels (1 large, 1 medium will do)
- Whatever contraptions that keep your hair back best
- Any natural oil that is safe for facial skin, such as sweet almond oil, olive oil, or jojoba oil (I use jojoba) - you can use a fragrant one (I used rose oil) for the steam
- Cotton balls
- Any facial scrub or exfoliating mask that you like (I used St. Ive's Apricot Scrub)
- A mild toner (optional)
- A light moisturizer or another natural face oil (optional)

*Quick note on oils - they are really not at all "out there" and are easier to find than you would think. Most natural-foods and organic stores keep them (Trader Joe's and Whole Foods), as do many drugstores and vitamin stores (Vitamin Shoppe). I keep a small bottle of jojoba oil (~$7.00 at Ricky's NYC) and sweet almond oil (~$7.00 at K-Mart, of all places!) for cleansing purposes and also to give my skin a break from chemical-laden moisturizers and zit fighters (none of which I overuse, but still, better to play it safe).

I would list out the steps for this low-key beauty routine, but I'm afraid that would make it seem much more cumbersome then it really is. So I'll keep it simple.

First, heat up about as much water as your bowl will hold (not to the brim; leave about 2 inches) in a kettle. While the water boils, pull your hair back and secure. I have wavy, frizz/curl-prone hair, so I'm extra careful about this to make sure that it doesn't curl up while my head is under the steam. After putting my hair in a bun, I secure with bobby pins, cover my hair with a thin, medium-sized towel, and secure it in the back with an elastic or big claw clip. Then I put on a headband. I look a little bit like a gypsy or a babuskha lady, but hey, you do what you gotta do.

Then, gently massage whatever facial oil you're using all over your face and neck for about 2 minutes. This helps to loosen dirt/grime, open up pores, and moisturize. Leave it on!

Once the water is boiling, turn off the stove and let the water cool for a few minutes. Very hot steam can actually be very damaging, so make sure to do this step. Pour into your mixing bowl, and give it another few minutes to cool. When you sit down for the steam, it should still be rising from the bowl - there just shouldn't be big, billowing clouds of it. Pour in a few drops of a fragrant oil like peppermint or rose oil.

Place the bowl on any table or counter, cover your head and the bowl with the other towel, and just let your face hang over this strange little tent. Keep the ends of the towel a bit free and your face several inches above the rim of the bowl in case the steam is too hot/forceful. This might get uncomfortable for some ofyou - keeping the eyes closed and allowing a little air to come in helps, but otherwise, this is one of the least painful ways to cleanse the skin. I usually get over the initial discomfort pretty fast. Once you start sweating all those impurities pour out, you'll feel why it's worth it.

After 10-15 minutes, uncover the little tent you've made around your face and the bowl and voila - you will be sweating like a pig and look like you've been in a sauna. Lightly wipe a cotton ball over your face and neck.

Don't you dare wash any remaining oil off your face. It's good for you and while it's there, massage the scrub over your face and neck for about 1-2 minutes and leave on for another 2. Wash off with lukewarm water - the scrub will take care of any remaining oil and of course, exfoliate. Pat your face and neck dry. Finish with your toner and a light moisturizer/facial oil. I skip both of these steps because I like leaving my skin alone after all that action and want to let it breathe. I do however, dot a little sweet almond oil under my eyes.

Last step - look in the mirror. Instant glow! Instant freshness! Soft and polished instead of dry and irritated! I'm serious - I wish my skin looked like that everyday.

I think this little routine is ideal once a week or every two weeks, and combined, I think they are more effective than using harsh scrubs and cleansers everyday. For more low-key kitchen beauty, check out my now ancient post on face masks here.


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