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Visiting a spa occasionally would help relieve the stress many of us face, but who has the time—or the money—for such an extravagance? The irony is, the more we need pampering, the less likely we are able to get it. But it takes just a few moments to restore your state of mind with these simple at-home spa treatments. All take fewer than 30 minutes, yet they help you feel renewed and recharged—naturally.
Not only does massaging your face feel wonderful, but “touching your face properly can help counteract some of the effects of gravity and reduce facial tension,” says Roberta Wilson, a certified aromatherapist, esthetician and author of Aromatherapy For Vibrant Health and Beauty. “Facial massage also increases circulation to your skin and improves your complexion.” This treatment is suitable for everyone, even those with oily skin who are reluctant to put oil on their faces. “An aromatherapy facial can help bring problem skin into balance,” says herbalist Mindy Green, co-author of Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art. When you add oil to your skin, the oil signals your body to produce less of its natural oils. Drying out the skin signals your body to produce more oil.
10 drops essential oil
Essential oils, or “essences,” are highly concentrated substances extracted from various parts of aromatic plants and trees. The essential oil you use depends on your skin type. Chamomile or lavender will soothe dry, irritated skin, and peppermint or rosemary will stimulate oil production. Basil, eucalyptus, lemon grass and ylang-ylang are good for oily skin because they help normalize overactive oil-secreting sebaceous glands. Try rose, geranium or neroli for normal skin.
1 ounce carrier oil
A carrier oil is any oil that is used to dilute pure essential oils. You should always dilute essential oils before applying them to your skin. They are concentrated and can be irritating. Carrier oils are extracted from nuts, kernels, seeds and other plant parts. Almost any vegetable oil—olive, canola, almond, jojoba and sesame—will work. You can find essential and carrier oils in any natural food store.
Blend the oils. Pour the oil mixture into your palm, apply all over your face and neck and begin your massage. Always massage your skin gently, with upward motions; go slowly, and avoid pulling your skin. Begin at the base of your neck, and stroke upward toward your jawline. Make a circle around your mouth. Stroke your cheeks diagonally along your jawline, from the corner of your mouth to your ears and from the corner of your nose to your temples. When you reach the upper eyelids, make a circle from the inner corners, across your lids, under your eyes and finish near your tear ducts. Stroke your forehead upward into your hairline.
Steam It Up: Fennel-Chamomile Facial Steam
Steaming your face before you apply a mask makes the mask twice as effective by helping rid your skin of dirt and impurities.
3 cups water in medium-size pot
3 to 4 teaspoons fennel seeds and dried chamomile flowers, mixed
Pull your hair back and wash your face, removing any traces of makeup. Bring water to a boil and remove the pot from heat. Add herbs, and cover and steep for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and set pot on a stable surface. Lean your face no closer than 10 to 12 inches over the pot, then pull the towel over your head and the pot to make a tent. Steam for 5 to 10 minutes, opening your tent if you become too heated. Rinse your face with tepid water, then splash with cool water. Moisturize your face or try a facial mask.
Facial masks can nourish your skin, replenish, moisturize, normalize oil secretions and invigorate your complexion. Once a week, apply a mask for your skin type (see below). Rinse off the mask with warm water and a washcloth, then moisturize with your regular lotion. “Both the mask and the relaxation will improve the condition of your skin,” says Wilson.
Botanical Mask for Sensitive Skin Essentials
½ cup puréed cucumbers
1 teaspoon dried milk powder
1 drop lavender oil
½ teaspoon rose-hip oil
Mix all ingredients into a thick paste. Apply thickly to your clean face and neck. Leave on for 15 minutes. Rinse off with warm water and a washcloth, and tone with lavender water to soothe your skin. Apply your regular moisturizer.
Honey Mask for Dry Skin Essentials
2 to 3 teaspoons honey
Apply a thin, even layer of honey to your clean face and neck. Relax for 15 minutes, then rinse thoroughly with warm water and a washcloth. Apply your regular moisturizer.
Aloe Mask for Oily Skin Essentials
1 cup aloe vera gel
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon lavender water
1 tablespoon papaya purée, available at health food stores
Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and apply thickly to your clean face and neck. Leave on for 20 minutes. Rinse off with warm water, and tone with lavender water.
Tropical Hair Rejuvenator
If your hair is dry, damaged and lifeless, coconut’s high fat content will help put the luster back into your locks. This treatment works especially well if you color your hair.
½ cup grated coconut
½ cup coconut milk
2 teaspoons honey
Blend the above ingredients, and apply to damp, just-washed hair. Leave on for 10 minutes, then rinse out with warm water. Another reason for limp hair could be that too little oil is reaching your scalp. To increase circulation and draw out dirt or build-up, try massaging in the coconut mixture with a scalp brush—a flat, handleless brush with stiff bristles to stimulate the scalp and a finger loop that fits in the palm of your hand.
Fab Foot Massage
If any part of your body deserves to be pampered, it’s your feet. “The foot is an incredibly delicate and hard-working piece of engineering,” says Wendy Buonaventura, author of Beauty and the East. “Feet have tens of thousands of nerve endings, the opposite ends of which are located all over the body. There is no muscle, gland or organ in our bodies that doesn’t have a corresponding set of nerves in the foot, so when we massage people’s feet we are affecting their entire bodies at the same time.” This massage technique is called reflexology, a type of massage that involves the application of pressure to the feet alone. Using the thumbs, pressure is applied to points on the sole of the foot that correspond to specific body organs.
First soak your feet in warm water mixed with ordinary table salt. Use a pan or a bubbling foot spa and keep your feet immersed for 15 to 20 minutes; then dry them thoroughly. Next, sit on the floor with one leg extended. Bend the other leg and rest your foot on your opposite thigh. Apply moisturizing cream to your hands, rubbing them together briskly to warm them. Begin by stroking down the front of your foot from the ankles to the toes. Use your knuckles to massage the thick soles, molding your knuckle to the shape of your foot. Massage the sole in small circles, applying firm pressure with the thumbs. Pay special attention to the spongy ball of the foot. Finish by giving each toe a gentle pull. Repeat with your other foot.
Handsome Hands & Nails
Unless we get frequent manicures, most of us don’t give our hands enough attention. The result is that our skin becomes dry, thin and mottled or discolored. Likewise, nails can become dry, dull and cracked. “This is not a natural part of aging,” says Patricia Betty, owner of the E-scentially Yours aromatherapy center in Manhattan and co-author of Essential Beauty. “Rather, it is the direct result of not adequately moisturizing your hands.”
½ cup warm olive or almond oil
1 teaspoon honey
Bowl of warm water
Soak your hands in a bowl of warm water, and scrub your nails clean. After drying, dip your nails in the warm oil mixed with the honey for 5 minutes. Massage the oil into your hands, paying attention to the backs and fingers. Wrap your hands in a warm towel for 5 minutes, remove and massage your hands once again with the oil mixture. If you’re using this treatment at night, you may want to put on a pair of cotton gloves and let the mixture soak in overnight. Or finish with lotion.
When you feel a little stressed or overwhelmed, take a deep breath, turn off the telephone and try one of these at-home spa treatments to get the rest and relaxation you need.