DIY Spa Facial in 6 Simple Steps: Step 6, Moisturize

For the final step of this series, I’m writing about moisturizing.  This is one of two steps that almost everyone does daily – the other one is cleansing, of course.  But some of us are doing well to wash or cleanse our faces daily.  I was always a keep-it-simple kind of person who always liked to wash my face in the shower, and I never liked all the fancy stuff (it just looked complicated, confusing, and expensive.)  Anyway, I thought, what’s the big deal about moisturizers?  Don’t our faces produce sebum to keep our skin protected and healthy?  The answer is yes….and no.

Sebum is the oil that is made in the sebaceous glands, deep below the surface of the skin.  It is designed to create a barrier to prevent bacteria and other foreign materials from penetrating the skin, as well as maintain a healthy pH balance.  When sebum production is in balance, additional moisturizer isn’t needed; however, using harsh cleansers that strip too much oil from the skin will actually cause sebum production to increase, sending way too much oil to the surface of the skin.  Over-cleansing on a regular basis will result in an overabundance of sebum, as the skin struggles to protect vulnerable skin cells. More and more oil is pumped to the skin, which often leads to clogged pores, acne, and red, irritated skin.

To avoid this endless cycle, gentle cleansing – instead of scrubbing with detergent-based cleansers that strip oils from the skin – will allow some of the natural sebum to remain so that oil production is balanced.  All skin, even oily skin, can benefit from the right type of moisturizer.

On the other side of the spectrum is dry, sensitive, and/or mature skin.  Many things can cause the skin to be dry: certain medical conditions, not drinking enough water, overexposure to the sun, extreme cold, dry air, or wind, are some common ones.  As we get older hormones decrease, resulting in the loss of oil and sweat glands, and reduced cell renewal.  Dry skin is a common problem with aging.

Somewhere in the middle, some lucky people have perfectly balanced oil production and pH. If you rarely have break outs and your face is smooth and supple without using moisturizer, good for you!  But as circumstances change, and the years go by, eventually you may need to re-evaluate your moisturizer needs. 

Similar to naturally occurring sebum, many natural botanical oils make excellent barriers to protect skin from bacteria and hold moisture in the skin cells.  Using oils to protect, soften, and condition the skin is technically not moisturizing.  Only water can hydrate and moisturize skin cells.  Lotions and most creams are made with a high percentage of water, depositing mostly water with a bit of oil to the surface of the skin.  This is only partially effective in hydrating and moisturizing, because there are many layers of skin, not just the top layer, which needs to be hydrated.  This is why you can apply lotion to your skin and a few hours later you need to reapply.

When natural oils and serums are applied to the skin within three minutes of showering or bathing, the skin is hydrated from being immersed in water, and oil creates a barrier of longer lasting protection than watery lotions provide.  Some botanical oils can be extremely nourishing to the skin, and come in a wide range of beneficial properties, as well as a range of viscosity – from very light to extremely emollient.  Only a small amount of oil is needed compared to the amount of lotion used.  In fact, using too much natural oil or face moisturizer is not good for your skin.  A light application is best so pores don’t become clogged with excess oils.

Starting with the lightest and ending with the heavier or more emollient ones, here are some of my favorites:

  • Jojoba – the closest thing you’ll find to natural human sebum, it’s wonderfully light and absorbs super fast; for those with oily skin, this could be your best “moisturizer” ever; for all skin types.

  • Fractionated Coconut Oil – is processed to remove the long chain triglycerides, leaving the medium chain triglycerides; an absolutely saturated oil that has great stability and a very long shelf life; similar in its light viscosity to jojoba, it’s also known as MCT oil, and sometimes classified as not even an oil at all, as it’s frequently used in so called “oil free” cosmetic formulations.

  • Argan Oil – also called Moroccan Oil, because the argan trees are native to th country of Morocco; it’s also considered a very light, extremely nourishing oil, argan oil became popular a few years ago and is used in high-end facial serums, hair products, and body lotions and creams.

  • Olive Oil – though some consider this oil too heavy for a facial product, olive oil is rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and polyphenols – it’s no surprise that women in Mediterranean countries such as Italy and Greece, where olive oil is plentiful, slather it all over their bodies and faces – and drink a shot glass of it every day.  It’s highly absorbent, sinking readily into the skin, leaving it soft and oh, so smooth.

  • Coconut Oil - virgin coconut oil is highly emollient, making it an excellent choice for dry, sensitive, or mature skin.

For those of us who want to avoid fragrance and other synthetic ingredients, including preservatives, replacing facial moisturizers with botanical oils can be a welcome alternative. 

DIY Spa Facial in 6 Simple Steps: Step 5, Mask

This is the fifth part in a six part series on doing a spa quality facial at home.  Most of steps only take a minute or two, with a bit of additional prep time, but the mask is definitely the longest step of the facial.  A mask is usually left on the face for about 10 to 15 minutes, and the most common type of mask is a clay or mud mask.  Clays and muds are particularly useful for pulling toxins from the skin.  But there are many different types of masks for different purposes and different skin types.  There are masks designed to:

  • Hydrate and moisturize;

  • Calm and soothe;

  • Heal blemishes;

  • Tone and tighten;

  • Nourish and rejuvenate;

  • Draw out impurities.

Let’s look at how you can use some simple ingredients such as fresh fruit, veggies, and other things from your kitchen to make masks that can help some of your skin issues.

  • Avocado – for dry and/or mature skin; avocado softens, conditions, and helps prevent moisture loss; mash a ripe avocado and apply to the face, leave on for 5-10 minutes;

  • Cucumber – for irritated or inflamed skin, cucumber is cooling and refreshing; blend ½ a cucumber in a food processor or blender with ½ a teaspoon of raw honey and apply to the face, leaving on for 5 to 10 minutes;

  • Chamomile Tea – for all skin types; soothes and calms irritated or inflamed skin; make a poultice with small cloth bags, filled with dried chamomile; soak in warm water for a few minutes to hydrate the chamomile, then place the bag or bags on the irritated areas; leave on for 10 to 15 minutes;

  • Honey – for all skin types; honey is hydrating, soothing, helps tighten skin, and even helps heal blemishes; apply raw honey to the face with the fingertips and lightly coat the skin; leave on for 10 to 15 minutes;

  • Egg Whites – for all skin types; tightens and tones; leave on for 5 to 10 minutes

  • Papaya – for normal to oily skin types; gently exfoliates with natural alpha hydroxyl acid, also hydrates and nourishes skin with vitamins A and C; take a ½ cup of fresh, raw papaya chunks and blend or mash with a fork, with a teaspoon of raw honey; apply to the face and leave on for 10 to 15 minutes;

  • Strawberry – for normal to oily skin; similar to papaya with vitamin C and hydroxyl acid for gentle exfoliating and nourishing; mash or blend 4 or 5 strawberries with 2 teaspoons of plain yogurt and apply to face; leave on 5 to 10 minutes;

  • Clay or Mud – for all skin types, depending on the type of clay; for pulling impurities from the skin; white kaolin clay for dry or mature skin, pink kaolin or bentonite clay for normal skin, and sea clay, green clay, and yellow clay for oily skin; prepare clay by mixing with enough distilled water to make a smooth paste and let it set for a few minutes before applying.  Take note that bentonite clay should not be mixed in metal containers.  Leave on for 10 to 15 minutes.  Important!  Clay or mud should never be left on the skin until completely dry, contrary to commonly held belief.  When clay is completely dry it will begin to pull moisture from your skin, which is not good for your skin.  Remove a clay mask when it is mostly dry to get the most benefits of clay’s drawing action.

Exfoliating or detox masks should not be done more frequently than once a week; hydrating or soothing masks can be enjoyed daily.  We have now covered five steps of the DIY spa facial – one more step to go, to be posted tomorrow.  I hope you plan to treat yourself to a facial this weekend – it’s the perfect time to relax and pamper yourself.

DIY Spa Facial in 6 Simple Steps: Step 4, Tone

Facial toners are nothing new to most of us. They were around when I was a teenager and even before that – you know, when the dinosaurs roamed the earth.  (Kidding.  Yesterday was a milestone birthday and it sort of feels like watching the car’s odometer roll over: exciting yet depressing all at the same time.)  Even though I bought skin toner, I have to admit that I rarely used it.  I had some vague notion that it was drying, and I was a one strange teenager because I had dry skin (OK, there were other things that made me a strange teenager, too.)  At any rate, I never knew what toner really was or what it could do for my skin.  And just like any other goal in life, how can you know if you hit that goal if you don’t even have one?

It turns out that toner can do a lot of great things for your skin.  Once you know all the benefits of using toner, how to choose one that’s right for your skin, and how to use it, you’ll be on the road to better skin.  And that’s a worthwhile goal, isn’t it?

Here are some things that toner can do for you:

  • Provide extra and deeper cleansing when heavy makeup or sunscreen is being removed;

  • Quickly balances the pH of skin after cleansing with soap, which is more alkaline;

  • Refreshes and cools overheated skin after being in the sun or exercising;

  • Can be a quick fix for a light cleanse instead of washing;

  • Helps to close pores and protect the skin from contaminates in the environment;

  • Tightens and shrinks pores for a smoother looking complexion;

  • Maximizes the effectiveness of facial serums and moisturizers.

Choosing a toner is mostly about what type of skin you have, with considerations given to possible allergens and personal preference.  Here are some recommended toners to use according to skin type:

  • Dry or Mature Skin – rose water (also called rose hydrosol), freshly brewed, cooled green tea or chamomile tea;

  • Normal Skin – apple cider vinegar diluted to 1 part ACV to 3 parts distilled water; substitute rice vinegar for ACV, or make an herbal infused vinegar by steeping a few spoonfuls of dried mint, rosemary, or lavender in one cup of vinegar at room temp for 6 to 7 days; freshly brewed, cooled peppermint tea, or aloe vera juice combined with peppermint tea in equal parts; rose water and other floral waters such as lavender, peppermint, patchouli, and many more;

  • Oily Skin – witch hazel (only use the type that’s made without alcohol); a mixture of 1 part aloe vera juice and 2 parts kombucha; rose water and other floral waters, especially those that have astringent qualities.

All of the above toners should be either made and mixed just prior to using (with the exception of the infused vinegar) – or – refrigerated and used within 3 or 4 days.

To use, take a cotton ball or cosmetic square and saturate it with the toner.  Spread it on your face with light, upward stokes, then allow to air dry.  Or you can put your toner in a fine mist spray bottle and spray on your toner - just remember to close your eyes before spraying. 

A note about commercially made facial toners:  there are some very good ones out there.  Right now I’m using Thayer’s Rose Petal Witch Hazel with aloe vera and vitamin E.  It’s alcohol free, which means that it’s not drying, and it has no added fragrance.  Since fragrance is the #1 cause of skin irritation, synthetic fragrance is a big problem for many, many people.  (And I am one of them.)

So now I know – and now you know, too – that facial toners should be a major weapon in your arsenal of beauty products.  The next step in my DIY Spa Facial is the facial mask.  Get ready for some unconventional and superstar ideas for masks coming your way!

DIY Spa Facial in 6 Simple Steps: Step 3, Herbal Steam

As I wrote yesterday, this third step is my favorite part of doing a facial.  It not only provides the pore-opening therapy of steam, but also gives you a delightful lift in spirit with the aromatherapy of lavender, peppermint, patchouli, lemon balm, chamomile, or whatever dried herbs you enjoy.

Let’s take just a minute to review: we have already discussed the first two steps, which are: Step 1, Cleanse; and Step 2, Exfoliate.  Cleansing removes residual makeup, dirt, and oils from your skin; exfoliating speeds up the process of removing dead skin cells (which dulls the complexion) to reveal fresh and glowing new skin.

Here are a few reasons why facial steaming is good for your skin:

  • It warms the skin and opens the pores, allowing masks and serums to penetrate more deeply and effectively;

  • It increases perspiration, which helps pull out toxins;

  • It softens any debris in the pores, making it easier to remove;

  • It aids in circulation, which increases skin cell health and growth;

  • It’s relaxing – did I mention that this is my favorite part of a facial?  (Yes, I think I did.)

Making an herbal steam only takes a few minutes.  You’ll need some dried herbs, and an easy source for those just might be in your kitchen cabinet: think about chamomile tea, peppermint tea, lavender tea, lemon balm tea, nettle tea, hibiscus tea….yes, all those teas are dried herbs.  My favorites are a combo of lavender, lemon balm, and patchouli.  You’ll also need a medium size pot and a face towel or small bath towel.  Here’s how to make your facial steam:

  1. Fill the pot at least halfway, but not too full, with water; 

  2. Put it on the stove and bring the water to a rolling boil;

  3. Add about two to four tablespoons of dried herbs and turn off the heat under the pot.

  4. Place a lid on the pot and let it sit for 4 or 5 minutes, allowing the herbs to heat up, soften, and release their aroma and micronutrients;

  5. Put the towel over your head and stand over the pot with hot water and herbs, allowing the towel to create a tent to direct the steam to your face; 

  6. Close your eyes, relax, and enjoy the aroma and cleansing steam for about 1 ½ to 2 minutes – don’t overdo it.

By the time you’ve finished this third step your face will be feeling pretty amazing – but we’re not finished yet.  Tomorrow’s blog post will be Step 4, Tone. 

Are you getting motivated to try a 6 Step Spa Facial at home?