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?

Natural Skincare Wonder #5: Lavender Essential Oil

Of all essential oils, lavender has to be the singular most popular one, both for its glorious aroma and for its versatility of usefulness.  In all the years I’ve been a soap maker, I’ve only had one person tell me that they didn’t like the scent of lavender; usually, it’s the top requested scent.

The name lavender is thought to be a version of the Old French word, lavandre, which was derived from the Latin “lavare” – the meaning of that word is “to wash.”  A fitting name for this fresh, clean, and herbaceous plant that has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties as well.  Although there are several varieties of lavender, the most common one is English lavender, lavendula angustiflolia.  Curiously, it’s not native to England, but is native to Mediterranean countries such as France, Italy, and Spain.

Lavender is one of only two essential oils that are reputed to be safe to use without dilution (also called “neat”) on the skin.  However, I have always exercised caution in this practice, for two reasons: first, all essential oils are extremely concentrated, and to get the full benefits from lavender oil it can be diluted in a carrier oil at 3 - 5%.  (That’s 97% carrier oil + 3% lavender oil, or 95% carrier oil + 5% lavender oil.)  Secondly, any substance that is highly concentrated, as essential oils are, can result in dermal sensitization.  This is a type of allergic reaction which causes the skin to respond to a particular substance, in this case, an essential oil, with an inflammatory reaction.  Typically, dermal sensitization occurs at the first exposure but little to no reaction is noticed.  After the initial exposure, a severe inflammatory reaction may result – and the affected person will likely be sensitized to this particular essential oil for many years, possibly the rest of his or her life.  The best way to avoid dermal sensitization is to avoid putting the same essential oils on the skin on a daily basis, over a long period of time.

Finally, caution is also needed in using any essential oils (even lavender) on infants and small children.  Always dilute with a carrier oil for topical use on children; lavender essential oil should not be used on infants under three months old.  Ingesting essential oils is never recommended – in European countries, a medical doctor is the only professional allowed to prescribe essential oils for ingestion.  Considering that at least 50% of all prescription medications are plant based, wouldn’t it make sense that highly concentrated botanical oils should only be consumed when advised by a medical professional – not your friend or next door neighbor?

Here are just a few of the many uses for lavender essential oil:

  • Calming and mood balancing aromatherapy – rub a few drops of diluted lavender oils between your hands, then cup your hands over your nose and breathe deeply;

  • Insect bites – use a drop or two to relieve pain and itching;

  • Dry, itchy skin – soothes and softens skin;

  • Minor burns, including sunburns – relieves pain and itchiness, promotes healing;

  • Acne – best diluted with a carrier such as fractionated coconut oil or jojoba oil, it inhibits bacterial growth and helps prevent scarring;

  • Pain relief – gentle massage, combined with diluted lavender oil, helps to relieve muscle pain, sprains, and joint pain.

Lavender essential oil has so many uses – you can carry a small bottle in your purse or travel bag for an instant first aid kit.  Tomorrow’s blog post will be about castor oil (and no, I won’t tell you to take a big spoonful of it for a spring tonic.)