• The Control Issue

    Take Care: The DIY Facial

    The Control Issue
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    Take Care

    Skincare columnist Alesia Pullins gives us a DIY facial tutorial

    Times are tough and the first signs of stress often appear on your face. Dark, puffy circles underneath the eyes, acne like constellations across your skin, and dull complexion. Even the most vigilant skincare obsessives are susceptible to face fatigue. I don’t know if that’s the technical term, but that’s what I call it when I look in the mirror and see a scary Snapchat filter staring back at me. Standard solutions to face fatigue are rest, increasing water intake, eating fresh produce and so on, but I like to take it a bit further and give myself at-home facials. They’re as easy and economical as you wish, and the goal is the same regardless of how much time you spend on them: centering yourself. Below I’ll show you how I take time to get my face together.


    First step is obvious: clean your face. My current cleanser of choice is the Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cleanser. Since facials are supposed to be extra relaxing, slow down and really massage the cleanser into your face gently in upward motions. Rinse off with lukewarm water and pat dry with a fresh towel.


    Up next: prepare for exfoliation. If I were following my regular skincare routine, this is where I would tone my face, but since we’re in facial mode right now, things are different. The goal here is to get your pores as clear as possible. As I’ve discussed before, I’m not hung up on shrinking my pores – some of us just have large pores because it’s part of having a face. However, a happy byproduct of exfoliation is shrunken pores, since we’re pretty much vacuuming them out.

    To open pores up for maximum exfoliation, start by steaming your face. Steaming is a great way to detox your skin and it feels decadent. I wish I had time to do it daily. There are a few ways you can steam: buy a steamer, place a fresh face towel that’s been immersed in hot water and wrung out over your face, or my favorite, the bowl method, in which you hover over a bowl filled with boiled water and let the steam penetrate your pores. It’s the most impractical of the three options but it’s my tried and true method because it allows me to zone out in complete darkness (because there’s a towel covering your head) and think about nothing but breathing. Drop an essential oil like lavender into the bowl for extra relaxation. Adding tea tree oil is great for blemishes. If you’re feeling extra luxe, add a few dried flowers like chamomile or rosebuds into the water for an aromatherapy experience. Inhale and exhale for about 5 minutes. Gently rinse your face and get ready for the next step of the exfoliation process.


    Once pores are open and ready for action, apply a scrub or mask that contains natural exfoliating ingredients like seeds or sugar. This will slough off any lingering dead skin cells. Please do your best to stay away from microbeads, they’re bad news. The Freeman Charcoal & Black Sugar Polishing Mask is what I reach for if I don’t have much time. It’s cheap but efficient and charcoal naturally pulls toxins from the skin. When I have time to luxuriate a bit I like to use Kiehl’s Turmeric & Cranberry Seed Energizing Mask. Turmeric is a natural discoloration lifter and glow enhancer, and with a bit of gentle rubbing the cranberry seeds slough off the dead skin that’s making you look, well, dead.


    Your skin will be feeling pretty soft at this point, so you may have reached your exfoliation peak. Not I. Some folks are very cautious with exfoliation and think it should be done no more than 2-3 times a week, others exfoliate daily. Neither method is wrong, it all depends on your skin. If you’re on the drier, more sensitive side you should definitely consider less frequent exfoliation. Personally, when it’s facial time, whether it’s DIY or professional, I go all in, which brings us to the peak of the exfoliation process: the clay mask. Clay masks are essential for ridding your skin of impurities. Aztec Healing Clay never fails me so I whip up a thick paste using apple cider vinegar and whatever essential oil fits my mood (usually tea tree because it’s a healing antiseptic and great for acne) and let it sit on my face until it dries. This mask will make your skin feel like it’s tightening as it dries. If the feeling is unpleasant you can spritz your face with water – or a rosewater face mist for deeper hydration.


    Speaking of hydration, time for the next step. Yes, there’s a next step, THIS IS A FACIAL, after all. The steps to beauty are endless, but we’re winding down. Time for a moisturizing mask! Before applying this mask I suggest toning your face to remove any remnants of the bentonite clay from your face and rebalance the ph of your skin. The clay can be intense and your skin may feel a little beat up, but that won’t last long. After sucking the life out of my skin I like to restore calm by applying the Aveda Intensive Hydrating Masque. I have a tube chilling in my fridge year round because nothing feels better on freshly washed and exfoliated skin. It’s a super light texture and highly aromatic. But there are some equally great and economical alternatives, such as aloe which is a natural moisturizer and anti inflammatory. If you have an aloe plant nearby break a few stems off and squeeze the aloe into a clean container. Chill it for a bit and and apply to your face. Here’s a really great recipe that combines aloe and cucumbers which is always a winning combination for hydration. Choose whichever mask speaks to you and leave it on for at least 10-20 minutes. This is where I allow time to stand still. Sit underneath a ceiling fan and relax. Read something outside of the Internet. Catch up on Being Mary Jane. I love that show. Rinse off and try your best not to get too handsy with your now pillowy soft skin.


    Your facial is just about over. At this point your skin should look brighter, as if it’s will to live has returned. However, if I notice my eyes are still looking a bit defeated I’ll do an eye treatment. I love the Skyn Iceland Hydro Cool Firming Eye Gels. Really, I’m a fan of most eye gels. Just put them on your face and forget they’re there for 10 minutes. If you want to keep things in the DIY realm, here’s a tea bag trick meant to reduce puffiness. And don’t forget about your lips! Now your facial is officially over.

    Once you’ve accepted that it’s time to re-enter the world, hit resume on your regular skincare routine, making sure you end it with moisturizer. For extra decadence, add a few drops of a non comedogenic oil to your moisturizer for maximum dewiness. Reassess the situation on your face. Hopefully your skin appears hydrated and any blemishes have dramatically decreased in size. If they haven’t, don’t worry, it’s a process. Be proud of your work! You’ve done a lot of heavy lifting here! Pour yourself a glass of wine. Finish Being Mary Jane. It’s a really good show.

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