I find it inspiring and uplifting to incorporate what’s happening in nature all around me in spring, to create treatments to nourish my skin in the same way. The same foods I crave to eat to feel lighter and fresher internally can provide the same benefits for my face and body when applied topically. I smell their light, delicate aromas and touch the various textures of their leaves. The just-minted feeling of the new permeates the energy around my plants. To take in this energy through my mouth and skin is a symbiotic ritual of communion; this is my religion. It is simple, straightforward, and here at my fingertips. The beauty of the plants gives me beauty; I wear spring on my skin.
How to Love (Clean) Your Face: A Meditation on Acceptance
When my daughter was small it used to amaze me the amount of schmutz that landed on her little face. She was in the enviable mode of being unaware of what was on her face. The more that was there, the more immersed I knew she had been in her activities. I was drawn to her face like a moth to a flame. My instinct was to tidy it all up, much like a mother cat’s ritual of washing her kittens laboriously with her paws and rough tongue. I wanted to clean, not in the quest to make my child’s face a canvas of perfection, but to engage in the ritual itself. I groomed out of love of being close enough to her to feel her sweet breath on my face, to smell her child’s smell of fresh grass and brown sugar, to see stray beads of sweat sparkle on her upper lip. I wanted to take a bite out of her, she was so delectable.
The beauty of the plants gives me beauty; I wear spring on my skin.
Wouldn’t it be great to approach the scrutiny of our own faces with as much love, tenderness, and non-judgment as the gaze we cast upon a child’s face? It’s easy to get caught in a self-critical place. We find flaws with the basic shape and arrangement of our features, we compare ourselves to airbrushed celebrities, we panic at seeing ourselves age. The result of this relentless inspection is that anything will look distorted if stared at in a mirror long enough. Other than reducing the time we spend in front of mirrors, maybe there is another way to find more graceful acceptance and less disappointment with what we see when we do look.
We learn from Buddhist philosophy that a mundane routine can be elevated to a spiritual exercise if practiced with right intention and focus. This everyday ritual of self-care can become an exercise in loving kindness toward ourselves. Transformation from critical appraisal and worry about gravity’s effects starts with gratitude about what we have, instead of what we wish we had. We experience the miracle of our face and its components (eyes, nose, mouth, ears) because we are conscious caretakers of them.
If you’re burdened with a complicated routine consisting of several steps, multiple products, and a drawer or cabinet overflowing with other partly used products that you never use, now is the time to simplify.
It’s only necessary to wash your face once or twice a day; use a lighter rinsing cleanse for morning and a more thorough regimen at night before you go to bed. Over-washing can strip beneficial oils and dry out already dry skin. In acne prone skin, when the natural oils in the skin are constantly removed and dried out, the sebum glands react by producing more oil.
• Use a very pure, organic face cleanser with as few ingredients as possible.
• Never use hot water, keep the temperature to lukewarm. Hot water might dry your skin too much.
• Use a light touch with a couple of fingertips (middle and ring fingers are weaker, so you will tend to use less pressure) to massage your cleaner all over the surface of your face. If using a cotton ball, use short, gentle swipes in all directions to cover the surface. Take about thirty to forty-five seconds to do this.
• Avoid heavy, pulling, downward actions with your massage touch. Emphasize upward, light, lifting strokes to keep from disrupting skin’s elasticity.
• Avoid using a thick washcloth (too rough on the skin), as well as loofah-type sponges. Your own hands and fingers are best. Thin, porous cotton cloths are next best.
• If dealing with acne breakouts, be especially gentle around the inflamed areas.
• Thoroughly rinse all the cleanser off (leaving cleaner residue can also clog pores); four or five splashes with cool water helps to close your pores.
• Gently pat your face dry with a soft, clean towel.
Parsley Mint Face Wash
Parsley increases blood circulation to the skin and helps purify it. Other than stimulating, soothing, and cleansing skin parsley is a source of remarkable skin nutrition as it is rich in vitamin C, pro vitamin B5, and chlorophyll—all great skin rejuvenators and nourishers. Mint is high in vitamin A and calcium and its aromatic qualities are uplifting.
• 2 cups boiling, purified water
• 2 generous fistfuls flat-leafed parsley
• 7-10 large mint leaves
1. Make an infusion by pouring water over parsley (stems, leaves and seeds—no need to separate) and mint leaves.
2. Let it cool, strain, and put in a glass jar, cover tightly. Sore in fridge for up to a week.
3. Wash the face with cotton ball dipped in the parsley mint infusion, or soak a thin cotton washcloth in the infusion and press against your face. Let the infusion soak into your skin.
Rinse with lukewarm water. Follow with moisturizer.
Fennel Thyme All-Purpose Face Toner
In Greek myths it was said that intelligence came from the gods and reached humans through a fennel stem. Fennel has been considered to have magical characteristics wherever it has been cultivated. As one of the ancient Saxon people’s nine sacred herbs, fennel was credited with the power to cure what were then believed to be the nine causes of disease. It was also draped over doorways to protect from evil spirits and the seeds stuffed in keyholes to keep ghosts from entering the room.
Fennel has been used throughout history as an aid to digestion or as a slight diuretic. As an infusion, fennel seeds can be gently cleansing and toning for the skin and they can help reduce puffiness and superficial irritation. Thyme, which is use in natural antiseptic preparations, is a good astringent (cleans and clears tissues, as well as constricts the pores).
• 2 sprigs fresh thyme, crumbled (or ½ tablespoon dried thyme)
• 2 teaspoons dried or fresh fennel seeds, crushed
• ½ cup boiling water
• Juice of half a lemon
1. Mix the thyme and fennel seed in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Add lemon juice and steep for fifteen minutes.
2. Strain the infusion and store the liquid in a glass jar in the refrigerator. Will keep up to five days. Shake to mix thoroughly before using.
Because this is very gentle, it can be used each morning and evening as a toner to reset the ph balance of your skin. If you can put it in a bottle with a spray attachment, mist on the face and neck and rinse with lukewarm water.
Strawberry Revitalizing Face Mask
Yogurt is a wonderful beauty ingredient. The lipids in the milk, which are essentially fat, work wonders to plump up depleted skin. The lactic acid in yogurt soothes, softens and tightens the skin and refines the pores. Because it is a fermented product, the natural antibacterial and antifungal properties get rid of germs and other bacteria that can cause breakouts and disruptions.
Strawberries are a member of the rose family and contain salicylic acid (a key ingredient in over the counter and prescription acne medicines), which rids the skin of dead cells, allowing it to absorb moisture more effectively. Strawberries also have a mild bleaching effect on the skin and help prevent and heal blemishes.
Note: It’s important to source organic strawberries since you are putting them on your face to heal it; strawberries are a food crop with one of the highest concentrations of pesticide residues.
• 1/4 cup plain, full fat yogurt (the thickness of unstrained Greek-style yogurt is preferable to a thinner-type yogurt, as it is easier to apply as a mask; vegan yogurt can be substituted)
• 1/4 cup mashed fresh strawberries
• 1 teaspoon honey
1. Blend all ingredients either with a fork or a quick pulse in a blender, until a smooth paste.
2. Apply evenly to clean, dry face. Let set for at least ten minutes; longer if you have the luxury. Rinse well with lukewarm water and pat dry.
Lemon Face Paste
Lemon is the go-to beauty ingredient for so many purposes with its high vitamin C content, as well as other beneficial nutrients (folate, potassium, calcium). It’s a natural lightener of age spots or sun spots. This recipe is a perfect refresher for nourishing the skin and tightening pores.
• 1 egg white
• 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. Combine lemon juice and egg white. Beat vigorously with a fork.
2. Use a large, natural bristle cosmetic brush to dab on the paste. Let it dry for 20 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water and pat dry.
Natural Mouth Hygiene
• Flossing: Regular, effective flossing keeps bacteria from migrating to the digestive tract and causing inflammation, which has been linked to allergies, as well as a host of other chronic ailments.
• Teeth Whitening: Mix equal parts salt and baking soda in a ceramic or porcelain dish. Wet toothbrush and dab into mixture, then scrub teeth. Salt is a wonderful exfoliator so it re- moves coffee, tea, and food stains, and baking soda is a gum protector. Additionally, the alkaline ph balance of baking soda neutralizes the acids in the mouth that can cause bad breath and tooth decay.
• Mouth rinse for bad breath: Parsley is a great solution for bad breath. Boil two cups of water and pour over five or six sprigs of parsley, coarsely chopped, and two or three whole cloves or a quarter teaspoon of ground cloves. This mixture should be stirred occasionally while cooling. It should then be strained into a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. Use as a mouthwash or gargle several times a day.
The Case for a Chemi-Free Mani Pedi
Think about the chemical soup your body can absorb during a regular mani or pedi: first the polish remover (typically made of acetone—a strong, chemical solvent used to break up the composition of plastics and paints), then a cuticle cream (most contain ingredients like triethanolamine, an emulsifier). Paraff dips use wax that is a by-product of petroleum. Polishes can contain formaldehyde, DBP, and tuolene—all very potent chemicals that have been linked to cancer, developmental/reproductive toxicity, and allergies.
Excerpted from the book A Year of Living Mindfully: Seasonal Practices to Nourish Body Mind and Spirit (March 2016, Motivational Press).