Skincare rituals

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My philosophy on skincare has always been a holistic one. Beauty is harmony in body, mind and spirit. The face is usually just a reflection of what is going on inside our bodies, our hearts and our minds. Your diet, your lifestyle, your environment, your thoughts, your emotions…they all show on your skin. Just slapping some cream on your face will not really solve your skin problems. Diet and lifestyle are crucial when it comes to healthy skin, even more than skincare.

When it comes to skincare, my philosphy is to nurture the skin with healing, good quality products through beautiful rituals, like massage, mindful meditation, and setting intentions…

How do you usually apply your skincare? Do you just apply your cream in 2 seconds and off you go? What is your dialogue with yourself when you are caring for your skin? Does it come from a place of judgement or one of a love and acceptance?

Here is my advice.

In Chinese medicine, the heart meridian passes through the tongue where it spreads out to the face. This is maybe one of the reasons why we have that glow when we are happy and in love. 

First, center yourself. Be here, now. Even just for 2 minutes. Have the intention that this is a time to pause and nurture.

So when you look in the mirror, before you apply your products, set your intention. Don’t say something with a negative connotation like… ‘I want to get rid of my wrinkles’… Opt for something like ‘May my skin be healthy, nourished and balanced’ or ‘may my skin glow with vitality’…Whatever it may be, make it something positive.

Then apply your products. Choose products that are healing and nurturing, that make you feel good. I am not a fan of any products or procedures that wound the skin in order for it to heal and as a result produce more collagen. First, all those products and procedures do more damage in the long run. Everytime you wound your skin with strong acids and overexfoliation, overly drying products, lasers and everything else that promises that ‘quick fix’, you increase inflammation, damage DNA, and distroy your skin’s immunity. I could write an entire book on this, but I will just sum it up and say that I personally believe in strengthening and nourishing practices instead.

This brings me to my next point, and that is massage. It can drain lymph, stimulate blood circulation and therefore bring more nutrients to the skin, increase skin function, relieve tension, relax, firm and lift muscles, release toxins, help products penetrate better into the skin…the list goes on and on…and let’s not forget: it feels AMAZING! I posted a few techniques on facial massage and acupressure in the past, so feel free to take a look at those, or try out others that are out there on youtube.

This doesn’t have to take long. It can be 2 minutes….or, if you have the time and feel like it, you can make it 30 minutes. The main idea here is to just carve this little time for yourself, and make it feel good.

Of course, topical application is just a small part of healthy skin. A healthy diet (good digestion, good quality, organic whenever possible – ingredients, supplements when needed, lots of water, a healthy microbiome), a healthy lifestyle (avoiding toxic products and environments whenever possible, staying active, practicing yoga or another type of physical activity you may prefer, practicing pranayama, spending time in nature, fresh air), and a healthy mind and spirit (through meditation, expressing and practicing gratitude, connecting with others) are all important parts of healthy, beautiful skin.

I hope this inspires you to approach skincare from a holistic level and that we all stop buying into the quick-fix, no pain no gain philosophy.

Here is to a healing, nurturing journey to healthy, glowing skin!

Ps:

One last thing…on botox…as you probably guessed by now…I am not a fan. I don’t judge anyone who does it, of course, but please if you are planning on doing it, consider the following:

Botox atrophies muscles. As we age, our capillary bed in our skin (the blood flow) decreases significantly. When you weaken muscles, you decrease circulation even more. This literally starves your skin. So the skin, although it has no wrinkles, it looks lifeless. Also, it slackens a lot. It may be wrinkle free, but gravity still pulls on it, and since muscles are weak due to atrophy, everything just droops even more. This is why most botox users end up having fillers and other procedures after a while. And those are a whole other mess.

Another thing to consider is that there has been quite a bit of research on muscle memory. When we are happy, we smile and we contract certain muscles. This goes the other way around as well. When we smile, we tend to feel better. There have been several studies showing how if certain muscles are not triggered during facial expressions, the emotion associated with those expressions is not felt to its full extent.

And one last thing that I learned in a natural skincare seminar…there is a whole book about this actually, but for all new moms out there…babies, before they learn how to speak, they look at their parents and read their facial expresions. They learn how to read emotions and it is a way for them to understand the world and most importantly the people around them.  Something to keep in mind.

DIY Nourishing, brightening face mask

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I was in need of a face mask yesterday to help my stressed out, hot skin! I remembered of a recipe I learned a while ago, from an old spa book I had from years ago. (The book is ‘Spa Living’ by Sunamita Lim)

The recipe is for an Ayurvedic Fragrant Nutritive Mask:

2 tbs colloidal oatmeal (I didn’t have colloidal oatmeal, but I ground organic oats in my blender till they turned into a superfine powder) – oatmeal is anti-inflammatory

2 tsp goat milk powder (I used my organic whole cow milk powder instead)- milk is brightening and softening due to its lactic acid

1/2 tsp white kaolin clay – detoxifying and softening

1 tsp rose petal powder (I just ground dry rose petals) – rich in vitamin C

1 tsp sandalwood powder ( I order mine on amazon…I LOVE sandalwood powder!!! It has the most beautiful fragrance!) – cools the skin and balances all skin types, relieves skin rashes and allergies, it is anti-bacterial, cooling and soothing.

2 drops rose attar (essential rose oil from India infused in a sandalwood base- I didn’t have this either, but improvised- I just added 2 drops of my all-time favorite ila spa glowing radiance face oil, which has the highest quality of rosa damascena oil as well as sandalwood, it is completely natural and smells absolutely divine💗💗💗)

Mix all DRY ingredients in a jar, then take half of the powder, add a bit of water to reach the desired mask consistency, and then add the 2 drops of rose/sandalwood oil (in my case Ila oil). Leave the mask on for 15-20 minutes and rinse off with warm water. It feels a bit exfoliating when you remove it.

I followed with my jasmine white tea mist (I make my own just by making a really strong cup of really good quality white jasmine tea, let it cool, put it in a spray bottle and store it in the fridge- I will make its own blog post one of these days and go over the details, because tea mists are really simple to make and the polyphenols in tea are very beneficial for the skin).

I moisturized with my ila oil at the end. My skin (which is combination, lots of freckles in the summer and has a lot of heat) felt cool, really soft, smooth and brighter.☺

Please note: If you are pregnant or have a medical condition, consult with your doctor first before trying this mask. If your skin is very reactive or sensitive, I recommend doing a test patch first. Everyone is different, so please be mindful when trying somthing new.

 

DIY Soothing Sugar Scrub

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I was in a DIY – pamper myself – spa at home mood yesterday. I had a fun weekend that involved hours spent at the beach on Saturday and 2 hours of canoeing and 2 hours of hiking on Sunday, so Monday I really felt the need for some TLC. I decided to make my own body scrub. Scrubs are great to remove dead skin cells, increase product absorption, increase micro- circulation and also stimulate lymphatic drainage. The skin is softer, brighter and just glows after! Since it is summer right now where we live, I wanted something sweeter and more soothing for my skin.

Here is what I used:

– 3/4 organic powdered whole milk (contains lactic acid, which is a natural chemical exfoliant and skin brightener)
– 3/4 coconut sugar (a physical exfoliant as well as humectant-attracts moisture)- any granulated sugar would work, I just chose coconut
– 3 tbs of Manuka Honey (humectant, antibacterial, rich in vitamins and great enzymes that soften, nourish and help heal the skin)
– 5 ml vanilla essence ( I used the one I got from an Oleum Vera kit)- I love the smell of vanilla – calming and delicious at the same time
– 60 ml of almond oil (also from Oleum Vera-they use high quality, pure, organic ingredients and make some great DIY face and body kits)
– 3 g dried rose petals (again, from and Oleum Vera kit) – for their scent, for their power to heal us emotionally and also because according to Ayurveda, roses calm the pitta dosha.

(Note: You can play around with the consistency. You could add more oil to make it runnier. I prefer it as a thick paste personally, because you can make it into a ball and scrub yourself with it on damp skin. The product just starts to melt into your skin, and the rose petals are all that you are left with in your hand-leaving their beautiful scent behind. )

Mix all ingredients together into a thicker paste and Voilà! Take about 2 tbs of the scrub, hop in the shower and scrub your entire body – on damp skin. I like to leave it on the skin for a few minutes, and in the meantime apply hair conditioner and give myself a scalp massage. Then rinse off and you are done (don’t use soap after)

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After this scrub, I don’t feel like I need to use any moisturizer, but I like to spray on some refreshing rose water.

Finish with a cup of herbal tea and relax for a while💗

 

 

Anahata

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Anahata is the Heart Chakra, and it is governed by the Air element. This is the centre of unconditional love, compassion, kindness, forgiveness. This chakra governs the circulatory system, respiratory system and thymus. Healing the heart chakra can help let go of negativity and fear. The predominant sense for this chakra is the sense of touch.

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This morning’s massage oil was warm Argan oil with pure rose essential oil. I used two pink rose quartz heart crystals to massage the warm oil, paying extra attention to the heart area. I lit up a rose and tuberose candle, and played soothing music in the background  (ila’s Heart of the Earth…yes, I have an obsession with ila spa…they have the most amazing products and rituals, and they are completely ethical, plus the founder, Denise Leicester, is a true inspiration). During the massage, I focused on gratitude and love for my body. You can also practice positive affirmations, like: “My heart is free of unnecessary burdens”, or “My spirit is as boundless and free as the air”, or anything else that may resonate with you.

Excerpt from ila’s Heart of the Earth

Yoga followed. Again, Shiva Rea’s Anahata Chakra vinyasa, which focused on breath and a lot of chest openers. The meditation focused on the heart-fire. (LOVE)
Pranayama (the breathing practice) for Anahata is inhalation, inhalation retention, viloma pranayama. This breathing practice is very simple, and can be done by almost anyone, sitting or lying down. My favorite way to practice this is lying down on my yoga mat, with a bolster under my knees, and two cotton pads soaked in rose water placed over my eyes. The breath goes like this: you inhale for 2-3 seconds, then you pause for 2-3 seconds (hold your breath, don’t exhale, don’t let the diaphragm loose), then you continue to inhale for 2-3 more seconds, then pause again for 2-3 seconds, then inhale for 2-3 more seconds, hold for 2-3 seconds…keep doing this until your lungs are full, and then fully exhale the whole breath out, slowly. Repeat this breath for 5-10 minutes.

After yoga, I had a relaxing candlelit bath, with ila’s pink himalayan salts (rose, sandalwood, jasmine). I applied a face mask on that I made myself. I used 1 tsp manuka honey, with a little bit of rose water and a couple of drops of rose and sandalwood essential oil. I placed 2 cotton pads soaked in rose water over my eyes and relaxed in bliss for 20 minutes. After the bath, I rinsed my mask off and gave myself a face massage. Then I applied ila’s aroma oil for glowing radiance on my pulse points.

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After reading Dr. Pratima Raichur’s Radiant Beauty book, I have been making my own face oil, using organic argan and rosehip oil, with pure rose and sandalwood essential oil. I always ALWAYS give myself a pressure point/marma massage with the oil…every day. No matter how tired I may be, this massage really makes my skin glow and my face looks radiant and completely awake. I described this here

In the evening, I complete my Anahata practice with a loving-kindness meditation, inhaling and exhaling through the heart, focusing on feelings of love and gratitude.

‘Beauty is not in the face. Beauty is a light in the heart” – Kahlil Gibran

PS: You will notice I use a lot of rose oil. According to Ayurveda, Rose and Sandalwood are very good at balancing Pitta dosha (fire nature), which is my predominant dosha.( I go to an Ayurvedic doctor- I LOVE everything about Ayurveda). Pitta skin has a lot of redness and sensitivity, as well as dehydration from too much internal heat. So for me, I use these oils in all my beauty products on a daily basis. It so happens that rose essential oil is also one of the best oils for balancing the heart chakra, as well as balancing hormones. Sandalwood essential oil is also used to balance hormones.

PPS: If you are going to follow any of these tips, please be mindful, and consult with a doctor first if you have any medical conditions.

The Shining Jewel – Manipura

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Fire. Transformation. Metabolism. Energy. Vitality. Joy. Vibrant. Happy. Self-esteem. Radiance.

Manipura chakra (located in the solar plexus region) means ‘shining jewel’ in Sanskrit. It is the body’s centre for our inner fire, ruled by the sun. It is the fire with which we transform and digest our food, emotions and relationships with the world around us. This is the center of radiant health and vitality, self-esteem, self-worth and power.
The body oil I used for my massage was ila’s Vital Energy oil, which is very stimulating, with Juniper, Geranium, lavender and lemongrass.
My yoga practice started with kapalabhati,, or breath of fire, to heat up the body and especially the abdominal area. It is a very energizing, stimulating and detoxifying breath, which brings a lot of heat as well as strengthens the abdominal area. My yoga practice was Shiva Rea’s solar Manipura Chakra vinyasa practice, which focuses on sun salutations, arm balances and core strengthening exercises. Seated forward bend and twists are also great for activating this chakra. The practice ends with a solar meditation gazing at a fire (the one on the screen, or a fireplace, or even a candle will work) and reflecting on its transformative power. Savasana was long, grounding and relaxing.

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After yoga, I made my own sugar scrub, using brown sugar, argan oil, and essential oils of lemongrass, lavender and geranium. I massaged my entire body with this stimulating, energizing scrub and then hopped in the shower. I always make my own body scrubs, because this way I can always change the scent depending on what I want to achieve, using pure essential oils (I have quite the collection). I prefer using sugar instead of salt in my scrubs, because salt is quite drying, whereas sugar is a humectant (attracts moisture). The combination of sugar and oil (you can use any base oil you want…almond, olive, coconut, jojoba, apricot..) leaves your skin really soft, and you don’t even really need to moisturize after.
To keep the internal fire going, I nourished my body with warming foods and spices…ginger, chai tea, warm, stewed apples with cinnamon for breakfast, hot veggie soup with warming spices for lunch….
Throughout the day, it is important to smile, laugh, and keep it light…avoiding over-stimulation.
It is also important to balance our internal fire with relaxation and grounding practices as well, so we don’t “burn out”. In the afternoon, I practiced 30 minutes of Yoga Nidra, which is the most healing and restful practice for me. I described this wonderful practice here.
“May you feel the power of life manifesting through you and rise up in the fullness of your strength, stamina and joy for life.” – (Quote from Shiva Rea’s Chakra Vinyasa course)

Swadisthana

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Swadistana Chakra. Water, fluidity, flexible, flow, pleasure, fun, contentment…’savouring the feeling’, enjoying the senses…touching different textures, listening to beautiful music, enjoying a beautiful nature scenery or some art, tasting different delicious foods . Balancing the second chakra is to connect with life’s flow, be happy, experience the pleasures life has to offer. The colour of this chakra is Orange.
The Essential guide to chakras offers many wonderful tips on balancing this chakra…from lifestyle tips, to yoga, to meditation. I also followed Shiva Rea’s Chakra Vinyasa course to complement my practice for today.
For my morning massage, I used warm Monoi oil, which is coconut oil with frangipani oil.
My yoga practice was fluid and playful, almost like a dance, honouring the water element. At the end of my yoga practice, I had a mineral bath. I love these Alkabath salts, because they use crushed agate, carneol, citrine, chrysoprase, onyx, rock crystal, sapphire and chalcedony, so it is packed with minerals! You could also use pink himalayan salt, which is also high in minerals. I also added pure essential oils of rose, jasmine and sandalwood. These are great to balance Swadistana. I lit up candles, played some soothing music, and had the most relaxing candlelit bath for 30 minutes. There is one tip I learned a long time ago that I find extremely relaxing. When I am having a bath, I submerge my whole body and head under water, except for my face.(I have a big tub 🙂 ) Since my ears are under water, all the sounds are muted, and all I can hear is my breath and a very faint sound of soft music. There is also a sense of floating and extra fluidity. There is just something so therapeutic for me to have my head in the water…the water enveloping my entire head feels so peaceful, so soothing… It is extremely relaxing!
After my bath, I massaged my skin with pure argan oil and applied ila’s aroma oil on, which has rose, tuberose and vetivert. Today is about getting pleasure through all the senses!
My meals today were delicious, full of flavour, lots of fruit and veggies. (think sweet and juicy:) )
Today is also the perfect day to go for a walk in nature, and to also enjoy art like this:


My meditation this evening will be following Shiva Rea ❤ Again, I always begin with alternate nostril breathing. The breathing practice for the second chakra is full abdominal breathing, followed by a flowing seated meditation, which feels almost like dance, and you begin to feel fluid, like water.

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Please consult with your doctor if you have any medical conditions and would like to try any of these practices.

Muladhara

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Today’s focus is Muladhara chakra (Root chakra). In the Essential guide to Chakras, they describe this as your foundation. To balance this chakra is to connect with the earth, feel comfortable in your own body, enhance stability in your life and get grounded.
In the mornings, I usually perform self-abhyanga (ayurvedic self-massage, using warm oil). Focusing on balancing the root chakra, I used grounding essential oils. I was inspired by ila’s chakra blessings (hopefully one day I will be able to experience them in one of their amazing spas)…  And with my ila Heart of the Earth CD playing in the background, I made my own massage oil, using grapeseed oil, vetivert, patchouli, and Embrace from Saje (which is a lovely blend of ginger, jasmine and patchouli). Of course getting massaged by someone else feels better, but even a self massage can do wonders for your wellbeing!:) It’s a form of self-love afterall. 🙂
With my body warmed up, I followed with an hour and a half of Shiva Rea’s Muladhara Solar yoga practice (from her Chakra vinyasa course) followed by meditation. (The chakra book also has meditations specific to each chakra). The yoga practice focuses on grounding asanas, as well as balancing ones. The practice ends with delicious hip opening forward bends, marinating in each pose for about 2 minutes. The rhythm is slow and steady, which feels like the Earth’s heartbeat. Savasana  is long and very grounding…a deep sense of sinking into the earth, rooting down, letting go…I burnt ila spa incense in the background, to add more grounding to my pratice. There are lots of youtube videos out there on yoga postures on each chakra. With root chakra, just think grounded, balance, stability, rooted into the earth, letting go…
Before bed, a foot massage is in order (I posted a short foot reflexology treatment you can do for yourself here , with the same oil blend I used this morning. Foot massages before sleep can be very relaxing and help you get a great night’s sleep.

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Right before bed, I practice alternate nostril breathing (which I described in a previous post here, and I actually practice The breathing practice for this chakra is deep and slow inhale through the nose and long exhale through the mouth (again, think letting go, a deep surrender to the Earth), followed by the meditation on Muladhara chakra described in the chakra book. This is where you use an image called a yantra that you gaze upon during your meditation, and focus your attention on the shape, colour symbols and sounds associated with the specific chakra. This maybe sounds a little complicated at first, but it really isn’t once you practice.

Again, be mindful of what works for you if you are going to try this, and consult with your doctor first if you have any medical conditions.

Hope you all have a beautiful, grounded, peaceful day!