How To Love Your Face

FaceI started noticing how much detritus can wind up on a face after having been a mother for the last 10 years:  my daughter, while not a tomboy, still amazes me with the amount of schmutz that lands on her little face.  On any given day there might be the orange remains of a Popsicle in the corner of her mouth, a dash of purple marker on one cheek, a bit of fuzzy fluff hung up in an eyebrow.  She is in the enviable mode of being not the least aware of what is on her face.  The more that is there, the more immersed I know she has been in her activities.

I am drawn to her face like a moth to a flame.  My instinct to tidy it all up is extremely primal and animalistic, much like a mother cat’s ritual of washing her kitten laboriously with her paws and rough tongue.   I want to clean, not in the quest to make her face a canvas of perfection, but to engage in the ritual itself.  I groom 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 truly could just take a bite out of her it’s such a delectable surface.

The challenge for us, as adults, is to approach scrutiny of our own faces with as much love, tenderness and non-judgment as the gaze we cast upon our children’s faces.  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 the Buddhists 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.  In the everyday doing, there is insight.  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.

Keep It Simple

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:  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.

Other tips:

  • Make sure your hands are clean before you start
  • 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 and so you will tend to use less pressure) to massage a liquid product all over the surface of your face.  If using a cleanser that you’ve put on a cotton ball, use short, gentle swipes in all directions to cover the surface.  Take about 30 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.
  • Avoid bar soaps (or any soap-based products), cleansers with multiple harsh chemical ingredients (preservatives, emollients, surfactants, extenders or fillers), and anything with artificial fragrance.
  • If dealing with acne breakouts, be especially gentle around the inflamed areas (See page ? for more detailed information on treating acne prone skin)
  • Thoroughly rinse all the cleanser off (leaving cleaner residue can also clog pores);  4 or 5 splashes with cool water helps to close your pores.
  • Pat dry with gentle pats from a soft, clean towel.  Again, avoid hard rubbing or downward pulling motions with your towel.

Here’s as simple herbal face wash you can make yourself:

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.

Make an infusion by pouring 2 cups of boiling, purified water over a 2 fistfuls of flat leafed parsley (stems, leaves and seeds – no need to separate), and 7-8 mint leaves.  Strain, and put in a glass jar, cover tightly, and let it cool completely.

Wash face with a 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.  Turn the cloth over and repeat.  Use fingertips to press the cloth gently into your face, turning it over or re-soaking it and repeating the process as often as you wish.  Wipe with a clean cotton ball.  Do not rinse.  Follow with moisturizer of your choice.