Photo Credit: Mai Truong

Photo Credit: Mai Truong

Chronic stress, even just from our day-to-day lives, can cause health problems like heart disease, depression and digestive disorders. Make a habit of combating stress once in a while by unplugging and taking a few hours to breathe. One great stress reducer—transform your nighttime skincare regimen into an indulging five minute ritual.

“Spend those extra five minutes massaging your face,” recommends NYC-based esthetician Andrea DeSimone.

But to really de-stress, block off an afternoon or evening to rejuvenate over the holiday break. Create a relaxing atmosphere by lighting a candle, reducing distractions (turn off your cell and tell your roomies to leave you alone!) and playing relaxing music.

DIY Treatments
Concoct these glorious treatments in the kitchen using ingredients you probably already have.

Yogurt Mask: Cool, plain whole-milk yogurt makes a great facemask. “The natural enzymes from yogurt will start to gently break down the buildup of dead skin and the saturated fat will hydrate and soothe,” says DeSimone. To brighten skin, add a bit of lemon juice to the yogurt and apply directly to the face. Place sliced cucumbers or cold teabags on the eyes to calm and de-puff. Let sit for 10 minutes, re-wet your face and massage off.

Foot Soak: Make yourself a basic foot soak with hot water and Epsom salts, which have benefits like reducing inflammation, exfoliating skin and lowering stress. If you’re feeling really fancy, add an essential oil like lavender or lemon slices for fragrance. Stress depletes the body’s magnesium, which Epsom salts help to restore when dissolved in water. The warmth of the water will also promote blood flow to tired feet.

Lip Scrub: Dry, cold winds are especially harsh on lips. Fend off cracked lips with a simple lip scrub—all you need is honey, olive oil and sugar. Start with half a tablespoon of sugar (white or brown both work), and add a bit of olive oil to create a pasty consistency. Drizzle a little honey on top and mix. According to DeSimone, the enzymes in honey help smooth the lips while the oil hydrates. Gently massage the mixture onto your lips and rinse off (or remove with a wet washcloth). Protect your conditioned lips with your favorite lip balm immediately after.

Relaxation in a Bottle
Make a habit of using these products weekly or biweekly to reap full beauty benefits.

Body Treatment: A luxurious body scrub followed by a rich body butter is the best way to combat dry skin. Soap and Glory’s Flake Away Scrub ($18) has an intensely moisturizing shea butter base with sea salt and sugar to exfoliate dead skin. Apply in the shower to damp skin and gently massage in circular motions until the grains dissolve. Pat dry with a towel and apply a creamy moisturizer, like Carol’s Daughter’s Love Butter ($18) to lock in the smoothness. Place the body butter on your radiator while you’re in the shower—the heat will feel extra soothing and help the moisturizer penetrate to deeper layers of your skin.

Hair Mask: Potions like Alterna’s Bamboo Smooth Moisture Masque ($24) keep locks healthy. Wash your hair with shampoo, and then apply outside of the shower. Focus on massaging the mask into the ends, which tend to be the most dry and damaged. Let the mask sit for five minutes and rinse out, ideally in cool water to promote shine and seal the hair cuticle.

Face Mask: In picking a face product, less can be more. DeSimone advises sticking with “clean, natural, simplistic products.” Origin’s Clear Improvement Active Charcoal Mask($23) works for all skin types but is especially great for acne-prone, congested skin. The charcoal and white china clay help draw out toxins, oil, dirt and pollutants, and promise a brighter, clearer complexion. For best results, open pores with a quick steam—running a hot shower for a minute or placing a warm towel on your face both do the job—and apply the mask. Allow the mask to dry for 10 to 15 minutes while you relax and rinse off, massaging in circular motions as you do.

Spa Experiences
If you scored some extra cash from the holidays, consider splurging on a spa experience. Spas are super relaxing and usually have amenities (like a steam room or sauna) that you can use before or after your treatment.

Massage: While it’s hard to justify a manicure over $15, massages are worth every penny. They’re nearly impossible to recreate without a professional, not to mention the therapeutic benefits: they stimulate the body’s lymphatic system, calm the nervous system and improve blood circulation. If you’ve never had a massage before, look for a gentler Swedish or hot stone massage, which helps loosen tight muscles. Feeling extremely tense? Deep tissue massages tend to apply more pressure and target a specific problem. They’re great for chronic tension, postural problems or limited mobility.

Facial: Facials are a great way to indulge and care for your skin. A standard facial will include a cleanse, skin analysis to determine your skin type and needs, exfoliation and mask, plus toner, serums and moisturizers. Compared to your basic skincare regimen, they’re more intensive and applied with soothing massage strokes. Many spas offer add-ons, like additional targeted treatments for your eyes, hair, or lips that you can buy.

Spa Tip: Always be sure to communicate with your massage therapist or aesthetician to ensure a great experience. Don’t be afraid to tell him or her to adjust the pressure or if something makes you uncomfortable. Because these experiences should be relaxing, you should also do a little research on who you’ll be working with. DeSimone recommends calling the aesthetician to feel more comfortable beforehand.

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