Though spring isn’t far off, it’s that time of year when even the last dregs of winter seem to be lingering too long. To cheer yourself up and conjure up a sense of renewal, give yourself a DIY spa treatment.
The centerpiece of your home-spa day should be a full-body treatment that softens, sloughs and silkens your skin, making you feel brand new. The Japanese tradition offers some easily concocted and very effective recipes, but there is no reason not to mix and match the Eastern ingredients with some from other cultural traditions to get the best of all worlds.
The basic concept is simple: You want a fine but still rather granular substance blended into a creamy-textured base so that the combination forms a kind of paste, and with this you massage the skin of your entire (freshly bathed) self. Give particular attention to the rough, dry or hardened bits — elbows, knees, feet.
Leave the mixture on the skin for several minutes to enhance the beneficial effects, then rinse off well in the shower and follow up with some kind of lotion or cream.
You can blend or grind any solid ingredients with blender, coffee grinder, or mortar and pestle. Here are some ingredients and what they are good for:
* Ground almonds — Beneficial for dry or aging skin and skin that is blemished. Nourishing and whitening.
* Oatmeal — Good for any skin, with its balancing, nourishing properties. Oatmeal is especially good for calming sensitive, irritated, or allergic skin.
* Azuki powder (azuki no kona) — Good for oily skin. Also used to whiten and refine skin. Cleansing.
* Rice bran (nuka) — Balancing and cleansing. Very delicate, so the most sensitive skin will not be adversely affected. Heals skin problems, nourishes dry skin, purifies oily skin and acts to beautify the skin in almost every way.
Buy organic nuka or nuka sold for use on the skin. Be careful to avoid pickling nuka, as it often has red pepper and/or salt added to it. Commercial nuka from some rice merchants may contain residues from the rice-refining process or pesticide traces, so check out your source.
* Powdered seaweed — Nourishing, revitalizing and healing. Good for aging skin. Wakes the skin up and stimulates cell renewal.
Essential oils may be added to your scrub recipe to contribute further beauty benefits. Remember to use very small amounts. In one scrub mixture use no more than two drops of any one essential oil, and limit the number of different oils to two or three. To mix with these dry ingredients, try the following:
* Sandalwood oil — for aging or dry skin.
* Evening primrose oil — for wrinkles, dry skin and a tired complexion.
* Lemon oil — for blemished skin and to purify.
* Lavender — for oily or blemished skin.
* Rosemary — to stimulate, revitalize and purify; good for oily skin.
If you need more liquid to make a paste, add a tiny amount of water or another liquid. Papaya juice will act to remove dead skin cells, strawberry juice will whiten and purify (some are allergic to this juice, though), and honey will moisturize. But don’t make the mixture too soft and creamy by adding too much liquid, or you will lose some of its stimulating, sloughing effects.
Enjoy! In the next column, we’ll discover a Moroccan body scrub that comes straight from the harem . . .