Spring may be bursting into life outside – but after a winter of central heating, biting winds and barely a ray of sunlight, skin can look decidedly less-than-vibrant. In fact, unless you’ve managed to squeeze in some winter sun, the chances are that right now, everything that’s been lurking under a vest/cashmere jumper/your Wolford Velvet Deluxes looks – well, rather like something that has been under a stone. Pale. Pasty. Just plain dull. (And, chances are, dry too – because did you know that clothes actually ‘wick’ the moisture from skin…?)
There is a short-cut to glowing skin, though. And I have a beauty confession to make: I am a scrubber. For at this time of year, reaching for sloughing, buffing products – for bodies and also (tenderly) for faces – is the fastest way to get glowing again after a winter that has felt, once again, w-a-y t-o-o l-o-n-g.
Scrubs have a double-whammy effect: they whisk away the dead, dry cells – and many of them are infused with oils or moisturising ingredients, to leave skin nourished. Faces and bodies respond beautifully to gentle buffing.
First, the how-to for bodies. In fact, opinion is divided about whether or not to apply scrubs before you soak, or during your dunking. Beforehand, I find, is just darned messy. If you do it during the bath, you have to raise the bit you want to scrub above the water line (which is easily done with knees, heels, upper arms and elbows, but less so when it comes to the chickeny skin on your derrière). Speaking practically, a shower is probably the ideal scrub setting – but personally, I’m a 20-minutes-under-the-waterline-with-a-good-book person, whose shower attachment has all but rusted over. So very importantly the golden rule – if you’re going to scrub in the bath, like me – is to seek out those made with sugar or salt, which dissolve totally – otherwise the gritty particles sink to the bottom, and make you feel like you’ve got sand in your underpants.
I love scrubs so much that I have to fight my way into the bath via a slightly perilous stack of tubs. If you’ve got a few minutes, though, I can thoroughly recommend a D-I-Y version. Scrubs – a simple blend of salt and/or sugar, a base oil, plus drops of your favourite essential oils – are an absolute cinch to make yourself (which saves a small fortune, let me tell you, once you’ve made the initial investment in some essential oils). These two – which I recommend storing in a Kilner jar – are both blissful.
Lavender and salt body scrub
150 g. (5 oz.) salt (I prefer Maldon salt but you can use any grainy salt – crystal or sea salt, kosher salt or Dead Sea salt)
100 g. (31/2 oz.) dried or fresh lavender flowers
375 ml. (12 fl. oz.) sweet almond oil
25 drops lavender essential oil
Blend the dry ingredients and place in a sealable jar (the type I’ve used here – for pickling or preserving, with its rubber seal – is ideal). Then pour the oil over them. Depending on the type of salt you use, you may need to add a little more oil to ‘top up’ the jar. Use by the handful, applied in circular strokes everywhere except the face, which is way too fragile.
Sugar sweet body scrub
150 g. (5 oz.) sugar (I like golden granulated but white sugar makes for
a lighter-coloured scrub)
375 ml. (12 fl. oz.) sweet almond oil
25 g. (1 oz.) dried fennel seeds
20 drops sweet orange essential oil
5 drops ylang-ylang essential oil
5 drops patchouli essential oil
A sugar scrub is a gentle alternative to the salt version – and as a gardener, I like it because it doesn’t sting when I’ve scratched myself! Mix the sugar and the fennel seeds in a bowl. Then pour into a large, sealable jar. In a jug, add the drops of essential oil to the sweet almond oil and pour this over the sugar. (You can vary the fragrance according to your favourite essential oils, adding a total of up to 50 drops of essential oil altogether; this particular blend is pretty warm and sexy.) If you need to, you can add more sweet almond oil to top up the jar. (How much you need depends slightly on the size of sugar granules.) Use scoopfuls, in the bath, and massage into skin in a circular motion. Delicious…
And what about facial scrubs…? At this time of year, skins respond glowingly to a scrub once or twice a week. From here on in through to the end of summer, a regular scrub will banish dinginess – and later, when the sun comes out, help to keep a tan radiant, rather than dry and ‘dusty’-looking. As I’ve been widely quoted as saying, my newest face-buffing addiction is not a cloth, not an exfoliator – but the Konjac sponge: an extraordinary Japanese product, which is made out of bamboo. It’s super-hard and scratchy until immersed in water, when it becomes super-spongey, instead – and can even be used on their own for cleansing, though I prefer to use an actual cleanser, with mine. Amazing! And great for gentle skin-buffing. Meanwhile, whatever you do, avoid facial scrubs that contain scrubs that contain irregularly-shaped particles (such as fruit pits or crushed nutshells), which can increase the risk of tearing. And a great scrub tip that I know is to use your ring finger for applying any scrub to the face, to keep the pressure light.
But – trust me – if you want to get on the fast track to radiance, there is no option than for you to become a scrubber, too…