Just about everyone is watching expenses these days, and it's just not possible to justify the cost of professional spa treatments when it's more important to keep a roof over your head and food on the table. Austerity doesn't mean that you have to go without some important pampering for yourself, however, and with very little money you can keep some ingredients in your cupboard to help you look after yourself with some TLC and natural ingredients.
Make Your Own Peaceful Space
One of the most important things about a DIY program for yourself is to create the right environment. Even if you don't have a large house or apartment, set aside a corner that's yours for some self-care and recharging your batteries. Put some green foliage plants together and use a favorite chair with a couple of lovely cushions or lay some cushions on the floor. Set up a candle or two, play some music and fill the air with natural scents from essential oils or flowers.
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Turn up the steam and let the scent of essential oils lift your spirit. Use a skin-gentle oil such as lavender, clary sage or neroli, and mix 10 drops in a small spoonful of almond oil. Shower first with your usual soaps or gels. Then rub the oil blend over your whole body, turn on the shower again and turn up the heat. Breathe in that gentle scent in the steam and enjoy the sensation of water falling on you like warm rain. Pat yourself dry and moisturize.
Massage is usually an expensive luxury, so take some time to learn how to massage yourself. Library books or the Internet are good sources of how-to massage information. Learn how to massage your face and neck, head, hands and feet, and the deep muscles in your arms and legs to soothe and relax yourself. If your skin doesn't like oils, use talcum powder so that you don't stretch your skin. Massage slowly, and match your movements with your breathing.
DIY Care for Hair
Give your hair a deep soak in a light oil such as jojoba, argan or sweet almond. Rather than put the oil straight onto your hair, dampen your hair with warm water first: Dr. Cynthia Bailey, a dermatologist, explains that wetting your hair and scalp first allows the oil to soak in and do its job. Massage the oil in with your fingers or a scalp massager, then wrap your head in a warm towel and relax. Have a long soak or just put your feet up, and if it's warm outside you could take off the towel, lie in the sun and let it warm your oiled hair and scalp. After a good 30 minutes, wash your hair and feel how silky it is.
Deep Cleanse Your Skin
If you think steaming your face leads to problems with open pores, think again. Steam brings blood to the surface of your skin, bringing oxygen to your skin cells as well as cleaning your pores of the residue that remains even after cleansing your face. Put a handful of dried lavender into a large basin together with a handful of dried rosemary and add six drops of geranium essential oil. Pour boiling water into the bowl and let the herbs and oil steep for five minutes. Strain the herbs out from the water and add more boiling water to the bowl, make yourself comfortable, drape your head with a towel and lower your face over the water. Feel the steam cleansing your face. After five minutes, splash your face with cool water and then massage with a couple of drops of light facial oil such as sweet almond.
One of the more surprising face packs is one using salicylic acid, which removes dead skin cells to freshen up your skin and promote new cell growth underneath. Gather up five aspirin tablets, a small bowl and either sweet almond oil or warm water. Crush the tablets to a fine powder, then add enough of either the oil or the water to make a thin paste, which you spread over your face and neck for 10 minutes. Rinse the face mask off with cool water and pat dry. Notice how fresh and clean your skin feels.
Your body is constantly shedding dead skin cells, so it makes sense to help it along by giving yourself a weekly body scrub to polish and smooth your skin. Find an empty jar and follow "Glamour" magazine's idea for a scrub recipe: 2 tablespoons of granulated brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of oatmeal and 2 tablespoons of a light oil, such as sunflower or almond. Mix them together, then apply to damp skin, using circular motions to exfoliate your skin from top to toe, apart from your face. It's best to stand in the tub or the shower; otherwise the mix goes all over the floor. Finish off with a warm rinse, pat yourself dry, then moisturize.
Rescue Your Feet
Those poor feet. Forgotten about most of the time, they carry you about all day and can end up so sore. Not only that, but when hard skin builds up you can find walking in heels very uncomfortable, as well as difficult to moisturize your feet adequately. Remember the pineapple diet? That was based on the fact that pineapple contains bromelain, which was said to help speed up digestion. Now its properties are said to include softening hard skin, so mix up a pint of pineapple juice with a pint of warm water and soak your feet in the juice for 10 or 15 minutes. Now try some exfoliation with a pumice stone or a foot scrub. Feel the difference? Rinse your feet and dry them, give them a massage and a good moisturizing. Heaven.
Love Your Hands
Don't forget your hands once you've pampered the rest of your body. Give them a treat by soaking them in a bowl of warm water in which you've put five drops of lavender essential oil and, if you have any, a pinch of dried lavender flowers. Soak your hands for 10 minutes, then rinse and dry them. Give yourself a hand massage with a light moisturizer or a couple of drops of sweet almond oil.
Make Time for Meditation
To get the full benefit of your spa treatments at home, incorporate meditation to help you slow down and release the worries and stresses that get in the way of coping well with everyday life. Light a candle or two and sit in silence or play a visualization CD. Some people find that a CD of the sounds of the sea or rainfall helps them unwind. Experiment to find which type of meditation works for you, and set aside at least a few minutes every day to be at peace.
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