Spring cleaning body care
Normally at this time of year many of us are spring cleaning our homes, or perhaps our routines, relationships or finances. The weather is brighter and warmer and there is often an air of hope and optimism. But what else might we spring clean? I’ve written over ten blogs for Perfumery & Company about the skin on our faces and how best to look after it. But how about the skin on the rest of our bodies? Do you look after it as well as your facial skin? In my experience most of us don’t. Skincare routines for the face can be well established but these often stop at the neck. So during this blog I’m going to focus on our body skin and explain why now is the perfect time to start giving it a ‘spring clean’ if it’s been a little neglected.
I would like to say at this point that this article isn’t about focusing on perceived ‘imperfections’ and looking for ways to change our appearance. Our bodies are amazing. They allow us to do so many different things and, importantly, we only have the one. We should be celebrating what we have and learn to feel comfortable in our own skin. Don’t fall into the trap of panicking about getting your body ‘beach ready’ in preparation for a holiday. I hate this saying as it creates so much pressure to look a certain way. Let’s show ourselves some love and attention. After all our skin is the largest organ of the body and as such needs support like any other organ. So if you are someone who has neglected your body, fear not, I’m here to show you some quick and easy ways to mindfully connect with your body through the use of body care products. These steps can be done all year round to encourage smooth, hydrated and glowing skin. The textures, fragrances and massage application play a large part in positively boosting our mood. But the benefits don’t stop there. These techniques will also stimulate some of our body’s internal systems, such as our lymphatic system. This is responsible for detoxification, almost like a spring clean. But more on that later.
Firstly let’s look at the main differences between facial and body skin:
Skin thickness: Skin is thicker on our body, compared to our face and it’s typically not as sensitive. The fat layer under the skin is thicker too. But our hands and feet have the densest skin, allowing for more resilience. However, this often results in increased dryness.
Dryness: The skin on our body has less sebaceous glands than our face. These naturally produce oil to keep skin soft and supple. So dryness tends to be more of a concern for many of us.
Skin cell turnover rate: The rate at which our skin cells turnover in the skin on our body is slower than on our face. It takes longer for skin cells to naturally renew, so the dry dead ones can hang around for longer which means that skin can appear and feel drier, more dull, thicker and have a scale like appearance.
So what are my top body care habits?
· Washing with a gentle body wash or oil every day
· Dry body brushing once or twice a week
· Gently exfoliating twice a week
· Massaging in a body oil/cream/lotion/gel every day
But the following are also extremely beneficial and should be part of our routines:
· Drinking plenty of water
· Moving our body every day
· Limiting our alcohol and sugar intake
· Eating the rainbow (a well-balanced colourful diet)
· Getting good quality sleep
· Trying cold showers (I turn my shower to cold right at the end but only last for about fifteen seconds!)
During this blog I will focus on dry body brushing, along with applying exfoliators and oils for the body. You’ll find several hero products featured here which you can find in store and online. These products are incredible and can be used on a regular basis. I urge you not to save products for ‘best’. I’ve spoken to numerous people who say ‘Oh it’s too good to use or too expensive to open” and they either never get round to using it or it’s out of date when they finally do. My advice is to use that beautiful body cream you were given for your birthday or that luxurious body oil you bought yourself but regretted. Invest in yourself, you are worth it!
A quick word about our lymphatic system
This is a subsidiary circulatory system entwined with the blood circulation and is responsible for filtering toxins in our body. It delivers fluid and nutrients around the body as it drains excess fluid from tissues and helps to fight infection. It’s our body’s way of spring cleaning itself all year round. The trouble is that it doesn’t have its own pump, like the heart does. So in order for it to be stimulated and work effectively it relies on muscle movement, deep breathing and massage, to name a few. However, many of us will experience an impaired lymphatic system. Symptoms can be swelling of the ankles, feet and fingers, dehydrated and/or dry skin, sallow and tired looking skin, skin that is slow to heal, fine lines, loss of resilience and bounce and blemishes that take a long time to heal.
Dry body brushing and taking time to massage body care products into the skin will help muscles to relax, allowing lymphatic vessels to open and aid drainage. By taking deep breaths at the same time lymph flow will be stimulated which will also aid drainage. So by mindfully connecting with our bodies when we are using body care products means we are supporting the body’s way of spring cleaning itself. Other activities which will stimulate the system and encourage healing are walking, swimming or aqua aerobics for twenty minutes a day and elevating legs for twenty minutes at the end of the day or after long periods of standing or sitting to encourage a boost in circulation. Drinking plenty of water and reducing our salt intake are also a must.
The amazing benefits of Dry Body Brushing
I recommend body brushing to everyone. It’s such a quick, easy and cheap way to improve the look and feel of the skin whilst stimulating the lymphatic system. If you’ve not heard of body brushing before, it’s when we use a brush designed specifically for the body on dry skin.
· It’s incredibly invigorating (Although don’t be tempted to use a body brush on the face, otherwise you’ll be rocking a red raw complexion!).
· It will slough away dry dead skin cells on the surface of the skin and encourage the regeneration of new ones, leaving the skin soft and supple.
· It will increase circulation to bring nutrient rich freshly oxygenated blood to the skins surface for better tone and elasticity.
· It helps the body to metabolise toxins efficiently and discourages water retention.
· By improving the circulation it encourages cell turnover and plumps the skin making cellulite appear less obvious. However this is only a temporary fix. (Cellulite is stubborn but is also completely natural).
· It encourages ingrown hairs to lift up and keeps clogged pores at bay.
· Overall it is a huge stress reliever and it only takes a few minutes.
How to do it:
· Dry body brush in the morning before your shower (if you prefer a shower at night try to do it a couple of hours before bed otherwise it will be too invigorating and may not be conducive to a good night’s sleep).
· Both skin and brush should be dry when you use it.
· Start at the feet and ankles and use short sweeping motions in an upwards direction. Brush over legs (including the back of both knees), buttocks, arms (including wrists) and back. The stomach and chest area are usually more sensitive so go gently and avoid the breast and nipple area. Always move the brush in the direction of your heart and Don’t go over the same area more than a couple of times.
· Don’t brush too hard, it shouldn’t scratch, hurt, burn or sting. Skin will have a pink appearance but it shouldn’t be red. It will feel tingly and alive.
· Once finished take a shower. I challenge you to turn the temperature to cold for the last few seconds. I promise that you will feel amazing afterwards.
· Pat skin dry and be sure to moisturise afterwards to prevent dryness. If using an oil apply to damp skin to maximise the benefits.
· Clean your brush regularly according to the cleaning instructions.
· N.B. Don’t dry body brush over eczema, psoriasis, rashes, wounds, sunburn, irritations or any severe skin condition.
Why do we need to Exfoliate?
You can moisturise your skin every single day but it will only have a minimal benefit if we don’t dry body brush or exfoliate to remove the natural build-up of dry dead skin cells on the surface of the skin. Once these are removed, any product subsequently applied will be able to penetrate more effectively and you won’t need to use as much of it. Otherwise anything you apply will just sit on the surface. Unless you have eczema, psoriasis, a severe skin condition or any of the other reasons previously mentioned you can exfoliate gently at least twice a week. This will speed up cell turnover by mimicking the skins natural shedding to reveal smoother brighter skin. The same application principles apply when using a body exfoliator as with body brushing although I always include my feet and hands too.
These deliver a surge of moisture and nourishment to the skin. It helps to restore the hydrolipidic film on the surface of the skin to prevent further moisture loss. Aim to moisturise every day either in the morning after a shower or in the evening before bed (leaving enough time for the product to sink in before going to bed. Otherwise your sheets will feel the benefit rather than your skin!). If you are regularly body brushing or exfoliating you will find that you won’t need to use as much product as you were previously so you may not need to replenish them quite as often. I love to have a choice of products at home – sometimes I use a lotion, sometimes an oil, other times a cream. It depends on how I am feeling and what my body needs. Oils are my favourite as they tend to absorb quickly and leave my skin the smoothest. Always moisturise after body brushing and exfoliating and massage in firmly using circular motions all over (paying particular attention to dry areas such as elbows, heels and knees). On the mornings I body brush or exfoliate I always allow a couple of extra minutes to apply an oil, lotion or cream straight afterwards to nourish the skin effectively.
I spend a lot of time testing products at home and sometimes with my clients too. I always give my honest opinion and will only ever make recommendations about products that I truly believe are worth investing in.
Here are my top picks for body exfoliators and body oils/lotions/creams:
If you are looking for body brush recommendations please click on the link below which will take you to another article I wrote specifically about dry body brushing:
*All of these scrubs are designed for use on the body massaging in circular motions. Always choose a specific facial exfoliator for use on the face. I don’t advice using one for the body on the face. Be sure to apply gentle pressure. Don’t be tempted to go at it as though you are sanding a rough piece of wood!
*If massaged in well and used on a regular basis body oils and creams etc. will help to stimulate the lymphatic system and aid detoxification whilst leaving skin smoother and more supple.