Bath and Beyond-three main elements to healthy skincare

The physical cues we express with our bodies - the way we touch, move, stand, adorn, and care for ourselves - reveal the way we feel about ourselves deep inside. If we feel good in our skin, we look good, too. It's as simple as that. 

One way to start feeling good in your skin is to take long, languorous soaks in the tub. The bath has become the designated decompressing zone in our high-stress modren lives - a safe, sweet-smelling haven. Since the bath-and-body market is today a $1.1-billion-a-year business, it seems we're beginning to understand what bathing cultures like Japan have known for centuries: R & R - relaxation and renewal - is as much a part of the bath as cleansing.

The bath is a wonderful place to relax, but it also serves a more basic function. It's the place to establish a skincar regiman for the rest of your body. While most women are on intimate terms with just about every pore and freckle on their face, skincare from the neck down is often given short shrift. Though the skin on the body is thicker and hardier than facial skin, it, too, demands attention.

There are three main elements to helathy skincare for the body: cleansing, exfoliating , and moisturizing - basically, the smae regimen i recommend for the face. Now here's my little skin secret: If you exfoliated regularly - especially if you give your body a dry-brush treatment a couple of times a week-you will not need to moisturze! of course, you may want to moisturize occasionally, because it feels good and smells good-especially on extra-dry areas like the decollete, elbows,and knees, and at the change of seasons. But take my word for it: dry-brushing is the secret of healthy, supple, hydrated skin.

Cleansing bathgel(75538)Credit: morguefile


So many skin problem (such as flaking and itching) that people blame on everything from diet to weather to indoor heating come down to the soap they use. If your skin is always dry, it's probably the fault of your cleansing bar. To counter the dryness, you probably overmoisturize and find  yourself in a cycle that will never really correct the problem, especially if you use a mineral oil- or petroleum-based moisturizer.

A good soap should leave your skin feeling and smelling fresh. It should not leave a greasy film, it should not clog your pores, and it should not dry the skin. Like good foudation and face powder, a good soap is a necessary splurge, and the very best in a milled vegetable-based soap. I love the heft and tactile quality of a sweet-smelling almond, lavender, rosemary, or sandalwood bar. Milled vegetable soap is gentle on the skin. It's long lasting, it's a pleasure to use because it smells so irresisble - and it leaves you smelling that way as well. These soaps contain extra oil, which tempers their stripping action and seals moisture into the skin.


Exfoliating skin

Exfoliating skinCredit: wikimedia

Soaps and cleansers scrub away everyday dirt, but exfoliation actually improves the health of the body's skin. It stimulates blood flow to the skin, helps the circulatory and lymphatic systems release waste, and gets rid of built-up skin scales that can clog pores and lead to ingrown hairs. Exfoliating softens and smooths the skin, makes it easier ot absorb moisturizer, gets rid of flakiness, relieves itchiness, and, over time, results in healthier-looking skin.

For all these reasons, it's a good idea to exfoliate the entire body (except for the face) at least once or twice a week. Washcloths, loofahs, sea sponges, silk mitts, exfoliating soaps, dry brushes, bath salts, or body scrubs will all help you get the job done. In a pinch, you can even use a gauze square or some cheesecloth.

Nothing feels more luxurious than an all-over rubdown with a big, floppy sea sponge and a simple bar of sweet-smelling soap. Sea sponges exfoliate without harshness, because they are soft and extremely absorbent. Moisten the sponge, soap it up, and rub it gently, in circular motions, beginning at north toward your knees and feet and heading north toward your knees and elbows, stopping at the neck. The only problem with sponges is that you can't sterilize them. Because soap residue and dead skin remain in the sponge, it's important to wash and dry a sponge well after each use and replace it every couple of months.


Sensitive skin:  If your skin is sensitive, oily,, or prone to breakouts, use a raw silk mitt - the texture is closest to a washcloth, but far more delicate - and rub gently. Once you begin to exfoliate regularly, however, you'll find that your skin will adapt to an increasingly vigorous exfoliation.


How to prevent dry skin-moisturize

Poppaea, wife of the Roman emperor Nero, used to lieterally bathe in milk - asses' milk, in her case - because she claimed it softened her skin. It probably did, because milk is a source of lactic acid, one of the alpha-hydroxy acids. Milk helps exfoliate the skin, which is why your skin feels softer after a dip in dairy products. Poppaea was such a lacto-lover, she was said to have led a caravan of 50 asses with her when she traveled, in order to make sure she'd have enough milk for her daily baths. But today, few of us lead caravans of asses around (or, at least, we don't admit to it), and aside from it being highly impractical, oil baths  softened the skin also.

Soak in a tub for about 15 minutes will rehydrate your skin, but add a good bath oil and you'll soften and moisturize the skin like a you can't believe. The oil, which smells nice and folats in shimmery little slics on the water, actually clings to the body as you leave the tub - instantly sealing in the moisture the skin has soaked up from the bath.

wait until after you have run a warm bath then sprinkle in five or six drops to bath oil. Salts can be added as the bath runs, but if you add the oil under running water, the
 vapors will dissipate by the time you get in, and you will lose much of their olfactory benefit. Remember if you dry-brush your skin a couple of times a week before your bath or shower, you won't need a moisturizer after a bath. But if you enjoy the way it smells or feels, go ahead and tantalize your senses - especially on dry or sensitive areas like the elbows, knees, and decollete. 

Moisturizing Body LotionCredit: wikimedia

When you use scented moisturizers you will smell good without using  perfume. The ideal time to moisturize is directly after a bath or shower, when the skin is wet and most receptive to moisture. If your skin is oily, stick to lotions rather than creams. Lotions are light because they contain lesss oil and more water. Avoid products that contain olive oil and mineral oil-based lotions and creams, which can clog the skin. Look for lotions and creams with silicons (ingredients ending in "-one") because they won't clog the pores.

It pays to be picky and avoid petroleum- or mineral oil-based moisturizers. Mass-market cosmetics manufacturers almost always use petroleum and mineral oil in their moisturizers because they are cheaper than alternatives like beeswax, jojoba, vegetable squalene, and shea butter. Okay - it won't harm you to use these occasionally, and it won't harm some people at all. But it doesn't help much, either. 

Unlike plant and certain animal oils (kalaya), mineral oil won't absorb into even the top layer of skin. It just sits there, greasing up and smothering the skin, which means that if your skin is oily, it can lead to breakouts. If your skin is dry, it can actually make it drier - like some soft drinks that make you more thirsty - by mopping up your skin's natural oils.


Best moisturizers:    Creams containing Vitamin E, Kalaya oil, or shea butter are particulary good. Some of these are boutique brands, others are more readily available, but all are superb: Bliss Lemon-Sage Body Butter, Clarins Moisture-Rich Body Lotion, Clinique Deep Comfort Body Moisture, Curel Age-Defying Therapeutic Moisturizing Lotion (AHA and glycerine), Derma-E (cheap), Ecco Bella Body Lotion, Fresh Pure & Simple Milk Body Lotion, I Coloniali Body Massage Cream (massage creams are especially thick and rich), Kiehl's Creme de Corps, L'Ooccitane Perfumed Body Lotion, Penny Island Oat Amino Complex Body Lotion, Prescriptives Calyx Body Lotion.