As an introvert whose anxiety switch is always flipped on, I’m forever on the lookout for easy ways to unwind. In the morning, I rely on 10-minute meditations followed by quiet time with coffee (sans phone) before my day starts. At night, I take a soothing bath to bring on head-to-toe calm before bed. It’s an ideal setup—sure—that is, until my week fills up with early gym dates and after-work obligations. Now that I’m sitting at a desk 40-hours a week and taking coding classes in the evening (read: busier than ever), my chilled-out rituals have left the building. Thank u, next.
As a result I’m dreaming about deadlines, waking up with clenched teeth, and furrowing my eyebrows at the computer for no reason at all. So, what's a girl who's pressed for time but in major need of some chilled-out moments to do? Flip everyday must-dos into moments of calm. That starts with my beauty routine, which has become a key element of how I approach de-stressing before I tackle my day and wind down for bed.
“Reserving space for a beauty ritual in your day creates built-in time to turn your focus away from outside stressors and towards caring for yourself,” says Katie Sobelman, an aesthetician who writes about organic and chemical-free skin care at the Organic Esthetician. "Do what you can, when you can. As long as you’re cleansing every night and protecting your skin with SPF every morning, you’re already on the right path."
To be honest, it's a relief because I know that my meditation and long baths work, but I don't always have the time to commit to them. Replacing them with an hours-long facial massage or a mask sounds lovely, but I'm in the market for tiny tweaks that make things I already do into a more soothing, stress-plummeting experience.
"Taking this time for myself every day through my skin-care routine is really the shift I need if I’m feeling anxious,” says Los Angeles-based esthetician Hayley Wood, AKA the Therapeutic Skin Coach. “It’s a total reset. But if I need more, I’ll make sure to take an additional 10 minutes and do a full gua sha routine where I can really elevate the total experience.” Here, how to make small, behavioral changes to existing parts of your routine yield major calm.
Make these tiny tweaks to your beauty routine
1. Pay attention to scent: Choose creams that lift your spirits as soon as you twist the cap and whiff through your sense of smell. “All of the formulas I use have very intelligent scent profiles that soothe me,” explains Wood. “My products mean so much to me. I love the feeling of using such high-vibe goods on my outermost organ.” On her list of bound-to-be empties: Osea Ocean Cleansing Milk ($48), Josh Rosebrook’s Hydrating Accelerator ($35), May Lindstrom the Youth Dew ($140). In your regimen, look for products with mood-boosting essential oils such as citrus or coffee-spiked face scrubs, the smell of which we associate with the need to get-up and go.
2. Keep tabs on temperature: Then there are tiny ways to elevate your clean-and-hydrate skin ritual like removing your makeup with a hot compress instead splashing your face with water. “There’s something about leaning over a sink to remove cleansers that really instills resistance,” Sobelman says. “Press a warm washcloth on your face and hold it there for a few deep breaths before using it to gently remove your cleanser.” Add a drop or two of lavender, jasmine, or clary sage essential oil to your compress and remember to inhale deeply for full-on vacay vibes.
3. Perfect your form: Maintain the same gentleness post-cleanse by pressing moisturizers and serums onto your skin instead of rubbing them in. This helps products properly penetrate your complexion as well as improve your intention throughout the practice. “When you have intent, your focus is on the task and less on whatever is bothering you,” Sobelman says.
4. Focus on the areas of your face that hold tension: Upon arrival, your stressful workweek and string of overbooked weekends is very apparent to your esthetician. “I can typically feel the tightness in the neck, chest, jaw, and forehead,” says Wood, whose majority of clients report to be dealing with high levels of stress. While stress builds tension in your facial muscles, massage acts like a release valve. “There isn’t a person that comes into my treatment room that I don’t massage the neck, jaw, and scalp, which typically hold the most tension,” Wood says. "We have so many muscles in the face that are constantly activated and some that are more dormant, so a customized facial massage addresses all of it." At home, a little massage or gua sha action while working products in can help to relieve that.
5. Do your best in-salon scalp massage: When it comes time to shampoo (and that time is different for everybody), turn your shower sesh into a change to give yourself a scalp massage. “We hold so much tension there,” Wood says. “Just a simple brush of my fingers through a person’s hair can really relax them and make them feel safe.” Work from the crown of the head outwards, pressing fingers into the head until you've gone over ever inch and (hopefully) the tension has started to melt away.
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