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Do Your Own At-Home Facials

Sunday, November 14, 2004; Page M03

As a beauty consultant with nearly two decades of experience, I've learned to expect the same thing every year: When colder weather and indoor heating kick in, people's skin begins to freak out. You know the look -- dry patches, pallid areas, fine lines that now look like full-fledged wrinkles. Time for some serious epidermal TLC. Don't worry if you don't have the time or funds for a salon facial -- DIY versions using everyday ingredients are a therapeutic way to revitalize.

CLEANSE. A warmed mixture of 1 to 2 tablespoons whole milk and several drops of olive oil is great for cleaning and soothing most types of dry skin: Milk gently removes dirt and makeup, and olive oil is an exceptional moisturizer. Wash your hands to avoid transferring bacteria or dirt, then warm the cleanser by working it between your palms. Gently massage it into your skin, distributing evenly using sweeping, circular movements. (This will also stimulate circulation.) Remove with warm water, splashing upward until you've flushed out the pores.

Kiss my face: Cheap DIY skin treatments will put a smile back on that mug. (Corbis)

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EXFOLIATE. Dead cells, which clog pores and flake, can make skin look dull and patchy. To concoct your own exfoliant: Mix 1/2 cup dry oatmeal, 3 tablespoons almond oil, 1 tablespoon finely ground sea salt (or cornmeal for more sensitive skin) and 1/4 teaspoon fresh mint with enough warm water to form a paste. Dampen your skin, then use gentle circular movements to apply the paste, avoiding the eye area. Rinse. Repeat only once or twice a month, and don't exfoliate if your skin is irritated or broken out.

TONE. An often overlooked but necessary step, toning removes cleanser residue and refreshes the skin. It also creates a base coat for your moisturizer, which is easier to work into damp skin. For a stimulating toner, mix one part witch hazel with two parts rose or orange-blossom water. Witch hazel's antiseptic properties combat blemishes without causing the skin to become dry or flaky; rose water stimulates circulation; and orange-blossom water helps balance the skin's pH. Using 100 percent cotton pads, sweep the solution across your face and neck until the cotton shows no residue. Remember to include the jawline, where breakouts are common.

STEAM. Steaming, which helps open pores, primes the skin for deep cleaning. In a large pot, boil 1 quart of distilled water. Next, infuse the water by wrapping fragrant herbs of your choice (chamomile, eucalyptus, lavender) in gauze or cheesecloth, lowering the heat, and placing the cloth in the pot for five minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and set it on a protected surface. Apply a light layer of almond or sesame oil to the face (this acts as a buffer, protecting your skin from the heat), then bend over the pot, tenting a clean towel over your head to catch the steam. (Be careful not to get too close.) Stay there five minutes, then pat dry.

MASK. Masks serve multiple purposes in a comprehensive facial: They deep-clean, stimulate circulation, remove dead skin and hydrate. Oily or blemished skin responds well to an application of a paste made of Fuller's Earth (clay) and mineral water. Avoid the eye area while applying and let the mask set until nearly dry. Then rinse thoroughly with warm water. To hydrate drier skin, use a mix of 1 egg yolk, 1 tablespoon honey and a few drops of safflower oil. Or, to get that firm Academy Awards texture (sans Botox), apply 2 egg whites to tighten pores, followed by an application of plain yogurt to brighten the complexion.

MASSAGE. To soothe the skin in the last phase of the facial, a moisturizer should be massaged into the skin. Put a generous amount on your hands and work them together to warm up the cream. Concentrate on areas where muscles are overworked: cheeks, mouth, forehead and around the eyes. Once the lotion is completely absorbed and it becomes more difficult for the fingertips to slip across the skin, blot off any excess with a tissue, and you're done.

Diana L. Carswell

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