Since international and national travel are a major no-no in the middle of the pandemic, I decided to treat myself to a much-deserved break and create a spa at home with green beauty products. Care to join me in my clean beauty revolution to celebrate International Self-Care Day?
I have to admit that this summer doesn’t look like anything I had ever expected. I have spent nearly five months barely leaving my apartment, and the very slow reopening of businesses in New York means that my carefully curated staycation is the stuff that dreams are made of. My cabin fever is at an all-time high, so finding ways to destress and detox within my four walls has been quite an adventure.
When it became clear that my next visit to my favorite spa would have to wait, I had to get creative in ways to treat my body and my mind, and I decided to start my own spa-like routines with clean beauty products. And by clean beauty products I mean actual natural and organic formulas, not one of those highly marketed and greenwashed brands that have a couple of leaves on the front and a loong string of nasties in the ingredients list.
Since the gradual reopening of New York is going to take a while, I would like to encourage you to experiment at home with new and small brands, ideally those that support your local community. It is the perfect time to start a new and healthier routine, so why not gradually include more green beauty products in your regime? Here are my suggestions for a green spa experience, and I’d love to hear any rituals that have helped you stay calm and grounded during the pandemic!
A Perfect Mani-Pedi at Home with Sparitual
The Products: Sparitual Geranium Cedarwood Body Polish ($35), Sparitual Geranium Cedarwood Body Salve ($36), Sparitual 12-free vegan nail lacquers in Engaged and First Light ($12), and Sparirtual Fine Grit Eco File Pack ($8). Available on Sparitual and The Detox Market.
The Drinks: As I personally don’t drink alcohol (gasp!), I love getting a mani pedi with a good mocktail. Recently, I’ve loved the Gruvi line of non-alcoholic adult beverages. Their Prosecco is the best!
The Music: I was in the mood for deep relaxation, so I chose the soundtrack from the movie Amelie. What can I say? You can take the girl away from Europe, but you cannot take Europe away from the girl.
The Inspiration: One of the things I truly miss from my pre-pandemic life is getting together with my friends and going for a night out of laughs and fun. One of my favorite spots in the city, the ultra famous Beauty Bar, offers manis and drinks in a super cool retro vibe, and it was the last place I visited before the lockdown and got a mani with a super cool green polish from Sparitual. Talk about serendipity!
So instead of glooming and wilting at home, I decided to take the plunge and treat myself to a complete mani pedi in the comfort of my teensy apartment, which I regard now as a mixture of an office, a weekend hotel, a spa, a cinema, a cozy cafe, and a restaurant.
The Organic Beauty Ritual:
I am a lover of slow-living rituals, so I decided to do things right. In one of my favorite spas, Niwa, I learned that every thai ritual begins by washing one’s feet. So I soaked my peeps on my bathtub for a bit with some Epsom salts and a few drops of lemon essential oil diluted in jojoba.
When my feet were squeaky clean, I started rubbing a bit of Sparitual’s Body Polish on my feet. I personally love the geranium cedarwood scent because it is very feminine and grounding, and helped settle my very busy mind and concentrate on the moment. For a true mindful and slow living experience, I deliberately concentrated first on my feet, one toe at a time, breathing in the aroma of the essential oils and feeling the tingling sensation of the coconut sugar in contact with my skin. I then gave myself a plantar massage, feeling how the sugar dissolved slowly thanks to the jojoba and sunflower oils, and finished by concentrating on the rough parts of my heels. I finished the first part of my ritual by soaking my feet on lukewarm water and patting dry with a cotton towel.
Then came my hands. Since I do not remove nor push away my cuticles (I once had an infection, so I learned my lesson!), I took some extra time to gently massage some extra body polish around my nails. Then I slowly massaged each finger, my palms, and my arms up to my elbows with the body polish, rinsed, and repeated with the other hand.
Although the Sparitual Body Polish is extremely hydrating and is one of the gentlest scrubs I have ever used, it is important to follow up with moisturizing treatment- do not skip it! The Sparitual Body Salve is one of the greatest inventions in the world of clean beauty because it literally feels like a hug to my dry and sensitive skin. Formulated with ancient healing ingredients like carnauba wax, shea butter, cocoa butter, and jojoba oil, it literally melts into your skin to moisturize it instantly and calm any angry red spots. Combined with some gentle self-massage techniques, it is the perfect treatment to release tension and calm your body and your mind from intrusive thoughts.
Now, to the nail painting portion! To make sure I am working with a clean canvas, I like to apply a tiny bit of nail polish to the nail surface, to remove any oils from my previous treatment. At this stage, I also make sure to file down my nails to my desired length (which is usually pretty short so I can type fast.) Although I usually start with a protective coat, the Sparitual colors are nourishing and vegan, meaning they don’t ruin your nails when you remove them. And since going to a beauty store is a no-no in the middle of the pandemic, I went ahead and painted my nails with a double coat.
I have to confess I sometimes cheat when I have to paint my right hand (I’m a total mess when I need to use my non-dominant hand for the easiest of jobs), so I go ahead and paint the whole nail, cuticles and surrounding skin included. Then, when the paint has dried, I remove the excess polish with an orangewood stick and an acetone-soaked cotton ball. This technique, also known as the brazilian manicure, is the messiest way to paint your nails, but I have found it is the most effective when you are in lockdown and want good results. If you don’t believe me, Google it!
The clean beauty composition:
What I like the most about the Sparitual products is that their formulas are so clean that they don’t harm you or the environment. Also, they are lovingly made in USA, and a fantastic opportunity to support our local economy.
The Sparitual Body Polish is 81% organic and 100% derived from natural ingredients. No nasties whatsoever in it, and the preservatives are pretty harmless (unlike other products from different “clean” brands that use my arch-enemy phenoxyethanol, to which I am severely allergic and gets a really poor score on the EWG.)
The Sparitual Body Salve is 80% organic and 100% derived from natural ingredients. Again, no nasties whatsoever, and it uses a blend of some of my favorite nourishing ingredients, including shea butter, safflower seed oil, coconut oil, and jojoba.
The Sparitual Vegan Nail Polishes are a dream for organic beauty lovers like yours truly. 13-free, vegan, cruelty-free, and one-step, they don’t need a base coat or a top coat to look and feel beautiful. Also, they don’t tint your nail so when you remove them they don’t look yellow (or red or blue, which has happened to me quite often!)
Finally, the Sparitual Nail Files are 100% biodegradable, for a clean beauty experience and a clean conscience! I find that now that we are polluting the environment with many disposable masks, it is important to make a difference as much as we can with our everyday consumption habits.
A (Virtual) Visit to the Hammam With Ziri Skincare
The Products: Ziri Moroccan Black Soap with Lemon ($30), Ziri Kessa Mitt ($10), and Ziri Argan Oil ($30). Available on Ziri Skincare.
The Music: For a complete experience, I like to listen to Loreena McKennit’s Nights from the Alhambra, or instrumental arab music by Mario Kirlis. If you are looking for more modern touch, Khaled’s moroccan pop is also a great soundtrack for your hammam ritual.
The Inspiration: The hammam is the Middle Eastern variant of a bathhouse. A place for purifying your body, relaxing your mind, and also socializing, it plays a big part in the daily lives and rituals of many cultures.
The ritual of the hammam may vary between countries, but generally consists of a steam bath to detoxify the body, followed by a generous body exfoliation with a glove (kessa mitt) and traditional black soap (made with olive oil and lemon), and a rinse in a hot bath. In my experience of various hammams, the treatment finalizes with a body massage with a hydrating oil (generally argan) on top of a marble heated stone.
Now, trying to recreate a traditional Moroccan bathhouse at home can be quite difficult, but it is not impossible if you have the right tools and the right mindset.
First, I like to take a quick hot shower to open up the pores. Yes, I know it is summertime and it’s hot outside, but bear with me on this one. Hot water helps me relax my muscles, so it’s an important step. I then lather myself up with the black soap using the kessa mitt (exfoliating glove) to work it in circles, starting at my feet and finishing with my arms. The trick is to not only do circular movements, but also being intentional with your mitt strokes: Direct them to your heart to increase your blood flow.
Once your full body is covered with black soap, I like to wrap myself in a towel and wait between 5-10 minutes. As black soap is made with extra virgin olive oil, it is very soothing for my skin, so any redness from the scrubbing subsides by leaving it on as a mask. The towel also helps you keep your body heat without extreme changes of temperature, which is something that I completely abhor.
Once my 10 minutes are up, I like to jump in the shower, rinse off the black soap, and run lukewarm water on my body to close my pores.
To finish the hammam treatment, I like to nourish my body and my hair with a few drops of pure argan oil, which transport me far away from my cramped apartment.
The Clean Beauty Composition:
Ziri is a luxurious, all-natural and ethical skin and hair beauty brand that focuses on making clean beauty rituals accessible to enthusiasts around the world. Their offerings concentrate on traditional Moroccan beauty products, handcrafted with care by local communities following ancient processes. Ziri marries the Moroccan Hammam tradition with the modern skincare needs for a relaxing experience in the comfort of your own home. Their products are 100% natural.
The Zuri Moroccan Black Soap (also known as Beldi Soap) is a joy to use. With a light citrusy scent with hints of eucalyptus, it is not an overpowering treatment for those who don’t like strong scents. It also left my skin very soft to the touch, and surprisingly hydrated. Don’t be afraid if what you receive doesn’t look like a traditional soap: Beldi soaps are in fact a paste, meant to use with a mitt.
The Zuri Exfoliating Glove (Kessa Mitt) is a key part of the hammam treatment at home. Made with a special rough texture, it is perfect to wash away any dead skin cells and reveal bright and soft skin underneath. Now, if you are not used to the texture of the kessa mitt, it is easy to overdo it and leave red marks on your skin. Please be careful the first time, and never use it over wounds or broken skin. In my experience, you will learn what pressure is right for you by trial and error.
Finally, the Zuri Argan Oil (USDA organic) has only one ingredient (you guessed right: certified organic argan kernels from Morocco!), and is extremely gentle on the skin. You can use it as a deep moisturizing treatment after your hammam exfoliation, as a conditioner for your split ends, or as a healing lip balm. It is also fantastic to treat brittle nails!