Post BUST Zero Waste event, I found myself yearning for a new DIY project that would pair well with my skincare addiction.
I found a magical little shop tucked away in Brooklyn Heights called Earth Speaks, which is a space covered wall to wall with tiny tinctures, an abundance of crystals, and housemade beauty products as far as the eye can see. Not to mention the best part: they’re female owned and operated! Earth Speaks hosts monthly workshops on DIY skincare and beauty products. I was lucky enough to join them July 19 for a facial toner workshop where we learned how to make our own toners out of natural ingredients.
What I learned in Earth Speaks' cozy nook in the back of their store was surprising. I expected the ingredients to be obscure and hard to find but most of the ingredients could be found in your kitchen; apple cider vinegar, green tea, and witch hazel. Most of the skincare products I've purchased has been packaged, ready-made, and approved by my esthetician. Of course, I knew I had to keep her in the loop with my new natural toner, which is composed of 25% witch hazel and 25% rose water, distilled water, and essential oils, lavender, geranium, chamomile, and sandalwood.
My fabulous facialist Cheyenne Flores, the esthetician for the L'Occitane Beauty Lounge here in New York, has been keeping my skin vibrant and healthy monthly for about 9 months. When I first started seeing Cheyenne, I was in a place where I was wanting to step up my skincare game. I’ve never had acne prone skin - much like my personality, my skin has always been dry and irritable. I’ve only ever been to the dermatologist for rashes or skin irritations, as they are qualified to diagnose and treat your skin. So I decided to see an esthetician for a different kind of treatment.
My esthetician only uses non-invasive techniques. That means no chemical peels, no lasers. Cheyenne uses a technique called lymphatic drainage, which according to Healthline: "create[s] a vacuum with gentle pressure so that the area is prepared to bring in more fluid, creating a flushing effect.” This massage helps detoxify my skin and decrease puffiness. I’m sure you can imagine that having someone massage your face for 30 minutes is relaxing. However, I find the experience meditative. It’s 30 minutes that I’m being taken care of by someone else, and I feel the pressure of my responsibilities melt away when I’m laying down on the facial table. It’s a very cute ritual actually; it kind of reminds me of a luxurious night time routine. I like to arrive early so that I can use their shower and use all of the L'Occitane products. Afterwards, I dry off, get dressed, and climb into the covers on the facial table. Feeling warm and cozy, Cheyenne assesses my skin and takes matters into her own hands, preparing both of my face masks, and exfoliants alike. The best part is that I have to do nothing. Once a month, I don’t have to do a damn thing. I’m looking forward to my next facial already…
I remember being squeamish when I first decided to purchase my first facial. The price intimidated me, although the price is actually close to that of a new pair of Vans. At L'Occitane Beauty Lounge, the 30 minute facials run around $59 for a first timer and actually become cheaper with a 10 percent loyalty discounts for regular customers. So, I invest $55.49 on a monthly basis in self care. Just think about how much we spend on coffee… Let’s be demure and say we’re only spending $3 on coffee per day (you totally got a black coffee instead of your white chocolate mocha), that's about $91 per month. Your coffee budget is still $35 more than what I spend on getting a facial every month. My monthly facial is a decadent ritual I’ve grown accustomed to and a luxury that I factor into my monthly budget because I’ve learned that it’s worth it to invest in yourself and your self esteem.
Cheyenne is my go-to for all things skincare, and I wanted to see what her take was on my new natural facial toner. According to Cheyenne: “Toners are the most underrated skincare item.” For a long time I have neglected toners because of my dry skin. Many drugstore toners contain alcohol and seem marketed towards oily skin. The intention of toners is not necessarily to matte the skin but rather to balance the ph levels of the skin. Cheyenne explains, “What toners are meant to do is cleanse the skin, prep the skin, pull your skin to a balanced pH level- which if you have dryness, combo skin, oily skin, acne prone skin, dull skin- chances are your pH is out of whack!” My skincare routine is very basic. I use an oil cleanser at night and rinse with water in the morning, I switch out serums pretty frequently and am currently using Kiehl's cannabis sativa seed oil. I always use a moisturizer for dry skin. Right now it’s Clinique’s moisturizing lotion and of course, sunscreen. I’m excited to add in a natural toner, I’ve used witch hazel in the past and it helped with improving the texture of my skin.
My toner was personalized by the workshop leaders at Earth Speaks who suggested that I use a combination of rose water and witch hazel to address my dry skin type that is prone to clogged pores. My facialist Cheyenne actually praises witch hazel saying “witch hazel is amazing especially I feel for oily skin types.” She also notes that witch hazel,“acts almost as an astringent leaving the skin super clean, helps to reduce inflammation breakouts and congestion.” My pH causes my skin to be on the drier side which is why I was recommended to use rose water. Cheyenne agreed adding,“Rose water is incredible when it comes to hydration levels in the skin it’s also extremely good to do when you have sensitive skin.”
It’s laughable to think that I’ve had a huge bottle of witch hazel that’s been sitting so long in my cabinet that I might consider charging it for rent. Instead I’ve been bouncing around trying expensive products that are packaged beautiful but, contain a laundry list of ingredients. I appreciate the accessibility of DIY skincare and it’s comforting to know that skincare doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective.
Photos courtesy of Earth Speaks
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Abygai Peña is a NYC based feminist filmmaker and critic. She studied Film and Philosophy at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and notably misses the fresh air after moving to New York City.
You can find her work as a contributing editor at independent film magazine Cinema Skyline or as a freelancing pop culture critic where she covers underreported commercial, indie, art house films. She is also a general contributor for BUST Magazine. She examines pop culture through an intersectional feminist lens. You can follow her on Instagram @ledivinechild or stay updated on her work on her blog.