I first learned about facial oils and aromatherapy from Micheline Arcier, a true pioneer who brought aromatherapy to this country from France. It was absolutely new here when I tried it, and Micheline Arcier’s name was also in the Little Black Books of many beautiful women. I learned from her the importance of massaging the face to boost radiance, and which oils are the greatest skin-nourishers: she used to make up special blends for me and my complexion, which was making the transition from oily and breakout-prone to dry, which happens to most of us. I used to beg Madame Arcier to tell me where she got her oils, but she wouldn’t tell a soul.
When I was in my 30s, I read an article about borage oil – and bought some in a health food shop. Borage oil capsules can be a great introduction to facial oils: you simply break one open and massage it into the skin, and the Essential Fatty Acids start to work their magic. (They’re not called ‘essential’ for nothing.) At another stage in my life I was simply massaging olive oil into my skin, and I also read that avocado oil worked wonders – so I had a go with that. Believe me, I experimented with everything – but I found that those oils, used on their own, were too thick and greasy, and I hated the sticky feeling of having them on my skin because it gave me the sensation that it just couldn’t breathe.
What I’ve since discovered is that oils can be light (there are even oils suitable for oily skins, like grapeseed oil). They can sink in fast. And I’ve also realised that actually, a more complex blend – specially formulated for faces – is much more effective than using something you might slurp on a salad. The miraculous thing about aromatherapy essential oils (which you’ll find in most pre-blended facial oils) is that they have ‘synergistic’ effects: individual oils boost the action of the others, which turbo-charges their magic powers.
One of the reasons skin becomes drier as we age is that its ‘barrier’ – which keeps moisture in – isn’t so strong, because the surface isn’t so smooth, and gaps open up between the cells, allowing that moisture to escape. But you can use oils to help trap that precious moisture in the skin. So my trick is to ‘layer’ on cream, over my oil. Honestly, I can almost hear my skin inhaling that facial oil! I slosh it on! I apply it with my fingertips, massage into the skin and give it a minute or two to sink right in. Personally, I then apply my Flashback Night Cream, over the top – or in the day time, I use Glory Days Day Cream. And yes, I do use oil in the morning – and I’ll even run upstairs sometimes and put on a few drops during the day. But that ‘layering’ is what keeps my skin looking plumped-up and juicy. Facial oils are just brilliant year-round, of course – but at this time of year, with the central heating ramped up and winds whipping round out there, they really come into their own…
Defy time – and gravity…
Up, up, up! That’s the secret with applying facial oils and creams. I sweep oils and moisturisers upwards with my fingertips, in long, sweeping movements upwards from the neck, which ensures that every molecule of nourishment or moisture gets into the pores.
Age-defying essential oils
Some key botanicals for more ‘mature’ skins…
Lavender – one of my favourite essential oils, partly because it’s so soothing and calming to the senses, but also a great ‘first aid’ fix for bites, bruises and burns.
Rosemary – has a stimulating effect on the micro-circulation of the skin, to promote radiance
Chamomile - wonderfully skin-calming, with anti-inflammatory powers
And these are also good…
Frankincense – once used in mummification (and anything which can keep skin intact for 3000 years must have miraculous powers!)
Neroli – speeds up cell renewal, and is good for the treatment of stretch marks and scars.
Geranium - helps brighten dull skin.