Most of us don’t breathe the right way. In fact we use, at most, 20 percent of our lung capacity. But research from Harvard University credits breath work with lifting depression, relieving stress, and anecdotal evidence even suggests that better breathing can help you lose up to 2lbs in weight, meaning that connecting with our breath is more powerful than anyone first thought. So how do we better our breath? First, create a womb-like space (a cozy room with candles, silence and no disturbances), sit down and start by visualizing a balloon in your abdomen: inflate the balloon by deeply inhaling through your mouth for a count of three, then exhale for one, visualizing that you’re gently fogging a mirror. The aim is to create a continuous flow of breath with no pauses. Try this for 10 minutes a day for tangible results – many have cited major anti-aging benefits, as well as experiencing a natural high.
Apply comforting creams
More than just a moisturizer, these indulgent creams nourish, cosset and deep-treat your skin. But the real beauty is in how you can use them to work best for you – and for some that can be daily, even twice daily, as a regular in your regimen. For a dry skin, Clé de Peau Beauté La Crème, Augustinus Bader The Rich Cream or Natura Bissé Diamond Extreme can be transformative. But for most, the idea is to use them as needed: post-vacation, post-flight, post-illness, post-procedure or whenever your skin needs extra help. Sarah Chapman’s Liquid Facial D-Stress and Kate Somerville’s Goat Milk Moisturizing Cream work like super-soothers for reactive, stressed or over-treated skin. Try swapping in something more comforting for your usual night cream for a week – I always have Sisley Supremÿa Baume on my bedside table. Or layer one up generously, like a face mask, and leave it on overnight (Crème de La Mer makes an amazing ‘mask’), and in the morning skin should look plump, glowing and cushion-y. Like a cashmere blanket for the skin, these creams calm and comfort any complexion.
“Apply your cream, massage it in, then reapply and repeat. It gives the most incredible plump, dewy skin”Valeria FerreiraMakeup artist
Embrace the joy of napping
We all know the benefits of a good night’s sleep, but napping has become the new health kick you never knew you needed. According to Dr. Anna Persaud, sleep expert and CEO of This Works, napping can improve cognitive performance and alertness within a very short window. “We naturally have an afternoon energy slump between 1pm and 3pm, which is an ideal time to take a nap,” explains Dr. Persaud. However, if a middle-of-the-day nap isn’t possible, then the window between 5pm and 7pm is also good for a short nap of 20 minutes. “A nap of 20 minutes is long enough to give you an immediate uplift in performance and mood, yet short enough that you stay in a light sleep and so wake easily, feeling refreshed and ready to go. A nap of 90 minutes, though, has been shown to improve cognitive performance and creativity.”
Try a feel-good supplement
Now is the time to add an adaptogen herb to your daily diet. These natural plant compounds (think non-toxic herbs, mushrooms, berries, roots and spices) are believed to help regulate our bodies and have been around for centuries, specifically in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine. Ashwagandha, Cordyceps and Rhodiola are the power players to look out for and are available in powders, tinctures and teas. “Ashwagandha is the most well-known and helps to prevent stress-induced fatigue, maintaining energy levels, focus and concentration,” says Texas-based nutritionist Ali Millard. “Cordyceps balances out blood sugars and boosts immune health, whereas Rhodiola is a mood influencer and is now known to aid depression and anxiety.”
“Ashwagandha is the most well-known adaptogen and helps to prevent stress-induced fatigue, maintaining energy levels, focus and concentration”Ali MillardNutritionist
Maximize your masking
Far more than a once-a-week treat, masks are now part of our daily regimen, but what you use – and how you use it – makes a difference. “Sheet masks are great for an instant, quick fix,” says aesthetician Joanna Czech. “Use first thing in the morning or before going out, but if you want ongoing results and to see a change in your skin, then use cream or clay masks,” she advises. Chilling or warming your sheet mask helps up the ante (cold firms the skin, warm relaxes facial tension and helps ingredients penetrate better), as does using a face roller over the mask, as this ensures it’s actually touching the skin (not just draping ineffectually over it) so the serum can be absorbed. As for using a cream mask, follow the French beauty rule and use a clay mask during the week (the newer ones deep-clean without drying, leaving skin beautifully velvety) and a moisturizing mask at the weekend.
“A Japanese study has shown that, to relieve stress, inhaling rose oil resulted in a 30 percent decrease in adrenaline in the blood”Annee de MamielChinese-medicine practitioner
Use scent to lift your mood
The fragrances we inhale directly affect our limbic system, also known as the ‘emotional brain’, and so can have an effect on calming stress and lifting depression. Research by Tim Jacobs, Emeritus Professor at the School of Bioscience, Cardiff University, singled out “scents that positively affect the brain, including lavender, which is known for its sedative qualities,” making it effective for calming anxiety but not so good, he advises, if you are already feeling a little emotionally ‘flat’. Conversely, he found that citrus scents elevated the mood and were therefore better for helping depression. “Citrus also gives a feeling of well-being,” says Chinese-medicine practitioner Annee de Mamiel. “In fact a Japanese study has shown that, to relieve stress, inhaling rose oil resulted in a 30 percent decrease in adrenaline in the blood.”
Nourish your hair with an oil
Oil is the new conditioner. Beloved by our skin, and now hair, oils promise shinier, softer locks without the need for silicon, which can build up over time to leave hair looking limp. They’re best for dry and brittle hair types and color-treated hair, as they can add a suppleness that creams can’t. Mauli Rituals Grow Strong Hair Oil and Briogeo Farewell Frizz Rosehip, Argan & Coconut Oil Blend, both of which use coconut, can penetrate the hair shaft for a deeply hydrating treatment, while Virtue Healing Oil mimics keratin (the protein naturally found in our hair) and provides a protective coating on hair to condition the surface and shield against moisture and humidity. Or spritz on Charlotte Mensah’s Manketti Oil Finishing Mist for on-the-go hydration.
How to recreate Julia’s lockdown locks
“I wash my hair every morning and always use a shampoo and conditioner free of silicones, fragrance and parabens. When I get out of the shower, I brush my hair and massage the roots, then tie it up and let it air dry – this gives me a slight wave and more texture. For my bangs, I use a big round brush and a little heat to give them a lift,” she says. Try Raincry Polishing Wash and Briogeo Be Gentle, Be Kind Superfood Conditioner.
“Oils can be rich in punicic acid, one of the best collagen boosters, plus anti-inflammatories and antioxidants”Shrankhla HolecekFounder of Uma Oils
Cheat spa skin
Nothing looks quite as good as that post-facial, dewy, almost juicy, glowing skin. So, either you spend an hour being massaged, peeled and masked or, when time is short, do what the beauty professionals do and layer up. It’s a simple but clever trick used by makeup artists to ‘cheat’ great skin by literally saturating it with hydration, moisturiser or oil – depending on which works best for your skin type. “Apply your cream – I usually use Crème de la Mer – massage it in, then reapply and repeat,” says makeup artist Valeria Ferreira. “It gives the most incredible plump, dewy skin.” Alternatively, layer up and massage in a hydrating serum or face mask, or try makeup artist Nam Vo’s trick and layer and massage face oil to achieve her famous super-dewy skin finish.
Get the most out of your bath
We often focus on the mental impact of stress and give little thought to our body. Whether you’re feeling sore, tight and achy from the hours spent hunched over your desk or because you’ve been working out, a 20-minute soak with Ilapothecary Magnesium and Amethyst Deep Relax Bath Soak will leave you feeling lighter on your feet. And why not try adding an essential oil to your bath, too? Instead of going for lavender, which, while great to calm an anxious mind, is not the best oil to achieve deep sleep, go for vetivert, which is a natural sedative. And if you mix your essential oils with a spoonful of milk, it helps to emulsify them, dispersing them more evenly through the bath water (rather than them just sitting on the surface).
Use oils all over your body
Rich in vitamins and a potent treatment in their own right, the best oils are easily and deeply absorbed to treat and transform on many levels. “Oils can be rich in punicic acid, one of the best collagen boosters, plus anti-inflammatories and antioxidants,” explains Shrankhla Holecek of Uma Oils.
Dehydrated skin Face oils don’t hydrate (no matter what some claim), but used over a hydrating serum, they can seal in the moisture.
Dry skin “Moringa and pomegranate oils are great, making dry skin plumped up and supple,” says Holecek.
Oily skin “It may seem counter-intuitive to use an oil, but jojoba tricks the skin into moderating its own oil production, and grapeseed oil rebalances acne-prone skin,” says Holecek.
Sensitive skin “Rosehip and avocado oils are excellent for very dry, itchy or even eczema-prone skin.”
Body oils “To nourish dry skin on the body, apply your oil to still-damp skin – it seals in moisture. Or use a body oil before showering, then use a scrub over it and rinse it off – it leaves skin smooth and silky.”
Brows “Castor oil helps the hair grow, so it’s good for any hair, including brows and lashes,” adds Holecek.
Add a shot of cheerful pink on lips and cheeks
“Part of the joyfulness of a spring pink on both lips and cheeks is the relaxed way it can be worn,” explains makeup artist Alex Babsky. “Fingers are best: tap your chosen bright lipstick onto your lips, then pat and blend what’s left onto your cheeks where they gather up to their fullest when you smile. Since using your fingers won’t deposit the same density of color as a brush, you can afford to choose a bolder pink than you might otherwise think. Lip and cheek tints are generally interchangeable, although some cheek tints can leave a drier finish, so you may want to supplement with some balm if you’re also using it on your lips.”
“Part of the joyfulness of a spring pink on both lips and cheeks is the relaxed way it can be worn”Alex BabskyMakeup artist