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Very few of us can boast of having the blemish-free, peaches 'n' cream complexion that Cosmo models sport. However, just because you don't have perfect skin doesn't mean you can't help your skin look the best it can! A popular and effective answer to common dermatology woes such as pimples or blemishes is the face pack or face mask.
What is a face pack?
A face pack is a combination of several natural or artificial ingredients targeted at improving skin texture, colour or remedying a specific skin problem such as blemishes, pigmentation, acne, wrinkles, oiliness, dryness, etc, and conditioning the skin.
These active ingredients are blended into an application base or vehicle that stays in contact with the skin for a sufficient time period and is then washed off. Face packs are available as ready-to-use blends or can be prepared fresh at home using a few simple ingredients from your kitchen.
A new trend is to add multivitamin tablets or granules to your face packs. There is no scientific proof of how it boosts the efficiency of your mask, but many people swear by it.
Choosing the right mask
Before you use a face pack, you need to identify your skin type. Is your skin oily, dry, blemish-prone or balanced? Do you want to make your skin lighter, get a glow, avoid wrinkles, treat acne or get rid of a tan? Depending on your specific needs, select a mask and use it one to three times a week.
Remember, your face pack should never contain any ingredient to which you are allergic (for eg eggs or strawberries). To check if the mask agrees with your skin, apply a little to a small patch of skin and leave it on for a few minutes. If it causes burning or itching, you are probably allergic to one or more of the ingredients, so wash it off immediately. Consult a dermatologist if the irritation persists.
How to use a face pack?
Tie your hair back with a headband and rinse your face with warm water. Massage your face lightly to improve circulation and steam it for a couple of minutes to open the pores. Steaming helps improve the absorption of active ingredients in the mask by the skin.
Following steaming, gently dry your face and apply the freshly prepared mask using a pack brush or your fingertips with smooth upward and outward strokes, ie, from the center of the face outward. Place cucumber slices on your eyes and relax as you allow the pack to dry (10-15 minutes).
Once dry, rinse your face with warm water to remove the pack. If you are using a peel-off facial, peel off the dried pack in chips. In the case of an exfoliating mask, you will need to scrub the pack off vigorously to remove dead, dry skin. Once you have removed the pack, follow it up with a toner and some moisturiser.
Face packs for oily skin
This article deals with face packs specially designed for oily complexions. These packs help absorb the excess oil, while cleansing and nourishing your skin.
1. Fuller's Earth mask
Take two teaspoons of Fuller's Earth (multani mitti) and add four to five spoons of rose water to make a paste. This is commonly known as a 'mud pack', and is used to cleanse and tone the skin while soaking up excess oil from the face. You can also add a vitamin E capsule (gel) to the pack if desired.
2. Citrus blast
Take a quarter cup of orange juice, a teaspoon of lemon juice, some grated orange rind and a crushed tablet of vitamin C. Blend the ingredients together with a couple of teaspoons of ground oatmeal or 'besan' and apply evenly.
3. Cucumber cooler
Extract the juice of half a cucumber and add in a few mint leaves. Blend with a few drops of limejuice, a teaspoon of milk powder and a little egg white* (optional). Chill the mixture in the refrigerator before applying. This pack also helps whiten the skin apart from optimising its oil balance.
4. Yeast and yogurt froth up
Blend a teaspoon of Baker's yeast with fresh yogurt and a little sugar till it gets frothy. Apply the pack about 10 minutes before a bath for best results.
5. Summer fruit cocktail
Blend a cube each of fresh ripe papaya, pineapple, cucumber and strawberry with a little egg white* (optional) or besan (chickpea flour). The fruits contain alpha hydroxy acids and enzymes that help peel off dull, dead skin and reveal a clearer complexion.
*Kaolin, a type of clay (which is an ingredient of calamine lotions and is available at pharmacies), may be used instead of egg whites if you're vegetarian.
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