It’s somewhat of a necessary evil, particularly with mature, dry, or dull skin. Whether you decide to do it chemically or physically, exfoliating your skin helps remove dull, dead skin cells to reveal fresher, younger, brighter skin beneath. The trouble is, it’s usually not the gentlest process in the world. A lot of exfoliating standbys can actually damage skin, whether from over-application of chemical skin peels or the harsh effect of abrasives like apricot kernel. If you have sensitive skin like I do, “soft” scrubs using finely-ground seeds and nuts (almond is popular, but, as someone avoiding almonds, I can tell you that hemp seed’s not too shabby either) are pretty awesome. Chemically, gentle exfoliation using pureed fruit or yogurt also helps. There’s one particular ingredient that manages to do both, is easy to use, and is about as inexpensive as you can get:
Just regular old cane or beet sugar. Both sugar cane and sugar beets are natural sources of skin-benefiting glycolic acid, an alpha-hydroxy acid that works as an exfoliant. While incorporating sugar into your beauty routine won’t offer the high concentrations of glycolic acid found in commercial preparations, it’s much easier to customize, far less expensive, and still does a decent job with de-flaking, unblocking pores, and keeping skin looking fresh and healthy.
The easiest way to do it is to make a scrub by forming a paste of sugar and some warm water. Dry sugar is pretty abrasive (much more abrasive than you’d want to rub against your delicate facial skin), but mixing it with water will begin to dissolve the granules into a much more manageable size. The object here is not to make syrup– it should still have some grittiness to it. Once it’s mixed, simply:
- Apply the mixture to damp skin, rubbing gently in circles while avoiding the eye area.
- Allow it to sit for 5 minutes or so.
- Rinse away completely with warm water.
- Finish with your favorite moisturizer, or a few drops of skin oil like jojoba or argan.
If you’re into using essential oils, you can add a couple of drops of your favorites (diluted in a carrier oil) to the sugar before adding water. If you’re a witch who likes making her own skin care recipes, here’s where things can get fun.
When I make a sugar scrub, even though I tend to make them on a single-use, as-needed basis, I look at them akin to making a honey jar (also called a sweetening jar or a syrup jar, depending on who you ask). With a honey jar, the object is to influence a circumstance to be in your favor by literally sweetening things up– if you’re angling for a boost to your bank account, you’d add money-drawing ingredients, play money, and other objects to a jar, then top them off with sugar, honey, sugar syrup, or maple syrup. Even though I’m obviously not going to wear a sugar scrub for as long as I’d keep a honey jar set up, applying it with intention is a handy bit of glamour that may help sweeten interactions with the people you come across.
Naturally, this doesn’t mean that a sugar scrub’s only magickal use is as a means to fake your way through being some kind of witchy Mary Sunshine. Plenty of the best skin care oils have their own magickal associations, and who says you can’t harness both at once? Here are a few examples (with planetary correspondences and common uses provided in case those are things you’d like to know):
The mundane: Chamomile is great for sensitive, stressed skin. Just be forewarned– people with ragweed allergies should probably give chamomile a miss.
The magickal: Associated with the sun, chamomile is used in spells for peace, love, friendship, money, and purification.
The mundane: It helps speed the healing of acne, inhibits the production of inflammatory compounds, and helps lift and tone mature skin.
The magickal: Associated with the sun, frankincense (oil or resin) is used in spells for cleansing, exorcism, purification, protection, and spiritual connection.
The mundane: Geranium oil helps tighten sagging skin, has a plethora of antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidant compounds, and improves dull complexions by boosting circulation in the skin.
The magickal: Associated with Venus, geranium is used in spells for love, to remove negativity, and to help lift spirits and dispel stress.
The mundane: It’s antibacterial and antifungal, helps soothe stressed skin, and is fantastic for healing blemishes. It’s also one of the very few oils that can be used straight on normal skin, but folks with sensitive skin should still try using a dilution first.
The magickal: Associated with Mercury, lavender has an incredible variety of uses, including purification, clairvoyance, dream magick, love spells, intuition, astral travel, and purification.
The mundane: You’d probably be hard pressed to find a better moisturizing, anti-infective balm than myrrh oil. It’s great at reducing the signs of aging, controlling fungal infections, and getting rid of the bacteria that contribute to acne.
The magickal: Associated with the moon, myrrh is purifying and protective. It’s also used to boost the power to the preparations it’s added to, aid with meditation, and break hexes.
The mundane: Neroli oil helps get rid of blemishes, reduce the appearance of broken capillaries, and brighten dull, flaky skin. People with sensitive skin that reacts to citrus may wish to skip this one, however.
The magickal: Associated with the sun, neroli is used for purification, joy, and success.
The mundane: Considered one of the best skincare herbs, rose helps tone and lift skin, shrink capillaries, fades acne scars and other spots, and protects skin with its antiseptic compounds. Rose hip seed oil also helps fade sun damage, acne scars, age spots, and hyperpigmentation, as well as reducing fine lines and wrinkles.
The magickal: Associated with Venus, rose is a love herb par excellence. It also helps protect against jinxes and bring luck. Because of rose’s versatility, some witches say that rose can substitute for any flower called for in a spell.
The mundane: Rosemary is fantastic for boosting the circulatory system, making it a great skin and scalp oil. It also has skin-firming astringent benefits, and helps fight bacteria and fungi.
The magickal: Associated with Mercury, rosemary purifies, protects, draws prosperity and luck, chases away nightmares, and is used in healing preparations. Because of rosemary’s versatility, some witches say that rosemary can substitute for any herb called for in a spell.
The mundane: Sandalwood oil is good for mature skin, and even my sensitive skin enjoys it. It’s gentle, moisturizing, and skin softening. Indian Sandalwood oil is currently threatened by over-harvesting, so, if you’re interested in giving it a try, look for Australian sandalwood instead.
The magickal: Associated with the moon, sandalwood finds its way into a lot of preparations for meditation, clairvoyance, protection, and dream magick. Because of its use as an aphrodisiac, it sometimes finds its way into spells for lust or sexuality.
With some sugar, some carrier oil, some warm water, and a couple drops of the right essential oil, you can be on your way to making a facial scrub that helps you look like you just dropped some serious money at a spa. By mixing it with intention and choosing your ingredients with their magickal uses in mind, you can also whip up a handy bit of cosmetic witchery without anyone else being the wiser.