Create an At-Home Spa: 4 Simple Spa Recipes

You’re in serious need of a pampering day at the spa, but you’re short on time and money. The solution? Transform your own bathroom into a sanctuary. At the Lake Austin Spa Resort, I teach classes on how to turn common kitchen and garden ingredients into luxurious skin scrubs, bath salts and more.

The key is using herbs and flowers. Certain aromas have a powerful effect on the nervous system, leaving you feeling relaxed or energized. I recommend using the following ingredients for their scents:

  • Lavender
    This soothing, antimicrobial herb has been shown to help you relax and get a good night’s sleep. Wesleyan University conducted a 31-person study and found that when people sniffed lavender before bedtime, they got more slow-wave (or deep) sleep and reported feeling more energetic in the morning.
  • Eucalyptus
  • Developing research suggests this woodsy scent may help break up mucus and stop coughs, according to the National Institutes of Health. And a study published in the journal Respiratory Medicine shows that eucalyptol, the active ingredient, has anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Mint
  • Perfect for hot days, spearmint and peppermint are cooling and refreshing. And a recent study published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy also found that applying menthol to the skin increases blood flow.
  • Ginger
  • When grated and added to a bath, the spicy root provides an invigorating sensory energy-boost. It can be mixed with coconut oil for a mildly exfoliating scrub.
  • Rosemary
  • This herb has a refreshing, stimulating effect.
  • Rose Petals
    Pluck them from your own garden to add a sweet fragrance to any bath or body treatment.

Once you’ve chosen your herb, mix them up with one of the following recipes. With a few household ingredients, you can go from stressed and tired to relaxed and glowing:

Basic Bath Infusion

  • 4 cups fresh herbs (or 2 cups dried)
  • 4 cups water
  • Boil water in a large pot; add herbs. Stir, cover and remove from heat. Steep for 10 minutes, strain and pour into a hot bath.

Soothing Bath Bag

  • 1/4 cup powdered milk
  • 1/4 cup Epsom salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup dried herbs
  • 10 drops of essential oil

Stir together all ingredients and place in a muslin bag (or several layers of cheesecloth); secure with a rubber band. Add to hot bath and steep for several minutes. Open the bag and use the softened herbs as an exfoliating body scrub. You can also seal unused bags in a glass jar for several months.

Energizing Coffee Body Scrub

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 4-inch sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 1/4 cup coffee beans, finely ground
  • 2 tablespoons bentonite clay (found in health food stores)
  • 3 tablespoons oil, such as olive, grapeseed, coconut or avocado
  • 3 drops each of rosemary oil and grapefruit or peppermint oil

Combine sugar and rosemary in a spice grinder and process until finely ground. Pour into a medium-sized bowl and mix with the remaining ingredients. Use the scrub on skin; shower off. Moisturize with additional body oil.

Skin-softening Bath Blend

  • 1/4 cup rolled or instant oatmeal
  • 1/4 cup milk powder
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup herbs of choice
  • 10 to 15 drops of essential oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons body oil

In a food processor, combine oatmeal, milk powder, sugar and herbs until coarsely ground. Pour in bowl and combine with essential oil, honey and body oil. Place in muslin bag and steep in a hot bath for a few minutes. Use cold tea bags (green tea or chamomile) over your eyes as you enjoy your bath.


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5 Hot New Makeup Trends to Try

When it comes to the high-drama makeup found in fashion magazines, most of us think: “That’s gorgeous, but there’s no way I could pull that off.” But the truth is -- you can rock those looks!

With the proper application, you can make those funky hair and makeup trends appropriate for your lifestyle. Here are my simple steps for making five of the hottest new looks work for you!

Makeup Trend No. 1: Fire-engine Lips
One of my favorite trends for the coming season is the bold red lip. It creates instant glamour, but unfortunately, it also often makes a mess.

How to wear it: To avoid smears, choose a matte lipstick. Apply a thin layer to your lips with a brush. (Don’t rub your lips together, which can smear the color.) Then roll a tissue into the shape of a cigar, place it in your mouth as if you’re smoking it, and slowly drag it out to catch any of the excess lipstick.

Makeup Trend No. 2: Big, Bold Brows
Bold, architectural brows are in. But what looks fierce on the runways can come off a little intense in real life.  

How to wear it: For fuller brows that won’t scare your coworkers, dab a damp-angled brow brush into an eye shadow that’s one shade darker then your hair color. Then, flick strokes of color in any sparse areas of your brows. Make sure to apply in the direction of your hair growth. Next, dip a damp spoolie brush into the shadow and brush the entire brow until it’s lightly coated in color.

Makeup Trend No. 3: Goth Polish
If you’re not careful, inky nails can read a bit Wednesday Adams.

How to wear it: Instead of a straight black, choose a dark, deep hue like charcoal, navy or deep plum. If that’s still too edgy for your day-to-day, get just the right amount of drama by embellishing your base with a lighter hue: Use a scrunched-up tissue to transfer a thin coat of translucent metallic polish. Kind of like sponge painting, dab the tissue over your dark polish until you reach the level of opacity that you want. The layered colors add dimension to your mani -- not to mention a unique look!

Makeup Trend No. 4: Slicked-back Hair
Several spring catwalks showcased shellacked manes, but taken too literally this do risks looking more helmet head then chic. 

How to wear it: To get this sleek hairdo without the theatrics, style your hair while it’s damp. Instead of a gel, use a creamy mousse or hair lotion that will provide hold without the slickness. Then blow-dry, making sure that the root direction faces back and away from your face. Pull back sections from your hairline and clip each section back. (Tip: Use a tissue between the clip and hair to prevent dents.) Once your hair has cooled, spritz hairspray all over, and remove the clips when it’s dry.

Makeup Trend No. 5: Neon Shadows
Dare to wear pops of vivid shadows with these real life application tricks. 

How to wear it: Make those DayGlo shadows more wearable by using them sparingly: Apply the product to the outer corner of your eyes (below the crease). Shake off any excess powder, and with a small, compact “pencil” brush, blend the remaining shadow back and forth into your crease. With a bigger shadow brush, blend a beige shimmer shade over the entire eye. If you want to go bolder, you can either add another layer of your neon shadow, or apply it with an angled brush.

Photo by Doğukan Şahin on Unsplash

5 Ideas for a Romantic Look

There’s no better time to get flirty than on Valentine’s Day -- especially when it comes to your hair and makeup. Soft waves, dewy skin and rosy cheeks create a dreamy, romantic look that’s perfect for the evening, whether you’re planning a big night out or intimate dinner at home. Try the following tips for makeup application to score a look you’re both sure to love.

1. Make some waves.
You can’t go wrong with loose, bohemian waves. Start by working volumizing mousse onto damp hair and blow-drying completely. (If you’re short on time, sprinkle dry shampoo, such as Oscar Blandi Pronto Dry Shampoo, on your roots.) Wrap small sections of your hair around a curling iron, only using the middle part of your strands; keep the iron away from your roots and ends. Repeat until you’ve curled all of your hair, then gently brush out and set with hair spray.

Want to wear your hair up? Show off your neck and shoulders with with a romantically undone ‘do. First, curl dry, unwashed hair with a large-barrel curling iron. Then pull your hair into a loose ponytail at the nape of your neck or to one side, and secure with an elastic band. Twist hair around the band until it forms and bun and secure with bobby pins.  Run your fingers through your hair for some wispy face-framing pieces and finish off with hairspray. For an extra touch, add a pretty headband.

2. Go light.
To achieve a gorgeous glow, skip heavy cream-based foundations. Instead, lighten up your look with an illuminating sheer liquid foundation, such as Stila’s Illuminating Liquid Foundation. Then dab on the concealer only where needed, and set with a translucent powder. To remove excess product, blot with a facial tissue.

3. Try a twist on the smoky eye.
Trade in your usual black or charcoal eyeliner for a pop of color, like emerald green, deep plum or navy blue. To apply, smudge the eyeliner along the top and bottom of your lashes; you want an uneven, soft look. Wrap your forefinger in a facial tissue, and swipe away any excess beneath or in the inner corner of your eye.

For an extra pop, dab a little white eye shadow in the inner corner of your eye or add a subtle gold liner just above the top lash line (apply on top of the colored liner). Keep the rest of your makeup neutral -- and all eyes will be on you!

4. Look pretty in pink.
In the beauty world, going match-matchy is usually a don’t. But the romantic look is an exception to this rule: Soft pink lips and cheeks create a super-dreamy appearance.

To avoid going overboard, apply the blush only to the apples of your cheek. Then add a touch of bronzer along the edges of your face: On each side of your forehead, a sideways “W” motion from the edge of your forehead to the cheekbone, and then from your cheekbone to the side of your jawline.

5. Get soft, dewy skin.
A simple trick for come-hither skin: Apply moisturizer before and after you put on your makeup. (You heard me right -- after!) Like to a topcoat of nail polish, lotion sets your look and adds a little glow. Pat, don’t rub, a little drop of moisturizer on your cheekbones, T-zone and chin -- and you’ll look gorgeous all evening.

Photo by Jose Martinez on Unsplash

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6 Genius Products: The Best New Beauty Trends

Many beauty product trends come and go. (Remember hair crimpers and shampoo-plus-conditioners?) But each year, cosmetic companies release some technologies that can help make your life easier -- and make you look even more beautiful. Here are six of my favorite beauty breakthroughs to help keep you gorgeous all year long.

1. BB Creams
This magic potion is a one-stop-shop for all skin types and tones: It acts as a serum, moisturizer, light foundation and sunblock all in one. Apply to clean skin, or under your foundation if you need extra coverage. A little of this cream goes a long way; simply dab off the excess with a facial tissue. There are a number of brands, which range in price, but I’ve found they’re all created equal.

2. Hair Oil
I’m not talking about your mama’s hot oil treatment! From Moroccan to shea nut butter to argon, these silky serums transform your tresses from dull and damaged to smooth and silk. Made from essential and natural plant extracts, these oils tame fly-aways, add shine and prevent breakage. To use, apply a few drops to wet or dry hair. You can also dab a little on dry cuticles and ashy elbows!

3. Lip Gloss Plumpers
You’ll basically die and go to Angelina Jolie lip heaven with these volumizing lip polishes. These super-shiny glosses are made with ingredients that stimulate lip collagen, resulting in a fuller pout. Use alone or over lipstick, and blot away excess with a facial tissue. I recommend testing before investing, since some can tingle…and not in a good way.

4.  Hair Color Sprays
Let’s take a moment to raise a glass and say grazie to the geniuses who dreamed up these root cover-up products. Whether in a spray, powder, or mascara form, these concealers help cover grays between trips to the salon. They’re also available in fun shades, such as purple, so you can add a pop of color to your mane. Look for brands that are free of sulfates and parabens, such as Rita Hazan’s Pop Color Spray.

5. Eyebrow Kits
Now there’s no excuse for barely-there brows! These brow kits contain all you need to shape your own brows. First, tweeze away stray hairs. Then use the angled brush to apply brow powders, following the natural shape. Lastly, set with a little wax to keep hairs from straying.

6. Eye Shadow Primers
Creased eye shadow is so 2012. This lightweight cream helps keep eye makeup flawless from day to night. Apply the primer as a base beneath your shadow for longer-lasting color; apply just enough to cover your entire lid. You can also use it on its own as an eye-brightener. My pick: one with a shimmer effect like Too Faced Shadow Insurance in Candlelight. Finish the look with a little eyeliner, and you’re good to go!

Photo by michela ampolo on Unsplash

5 Must-Have Tools for Flawless Makeup Application

Most women spend a lot of time and money picking out the perfect lotions, potions and makeup for their skin. But without the proper application, even the highest-quality products won’t do much for your appearance. That’s why it’s important to have the right tools. The correct sponge, for instance, can turn streaky foundation into an even, natural glow, while facial tissues can help lipstick stay put.

As a makeup artist, I handle hundreds of beauty items on a regular basis. Here are the six I swear by, plus simple tips for makeup application.

1. Spoolie brush. The quickest way to look put-together is by grooming your brows. A spoolie brush, which resembles an overgrown mascara wand, can put those hairs in their place. Sweep it upwards and outwards; then trim any errant brows with a pair of small scissors. Finish the look by filling in any gaps or sparse areas with an angled brush dipped in brow shadow.

2. Latex-free sponges. There are many ways of applying foundation: I like using a synthetic brush on my client’s faces. But, no matter what method you prefer, it’s smart to follow up with a sponge. Holding the skinny side of the wedge, tap the flat, square side in circles over the entire face. This dabbing motion blends the product while pushing it into the skin. It also absorbs any extra foundation, which prevents a streaky or caked-on look. It’s my secret for an even complexion.

3. Facial tissues: This simple product is a makeup multitasker. I use it as a blotting paper to soak up excess product and oil, and also to set lipstick. Dipped in a makeup remover, a facial tissue also works to erase errant makeup for quick touch-ups.

I also like to wash my brushes and lay them flat to dry overnight on several facial tissues. Dirty brushes spread bacteria, and product buildup can break the bristles. If you’re too busy to shampoo your brushes, spritz a tissue with a brush-specific cleaner and wipe each one thoroughly.

4. Eyelash curler: Curled lashes make eyes pop in seconds. But most women use curlers incorrectly: You’re supposed to slide the clamp gently up and out, not just bite down on your lashes with it. That’s why I recommend a heated eyelash curler for beginners. This device is like a small curling iron for your lashes, although it doesn’t get nearly as hot. Many also feature a comb to help separate and brush through the lashes. 

To use it, apply a coat of mascara. Then rock the wand at the root of your lashes. Slowly rotate your wrist upwards, sweeping the wand out toward the ends of your lashes. If needed, finish with another coat of mascara.

5. Fan brush. I love shadows with some shimmer, but they often fall from the eyelids onto your cheek. To sweep away any errant shine, I use a small fan-shape brush.

My method: First, I swipe a stripe of loose facial powder beneath each to catch any fallen product. After applying the eye makeup, I use the fan brush to sweep away the powder.

Photo by Tetiana SHYSHKINA on Unsplash