Greeting 50 with a Kripalu Facial

by Tresca Weinstein

Over the years, I’ve alternated between a “benign neglect” approach to my skin and various halfhearted attempts to develop an optimal facial care routine. But when I hit the big five-oh this spring, I figured it was past time—way past, actually—to start building some better habits to carry me through the post-dewy years. A Dr. Hauschka Classic Facial seemed like the perfect place to start.

The wonderful Wendy Higgins, who has been serving guests in the Kripalu Healing Arts Department for 14 years, right away taught me something I never knew about myself: I have tiny pores! This is both good and bad. The good part is that they make my skin tighter and thus younger-looking. The bad: Like a kid in a toy store, once they get ahold of something, they will not let it go.

Thankfully, Wendy has an incredibly gentle approach to getting pores to release what they’re hanging on to. After washing my face with warm compresses, she used Dr. Hauschka Cleansing Cream—which contains almond meal, calendula, chamomile, and St. John’s Wort—to clean and lightly exfoliate the skin. Then she gave me a little steam bath to soften the pores before doing a few minutes of deep pore cleansing, removing impurities and congestion. Afterward, I had that same great feeling you get when you purge your closet and drop stuff off at the Goodwill—so much junk out of your life!

It’s fine to skip the pore-cleansing part of the facial if you don’t need or want it, Wendy says—you can spend the time nourishing and balancing your skin, and sinking into the full effect of the Kripalu approach to bodywork. Wendy and all the Kripalu Healing Arts therapists bring to each treatment a philosophy and mindset that’s based in the foundational elements of the Kripalu methodology—including attunement to energy and breath, compassionate presence, intention, awareness, integration, and relaxation. Like a yoga class, a Kripalu facial works on many levels—healing the body, balancing the energy, opening the heart. In other words, it’s not just about your pores—though they will be well cared for, too.

“The strokes and pace we use are intentional and rhythmic, aligned with the breath and grounded in mindfulness,” Wendy explained. “It’s an opportunity for the guest—and the therapist—to slow down, relax, and feel a sense of connection.”

She’s also guided by the wisdom of Ayurveda, yoga’s sister science, which informs her choices during a session of which products to use (cooling versus warming, soothing versus revitalizing) and how to create an optimal environment for each individual as she intuits their dosha—the dominant qualities in their constitution. “I adjust the temperature of the compresses, the table warmer, and the treatment room according to the person’s dosha,” she says.  

Cozily tucked between the table warmer and a light layer of blankets, I relaxed into the next part of the facial: an application of smooth, cool clay that Wendy customized for me on the spot—mixing in a little Clarifying Day Oil to nourish the skin and Clarifying Toner to help protect against breakouts. She loves the purity of the Dr. Hauschka products, which incorporate the nurturing, healing properties of plants and flowers—like the delicious lemon-scented compress she placed on my face after removing the clay.

Next, Wendy used brushes and light hand movements to stimulate the lymph in my face and neck area. The process “encourages detoxification and stimulates the immune system, creating greater health in the body and radiance in the skin,” she explained.

Wendy says the transitions between seasons are great times to schedule a facial, in order to reassess what your skin needs as the weather changes—addressing dryness after a long winter or increased oil production after a hot summer, for example. While every person’s skin is different, Wendy does offer some one-size-fits-all advice for healthier skin, year-round: Drink more water and use a naturally derived, oil-rich moisturizer.

“Being well hydrated, internally and externally, will create healthy skin,” she says. “Fine lines are lessened, and pores are softened and won’t hold onto the day’s impurities—they wash away more easily when the skin is hydrated.”

Since I had scheduled an evening facial on a Friday—what better way to greet the weekend!—Wendy finished the treatment by applying Dr. Hauschka Night Serum, a light, oil-free revitalizer and astringent that’s made with apple blossoms. We spent a little time talking about my (nearly nonexistent) skincare routine, and I made a solemn vow to make a few small changes, including switching out my hypoallergenic soap for a lighter cleanser and trying a new moisturizer. I’ve been sticking with it, and my skin truly feels softer, seems less reactive, and looks clearer and tighter. Lightened of their load, my pores are working in my favor, it seems.

Just as yoga supports people in developing comfort with their bodies, a Dr. Hauschka Facial can support them in learning to accept and embrace their skin, Wendy says. “All that consciousness, positive intention, and rhythmic application is deeply nurturing and relaxing. People see their faces in a different, more loving way.”

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Tresca Weinstein is Features Editor at Kripalu.