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Soothe your skin (and your soul) with this pre-sleep regime

Verity Douglas
Writer and expert5 years ago
View Verity Douglas's profile

Annee de Mamiel's specialist sleep facial has a THREE YEAR waiting list (it's that good), so when the phenomenal beauty and sleep guru swung via Cult Beauty Towers to impart some pearls of sleep, skin care and wellbeing wisdom, we hung on her every word (before drowsily making our way to our desks)...

Having studied Western medicine for four-and-a-half years, as well as traditional Chinese medicine and aromatherapy, Annee de Mamiel merges all three of these disciplines through both her brand and her practice. "Whenever I see a client, I always try to look at every aspect of their lives to get a full, 360 picture of the underlying causes of their 'issues'" says Annee, who strives to identify (and tackle!) the root of key concerns - not just the superficial symptoms. "Every product that I make is tested in clinic on hundreds of faces, so I know there’s no stone unturned when it comes to the level of care that’s gone into it."

Stress is a persistent 'cause', and Annee has become adept at recognising side-effects of hectic, plugged-in lifestyles. This low-level thrum – classic chronic stress – is a scourge that effects almost all of us. " We have two nervous systems – the sympathetic and the parasympathetic. The 'sympathetic' is engaged when everything is ‘switched on’ – your body is constantly, quietly screaming ‘Oh my God, I’ve got to do this then I’ve got to do that’ which means you're always feeling overwhelmed and panicked, even without realising!" says Annee.

The bad news is that when the sympathetic's 'on', the parasympathetic is 'off', which means that we need to spend time tinkering with the levers to try and sloooooow everything down and help 'centre' ourselves. Our body doesn’t differentiate between a ‘life threatening’ stress and what’s a ‘daily stress’ – and because our systems are wired to deal with both types in the same way (our glands secrete the same hormones), we go into ‘stress’ mode because of the tiniest, day-to-day trigger – which then diverts oxygen, minerals, blood and so on from our skin, stomach... everything that isn't absolutely vital for survival.

We can all relate to that sharp inhalation whenever we hear our phone ring or our inbox go 'ding'. However, what we probably don't realise is that this instinctive 'sinking feeling' instigates a staggering 1500 physiological reactions - a cascade of impulses that mean we're consistently 'wired'.

One of Annee's tips is to flag your triggers with a sticker - literally, whack a red dot on your wallet, phone, laptop and treat these reminders as prompts to draw breath. Before you answer, swipe, reply... take a moment to pre-empt the 'domino effect'. "One of the cornerstones of stress prevention is the breath, and I incorporate a breathing exercise into each stage of my rituals to focus the mind and press ‘pause’ on the typical ‘fight or flight’ reaction" says Annee. "Close your eyes, inhale to the count of three, pause, then exhale to the count of five. Repeat three times and try to concentrate on how your body feels – then slowly, open your eyes and allow reality to filter in."

This breathing ritual is also the first step in Annee's night-time regime. "It really helps to ‘set the scene’ and demarcate the start of ‘me time’ – this is your ‘space’ and I’d love you start thinking differently about your skin care ritual – treating it as a sacred time to dedicate yourself to both your physical and emotional wellbeing. You only need five minutes but they make a world of difference."

"For me, the beginning of looking after yourself comes with a double cleanse," says Annee. "It’s important because, the first cleanse is about getting rid of the day’s grime – the dirt, the pollution, your make up – but most of all, it’s about getting rid of the stress." Starting with {Pure Calm Cleansing Dew}, dispense 4-5 drops and gently warm the dew between your palms, pausing to inhale the gentle blend of calming oils before applying to your face.

Dip your hands into warm water and begin massaging - breaking down the make up and becoming more 'in tune' with your complexion. As the oil emulsifies, begin identifying any knots or lumps-and-bumps - actually feel your face and let your skin 'talk' to your fingertips. "It’s about becoming mindful, and more aware of where that stress and tension is stored in your face. It’s a lesson almost in knowing your stress – knowing which part of your body you’re holding it in so you’re better equipped to address it."

So, now that your actual skin is revealed, it's time for the actual massage. Reach for the {Restorative Cleansing Balm} – take a scoop (about a 10p piece) – then warm between your palms to help release the essential oils. The key essential oil in this balm is fragonia, which is about resetting the body clock and bringing that cortisol (stress hormone!) level back down towards something resembling ‘normal’

"For me," says Annee, "this massage is all about boosting microcirculation, oxygen and feeding cells the precious minerals they need to stimulate and nourish skin. So, think of the face like a funnel – we have a circulatory (blood) system and a lymph system – the lymph holds all the fluid and toxins and therefore I always start by 'opening up' the lymph system. The best way to do this is with your flattened hands positioned underneath opposing ears (right under left), and drawn diagonally across your neck and chest. There are collecting ducts along your collarbone and what this action does, is begin to encourage the system to ‘flush’."

"Then I like to place my hands together underneath my chin, with index and middle fingers slightly separated to create a 'v' – the index fingers should be positioned underneath your chin with middle fingers resting gently on your chin’s apex. Glide your index fingers outwards from your chin along your jawline, applying firm but gentle pressure ‘til arriving underneath your ears, then continue down your neck. Take time to identify any bumps or 'gristly' bits – those shouldn’t be there, so spend a few moments massaging those 'pockets' of stress!"

Next, using small circles, moving upwards and outwards, imagine your face in three bands – from chin to underneath your ear, from the corner of the mouth to the middle of your ears and from the bottom of your nose to the tops of your ears. Massage each band on rotation, 2-3 times and again, try to identify any ‘stress centres’.

Move up to your forehead and zigzag up-and-down from the centre to the temples. Repeat a few times then, once you reach your ears, ‘flush’ the toxins down by drawing hands towards your neck and chest. You’re trying to detoxify and decongest, so always imagine you’re ‘flushing’ the lymph build-up down and away…

"Next we move on to the eyes," says Annee. "Initially, we want to start in the centre of the face, either side of the bridge of the nose and move out towards the outer corners, round the orbital bone and back to where we started. Do this a couple of times – and don’t be anxious. The skin is thinner but it’s also pretty resilient so don’t be scared to touch it."

There are also three face-changing acupressure points that Annee's keen to emphasise. "I’m going to start with ‘Bladder 2’ – it’s just above the inner corner of each eye – where the bridge of your nose meets your brow bone and, underneath you’ll find a crevice that, when you press it with moderate pressure should feel like a headache. Basically, if it hurts then you’ll know that you’ve got the right spot. Sound like torture? It isn't - as soon as you release the pressure you'll see an immediate brightening impact. This is a key draining point so, by easing muscle tension you are draining fluid from the brain - your eyes will literally shine! .

Then if you move along the brow bone, feeling your way along the underside you’ll find a ‘dip’ approximately halfway along, towards the centre of the arch – it’s life-changing! Apply some pressure upwards and you'll instantly look more alert and feel more 'in tune' with your body. Spend some time attending to these points – they’re especially beneficial if you’re cold-y or have hayfever – and finally, for those who're prone to bags or puffiness, you'll find a notch towards the lower inner corner of the eye. Just feel your way along the bone until you feel a tiny dip and lightly press - this one is great for diminishing swelling (ideal if you’ve had one (or too many) drinks!).

"The next bit is for me one of the best and the easiest ways to release some pent-up tension. One of the strongest muscles in the body is your jaw muscle – the masseter. It’s super powerful and it is here where we hold so much stress and tension. When you think about it, when you get frustrated and you just want to go ‘Aaaargh’ (but you can't), you just ‘swallow it’ because, you know, that’s what you’re meant to do!? But, once you've created that negative energy it needs to go somewhere and as women, what we tend to do is store it in our masseter (or in our hips!).

"What the following massage technique is designed to release is the daily frustrations and comebacks you’ve thought but resisted the urge to express; by easing the muscle and fibrous tissue, you help to ‘let go’ of the negative impact of keeping your feelings suppressed – a bad habit that can gradually have an impact on your bite, your neck... even your posture! So, work along the hollow underneath your cheekbone with a vigorous, back-and-forth motion – feeling the sinew and identifying any ‘knots’ to try and loosen them and slowly break down the resistance.

"Spend some time really getting into that – I might do this for a couple of minutes and sometimes my face is burning at the end of it – it really feels like it’s on fire but, I come to know that that’s a crucial sign of progress as the tension starts to dissipate. And when you stop and think about it, what you’re doing is increasing the circulation and bringing a rush of blood to the muscles, and by encouraging this you are feeding the muscles and plumping the skin because your cells are getting what they need."

Finally, gently massage over with a hot cloth to remove the balm, then splash your face with some cold water to get the full heating-and-cooling effect so you face looks much brighter. With this technique, Annee says you should begin to see a (and feel!) a lasting difference within just a few days – you’re draining away the lymph and you should start to notice definition because you’re working all the muscles in your face."

This regime can take five minutes - or fifteen! How long you spend is entirely dependent on your schedule. It needn't be a looooong and drawn out process. Consider it your daily 'reset' ritual and try to find a time that works - a window where you can switch off and indulge in some 'me time' without interruptions. You'll be amazed at the difference this makes to your skin and your sense of wellbeing. The skin care benefits are almost secondary to the sense of calm you'll feel - and ease with which you drift towards a deep and dreamy sleep.


Verity Douglas
Writer and expert
View Verity Douglas's profile
Cult Beauty’s Content Editor and a Cult Beauty OG, Verity loves nothing more than the marriage of language and lip balm. A quintessential Libran, she’s a self-professed magpie for luxury ‘must-haves' and always pursuing the new and the niche — from the boujee-est skin care to cutting-edge tech. Balancing an urge to stop the clock with her desire to embrace the ageing process (and set a positive example for her daughter), Verity's a retinol obsessive and will gladly share her thoughts about the time-defying gadgets, masks and treatments worth the splurge...