02 July 2014

Simple Life: Body Care

My current bathroom shelf // personal picture

In the Simple Life series, I'd like to present you how I approach various life areas, based on my idea of simplicity I've been refining these past few years. After the reflection around usefulness and aesthetics, here is my current take on body care, and how important this is in a simple life.

Like most girls, I've learned my body care basics with my mother. She is a very simple woman, and she taught me two things: being healthy and soignée, and refusing to spend an inordinate amount of time and money on beauty care and products as we are beautiful the way we are.

As a teenager, I made most of my beauty discoveries with friends: mostly Agnès b. make-up products, ordered from Jeune & Jolie magazine leaflets, and the Monoprix store's beauty floor. And these were joyful years, testing new make-up products and body creams during pyjama nights with friends.

From these two experiences, I have learned to consider body care both as an indispensable way to keep my body healthy and my appearance well-groomed, but also to enjoy and having fun experimenting around. My simplification years taught me a third component: body care as a way to be connected, and at ease, with my body.

A Health Capital

If there is one sure thing about our bodies - no matter what science fiction literature says about it - is that we are going to keep the same one until we die. Which makes our bodies the most important "material" to take care of.

Paying attention to our health isn't only about what we eat or our fitness habits, it is also about what kind of products we put on our skin, how we protect it from sunburns and pollution, hydrate it in winter, how we notice and heal rashes and other external signs of problems or illness.

This sounds pretty ordinary and generic, but there are a few important points in my simplified vision of body care as a health support:

  • A bit like the stereotype of Chinese medicine, I believe in the preventing over curing idea - for example, putting on sunscreen before any sunburn occurs. Too often, we don't really pay attention to our bodies and cure or correct once it has reacted, and shown external signs of a problem. I think the first step to body care is to implement daily routines to take care of our health capital on a daily basis and prevent possible issues, instead of only reacting when there is something wrong.

  • Keep the routine as simple and natural as possible - What we put on our skin everyday is as important as what we eat. I think that marketing, ads, beauty blogs etc. sell us a lot of different items, make us believe we have to buy and use this wide range of products to be "a proper woman/adult". I think, on the contrary, that we should move away from these imposed standards, and keep things as simple and natural as possible - the "unique oil" Dominique Loreau mentions in her book is a very good start.

  • The objective is to maintain our health capital, not to "be beautiful" - It is easy to make a confusion between the two, especially when anti-age products use the very words of "health capital" in their advertising. In my simplified vision of body care, it is about protecting and nurturing our body the way it is. It is not about hiding "flaws", or making us look closer to beauty standards (by wearing push-up bra for example) - it is about looking as "me" as possible, sublimating what is already awesome about my body as it is.

Example of healthy body care routines: Find a few products that work for your skin (floral water, natural oils, natural shampoo...) and implement a slow and pleasant morning and evening routine. There is no rule about what works or not, but I think these rituals are not only a way to take care of our body but also to prepare for phases of our day (going to bed, or on the contrary be ready for the outer world). Routines can include: removing make-up, brushing teeth and putting a natural, hydrating oil on the face, hydrate, massage the skin before putting on make-up, srcub the body (especially knees and elbows) in the shower once a week...

Note: Despite my best efforts to eat natural food with as little chemical products as possible for as early as my young adult age, I realized I have never really paid that kind of attention to the beauty products I'm using daily. As a part of nurturing my health, I have decided to research and refine my beauty routine toward less products, and of more natural origin - the first step being to deplete my current stock by the end of this year.

Physical Meditation

Body care rituals are to the body what meditation is to the mind: a way to be aware of our body, to know and appreciate all aspects of ourselves, spend quality moments taking care of that body, which is a part of ourselves, and not a thing to mistreat or hate.

In her book l'Art de la Simplicité, Dominique Loreau mentions the subject of body care, notably the Japanese's rituals around bathing. She writes about the importance to take time for our body, bush our back, hydrate the skin with a multi-purpose oil. When I was in Japan, there was a mini bathtub in my student room, and I really enjoyed my evening bath, with scented salts, when I came back from work at 1AM.

Overall, I think body care rituals are a way to connect with our body, feel it, be inside it - if it makes any sense. In a way, during these rituals, my body becomes my body again, and not an assemblage of fat thighs, short legs, round face... Over time, I found these daily rituals helped accepting and loving my body, be my body.

Examples of body care rituals: in any case, the idea is to take the time to engage in these rituals regularly, pay attention to how you feel, "listen" to your body, enjoy these moments while you are taking care of yourself. It can be taking a bath, applying a face mask, hydrating and massaging your legs with a cream or oil, bathe your feet in steaming water with salts then scrub them... It can also include going to a spa to get a professional massage, or going to the hammam, if your finances allow to indulge in that type of treat.

As A Conclusion

To me, simplified body care is about connecting with our bodies, taking care of it, nurturing our health and appearing to our best. It is a way to treat ourselves well, be induglent, understand, accept and love our body the way it is. It is also a way to listen to it, notice the little signs that something is going wrong and prevent it as early as possible.

Also, one barrier to body care could also be that it is viewed as selfish or vain. I believe there is nothing wrong in making sure that our body is developing and ageing smoothly and in good health. After all, how can we keep our energy to carry out our projects and help our close ones if we are unhealthy, or in conflict with our own self? As I discovered these past few years, we are much more available and efficient at listening and helping others when we feel good inside.


  1. Nice thoughts! As a child I had eczema, and I got soo tired of constantly having to hydrate and be careful and try all kinds of apothecary remedies for beating the itching. When I got older I didn't react to perfume anymore, and was happy to be able to use what everyone else did. Now I'm trying to simplify, as I still can get allergic to chemicals and perfume, and I don't trust that the industry takes responsibility for health-risk factors. I'll probably turn into one of those herbal ladies with homemade potions and lotions...

    (http://miniprosjekt.blogspot.com - in Norwegian, but google translate can be your friend? ;))

    1. Thanks for your input! I had a look at your blog, indeed I didn't understand a thing but Google translate is a good tool ;)
      I've always had an easy skin to take care of, little rashes and no eczema, and I wondered about this actually. Are all these products full of chemicals helping with really problematic skins, or are they laking thinkgs worse because you put too many layers of stuff on your skin? I guess there is no universal answer, each person's skin is different, reacts differently to products.

      I do believe though, that the more chemicals you put on your skin, the more risk you have that your skin reacts to one of them. As you say for your skin, you can get allergic to some chemicals. I hope you find a formula that works for your skin and stick to it :) I love the idea of homemade herbal stuff actually!

  2. I've suffered from eczema and allergies since early childhood, so my body care consists of a range of ointments and medications from the get-go, along with a long list of things that I can't eat or touch or be near. Because of this I use a very gentle and well-researched skin care range from Paula's choice, along with body butters for my dry skin. I don't view any of this as a chore though - I love how beautiful my Paula products have made my skin, and I really enjoy trying out differently scented body butters. I also try to take care of my nails, but I only paint them when I really feel like it, and when I want to feel extra luxurious I soak my feet in a tub of water and a tiny piece of a Lush bath bomb. I don't have a bathtub, but their bombs work excellent for foot soaks as well :)

    I've also downloaded an app called Headspace and purchased their one year subscription. It teaches meditation and has series of daily meditations that you can follow. I'm not the best at doing them daily yet, but it's still much better than my old steady meditation routine of "never" ;)

    1. That's great if you found a range of products that works well ith your skin! I've heard a lot about Paula's choice, but never tried their products because I have a very easy skin to work with and what I find in stores tends to work for me. But I can imagine that, when you have a difficult skin to care for, once you find something that works you stick to it. It's also a way to take the best care of it :) I never thought about using bath salts and stuff for my foot soaks, good idea :)

      And thanks for the app recommendation. I'm trying to get into meditation as well these days, and I'd like to start practising Yoga next September. These days I'm using the free app called "Calm" on my iPhone. It works well but, like you, I need to do it more often haha.

  3. Hi Kali! I always read your blog - I admit I'm a "silent" reader - and I love it! I find it very inspirational as I'm approaching the topic of minimalism and simple life.
    Since I'm very interested in make up and everything that rotates around it, why don't you make a post about it? About your make up routine(if you have one), your point of view on make up consumerism(have you ever seen those videos about huge make up collections?), etc. It's only a suggestion, but I think it would be very interesting:)

    1. Thanks for commenting, I hope you enjoy the blog ;) I can definitely write a post about make-up in the future - both in terms of the consumerism of beauty companies, and in terms of my own routine. I'm afraid it might not be very interesting though - I found products that work for me years and years ago and I always do the same things.

  4. Like Maja, I'm also a fan of Paula's Choice products. It has taken me years to find a routine that actually improves my oily, sensitive, acne-prone skin instead of doing nothing or making things worse. Whenever I try a new product I quickly regret it. And when I switch to a very simple routine for a couple of weeks (only on intercontinental trips, lol), my skin also gets worse. So even though I'm drawn to the idea of simple, natural beauty, it just isn't for me. And I highly recommend Paula's scientific, matter-of-fact approach to skincare for anybody with equally difficult skin :).
    Not to criticize your choices though. I do agree wholeheartedly with the idea of body care as a way of connecting with our bodies and taking care of ourselves. I find it very interesting that in western philosophy, body and mind have long been separated. I'm much more drawn to the idea that they are connected in complex ways. I definitely think that if you don't care about your body (be it with ointments or movement of any kind or ...), it limits your growth as a human being. I also agree that you should care about YOUR actual body, not the idealized version of it.

    1. Oh, I completely agree with you that if you find a range of products that actually makes your skin better you should keep using them! I don't see the point of using natural products just for the sake of it if it actually makes your skin worse. The point of it is to be gentler with the skin and make it better, so if it doesn't work for your skin, better stick with what works :) That's why it is so difficult to write about/read recommendations about skin products - the skin ecosystem is so complex, and skins are so different from each other depending on genetics, but also environment, climate etc. that it's difficult to find advice that will work for our own skin. I believe in trial and error for this one. So if Paula's choice products work for you, no need to look further in my opinion.

      It is true that body and mind are separated in Western culture and tradition. Even more so, the body is considered an evil thing full of temptations that the mind must control or something (might be a religious heritage?). Even though our modern society and education is less like this now, I think we do have a legacy of considering our body an enemy to fight. Like you, I prefer the more "oriental" philosphies that consider body and mind to be one, and to reach balance and harmony between the two. As the ancient saying goes, "a healthy mind in a healthy body"

    2. In one of my 'intro to philosophy' classes in college I heard that this western idea of dualism indeed goes back to early christianity but also to Plato (the allegory of the Cave). It's too bad many people think these ideas are a universal truth (maybe because their presence nowadays is more implicit than explicitly taught) whereas they are actually deeply grounded in our cultural history!

  5. I love how this article of yours comes at such a good time (in my opinion) as I'm learning this whole self-care business. I'm very late to the game; I didn't have many girl friends to learn with and my mother was much like yours; she took care of me and my father first before tending to herself. I'm with you on the prevention-rather-than-concealment method. I just bought a moisturizer with SPF 30 to wear underneath my makeup which already had some SPF, but now at least I can protect my neck, chest, and ears as well.

    I can really relate to this topic because I've been a bit worried that I'm not doing enough to ensure the longevity of my skin. Every time I think just putting sunscreen on and drinking water is enough, there's some product out there to minimize pores or to hydrate or decrease under-eye dark circles--I don't have that much money for all those things, and the way I think about it sometimes: if I can't even stop a pimple from happening (I'm almost 30 and I still break out, what the heck!) what makes one think that I can stop lines and wrinkles?

    I solve all worrisome thoughts by running nowadays. At least when you're running there's no other time to think about anything else but breathing and moving :P

    1. Ah, I have had the same problem as you indeed. My mother has always been very practical about these things, and didn't teach me that much about body care - beyond the essentials. I had to read, test, ask friends... I remember when I was in my late teen years, I had a friend who went to the beauty salon to take hairs off her armpits and legs with her mother. At the time I didn't even know such beauty salons existed - my mother shaved her legs. It is true that as a result, you can worry about having the right habits for your skin. In time, I have noticed that the global life hygiene has a lot of impact on my skin. If I eat a lot of junk food while traveling for example, my skin will become more oily. If I don't drink enough, it becomes dry and sensitive...

      So my first thing is always to drink enough water, moisturize my skin enough if I'm in a very dry environment, and eat healthy food overall (I mean, I eat pizza as much as the next girl, but I compensate with salad and fruits the next day)

      For the rest, I guess it's trial and error. Don't be fooled by all these high end, specific products though - like anti-age products that reduce the skin spots, or eye circles products etc. A lot of it is pure marketing, making us buy specialized products to make us buy more overall. I believe in multi-purpose, simple products instead. You can't stop lines and wrinkles, we all get older, but a healthy skin will age beautifully. I think using too many products even makes it worse. I see women sometimes, who clearly have put a lot of products on their skin for years, and they look "unnatural". I'm always taking my mother as an example. She is 30 years older than me and she looks gorgeous. And she never really used any anti-age product at all...

      I agree with you on running, I think it's my meditation actually. A way to be connected with my body and keep all the worries at bay. These days I haven't had time to run as much as usual (between E3, the goodbye parties and welcome parties of the assistants, some life changes going on which required travel and meetings), and I feel less good, more worried, more tense. I'm eager for all this busy period to be over so I can run again :)

  6. I really liked this line: "It is not about hiding "flaws", or making us look closer to beauty standards (by wearing push-up bra for example) - it is about looking as "me" as possible, sublimating what is already awesome about my body as it is."

    Few years ago I stopped wearing make up during the summer and eventually it has evolved to what it is today: wearing no make up for weeks at a time. I only use make up for special occasions now (i.e. parties) and that's about once a month or so. On those occasions I use a foundation + powder + mascara. For most of the time then I just use water to wash my face and use only a very basic moisturiser. I love it that at the end of the day I don't have to wash and scrub any make up off my face. All I need to do is wash my teeth, put on some lip moisturiser and put my hair up and I'm ready to leave the house. I don't even need to moisturise my face everyday, as it doesn't get so dry anymore cause I'm not constantly stripping the natural moisturisers off with different beauty products. Same for my hair, I stopped coloring it, so it's all natural hair now, and I don't need to use expensive hair products to cancel out the effects of ruining the hair with coloring.

    What I'm not good at, is moisturising my body. I always feel so good after dry brushing it and moisturising it with a lovely super-moisturising body butter, but for some reason I cannot get myself to do it... And it is so easy to feel disconnected from one's body and I always feel more connected when I moisturise my body and pay attention to every part of it. Maybe this is something for me to work on for the rest of the year. I'm sure if I'd just make myself do it, it would eventually become a habit.

    And yes, I'd love to hear about your body care routines :)

    1. Oh I hear you on make-up! I used to put a lot of make-up on my skin, to hide pimples, make my round face look a bit thinner etc. When I changed my mindset and decided that my face was just fine the way it was, my make-up routine became much simpler. I often don't wear any, especially when I'm going to the gym over lunchtime, and my routine is very simple - moisturizing cream/oil, a bit of light bronzer/blush under teh cheeckbones, maybe a bit of mascara and that's it! It's true that it also frees a lot of time in the morning :)

      I think I will write in more details about my beauty routine, but since I'm emptying my stock now, and replacing the empty products with more natural things to test, I might wait until my routine has stabilized before writing about it. But I'll share my findings once I've settled for stuff that works :)