A New Ritual for the Season of Renewal
By: Emily Weitz
April 4, 2021
When the pandemic first began, I distinctly remember thinking to myself, “All this time at home – I could choose to really take care of myself.” I had visions of morning meditations, thoughtfully prepared vegan lunches and evening beauty rituals. Sadly, as my two children climbed across me, unread emails multiplied exponentially and my emotional reservoirs dried up, those visions evaporated like a desert mirage. Survival and forgiveness became the words of the year, and the primary person I had to forgive, again and again, was myself.
There were many nights where I reached for a glass of wine instead of a detox tea. Many days when I fired up the espresso machine, for the second time before lunch. Days of elastic waistbands and not enough water, and days when I neglected to look in the mirror, let alone attend to the deepening lines etching into my face.
Springtime is here, right on time. This year it may take a little more than usual to open up our hearts and lives. I needed to mark this new chapter with a self-care ritual that will nurture me, without asking too much. I wasn’t looking for deprivation, only love.
I lit my lavender and shea butter candles, turned on meditation music, and pulled my hair back. The lighting was kinder, but when I looked in the mirror I could see the effects of a year of strain. It was like the worry had hardened into lines on my forehead. I took a deep breath and splashed warm water on my face, and then I began to massage my temples and underneath my eyes. I was about to embark on a ritual that connected me to a lineage of beautiful women that traces all the way back to Cleopatra: the clay mask.
Illustration by Alessandra Olanow
I dried my face and took out my new clay mask by Kat Burki, I hadn’t used one of these since middle school at a slumber party. I was picturing the sloppy green gunk that turns your face into an emoji. But when I squeezed the bottle, a lightweight substance that felt more like a cream than a clay, came out onto my hand. I began applying it to my face. The simple act of touching my own face, whilst looking into my own eyes with the intention of healing, felt therapeutic. The subtle scent of lavender, lemon and honeysuckle filled each breath. Once I had massaged every curve and crease of my face and neck, noticing the gentle exfoliation of the cranberry fibers and hibiscus petals, I then let the mask sit for 15 minutes. As I strolled into the living room to recline in a restorative yoga pose, I could understand why this ritual had stood the test of time.
Some of the most ancient beauty masks trace back to India, where a mixture of turmeric, sandalwood, rose water and herbs was applied to the skin during the traditional Hindu wedding ceremony of Haldi, a practice that continues to this day. In China, Yang Guifei of the Tang dynasty, was said to apply a face mask of pearls, jadeite, lotus root and ginger. Evidence shows that Cleopatra, in ancient Egypt, applied Dead Sea mud masks twice weekly.
Kat Burki, who designed the dual exfoliating clay mask, turns to these ancient beauty secrets, as well as to nature, as she develops her products.
“Clay masks are the most primitive,” she explained in an interview. “As [humans] used clay to camouflage and to deter the sun, we realized it made the skin smoother and softer.”
As I lay across a yoga bolster, my arms outstretched and my heart open, I let the soothing touch of the mask cause my cells to surrender. My eyes settled back in my head and my skin seemed to release its pent-up tension.
“It is a natural instinct to want to apply clay to the face and body,” explained Burki, “it also has a therapeutic benefit just in the application with cooling.”
Add to the natural action of cooling that occurs in clay, the calming ingredients of coconut oil, calendula, lavender, and chamomile, it’s clear why the clay mask has the potential to slow down and quiet the nervous system.
“With the Dual Exfoliating Clay mask, the intention is to successfully aid the skin in its renewal process,” explains Burki“ To not only exfoliate skin cells, but to assist in the renewal of new cells that are now healthier than before.”
When the chime sounded fifteen minutes, and I opened my eyes to the dwindling evening light, my skin felt hydrated, the muscles relaxed. I splashed warm water across my face to rinse off the face mask, which was so light it felt barely there. I looked in the mirror. Wake up, bright eyes, a true experience indeed.