The holidays are over, finally. You're exhausted and, much as you enjoy treating others, you could use a little pampering yourself. Problem is, you're also broke.
Help has arrived. In the spirit of paying off those credit card bills before the interest hits three digits, we're suggesting some cheap ways to pamper yourself without going further into debt.
GIVE YOURSELF A FACIAL: A basic facial includes cleansing, steaming, exfoliating, toning and moisturizing. Use store-bought products or make your own.
First, remove any makeup and clean your face using your daily cleanser, or just soap and water. Superfatted soaps such as Dove or Basis are best for dry skin; regular bath soaps (even the deodorant variety) may be used on oily skin. Be sure to rinse thoroughly.
Steam your face to open pores and help hydrate skin. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then remove it from the heat. Drape your head and shoulders in a towel to form a tent, then sit or stand over the steaming pot for 10 to 15 minutes, keeping your face at least a foot away from the pot. Never steam your face over water that is actively boiling; that can cause severe skin damage.
To get rid of dead skin cells, use either a mask or a grainy scrub. Most people don't need both.
Paste or clay masks are used to reduce oiliness; gel masks the kind that peel off help retain moisture. If you, like many people, have combination skin (oily on the forehead, nose and chin; dry on the cheeks), you may want to use two different masks.
If you choose an exfoliating cream or lotion, gently rub the grainy scrub on your face; scrubbing aggressively will do more harm than good. Rinse with lukewarm to cool water.
Toners, also known as astringents and skin fresheners, temporarily reduce pores and clean the skin of remaining oil and dirt. If you have oily skin, opt for a toner with alcohol; dry skin means you should avoid those containing alcohol.
Always finish your facial with eye cream and moisturizer. Eye cream should be gently patted (using your ring finger exerts the FTC least pressure on fragile eye skin) in the half-moon crescent formed by the top of the cheekbone.
NAIL TREATS: Here is "the right way to manicure," according to biologist Deborah Chase, author of "The New Medically Based No-Nonsense Beauty Book." She says you should allow at least one hour for the entire process.
Dampen a piece of cotton with polish remover, place on nail for a few seconds, then rub to remove old nail polish. Use a cuticle stick wrapped with polish-remover-soaked cotton to clean polish left around the cuticle. Allow nails to dry before filing them gently and evenly into the shape you want.
Soak nails for 20 minutes in warm water with a few drops of moisturizer to soften cuticles and prevent nail splitting. Use a cuticle remover cream instead of clipping or "pushing back" the cuticle, actions Chase says can damage both the nail base and the cuticle. Wait a few minutes for nails to dry thoroughly.
Starting with the thumb, apply a base coat, two coats of color and a top coat using this technique: Dip brush once, tip off the excess and trace a line down the center of the nail. Fill in by drawing the brush up from each side of the base of the nail. Wait five to seven minutes between applications. When you get to the top coat, run the brush under the tips of nails to "seal" the manicure.
The same procedure may be used for a pedicure, though you may want to add these steps: Start by using a callous-remover cream on heels and balls of feet, followed by light moisturizing. Do not apply moisturizer to toes if you'll be polishing toenails, because the polish will not adhere properly. Before polishing toenails, separate toes with pieces of cotton to prevent smearing and smudging.
DEEP-CONDITION YOUR HAIR: Trichologist Philip Kingsley suggests mixing an egg and equal amounts of olive oil and water. Beat the mixture, massage it into dry hair and leave on 30 to 60 minutes before shampooing. Rinse thoroughly, then shampoo and condition as usual.
Kingsley also suggests using a mixture of equal parts of witch hazel and mouthwash (any kind) to combat dandruff, a problem he says gets worse in the winter, especially around the holidays when diets are less than ideal. Apply to your scalp after shampooing. You can leave the mixture on, Kingsley says, to give the scalp a refreshing feeling and add shine.
TAKE A BUBBLE BATH: It's a cliche because it works. Individual lozenges of bath gel can be had for as little as 29 cents at drugstores. Light some candles, put on soft music and relax.
LOOK FOR BARGAINS: Local spas may have cut prices on such services as facials, body massage and Jacuzzi treatments, hot oil manicures and pedicures, stress reduction treatments and makeup lessons. You'll still have to shell out some dough, but less than at other times of the year.
You owe yourself some post-holiday pampering