The other day, I was talking to some guests from Seoul about air pollution in Korea. I asked them, “How is it possible that Korean women have great skin while living in such a polluted environment?” And the guests—mothers in their forties with flawless, gleaming faces—said, “Well, our products are just as chemically strong as the pollution. An eye for an eye!”
We all laughed, but I couldn’t help but wonder whether the pursuit of individual well-being is even meaningful when the macro environment is being degraded. What does it mean when the 1% of the world gets to pump their houses full of purified air (eco activist Leo DiCaprio’s NYC house boasts “Vitamin C-infused showers” and “circulated aromatherapy air supply”) and travel the world to obtain the nth degree of wellness—if the rest of humanity is battling toxic air and water?
This is why I think we all should take a step back from extreme wellness. There is a limit to how much money an individual can possibly benefit from—many studies cite $70,000-$100,000 (in the U.S.) as the yearly income threshold beyond which there is little marginal benefit to increase. Likewise, there is a limit to how much wellness an individual can benefit from: no matter how much you lavish yourself in the most expensive, cutting-edge, enlightening rituals, you’re still not going to turn into an immortal, immaculate being.
In 2019 and beyond, I think it’s most inspiring to treat wellness as something democratic and accessible to all. Take, for example, vegan R&B star Jhené Aiko’s top secret to beautiful skin.
“I’ve worked conscious deep breathing into my skincare and self-care routine throughout the day,” Aiko told Marie Claire. “When I was younger and got my first facial, the aesthetician asked me did I breathe. She’s the one that actually told me you should do breathing exercises throughout the day because so many breakouts are caused from stress.”
In fact, deep breathing and tuning into herself is the first thing Aiko does before starting her skincare routine. That sounds like a woo-woo thing to do, but other experts like celeb Pilates trainer Yasmin Karachiwala also claim that breathing effectively gives you better skin. Most of us overuse our upper respiratory tract, leading to shallow breathing and low air supply. When we correctly breathe through our rib cages, we improve the blood circulation through the entire body, which in turns brings fresh oxygenated blood to the skin. Just writing this is making me want to go outside and fill my lungs with fresh air, phew.
And what about skincare? “As I get older and realize the importance of conservation and taking care of the planet, I do look for more natural things because I’ve realized less is more. This is why I love to make my own concoctions with neem oil, diluted lavender oil, calendula oil, and chamomile oil,” Aiko also shares. Neem oil is one of the most clarifying oils and great for pitta skin, while lavender is antimicrobial. Accessible? Check. Natural? Check.
Aiko is also a fan of sound healing through crystal bowls. “I have crystal bowls made of precious gems, and I’m building my collection. They all work with your chakra system, which is healing on a cellular level. If I have a headache, I’ll go in my studio and play my bowl in a certain key, which represents the ‘crown chakra,’ and it’ll start to resonate in my head, and actually helps my headaches go away.” I am intrigued.
But if you’re like me and don’t want to spend $$$ collecting crystal bowls, find the healing sounds on YouTube and meditate away. Modifying wellness practices to make them attainable feels relevant right now. Self-care should be about what makes you feel good, not insecure or overwhelmed. A laid-back, less-is-more approach to wellness—now that is a breath of fresh air.
What are your favorite accessible wellness practices?
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Photo: Jhené Aiko via Instagram