A 70-year-old French woman with better skin than most New Zealanders 20 years younger proves an engaging endorsement for taking time out to care for yourself.
Solange Dessimoulie's daily routine includes facial massage and body stretches while applying aromatic oils and balms. The petite powerhouse, who founded skincare company Decleor nearly 40 years ago, still travels the world advocating its use. She was in Auckland this month passing on her knowledge to beauty therapists and speaking about the need for women to look after themselves.
Using essential oils treats the health of your skin, she says. They also have anti-bacterial properties and, of course, smell good.
With one million jasmine flowers yielding just a litre of oil they are also precious commodities.
Decleor blends high concentrations of the oils, with other plant extracts chosen for particular qualities (e.g. iris for tone and rose to calm) in formulas free of added colour and synthetic fragrance.
"Many have tried to copy, but the way we blend our essential oils is still our secret," she says.
The Decleor approach is simple, and although the product range is large with lines for different skin types, the cornerstone is using a serum to treat skin and a moisturiser to protect it, applied with the correct techniques to optimise its effectiveness and the user's enjoyment. This, says Dessimoulie, will impart the "vitality of beauty and the radiance of the skin".
Spending time each morning using pressure point massage on the face's meridian points before sitting to begin a few minutes of circulation-stimulating strokes on the thighs apparently works wonders.
She demonstrates that making the effort to inhale and stand straight rather than hunching before the mirror will help energy flow and lower stress levels. Her clever tip for applying body lotion to the back while maintaining flexibility is to coat the back of hands and then reach round to rub it on. She also recommends that women not neglect the skin on the back of their necks and their ears, she says wiggling her lobes and scruffing her fingers from behind her ears in a scalp-stimulating motion she calls "the Cat".
Women should try to incorporate such rituals into their everyday routines, she says, as time spent now would be repaid later. Although her company is now owned by Shiseido, Dessimoulie remains its sprightly driving force, with a punishing travel schedule, so she understands that the demands of modern life push personal pampering down the priority list for many busy women. Her response is that if daily beauty routines have to be curtailed, then women should allow themselves the luxury of making up for it French-style with the likes of a beauty day on the weekend.
"Everyone has to find their own way to relax," she says.
The keen fan of jade jewellery was last in New Zealand 28 years ago. This time she said she was on the lookout for some pounamu as a souvenir.