Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Thoroughly Draining Experience

Cornflowers, "before". . .  See "after" below.
Marsi shares yet another one of her secrets today. What would we do without her?
When I came home from work one afternoon last week with my feet feeling fiery and swollen, straining at their Repettos, I knew that in spite of what the calendar said, summer heat was nearly upon us -- and with it, endless months of fluid retention.

For me, a huge part of the discomfort of summer comes from feeling swollen. In fact, I can't even think of l'été without remembering the dull misery of having puffy feet and "hotdog fingers." External heat dilates the blood vessels in our body, allowing increased blood flow and lymphatic fluid accumulation in our extremities. That equals swelling, edema, bloating, whatever you'd like to call it. (Personally, I call it horrible.) It doesn't feel good, nor is it good for you.

So, what's une femme d'un certain age, or any age, to do? It's a daily fight, one I wage with drainage techniques from head to toe. In these guest posts, I'll tell you how.

Today, let's take it from the top: your head.


Don't it make my brown eyes blue?
No, it don't. It make them un-puffy.

Tish turned me onto eau de bleuet -- cornflower water or eau florale bleuet -- a few years ago with this post, and it's now one of my most favorite things in the world. I'll let Tish fill in the blanks:

Eau Florale Bleuet is an ancient, delightful melange of fantasy and function. It is concocted from cornflowers and distilled water; comes in another one of those beautiful blue bottles and as promised reduces and relaxes puffy eyes. Most versions come with a spray top, but it works best in compresses imbibed with the liquid and placed over the eyes for a few minutes. It's particularly pleasant and effective when stored in the refrigerator.  

It's delicious to lie down and cover your eyelids with cotton pads soaked in chilled eau de bleuet. Twenty minutes later, you're ready to face the world again.

"Serenity now!"

Also important in keeping your eyelids comfortable and de-puffed is sleeping with your head elevated. I realize not everyone's a back sleeper -- and for most of my life neither was I. But not only does sleeping "sunny side up,"  with your head elevated 30-ish degrees, keep your face free of sleep wrinkles (it's a real phenomenon, I wouldn't lie to you) and your skincare treatments on your face rather than your pillowcase, but the gentle force of gravity pulls fluids down and out of your face so you don't wake up with puffy eyelids. I sleep propped up on a cushy bank of pillows, with another stashed under my knees to ease the pressure on my lower back. I'll admit, I don't look like Sleeping Beauty, but I think I wake up looking and feeling refreshed as she.

Facial Massage

Everyone knows that massage gets the blood and lymph flowing in your body. But did you know it's great for your face as well? I was instantly intrigued by the Gankin facial massage technique I came across about six months ago. Now this is truly amazing. If you can spare three minutes just a few nights a week, you'll see a gradual tightening of the jawline. (Allegedly, the jowls we often develop in our 40s and beyond are just pockets of stagnant lymphatic fluid that've chronically distended the jawline. After what I've seen of the effects of Gankin massage, I believe it.) Once you lapse your practice, of course the jawline softens again. Fortunately, it's so easy to reverse.

Suqqu, a Japanese skincare company (and apparently the originator of the Gankin technique), recommends using its own massage cream (naturally), but I just use a few drops of argan oil instead. I grab my instructions (PDF here) and oil after cleansing my face, and settle in for a few soothing minutes. When I'm done, I continue the drainage by reclining against that bank of bed pillows I mentioned above and closing my eyes. Isn't it wonderful when something so indulgent is actually good for you?


Virabhadrasana I pose.
Pretty good alignment, given Kitty's lack of proper knees. 

Our lymphatic system is a passive circulatory system, meaning it has no pump (such as the heart) to force fluids through our tissues. Rather, lymph relies almost entirely on our physical exertions to get around the body. If we don't exert ourselves, then gravity takes over and we're left with pools of lymph stagnating in our extremities, our breasts, and other places we don't want it. (Read all about it.) It's up to us to keep these fluids moving so we stay healthy, well, and vital.  My favorite way, which we'll revisit again and again in this series, is yoga. Upside down and all around, yoga moves and massages every muscle, every organ, every gland, every tissue, in your entire body and face. It shows.

So that's it for de-puffing north of the neck. In my next post, I'll be moving south. I hope you'll stay tuned.


Joni said...

Very interesting post, Marsi! I will definitely be adding these techniques into my regime. Part of my morning routine right now is to do dry brushing before I hop in the shower. It's also a great way to get that lymphatic system moving.

Pam @ over50feeling40 said...

Wow...this is a lot of great information. Will have to spend some more time..reading all of the links.

concretenprimroses said...

Great tips! I tightened up my face with facial exercises, but they take almost an hour a day and I found them very tiring! So slacked off...
I will definitely try the massage.

Mary Timmers said...

What an interesting and informative post! Lots of good stuff there! I too retain fluid in the summer- sodium, AND sugar and simple carbs are the culprits. I think I'll go to Amazon right now and get some Cornflower water. Can't wait til the next post!

Lost in Provence said...

Aha! I love rosewater but never knew what the cornflower water was for--Monoprix here I come!

And a giant yes for yoga. My Mom has done it since the 70s, then she was taught it (there is a photo of a little me down-dogging on the grass) and truly, she looks ten years younger than her age. Easily. For expats who prefer classes in English (me) or folks on the go, I totally recommend My Yoga Online--its only 10 bucks a month and there are huuundreds of videos from all different schools, styles and levels. Just don't be lazy like me and do a 15 minute class everyday (oops).

Thanks for this post as always, so helpful!

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

Oh thank you for these tips...
I will try the massage for sure as I always feel so much better after a professional facial so why not invest a little TLC for free?

Barbara Bussey {The Treasured Home} said...

Hi there! Just found your blog at "Enchanted" and had to stop by and visit another group of women...of a certain age! Love it! All those perky, young moms are darling, but it's good to know the rest of us are in good company!

Worthington said...

What a wonderful idea. I know that 'jowels' are a huge problem on one side of my family, and my great-grandmother never had them like her children do as she applied night cream every evening with a massage. I wonder if it was something like this one?

webb said...

Great tips! If massage helps the face, it's a tiny investment of time.

J. Beaudet said...

I'm so glad I popped over to see your post! I've been dealing with this issue a lot lately and it's not even hot yet. Good incentive to get back into yoga.

Ann Minard said...

I suffer from swelling year round but especially in the Summer months and turmeric, taken in capsules, helps unbelievably. Turmeric is naturally anti-inflammatory.

BigLittleWolf said...

Fascinating tidbits today... And I rather like the yoga cat! But what do you about yoga - or anything else for that matter - when you have injuries that are permanent, or chronic pain?

(No one ever answers when I ask this question. But what the heck. I thought I'd ask again...)


Tish Jett said...


Please come over here and answer BLW's question.

Merci par avance. xoxo

Jeanne @ Collage of Life said...

I so need all this advise Tish..thank you! I love looking at cornflowers..it reminds me of that wonderful scene in 'A Room With A View' when the father and son, place cornflowers in the hair of two elderly sisters. It is such a touching scene. Nothing like getting off topic! Loved the trip down memory lane though... Jeanne :)xx

LuxeBytes said...

BLW, you've asked me at just the right moment, because last week I finished two months of physical therapy for shoulder pain that was so terrible I was sure I'd need surgery -- or would have to give up my yoga practice. Here are things that work for me; maybe it'll help you?

When I began PT, I brought in my illustrated book of yoga postures to ask my therapistwhich poses were good for me, and more importantly which ones would dislocate my shoulder. Now I know what poses are safe for me and how far I can take them, as well as know which ones will harm me. I also have moderate arthritis in my leg joints, so with all of my issues, I have spoken to my physical therapist, my orthopedic surgeon (who practices yoga), and the owner of my yoga studio, and they've recommended modifications for certain poses. I never do anything that causes pain, so I really do a lot of modifications in class -- and I don't care who watches. (My yoga, my practice. No ego. Well, not a lot.)

I ice my shoulder after every class, and will do so for the rest of my life. If I have a flareup in my shoulder, I take NSAIDs when needed, and take a day off when needed.

I practice Vinyasa yoga, which is in a heated, humid room and has long sequences of asanas to get the heartrate up. There may come a time when Vinyasa is no longer appropriate for me, so I'll look to other, gentler types of yoga, such as Hatha, Iyengar, Yin, or Anusara. A lot of these yoga styles use props (blocks, straps, bolsters) to support the body while you hold the posture for a longer time. You absolutely do not need to be up, down, and all around on your yoga mat to stretch your muscles, massage your tissues, and get lymph moving. Not at all. Yoga is something you should be able to do, in some form, for your entire life if you find the appropriate style.

So, those are things I would recommend you think about: finding a gentle style of yoga; asking a professional familiar with yoga, anatomy, and your particular health concerns for guidance on postures to avoid or modify; and icing your joints and taking Epsom baths, anti-inflammatories, and rest days as needed.

Also, here are some articles:



Hope that helps!


Terri said...

ALL of this information is news to me. Here's hoping I remember it the first time the humidity hits and my flesh swells up around my ring finger. My hands are the worst.

Barbara Bussey {The Treasured Home} said...

Hi Tish,
I've written about you and your blog, for tomorrow's post. You will hopefully get a kick out of it!
Best to you,

classic • casual • home said...

I have been going to a pilates mat class twice a week that incorporates a lot of yoga...and I feel great! I'm curious to try that cornflower water...I just would have to stay still long enough to do it. Sounds delightful.

Fashion, Art and other fancies said...

I dance ballet - keep one's fgure looking attractive way after 35;-)

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