June 1, 2020 – By Beatrice Tridimas
Anne is here to show me her Saho Ritual, a skin routine originating from 15th Century Japan, for which she has spent two years developing a series of 100% organic products. Having always lived by the sea and witnessing the degradation of our shores, Anne was keen to make both product and packaging as natural and recyclable as possible.
‘It’s not just putting cream on your face. Everything has a meaning. It’s like cosmetic meditation,’ Anne Millois tells me over Zoom.
It is as intimate as a private tutorial can get virtually. On screen, Anne is literally in my bedroom, I, in the private laboratory where she manufactures all her own products. A calming, early evening gleam exudes from the window behind her, but it’s not just the lighting which makes her skin glow. She radiates health.
‘Today, we are just taking care of the skin aesthetically,’ Anne says. She laughs, incredulous at the layers and layers of products that have become customary to slather onto our skin. A ‘lasagne of impurities’ she calls it. Anne intends, by sharing the routine with us and buyers of her products, that we forego the modern impulse to care in excess and relearn to respect our skin.
‘Listen to you,’ she says. ‘Identify your needs.’ Understand your skin, nurture its needs, and it will begin to work itself.
‘With the oil, first step, we’re going to be cleaning our faces.’ Anne pumps four drops of Mon Huile, an oil specially formulated to care for the eye contour and firmness of the skin, on to her fingertips.
It is a routine for all skin types and ages, she reminds us. Impressive, given the inexhaustible range of products for various skin types today. But it is because of the range of products that we have developed such an array of skin types, Anne says. ‘We have created so many skin types that didn’t exist before.’
This first step is her favourite, she later tells me. ‘You just close your eyes, massage your face, you just destress. You’re emptying yourself. You’re emptying your mind.’ The oil restores balance to the skin, dissolving makeup, pollution and toxins. Even without makeup, cleaning the skin with oil is the most important part of the routine. ‘If you don’t clean your face in the evening, during your sleep, the cells are going to be fighting against impurity and won’t be able to regenerate.’
Massaging the oil into the skin for at least a minute allows the oil to warm up and work to its fullest. She brings her oiled fingertips to her eyes and presses gently against her closed eyelids, ready to massage the rest of the face whilst the oil works off any makeup on the eyes.
Massaging the skin has several functions, she says. ‘It’s going, first, to destress all of the muscular tensions in the face.’ She pays particular attention to the point where the jaw meets the cheekbone, where she feels most tension. ‘Just listen to yourself,’ she says. ‘If you close your eyes and start emptying your mind, you’re going to start feeling where you have most tension.’
Secondly, the massage should incorporate the acupuncture points on the face. She begins with careful, deliberate movements to massage the forehead (the heart), then the third eye (the liver). She moves to her cheeks (the gut), drawing wide, calming circles before moving down to her chin (womb), and on to the nose (lungs). Finally, she takes both ring fingers, the softest finger, to massage the eye contours (the bladder and kidneys), moving in both clockwise and anti-clockwise circles. ‘We are just a machine, you know. The thing is to know how it works and which are the right buttons to press.’
She moves then to massage the neck, one of the three lymphatic ‘doors’ from which we expel toxins, and ends by scissoring her fingers along her jawline. To end the massage, she wipes the oil from her eyes.
Now that the impurities have been drawn out of the skin, it is time to clean them away. Anne wets a perfectly domed konjac sponge. She then rubs it on her No.1 soap, which, made up of 87% fats, feels like pure, delightfully creamy shea butter against the skin.
‘No need to spend too long with the soap,’ she says. She briskly washes her face with the soapy sponge, avoiding the area around the eyes and mouth. After rinsing the sponge and her face with tap water, she returns to the eyes and mouth with the sponge. ‘With the sponge you’re doing micro-exfoliation and at the same time you’re getting the rest of your makeup, all of the impurities, off your eyelid.’ Gentle exfoliation should happen daily but only once, she warns, so in the morning only use the soap with your hands.
Next, she brings out a big bottle of rose water at which I outwardly ogle. The ingredient, which is becoming increasingly popular in beauty regimes, balances out any limescale residue from using tap water. She sprays it over her face and begins to pat it in.
‘You’re doing facial yoga.’ For a moment, we are all caught clapping our faces, three seemingly gormless fish on my laptop screen. Patting the water in exercises the muscles and stimulates blood around the face, whilst the rose water is absorbed and hydrates the skin.
The cream is the hydration, serum the ‘superpower,’ Anne says. She takes a ‘green pea’ of moisturiser onto her finger tips and adds one drop of serum. Depending on your skin type, your age, and even the season, you should adjust how much, if any, serum you mix in. You should also pay attention to how your skin changes with your period, or if you’ve eaten or drunk something particularly dehydrating, she instructs. ‘You need to listen to yourself. From now on, your skin is going to talk to you.’
Mixing the serum into the moisturiser warms it up and allows it to work much more efficiently than applying directly to the skin. She spreads the mixture over her face, eyes, lips and neck and rubs it in with swift, brush like movements from down to up.
‘Remember that your skin has a memory,’ she says. By partaking in the same ritual every evening, we are building a pattern the skin will learn to understand; we are sending the skin a message, encouraging it to start working.
When I do the ritual myself a few nights later, my skin feels calmed, nourished, cared for. The morning after, I notice a certain child-like plumpness to my face. A few days in, and I’m sleeping like a baby. ‘You’ll see, over time, that your skin is getting better, and that you are feeling better, as well.’ Indeed, there is a certain feeling that only health, and doing something good for your body can achieve. ‘You just need the right product at the right time with the right gesture.’