Steam Your Way To Clearer Skin

Whenever I get an especially fat paycheck (happens almost never), I throw all financial prudence to the wind and buy myself a treat. I bought a boiled wool sleeveless coat in the dead of winter. This spring, I treated myself to a facial uptown. I went to the same place I’d been six years before—where I bowed prostrate before my mother, begging for a facial to combat my teenage acne. When I returned a few months ago, I just so happened to have the same aesthetician, Dasha.

Per usual, Dasha had me lie down and aimed an interrogation light at my face. But instead of examining my skin, she started texting. “My mother is here visiting me for the first time, and she’s lost in Brighton Beach,” she said apologetically. “She doesn’t speak a word of English. But somehow, she keeps calling from strangers’ cell phones, and I try to direct her home. I think she’ll figure it out this time, but I may have to take another call.” She gave my face a once over and turned on the steamer. Then her phone started ringing, and she scrambled up to answer it, the door clicking shut behind her. A minute passed, then a few more. After a while, I began to wonder if a layer of my face would just steam right off.

Finally, Dasha burst back in, yanked the steaming device away from my face and began giving me the latest update. The call had come from a concerned contractor, who was overseeing construction near her building and agreed to drop Dasha’s mom off at home. “This could be my future husband!” she sing-songed, explaining how she was going to drop off a bottle of vodka as a thank you/pretense to meet him. “And YOU can be the flower girl,” she said triumphantly, beginning to extract blackheads.

The rest of our time together was uneventful, but I’ve been thinking about the benefits of steaming ever since. Without a high-powered steaming device, it seemed like a boost was necessary. I found that boost in the way of floral facial steaming mixes, which you can buy from any brand with two natural sounding words connected by a conjunction or—more likely—a plus sign.

I tried Mullein & Sparrow’s mix first. I boiled a few cups of water and added a handful of flower petals, miniature sticks, and herb thingies. After it steeped for five minutes, I put the pot on the floor, wriggled myself into a modified child’s pose with a bath towel over my head and began to enjoy the benefits. For many beauty products that contain herbs and flower extracts, it’s less a case of seeing-is-believing and more one of fingers-crossed-there’s-actually-a-sufficient-amount-in-here. With facial steams, that’s not a problem, as you spend 10 minutes staring into a dense, petal-y mixture. Afterward, my skin felt dewy and clear.

A week later, I tried Fig + Yarrow’s Summer Herbal Steam after a really stressful day. It includes dried hibiscus, sunflower, and clover; doing something good for my skin that’s also de-stressing is a pretty winning combo in my book. FYI, whatever product you put on after a steam is able to penetrate much deeper. So after steaming, I used a clean makeup brush to apply moisturizer—a tip I picked up from none other than Dasha herself, who said it stimulates the skin, and you don’t lose any product to your fingers.

Since then, I’ve incorporated facial steams into my regular routine; I do one whenever my skin looks particularly dull or when a hormonal-induced breakout is imminent. When it gets colder, I imagine I might up the frequency to once a week or so. I found you need a bit less of Copper + Sage’s Ginger + Cornflower Facial Steam, so it works well for frequent use. As someone who detests potpourri, I was initially skeptical of these dried-flower mixes, but I’m now of the opinion that they rival a good face mask and smell nothing like my great aunt’s sweaters. The only problem is that you can’t take a cell phone into your steam tent, so no selfies allowed—but maybe that’s also a good thing.

—Alex Ronan

Photographed by ITG.

Amy Sedaris swears by a laxative facial steam. Seriously. Read why in her Top ShelfRead more from Water Week here.

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The Flower King Enters The Fragrance Game

In LA, where movie stars are akin to royalty and pretty much everyone lives in a palace, Eric Buterbaugh reigns as the flower king. Known for his sophisticated eye and grand arrangements, the star floral designer has held court from his studio at the Four Seasons Hotel for nearly two decades. And when Madonna is throwing an Oscars after party or Demi Moore is hosting a dinner, Buterbaugh is their first call (I presume; if not first, he’s at least very high up on the list). Same goes for the fashion houses. From Louis Vuitton to Dior to Tom Ford, there’s not a runway show or store grand opening that Buterbaugh hasn’t had a hand in.

As a kid growing up in small-town Oklahoma, Buterbaugh says he spent his allowance on fashion magazines, clothes, and fragrances. “I would buy men’s cologne or women’s perfume,” he recalls. “As long as it smelled good, I didn’t care.” Eventually, he made an escape to Dallas where he started working for Gianni Versace. That job took him to LA and then London, where he was responsible for dressing celebrities, buying the collections, and merchandising the stores. Eventually, he parted ways with fashion and moved back to LA. He fell into flowers by accident, making a few arrangements for a friend’s party for fun. After the event, people were calling and asking for her florist’s name. “She was an English girl with a wicked sense of humor,” he says. “So she gave out my info, and I started getting all these calls to do flowers. It’s been 17 years.”

For the guy who spends his days in a jungle of peonies and roses, fragrance felt like a logical step. “Since flowers are grown in hot houses now, the scent is basically bred out of them,” he says. “I wanted to bring that rich, natural aroma back.” A chance meeting with former Lancôme exec Fabrice Croise (now his business partner) sealed the deal. The duo turned to famed perfumery Firmenich (the creators behind iconic scents like Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue and Flower by Kenzo) to develop their fragrances. They gave the “noses” a list of Buterbaugh’s 15 favorite flowers and free reign to develop higher-than-high quality perfumes inspired by them. “Some of the big brands will do three or four hundred modifications to a scent,” explains Buterbaugh. “So the essence of what the master perfumer creates is lost. We promised not to do that, and we haven’t.”

The result is a collection of seven (and three more on the way) deeply complex and layered floral fragrances. Made from essences sourced from the far reaches of the globe, you can look at these scents as Buterbaugh’s love letter to the floral world. There’s the refreshingly clean and bright Apollo Hyacinth (the one Buterbaugh himself can’t stop wearing…this week) that smells like a crisp spring day after the rain and the sweetly feminine Virgin Lily of the Valley that just begs to be worn with a pretty sundress as accessory. To Buterbaugh, they’re the most essential of scents—each one with a unique story to him.

Of course, with superior ingredients comes that luxury price tag. A 250 milliliter bottle will set you back a cool $500, while the smaller 100 milliliter option sells for $300. All of which is a solid explanation for why the larger bottle looks more museum piece than fragrance bottle (it was inspired by crystal liquor decanters). “We really wanted the whole experience of the product to be total opulent luxury but in a modern way,” Buterbaugh says. Job certainly accomplished.

The scents, which just launched on his website, have already found fans among Buterbaugh’s inner circle. “We have been giving out mini bottles for our friends to test and have been getting amazing feedback,” he says. “I get calls every day that my friends are stopped on the street by people wondering about their fragrance, so that’s really validating.” Of course, it helps when your friend/fan is Demi Moore (she’s got a thing for Celestial Jasmine), Naomi Campbell, and Gia Coppola.

As for me, I’ve fallen hard for a tiny sample bottle of Regal Tuberose that Buterbaugh generously gifted to me. It’s sensual and girly with just the right amount of peppery spice to cut the rich floral notes. I spray it sparingly on special days, drinking in the heady aroma. And when I run out, it’s cool— I figure I can probably sell a kidney in exchange for the full-size bottle. At what price beauty, right?

—Victoria Lewis

Eric Buterbaugh photographed by Tom Newton. Ever wonder about the lifespan of a fragrance’s top notes?

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How-To: Flowers In Your Hair

Now’s the time to wear flowers in your hair, even if you just tuck a rose in somewhere—doesn’t it just feel right? This tutorial is here to inspire you to wear them your way. You don’t have to walk around with a crown on your head (unless you want to). But if you’re going to be a bride or just want to add something special to your favorite outfit, this look is for you. Gothic makeup suggested but also optional.

1. Violet flowers: A semi-crown of small, deep-plum flowers are beautiful and very easy to work with. This color goes well with almost anything you wear and flatters dark-haired girls in particular. Cut the sprigs about 3 to 4 inches long, gather them, and arrange in a cluster. Then, bobby-pin the stems starting right above your ear (about an inch above, if we’re being specific). Start small and tuck in more flowers where you think you need filler. Repeat on the other side. Since the look is broken up, it won’t look too clichéd or dramatic.

2. Daisies: If you’re not a wild-flower girl, a couple of floating daisies are a great option to compliment a summer dress without looking overdone. Cut the daisies’ stems to about an inch and place the flower wherever you desire on your hair, securing with a bobby pin. Minimalists can choose to opt for only only two or three. The key is to place the daisies in such a manner to look like they’re floating on your hair. For that reason, I like to keep them disconnected.

3. Mixed greens: This is a special look for a particular dress or event. Surprisingly, wearing all green (down to the flowers) is a stunning neutral look. At the florist, ask for a mix of greenery like green virburnum, green kermit mums, and moss. It’s nice to get a mix of different kinds for texture. Once you’ve got your assortment, start on the top of your head with a small bunch of flowers, and secure it to your head with a small bobby pin. Then, you’ll build the rest of the crown from this anchoring point. Save the larger clusters for the sides of your head, and use heavy-duty bobby pins. You may need a few to secure these flowers for when you’re running away from the party.

4. Roses: Ugh, my favorite—especially using pink. It’s a particularly good look for blondes or light brunettes. Here, I only use two large buds and place them so they look like they’re floating against my temples. Instead of a bobby pin, you’ll want to use a small barrette or clip. Cut the stem down to 2 inches, and weave the rose onto the the top part of the clip—above the clamp. Keep in mind, these roses are heavy, so make sure your barrette is substantial enough to suit your flower. Wear this look only if you want to looks like an angel with halos illuminating your head once you step into a room.

5. Baby’s Breath: OK—maybe this is my favorite flower to wear (as well as to have around the house). I love to go buck wild and pile on these delicate flowers all over the top of my head. The bigger the better, but keep the flowers concentrated and no further down than the tops of your ears. Bobby pins are good here. Start with a huge clump right on top of your head, about 3 inches back from your forehead. You can cut the stems in different lengths for depth and strategic placement. The goal is to build a pointed crown with smaller pieces of baby’s breath trailing off to the sides. The look is best worn with hair down and wild.

—Stacey Nishimoto

Image of Brigitte Bardot via Getty. All other photos courtesy of the author. Wardrobe provided by Spanish Moss.

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