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Do-it-yourself facials

Don't have the time or money to indulge in a luxurious spa facial?
Take matters into your own hands and squeeze an at-home facial into your usual skin care routine.

It's as easy as boiling water and carefully choosing the right mask for your skin type, according to the experts.

Start by steaming your face over a bowl of hot water with a towel draped over your head for about 10 minutes to loosen dirt and open up pores.

Pay attention to different areas of your face, from dry patches to oil slicks, and use varying masks accordingly is the advice from Francis Rodriguez, New York-based beauty director for La Prairie.

``Most people don't realize they may have more than one skin type,'' Rodriguez says. ``You might use a cleansing mask to take care of your T-zone, but then use an energizing mask on the dull outside areas to help promote oxygen flow.''
Your T-zone is the area of skin across your forehead, between your eyes and your nose.

While masks -- when used correctly -- can clean out pores and increase blood flow to the skin, you should also be aware of the ingredients, says Kenneth Beer, Florida-based dermatologist and author of the new book ``Palm Beach Perfect Skin.'' He says, ``It is important to look at what you should avoid as much as what to look to include.''

Beer's tips for at-home masks

Avoid botanicals that may cause an allergic reaction, including flowers or essential oils.

Don't apply a mask more than once a week.

Avoid homemade masks that include ingredients of questionable purity such as eggs and milk. They may cause skin allergies and contain bacteria.

If you have a history of cold sores, avoid masks that contain acids or masks that are very hot. They may trigger an outbreak.

Expensive doesn't always equal better. ``Some of the products available in the mass drug stores come from companies that have invested millions of dollars in developing skin care products for the vast majority of people,'' Beer says. ``The masks they make will be as good as the ones available for more money at the department store.''