How To Bring The Magic Of Big Sur To Your Bathroom

Visiting Big Sur should be an American birthright and everyone should be allotted a paid vacation there at least once in order to understand what America even is.
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Lisa John
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Visiting Big Sur should be an American birthright and everyone should be allotted a paid vacation there at least once in order to understand what America even is.

All of my California friends have said that to experience the real West Coast, I must visit this mysterious place that sounds like a kid’s nickname for a very large, strange man: Big Sur. 

Last month, I went there, and I now understand why it’s so extraordinary. I stayed in a treehouse with stunning views of the purple sunset over the Pacific Ocean and a tree-covered valley with some of those giant Redwoods. At one point, I pulled over on the highway to take a picture of the fog rolling through the cliffs, and saw a hidden trail that lead through an actual valley full of lilies to a hidden public beach. Uh, yeah as a memory it feels more like a dream.

Magical secret beach!

Magical secret beach!

Also, my skin was clearer and, dare I say, more radiant than it has been in year--at least without the help of makeup. Maybe it’s because the air felt more pure, or maybe it was because this dry place’s natural water source is fog, so when it rolls in, the air just feels like a natural cooling skin mister. 

Dear radiant and clear skin, please don't go away.

Dear radiant and clear skin, please don't go away.

Before I went to Big Sur, I researched tree-oriented products because, hey, I wanted to have a theme party in my treehouse shower. Now that I’m back in Detroit, I’ve been trying to recreate Big Sur in my bathroom using some of those same products, as well as some other new ones that evoke the experience and smells of that part of Monterey County.

Tree shower on the left, treehouse on the right.

Tree shower on the left, treehouse on the right.

Juniper Ridge sustainably harvests ingredients right from the plants and trees of Big Sur, creating their bar of soap appropriately named after this location. It conjures the smells of white sage and wet trees from the summer fog, and makes for an amazing aromatic soap. It doesn’t dry out my very dry skin and doesn’t leave that extra filmy residue. When I wash with this I feel refreshed and squeaky-clean.

Morihata Binchotan Facial Puff is an all-natural sponge that I brought with me to the treehouse. Binchotan charcoal is made by burning oak branches, a process that’s been done for centuries in Japan’s Kisu region. 

This sponge is made by blending charcoal powder with vegetable fibers, and helps to draw out impurities and naturally balance skin’s pH levels. It’s really great for people who normally find that their face is too sensitive for exfoliation, and it feels like a soft and soothing massage. To be honest this sponge makes it hard for me to stop washing my face, it’s like I become hypnotized by how good it feels!

I'm really glad no squirrels came down the tree while I was showering outside. Also, don't worry Mom I was wearing a tube top...or was I?

I'm really glad no squirrels came down the tree while I was showering outside. Also, don't worry Mom I was wearing a tube top...or was I?

After this very long, dry winter Grandpa’s Pine Tar Shampoo has done wonders for my scalp. Pine tar is basically a sticky, oil-like substance that results from burning pine at a very high temperature in a tight, low-oxygen container. It’s most commonly used in beauty products to treat psoriasis, eczema, and a variety of other flaky or skin related issues.

At first it looks like molasses but once you rub it in your hands, it suds and almost doubles in size. When I first smelled this shampoo, I was actually reminded of my grandfather, but that might also be because he lives in the woods in Upper Michigan. It also smells differently, more woodsy, once I put it in my hair; however, the scent is gone after I shower.

I have an oily yet flaky scalp (thanks, seborrheic dermatitis), and I've found success with only one all-natural mask. I would recommend doing the following only at night when you won’t go out in public because it makes my hair very greasy even after I wash it out; but it does really help my scalp.

Both ingredients in this mask can be harvested in the great state of California: I use one tablespoon of olive oil and half of an avocado. If I had the thicker hair of my dreams, I would double the amount of ingredients, but whatever, more avocado for me to eat. 

There was an avocado tree on the property. Talk about cheap beauty DIY!

There was an avocado tree on the property. Talk about cheap beauty DIY!

After I shower and my hair is still wet, I mash the ingredients in a bowl like I’m making mashed potatoes. Then I separate my hair into sections applying it directly to my scalp. Wait 30 minutes and then wash it out with cold water to seal in all the nutrients, then voila: insane softness!

Something to do while masking, perhaps before you start reading Henry Miller’s Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosh, is to cleanse and further recreate the smells of the location by smudging. Juniper Ridge also harvests sage, mugwort and cedar to channel the Pacific Northwest at home, anywhere. Not into smudging? I’ve been going HAM on the forest smells, so I’ve also been using Diptyque Feu de Bois and PATCH NYC Stag candles.

I think visiting Big Sur should be an American birthright and everyone should be allotted a paid vacation there at least once in order to understand what America even is. Since that is not an institution yet, I hope this helps so that anyone can pretend they’re showering in the most amazing treehouse fort in one of America’s natural treasures, because you deserve a little magic and RNR (even if it’s only very temporary).

Yeah, it was really hard to leave.

Yeah, it was really hard to leave.

How about you? Have you ever been to Big Sur? Have you ever tried to recreate a vacation at home? Or, bring the great outdoors, indoors?