I remember like it was yesterday reading the line "Swiss Kriss, baby" in Karen Lord's Top Shelf. Flashbacks to Anna Nicole Smith's "Trim Spa, baby" tagline notwithstanding, I quickly purchased a box of the herbal laxative from my nearest Whole Foods and began using it as a facial steam, per Lord’s suggestion. A proprietary blend of herbs—licorice root, lemon verbena, and peach tree leaves—Swiss Kriss is a loose, potpourri-like product that comes in a retro white and green box. Though its packaging may read “herbal laxative” and “for gentle natural relief of occasional irregularity!” its Art Nouveau lettering and cheerful floral illustrations scream “Alice Waters keeps a box of this around!”
One use and I was hooked. The woman knows what she's talking about.
Just as Lord noted, a few minutes with Kriss can seemingly atone for a night’s worth of sins. One quick facial after a New Year’s Eve spent in a smoky, crowded music venue (and by venue I mean basically a pit of dirt with some amps) took me from Olde Father Time to New Year’s Baby. Every time I steam, my redness-prone skin feels healthier on its own—not because I had slapped layers of products on it. Every box of Swiss Kriss includes a cheerful leaflet written by the mid-20th century nutritionist and self-help guru Gayelord Hauser (who, if he were around today, would likely be going live on Instagram in an hour to answer your questions about the benefits of blackstrap molasses). Hauser endorses three consecutive days of Swiss Kriss facials after initial procurement. “After that,” he writes, “all you’ll need is one facial sauna per week to keep skin clean, smooth and ‘in the pink’”. Hauser does not lie.
Karen and I aren't the remedy's only fans. Amy Sedaris steams with us, too. She gives good instructions: All a Swiss Kriss facial steam needs is a tablespoon of the blend and a bowl of boiling water. I set a timer for five minutes, then hover above the bowl with a towel over my head and deeply inhale the soothing vapors. I would be lying if I told you it doesn’t get as hot as a dog’s mouth inside the towel tent. But, it’s truly one of the rare instances when sweating profusely from my face feels pleasurable. After the steam, my skin is bouncy and responsive. Any textural issues I may have had seem to be erased and my toners and serums sink in like red wine in white carpet.
I’ve obnoxiously touted this product to anyone who will listen. Now, my best friend uses it, her friend that I don't really know that well uses it, my going-out friend uses it, my boyfriend's best friend's wife uses it, and my mom uses it. I’ve heard tell of boyfriends, brothers, and husbands using it, as well. Karen, Amy, and I are happy to be in such good company.
Sarah Fensom is a writer and editor living in New York.
Read more of The Top Shelf Made Me Do It here.