Beauty recipe: How a simple, single ingredient DIY face mask healed my skin overnight

Sometimes, in skincare, you really need to pare down to the very basics. Because when your skin is super-reactive or seriously dry and flaky or plagued with a chronic overload of acne, the worst thing you can do is burden it with lotions and potions, whether homemade or store bought.

And I speak from personal experience, having just gone through a hellish 3 weeks where it seemed nothing could tackle the glorious mess that’s my face – with a combination of flaky patches, cystic zits (who knew that severe dryness and acne worked so well together!) and a spotty rash-like redness that defied even the heaviest foundations and the mildest face masks. In my case, this was the aftermath of weeks spent travelling, not sleeping and living off a combination of junk food and much-o alcohol. Similar situations have been known to crop up after periods of high stress, weather changes, starting a new skincare regimen, dehydration, allergies, sickness… the reasons are myriad.

After it seemed I’d run out of all options (and that’s a lot of options, considering the blog I write!) a friend suggested going back to the very basics with honey. This is literally as simple as you can get – open a jar of honey, scoop out a dollop and slather it on your face, then wait a half hour and wash it off with plain water.

And guess what? It worked. I did the honey face mask just before bedtime and my skin was at least 60% better next morning. Now, with consistent use, skin feels much softer, far less sensitive and more resilient. Even for someone who firmly believes in the miracle of natural beauty products, this was a revelation. And all revelations are worth exploring further. Which is what I’ve been doing – and here are the results.

honey face maskWhy does honey work so well for skincare?

The use of honey for skincare goes back to the medical texts of Egyptian, Greek, Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, more than thousands of years back. This is why:

Honey mops up skin toxins: I mean this literally, since the enzymes in raw honey soak up impurities from skin’s pores, leaving them clean, clear and clog-free. Plus, honey also contains amino acids that slough away dead skin cells for a double whammy.

Honey stops acne in its tracks: Combine the mop-up-toxins and slough-off-dead-cells bits with honey’s super-potent antibacterial, antiseptic and anti-fungal properties (in fact, raw honey never spoils, even out of the refrigerator, since bacteria simply can’t survive in it), and you’ll understand why it’s such a superb zit-destroyer. Add in that it also helps balance the skin’s pH and is full of anti-inflammatory ingredients, and you may never reach for another acne-buster.

Honey helps lighten scars and deflate bumps: Not only will honey stop acne from getting worse, it also lightens pre-existing scars and bumps by boosting skin’s healing and regenerating capabilities. Plus, it prevents the stringy kind of collagen that creates scar tissue.

Honey heals EVERYTHING: Besides acne, honey also heals cuts, burns and wounds. The science? When this sticky-sweet ingredient comes in contact with fluids (including those that seep from a wound or sore), it produces hydrogen peroxide. This hydrogen peroxide works as an antibacterial to thwart infections and speed up healing.

Honey is nature’s best moisturiser: This amber substance is an excellent humectant (an element that attracts moisture and locks it into skin), which restores hydration and elasticity to the deepest layers of your skin.

Honey prevents environmental skin damage: Honey is a natural antioxidant that protects skin against environmental damage (think sun damage, smoke, pollution… !).

Honey keeps skin smooth and supple: Honey is packed with MG, which promotes the growth of collagen. Healthy collagen means healthy, firm, youthful-looking skin. It all adds up.

Does it matter which kind of honey I use?

honey 5Yes, it matters. A lot. In fact, the difference between raw honey and the highly processed version is the defining difference between good and bad skin. The latter resembles high fructose corn syrup more than anything the bees have produced – and is more likely to increase acne and other infection.

That’s because a huge part of honey’s benefits come from its enzymatic components. When it’s processed or pasteurised, many of these enzymes are destroyed. Unfortunately, there aren’t any set standards for labeling honey. However, these are the loose guidelines followed by manufacturers:

Completely raw honey: Appears chunky or crystallised, with bits of wax, pollen, propolis and honeycomb. Rather than being harmful, these are packed with the good stuff.

Unfiltered raw (or strained) honey: The most easily available kind of raw honey and the best for skincare. Processing is limited to a simple filtering that removes the larger bits of wax and pollen, so enzymes remain intact.

Filtered raw honey: If you really can’t stand bits floating around in your honey, this is your best bet. The honey is heated slightly, then passed through a fine filter to remove all pollen and propolis, leaving behind a much cleaner liquid. However, “cleaner” doesn’t mean “better”, because it’s lower on the nutrition scale.

Pasteurised honey: Definitely not honey as the bees know it, after being heated to a very high temperature, processed and packed with fillers like corn syrup. Unfortunately, this is what you’re most likely to get in a generic grocery store, as it’s inexpensive and doesn’t crystallise half as quickly.

PS: Since there is no mandate for companies to put the word “pasteurised” or “processed” on the bottle, your best bet it to simply stay away from honey that isn’t labeled as “raw”. Oh, and “pure” means nothing!

What about the source?

Next, take a good look at your source – you obviously don’t want a bottle that’s chock-full of antibiotics and pesticides. So, buying organic and from small retailers or farmer’s markets is your best bet.

Then, of course, there’s the question of species and geography. Honey can be named for the primary type of flowers the bees were feeding on – for example, clover honey is made by bees feeding on clover blossoms. Floral honeys include some of the plant’s properties, so if lavender works well for your skin, try lavender honey. You can also find infused honeys, where something (like cinnamon) is combined with honey once the bees have finished their job.

Your unqualified best bet, however, is to opt for Manuka honey. It can cost a pretty penny but the results speak for themselves and a bottle will last you ages.

What’s so special about Manuka honey?

honey 4Manuka honey is made by bees feeding on New Zealand’s manuka bushes (also known as tea tree plants) and has fantastic anti-bacterial properties. This thick, opaque and caramel coloured honey contains a natural chemical called methylglyoxal, which has been clinically proven to destroy more than 250 strains of bacteria, including resistant varieties.

However, given the high demand for Manuka honey, it’s often counterfeited. Here’s how to protect yourself:

1. Manuka honey never comes from China. Or India. Or USA. Or France. Real manuka honey only comes from New Zealand and southeastern Australia.

2. Look beyond the manuka label: To be considered therapeutic, manuka honey needs a minimum rating of 10 UMF (Unique Manuka Factor, which indicates levels of antibacterial potency). A UMF between 14 and 16 is ideal for skincare, while 20+ is used for surgical dressings.

3.  Sometimes, manuka honey is labeled in terms of “total activity” but it’s better to buy brands labeled with an UMF. “Total activity” is a measure of antioxidant activity that begins to degrade immediately after opening the bottle. UMF actually increases after opening the bottle.

4. Make sure it says “active” or “bio-active” on the label.

Absolutely can’t get your hands on some manuka honey? Greek and Turkish honey is usually excellent for acne, while almost any kind of raw honey will help fight redness, inflammation and infections.

Finally, what to do with the honey… !

I simply use a dollop every night as a face mask. It couldn’t be simpler: Wash face with your regular cleanser and pat dry. Then spread a thin layer of honey over your entire face (and neck, if you don’t mind smudged clothes). Let it sit for half an hour, then rinse off thoroughly with warm water.

If it’s raw honey, you’ll be surprised how easily it emulsifies and slips off with just a bit of water, sans any stickiness or residue.

Once, when faced with a particularly nasty blemish, I tried a prepackaged Manuka bandage on the area overnight – it worked wonders. But don’t use honey under regular Bandaids as the cotton and adhesive can clog pores.

Honey is also supposed to be great for removing makeup but I still haven’t warmed to this one – I’d rather let it sit on clean skin and do its thing.

PS: Resist the impulse to chatter while slathered with honey, because muscle movement will make it run.

Have you ever tried honey for your skin? How did it work out for you?

Beauty recipe: This DIY face pack wants to protect your skin from air pollution

While focusing on sun protection, we usually forget another major skin culprit: Pollution. Think smog. Dirt. Dust. Car exhaust. Industrial emissions. Heavy metals. Household vapours. Cigarette smoke. And so much more that doesn’t just damage the ozone layer but also wreaks havoc on our complexions, along with being practically impossible to avoid. In fact, science reveals that pollution is the second most harmful element for skin, after the sun.

pollution face mask 2How exactly does pollution wreck our skin?

1. Pollutants play a double whammy by depleting our skin’s protective antioxidants and increasing the number of free radicals in the air. This makes skin at least thrice more vulnerable to damage, peppering it with premature fine lines and wrinkles, acne, rashes, eczema, discolouration and dullness.

2. Pollution also dehydrates the skin and depletes its natural oils. When this happens, our skin cells contract and lose shape, so they can no longer create a strong protective barrier. A weak barrier causes increased skin sensitivity, chronic inflammation and vulnerability to infections, allergies and acne.

3. Besides this, pollution decreases the production of collagen, causing skin to lose elasticity. This leads to sagging, a rough texture, fine lines and premature ageing.

Doesn’t cleansing help?

While washing your face at night is sacrosanct, simply fingers and soap may not get the job done. Most common pollutants are made up of particles that are 20 times smaller than a pore, so they lodge deep within the skin. Harsher soaps and exfoliators may do more harm than good by throwing off pH levels and compromising skin’s natural barrier.

So, how do we deal with the damage?

Short of living in a bubble, there isn’t much you can do to prevent pollutants from invading your skin. However, with the proper routine, you can mitigate its effects and keep your skin glowing through the haze.

And all you need is some spirulina, which is easily and cheaply available at most local food stores. This blue-green algae is a skin (and body) superfood that can help rejuvenate and repair damaged skin because:

  • It is one of the richest sources of antioxidants
  • It helps the skin retain moisture
  • It’s high chlorophyll content helps deep cleanse the skin, while also strengthening tissues
  • It destroys acne-causing bacteria
  • It soothes and calms the skin, dialling down on sensitivity and inflammation

pollution face maskYou will need

1/2 teaspoon spirulina powder (or 1 crushed spirulina tablet)

enough filtered water to make a paste

How-to

1. Mix together the sprirulina powder and water till you have a paste

2. Apply this paste to freshly washed skin; leave on for 20 minutes, then wash away with warm water

3. Follow with your regular moisturiser

Try and do this 2-3 times a week, for optimum effects

How’s your daily battle with pollution? Good, bad or downright ugly?

DIY beauty recipes: Victoria’s Secret Angels talk about getting your skin summer-ready

Congratulations world, there’s a whole new batch of Victoria’s Secret Angels out in the universe now. Which means loads more eye candy. And, of course, loads more body envy and general feelings of inadequateness as we shed the layers of our own wardrobe for summer.

But it need not always be so – because not every part of these heavenly bodies is toned and polished in the gym and hi-tech dermatologists offices. Many of their core beauty rituals involve easy kitchen shelf items like coconut water and lemon juice, which are perfectly accessible to us mere mortals as well. So, what are you waiting for?

victorias secret summer beautyA coconut a day

Adriana Lima, Alessandra Ambrosio and Lily Alridge swear by the revitalising powers of coconut water, ideally drunk fresh once a day. Why does this work? Coconut water is packed with potassium and electrolytes, which not only hydrate the body but also balance all our systems and flush out toxins from the liver. Coconuts are also full of natural beauty fat (the good kind that doesn’t have any cholesterol) and lauric acid, which supports our thyroid. Added bonus: it’s easily digested, thereby giving our metabolism a much-needed boost.

Other good juice options: acai and acerola.

Ice it!

Jasmine Tookes learnt this cool beauty trick from her mom’s dermatologist: You take an ice cube and run it all over your face until it melts away and leaves your pores really tight and your face really firm. She does it right before getting into bed every single night. Candice Swanepoel, on the other hand, splashes ice cold water on her face every morning to de-puff and bring on a healthy glow.

Much-o moisturiser

This is one basic we all tend to skip in summer: Plain and simple moisturiser. However, every single Victoria’s Secret Angel I spoke to reiterated that moisturiser is the key to perfect skin. Especially in summer, says Joan Smalls, when the sun tends to dehydrate our complexion, leaving it vulnerable to premature ageing and blemishes. To skip the greasiness, opt for a water-based product, like Biotherm Aquasource. Or head over to this post, where you can figure out exactly what your skin needs.

victorias secret summer beauty 2Going rose-y

Ieva Laguna grew up with a rose garden and continues to dab homemade rose tea under her eyes every single day. Or you can go the way of Behati Prinsloo, who swears by the complexion regenerating powers of rose water spray.

Oil it up!

Then there’s the ultimate beauty multi-tasker: good old coconut oil. Swanapoel, in fact, slathers it on from head-to-toe, using it as a hair and body moisturizer: “Coconut oil does take a bit more time to wash out but it always leaves my hair seriously shiny and healthy looking!” Aldridge goes a step further, mixing together one part coconut oil and two parts sugar with a spoon, then using the blend as an at-home body scrub. The sugar works as a gentle exfoliator, while coconut oil rehydrates the skin, leaving it soft and smooth. Bonus: it smells amazing.

Lemon ‘n lime

Martha Hunt advocates replacing store bought toners with plain lemon juice. Which makes sense really, since lemons are full of vitamin C, an antioxidant that slows down premature aging, while stimulating collagen and elastin production, thereby reducing the appearance of wrinkles and reversing sun damage. And because Vitamin C is extremely unstable – easily broken down by exposure to air and sunlight – what better way than to have it then squeezed fresh? Note: always use fresh lemon juice, and if your skin is sensitive, dilute with water.

Eggy stuff

All that heat styling can leave hair feeling totally dry and damaged. Hunt remedies that with this homemade hair mask: Add 3-4 tablespoons of rosemary oil to the white of two eggs. Whisk together until well blended and slather through your strands. Leave on for 20 minutes, then wash off with your regular shampoo. The eggs nourish strands with proteins and fats to heal damage and keep them smooth and shiny. Rosemary oil is superb at stimulating hair growth, so this DIY mask will ensure healthy, glossy tresses.

Have you ever tried any of these natural DIYs?

What’s in Kate Middleton’s post-baby beauty kit? And why we all need to stock up on these, kiddo or not

Enough has been written about Kate Middleton’s extensive beauty routine. From her favorite Bobbi Brown makeup to her cult classic blowouts (even straight out of the delivery room!), the $35,000+ annual maintenance costs add up to a lot of primping – and now she has to change just about all of it post-baby. Again. Because duchess or not, having a baby is a total game changer. Skin throws out new problems everyday, hair is deprived of volume and shine building chemicals and the body goes totally out of whack.

So, from combatting dark circles to keeping that luscious hair in place, even the Duchess of Cambridge will require a few tricks to look (and feel!) beautiful while re-adjusting to having a brand new baby in the house. Keeping this in mind, we have a whole care-package-of-sorts ready should she have been too busy with the little princess to think about her beauty routine.

Custom illustrated by Kristina for The Beauty Gypsy

Custom illustrated by Kristina Hultktantz for The Beauty Gypsy

Baby + bump

While we adore that cute little belly Kate sported in her very first post-baby appearance, judging by her quick bounce-back after Prince George’s birth, we know this perma-polished new mum will want to get back in shape soon enough. Cue: Mama Mio’s Skin Tight Toning Serum ($39) to tackle post-pregnancy crepey skin. This is perfectly complimented by Angelique’s Massage Balm (£9.79), which is so gentle it can be used on both mother and baby. Little wonder both are cult amongst A-Listers.

The breast situation

You already know this Kate: Post-delivery your boobs become like rocks. And they leak. And if you choose to breastfeed, it is not the easy, painless, earth mother thing seen in movies. The fix: Lansinoh Lanolin for Breastfeeding Mothers ($7.99).

Breakouts

Time to kiss that glowy pregnancy complexion goodbye. Fluctuating hormones, sleep deprivation and stress mean skin is thrown totally out of whack. Result? A bad case of the zits. Try Indie Lee’s Blemish Lotion ($26), which is an amazing all-natural spot treatment.

The skincare cheat sheet

Kate will have to swap her famous Karin Herzog skincare goodies (which contain retinol – a baby no-go) for a gentler, natural product like Tata Harper Reparative Moisturizer ($100). It’s pricey, but I think the royal family can afford a few bottles.

Then there are the eyes. And lips. Being woken up throughout the night with a new baby means both these look droopy, tired and non-sparkly. One solution would be to buy Dr. Hauschka’s Daily Revitalizing Eye Cream ($54) and Suvana Beauty’s Paw Paw & Honey Organic Lip Balm ($14) by the truckload.

New moms are on their feet all day, so Kate should give hers a little TLC at night with a cooling cream like Burt’s Bees Mama Bee Relaxing Leg & Foot Cream ($9). Oh! And since she will be washing her hands approximately 100 times a day, a good hand cream is priority. Caswell-Massey Dr. Hunter’s Hand Comfort Cream ($14) is a classic and works on the most irritated and dehydrated skin.

Danny Martindale / Getty Images

Danny Martindale / Getty Images

Makeup woes

Kate’s favourite Bobbi Brown Foundation Stick ($42) and YSL Touche Eclat ($40) will surely be on hand to cover any post-baby tiredness. However, she will have to amp it up with a stronger cover-up, like Laura Mercier’s Secret Camouflage Concealer. Josie Maran’s all-natural argan oil infused Coconut Watercolor Cheek Gelee in Poppy Paradise ($22) will add a lit-from-within glow.

Kate’s signature is a strong eye. She is rarely seen in public without dark liner and mascara. But the worst thing you can possibly do immediately post-baby is to draw attention to your eyes. Two words: sleep deprivation. So, there will need to be some changes here.

The first to go should be her current eyeliner. Kate should switch to a softer color and keep it just to the top lash line, since lower lash liner can make tired eyes look even more droopy. Urban Decay’s 24/7 Glide-On Eyeliner Pencil in Smoke ($19) would do the job perfectly. The mascara needs to be waterproof because of the post-partum crying (thanks, hormones!). Clinique’s High Impact Waterproof Mascara ($16) won’t budge.

Finally, a swipe of her favorite nude lip colour – Bobbi Brown Creamy Matte Lip Colour in Warm Beige ($24) – and a few sprays of Illuminum ($100), her go-to perfume, will complete the look!

The hair quandary

For about 3 months after having a baby, you have the thickest hair of your life. But then it starts falling out at a rapid pace… before finally growing back to normal. Not a happy interim situation to the woman who’s made a signature out of her thick, luscious locks. Time to stock up on the 100% natural, alcohol-free Rahua’s Voluminous Hair Spray ($28).

Bag-of-plenty

A regular diaper bag doesn’t feel posh enough for Kate. Instead, since she is a huge Mulberry fan, we can see the duchess carrying this Bayswater tote ($2,3999) stuffed with the little one’s necessities.

Baby chic

Organic and dermatologically tested products are musts for baby’s delicate skin. And nobody does that better than Bonpoint, the chic Parisian label. We love the milk bath with organic active ingredients, including cherry and orange blossom flowers and organic cotton. And every new mom needs at least one change of clothes stashed away for the baby and this super-cute onesie from Etsy ($18) fits the bill perfectly.

The treasure trove

Jennifer Lopez received a canary diamond ring and earrings set worth $2.8 million and Victoria Beckham scored a 24-karat-gold iPhone, which cost a cool $34,000. Now, our Kate would never be so vulgarly splashy, so if Prince William is looking for a push-present may I suggest these gorgeous ruby-and-diamond earrings from royal warrant holder Asprey? Hey, having a kid is a lot of work!

Are you all ga-ga about the new royal kiddo? And what’s the one beauty routine or product you simply can’t give up – before or after baby? C’mon, we won’t judge!