What stress (or anger!) does to your face… and how to fix it!

Lately, despite the twice daily cleansing and moisturising, an hour at the gym, weekly scrubs and face packs, adequate beauty sleep and copious amounts of water, I have been noticing that my skin has never ever looked this terrible. It’s reached a point where strangers at the malls are asking me if I am sick and need help… not kidding!

stress-and-skinTime to visit the dermatologist – who takes one look at my blotchy complexion, flaking chin, dark circles and the monstrous zit on my forehead and decides what I need is a “life questionnaire” rather than a session of Blue Light. And through gradual prodding and poking, we arrive at the root cause – stress (and a lot of being pissed off, to boot), which is literally killing my skin cells.

I have always known that stress leads to high blood pressure, depression, migraines, heart disease, obesity… yada yada yada! But honestly, it never bothered me because all that’s in the future. Skin problems, however, are in the here and now! Hence, this required some serious research. And what I found is that given our increasingly crazy lifestyles, there is actually a new field of medicine called psychodermatology, which focuses on the mind-beauty connection. Experts of psychodermatology treat skin problems that are caused or worsened by stress and here I am summarising what they say happens to our complexions when we are emotionally troubled.

But remember, these “quick fixes” are just that – quick fixes. To actually reverse the beauty (and overall health!) effects of stress, you need to go much deeper than lotions and potions!

Stress and skin #1: Dullness

Stress triggers a hormone called cortisol (a stress hormone), which slows down skin cells, making them take longer to reach the surface and flake off. Hence, dead skin cells build up, making your face look dull and lifeless.

Quick fix: Drink more water and exfoliate regularly.

Stress and skin #2: Sagging

Furthermore, prolonged cortisol production leads to loss of collagen and elastin, resulting in slackness, sagging and loss of elasticity. Not a good beauty look at all!

Quick fix: Consume foods that increase collagen production and benefit the skin. For example, soy products help block enzymes that break down and age the skin. Also, try topical beauty products containing Vitamin C (l-ascorbic acid) or hyaluronic acid (sometimes listed as sodium hyaluronate). Skip the retinoids though – they will further irritate stressed skin.

stress-and-skin-3Stress and skin #3: Dryness

Stressed skin has a very low lipid (protective) barrier, so fluids evaporate more easily. In addition, cortisol also reduces the skin’s ability to retain water, leading to excessive dryness.

Quick fix: Try a weekly moisture mask and apply a hydrating serum along with moisturiser. Also, avoid using toners and cleansers that contain harsh ingredients such as Ammonium Laurenth Sulphate, Sodium Lauryl Sulphate and Sodium Laureth Sulphate, which can dehydrate and irritate the skin.

Stress and skin #4: Skin infections

The epidermal skin cells are packed tightly together, forming a strong barrier that blocks the entry of bacteria and other toxins. When you are under stress, this protective layer becomes less effective, allowing harmful bacteria to reach the deeper layers of skin.

Quick fix: Keep skin scrupulously clean with a mild soap. Use warm, not hot water, and pat skin dry instead of rubbing; put moisturiser on immediately.

Stress and skin #5: Itchy rashes

Stress decreases skin’s self-repairing abilities, while also releasing histamines (which create allergic reactions) into the bloodstream. The result? Flareups of immunity-related conditions such as hives, rashes, cold sores, psoriasis and eczema.

Quick fix: Look for beauty products that contain soothing ingredients like avocado oil, almond oil, aloe vera, Shea butter, sunflower oil and chamomile. Also, cut down on the number of skincare products you use –  fewer products means lesser ingredients and hence a lower risk of an allergic reaction.

Stress and skin #6: Blemishes

Stress increases oil production, which blocks the pores and results in breakouts.

Quick fix: Keep skin clear of surface dirt, oil and dead cells. Use oil-free beauty products and wash your face gently with a soft cloth. Don’t scrub, as this can further irritate acne and make it worse.

stress-and-skin-2

Stress and skin #7: Premature ageing

During times of crisis, our body redirects the flow of blood to areas that are vital for reacting to stress – such as lungs and heart. This leaves skin without essential blood and oxygen. The result? Increased production of free radicals and tissue-damaging oxidants, which speed up wrinkles, lines and other signs of premature ageing.

Quick fix: Try some facial exercises and massage. These help release tension along with increasing oxygen-rich blood flow to muscles, tissue and skin, making the complexion look vibrant and healthier.

Stress and skin #8: Sallowness

Stress hurts the digestive system. This means essential nutrients are not digested properly, allowing build up of impurities. As a result, stressed skin looks dull, lifeless and sallow.

Quick fix: Step up intake of leafy greens, fruit and high protein grains and lentils as well as healthy fats like those found in avocados and olive oil; cut down on caffeine. Skipping meals is a complete no-no!

Stress and skin #9: Inflammation

Prolonged stress creates chronic internal inflammation, which leads to premature ageing, uneven skin tone and texture, lack of radiance and hyperpigmentation.

Quick fix: Sleep is anti-inflammatory – a time of healing, when cortisol levels are at their lowest. Getting enough will keep your body’s best coping skills at hand.

Stress and skin #10: Skin cancers

In a study at Yale University, it was found that people with melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – were more likely to have gone through stressful life events during the years leading up to their diagnosis than people who did not have skin cancer.

Quick fix: Remember to not skip the sunscreen – even if you are indoors. Rule of thumb is that if the natural light is bright enough to read, it’s bright enough to damage your skin.

Have you ever felt your skin take a nosedive in the face of stress? Or anger? Or anxiety? Or depression?

Discovering Kate Middleton (and Prince George’s) Britain, one beauty recipe at a time!

Today the world is celebrating Prince William & Kate Middleton Duchess Catherine Day, with their baby boy’s – His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge – first birthday. Which set me to thinking: how do we pretty ladies, sitting thousands of miles from jolly Britain, join in the festivities? And being beauty-obsessed as I am, what could be better than digging out vintage English skincare recipes, going back to the 17th and 18th century world of Britain’s erstwhile royals? After all, the British love their traditions and their peaches-and-cream complexions have always been the stuff of legend!

Thankfully, I am blessed with quite a hefty lineage of Brit-born relatives, so an extensive hunt through old family hideaways has revealed a treasure trove of traditional English skincare secrets that can still hold their own on milady’s makeup table. You are welcome, Duchess Catherine.

kate middleton beautyBritish beauty recipe #1: Face saving lemonade

Make a hole in a lemon and fill it with granulated sugar. Then roast the lemon in hot ashes (or on a grill). When you want to use the juice, squeeze out a little through the hole and dab it on with a napkin. Leave on for a couple of hours before rinsing off with cold water. This is perfect for deep cleansing the skin and brightening the complexion.

Why it works: Lemon juice has tons of citric acid, which is a great antimicrobial and exfoliator. Sugar granules make for a perfect natural scrub. The original recipe also called for an application of gold leaf over the lemon rind but that’s (thankfully for everyone who’s not Kate Middleton!) superfluous.

British beauty recipe #2: Virgin’s milk

Pound a few leeks with a mortar and pestle, squeeze out the juice and pass it through a strainer. Just before using, pour a few drops of rubbing alcohol on the juice – it will instantly turn milky. This is a terrific treatment for acne, plus it also keeps the skin soft and smooth.

Why it works: Leeks are anti-inflammatory and contain tons of quercetin, which is one of the beauty industry’s top antioxidants. They have also long been used to reduce scarring and figure in several drugstore treatments.

apple honey beauty benefits

British beauty recipe #3: Apple-honey face pack

Add a teaspoon of honey to one mashed apple and mix well. Put this mixture on your face and neck. Leave it on for half an hour, then rinse with whey or cold milk.

Why it works: Honey is one of nature’s best moisturisers, while apples are chockfull of vitamins A and C. These make the fruit great at repairing damaged skin cells and exfoliating the dead ones. Milk and whey, in the meantime, are great for strengthening skin tissues.

British beauty recipe #5: Skin varnish

Taking equal parts of lemon juice and egg whites, beat them together in a glazed earthen pan till the mixture acquires the consistency of butter. Add a few drops of any essential oil (to mask the scent of egg whites). Then wash face with rice water and apply this face pack. Wash off after half an hour.

Why it works: The citric acid in lemon juice banishes dead skin cells, helping unclog pores and making skin look smooth and glow-y. Egg whites are loaded with protein and act as an astringent, while rice water is a great skin softener.

British beauty recipe #4: Feed your face some breakfast

Mix a handful of finely milled oatmeal with enough spring water (or bottled mineral water) to make a paste, then put this mixture on your face and neck. When it dries, rinse off with whey, then with water.

Why it works: Finely milled oatmeal sticks to skin’s surface irritants, which can then be gently rinsed away for thorough cleansing sans the dryness. Plus, it’s a great hydrator.

British beauty recipe #6: The wrinkle smoother

Apply barley water and a few drops of Balm of Gilead (plain ol’ balsam) on your face everyday.

Why it works: Barley water is an ancient remedy for wrinkles, since it nourishes the skin, boosts the growth of healthy tissues and keeps everything smooth, plumped up and unlined. Balsam is rich in vitamins E and C, which slow down skin ageing and protect against inflammation.

British beauty recipe #7: A beautiful bath

Take 2 pounds of barley, 8 pounds of bran and a few handfuls of borage leaves. Boil them in a sufficient quantity of spring water, then pour the decoction into your bath. Nothing cleanses and softens the skin better!

Why it works: Barley is a great hydrator and anti-inflammatory, while borage contains tons of fatty acids – the perfect formula for soothing and moisturizing the skin.

kate middleton beauty 2

British beauty recipe #8: The royal hand cream

Add half cup of glycerin, half cup of rose water and a quarter cup of witch hazel to a glass jar; shake well. Apply this to your hands 2-3 times daily.

Why it works: Rose water and glycerin are the classic combination used in hand creams for years. Glycerin is a terrific humectant (draws moisture from the air to hydrate skin); while rosewater conditions skin and reduces sun damage.

British beauty recipe #9: Aromatic foot bath

Take four handfuls of pennyroyal, sage and rosemary, three handfuls of angelica and four ounces of juniper berries. Boil these in a sufficient quantity of water, and drain off the liquor for use.

Why it works: Besides the fact that this herb bath smells gorgeous, angelica is anti-fungal and antibacterial. Result? It not only keeps feet free of infections but also dispels stink-producing bacteria. Juniper berries are also astringent and make feet feel nice, cool and fresh.

British beauty recipe #10: The prettiest perfume

Fill a jar with pressed rose petals (or any sweet-scented flowers), add as much glycerin as the container will hold, and cover it tightly. After 3 weeks, you can decant the perfume into a bottle.

Are you as bowled over by Prince George as me? Or not? And what’s YOUR secret homeland recipe?

10 sneaky ways to drink more water (it’s the cheapest, quickest way to look AND feel great!)

I recently did a post on acne (What is your acne telling you?) and the role that various bits and bobs of our bodies play in its horrid takeover of our faces. Amongst the 24,36,987 visitors who stopped by this post in a week, over 40% wrote in to say that they have pinpointed much of their spottiness to a lack of adequate water.

Which makes sense. Water is not called the ‘source of life’ for nothing… it is crucial for every body function, right from metabolising fat and regulating temperature to facilitating important bio-chemical reactions, lubricating the joints and limbs, aiding digestion, hydrating the skin and helping the body flush out waste and toxins. So, it stands to reason that without regular top-ups, our skin (actually our whole body) will go into crisis mode. The simplest solution? DRINK MORE WATER!

Yet, 99% of us don’t heed this advice. H2O is bland, it’s boring, it’s always “just there”… maybe if water becomes more expensive, we will start paying more attention! But till then, I would be the first to admit that sometimes drinking the requisite “8 glasses” (find out exactly how much water you need HERE) can be a real challenge! So, after much interviewing, thinking, researching and experimenting, here are 10 tips to help you accomplish that feat (and I have personally tested every one of them – they work stupendously!). Click through, then tell us the sneaky ways you trick yourself into drinking more water in the comments. We could all use the help!

Drink your water! Stay well hydrated! Stay healthy! Stay pretty!

drink-waterIn case you can’t see the image above, here are the tips in text form

1. Add two glasses of drinking water to your daily skincare regimen: Drink, cleanse, moisturise, then drink again.

2. Don’t purchase any other drinks: let’s face it, if you have your favourite soda chilling in the fridge, are you honestly going to opt for water?

3. Drink at least one glass of water for every alcoholic drink you down. (It’s also a great way to prevent a hangover!)

4. Set an alarm to beep every hour – this is your reminder to down a glass of water. If you drink only small (6 ounce or 180 ml) cup per hour, you will consume 48 ounces (1.4 liters) in an 8-hour workday.

5. Eat water-rich foods, such as watermelons, which are 92% water. A tomato is 95% water, while an egg is 74% water.

6. Add ice or freeze water in a sports bottle before taking it with you. Tt will eventually melt and stay cold, thereby creating a pleasant frisson on a hot day.

7. Purchase a water bottle that holds the amount of water you need to drink each day, or use a combination of 1-liter and half-liter bottles. This will allow you to see exactly how much water you are consuming on a regular basis.

8. Fill a glass jar with water, pop in some fruit-infused tea bags in a glass jar and place it in the sun for naturally brewed tea that has an intense flavour. Drink it chilled for loads of flavour and antioxidant protection.

9. Prefer a sweet sip to plain ol’ water? Fill 1/4 of your glass with 100 percent fruit juice and top off with water or seltzer.

10. Bring a touch of the exotic: Add mint leaves, slices of apples, strawberries, lemons or limes to a pitcher of water; serve chilled. Keep a jug in the fridge so you always have great-tasting and great-looking H2O available. For an even greater kick, drink it out of champagne flutes!

How much water do you manage to drink on a daily basis?

The (many) beauty benefits of lavender: Ultra-easy DIY recipes included!

To me, there is nothing more redolent of summer than lavender. Just its fragrance is enough to evoke the memories of balmy days that last forever, soft purple bushes shimmering against a blue sky, emerald green grass glowing with refreshing droplets of dew, rolling fields stretching towards the mountains… all of childhood rolled into one pretty package.

But lavender is much more than just a pretty flower. It is also one of the most powerful remedies in the plant world, offering relief for problems as varied as sunburns, acne and dandruff – because of which the ancient Egyptians and Romans treasured the oil extracted from its leaves and flowers. Lavender owes this amazing spectrum of healing powers to its complex chemical makeup, which is chockfull of antiseptic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory goodness. Even a mere whiff of its fragrance has potent aromatherapy benefits. And this is no subtle, old lady fragrance – it’s a heady scent that rivals bottled perfume.

Through various trips to Grasse and Kashmir, I have reaped the recipes of some gorgeous face masks, scrubs and body butters that help you harness all the beauty and wellness of lavender in its purest form.

lavender-beauty-benefits-333Lavender owes this amazing spectrum of healing powers to its complex chemical makeup, which is chockfull of antiseptic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory goodness

Rejuvenating lavender toner

How to: Take a handful of fresh lavender and 100 ml water. Boil the water and then pour in the lavender buds, making sure they are completely submerged. Cover the bowl and leave the brew to steep for a few hours. Then drain the mixture, pour the water into a clean glass bottle and store in the refrigerator. After washing your face in the morning, spray a little bit of the lavender water on a cotton pad and gently wipe your face to instantly refresh the skin.

The science: Lavender boosts circulation, thereby increasing blood flow and ensuring that the skin cells receive adequate nutrition and oxygen. This keeps the cells healthy and boosts their turnover.

Anti-acne lavender remedy

How to: Dab lavender oil onto acne blemishes or skin infections with a cotton swab.

The science: Essential lavender oil is antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. These properties allow it to both attack the bacteria causing acne infections and reduce the swelling and redness.

lavender-beauty-benefits-22Lavender sunburn soother

How to: Add a few drops of lavender oil to a bowl of cool water. Make a compress and apply it to the sunburn.

The science: Lavender oil is a natural anti-inflammatory, so it helps reduce itching, swelling and redness.

Lavender burn cure

How to: Pour a few drops of lavender oil onto cotton and apply to burns for healing sans scars.

The science: Lavender oil’s burn-healing superpowers are responsible for the birth of modern aromatherapy. In 1928 a French chemist, René-Maurice Gattefossé, burned his hand. He accidentally applied lavender oil to it and noticed the burn healed much faster than expected. David then discovered that lavender stimulates new skin cell formation. This reduces scarring and helps burns heal quicker. It also works as a pain reliever, while the antiseptic action helps reduce infection.

Lavender detox sugar scrub

How to: Whisk together ¼ cup each of white and brown sugar, then stir in 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Add 1 teaspoon dried lavender, gently crushing the buds between your fingers. Stir in 1 teaspoon almond or jojoba oil and then add 1 tablespoon honey, mixing until everything is evenly combined and you have a thick paste. Transfer the scrub to a glass jar and store in refrigerator.

The science: Lavender contains powerful antioxidants, which counter the effects of environmental pollution on the skin. Plus, it also helps dispel stress and nerves, both of which make skin appear coarse and lifeless.

Purifying lavender face mask

How to: Add 3-5 drops of pure lavender oil to 1 tablespoon of organic yogurt and apply to your face (avoiding eye area) for 10-15 minutes; rinse with warm water.

The science: Lavender keeps acne-causing bacteria in check, while increasing cellular rejuvenation. This means you will have fewer acne breakouts and infections if you follow this recipe once a week.

Lavender boosts the circulatory system, thereby increasing the flow of oxygen and nutrients to skin cells

lavender-beauty-benefits-444Lavender wrinkle buster

How to: Beat an egg white and add 3 drops of lavender oil. Apply to your face for 20 minutes, then rinse well with warm water.

The science: Lavender eases tension, stress and inflammation – all of which are the major contributors to skin aging. Plus, it boosts the circulatory system, thereby increasing the flow of oxygen and nutrients to skin cells. In fact, one study found that women who have undergone Botox injections recover better after applications with diluted lavender oil.

Lavender mineral bath salts

How to: Mix 1 cup sea salt, 1 cup Epsom salts, 1⁄2 cup baking soda, 1⁄4 cup dried lavender flowers and 5-6 drops lavender essential oil; stir well. Spoon into a clean container with a tight fitting lid. Add 1 cup to your bath as you fill the tub; soak for 15-20 minutes.

The science: Mineral baths and bath salts are perfect for relaxing sore muscles and rejuvenating the body. Lavender, in the meantime, is astringent and cleanses the skin.

Lavender body scrub

How to: Place 1 cup dried lavender flowers, 2 cups whole oatmeal and ½ cup baking soda in a food processor or blender. Grind until you have a smooth, fine powder with the consistency of whole grain flour. Store in a dry, clean container. To use, pour 1/2 cup in your bath as you fill the tub.

The science: Lavender is a relaxant, while oatmeal and baking soda are soothing to dry, sensitive skin.

lavender-beauty-benefits-555Lavender body butter

How to: Combine 1⁄4 cup cocoa butter, 2 tablespoons sunflower oil, 1tablespoon coconut oil, 1 tablespoon flax seed oil, 2 tablespoons grated beeswax and 1 teaspoon vitamin E oil; gently heat until melted (in the microwave or on the stove top on low heat). Stir well and add the lavender essential oil, pour into a clean container and allow to cool completely. To use, massage into your skin, especially rough spots such as elbows, heels and knees.

The science: This rich body butter works as a potent salve to heal dry areas, soothe the skin and make it glow-y.

Lavender hair mask

How to: Crush ½ cup lavender florets; add ½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar and stir well. Then stir in 1 cup applesauce and 1 teaspoon sea salt. Apply a thick layer of this paste to dry hair, pre-shampoo. Wrap your head with plastic film and cover with a towel. Relax for 8-10 minutes. Rinse well and shampoo as usual.

The science: Lavender has a gentle clarifying action on the scalp, while also helping to normalize sebum (oil) production and restoring a healthy bounce to hair.

Lavender dandruff destroyer

How to: Wet hair with warm water and towel dry. Mix 15 drops of lavender essential oil in 2 tablespoons olive or almond oil. Microwave for about 10 seconds or until it feels warm. Massage the oil into your scalp, pop on a shower cap, let set for an hour, then shampoo out.

The science: Lavender oil rejuvenates the follicles, thereby encouraging hair growth. It also kills lice and dandruff; regular use can improve your hair texture.

lavender-beauty-benefits-666The scent of lavender increases alpha waves in the area of the brain responsible for relaxation

Lavender relaxing remedy

How to: Put a handful of dried lavender in a vase on your nightstand – or use a diffuser with lavender oil.

The science: Breathing in the smell of lavender lowers heart rate and blood pressure, putting you in a relaxed state.

Lavender sleep spray

How to: Combine ½ cup distilled water, 1 teaspoon witch hazel and 5-6 drops lavender essential oil; pour into a clean spray bottle. Spritz onto clean skin or fresh linens before going to sleep. Lavender tea can also be helpful.

The science: The scent of lavender increases alpha waves in the area of the brain responsible for relaxation. Besides this, it also shortens the length of time taken to fall asleep and helps ease you into deep, REM sleep faster.

Lavender bloat buster

How to: Sprinkle dried culinary-grade lavender on Greek yogurt.

The science: Bloating and poor digestion are usually the consequence of “bad” bacteria. The polyphenols (a type of antioxidant) in lavender help reduce these bad bacteria, while increasing digestive capability and allowing food to pass through easily.

Ever used lavender in a beauty remedy? What’s YOUR secret lavender recipe?