Can silk pillowcases save your skin (and hair)?

Ok, now that we have established that I am not high maintenance – just extremely practical – let me explain why I need to sleep on silk pillowcases. It’s not because of the luscious, cool, glam, makes-me-feel-like-a-queen factor but because the skin needs silk. Why?

Silk & Skin

  • silk-beauty-benefitsSilk is the nearest thing to human skin. It contains 18 of the essential proteins that are found in our skin and even has the same pH, making it a potent ally against premature ageing.
  • The creamy fabric contains natural cellular albumen fibre, which helps boost cellular regeneration – again protecting skin against ageing and dullness.
  • Unlike cotton (which is very absorbent), silk does not soak up the natural moisture from our skin. The result? Better hydration, improved skin elasticity and lesser wrinkles. Similarly, it doesn’t absorb the beauty creams and serums that we put on at night, allowing them to stay on longer and work more efficiently.
  • Silk sheets and pillows offer a smoother surface for the face, so we don’t wake up with the crease marks that are common with other fabrics.
  • Silk is a natural heat regulator – it maintains body temperature and does not conduct heat or static electricity. So, it helps retain heat on cold nights and keeps us cool in the summer. Hence, better beauty sleep!

Silk & Hair

  • Sleeping on silk can help prevent hair from thinning… really! Cotton fabrics may seem soft but they cause friction –  gripping and tugging at our strands as we move in our sleep, thereby leading to hair breakage and split ends. Silk, on the hand, is much smoother, so hair simply slides over the surface however much you toss and turn. The result? Less tangling or breakage. Added bonus? A blow dry will last much longer.
  • Since silk traps less body heat than other fabrics, we wake up sans frizzy strands or a messy bed head.

So, now, isn’t it worth it? And since you undoubtedly agree, can you please drop a line to my husband in the comments below, explaining why that credit card splurge was completely worth it?

The DIY castor oil pack detox: Glowing skin and healthy insides sans the laxative effect

Mention castor oil and my mind flashes back to horrendous memories of being lined up as kids and force fed spoons of the vile stuff as a laxative that literally churned your innards with excruciating agony. Once free from that uniquely Asian mode of maternal torture, I vowed to never let a bottle darken my doorstep ever again. Not even if it was the world’s top all-in-one wonder remedy for everything, right from menstrual cramps to stretch marks. Not even if Ayurveda, Chinese, Persian, Egyptian, African, Greek, Roman, American medicine and modern science promise it as the cure-all miracle for almost everything. Not even if it caught Patrick Dempsey by hand and deposited him on my doorstep… we will not go there!

And for the past 20 years that promise has worked well enough… till yesterday, when my personal detox guru Kimberly Snyder (of The Beauty Detox Solution and Drew Barrymore fame) started talking about castor oil packs. Now, Kimberley has completely changed my life around with her painless, effective and yet enjoyable route to detoxification. So, when she says you can reap the benefits of castor oil without suffering through its laxative side effects, I listen.

And then I research. Extensive digging shows that castor oil packs actually date back thousands of years and have been recommended by both doctors and alternative health practitioners for a range of things, including liver problems, fluid retention, arthritis, infertility, PCOS, migraine, skin infections and chronic internal inflammation. Worth looking into, right? I think so too.

castor oil pack detoxBut first, what exactly is castor oil?

It’s a thick, viscous, transparent oil derived from the bean of the Ricinus communis (also known as Palma Christi, or ‘palm of God’) plant. Topically, castor oil works by drawing blood circulation and enhanced biological energy to the area where it is applied, then pulling lodged toxins out of the body. It also boosts lymphatic circulation, keeping every body cell properly cleansed of waste. Plus, it’s packed with rinoleic acid, which helps prevent the growth of numerous viruses, bacteria, yeasts and molds.

The end result is increased circulation, decreased inflammation (both internal and external), elimination of toxins and healing of tissues and organs.

Why does the castor oil pack go over your liver?

Simple: because it’s our liver that keeps everything else clean and junk-free. It helps us digest fats, detoxes the blood, regulates hormones and stores energy. A castor oil pack allows the liver to relax, release its toxins and rejuvenate. The benefits? More balanced hormone and blood sugar levels, better digestion and an improved immune system.

Oh! And you might just find yourself less grumpy after a castor oil pack detox as the liver also stores repressed anger.  Phew!

And now… how to do a castor oil pack detox!

Method 1: Fold an old flannel cloth into 3 layers to fit over your entire abdomen. Then soak the cloth in warm castor oil, lie down and drape it over your abdomen. Layer an old towel over the oil soaked fabric and place a heating pad or hot water bottle on top. Leave the pack on for 45-60 minutes, then wash off the oil with soap and water.

Method 2: Rub generous amounts of warm castor oil directly onto your abdomen, then bind everything with a plastic sheet (saran wrap works brilliantly!). Layer an old towel over the plastic wrap and place a heating pad or hot water bottle on top. Leave the pack on for 45-60 minutes, then wash off the oil with soap and water.

Castor oil plant

Castor oil plant

Keep in mind!

1. Always wash well after removing the castor oil pack. This helps clear away the acidic toxins that have been drawn out of the body during the treatment.

2. It’s not ideal to do the castor oil pack detox after a heavy meal; allow at least an hour’s buffer time.

3. For maximum effectiveness, apply the castor oil pack twice a week.

4. Whenever possible, opt for cold pressed castor oil as it’s most potent.

5. And as always, consult with your doctor if there are any contraindications. Those who have cancer, are pregnant, breast-feeding, or menstruating need to be particularly careful!

Have you ever tried a castor oil pack? Did you notice its benefits? I would love to hear your experiences.

Beauty recipes: Chocolate for super-awesome skin? And ultra-glossy hair? Yes, please

Imagine your tired limbs sinking into a delicious vat of steamy hot chocolate. Or your hair sending off tiny little wisps of aromatic wonderfulness every time you shake your head. Or your fingers being caressed by smooth slabs of creamy chocolate as the magic takes over all the senses. Or… tempted yet? I thought so.

Thankfully, this weekend, which comes close on the heels of International Chocolate Day, is all about chocolate-based skin and haircare. After all, this ‘elixir of the Gods’ has a zillion beauty benefits. To start with, chocolate has thrice the oxidants found in green tea, making it a potent weapon against premature ageing. It also hydrates and softens the skin, while acting as a potent detoxifier. Plus, its oils are excellent at getting rid of stretch marks and cellulite. No wonder cosmetic-makers have been using cocoa butter as a moisturizer since the mid-19th century.

And that’s not all. Chocolate also contains phenylethylamine and serotonin – ‘feel-good’ substances that are naturally released when we’re happy or in love. So, when life gets stressful, turn off the phone, turn down the lights and mix up your favourite chocolate-based beauty recipe. Taking care of one’s skin never felt or smelled so good.

chocolate beauty benefitsBeauty recipe #1: Chocolate and honey face scrub

Why it works: This scrub increases circulation, detoxifies the complexion, boosts hydration and fights skin-damaging free radicals. The result is soft, smooth and supple skin.

½ cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup Demerara sugar
½ oz sweet almond oil

Combine all the ingredients using enough honey to form a paste. Gently apply this paste to freshly washed skin; lightly massage with your fingertips and then rinse off with warm water.

Beauty recipe #2: Clarifying chocolate mask

Why it works: The oatmeal soaks up excess oils while doubling as an exfoliant. The honey helps refine pores, kills surface bacteria and reduces inflammation. Chocolate’s polyphenols banish fine lines and wrinkles… while lifting your mood.

3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 cup instant oatmeal
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon chocolate syrup 

Stir all the ingredients until well-blended and apply the mixture to your face. Leave it on for 15 minutes, then lightly scrub it off with lukewarm water.

Beauty recipe #3: Hot chocolate bath

Why it works: This milk-and-chocolate combo soothes and softens your skin. The comforting, super-indulgent feel-good factor is an added bonus.

2 tablespoons cocoa
2 cups warm milk
3 drops vanilla essence

In a bowl add cocoa powder, pour in the warm milk and stir until completely combined. Add the vanilla essence. Pour the mixture into your bath while it is running. Hop in and enjoy.

chocolate spaBeauty recipe #4: Cocoa butter body scrub

Why it works: This remedy is ideal for soothing hard-working hands and feet as it gently exfoliates old, dead skin and nourishes new cells.
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup dry oatmeal
4 tablespoons cocoa butter
3 tablespoons honey
Coarsely grind the almonds in a blender or coffee grinder. In a bowl, combine oatmeal, cocoa butter, honey and ground nuts. Rub into your hands and feet, cover with cotton gloves and socks, and leave on overnight. The next morning, remove the gloves and socks and rinse.

Beauty recipe #5: Chocolate hair conditioner

Why it works: The 1-2 punch of smoothing coconut cream and shine-boosting cocoa tame even the frizziest and most indisciplined strands.

¾ cup coconut cream
1/3 cup cocoa powder

Mix both ingredients in plastic bowl. Shampoo and use in place of regular conditioner. Use once a month or as often as necessary.

Beauty recipe: A super-easy DIY treatment for smooth and glow-y feet

It’s the last leg of strappy sandal season, so why not make your feet feel a whole lot happier – and more glow-y – right about now? It’s super-easy with this great DIY treatment that’s much favoured by celebrity pedicurists!

DIY pedicureIt’s simple enough: Puree together 2 cucumbers, 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a blender. Divide this mixture into 2 plastic bags; slide one leg into each bag and massage the cucumber mask all over the foot. Leave your feet in the bags for 5-10 minutes, then rinse with warm water. Why does this work to make feet all soft and smooth? The lemon helps exfoliate dry and dead skin; the olive oil deep moisturises; and the cucumber is super-refreshing. I want to go try this right now, don’t you?