The easiest (and most effective) sunburn treatments EVER. And they all come from your kitchen

Got a little too much sun? It happens to all of us. And unfortunately, it often happens when we don’t have the usual array of sunburn-busters – like aloe vera or cocoa butter – on hand. Cue: pain, blisters, peeling skin, itchiness, burning… the works. Thankfully, the doctors themselves recommend a host of home remedies that are easily available in every kitchen. From rubbing potatoes on your skin to dipping in an oatmeal bath, here are a few unusual and effective ways to ease the pain of your sunburn.

PS: It’s not just about the sunburn. These remedies are also good for all post-sun time. Any prolonged exposure to the sun can irritate our skin and leave it vulnerable to premature ageing. So, slather on these pantry staples as a post-sun soother for damage control even when you are not actually burnt to a crisp!

treat sunburnSunburn treatment #1: Pat down with potatoes

Burn-fighting effect: The plain old potato is great at relieving pain and inflammation, making it a perfect quick-fix for sunburnt skin. The juices from a raw potato help strengthen the upper layer of the skin, even out its colour and provide moisture to dry areas. Plus, potato’s starchy compounds help take the sting out of a sunburn. Who knew?

Sunburn treatment: Cut 2 washed potatoes into small chunks and puree them in a blender or food processor; add a bit of water if they look dry. Pat this puree on the sunburnt areas, wait till it dries and then take a cool shower.

Or, you can simply cut the potato into thin round slices and place them on the sunburn for a few minutes – it might look a bit weird but it’ll definitely help with the pain.

Sunburn treatment #2: Lay on the lettuce

Burn-fighting effect: Lettuce’s natural pain-killing properties help wipe away the sting of a sunburn.

Sunburn treatment: Boil lettuce leaves in water. Strain, then let the liquid cool for several hours in the refrigerator. Once chilled, dip cotton balls in the lettuce water and gently wipe over irritated skin.

turmeric for sunburnSunburn treatment #3: Treat with turmeric

Burn-fighting effect: Turmeric’s antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties make it a great remedy for the treatment of sunburn blisters.

Sunburn treatment: Take 2 tablespoons of turmeric powder and add enough water to make a paste. Apply this paste over the blistered area for 10 minutes, then wash off gently with cold water. Follow this remedy once daily until the sunburn blisters are cured.

Sunburn treatment #4: Tone up with tomatoes

Burn-fighting effect: According to scientists, the red tomato helps protect the skin from sunburn and skin ageing caused by sunlight exposure thanks to the ingredient lycopene – the natural pigment that gives this fruit its red color.

Sunburn treatment: Puree a frozen tomato and apply it directly to the burnt area. Eating tomatoes can also help prevent future sun damage.

Sunburn treatment #5: OD on olive oil

Burn-fighting effect: Olive oil is a natural moisturiser and is known for having a healing effect on sun-damaged skin.

Sunburn treatment: Dip a cotton ball in a small cup with olive oil and apply to all the sore areas.

Sunburn treatment #6: Bathe in oatmeal

Burn-fighting effect: Oats hold moisture and have a high silica content, making them an ideal skin soother. An oatmeal bath soothes dry, itchy or irritated skin.

Sunburn treatment: Fill up the bathtub with cool – not cold – water. Don’t use bath salts, oils, or bubble bath. Instead, scoop 1/2 to 1 cup oatmeal – an ideal skin soother – and mix it in. Soak in this bath tub for about half an hour or more, then let your body air dry.

Sunburn treatment #7: Yay for yogurt!

Burn-fighting effect: Plain yogurt contains an abundance of probiotics and enzymes that help heal painful sunburns.

Sunburn treatment: Wash your hands and apply cool yogurt directly to your burn. Let it sit on your skin until it warms up and then rinse it off with cool or tepid water. Apply as often as needed.

Sunburn treatment #8: Wash it with witch hazel

Burn-fighting effect: Witch hazel contains tannins that, when applied to directly to the skin, help reduce swelling, repair damaged skin and ward off nasty bacteria.

Sunburn treatment: Pour witch hazel into a bowl and soak cotton balls or a clean cloth in the liquid. Dab on just enough to cover the burn – it doesn’t need to be dripping off. Reapply as needed for soothing the pain.

treat-sunburn-4Sunburn treatment #9: Cool it, cucumber!

Burn-fighting effect: Instant relief… that’s what a plain and simple cucumber means to scorched skin. Not only is a cucumber soothing to the burn simply because its cool, but its antioxidant and analgesic properties also promote healing and provide further (and long lasting) relief from discomfort.

Sunburn treatment: If you’re going for mainly quick pain relief, slice up a chilled cucumber and lay the slices on your burned skin. Flip the slices when the first side heats up, like how you flip a pillow to get the cool side up after a long nap. For a longer lasting effect, chill 1 or 2 cucumbers and toss them in a blender to create a paste.

Sunburn treatment #10: Bring out the baking soda

Burn-fighting effect: Baking soda is alkaline in nature and thus it can be very soothing to the skin. At the same time baking soda has antiseptic properties that can help in getting relief from the itchiness that often accompanies sunburn blisters.

Sunburn treatment: Fill your bath tub with cold water, add 1-2 cups of baking soda and mix properly. Soak your body in this bath for about half an hour. For instant relief from the burning, you can mix some baking soda in water and apply this paste over the affected areas.

Sunburn treatment #11: Make for the milk

Burn-fighting effect: Milk creates a protein film on your skin that will help ease the discomfort of fresh sunburn.

Sunburn treatment: Fill a bowl with cool (not cold) milk. Soak a washcloth or gauze in the milk. When the gauze or washcloth is saturated, let the excess liquid drain off. Drape across your burn, pressing gently so that it stays in place, and leave it on for as long as needed. If the milk in the bowl becomes room temperature chill it before re-dunking your compress.

Hair oils: Exactly which one is right for you?

With benefits ranging from conditioning and adding shine to treating dandruff and stimulating growth, hair oil has become like liquid gold for our tresses. And forget all those drippy, sloppy, sticky after-effects: the big beauty players are creating a completely new generation of oils for the hair. They’ve swapped sachets for sleek pumps, heavy textures for featherweight silkiness and potent blends that do a zillion things at the same time. In fact, I would contend that hair oil is the new hair serum.

choose-hair-oil4How? While it creates a glossy, swishy shine, the humble hair oil also provides protection and nourishment for your strands. And where serums simply coat tresses with silicone, oils add shine in a far more hair-friendly manner by calling on essential fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants that penetrate the follicles to treat and condition simultaneously.

And that’s not all: hair oil tames frizz and leaves strands manageable, while also protecting against the harshness of heat styling. Plus, it speeds up drying time as the oil reacts with heat to repel water from the hair. And the good ones even create a barrier against the environment: slip some on to protect your hair from sun, salt water and chlorine, or use it as a mini-shield against the effects of pollution.

However, before you dive into the world of hair oil, it’s vital to know exactly which one will work for your strands. There is a hair oil for all textures and types – including the most baby-fine heads of hair. You just need to pinpoint your best fit!

Hair oil for coarse, dry or chemically processed tresses

Hair becomes coarse and dry when it’s damaged, hence you need nourishing oils to repair its structure. One of the top hair oil choices here is virgin coconut oil, which penetrates the hair shaft to patch and protect it from the inside-out. Besides this, it is also lightweight, non-greasy (making it great for fine hair) and helps prevent dandruff.

Then there is avocado oil, which is rich in proteins and amino acids, along with high levels of vitamins A, D and E. All these are vital for hair’s health: for instance, proteins help fill in the cracks in the cuticle, so each strand becomes stronger. However, since avocado is a heavier oil, it works best on medium to thick hair.

Argan fruit and oil

Argan fruit and oil

Argan oil is loaded with vitamin E, omega-3 and omega-9 fatty acids that provide rich nutrition for your hair. It also contains linoleic and oleic acid to moisturise the strands. Plus, argan oil’s small molecular structure allows it to penetrate the hair shaft, repair damaged hair follicles and restore lost moisture. Using it as a hair oil puts back lost lustre from hair straightening and other chemical treatments, helps keep colour vibrant, prevents dryness and acts as a shield against harmful UV rays and environmental pollution.

Hair oil for dull tresses

Sweet almond oil has high amounts of vitamins A, B, and E. As a hair oil, it heals split ends, improves scalp circulation and adds shine to dull hair. The fatty acids provide UV protection by reflecting harmful rays, while vitamin E makes strands grow longer and stronger.

Or try pomegranate seed oil, which contains punicic acid to revitalise dull strands and increase flexibility. It also safeguards your tresses against environmental pollutants, thereby helping keep them in optimal condition.

Hair oil for thick tresses

While everyone is reaching for argan oil these days, the exotically fragrant oil is more suited to thicker heads of hair. It is sticky and can be hard to get out of fine hair – you’ll need to shampoo two or three times to fully rinse it out, or else you’ll get build-up. Yet for richer locks, argan oil can strike the perfect balance of shine, scent and manageability.

Hair oil for fine tresses

Thin or fine strands get weighed down very easily, so look for a light oil that can give them some texture. The structure of jojoba oil is closest to that of our scalp’s natural oils. This allows it to absorb immediately, making it the lightest and most non-sticky of all hair oils. Yet it also packs a hefty nutrient punch with anti-bacterial properties to keep the scalp healthy, stimulate hair growth and moisturise the strands.

choose-hair-oil2Oil for hair loss

Extra virgin olive oil is rich in high levels of mono-unsaturated fatty acids, which are terrific for moisturising, protecting and nourishing the hair. It also has B vitamins (niacin and biotin), vitamin D and vitamin E to help banish bald patches. If that’s not enough, olive oil helps in battling dandruff, which can be one of the reasons for hair loss. Other benefits include deep conditioning, sealing split ends and strengthening hair from the inside out. However, because of its heavier texture, olive oil is more suited to thicker hair.

For fine hair, there is coconut oil. This is made up of saturated fatty acids that soothe the scalp and keep it hydrated. A hydrated scalp promotes hair growth because there are no dead or dry skin cells to clog the hair follicle. Coconut oil also helps reduce hair breakage by strengthening the hair shaft.

Or try out rosemary essential oil. It contains over a dozen antioxidants, vitamin B, iron and calcium, so its application works to strengthen brittle hair and treat scalp problems that hinder hair growth. At the same time, it easily penetrates follicles and delivers the essential nutrients, thereby making hair grow faster and thicker.

Hair oil for dandruff & itchy scalp

Thyme essential oil is antimicrobial, so its usage as a hair oil can help treat itchy scalps plagued by bacteria and fungus. It is best used with grape seed oil as a carrier, since the former also contains Vitamin E and linoleic acid to nourish the scalp and help prevent dandruff.

Thyme oil

Thyme oil

Oil for ALL hair types

Still a bit puzzled? You won’t go wrong with rice bran and hemp seed oils, which suit all types of hair. Rice bran contains vitamin E and creates a harder shell around the cuticle so your strands suffer less breakage; while hemp seed oil is packed with amino acids, omega-3 fatty acids, proteins and minerals that make hair stronger and healthier.

Mix-and-match your hair oils

You can also custom-blend various hair oils according to your needs. For example, if you have coarse hair that’s also afflicted with dandruff, mix coconut oil and thyme essential oil. Similarly, you can use a nourishing oil for scalp and a light oil for hair strands. So, use your own experience of your hair and create a personalised oil blend for yourself. Or pick a blend off the store shelves – just read the ingredient list to know whether it suits your strands.

Do you use a hair oil? Which one? And will you be making any changes after reading this post?

Beauty recipe: You can make your own lip balm (and you really should)

I simply cannot get through the day without a lip balm. Summer or winter, my lips need that buttery dose of nourishment to keep them soft, supple and flake-free. However, given the number of chemical additives in most store-bought balms, I am becoming increasingly wary of putting them anywhere near my lips, where they can so easily be ingested!

That’s why I fell in love with the recipe for this pretty-smelling lip balm, which came via a Parisian friend. A red lip is the French makeup signature and we all know lipstick doesn’t sit well on dry or chapped lips. Hence, French women take their lip care very seriously, especially when it involves roses.

This easy-to-make lip balm feels unbelievably emollient and just sinks into the lips, leaving a soft, rosy flush. You can even use it for your hands and nipples.

rose lip balmHow does it work?

The beeswax and sweet almond oil preserve lips’ fragile tissue. Roses contain high levels of vitamin C, oils, and proteins, which help keep skin soft and moisturized. Plus, they are high in retinol (vitamin A), which treats lines, wrinkles, and other visible signs of aging.

Ingredients

2 1⁄2 ounces beeswax, grated
1⁄4 pint sweet almond oil
3 tablespoons dried rose petals

Method

1. Gently crush the rose petals to release the natural oils

2. Add the petals to the almond oil

3. Gently warm the oil over low heat for a couple of minutes (it shouldn’t boil)

4. Remove the oil; cover and leave to infuse overnight

5. Put the infusion back on low heat and add the beeswax

6. Stir until everything melts and is well blended

7. Strain out the rose petals

8. Pour the mixture into small tin or glass boxes; let solidify a bit and then use daily

PS: You can enjoy more French beauty recipes in The Paris Bath & Beauty Book, which is a distillation of everything I’ve learned in this glorious country!

Boozing with benefits: The right way to drink red wine for weight loss

It all started with the French Paradox.

The question about how the French eat a high fat diet, smoke and totally shy away from active exercise, yet they have half the rate of heart disease (143 vs. 315 per 100,000 middle-aged men) and live 2.5 years longer than anyone else in the world.

French researcher Dr. Serge Renaud’s studies concluded this was primarily because the French drank bucket-fulls of red wine – at the time 16 gallons per person per year vs. 2 gallons per person per year in America.

25 years later, practically every science lab across the world has not only endorsed the theory but actually taken it further, crediting red wine with everything from weight loss and protection against cancer to lowering the risk for diabetes and helping manage depression.

A sampler, if you may.

First, let’s look at red wine and weight loss

1. In 2015, researchers at the Washington State University, found that resveratrol – a key antioxidant found in red wine – helps convert ‘white fat’ into ‘beige fat’. Beige fat reduces weight gain by actively burning calories.

2. The Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health concluded a 13-year obesity study of 19,220 middle aged women in 2010. The result? Women who drank two glasses of red wine daily were 70% less likely to gain weight.

3. According to a joint study between Harvard School of Public Health in the US, the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel and Leipzig University, Germany, red wine increases the balance of HDL (the ‘good’ cholesterol), while boosting glucose metabolism to curb diabetes.

4. At Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, scientists concluded that red wine creates thermogenesis, which raises body temperature by burning more calories.

5. At the University of Alberta, Canada, it was found that the weight reducing benefits of red wine are similar to that of exercise (this one’s my favourite study!).

6. A Norwegian study revealed that one glass of red wine a day significantly increases levels of the appetite-regulating hormone leptin.

7. At Purdue University, it was discovered that red wine contains piceatannol, which actually blocks the growth of fat cells. It also helps fight cancer, heart diseases and neurodegenerative diseases.

8. In 2012, a team of scientists from Arizona State University, the Norwegian University of Life Sciences and Harvard Medical School found that bumblebees who were given resvesterol late at night, ate less.

9. Wondering if virgin grape juice has the same benefits? A German study proved that wine drinkers lose more weight than grape juice drinkers.

10. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, red wine increases levels of good bacteria in the digestive tract.

And there are the other benefits of red wine, like preventing gastric infections, reducing the risk of ovarian cancer, preventing heart disease, strokes and other cognitive disorders (think dementia and Alzheimer’s), cutting the risk of depression and – in the strangest of turnarounds – actually decreasing the prevalence of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). But that’s a whole new story for another day.

So, why not white wine?

While both red and white wines are made from grapes, red wine is made from the whole grape, including the skin and seeds. The skin and seeds are what add powerful antioxidants like resveratrols, polyphenols, procyanidin and flavonoids, which give red wine most of its weight loss and anti-ageing benefits.

Red wine also has less natural sugars, while having more iron, potassium, magnesium and bone-friendly phosphorous.

red wine benefitsBut white wines are much less likely to trigger headaches, especially migraines, due to lower concentrations of histamines. And the paler varietal is also less likely to give you a hangover, as it lacks congeners – chemicals produced during fermentation.

And what about the calories?

Yes, red wine – like everything else that’s edible on Planet Earth – comes with it’s own set of calories. Specifically, about 125 to a glass.

These are however, negated by its low GI (Glycemic Index). GI measures how much glucose different foods produce in the bloodstream. Foods with a high GI score, like bread and cakes, produce large amounts of glucose, which is ultimately stored as fat. However, some high calorie foods such as nuts produce little glucose, explaining why they don’t make you put on weight. Red wine scores very low on the Glycemic Index (less than 15), which is why it doesn’t pile on the pounds.

And then there’s the research that a glass of red wine suppresses cravings for unhealthy snacks, like chocolate, biscuits and sweets, making you feel sated without going on a late night junk food binge. As always, the trick lies in moderation. Bingeing on the red wine will pile on more calories than can be outweighed by its benefits.

Does the variety of red wine matter?

The short answer is: Yes. Not all red wines are created equal. They are dependent on the grape varietal, fermentation process and age.

Red Wine Being PouredMadiran: Made from Tannat grapes in the Gascony region of the southwest of France, Madiran wines are extremely high in procyanidins (for cardiovascular and arterial health) and resvesterol (weight loss, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, blood sugar control, cardiovascular health). In fact, they have up to 10 times the levels of procyanidins than wines grown elsewhere, which is why the Madiran area has double the national average of men aged 90, despite an extremely high fat diet.

Grenache: The Grenache grape, grown in Sardinia, Spain and southern France, is known for producing some of the greatest amounts of resveratrol of any varietal.

Muscadine (or Scuppernong): A wine grape native to southeastern US, Muscadine is extremely high in ellagic acid, which boosts weight loss. The levels of ellagic acid are boosted with each year of oak raging, so read the label. And incidentally, there are only about 5000 acres of Muscadine grapes in the world, most of which are concentrated in Georgia.

Pinot Noir: Pinot Noirs grown in cool, rainy climates have among the highest concentrations of resvesterol among any red wines in the world. Regions to look for include the Burgundy region of France, the Marlborough region of New Zealand and Willamette Valley in Oregon.

Barbera: Originally of Italian original but now also widely produced in California, Barbera wines  contains very high levels of resveratrol.

How much red wine should I be drinking?

Time calls alcohol the “Goldilocks of the nutrition world”. Drinking too little red wine may deprive you of its benefits; while drinking too much can also be destructive to your health.

The key lies in moderation. This means up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men, or less. And one drink is five ounces.

Why do women have a lower limit? It’s nothing to do with sexism… females generally have lower levels of alcohol dehydrogenase, a liver enzyme that metabolises alcohol. Hence, that are advised to drink smaller amounts of any alcohol.

Even if we look to the French and the Italians for their propensity to drink more wine and yet be healthier than any of us, you will never catch them binge drinking. Even on weekends. Instead, they drink a little everyday and know just when to stop!

And when to drink red wine for maximum benefits?

Red wine, like every other alcohol, doesn’t play well with empty stomachs. The best option is to have it the old fashioned Mediterranean way: with a meal rich in vegetables and fish, complete with fruits and a healthy fat such as olive oil.

What if I simply can’t have red wine? Am I out of options?

Firstly, absolutely don’t start drinking red wine suddenly if you’re a teetotaller. Or without checking with your doctor if you have health problems. Or if you or your family has a history of health abuse. Or if you react badly to the beverage in any form!

Instead, stock up on other antioxidant and resversterol-rich foods, like blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, red grapes, peanut butter, dark chocolate and apples. The weight-loss boosting ellagic acid is also found in raspberries, blackberries, green tea, oolong tea, walnuts and pecans.

Remember, a balanced diet is everything.

Cheers!