Beauty DIY: 6 beauty-ful uses for Epsom salts (no bathtub necessary!)

As winter continues its cold and dreary trudge, celebrity skincare expert Ole Henriksen says you should pick up some Epsom salts to help brighten and soften the skin after all those sun-soaked afternoons.

But what exactly are Epsom salts?

Named after a bitter saline spring at Epsom in Surrey, England, this inexpensive and easily available ingredient is actually not a “salt” at all. Rather, it’s a pure mineral compound of magnesium and sulfate – both of which are readily absorbed through the skin. This gives Epsom salts a huge variety of health and beauty benefits, including regulating the activity of over 325 enzymes, reducing inflammation, helping muscle and nerve function, preventing hardening of arteries, improving the absorption of nutrients and flushing out toxins.

epsom salts beauty benefitsEpsom salts recipe #1: Ole Henriksen’s DIY shower smoothie

However, most of us simply associate Epsom salts with long, leisurely baths. So, what’s someone without a bathtub to do? Plenty, says Henriksen, who believes this versatile ingredient can be used in a number of other ways as well. For instance, his DIY Epsom treatment exfoliates the skin, leaving it luminous, soft and smooth. It also helps removes dead skin, flushes out toxins, and allows for better absorption of skincare products.

Ingredients: 1 cup Epsom salts, 1 cup coffee grounds, 2 teaspoons eucalyptus oil, enough sesame oil to form a smooth paste

  1. Mix the Epsom salts and coffee grounds in a bowl
  2. Add the oils and stir thoroughly to create a smooth paste
  3. When in the shower, vigorously scrub your body with this paste for several minutes, from neck to feet
  4. Rinse and glow!

Looking for more non-bathtub centric uses of Epsom salts? Try these.

Epsom salts recipe #2: Facial scrub

Boost the magnesium in your skin (which increases energy levels, relieves stress, increasing serotonin levels and lowers blood pressure) while exfoliating and deep cleansing by mixing 1/2 teaspoon of Epsom salts with a cleansing cream. Massage, rinse with cool water and pat dry.

Epsom salts recipe #3: Splinter remover

Epsom salts increase osmotic pressure on the skin, which draws foreign bodies toward the surface. Dissolve one cup of Epsom salts in a tub of water and soak the affected area for 15-20 minutes; repeat as often as necessary.

Epsom salts recipe #4: Foot soak

Soothe aches, remove odours and soften rough skin with this foot soak: Add 1/2 cup of Epsom salts to a pan of warm water. Soak feet for as long as it feels right. Rinse and dry.

epsom salts skincareEpsom salts recipe #5: Fade bruises

Make a compress by soaking a washcloth in cold water mixed with Epsom salt (two tablespoons per cup) and apply to the skin.

Epsom salts recipe #5: Hair volumiser

For big, bouncy hair, mix one part hair conditioner to one part Epsom salts and work the mixture through your locks. Leave on for 20 minutes, then rinse and style as usual.

Have you ever used Epsom salts? What’s your favourite Epsom salt recipe?

The no-water SOS hair cleanser for those who hate dry shampoo (Time: 5 minutes!)

dry-shampooLast minute dinner plans and hair that looks like crows could be breeding inside its murky depths? This happens to me at least once a month and since I hate dry shampoo (how does one ever get the gritty, dandruff-like stuff out of the strands?) it’s revival time for grandmom’s 5-minute hair-pick-me-up. And it’s simple!

Take a sturdy hairbrush and force the bristles through an old stocking or panty hose. Brush your hair normally and watch all the icky stuff transfer from your scalp and strands on the fabric. When the cloth becomes dirty, remove it and replace with another piece and continue till hair is presentable. This is a true life saver!


How to look cool (but stay warm): The 11 best beauty cures for your winter blues!

Even the most cheerful chick might be bummed right now: according to research, this is the most depressing time of the year. The holidays are over, the weather is frightful and it’s all kinds of gray outside. Plus, the pressure to keep up your resolutions and recover from holiday expenses can be stressful. So, we could really use something to beat the blues right now. Well! Research also proves that primping can totally improve your mood. Here, we have a little (okay, a lot of) fun with that research and show you how. C’mon, let the smiling begin!

beauty-winter-mood-boostersTry the “happiness molecule”

Euphoryl – a molecule developed by Laboratoires Sérobiologiques – has the beauty world abuzz with it’s mood boosting promises. It is said to stimulate the production of dopamine and endorphins, which promote happiness, energy and sex appeal. An easy way to get your fix? The Physician’s Formula Happy Booster Blush ($10). Forget the science bit – the pretty pink hearts have us feeling more cheerful already.

Take a decadent dip

Bubble baths are bona fide stress busters. When kicking back in the tub, it’s easy to empty your mind and stop thinking about the fact that the weather is crappy. No time for the tub? Fill a bowl with warm water and a squirt of bath gel. Soak hands only, palms up, while you feel the stress slipping away from your whole body.

Armed with aromatherapy

One of the best beauty cures for winter blues lies in the world of aromatherapy. Fruity scents – such as lemon and watermelon – are usually associated with the happiest, most carefree times in our lives, like summertime and vacations. Plus, the scent of fruit sends your body a message to release certain chemicals that create a state of blissful relaxation. So, create your own blend of cheery scents with a mix of essential oils or try a pre-blended product: use a citrus body cleanser or face wash like Soap & Glory’s Sugar Crush Sweet Lime Body Wash ($12) to start (or end) your day smiling; or stash a lusciously scented body lotion in your desk drawer for when the weather is lousy.

Slather chocolate all over

The smell of chocolate releases seratonin in the brain and acts as a natural antidepressant. A whiff of it can bliss you out like nothing else. Give yourself an at-home chocolate massage, scrub or shower with these easy recipes or order up a scrumptious off-the-shelf treat. A couple of feel good finds? Hershey’s Cocoa Bath Set ($20) or The Body Shop’s Chocomania Scrub ($14).

winter beauty productsColor therapy

It’s said the the right colour can turn a frown upside down so opt for bright hues. Result: an instant jolt of energy. The easiest switch is a red lipstick. It is associated with parties and nights out, which can evoke memories of fun times. Plus a red lip is just so sexy and the reaction you get from others will put a grin on your face!

The taste test

Head to the drugstore and pick out a new lip gloss. Choose a flavour you love – an enjoyable taste will make you feel more positive. Citrus ones get bonus points for their uplifting aroma.

Show some massage love

A stress-busting massage sends messages to your brain, triggering the release of feel good chemicals that produce a sense of relaxation and well being. And that’s not all: massage also improves blood circulation, steps up lymphatic drainage, relaxes the muscles and boosts the immune system.

Embrocation creams

Sometimes, there is nothing quite as depressing as having to pile on layers and layers of heavy woollens to keep the cold at bay. Imagine how much time would be saved if we could skip the whole put-on-thermal-and-pullover-and-tights-and-coat and then take-off-thermal-and-pullover-and-tights-and-coat and then put-on-thermal-and-pullover-and-tights-and-coat-all-over-again four times a day? And what when that cute cocktail dress really, REALLY demands bare legs? When it’s freezing outside? Then you turn to embrocation creams – the stuff those cute spandex-shorts-clad cyclists use to trick their legs into thinking its 30 degrees warmer outside. Embrocation creams call upon blends of circulation-boosting ingredients like clove, capsica, peppermint and menthol to create a long lasting sensation of warmth that means bare legs can take the streets even in the dead of winter. Added bonus: the shea butter base hydrates winter-worn skin and gives it a super-sexy gleam. Happiness much? Look for DZnuts In-Heat Embrocation ($19.10) or Chamois Butt’r Hot Embrocation ($16.80).

Happy hair

Your hair products go a long way in deciding how you are feeling. That’s because skin absorbs upto 60% of what we put on it, and the scalp has some of the most fragile skin anywhere on the body. So, choose your ingredients carefully and sail through the day cocooned in bliss. Mint and menthol-spiked hair products offer the perfect wakeup call, and will leave you refreshed. Seeking comfort? Lemongrass and tea tree oil create a slightly warming sensation, which combines with their aromatherapy qualities to relax the scalp muscles and make you feel calmer.

Love winter? Loathe winter? How do YOU cope with winter?

I recently turned down a million dollars for this blog. Was it the right decision?

A new day, another bit of news about XYZ blog getting a multimillion dollar boost from angel investors. Screaming industry headlines about a blogger designing a range of makeup for a cooler-than-cool beauty brand or putting their name on an edgy collection of accessories. Blog streams filled to choking with syndicated posts that have gotten their writers thousands of dollars as payment. Often couched as a first person product review. Or maybe we should focus on those bright and beautiful gift bags – called ‘swag’ in industry terms – that land up at desks every week.

And what about all those mammoth teams that run so many of these blogs – complete with zillions of writers, designers, brand managers, publicists, marketing guys, sales teams, SEO experts and number crunchers?

economics of bloggingWhat, I often wonder, happened to the good old days (read 2 years back, give or take a few months) when a blog was as individualistic, personal, say-it-as-you-see-it form of media possible? When people ask me why I made the mammoth jump from magazines to blogs (normal people, I believe, take the opposite route) the answer was clear in my head: magazines tend to sell their soul to advertisers, have impossibly high overheads and writers get too caught up with inter-departmental logistics, chasing paper trails or helping support sales to actually do much writing. Added bonus: not having a large team (in my case, not having any team) means no office politics. Which I dread.

But good things don’t last, do they? Today, it seems you need a few million dollars and hip office spaces to run that blog. You need a huge team, loads of paid publicity, more extracurricular activities than writing time (appearances, YouTube, brand endorsements, paid posts, etc etc etc).

Which brings me to my current quandary: In the past 6 months, I’ve had two super-fabulous offers from leading digital companies that want to buy out While I am thrilled that this blog, which started from less than nothing 3 years back, has now crossed a million hits every month and is attracting this kind of attention, the concept just doesn’t sit well with me. Guess I am still a little old fashioned.

To me, all of you come to a blog vis-a-vis a magazine because of its honesty and individual personality. As a reader, I would believe a blogger far more than a magazine when they recommend a product – because their world is personal, immediate and in sync with “normal” people. And this simply can’t happen when you become part of a conglomerate.

economics of blogging 2To that end, I don’t accept any free samples from brands. When you see a review, it’s a product bought with my own money. The advertising comes from syndicates, so I am not beholden to play nice with any specific company. And despite the fact that it gets overwhelming at times, I am the only writer, editor, photo researcher and layout person on this blog. All incidentals – and trust me, those illustrations cost a pretty penny – are paid out by the advertising money and my own savings. And a one-time loan of $3,000 by my parents when everything was crashing and burning around me. At the end of the day, I often break even (touch wood!) and my life’s prime necessities – BOOKS – are paid for by the Amazon affiliate program.

More often than not, this means pissed off PR people and brand managers. And your name being left off the list for glittering champagne lunches and indulgent media trips. But is that what one blogs for anyway? A gift bag, a couple of flutes of Moet and some fawning pats on the back? I did enough of that as a magazine editor and have no further desire to trade in my voice and independence for social leverage or a free lunch.

And in doing this, I’ve taught myself HTML coding, the basics of graphic design, Photoshop, Illustrator, photography… and a whole other set of skills that have no connect with my degrees in English literature, law and journalism.

I don’t say that bloggers should not be making money. Or getting a name. Of course, we all need it. And deserve it. Often more than some others, because we are pumping so much of it back into our little blogging universe. And if one calculates the salary we would be getting for similar jobs in the print industry, the numbers may well be through the roof.

But I do think that we need some moderation. Some discretion. Otherwise we may well be headed towards a second internet implosion with gazillions of dissatisfied readers, impossibly high overheads, cookie cutter content and explosive teams. After all, when you follow the magazines in structure and methods, you will also follow them in future prospects. Over the edge of the abyss.

the beauty gypsySo, yes. After some thought, I said no to both those offers. And for that I have to thank all of you. Thank you getting The Beauty Gypsy to a place where some of the hottest names in world media want to integrate it into their empires. And thank you even more for giving me the courage to decline the temptations of big money and a boosted status quo, all in one stroke. The fact that you come back every day to this blog, with your time, comments and social media shares means the world to me. And I wouldn’t risk or sacrifice that link for everything.

So, thank you.

And. Rant. Over.

Back to you: Do you think blogs need to remain independent? Or should we grab the deals and go with the flow? What’s your advice? What would you do?