12 hair tips that are GUARANTEED to make your life easier

I collect hair tips like it’s my job (which it is – and YAY for that!). Unfortunately, though there are precious few pro pointers that actually work in real life, for those of us who don’t have any army of hair stylists shadowing us every minute of the day. Because hair can be complicated. Those Alberta Ferreti twists may look ultra-effortless but I defy you to pull them off with only two arms that happen to be on the side of your body, rather than attached at the back!

Which is why I’ve culled through the season’s fashion week diaries and am giving you only those hair hacks that are feasible for normal mortals. And these are seriously pretty easy… in fact, you’ll pretty soon be wondering how you lived without them at all. I am!

Model Gigi Hadid walks the runway wearing Anna Sui Spring 2016 during New York Fashion Week (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows)

Model Gigi Hadid walks the runway wearing Anna Sui Spring 2016 during New York Fashion Week (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for NYFW: The Shows)

How to ‘dry shampoo’: Dry shampoo can seem like a Godsend, right up until you are left with rough, chalky strands. To avoid that battle, spray the dry shampoo onto a paddle brush and then spritz some hair spray on top. Now run the brush through your hair and say hello to clean, shiny and chalk-free strands.

Too much dry shampoo (or texturising powder): I was constantly battling with this problem till I learnt the backstage hair quick fix. Simply blast the overdone areas with hairspray… it will dissolve the excess powder.

Hair spray, done right: As for hairspray overload (think stiff and unnatural hair… bah!), spray the hair spray on your hair brush after blow drying it. Then run the brush through your strands. This way, you’ll get the staying power of hairspray, sans the stiffness.

Mousse it up: Every single hairstylist I’ve ever spoken to has one suggestion – run some mousse through your hair, regardless of the style you’re going after. Mousse makes your hair look thicker, tames flyaways and keeps everything smooth and sexy.

Get the gloss: The trick is in only rinsing out your conditioner 70% of the way – an easy way to get glossy locks, though those with fine hair may find it makes their strands too limp. 

Easy, instant waves: Braid thin sections of hair and then run a flat iron over them. Then let the hair cool, unbraid and brush through gently. Voila, tight waves!

Vidal Sassoon for Issa (Photo courtesy St Tropez)

Vidal Sassoon for Issa (Photo courtesy St Tropez)

Volume, volume, volume: For the most OTT volume, spritz hair with some salt before anything else. The salt adds texture and makes hair more dense, making it easier to backcomb.

Braid it tight: If your braid always seems to start falling apart halfway through the day (or night), rub some hair cream in your hands before you start the twisting and knotting. The cream will work its way through the locks as you braid, helping keep everything smooth and in place.

Sleek ponies: To keep it sleek, slick hair back with pomade before tying the elastic.

Flyaways: Yes, theoretically you can use a toothbrush spritzed with a hair spray to tame flyaways. But unless you have just about 4 inches of hair on your head, this is going to take forever. Hair pros have learnt to swap the dental staple for a flat-topped kabuki makeup brush that’s light and dense enough to deliver the spray sans overloading, while being big enough to get the job done quickly.

No slip fix: The rubber band keeps slipping? Spritz on a texturising product – like dry shampoo  or hair spray before you tie it on, then add a shot of hair spray on top for added hold.

Colour fix: Need a fix that will hide those roots without a trip to the salon? Pick an eyeshadow that matches the colour of your hair and brush it on!

What’s your secret hair hack? We could all use the help!

Serum, sunscreen, moisturizer… what goes on first?

This depends on whether you are using a physical or chemical sunscreen. Check the label – if it lists Parsol, mexoryl, oxybenzone or avebenzone as an ingredient, the formula is chemical. If it does not contain any of these and lists zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, it’s a physical sunscreen. If, however, it contains ingredients from both categories, treat it as a chemical sunscreen.

sunscreen layeringChemical sunscreens need to sink into the skin, so they go first – apply them onto clean, dry skin, wait a minute and then follow up with serum and moisturizer (in that order).

Physical sunscreens (also known as sunblocks), on the other hand, create an opaque barrier on your skin and won’t allow any other product to work effectively over them. So, if you put moisturizer over sunblock, the latter will stop the former from being effective. Plus, the act of putting on the moisturizer or serum over the physical formulation can give the sunblock a patchy effect, thereby reducing your sun protection. So it should be serum (the lightest product always goes on first), then moisturizer, then sunblock.

And yes, between serum and moisturiser, serum goes on first. If you are also using an essence, that would go on before the serum. Another rule of thumb: wait a minute between putting on each product. This way, you will allow them to absorb fully and also stop pilling.

Any kind of makeup – like foundation, concealer and powder – would go on last in all cases. Unless you’re using a powder sunscreen, which can be brushed on right at the end, in place of setting powder. Powder sunscreens are usually mineral based and won’t clog the pores, making them perfect for those with acne-prone skin. Added benefit: You can reapply every couple of hours (as you know you’re supposed to be doing!) without disturbing your makeup.

Mysore Sandal Soap: A tale of exoticism, evolution and extinction

The year was 1916 and the princely Indian State of Mysore, which was the world’s largest supplier of sandalwood and sandalwood oil, had a mammoth problem on its hands. With the First World War in full swing, there was no way to export the kingdom’s excessive sandalwood reserves to Europe.

That’s when Nalvadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar, the king of Mysore, came up with a historical solution – to set up the Government Soap Factory in Bangalore, which would produce soap crafted from pure sandalwood oil. A factory to distill sandalwood oil from the wood was set up at Mysore in the same year.

… and so a legend was born

Mysore Sandal Soap soon garnered a cult following worldwide and even Queen Victoria rated it as her favourite skincare product. Crates full of the innocuous bars were regularly shipped to the monarch in England and to this day Mysore Sandal Soap enjoys the distinction of being used within the royal palaces of the United Kingdom.

Mysore Sandal Soap
Mysore Sandal Soap soon garnered a cult following worldwide and even Queen Victoria rated it as her favourite skincare product

The soap’s secret lay in its simple formula – a faultless blend of  pure vegetable ingredients and natural sandalwood oil. Till date, Mysore Sandal Soap it holds the distinction of being the only 100% pure sandalwood oil soap available in the world.

Because pure sandalwood is rare. And perfect for the skin.

And this is no small feat, considering that Indian sandalwood (Santalum album) is rated as the highest quality worldwide. This precious material has also been revered for centuries due to its immense beauty and health benefits.

A small sampler: It helps in the reduction of acne and stretch marks, relieves both inflammation and itching, has anti-ageing properties, imparts a soothing, toning and moisturising effect, prevents marks and scars on the face and defends against skin rashes.

It is also one of the oldest known perfume materials in the world and has a calming effect on the body. This makes it a major element in meditation and many forms of yoga even use it for awakening sexual energy. In fact, so potent are its powers that this precious wood forms the cornerstone of almost all rituals – right from being offered to Gods and Goddesses to serving as a metaphysical purifier for brides and grooms during wedding ceremonies.

Till date, Mysore Sandal Soap holds the distinction of being the only 100% pure sandalwood oil soap available in the world

And herein lies the problem for Mysore Sandal Soap

However, soaring international demand (sandalwood oil prices have risen to US$1,000–1,500 per kilogram) means that Indian sandalwood has become a threatened species. Every single tree in the country is now government-owned and their harvest is strictly controlled. That’s because regeneration is so difficult: sandalwood is a slow-growing species and a tree must be over 30 years old before it can be used for the production of oil.

However, illegal poaching is destructively rampant.

In fact, the declining availability of pure sandalwood oil means that the Mysore Sandal Soap, whose formula and packaging remains the same as it was almost a century ago, is gradually becoming difficult to produce in large quantities. Truly ironical for a product whose life began with the intention of using up excessive raw materials!

Hopefully, someone will find a solution to this dilemma soon. Till then, it’s safer to stock up on these bars if you relish their exotic classicism!

The declining availability of pure sandalwood oil means that the Mysore Sandal Soap, whose formula and packaging remains the same as it was almost a century ago, is gradually becoming more difficult to produce in large quantities
The Mysore palace... where it all began

The Mysore palace… where it all began

Discovering Queen Elizabeth (and Duchess Kate’s) Britain, one beauty recipe at a time!

So, did Queen Elizabeth wake up on her 90th birthday and have a nice laugh at Prince Charles’ expense? Hoo boy, doesn’t seem you’re going to be the king anytime in the near future. After all, the world’s oldest monarch isn’t going anywhere soon, considering her sprightly step and reigns-well-in-hand disposition.

And thank God for that! Because Elizabeth Alexandra Mary (as she was christened after her birth at 2:40 am on April 21, 1926) is one of the most iconic and stylish monarchs of our times. She has many a sartorial success to her name, not the least of all being those super-perky block colours that make sure she immediately stands out in any crowd.

And her style is truly global, replete with a wedding ring made from a nugget of Welsh gold and a coronation dress that was embroidered with English roses, Scottish thistles, Welsh leeks, Irish shamrocks and the national flowers of the Dominions. Her wedding cake was made using ingredients gifted by the Australian Girl Guides.

Queen Elizabeth II also has an abiding love for Scottish country dancing and once wore a stunning gown hand-sewn with 2,091 shamrocks during a State visit to Ireland. Her favourite indulgence is a collection of pretty, sheer umbrellas with different coloured bands to match her outfits.

Besides umbrellas, the queen has an extensive (to put it mildly) collection of jewellery that includes the largest pink diamond in the world. Plus, she owns 88 cygnet swans and all the dolphins, whales, porpoises and sturgeons caught within three miles of UK’s coast.She has launched 23 ships and socially hosts more than 50,000 people at Buckingham Palace in an average year (that has to be exhausting!).

Queen Elizabeth II (then Princess Elizabeth) dances with her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, at a square dance held in their honour in Ottawa, by Governor General Viscount Alexander, 17th October 1951. The dance was one of the events arranged during their Canadian tour. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Queen Elizabeth II (then Princess Elizabeth) dances with her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, at a square dance held in their honour in Ottawa, by Governor General Viscount Alexander, 17th October 1951. The dance was one of the events arranged during their Canadian tour. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

But Queen Elizabeth II’s prowess goes much deeper: She trained as a mechanic during the second world war, collected rationing coupons for her wedding dress, has a long association with racing pigeons (such a thing exists?), has seen 12 US presidents and 12 UK prime ministers come and go during her reign (yes, you read that correctly), sent her first email in 1976 (again, yup!), bred a corgi with a dachshund to create the dorgi, was the first titular head of the Church of England to receive a Pope at the Buckingham Palace in 450 years (Pope John Paul II in 1982), has been a working mother to four children (and trust me, with them being brats so very often and her having a brutal schedule, it couldn’t be easy!) and her thoroughbreds have won virtually every major race in Britain.

WHEW!

No wonder the world is celebrating 90 years of this magnificent woman. 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. Just see Queen Elizabeth II – there is no way she looks 90!

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.

British 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.

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.

Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) driving an ambulance during her wartime service in the A.T.S. (Auxiliary Territorial Service), 10th April 1945. (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)

Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II) driving an ambulance during her wartime service in the A.T.S. (Auxiliary Territorial Service), 10th April 1945. (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)

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.

London, UNITED KINGDOM: Combo picture of various portraits of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II wearing hat on different occasions and dates. Royal protocol decrees that Her Majesty always wears a hat in public, while her face must be visible at all times. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

Royal protocol decrees that Her Majesty always wears a hat in public, while her face must be visible at all times. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

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.

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 Queen Elizabeth II as me? Or not? And what’s YOUR secret homeland recipe?