Is rice water Asia’s best kept beauty secret?

Next time you boil rice, think twice before tossing the water. Rice water is rich in beauty minerals and vitamins that make it fantastic for both skin and hair – a secret those flawless-skinned Japanese geishas have known for centuries. And it’s super-easy to make: simply boil some rice (preferably organic rice and boiled in distilled water), then pour the excess water in a lidded glass jar and store in the refrigerator. Once cooled, it will be a potent ingredient for crystal clear skin and super-shiny hair.

rice waterFlawless face

Wash your face, then soak a cotton pad in the rice water and apply it all over, as you would do with a toner.  Rice is rich in a complex of B vitamins called ‘inositol’ that helps promote cell growth, slows down the aging process and stimulates blood flow – the perfect recipe to tighten pores and bring a glow to the face. Besides this, rice water also has moisturising, antioxidant and UV-absorbing properties, along with an ability to bind to naturally occurring copper in the skin, thereby preventing the formation of melanin formation (hyper-pigmentation) and age spots.

Haute hair

After shampooing, work in some rice water into your hair. Leave it on for a few minutes, then rinse well. Rice proteins strengthen the hair shaft and fill in the cracks. The result? Ultra-smooth, seriously shiny hair.

Beauteous bod

The soothing nature of rice water makes it an effective remedy for rashes and other irritating or painful skin conditions. In a dermatological study at Brussels University, patients with atopic dermatitis (chronic inflammation of the skin) saw a 20% improvement after taking 15-minute baths filled with rice water twice a day.

Recipe for health

Drinking rice water is also extremely beneficial for overall health. It contains 8 essential amino acids, which form the building blocks for tissue and muscle regeneration. Rice water also provides energy due to high concentration of carbohydrates.

What do you do with your rice water? Will you be seeing it differently after reading this?

The (surprising!) beauty benefits of green tea

In my recent quest to nullify months years of junk food, ultra-late nights, fizzy drinks and buckets-full of coffee, I recently came across some surprising information on green tea. Seems that you don’t always have to actually drink the stuff to reap its benefits. Green tea also works superbly as a topical beauty ingredient, with skincare benefits that range from busting hormonal acne to warding off wrinkles and saggy skin.

No wonder then that every major beauty brand, right from Estee Lauder to L’Occitane, is rushing to include this potent plant in their formulations. But what if we can just get the benefits straight from the source? After all, green tea is one of the most easily accessible products almost anywhere in the world. I have been trying these ancient beauty recipes (most come from 2,000-years-old Chinese and Japanese books of medicine, where green tea is known as “green jade”) for a fortnight now and can personally vouch for their effectiveness. My skin has never recovered so fast before and is thriving in an anti-ageing, zero-acne, pollution-free sanctuary. 

green tea beauty benefits 2Green tea: Anti-acne face mask

What it does: Flushes out toxins from the skin, helps heal blemishes and soothes the complexion.

The science: Green tea contains catechins, which are anti-bacterial agents that suppress acne-causing bacteria and help regulate hormonal imbalances. It also possesses potent anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce the redness and inflammation brought about by zits, thereby helping them heal sans the scars.

How to: Mix 1 tablespoon of powdered green tea with an egg white and 1 teaspoon of pure honey; whip everything together with a fork. Apply the mixture to your face and leave for about 30 minutes. Then rinse it off and apply a moisturizer.

Green tea: Anti-aging face mask

What it does: Stops the signs of premature aging – like loose skin, wrinkles, age spots and fine lines – while making the complexion more moist and supple.

The science: The EGCG compounds in green tea can actually reactivate skin cells that are dying due to poor lifestyle habits, exposure to sunlight and pollution. Plus, it contains high level of oligomeric proanthocyanidins – OPCs – some of the most powerful antioxidants known to scientists. These antioxidants help ward off premature aging by fighting free radicals and healing damaged cells. And that’s not all: OPCs also inhibit the enzymes that break down collagen and elastin, which are essential for skin’s strength and suppleness.

How to: Combine 3 tablespoons of full fat yogurt with 1 tablespoon of ground green tea leaves. Apply on the face for 20 minutes, then rinse well.

Green tea: Facial scrub

What it does: Removes dirt and impurities from your pores.

The science: The slightly abrasive texture of dry green tea leaves acts as a great exfoliator to banish dead skin cells and purge pollutants.

How to: Mix 1 tablespoon of dry ground green tea leaves with enough honey to make a thick paste. Apply this paste all over your face and leave it on the skin for 10-15 minutes. Then rub it off in circular motions with your fingertips, rinsing away the excess with warm water.

green-tea-beauty-2

Green tea: Facial steam

What it does: Moisturizes, relaxes muscles, plumps wrinkles, eliminates toxins, dislodges dirt from pores and boosts circulation.

The science: Green tea is rich in antioxidants and catechins, which are propelled into your pores by the action of steam, thereby detoxifying, cleansing, refreshing and hydrating the skin.

How to: Put 1/8 cup green tea, 1/4 cup dried organic lemon balm and 2 tablespoons dried organic peppermint (double the quantities if using fresh herbs) in a bowl. Pour boiling water over the mixture, immediately placing a towel or lid over the bowl so that the oils don’t escape. Place the bowl on a table and hold your face over it, covering your head and the bowl with a large towel to make sure that no steam can escape. Keep your eyes closed and breathe deeply to inhale the therapeutic properties of the herbs. Steam for 5-10 minutes, depending on your comfort factor.

Green tea: Toner

What it does: Soothes and calms the skin, reduces itching and inflammation, while simultaneously tackling cuts, scrapes and other blemishes.

The science: Green tea has substantial anti-inflammatory properties, which make it an ideal beauty ingredient for sensitive skins. Herbalists have used cooled it for years to reduce itching and inflammation, and as an emergency first aid treatment to ease bleeding from small cuts and grazes. People with skin conditions such as psoriasis, rosacea, and dandruff, which are caused by inflammation, may benefit the most.

How to: Steep 5 teaspoons of green tea and 1 teaspoon of mint leaves in a cup of boiling water. Let the infusion stand for at least 10 minutes, then strain and allow to cool completely before pouring the water into a glass container. Now you can either soak cotton pads in this concoction or pour it into a spray bottle, from which you spritz your face 2-3 times a day.

Green tea: Relaxing bath soak

What it does: Soothes the body and clears the mind, making it perfect for a pre-bedtime ritual.

The science: There is a reason green tea appears as a key note in so many perfumes. Its fragrance has therapeutic values which create a feeling of balance, inner peace and serenity.

How to: Put some green tea leaves in a coffee filter (or a muslin handkerchief), gather the top, and tie it with a string. Drop it into your warm bathwater and chill out!

Green tea: Eye compress

What it does: Eases tired, puffy eyes and busts dark circles.

The science: Green tea contains vitamin K, which is a proven ingredient in the battle against dark circles and puffy eyes.

How to: Chill a cup of green tea in the refrigerator. Dip 2 cotton balls in the cool tea and place them on your closed eyelids. Sit back and relax for 10-15 minutes. As an alternative, you can swap the cotton balls for chilled, used tea bags.

green tea 3Green tea: Sunburn soother

What it does: Green tea can help soothe and heal sunburnt skin if applied directly to affected areas.

The science: Several scientific studies have proven green tea’s ability to neutralize the damage done by exposure to UV rays. This is a result of its high concentration of tannic acid, theobromine, and polyphenols – all of which ease inflammation and repair sun-damaged skin.

How to: Prepare a pot of green tea and chill it in the refrigerator. Use a cloth to apply the liquid to sunburnt areas – avoid rubbing; use the cloth as you would a cold compress.

Green tea: Mighty mouth

What it does: Green tea is also known for its ability to prevent bad breath – and it has the added advantage of tasting good if swallowed inadvertently.

The science: The natural fluorides in green tea curb mouth odor and help prevent plaque-forming microbes from attaching to the teeth.

How to: Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 4 tablespoons of green tea and allow them to infuse for at least 30 minutes. Then strain out the leaves and make a paste using this liquid and one teaspoon of baking soda. Use this paste to brush your teeth as usual.

Green tea: Strengthening hair rinse

What it does: Protects hair from pollution and harsh products, while making it strong and shiny.

The science: Not only does green tea help ailments such as dandruff and psoriasis by reducing inflammation, it also stimulates hair growth and softens the strands. This happens due to high levels of panthenol, vitamin E and vitamin C, which are all well established hair conditioners.

How to: Steep 3-4 green tea bags in 1 liter of boiling water for about an hour. Let it cool and use the liquid as a final rinse after you’ve shampooed and conditioned.

Why you should wash your face (and hair) with vodka

If you were in Russia, your day would probably begin and end with vodka, which is called upon for everything from rinsing the mouth to curing hair loss. Translating as “little water” or “dear water” in Russian, this crystal clear liquid was invented in 1503 by Kremlin monks who used it as a topical antiseptic and cure-all drink. The tradition continues till date – which can be a little weirdness-inducing at first glance. Then you see the zillion beauty benefits and figure that it’s simply like the French love for wine… cheers!

On this trip to Moscow and Samara, I pestered scores of women for traditional vodka-based beauty recipes. So, save a few sips of this potent alcohol for absolute (Absolut?) miracles on your face. And hair. And every other pore of your body. Salud!

Vodka’s beauty benefit #1: Astringent action

Mix equal amounts of vodka and water, then apply with a cotton ball to your face as an astringent. It will cleanse the skin and tighten pores.

Vodka’s beauty benefit #2: Ole’s firming ice cube treatment

This one comes straight from beauty guru Ole Henriksen and is perfect for tightening pores and firming the skin. All you need is equal amounts of fresh lemon juice, strongly brewed rose hips tea, strongly brewed mint tea and vodka. Blend all ingredients together and pour into an ice cube tray. When frozen, wrap an ice cube in a thin cotton handkerchief and rub across the entire face and throat for 2-5 minutes. Ice brings down the bloat, while vodka and lemon juice tighten pores and brighten the skin. Rose hip tea calms any inflammation and mint tea promotes micro-circulation to impart a healthy glow.

Vodka’s beauty benefit #3: Go frizz-free

Roughed up cuticles? Zero-shine strands? Add a shot of vodka to your deep conditioner. It will lower hair’s pH, helping the cuticles to close – and sealed cuticles mean reduced frizz and tons of shine.

Vodka’s beauty benefit #4: Clarifying rinse

Mix a mug of water with a tablespoon of vodka and use it as a final rinse after shampooing and conditioning. Perfect for removing product buildup from the scalp and strands, making hair lustrous and shiny!

Vodka’s beauty benefit #5: Diminish dandruff

Flaky scalp spoiling your beauty cred? Add three teaspoons of dried rosemary to a cup of vodka and leave overnight. Next day, strain the solution and massage it into your scalp. Leave for half an hour, then wash off with cold water.

vodka skincareVodka’s beauty benefit #6: Prevent hair loss

Mix a tablespoon of organic honey and onion juice in a jigger of vodka and apply on your scalp. Leave it on your hair overnight and wash off in the morning. Vodka cleanses the scalp, removes toxins from hair and stimulates the growth of healthy tresses.

Vodka’s beauty benefit #7: Bust foot odour

Simply rub each foot with a shot-worth of vodka. Goodbye, funky odour!

Vodka’s beauty benefit #8: Ban bad breath

Swish around half a shot’s worth of vodka in your mouth for a minute and your breath will go from poor to pleasant.

Vodka’s beauty benefit #9: Cold sores

Apply a dab of vodka on a cold sore to dry it out.

Vodka’s beauty benefit #10: Poison ivy

Pour a bit of vodka on a poison ivy rash to help relieve itching – it removes the urushiol oil that causes this problem.

Vodka’s beauty benefit #11: Smooth shave

An uber-smooth shave begins with an uber-clean razor. So, soak your blade in a cup of vodka after shaving. Vodka will prevent it from getting rusty and clear any bacterial buildup.

Clay 101: Which one’s best suited for your skin. And hair. (Because clay masks are everything!)

While I have yet to achieve Louis Litt’s levels of mudding (What? You don’t watch Suits? Why??!!), the lure of a simple clay mask that literally sucks out toxins and other accumulated grime from deep under your skin is massively ooh-worthy!

That’s why this innocuous ingredient, which literally comes from the earth and has been used by some of history’s most gorgeous women since ancient times, is fast becoming one of the trendiest staples in today’s beauty circles. From face masks and soaps to foundation sticks and hair conditioners, clay seems to be just everywhere.

And it’s one of the simplest face masks to put together: Mix with a liquid (plain water/milk/rose water/yogurt/aloe… the possibilities are endless) and apply. That’s all!

But which clay to choose? Bentonite? Kaolin? Fuller’s Earth? Which one will work with your skin type and sort your specific complexion or hair issues?

Let’s figure it all out.

Bentonite clay

This fine-particled, grey-green clay (avoid the white variety – it’s over processed) comes from volcanic regions and is rich in magnesium. Bentonite’s signature is its unique molecular structure, which develops an electrical charge and swells up like an open sponge when mixed with water. This makes it particularly great at sucking out toxins, bacteria, fungus, oils and even excess sodium (hello water retention and puffiness) from the skin’s very follicles.

All properties that make bentonite perfect for oily, acne-prone skin and complexions suffering from large pores, is subjected to pollution or has chronic infections. On the other hand, dryer skin types should try and avoid this particular clay – not using it more than once a week.

Fuller’s earth

This ancient volcanic ash sediment – also known as Multani mitti – is so absorbent that it’s even called upon to soak up small oil spills and draw out poisons from the body. It looks very similar to bentonite and is again great at drawing out toxins, excess oil and other impurities from the skin.

However, it has one additional property: This particular clay is great for treating hyper pigmentation, because of its mild bleaching action. It also boosts circulation but may be too drying for some complexions.

Kaolin clay

This finely milled clay is the gentlest of all and comes in many colours. White kaolin (which is also used to make porcelain) is the mildest. And rather than being absorbent, it’s a gentle exfoliant that’s great for softening the skin. This make white kaolin clay perfect for dry, sensitive complexions. Yellow kaolin is a little more absorbent and exfoliating, with the additional benefit of boosting skin circulation.

Red kaolin is the most absorbent, making it perfect for oily, congested and acne-prone skin. Pink kaolin is a mixture of red and white, which is great for oily yet sensitive skin that needs medium-level exfoliation and detoxification.

French green clay

Made of mineral-rich volcanic ash mined from the bedrock quarries of France, this green clay’s molecular structure helps pull out deeply seated toxins, bust blemishes, soak up excess oil, boost circulation and balance skin’s pH levels. It is also a great anti-ager, given its toning action, which boosts circulation to repair damaged skin, soothes out fine lines and tightens the pores.

French green clay is a boon for oily and acne-prone skin, though it may be too drying for those on the other end of the spectrum.

Rhassoul clay

Mined from Morocco’s lava fields, Rhassoul clay has a dual action: It contains a super-potent blend of minerals and is negatively charged. Since most skin toxins are positively charged, the latter quality literally helps suck out blackheads (it’s seriously the best treatment for blackheads!), excess sebum and other debris out of skin pores. The inherent minerals simultaneously tone, calm and soften the skin.

This means Rhassoul is not as drying as bentonite or Fuller’s earth, making it great for dry skin as well. This particular clay is also great for hair and scalp, since it sops up excessive oil, pollutant and product buildup.

Umbrian clay

Indigenous to the Umbrian region of Italy, this clay is super-loaded with minerals and is also highly absorbent. It’s not only great for detoxifying and de-greasing, Umbrian clay also helps maintain the skin’s pH levels, soothe irritations, calm inflammation and refine the pores.

Umbrian clay is best suited for normal to oily complexions, though drier ones that are tempted by its other benefits can also bring it out once a week. The trick is to not let it dry on your face completely; rinse off while the clay is still a bit wet to the touch, to stop it from dehydrating your skin.

Blue clay

One of the rarest cosmetic clays around, blue clay is found in Siberia and has an exceptionally high mineral content. Besides being super-absorbent and drawing out impurities, it also nourishes the skin, stimulates blood circulation and tones the complexion.

This makes it perfect for mature skin, since it has a potent ant-ageing action, ironing away fine lines, stepping up cell metabolism to keep wrinkles at bay and restoring suppleness and elasticity.

Dead sea mudDead Sea mud

Though this is technically not clay – mud is a mixture of soil, silt, clay and water – the terms are often used interchangeably in the beauty industry. And Dead Sea mud (seen above in its natural habitat – the Dead Sea) is one of the most cult skincare ingredients out there, revered for its super-high concentrations of salts and minerals (specially magnesium, sodium, calcium and potassium). This makes it a terrific deep cleanser and exfoliator, while killing acne, nourishing the skin, restoring pH levels, treating conditions like psoriasis and eczema, toning and clarifying the complexion, improving its texture and even smoothing out cellulite and stretch marks.

Dead Sea mud also has another huge benefit: It is great at easing out the pain of sore muscles, combatting inflammation and relaxing the mind and body, hence appearing in a lot of body masks and scrubs. It is good for all types of skin, including dry and sensitive ones.

European Moor mud

Also known as Balneoo Peat, European Moor mud actually contains almost no clay. Instead, it contains the organic residue of multifarious flowers, herbs and grasses, which make it rich in natural enzymes, minerals, amino acids and vitamins. Originating from Hungary and the Czech Republic, its high humic content makes it a potent anti-inflammatory and circulation booster, which helps detoxify the body, decongest the skin, soothe joint inflammation, ease achy muscles and smooth away cellulite. European Moor mud is highly soluble in water, so it won’t clog up your bath tub either.

Have you tried a clay product before? How was your experience?