Beauty recipe: This crushed Cabarnet scrub is the ultimate smooth skin secret

I have worshipped at the shrine – or rather, beauty counter – of Mathilde Thomas, ever since she founded Caudalie in 1995. Today, this French skincare brand has garnered a cult following and created a global spa empire, which has given the world a whole new beauty vocabulary, peppered with potent ingredients like vinotherapy, polyphenols and resvesterol.

Thomas holds a bagful of patents for grape-based skincare, many developed in association with leading dermatologists from the Harvard Medical School and Bordeaux University. No wonder products from Caudalie grace tables of the who’s-who of the beauty world, including Audrey Tatou and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. I, personally, cannot live without the Vinoperfect Radiance Serum.

So, imagine my delight when Thomas put out a book distilling the best tips, advice and beauty recipes she’s picked up over a lifetime of working deep in the beauty industry.   From relaxing à la French to makeup tips and diet secrets (lots of wine and cheese!), The French Beauty Solution: Time-Tested Secrets to Look and Feel Beautiful Inside and Out is like having your own French BFF whispering life altering beauty advice into your ears.

My favourite section, however, is the one where she spills DIY beauty recipes from the Caudalie wine spa. Because what can be better than enjoying a bit of all-natural French beauty indulgence right at home? As an example, take a look at this brightening, smoothing and detoxifying grape seed scrub, which has quickly become my go-to for brighter, fresher skin.

From Mathilde Thomas…

The great  thing about this scrub is that you can customise it to your liking. Adding more sugar means more buffing power; adding more grape seeds means more scrubbing power. It smells wonderful as is, or you can add a few drops of your favourite essential oil for its therapeutic properties and luscious scent. Try lemon, geranium, rose, lavender, rosemary, or sandalwood.

You will need

1/4 cup organic brown sugar
2 tablespoons grape seeds
At least 1/3 cup grape-seed oil (add more if needed)
1/4 cup raw organic honey
A few drops of essential oil (optional)

Method

  1. Place the sugar and grape seeds in a microwavable bowl
  2. Pour on grape-seed oil until the sugar and seeds are fully saturated, then add the honey and essential oil, if using, and mix well
  3. Warm the mixture in the microwave for 20 to 30 seconds (this step is optional)
  4. Massage into your skin before stepping into the shower, focusing on areas like elbows, knees and the backs of your thighs, and then rinse off
  5. Apply a nourishing body cream while your skin is still damp

Stressed? Exhausted? At the end of the road? Your Skin NEEDS this DIY face mask

What is life without a bit of stress? And we all know what stress does to skin. Acne, lack of radiance, dryness, dullness, wrinkles, rashes… it’s not a pretty sight. And nobody likes to battle with horrid skin.

While I can’t actually take away your stress (sorry!), here’s a solution to the skin woes at least.

Carrots are a terrific source of antioxidants, which neutralise the effect of stress and environment-induced free radicals. Their beta-carotene (which is often referred to as the “beauty vitamin” because of its importance in maintaining the skin’s health) boosts the renewal process of skin cells, besides helping to nourish, tighten, revitalize and rejuvenate the complexion. Add in their potent antiseptic and anti-inflammatory qualities, and you have the perfect base for a face mask that will reset your skin to its original sparkling, dewy self by negating the effects of pollution, sun damage, junk food, late nights and (at least in my case!) occasional bouts of pure skincare laziness.

The honey in this anti-stress face pack is super hydrating, to keep skin supple and glowy. Plus, its enzymes soften the skin, while antiseptic and anti-fungal elements penetrate clogged pores to draw out impurities, thus tackling breakouts, reducing redness and calming inflammation.

Baking soda (yes, simple baking soda!) is alkaline in nature and hence disrupts the growth of bacteria (without disrupting the pH balance of the skin) to help fight acne.

stress face maskYou will need

2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon fresh carrot juice
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

How to make the anti-stress face mask

  1. Pour all the ingredients in a small bowl and stir well.
  2. Apply this paste all over your face and leave it on for 20 minutes.
  3. After that, remove the mask with lukewarm water.
  4. Finally, dip a cotton ball in rose water (or plain mineral water) and gently dab it all the face and neck.

How do you keep yourself sane when the world is spinning out of control? 

Beauty recipes from my Indian wedding (that work EVERYWHERE in the world!)

Nine hours. That’s how long it took to apply the mehndi at the Indian part of my wedding, exactly 8 years back. I still remember waking up at 6 in the morning and sitting still for 9 full hours, while 4 women worked simultaneously on my hands and legs (so, that’s 36 woman-hours in total), sketching intricate designs from the tips of my fingers to the shoulders, and from the tips of my toes to the knees – both sides! And then waiting another 4 hours for it to dry, followed by the mandatory lemon-and-sugar rinse and leaving it overnight to assure a rich and dark colour. I think that’s when it finally dawned that I was about to get married – me, the girl who saw India as a cultural fantasy and had openly declared marriage to be the least sane of all institutions know to mankind. Well, love and all that… !!!!

My wedding mehndi

My wedding mehndi

Anyway, coming back to the mehndi (or henna), it’s so crucial to an Indian wedding that the two have become synonymous with one another. Mehndi brings luck to the new couple, while its colour is supposed to indicate the strength of the husband’s love: the deeper the hue, the stronger the love! And, most importantly, the bride is not allowed to work in her husband’s home until her mehndi fades completely (thereby making up for those 9 hours!).

And it’s not just about the mehndi, either. Today, it’s been 8 years since I got married and in true beauty junkie fashion, what I remember most about the wedding are those long, lush and totally indulgent hair and skincare rituals that I got to enjoy as a bride in a culture that elevates its beauty heritage to a ceremonial pedestal. My mother is still convinced that the only reason I traded my raggedy skinnies for a traditional Rajasthani lehenga (that weighed 41 pounds!) was to enjoy all the beauty goodies that hold ritualistic centre stage in an Indian wedding. She may well be right.

Thankfully, though, you don’t need to be a bride to enjoy some of these timeless beauty recipes that make you look good and feel good… the perfect combination, where I am concerned!

Indian beauty recipe #1: Sandalwood & almond face scrub

Rose water is purifying, while almonds and saffron represent fertility. But that’s just the ritualistic part. The reason Indian women have revered this scrub since the times of Ayurveda is because almonds contain essential fatty acids for smooth and super-supple skin. They are also packed with antioxidants, including vitamin E, to neutralise environmental toxins and keep skin healthy.

Rose water and saffron, in the meantime, are packed with skin soothing and complexion perfecting ingredients, like Vitamin C and polyphenols, which can erase fine lines, boost collagen, clear blocked pores, soften the complexion and hydrate cell tissues.

4-5 almonds
3-4 strands of saffron, dissolved in a few drops of warm water
few drops of rose water

1. Rub the almonds on a coarse stone with rose water till you get a paste

2. Mix this paste with the saffron water

3. Apply the mask to your face; let it dry, then rub it off with wet hands. Weeks of accumulated grime and dead skin will come off with the paste

Indian beauty recipe #2: Heal chronic acne

Sandalwood has potent antiseptic, astringent, anti-inflammatory and disinfectant properties that make it a treat for flawlessly glow-y complexions. It’s also superb at reducing skin scarring of all kinds. Vetiver is antiseptic and very effective in treating chronic acne. Added bonus: this paste smells divine!

1 small bunch vetiver
few drops of vetiver essential oil
2 tsp sandalwood powder
 

1. Soak the vetiver in a little water overnight

2. Next day, strain the water and mix it with the sandalwood powder

3. Add few drops of vetiver essential oil to the paste

4. Apply this paste on your face, paying special attention to the affected areas; wash it off once dry. Repeat daily till for 2-4 weeks; the left over paste should be kept refrigerated

This day, that year!

This day, that year!

Indian beauty recipe #3: Stop seeing spots

Masoor dal (whole brown lentils) is superb for lightening acne scars and hyper pigmentation, tightening the pores, nourishing the skin and bringing about a natural glow. Ghee (clarified butter) is an Ayurvedic staple used to deep cleanse and moisturise, while being one of nature’s most potent skin healers. In fact, Ayurveda calls upon ghee for everything from healing burns and tackling bruises or rashes to closing the skin post-surgery.

2 tbsp masoor (whole black lentils)
1 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
 

1. Soak the masoor in filtered water for an hour

2. Throw away the water and grind the lentils and ghee together, till they reach a paste-like consistency

3. Apply this paste on freshly washed face; gently scrub off with wet fingers after half an hour

4. Repeat daily for a week and then once-weekly for best results

Indian beauty recipe #4: Traditional body polish

Used by women all over India, this gently body scrub literally shucks the dead cells and buffs skin to silky smoothness. How? Milk contains hefty amounts of lactic acid to loosen dead cells and grime; chickpea flour sloughs off dead skin; while turmeric is a natural cleanser and disinfectant.

2 tbsp chickpea flour
pinch of turmeric powder
enough milk to make a paste
 

1. Blend all the ingredients into a thick paste

2. Apply on slightly damp skin, then rub off in gentle, circular motions. Finally rinse skin clean with plain water

Indian beauty recipe #5: Whole body mask

This traditional body mask (called an ubtan) is applied to both bride and groom for seven days before the wedding. It’s messy but superb for making skin smooth, flawless and glow-y. Turmeric cleanses, disinfects and glosses; sandalwood is antiseptic, astringent and anti-inflammatory; gur (jaggery) is packed with glycolic acid for exfoliation and humectants to keep everything moisturised; yogurt’s lactic acid helps slough off dead skin cells; chickpea flour busts grime and toxins; and ghee deep cleanses, moisturise and heals.

2 cups besan (chickpea flour)
1 tbsp sandalwood powder
2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp gur (sugar cane jaggery)
2 tbsp yogurt
2 tsp ghee (clarified butter)

1. Mix everything together to form a paste

2. Apply the paste to clean skin; wait till it dries (approximately 15 minutes), then rub it away with wet fingers. Finally, rinse clean with lukewarm water

Playing dress up

Playing dress up

Indian beauty recipe #6: Sexy strands

It’s a well accepted fact that there couldn’t be anything better for your strands than coconut oil (read more about the beauty benefits of coconut oil right here). Add in amla (Indian gooseberry), one of the highest natural sources of vitamin C and powerful antioxidants that can penetrate the scalp to strengthen hair follicles right at their roots, and you have a potent potion to stop hair loss and promote the growth of stronger, healthier strands.

1 cup amla juice
1 cup coconut oil
 

1. Mix the coconut oil and amla juice; pour into a heavy bottomed pan and bring to a boil

2. Let it simmer for 5-10 minutes on a medium flame, till all the water has evaporated and you are left with a light brown paste

3. Take off the heat, cool and strain; store in a glass bottle

4. Massage well into your scalp, leave on for at least half an hour and then wash hair with a mild shampoo

Indian beauty recipe #7: Smooth & glossy hair oil

Every ingredient in this fragrant hair oil is chosen because of its blood-circulation-boosting and hair-root-nourishing properties. Try it once a week and you will see your strands getting thicker, smoother, stronger and way glossier than ever before.

half cup sesame oil
2 cloves garlic
small piece of dry ginger 
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp black pepper
 

1. Coarsely pound the garlic and ginger; you don’t need to crush it too fine, just a couple of whacks is enough to release their oils

2. Heat sesame oil in a small pan; once it’s hot, add the cumin and black pepper

3. Add the crushed garlic and ginger; let everything simmer together for a few seconds (the spices shouldn’t burn)

4. Let the oil cool and store it in a glass bottle

5. When you want to use the oil, warm it up to lukewarm (take care that it’s not hot enough to burn your skin) and massage it in your scalp. Let it soak for at least 15 minutes (an hour is ideal!), then wash it off with your regular shampoo

What’s a favourite memory from your wedding? Let’s share!

Adult acne: The easiest (and most surprising) ways to prevent breakouts

It’s happened to all of us. We drink loads of water, wash our face religiously, take off every speck of makeup at night, keep our health in check, sleep for 8 hours, take our vitamin and mineral supplements… basically, do every single thing to prevent acne. Yet, those horrid zits keep cropping up over our faces, back and other assorted body parts. So, what’s a woman to do? A lot, it seems, as experts identify powerful hidden culprits that wreak havoc on our skin while seeming absolutely harmless.

acne causesThe acne trigger: Your man

His stubble may look hot but it causes serious friction that can inflame skin, leading to a breakout. Your man is smooth faced? Then check for fragrance-heavy aftershaves or colognes.

What to do: Gift him a nice razor and a fragrance-free aftershave.

The acne trigger: Water

Dehydration is bad for skin but in a Catch-22, so is the wrong kind of water. Hard water, which has a high concentration of minerals, doesn’t rinse away soap effectively. And the leftover residue can clog pores, leading to acne bumps.

What to Do: Install a water softener at home (there are excellent ones for under $30). And when you are out and about, use pre-moistened cloths instead of a rinse-off cleanser.

The Trigger: Toothpaste

Those small, red bumps around your mouth may not be acne at all. Rather, it could be perioral dermatitis – a skin condition that comes about as a reaction to certain ingredients in toothpaste. Fluoride and whitening agents are the most common offenders.

What to do: Switch to a fluoride-free, non-whitening paste and avoid acne products – they can be too harsh on irritated skin.

The acne trigger: Your latte

While the medical community remains divided over the dairy-acne connection, research does suggest that the proteins and peptides in cow’s milk increase the production of an acne-promoting hormone called IGF-1. It also increases the production of insulin, which further works on androgens to increase oil and plug pores.

What to do: To find out if dairy is the culprit, quit cold turkey for 3-6 months. Try soy latte instead (it’s yummy!).

The acne trigger: Your hair

Do you use any products to keep your hair frizz-free, voluminous and healthy? Most of these contain silicone-based polymers that are good for your strands but bad for your skin. And when you sweat, wash your hair or have it brush against the skin, small amounts of these polymers can be transferred from strands to skin, acting like shrink wrap to block the pores. Result? Breakouts – particularly on your forehead and back. An oily scalp makes matters worse. Oil glands feed acne-causing bacteria, which then end up on your neck and forehead.

What to do: Rinse your hair and then put it up in a clip while you wash your back; on extra-warm days, keep hair up and out of your face with a headband; tie hair in a loose bun or pony while sleeping; and swipe skin near the hairline with a salicylic acid pad twice a day to keep pores clear.

The acne trigger: Your pillowcase

Your pillowcase collects all kinds of crud – from conditioner residue and hair oils to sweat and body grime – that can clog the pores on your face over time.

What to do: Dermatologists recommend changing your pillowcase at least once a week, or more if you’re acne-prone.

reason for acneThe acne trigger: Your birth control

Uh, doesn’t the pill clear up skin? Oftentimes, yes. But everyone’s estrogen and progesterone balance is unique, which means hormonal birth control affects different women in different ways. Unfortunately, for a fair proportion, it brings on some nasty acne instead.

What to do: Ask your gyno for a new pill. And since everyone’s different, you will have to experiment. But give it a few cycles: switching too soon puts you back at square one.

The acne trigger: Sun exposure

It’s generally believed that sun exposure dries up oil and makes zits less noticeable but it’s really a deal with the devil. That’s because when skin tans, it also thickens to protect itself. Consequence? Blocked pores, which are the forerunners to acne.

What to Do: Wear an oil-free lotion with a physical UV blocker, like micronized zinc oxide, which actually helps lessen flare-ups (try SkinCeuticals Sheer Physical UV Defense SPF 50).

The acne trigger: Skipping moisturiser

People with acne tend to skip the moisturiser, thinking it will make skin greasy and have them breaking out even more. In fact, it’s the opposite: when skin becomes too parched, it kicks into oil-production overdrive to compensate for surface dryness.

What to do: Try a moisturiser specifically geared toward reducing breakouts (like Avene Clean-AC Hydrating Soothing Care).

acne causes 3The acne trigger: Your workout routine

It’s not just tight fitting clothes and sweat that clog pores and bring on the acne; your workout routine itself may be the problem. Dr. Nicholas Perricone, New York based dermatologist and author of The Clear Skin Prescription, explains that lifting weights causes the body to release more testosterone, which can also contribute to breakouts.

What to do: Switch to yoga and other forms of moderate exercise. Plus, load up on an anti-inflammatory diet heavy on cold water fish, beans and low glycemic fruits and vegetables.

The acne trigger: Stress

Stress spurs the release of cortisol (“the stress hormone”), which can make the cells inside a pore “sticky” and more prone to getting clogged.

What to do: Relax!

The acne trigger: Big plans

Sometimes, your body can misread even excitement (vacation! graduation! promotion!) for stress and affect skin the same way: pores clog, your immune system freaks out and you get a mammoth pimple.

What to do: Pop 200 milligrams of ibuprofen to help calm inflammation. Take another dose in 6-8 hours, then one more the next day. But that’s it: over-use can be dangerous.

The acne trigger: Your cellphone

Think about it: your phones go everywhere with you. Literally, everywhere. Then think about where all you put them down and all the germs they accumulate. Add in the fact that you use your hands to operate them all the time. One big, nasty germ-fest, anyone? Now think about how every time you talk on one of them, you’re pressing all this grime and germs against your skin? Basically, you’ve just applied a film of filth on your face. Yuck!

What to do: Wipe your phone daily with Purell Hand Sanitizer or Lysol Disinfectant Spray.

The acne trigger: Your makeup products

Every time you apply makeup on your face and then dip fingers or brushes back in the pot to pick up more product, bacteria are transferred to-and-fro. Over a few days, this makes your powders and paints a breeding ground for acne-causing bacteria.

What to Do: You should honestly clean your brushes once a week, and if that is too much for you, at least once every two weeks. As for makeup, follow these steps to keep everything germ-free.

Did you know this already? How do YOU prevent breakouts? Tell me below. We could all use every bit of help.