16 hacks to make your sheet masks infinitely more effective!

Sheet masks. The breakthrough genre that has made #masking a verb comes with its own set of challenges.

When to use a sheet mask? Which one to use? How to make it stay on the face? Do I rinse afterwards or not? What about moisturising afterwards – yes or now? Should I really #sheetmask everyday? Is pricier always better? Can I skip all other skincare if I use sheet masks regularly? Are all sheet masks good? Are they for everybody?

So. Many. Questions.

Let’s start looking at the answers.

Start with a clean canvas

It sounds like the most common of logic but I know at least two friends who regularly slap on sheet masks without washing their face first, unless they are wearing makeup. But makeup or not, you need to start with a squeaky clean canvas so that skin can best absorb all the active ingredients. Plus, without a good wash you also run the risk of trapping in impurities and forcing them deeper into the skin. So, at the very least wash with a gentle cleanser right before masking. And if you want to go the extra mile, use a toner to really mop up the grease and soften the skin to make it more receptive to the mask’s benefits.

One mask does not fit all

Like traditional masks, different varieties solve different skin issues. So take a look at the ingredients and pick out exactly what you need:

  • Dryness: The most hydrating masks are those that contain hyaluronic acid, which makes skin retain more moisture. And skip anything with alcohol or irritating fragrances, which will further dry out your skin.
  • Dullness: To bring back the glow, look for brightening ingredients like vitamin C, niacinamide and pearl powder or extracts.
  • Sensitive or irritated skin: Anti-inflammatory ingredients like aloe vera and other soothing botanicals will help calm down your skin.
  • Anti-aging: Opt for nutrient-rich masks, especially those which list collagen or vitamin B12 as a prime ingredient.

Look at the ingredients…

While sheet masks are a super-potent way of getting maximum skin benefits in minimum time, they are not perfect. Many of the generic versions contain chemicals that are damaging both for the skin and our overall health. Some to avoid: alcohol, parabens, synthetic dyes, mineral oil and preservatives such as ethylhexylglycerin and phenoxyethanol.

… and the sheet itself

Sheet masks come in all forms, from paper and fiber to tin foil and bio-cellulose. Those made from “clingy” ingredients like hydrogel, coconut, sea kelp and bio-cellulose adhere to the skin most tightly, forming a tight seal and delivering the ingredients most effectively. They are also the easiest to apply, as they don’t keep slipping off the skin like the fiber and foil versions. Even if you’re going for fiber, try and make sure it’s unbleached and 100% cotton, to minimise toxic materials from touching your skin and leading to toxic issues.

Super-charge your sheets

How and where you store and apply your sheet mask may double or triple its benefits. If your skin is irritated, inflamed, over-heated or simply needs a hefty pick-me-up, try to chill your mask in the refrigerator before applying. Or if you want to make it more hydrating, pop it on while you’re in the shower (or sauna). The water-charged steam particles will intensify the moisture plumping molecules.

Tweak your technique

To make the mask adhere most effectively and sans air pockets, start applying the sheet from the forehead, then line up with the eyes and work downwards towards the chin. But don’t stop there: for dull skin and anti-ageing benefits, lightly massage the sheet upwards to boost blood flow; for inflamed or irritated skin, go downwards and outwards to encourage lymphatic drainage.

A photo posted by Karlie Kloss (@karliekloss) on

Customise your sheet

How many times have you struggled with a sheet mask that simply refuses to conform to the contours of your face? Know that it’s perfectly fine to snip or tear off tiny bits to make it sit flush against your face. I usually end up enlarging the mouth area as sheet masks tend to irritate my lips, which have some of the most fragile skin anywhere on the body.

Max out the essence

It’s the fluid in a sheet mask that holds all the skin boosting goodness. So, don’t waste a drop of this precious essence! Scoop out any leftover essence in the packet (there’s always some!) and slather it all over your neck, chest, hands and feet to spread the love.

Longer is NOT better

Always, always check the instructions on the back of the pack. If it says you should apply the mask for 20 minutes, don’t assume that leaving it on for longer will increase the benefits. On the contrary, once the mask starts to dry, it will start sucking out moisture from your skin. And it will also increase skin temperature, which can increase the bacteria count, leading to acne and other skin issues. So, make sure you watch the clock!

Consider multi-masking

If one sheet mask is good, are two better? When paired prudently, most definitely. Experts advocate starting with a purifying clay or mud mask to open up the pores and cleanse them of debris; then rinse it off and follow with a sheet mask to flood the skin with beneficial ingredients. This will super-charge the efficacy of the sheet mask, while also purifying the skin, the latter being something that sheet masks rarely achieve (more on this in a bit).

Pair sheet masks with an eye mask

In a similar vein of multitasking, pop on an eye mask under your sheet mask. Not only will it cut your masking time by half, it will also super-charge your eye mask with some hefty hydration.

Don’t wash it off!

Unless you have super-acne prone skin or have to head out of the house (that’s why I usually apply a sheet mask right before bedtime), don’t wash off the residue after lifting away the sheet. It may seem a little sticky at first but the leftover fluid is potent with beneficial nutrients and is meant to be absorbed into the skin. And for maximum benefit, don’t just pat it into the skin. Instead, use this as an opportunity to give yourself a mini facial massage – the creaminess of the serum will help the massage, while the massage will help the serum sink deeper into the skin. Double whammy!

What comes after a sheet mask?

Remember that a sheet mask is serum based. So, follow it up with a moisturiser to seal in the treatment and multi-charge the benefits.

A photo posted by Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) on

But… remember that sheet masks can’t replace traditional masks

While sheet masks are the current super-heroes of skincare, there’s one thing that they can’t do well: deep cleansing or purifying the skin. That’s because they are loaded with serums that sink into the skin rather than, say a clay-based mask, that draws impurities out of the skin.

But… they can’t replace your daily serum

Unless you’re using a sheet mask twice a day, every single day – and not only will that get seriously expensive, you’re at risk of overloading your skin and clogging your pores by doing this – you still need your daily serums. So, think of sheet masks as more of a booster rather than a replacement for your daily skincare rituals.

But… remember that sheet masks may not be great for acne-prone skin

Sheet masks are loaded with sticky fluids, they may not be the best idea for acne-prone skin. Plus, the occlusion raises skin temperature (on an average, from 89.6 to 98.6 degrees), which boosts the growth of acne-causing bacteria. So, if you’re prone to pimples, first do a patch test and wait a couple of days to see if it aggravates the condition before going full steam with a sheet mask. And whenever you do use a mask, try and opt for a gel-based one rather than a cloth-based formula as that’s less likely to cause breakouts.

Which is your favourite sheet mask?

Royal fables: A tryst with Udaipur and its cult skincare recipes

The city: Udaipur, India. The most legendary of towns in Rajasthan, known as the “Venice of the East” due to its stunning lakeside location, rambling old palaces and stunning architecture painted in every shade of white known to mankind.

The quest: Soaking in the ancient beauty of the landscape and going to the very roots of the glorious indigenous beauty recipes that have originated in this land and been adopted by literally every brand, from Aveda to Estee Lauder.

The quandary: A missing camera that’s left sitting on my desk approximately 7,467 miles away. In a land that begs a photo at literally every turn of its winding paths.

The solution: Yes, thankfully there is one. In the form of the ubiquitous smartphone that’s almost surgically attached to my hand 24 x 7. Which is a blessing, it turns out, in more ways than one. Not only do today’s smartphones almost rival DSLRs in their photo quality (the Coolpad Note 5 comes with a 13 MP rear camera) but it’s also small and inconspicuous enough to get into tight spaces to capture a micro-detail, take candid shots without making people feel too self conscious and light enough to take literally everywhere without yoour shoulder falling off. And, of course, then there is the fact that I have yet to meet a camera that lets you take the perfect selfie, complete with a forward facing lens AND night mode to chase away the darkness (hello again, Coolpad Note 5, with your 8 MP front facing camera with flash!).

The result: A wealth of traditional beauty recipes that have made Rajasthani women some of the most revered in the world, along with a treasure trove of photographs that will make for the memories of a lifetime.

Enjoy them both here!

tbg15

Playing princess for a night 🙂 #CoolPadNote5

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

tbg4

…. but simply can’t compete with the originals painted on the walls of the City Palace #CoolPadNote5

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

Falling in love with the fabrics of the region

Falling in love with the fabrics of the region #CoolPadNote5

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

No wonder they call it the Venice of the East

No wonder they call it the Venice of the East #CoolPadNote5

A room with a view... at the Fatehprakash palace

A room with a view… at the Fatehprakash palace #CoolPadNote5

A peep through the arches

A peep through the arches #CoolPadNote5

Touched by the hand of God

Touched by the hand of God #CoolPadNote5

The beauty lies in the details... often made up of millions of glass mosaics

The beauty lies in the details… often made up of millions of glass mosaics #CoolPadNote5

Beauty secrets of the ancient geishas (that will totally change your skin!)

Every time I travel to Japan, my skin develops an inferiority complex. I mean, have you ever seen those Japanese women with their smooth, glowing, absolutely flawless skin? There is not a single blemish or an enlarged pore to be seen anywhere. And this time it was even worse, considering that I was in Kanazawa to meet with one of the greatest cultural icons of all times: an honest-to-goodness geisha. One of those magical superwomen who can seduce with a downward glance, fascinate with her silent sensuality and entrance with a flick of the wrist. And then there is that unbelievably smooth, porcelain-like skin, glossy hair and ruby red lips that are unrivalled across the world.

So, this time I decided to tackle the eternal question: what are the secret skincare and haircare recipes that make geishas so beautiful, so ageless and so dazzling? There are really just a few of them and they can be easily incorporated in our daily lives with products right out of the pantry.

geisha-beauty-secrets-1Sea salt

Since Japan sits on the waters, it makes sense that sea salt would be a part of the geisha’s skincare routine. Salt is a wonderful body scrub, while also being terrific for cellulite. However, unlike us mere mortals who mix it with oil, the Japanese geishas prefer whipped cream.

Follow suit by blending 2 tablespoons of sea salt with a little whipped cream to create a body scrub. Massage in circular motions over warm skin, preferably halfway through a shower. Finally, rinse and finish off with body lotion. Massaging with sea salt breaks down fat and makes skin firm and smooth. Easy, ain’t it?

Rice bran

The chemical composition of rice bran is similar to that of human skin. Add to this its potent water retaining and exfoliating abilities and you can see why this husky flour has been a skincare staple of the geisha since 1100 AD. An added bonus: while other scrubs can tear and damage the skin cells, rice bran leaves them rejuvenated, cleansed and healthy.

For the best results, mix 1 tablespoon of rice bran flour with enough milk or yoghurt to form a smooth paste. Apply this to warm, freshly cleansed skin and leave on till dry (approximately 10 minutes). After that, remove the mask using warm water and circular motions of your fingertips. Pat dry and apply your usual skincare.

Rice

The beauty benefits of rice have been treasured for hundreds of years by women not only in Japan but also in Indonesia and other Asian countries. That’s because rice is rich in gamma-oryzanol – a powerful antioxidant that boosts collagen production. The most popular rice mask involves powdering 2 tablespoons of rice in a coffee grinder. Mix this rice flour with 1 tablespoon of whipped cream. Apply this paste to your face and neck; rinse after 20 minutes.

Persimmon

Known as the fruit of the Gods in ancient Greece, persimmon contains calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, iodine and super-high levels of vitamins. A geisha understands the multifaceted benefits of this fruit and used it in many different ways – from face masks to skin tonics and detox diets.

A favorite recipe: mix 1 tablespoon of mashed persimmon with 1 teaspoon each of honey and egg yolk. Apply to clean skin and leave for 15-20 minutes before washing off with warm water. This face mask will hydrate, nourish and protect against environmental damage.

Geisha beauty secretsGreen tea

Green tea is loaded with polyphenols, which fight free radicals, reduce skin inflammation, provide protection against skin cancer and bust any nasty toxins or bacteria that may be lingering in your pores. Geishas are famous for their elaborate tea ceremonies, often involving green tea, but it is a less widely known fact that they use that very same tea to keep their skin glowing and gorgeous.

How? Boil, strain and cool 1 cup of green tea. To this, add 1/2 cup ground oats, 1 tablespoon avocado oil or mashed avocado and 10 drops lemon juice. Mix the ingredients into a paste that you apply on clean face. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes, then remove with washcloth and lukewarm water. Do this twice a week for skin that absolutely radiates its flawless perfection.

Apple cider vinegar

The enzyme-rich apple cider vinegar literally melts away dead skin cells. Which is why geishas add it to their shampoo to prevent dandruff and stimulate hair growth. They also add it to the bath to keep their skin young and healthy. Follow in their footsteps by mixing organic apple cider vinegar in the ratio of 1:1, soaking a cotton pad in the mixture and patting it onto your skin. Leave on skin for 5-7 minutes, then wash off with plain water. The result? Clean and fresh new skin.

Camellia oil

Japanese women have known for centuries about the wonderful haircare benefits of camellia oil. It is exceptionally high in oleic acids, proteins and glycerides that are perfect for maintaining hair health, as well as adding volume and gloss. And using it is super-simple: lightly heat 1 teaspoon of camellia oil and rub it along the length and tips of wet hair. Then cover your strands with a towel for 20 minutes. Finally, shampoo your hair and rinse well; condition as usual.

Will you be trying any of these secret beauty recipes of the geishas? Tell me in the comments section below!

10 sneaky ways to drink more water (it’s the cheapest, quickest way to look AND feel great!)

I did a post on acne (What is your acne telling you?) and the role that various bits and bobs of our bodies play in its horrid takeover of our faces. Amongst the 24,36,987 visitors who stopped by this post in a week, over 40% wrote in to say that they have pinpointed much of their spottiness to a lack of adequate water.

Which makes sense. Water is not called the ‘source of life’ for nothing… it is crucial for every body function, right from metabolising fat and regulating temperature to facilitating important bio-chemical reactions, lubricating the joints and limbs, aiding digestion, hydrating the skin and helping the body flush out waste and toxins. So, it stands to reason that without regular top-ups, our skin (actually our whole body) will go into crisis mode. The simplest solution? DRINK MORE WATER!

Yet, 99% of us don’t heed this advice. H2O is bland, it’s boring, it’s always “just there”… maybe if water becomes more expensive, we will start paying more attention! But till then, I would be the first to admit that sometimes drinking the requisite “8 glasses” (find out exactly how much water you need HERE) can be a real challenge! So, after much interviewing, thinking, researching and experimenting, here are 10 tips to help you accomplish that feat (and I have personally tested every one of them – they work stupendously!). Click through, then tell us the sneaky ways you trick yourself into drinking more water in the comments. We could all use the help!

Drink your water! Stay well hydrated! Stay healthy! Stay pretty!

drink-waterIn case you can’t see the image above, here are the tips in text form

1. Add two glasses of drinking water to your daily skincare regimen: Drink, cleanse, moisturise, then drink again.

2. Don’t purchase any other drinks: let’s face it, if you have your favourite soda chilling in the fridge, are you honestly going to opt for water?

3. Drink at least one glass of water for every alcoholic drink you down. (It’s also a great way to prevent a hangover!)

4. Set an alarm to beep every hour – this is your reminder to down a glass of water. If you drink only small (6 ounce or 180 ml) cup per hour, you will consume 48 ounces (1.4 liters) in an 8-hour workday.

5. Eat water-rich foods, such as watermelons, which are 92% water. A tomato is 95% water, while an egg is 74% water.

6. Add ice or freeze water in a sports bottle before taking it with you. Tt will eventually melt and stay cold, thereby creating a pleasant frisson on a hot day.

7. Purchase a water bottle that holds the amount of water you need to drink each day, or use a combination of 1-liter and half-liter bottles. This will allow you to see exactly how much water you are consuming on a regular basis.

8. Fill a glass jar with water, pop in some fruit-infused tea bags in a glass jar and place it in the sun for naturally brewed tea that has an intense flavour. Drink it chilled for loads of flavour and antioxidant protection.

9. Prefer a sweet sip to plain ol’ water? Fill 1/4 of your glass with 100 percent fruit juice and top off with water or seltzer.

10. Bring a touch of the exotic: Add mint leaves, slices of apples, strawberries, lemons or limes to a pitcher of water; serve chilled. Keep a jug in the fridge so you always have great-tasting and great-looking H2O available. For an even greater kick, drink it out of champagne flutes!

How much water do you manage to drink on a daily basis?