From Brazil to you: DIY beauty recipes for glossy, glow-y, super flawless skin (no waxing required!)

Alessandra Ambrosia, Adriana Lima, Isabeli Fontana, Isabel Goulart, Barbara Fialho, Lais Ribeiro, Daniela Braga… when almost every second Victoria’s Secret model turns out to be Brazilian, you know the country is on to something.

So, it’s not surprising that I spent much of the Rio Olympics trying to figure out the secret behind a whole nation’s worth of glossy, glow-y, flawless women both on and off the stage.

Seriously, what is it about these Brasileñas? How do they manage to look so effortlessly beautiful? Those taut limbs, that glossy skin, the sexily tousled hair… they must be spending hours at the spa, right? Wrong.

These gals take their skincare way too seriously to be content with once-in-a-while spa visits. Beauty is a way of life. Turns out they are doing it every day, all the time: By the beach, at work, while prepping for bed. Seriously, ALL the time.

This has made Brazil the third largest beauty market in the world after the USA and Japan. One of the biggest lures for beauty brands is the treasure trove of ingredients found in the country’s lush vegetation, making it no surprise that the rest of the beauty world is following where Brazil leads. Subsequently, many breakthrough beauty rituals have been developed here, some of which you may love already, and others you need to know about… like sand. And carrot juice. And sea salt.

And then shhhhhhhh… I am off to put these glorious beauty tips in action. You?

A photo posted by Adriana Lima (@adrianalima) on

Brazilian beauty secret #1: Sand

Yup, that’s it. Plain and simple sand. Used as a foot and body scrub right on the beach! Don’t be so shocked: massaging sand into the skin stimulates circulation, thereby busting toxins, breaking up fat tissue and chasing away cellulite. It’s also a terrific exfoliator that gets rid of dead skin. To be 100% Brazilian, simply grab a handful of sand and rub into damp skin in gentle, circular motions (as you would with a body scrub). For a more spa version, mix 1 cup of dry sand with 1/4 cup of olive oil and 5 drops of almond oil. Use this as a body scrub that both exfoliates and moisturises the skin.

Brazilian beauty secret #2: Carrot juice

These women have complexions so glowingly gorgeous that the Brazilian tan has become the hottest catwalk and celeb trend worldwide. But Brasileñas are also super sunscreen-savvy and you won’t find them baking in the sun sans some foolproof skin protection. So how does this reconcile with those tans of gold? The answer lies in carrot juice. Carrots, you see, are packed with beta-carotene, which is super-good at promoting a tan and giving skin a natural glow. Plan for at least 2 glasses of carrot juice a day and don’t forget the sunscreen.

Brazilian beauty secret #3: Açaí berries

Even as fashionistas and health-savvy celebs are increasingly swapping their cappuccino for superfood packed smoothies across the globe, beauty juices (or sucos in the native lingo) have been away of life for Brazilians forever. The most powerful (and popular) ingredient? Açaí berries. These pulpy berries areloaded with antioxidants that neutralise environmental damage and help you ditch signs of ageing like wrinkles, age spots and fine lines. For a truly Brazilian power smoothie (called batida de tai or açaí smoothie), take 2 cups of açaí juice (or 2/3 cup of dried açaí berries), 1 cup plain yogurt, 1 teaspoon honey, 1 banana and 3 tablespoons oatmeal. Blend, slurp, be a goddess !

Brazilian beauty secret #4: Babassu oil

With half of Brazil being home to the Amazon, this country is ripe with skin and health boosting plants. And increasingly, global beauty brands are reaping them for their products, including Kiehl’s Açaí Damage Repairing Skincare, Aveda’s Uruk makeup and MAC’s semi precious stone laced Mineralize collection. True Brasileñas, however, believe in going straight to the pure, unadulterated source, with simple ingredients like babassu oil (also known as cusi oil). This clear vegetable oil is terrific at nourishing the skin and regulating sebum (skin’s natural oils) sans greasiness. Simply do as the Brazilians: Rub a dollop of babassu oil straight into your skin to keep it soft and hydrated through the day.

Brazilian beauty secret #5: Cupuaçu

Cupuaçu (coo-poo-ah-SOO) is another hot favourite with the golden limbed. This fruit is super-rich in flavonoids – in fact, it has two flavonoids that can’t be found anywhere else on earth. Cupuaçu also has five fatty acids, including a powerful Omega-3, which dramatically improve skins tone and texture. So, this chocolatey-vanilla tasting fruit packs a solid 1-2 punch by both fighting environmental damage and improving skin quality. And it’s available fresh or frozen in many speciality stores around the world. When you find it, try this easy smoothie recipe: Mix 1 cup of cupuaçu pulp, 2 tablespoons chopped lemongrass leaves, 2 tablespoons honey and 2 cups cold milk in a blender. Blend on high, then strain out the floating solids. Drink chilled. PS: Also look for cupuaçu butter in health stores. It feels smooth and decadent, has a deliciously sweet aroma and helps lock in moisture for super-silky, supermodel skin.

Brazilian beauty secret #6: Sea water

Sea water gives you more than just sexy beach hair. It actually coats your strands with 26 minerals that make them ultra-soft and create oodles of natural volume, sans the need for any chemicals. It also adds loads of texture, making it easier to hold a style (hello curls and tousled waves!). No sea insight? Pour 1 cup plain water, a tablespoon of coconut oil, a tablespoon of sea salt and a tablespoon of hair gel into a spray bottle. Shake and spritz through your hair. Channel Adriana Lima. Voila!

A photo posted by Lais Ribeiro (@laisribeiro) on

Brazilian beauty secret #7: Sea salt

I would have never believed this one without actually seeing it in action: Sea salt actually helps heal acne, cold sores and minor wounds. That’s because sea salt is a strong antiseptic and if you can take the sting, this simple DIY recipe will clear up those blemishes: Mix 1 tablespoon sea salt with tap water; apply as a paste on the spots.

Brazilian beauty secret #8: Seaweed

The sea has even more in store: Seaweed is a potent combo of vitamins and minerals that are easily absorbed as this gelatinous substance’s unique molecular structure is very close to that of human skin. This makes seaweed a terrific ingredient to help purify, firm up, nourish and rehydrate the skin. It also slows down ageing and boosts cell generation, all while improving skin texture and tone. Plus, it makes tresses super shiny and stimulates blood circulation to promote hair growth. Enough for you? Then take 1 cup seaweed, 1 ripe avocado, 1 tablespoon plain yogurt and 1 tablespoon olive oil; blend apply to hair and/or face for 20 minutes.

Have you tried any of these ingredients in your beauty rituals? What’s the key beauty ingredient in YOUR culture?

Why Moroccan mint tea is your skin’s secret weapon!

It rarely gets hotter than summer in Morocco, where average temperatures cross the 40°C (104°F) mark with scorching regularity. Add in the dry, dusty desert winds and you have an oven of a country, where even the air conditioners struggle against the forces of nature. So how is it that you see people sitting and sipping HOT tea everywhere in Morocco, all through the day? Surely, no mere mortal could be that immune to the heat – even with some sizzling genetics thrown into the mix?

They are definitely not immune. It’s actually the tea itself that bolsters their body against the heat, packed as it is with lashings of mint.

Mint, you see, is something of a wonder herb. Not only is it superb at cooling down the body (menthol, a chemical in mint, binds with our body’s cold-sensitive receptors to trick our brain into actually feeling a cold sensation) and raising its defences against the heat, these green sprigs also act as a powerful antioxidant, soothe an upset stomach, relieve heartburn, boost mental performance, promote focus, loosen congestion, break up coughs, chase away bad breath, inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungus, help with nasal allergies, cleanse the blood and clear up skin disorders (like acne). Whew!

Add in all the already-established benefits of green tea and you have a potent blend that’s not only unusually cooling but also packed with enough health and beauty benefits to have me chasing up the best Moroccan mint tea recipe that can be recreated outside of Morocco.

Fortunately, it’s a pretty simple task. All you need is a handful of mint leaves (fresh spearmint works best but any garden variety will do the job), some green tea (again, gunpowder green tea holds up best against the assertive flavours of mint but any green tea will work) and the sweetener of your choice. All set? Here’s how you go about making the best Moroccan mint tea for your health, beauty and body temperature!

Moroccan mint tea: Ingredients

2 tbsp loose green tea (or 3 green tea bags)
3/4 cup mint leaves
sugar to taste (traditionally it’s sugar but you can use Stevia or honey)
6 cups water

Moroccan mint tea: How-to

1. Bring water to a boil. Turn off heat, add the mint and allow to steep for 5 minutes.

2. Return the water to a boil, turn heat to lowest setting, then add the tea and sweetener (I normally use 2 teaspoons of brown sugar). Allow everything to lightly simmer for no more than 3 minutes as green tea becomes bitter when steeped too long.

3. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove the biggest leaves and check the sweetness – simply stir in more sweetener, if needed.

4. Serve into tall and narrow glasses (or short shot glasses) and garnish with a sprig of mint – then sip, repeat and chill out. If hot tea is not your thing, make iced Moroccan mint tea by refrigerating until cold or pouring cooled tea over ice.

PS: If you are feeling exceptionally Moroccan, pour the tea from as high as you can manage (I am currently topping 12 inches after a week’s practise!). This creates the characteristically frothy top you will spot in authentic Moroccan mint tea. It also aerates the tea, creating a richer palate.

Ever since I discovered Moroccan mint tea last month, there is always a huge pitcher in my fridge and you will find me sipping on its icy coolness every couple of hours. And this minted-and-sweetened brew has made me feel so good, it’s unbelievable. No stomach upsets for one thing and even my annual summer-heat-induced acne is staying at bay. Plus, it tastes delicious. Try it once – and tell me whether you fell in love with the refreshing mintiness as well!

Have you ever tried Moroccan mint tea?

Beauty DIY: How to remove turmeric stains from your skin

Turmeric is pretty much skincare’s magic elixir, tackling everything from acne and hyper-pigmentation to wrinkles and eczema. But many of us are super-wary of putting this bright yellow spice on our faces, since the Lisa Simpson look is not really too attractive on normal mortals.

So, how to reap this super-spice’s super complexion-saving benefits, sans the yellow after-effects?

It’s actually not that difficult, if you stick to a simple three-pronged approach that begins with using the right kind of turmeric.

Read on.

remove turmeric stainsStep 1: Choose the right kind of turmeric

Always try to opt for organic turmeric. While all turmeric contains curcumin – a natural dye – in small quantities (around 5%), the more generic ones will usually have a hefty dose of artificial colorants as well. Largely, it is these artificial dyes that are near-impossible to get off the skin, rather than natural curcumin, which is oil dissolvable and won’t be anywhere as tough to take off.

If you want to be extra careful, look for kasturi turmeric (curcuma aromatica), which is intrinsically almost non-staining and is superb at clearing acne, inhibiting facial hair growth and brightening the complexion. However, it is not edible and should only be used externally.

Bonus points if you find a whole turmeric root and grate it at home to get the juice for your face masks.

Step 2: Choose the right mixers

It’s easy to simply dunk some water in a couple of spoons of turmeric and apply it on your face. But it’s the worse thing you can do: Turmeric will leave a seriously heavy duty stain if you mix it with plain water.

Instead, try raw honey or milk to cancel out the staining. Make a thick paste with either of these and apply it to your face, then rinse off with some more milk. Finally, wash the face with a foaming cleanser.

Step 3: The finishing touches

Still look like you could walk on to the set of The Simpsons without rousing a trespasser alert? Scientists have discovered that curcumin is 2000 times more soluble in vegetable oil than it is in water. So, gently warm a bit of olive or coconut oil and massage it into your face for about a minute, then wipe away with a cotton pad.

Or you can try my favourite trick: mix some lemon with sugar and scrub your skin with the solution. Since lemon-and-sugar also make for a great exfoliator, this will leave your skin super-clean!

PS: As with everything that touches you skin, I would strongly suggest doing a patch test before embarking on a new ritual!

What’s been your experience with turmeric? Good? Bad? Yellow? And how do you deal with this super spice?

8 Genius new skincare trends straight from Korea (your skin needs then NOW)

With so many beauty products to choose from, why are we so obsessed with the Korean skincare cannon?

Why are mainstream brands like Sephora, Urban Outfitters and Estée Lauder increasingly climbing on the Korean beauty bandwagon?

Why is that Korea seems to be about seven years ahead of every beauty curve, every single year?

Why is that beauty has become the second biggest industry after technology in Korea (last year, the country racked up $719.34 million in beauty exports alone)?

Why is it that it’s a beauty company (AmorePacific) that lists at number six in market capitalisation on the country’s stock exchange (KOSPI)? Something that would be unheard of anywhere else in the world?

The answers are simultaneously simple and complex: K-beauty, as it has come to be known, is the product of a country that takes its skincare very, very seriously. The emphasis here is on smooth, glowing, blemish-free skin, rather than layered on makeup or camouflage.

This has fuelled some of the most cutting edge R&D labs in the world, which combine traditional knowledge with pathbreaking innovations. And amidst their biggest benefactors is the Korean government itself, which regularly funds cosmetic companies and flies researchers abroad to pick up fresh knowledge.

Added bonus: Most K-beauty products are priced well within our AND you can get them almost anywhere. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s see what’s in store for 2016.

15-second splash masks

Contrary to popular belief, not all Koreans have the time (or patience!) for the legendary 14-step skincare regimen. At least not every single day. So, the ever-ingenious K-beauty gurus have created a 15-second mask for when there is no time to put on a face mask, wait for it to dry, rinse and try to get all the residual bits and pieces out of your hair and eyes and nose (personal experience: don’t ask!).

Also known as ‘patting water packs’, this K-beauty innovation is inspired by old time rice water or milk masks. They come in liquid form and are a blend of high potency lactic acid (to exfoliate), botanicals (antioxidant) and glycerin (moisturising). Result: Smooth, supple, glow-y, sans the waiting time

To apply, you simply pour the liquid splash mask into a bowl of water, stir and pat the mixture onto your skin. An easier way that doesn’t involve doing additional dishes: pour the liquid into your palms, pat it onto the skin and follow with a splash of clear water. Easy, right?

TBG recommends: Blithe Patting Splash Mask, US$48

Fermented skincare

The land of kimchi obviously has to be way ahead on the trend for fermented-everything that’s sweeping over the world. It has, in fact, taken it from our plate to our faces, with fermented skincare becoming the latest buzzword.

And it works. In multiple ways: Fermenting breaks down the molecular structure of various ingredients into smaller particles, which allow them to be absorbed more easily by the skin, sans irritation. It also concentrates the active ingredients, making them more potent.

Plus, fermenting completely bypasses the heating process (hence higher efficacy) and does away with the need for parabens as fermented ingredients are inherently self-preserving. And as if that wasn’t enough, the metabolic process of fermenting produces hefty amounts of probiotics, B-vitamins, natural enzymes and amino acids… all of which make these products super-nutrient-dense.

TBG recommends: Sooryehan Hyo Fermented Oil Cream, US$67.90

Waterless products

There is a reason purified water is the first (and most voluminous) ingredient listed on most skincare products. For centuries, we’ve thought of it as the best medium for delivering other active ingredients to the skin. Plus, it’s cheap, making it a great way to bring down costs for the brand.

Unfortunately, science shows that water may not be the best thing for your skin – at least when applied topically. That’s because plain H2O evaporates quickly, taking with it skin’s natural oils and moisture via osmosis. This leaves skin even more dehydrated.

Since dewy, super-smooth skin is the holy grail of Korean beauty, we now have a move towards waterless skincare products. These swap the more economical H2O for potent actives, like botanical extracts, natural oils and hyaluronic acids to keep skin hydrated while providing additional nutrients as well. Win-win, right?

TBG recommends: One Love Organics Skin Savior Waterless Beauty Balm, US$49

Lindsay Modelling Rubber Masks

Lindsay Modelling Rubber Masks

Modeling masks (aka the next-generation sheet masks)

As if you needed further proof that Koreans are about seven years ahead of us mere mortals where skincare is concerned, let me introduce you to #rubbermasking. The first beauty trend that comes with its own hashtag, these modeling masks start off as a powder that solidifies into a rubbery coating when mixed with water and allowed to dry on your face. This transformation happens due to the presence of a kelp extract called alginate.

Why is it a step up from normal sheet masks? Modeling masks adhere super-closely to the contours of your face. This ensures the active ingredients (which could be anything from antioxidant green tea to detoxifying charcoal) remain in constant contact with the skin and not even are wasted. Plus, when you peel off the mask, it lifts away dead skin and impurities as well.

Special bonus: Peeling away a modeling mask from your skin is the most fun, gratifying experience EVER!

TBG recommends: Lindsay Modelling Rubber Mask, US$11

Carbonated face masks

Washing the face with sparkling water has long been a beauty practise in Japan and Korea, due to the bubbly’s super pore cleansing, toning and firming abilities. Carbonated face masks take this multiple steps further with carbonic acid, which draws out all impurities from the skin, leaving it feeling fresh, toned and detoxed.

The carbonic acid is usually blended into a spongy paste with mineral-rich glacial mud from Canada. When massaged into the skin, this paste starts bubbling up (which is loads of fun in its own right!). Wash it off and you have some seriously, seriously clean skin.

TBG recommends: Elizavecca Milky Piggy Carbonated Bubble Clay Mask, US$11

Cleansing sticks

This one’s my personal favourite: Solid oil-based cleansing sticks that melt on contact with the skin and rinse off as easily as soap. Because they’re solid, you won’t find them spilling all over your bag, making for easy portability. And the action of rubbing one into your skin also makes for an effortlessly luscious face massage, which is something we could all have more of in our lives!

TBG recommends: SU:M37 Miracle Rose Cleansing Stick, US$26

Yoon Dermaline Marine Complex Exfoliator

Yoon Dermaline Marine Complex Exfoliator

Aqua peels

Two words that I never thought would go together: Moisturising peels. Because peels don’t moisturise. They are a necessary evil that lift away deep seated impurities and dead cells but leave you with dry, sting-y, flakey skin.

Unless you are in Korea, where dermatologists have long been doing an in-office treatment where a machine exfoliates the skin, while simultaneously providing a hefty surge of moisture.

The at-home version looks like a giant Q-tip, which is pre-soaked with a blend of glycol acid to exfoliate and concentrated botanicals to hydrate. You snap open the package and run the Q-tip all over your face, concentrating on the problem areas, like the T-zone. And that’s it: You don’t have to wash it off. Just go on with your regular skincare regimen.

TBG recommends: Yoon Dermaline Marine Complex Exfoliator, US$6

Pressed serum

Waterless skincare + fermentation = Pressed serums

Pressed serums = Beauty’s ultimate multitasker

What if you could combine your serum and moisturiser and face mask into one easy product? Yes, that’s the genius of K-beauty. Pressed serums have all the potency of a serum, along with the serious boost of hydration that only a moisturiser could provide till now. They have a lightweight, jelly-like texture that literally melts into the skin.

These pressed serums have an active ingredient concentration of at least 60%, which brings them to the level of serum potency. Plus, the ingredients are processed via slow cooling, rather than heat, to retain maximum efficacy.

Along with pressed serums use fermented oils in the base (instead of purified water), which help boost absorbency and moisture, minus any greasiness. So yes, you can skip an additional layer of moisturiser altogether. And you can even use a thick layer at night as a sleeping mask, making these skincare’s ultimate multitasker.

TBG recommends: Blithe Crystal Iceplant Pressed Serum, US$49

Tried any Korean skincare product lately? Have any recommendations for us?