12 seriously strange skincare secrets the experts swear by (I kid you not!)

Having beautiful, glowing, flawless skin is not always about rigorous dermatological treatments or expensive products. Sometimes, simple goes a longer way and every skincare pro I’ve ever spoken to has sworn by at least a couple of kitchen shelf DIYs they call upon in their own life. Some of these secret rituals are merely curious, while others are downright bizarre. But they are all underlined by serious doses of skincare science and the experts promise they perform miracles. So, here you go!

skincare tips1. Do shots… with chlorophyll: Don’t really relish those green juices and salads seem too much of a bother? Just stock up on liquid chlorophyll. This most essential of plant nutrients detoxifies the body, oxygenates the skin, boosts tissue repair, steps up digestion and restores our acid-alkaline ratio to keep the complexion clean, healthy and glowing from the inside out. Added bonus: It works fast and tastes like mint.

2. Order the guac: Or just go straight for the avocados, which are loaded with healthy fats and phytonutrients that nourish skin from the inside out and bring back your glow.

3. Bring on the beer: Beer isn’t just good for your hair, it’s also a powerful skin ally. All those B vitamins, hops, saccharides and yeast help dissolve dead cells, balance pH levels and bust acne-causing bacteria. Simply mix together half a cup of beer with one egg white and slather on your face. Let the mask dry for 20 minutes, then rinse off with warm water. Now say hello to radiant, fresh skin.

4. Freeze up: Late night? Crying bout? Sun scorched? Beauty pros always keep a few sheet of aluminium foil in the freezer. Simply take one of the chilled sheets and put them on your face for a few minutes to de-puff, tighten pores and bring back the glow.

5. Eye it: If it’s your eyes that need the de-puffing and redness relief, pop some eye cream in the  icebox and apply to lids for turbo-charged results.

6. Tea time: Skin more irritated than puffy? Chill some green tea bags and gently press them onto the inflamed areas – the antioxidants will soothe a sore complexion.

7. Tropical treat: Another refrigerated treat for your skin? Pineapple juice. Freeze some fresh pineapple juice and then rub this “ice cube” over clean skin. Let the liquid dry on your face for 5-10 minutes, then rinse away with plain water. Pineapple’s natural enzymes exfoliate, improve hydration and boost elasticity. Hello, luminous skin!

8. Dairy goodness: Swap the hot water with freshly boiled milk while steaming your face for the ultimate skin detox. Simply boil the milk, pour into a bowl and let the vapours float over your face as you lean in under a towel. Milk is full of lactic acid, which will decongest the pores, leaving your skin beautifully clear.

beauty hacks9.  Hydrate NOW: Dewy, glowing skin equals hydrated skin and when you’re sorely lacking in the latter department, whip together an egg yolk and a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Apply a generous layer of this mixture all over your face and leave on for 20 minutes before rinsing off with lukewarm water.

10. Acne Rx: Need to bring down the redness and inflammation of a pimple right NOW? Dab a  bit of Visine on the blemish. This won’t make your pimple smaller, but it will definitely look less obvious for a few hours.

11. Scrub-a-dub: To banish dry, cracked heels, mix a handful of sea salt with enough almond oil to make a thick paste. Use this to exfoliate your feet and toes; say hello to smooth, sandal-ready summer feet!

12. Thigh high: For legs that tend to rub or chafe in summer, apply deodorant to the insides of your thighs… this sounds weird but it works!

What’s the strangest beauty tip you’ve ever heard? And how did it work out for you?

11 reasons you should drink coffee every single day

You know what I love most about birthdays? Getting to swan around like a total diva Because my family has this really cool tradition: From the stroke of midnight on your birthday, till midnight the next day, you get to boss around whoever you want and nobody can yell at you or make you do any work. Not even mom can make you clean the table or pick up your clothes off the floor. And the husband has to concede every argument and can’t call you out for being unreasonable or demanding. So, basically, 24 hours of pure bliss… which sort of make up for turning a year older!

You know another thing I love about birthdays? Gifts. Not the extravagant kinds but the small, intimate ones that can only come out of true love. Like the lavender flowers so beautifully crafted out of clay by my mother, despite having two fractured fingers in her right hand (pix coming up soon as they’ve gone for framing!). She knows I love lavender and am always bemoaning the fact that they bloom for such a short while. Only a mother’s love could have spent a straight 72 hours without sleep, putting together something that would take somebody else at least a couple of weeks, even without the fractured fingers. Love you mom!

And then there was the most mammoth box of Gourmesso coffee capsules for Nespresso machines, complete with all my favourite flavours (Soffio Caramello, Soffio Mandorla and Messico Forte Blend) from my oldest friend on earth. This is the kind of gift that keeps on giving, because not only does coffee wake you up, get you through a lousy day and tide over the crazy deadlines, it’s also chock full of health benefits that other beverages would find it hard to equal. So, basically, this is a gift of pure sunshine that promises health, good humour and happiness in a cup. Through the year.

Don’t believe me? Here are 11 science-backed reasons why a jolt of java is good for mind, body and soul. Have fun reading while I quickly pop a pod and see you on the other side.

Coffee makes you happy

And I don’t just mean this in terms of the caffeine high! Coffee literally makes you feel happier by stimulating the production of serotonin and dopamine, which make you brighter and perkier.

Coffee promotes mental sharpness

Well… d-uh… right? Coffee helps us perk up and face the mornings. And the mid-afternoon slump. And the late-at-night deadline. And everything in between. But it doesn’t stop there. Coffee actually sharpens the brain, making it work more efficiently. Result? Faster reflexes, enhanced attention span, increased focus, better memory and improved logical reasoning. But it doesn’t just end there. Research shows that drinking 3-5 cups of coffee daily also cuts the risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia by 65%.

coffee-benefitsCoffee cuts pain

Sore muscles? A cuppa can reduce the pain by up to 48%, say Norwegian researchers and the Journal of Pain. I need my gym to install a coffee bar. Pronto.

Coffee helps weight loss

A jolt of java not only reduces post-exercise pain, having a cup of black coffee an hour before your workout can increase physical performance by almost 12%. The link? Caffeine boosts adrenaline, which helps you work out harder and more efficiently. Plus, it also helps break down fat cells. #doublewhammy

Coffee suppresses chronic inflammation

And I don’t mean the kind of inflammation that occurs when you hurt yourself or are stung by a bee. We are talking about chronic internal inflammation that occurs under the skin or around our vital organs – such as the heart or liver – putting extra pressure on them (think of it as an extra layer of fat or mucus that’s squeezing the organs), while simultaneously blocking optimal supply of nutrients. This internal inflammation is the leading cause of chronic issues such as diabetes, heart trouble, cystic acne, eczema, wrinkles, fine lines, dullness and sagging. Researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine have discovered that caffeine can block the pathways of inflammatory molecules, preventing them from lodging in our body. This means more flexible arteries, lower blood pressure and a host of skin benefits to boot.

Coffee amps up your antioxidants

Strange as it may seem, Americans get most of their antioxidants from coffee. Yes, coffee. That’s because a serving of coffee contains more antioxidants than a serving of things like grape juice, oranges and blueberries.

Coffee protects your heart

Dutch and Japanese studies (the latter had 76,000 participants!) show that moderate coffee drinkers (1-2 cups per day) have up to 38% chance of dying from a cardiovascular disease.

Coffee prevents diabetes

After 28 studies over more than one million participants, researchers at Harvard have found that a single cup of coffee can cut the risk of Type II diabetes by 8% (just remember to hold the sugar). Take this up to 6 cups daily and you reduce the risk by 33%. The reason? Coffee contains chlorogenic acid, a polyphenol that reduces the concentration of blood sugar and slows down its absorption. It also contains magnesium and potassium, which increase insulin sensitivity and reduces sweet cravings.

Coffee protects your liver

Drinking one cup of coffee a day can cut your risk for developing liver cirrhosis by 20% by lowering enzyme levels. Take it up to four cups a day and it can also halt the progression of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD).

Coffee helps avoid kidney stones

According to studies at Harvard, coffee is a diuretic that helps flush out excess calcium and sodium from the body, thereby preventing the formation of kidney stones. Trust me, I’ve had them and they literally do hurt more than childbirth.

Coffee prevents cavities

If I had to choose my favourite finding about coffee’s health benefits, this is The One! As someone who has a serious dental phobia (think serious hyperventilation, high blood pressure and shortness of breath every time I have to see the dentist), just knowing that black coffee helps the bacteria that cause tooth decay has me literally brewing up another cup right now. Hold the milk and sugar, though!

What’s the best birthday gift(s) you’ve ever received?

What does your tongue say about your health? Prepare to be seriously surprised

Recently, my mother has been going to a Chinese acupuncturist and the first thing he does is make her stick out her tongue. Even though the problem is a slipped disc in her back, the treatment always begins with a visual examination of the tongue.

And that’s a trend I am increasingly seeing with most doctors, whether traditional or given to more modern medicinal practises. The reason? Your tongue gives out more clues about your health than one might ever imagine.

For example, a white coating on the tongue could tell the doctor to address your digestion, while one with a purple tinge could point towards circulation problems. Reading the tongue has always been a cornerstone of traditional Chinese medicine, much like face mapping, and it’s now getting a standing ovation by modern science as well.

What’s the perfect tongue, then? One that’s uniformly pink, moist, plump and has a very thin white coating. It shouldn’t quiver when you stick it out and there should be no cracks, grooves or indentations.

Is that you? Congratulations, you seem in good health.

If not, stick out your tongue, look in the mirror and learn to read what your body is trying to tell you**.

Super smooth tongue

If you think having a smooth, moist tongue puts you in the clear, think again. According to Chinese medicine, an overtly smooth tongue could signify water retention, mucus buildup or reduced immunity.

Thick white coating on the tongue

According to Traditional Chinese medicine, a thick white coating indicates ‘stagnation’ or a ‘cold’ zheng. This leads to sluggish digestion, mucus buildup, candida, tendency towards back problems, lack of beneficial bacteria or excess fat in your diet.

Pale tongue

This could indicate poor circulation, mucus and fat accumulation or anaemia. You may feel low on energy and exhausted.

Red bumps on the tongue

Expect digestion problems, insomnia and symptoms of a stressful lifestyle.

Shades of red and yellow on the tongue

According to traditional Chinese medical practitioners, these are signs of a “hot” zheng, which may be manifested as an infection or inflammation in the body, especially the liver, gall bladder or intestines. It may also indicate high blood pressure, anaemia or another blood problem, and may be a sign that you need to cut down on excessive dairy products, eggs, meat, sugar, alcohol and spices.

Purple tongue

If your tongue is tinged purple, check for sluggish blood flow, high cholesterol and other circulation problems. It may also be a warning to cut down on sugar, alcohol and an intolerance to certain medications.

Green tongue

This may be the sign of a progressive infection in the body.

White or red spot on the tip of the tongue

While a white bump on the tip of your tongue may point to kidney problems, a red one could be the sign of emotional stress or allergies.

Cracked tongue

A cracked tongue could be a sign of dehydration or nutritional deficiencies (particularly vitamin B and C). A crack that runs down the centre of the tongue may speak of a bad stomach or indigestion.

Tooth indentations on the tongue

If your teeth leave indentations on the tongue, it could be because of low immunity, exhaustion, fluid retention, nutritional deficiency, digestive problems or the spleen.

Sore tongue

Check your nutritional levels as this may indicate a deficiency, particularly B6, B12 and iron. If you are getting a burning sensation on your tongue, it may be because of an upset stomach.

Wobbly tongue

A tongue that doesn’t stay still could be a sign of chronic exhaustion.

** Do remember that, as with all medical issues, you should see your doctor for a proper prognosis. This is just a general guide to head you off in the right investigative direction – just because you have a white bump on your tongue doesn’t always mean you have a bad liver!

Beauty DIY: Toning up with Champagne!

When I took a day trip to Champagne last month, I did not expect to come away with skincare recipes. Partaking of the world’s most divine beverage in its own homeland? Yes. Learning about grape varietals, soils, Champagne making secrets (did you know that smaller the bubbles, better the Champagne)? Bring it on. A case of the extreme hangover? Still on board. Knockout tipsiness? Absolutely.

champagne-beauty-benefitsAnd I did come away with all of these, along with a new respect for a very complex beverage. But what I also got was the secret to flawless skin. Because it turns out that Champagne (or sparkling wine) is extremely high in antioxidants due to the grape seed extract that packs more vitamin C and E than your average toning and anti-aging products. The result? Superb protection for the skin’s vital collagen and elastin from free radicals and oxidative stress. Or, in normal English, a halt to premature ageing and goodbye to wrinkles.

Plus, champagne’s tar­taric acid content is a known skin lightener. So, if you have unwanted pig­men­ta­tion or want to even out your skin tone, cham­pagne is a won­der­ful solu­tion. And that’s not all: tar­taric acid also helps clear up blem­ishes (it has anti-bacterial proper­ties) and detoxifies the complexion.

And the lovely bubbling action of cham­pagne helps constrict the pores while stepping up micro-circulation, thereby making skin firmer and giving you a pretty, dewy glow. All these qualities make champagne one of the best toners for normal or oily skin (while it contains less alcohol than most store-bought toners, it’s still probably not hydrating enough for very dry skin). And women across France have been using it for zillions of years.

Ready to try it?

Just soak a cotton pad in chilled champagne (or sparkling wine) and wipe thoroughly across a cleansed face, neck and décolleté. It should feel incredibly light, cool and refreshing, and you can actually feel the bubbles fizzing! Don’t rinse off; follow with your regular mois­tur­izer. And enjoy your new glow!

And now let’s take a trip to Champagne…

I went to Champagne on a day trip this time – it’s 90 miles from Paris – but the region is worth at least a long weekend. Ready to experience it? Take a trip down photographic lane here or read my more extensive Champagne travelogue on Shimmer Shine Sparkle – The Beauty Gypsy’s other blog – in a couple of weeks.

champagne travelogue 1

{Champagne is spread across 41,000 hectares. Each hectare yields 10,000 bottles annually. Do the maths.}

champagne travelogue 2

{Champagne is made mainly from three grape varieties: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier (shown here) and Chardonnay}

champagne travelogue 3

{Grapes must have at least a sugar level of at least 9% to be eligible for blending into Champagne}

{Moet & Chandon: The grandaddy of them all}

{Moet & Chandon: The grandaddy of them all}

{Moet owns 3,000 hectares and sources 70% of its grapes from other producers}

{Moet owns 3,000 hectares and sources 70% of its grapes from other producers}

{Moet has 28 kilometres of Champagne cellars... the largest in the region}

{Moet has 28 kilometres of Champagne cellars… the largest in the region}

{It is a literally endless abyss of bottle upon bottle upon bottle. Upon bottle}

{It is a literally endless abyss of bottle upon bottle upon bottle. Upon bottle}

{See what I mean?}

{See what I mean?}

{Though once cleaned and polished they are totally va va voom! Especially in the 15 litre version – see the iPhone for relative size. The cost? Only 17000 Euro!}

{Though once cleaned and polished they are totally va va voom! Especially in the 15 litre version – see the iPhone for relative size. The cost? Only 17,000 Euro!}

PS: Champagne isn’t the only beverage you can use as a beauty ingredient – CLICK HERE to learn what you can do with vodka!