How to stay warm but look cool: The 11 best beauty cures for your winter blues!

Feeling low? You are not alone. According to research, this is the most depressing time of the year. It’s cold, it’s grey and those holier-than-thou resolutions are laughing in our face. So, we could really use something to beat the blues right now.

Right?

So, come with me and let the smiling begin!

beauty-winter-mood-boostersTry the “happiness molecule”

Euphoryl – a molecule developed by Laboratoires Sérobiologiques – has the beauty world abuzz with its mood boosting promises. It is said to stimulate the production of dopamine and endorphins, which promote happiness, energy and sex appeal. An easy way to get your fix? The Physician’s Formula Happy Booster Blush ($10). Forget the science bit – the pretty pink hearts have us feeling more cheerful already.

Take a decadent dip

Bubble baths will warm you up mentally and physically. Especially when coupled with Champagne and some cozy tunes. No time for the tub? Fill a bowl with warm water and a squirt of bath gel. Soak hands only, palms up, while you feel the stress slipping away from your whole body.

Armed with aromatherapy

One of the best beauty cures for winter blues lies in the world of aromatherapy. Fruity scents – such as lemon and watermelon – are usually associated with the happiest, most carefree times in our lives, like summertime and vacations. Plus, the scent of fruit sends your body a message to release certain chemicals that create a state of blissful relaxation. So, create your own blend of cheery scents with a mix of essential oils or try a pre-blended product: use a citrus body cleanser or face wash like Soap & Glory’s Sugar Crush Sweet Lime Body Wash ($12) or stash a lusciously scented body lotion in your desk drawer.

Slather chocolate all over

The smell of chocolate releases seratonin in the brain, which works as a natural antidepressant. Give yourself an at-home chocolate massage, scrub or shower with these easy recipes or order up a scrumptious off-the-shelf treat. A couple of feel good finds? Hershey’s Cocoa Bath Set ($20) or The Body Shop’s Chocomania Scrub ($14).

winter beauty productsColor therapy

It’s said the right colour can turn a frown upside down so opt for bright hues. Result: an instant jolt of energy. The easiest switch is a red lipstick, whose association with fun and sexy times is full of positive energy.

The taste test

Something as simple as a new lip gloss in a flavour you love can bring out the cheerful! Citrus ones get bonus points for their uplifting aroma.

Show some massage love

A stress-busting massage sends messages to your brain, triggering the release of feel good chemicals that produce a sense of relaxation and well being. And that’s not all: massage also improves blood circulation, steps up lymphatic drainage, relaxes the muscles and boosts the immune system.

Embrocation creams

Sometimes, there is nothing more depressing as having to pile on layers and layers of heavy woollens to keep the cold at bay. Imagine how much time would be saved if we could skip the whole put-on-thermal-and-pullover-and-tights-and-coat and then take-off-thermal-and-pullover-and-tights-and-coat and then put-on-thermal-and-pullover-and-tights-and-coat-all-over-again four times a day? And what when that cute cocktail dress really, REALLY demands bare legs? When it’s freezing outside?

Then you turn to embrocation creams – the stuff those cute spandex-shorts-clad cyclists use to trick their legs into thinking its 30 degrees warmer outside. Embrocation creams call upon blends of circulation-boosting ingredients like clove, capsica, peppermint and menthol to create a long lasting sensation of warmth that means bare legs can take the streets even in the dead of winter. Added bonus: the shea butter base hydrates winter-worn skin and gives it a super-sexy gleam. Happiness much? Look for DZnuts In-Heat Embrocation ($19.10) or Chamois Butt’r Hot Embrocation ($16.80).

Happy hair

Your hair products go a long way in deciding how you are feeling. That’s because skin absorbs upto 60% of what we put on it, and the scalp has some of the most fragile skin anywhere on the body. So, choose your ingredients carefully and sail through the day cocooned in bliss. Mint and menthol-spiked hair products offer the perfect wakeup call, and will leave you refreshed. Seeking comfort? Lemongrass and tea tree oil create a slightly warming sensation, which combines with their aromatherapy qualities to relax the scalp muscles and make you feel calmer.

Love winter? Loathe winter? How do YOU cope with winter?

Signature scent: Is your fragrance wrong for you?

Like that statement bag and killer heels, your perfume says a lot about you. However, with the mammoth number of options available, choosing a new fragrance might seem like a task that requires an army of professionals. Simply tackle your scent wardrobe with these easy tips.

signature perfume2What’s your fragrance style?

First, you have to decide what you want your scent to say.

  • If you are the sexy and glamorous type who likes to make an immediate impact, opt for a lush, oriental scent with a heavy touch of vanilla (a known aphrodisiac) and patchouli. Tom Ford Black Orchid and Gucci Guilty have the right balance of poise and sensuality.
  • If you favor the ladylike and polished, look for a classic floral with one bold ingredient, like tuberose (these perfumes are also known as soliflores). Some good options? Annick Goutal Rose Splendide or Christian Dior Diorissimo.
  • Prefer a more flirty, girly look? Ask for a sheer or transparent floral like Dolce & Gabbana Dolce. Or kick it up a notch with something friskier and sweeter, like the sugary Prada Candy.
  • Lovers of classic elegance (think Ralph Lauren and Hermès) need a sumptuous, well rounded scent with a bold floral note like violet and iris. Or opt for a fragrance underlined with warm woods and soft leathers. Top picks: Tom Ford Violet Blonde and Hermès Santal Massoia.
  • Modern and streamlined? You need a discreet scent with a less-is-more quality. Look for something sharp and citrusy, preferably laced with vetiver and bergamot. Best options? Acqua Di Parma Gelsomino Nobile or Chanel Coco Mademoiselle.
  • And then there are the bold trendsetters and risk takers, who live for the latest collections hot off the catwalk. If you fall in this genre, experiment with exotic, intriguing ingredients (such as amber) that are formulated in an intense, attention-getting form. Best options: Balenciaga Paris L’Essence and Tom Ford Amber Absolute. These are definitely not for wallflowers!

So, what fragrance are you wearing this weekend?

Beauty DIY: 50 amazing beauty tricks with coconut oil

It has been endorsed by some of the most beautiful women in the world, including Miranda Kerr, Gwyneth Paltrow and Madonna. So, it comes as no surprise that coconut oil is fast becoming the latest must-have beauty ingredients. Even cosmetic companies like Clinique and Kiehls are increasingly calling upon its benefits. And for good reason: coconut oil is antibacterial and antifungal, it’s an excellent moisturiser, it can penetrate hair better than other oils and, well, it smells like cookies.

However, you don’t  need to actually consume coconut oil to reap the beauty benefits. Here are 50 topical skincare, bodycare and haircare uses for it in your very own home. All you need is virgin coconut oil (preferably organic) and you are all set to glow!

coconut oil beauty 1Coconut oil for the hair

1. Deep conditioner: When my locks feel more like straw than silk, I massage a few tablespoons of coconut oil into my hair and leave it overnight. Can’t do overnight? Massage in the oil and wrap your head in a warm towel for a couple of hours. Then shampoo and feel your hair turn silky smooth. How? Coconut oil rebalances hair proteins and its small molecular structure penetrates the hair shaft to moisturise and protect against environmental damage.

2. Intense deep conditioning: For an even more intense hair mask, remove the rind from half an avocado and put the fleshy part in a bowl. Add 4 tablespoons of coconut oil and blend with a fork to create a creamy paste. Massage into damp, towel dried hair and use a wide-tooth comb to distribute evenly. Leave 20 minutes, then rinse out and shampoo as usual.

3. Hair strengthening mask: Simply warm 3 tablespoons of coconut oil in a saucepan over low heat; set aside and let it cool. Beat a raw egg and the lukewarm coconut oil together, then apply the mixture to your hair. Put a plastic bag or plastic wrap around your hair for one hour, then wash hair with shampoo and rinse thoroughly. This is excellent for treating split ends and prevent hair from breaking.

4. Frizzy or lacklustre hair: Take a tiny drop of coconut oil and rub it between your palms. If you have curly hair, run your fingers through it and scrunch. If you have straight hair, just smooth over the top of your strands gently.

5. Dandruff: Because of its effective antibacterial and antifungal properties, coconut oil is excellent for scalp problems like dryness and dandruff. Simply massage it into your scalp for 5 minutes. Let it sit for as long as you can and then shampoo thoroughly.

6. Premature greying: Take a bunch of curry leaves and grind them with a little water to make a paste. Add this paste to two cups of coconut oil and heat the mixture till all the moisture evaporates. After it cools, store in a bottle. Massage hair with it 2-3 times a fortnight, leaving it overnight for added potency.

7. Got gum in your hair? Slather with coconut oil, let it soak for a couple of hours and the sticky stuff will slide right out.

Coconut oil for the body

8. Body wash: Take 2 cups liquid castile soap (or any unscented body wash), 1 cup rose water, 4 tablespoons coconut oil and 20-30 drops lavender essential oil. Pour all the ingredients into a bottle and shake until everything is mixed well. Shake before every application and use as a body soap.

9. Simple scrub: Skin feeling parched and flaky? Add some sea salt to coconut oil and use it as a body scrub.

coconut oil beauty 210. Body scrub: Take 6 tablespoons each of coconut oil and brown sugar, along with 10 drops each of orange and lemon essential oils. Beat the coconut oil till its soft and fluffy. Next, add the remaining ingredients and stir well. To use, massage into damp skin while in the shower; on rinsing off the scrub, you will be left with a very light layer of coconut oil, which shall keep skin soft and supple. Store the excess scrub in the refrigerator.

11. Honey-lemon sugar scrub: Mix together half a cup each of brown sugar and salt in a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon each of lemon juice, honey and coconut oil; mix well. Use 1-2 times a week for amazingly smooth skin!

12. Deep moisturiser: Parched, flaky skin? Stir together equal parts coconut oil and olive oil. Add a few drops of rose or frankincense essential oil and you will have a concoction that no store-bought lotion could ever rival!

13. It gets better: Slather the (above) concoction all over your body and drape yourself with warm bath towels. Stay that way until the towels have cooled. What do you have right there? A VERY luxurious full body moisturising mask.

14. Body moisturiser: Rich in fatty acids, coconut oil makes a superb moisturiser. Just pull it straight out of the jar (I decant it into a pretty bottle just for an added feel-good element) and smooth all over your body while skin is still wet after a shower. Poof… you are a soft skinned goddess!

15. Shaving cream: Use coconut oil instead of shaving cream – it will help smooth hair follicles for a closer, smoother shave.

16. After-shave lotion: Coconut oil will help heal your skin after shaving and is especially great for razor burn!

17. Home wax: Use the oil to help prep your skin before and use it to remove wax from the skin afterwards.

18. Cellulite cream: Mix together 1 cup each of coconut oil and jojoba oil, 20 drops each of cypress essential oil and juniper essential oil, and 10 drops of lavender essential oil. Massage into the affected areas of the body and leave overnight.

coconut oil beauty 319. After-sun body lotion: Take 1 cup cocoa butter, 1/2 cup coconut oil and 4 teaspoons sweet almond oil. Place all ingredients in a double boiler over medium heat until the butter is melted. Pour into a jar and allow to cool. Massage a small amount over body immediately after sun exposure to soothe sun parched skin.

20. Muscle soother: Take 4 teaspoons Shea butter, 3 tablespoons coconut oil, 2 tablespoons jojoba oil, 6 drops peppermint essential oil, 6 drops eucalyptus essential oil, 4 drops of lavender essential oil and 1 teaspoon beeswax. Melt the Shea butter, coconut oil and jojoba oil, then add the essential oils and pour into an airtight container.

21. Cuts and scrapes: Coconut oil forms a thin antiseptic and antibacterial layer that protects the wound from dust and germs. Plus, it speeds up the healing process by increasing cellular turnover and stimulating collagen. So, slather a bit of coconut oil on a scratch, scrape or small cut and your wound may heal faster and resist infections,. As a bonus, it also helps reduce the chances of scarring.

22. Warts: Take 1/4 cup coconut oil, 10 drops of lemon essential oil, 10 drops of tea tree essential oil and 2 drops of thyme essential oil. Mix the oils together and apply four times daily to the affected area. Do not wash area for at least 30 minutes after application.

23. Moles: When coconut oil is applied after an apple cider vinegar compress for a few weeks, moles have been known to “slide off” or just disappear.

24. Relaxing night balm: Place a cup of coconut oil in warm water until it softens. Mix in one cup of almond oil and 2-3 drops of rose essential oil. Store in an airtight container, using it as a full-body balm for when you are achy all over. Happy nights are ahead!

25. Illuminator: Massage coconut oil into your whole body to add a gorgeous glow to your skin. To enhance the glow, add some sparkling mica to your oil mix.

Coconut oil for hands & feet

26. Foot treatment: Dry, cracked feet? Rub some coconut oil and go over the flaky areas with a pumice stone. For an intense treatment, slather on the oil, put an old pair of socks and leave overnight.

27. Fungal infections: Coconut oil is rich in caprylic acid, a potent antifungal agent that’s superb for treating athlete’s foot, Candida and other fungal conditions. Rub the oil into your feet, concentrating on the affected areas (you can add some tea tree oil for added bonus). Put on socks so you don’t slide around the room. Repeat 2-3 a day until the problem is gone.

28. De-odourising: Coconut oil has been known to freshen up the stinkiness with its antibacterial properties. Add a little lavender or lemon essential oil for extra deodorising effect.

29. Tired feet: Pop your feet into a warm footbath laced with three tablespoons of coconut oil and half a cup of mixed spice. The lauric acid in coconut oil will help bring balance to your hard working feet.

coconut oil beauty 430. Dark patches: Mix the juice of one lemon with a teaspoon of coconut oil and rub into dry and dark elbows and knees to help with spots.

31. Nails & cuticles: Coconut oil contains medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), a type of fatty acid esters that absorb quickly and efficiently and help transport nutrients to the cells. Massage it into nails and cuticles to help strengthen them or rub into fingertips to soothe and prevent hangnails.

32. Hand cream: In a double boiler, melt together 10 tablespoons coconut oil, 3 tablespoons cold pressed sweet almond oil and 4 tablespoons grated beeswax. Remove pot from the burner and stir in 5 drops of lemon essential oil. After cooling, massage it into your hands to hydrate and banish dark spots. I put some into an empty lip balm or mini-mints tin and pop it into the purse for easy access.

Coconut oil for the face

33. Face mask: I am not all that keen on using coconut oil on your face, with one caveat: if you have dry, flaky skin that has no issues with pimples, this may be your ticket to softness. Take 1 egg, 1/2 cup coconut oil and 1 tablespoon honey. Beat the egg in a small bowl until frothy. Slowly add the coconut oil and honey, beating until your mask is the consistency of mayonnaise. Place in the freezer overnight. To use, cut out a small piece and smooth over your face; pop the rest back in the refrigerator. Leave on for 5 to 10 minutes, then rinse off with warm water. I use this one to counter sunburns and take away the pain.

34. Another face mask: Honey and coconut oil? Sounds messy but combine equal parts of both and slather onto your face for 10 minutes. It works wonders on dry skin, especially in winter!

35. Face scrub: Coconut oil is terrific at flushing away impurities; just mix equal amounts of oil and baking soda for a rejuvenating scrub.

36. Lip balm: Simply slather plain coconut oil on your lips for the ultimate in hydration. I use a small mini-mints container and fill it with coconut oil to carry around. It’s solid at room temperature and melts with the body heat while applying.

37. Lip gloss: Plain coconut oil makes for a superb lip gloss as well – VERY shiny!

38. Makeup remover: Cleanse away the dirt and pollution by massaging coconut oil into your skin. The makeup – including waterproof mascara – just melts away, while the oil’s anti-bacterial and anti-microbial elements protect and enhance the skin’s natural flora.

39. Eczema: The antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of organic virgin coconut oil make it an excellent soother for eczema sufferers. Just apply it lightly on the affected area 3-4 times a day.

coconut oil beauty 540. Colds: Rub a little coconut oil on the inside of your nose to help with runny noses, allergies and sore nostrils.

41. Acne: Mix some coconut oil with nutmeg and leave on your blemish for 10-15 minutes, then wash off.

42. After-sun soother: Forgot the sunscreen? Soothe your skin with a liberal application of aloe vera gel to which a few teaspoons of coconut oil is added. It’s high in antioxidants, prevents destructive free-radical activity (the primary cause of aging), and lessens skin spots caused by over-exposure to sunlight.

43. Cold sores: Coconut oil possesses an unusually high percentage of lauric acid (more than 50%), which is anti-viral (known to help treat cold sores, herpes, boils, acne and warts). Mix 2 tablespoons with 5 drops of oil of oregano and use at the first sight of a cold sore.

44. Eyelashes: Brush on to eyelashes to boost their growth and pigmentation.

45. Age spots: Applying coconut oil directly to the age spot will help it fade by preventing free-radical formation.

46. Highlighter: Simply sweep a small amount of coconut oil on top of makeup. It looks like your skin but glowier, which is why many natural makeup brands use it as a base ingredient in their formulas.

Coconut oil for wellness

47. Hot flashes: Coconut oil cools hot flashes and night sweats when you put a heavy coating on your scalp, hair (towel over pillow) and feet before bed. Wash it out in the morning.

48. PMS blend: Take 1/2 cup coconut oil, 15 drops lavender essential oil, 5 drops chamomile essential oil and 3 drops cypress essential oil. Mix everything together and store in a bottle or jar. Apply to abdomen for relieving menstrual cramps.

49. Insect repellent: Take 1 cup coconut oil, 2 tablespoons olive oil and 20 drops of patchouli, citronella or eucalyptus essential oil. Mix all the ingredients together and store in a jar. Apply liberally all over body.

50. Mood lifter: To make a superbly indulgent mood-lifting massage oil, melt one cup of coconut oil on low heat and add a handful of basil or lavender. Simmer for 30 minutes on very low heat – do not allow to boil; stir frequently. Strain and pour into a jar and store in the refrigerator. Heat it up a little and use it in place of massage oil to instantly bust the blues!

I have spent weeks and weeks and weeks researching and testing these recipes, yet I still feel that I must’ve left out a hundred more things. So help me out here. Is there anything I skipped that you think everyone should know about?

Gypsy makeup: How to look grungy, mystical and exotic this Halloween

Dark, dramatic and mysterious, gypsies have both fascinated and frightened people the world over since the 14th century. Traveling nomads indulging in eternal wanderlust, mystics who dance with bells on their ankles, fortune tellers who live life on the outskirts of society… these wanderers have the reputation for living a rugged life filled with mystery and adventure. As a teenager, I kept wanting to run away and join their romantic-looking caravans. As a fashion and beauty writer, I have marvelled at how their influence marks the runways almost every season. And as a grownup who needs to get into a costume for Halloween (yes, it’s that time of the year already!) without looking like a complete moron, I have often turned to their exotic look for inspiration.

Because whether or not the gypsy stereotypes are valid, one fact remains: the gypsy theme certainly fits in well with Halloween. This is particularly true for those of us who want to give free reign to our creative fantasies and also for those who want to do the whole costume bit but still look mind-blowingly gorgeous! So, cast a spell this Halloween, without resorting to the ubiquitous sexy witch costume, by channeling your inner gypsy queen.

gypsy makeup halloweenGypsy makeup #1: Acing the base

Start with a foundation that’s a couple of shades darker than your skin for a sun kissed glow. If you have a really pale complexion, put a thin layer of foundation on the backs of your hands as well.

Gypsy makeup #2: The cheeky bits

Dab a rose-hued blush on your cheeks, starting from the cheekbones and sweeping upwards towards your ears. Blend, blend, blend!

Gypsy makeup #3: Lip love

Go red or go dark… your choice! As a thumb rule, lighter skin tones would do well with a purple or red lipstick that has blue undertones. If you lean more towards a tan or olive complexion, opt for a red or purple shade with yellow undertones. These colours evoke a deep and fiery look that’s a perfect complement to gypsy style. Finish with a touch of clear gloss in the centre of your pout.

gypsy-makeup-21Gypsy makeup #4: The eye have it… literally!

Gypsies are often shown as having exotic eyes that denote a sense of mystery, so keep the focus on this part of your face. Start by smudging a black kohl pencil into your top and bottom lash line. Rim the entire eye and just when you think the look is dramatic enough, add a couple more swipes on the lower lashes. Then flick the liner outwards, like a cat’s eye, and go over it with a powder eyeshadow to enhance the smokey effect.

Add dark or jewel-toned eyeshadows, taking them right up to the brow bone. Fill in your eyebrows and finish with several coats of jet black mascara. Want still more drama? Add false lashes and green contact lenses.

Gypsy makeup #5: Finishing touches

Get the smallest costume jewel stones you can find (I get mine from a craft shop!) and make a “V” design in the middle of your forehead. You can use the liquid bandage that’s put over scrapes or cuts or a tiny dab of tooth paste to hold them in place.

For a dramatic flair, use an eye pencil to draw in a beauty mark near the eye or lips.

Gypsy makeup #6: Tress talk

Gypsies are usually portrayed as having heavy, dark and curly hair. If your strands are fine or straight, try texturising them with small hair rollers. If they are naturally curly, tie everything back and wrap it up in a boldly-hued scarf, with scattered tendril peeking through. Other gypsy hairstyling options? Wear it down and make small braids at the front of your face; or create a wavy, unruly effect by sleeping in wet braids. If you want to be even more adventurous, check your local costume or party store for a gypsy wig.

Gypsy makeup #7: Wow wardrobe

Long, flowing skirts are a staple item in every self respecting gypsy’s wardrobe. If you want to play safe, opt for a solid black skirt but it’s far more fun to experiment with bright jewel-toned colours and patterned fabrics. Be creative and don’t shy away from bold colours!

Pair the flowing lines of the skirt with a fitted top. Practically, you can well make do with a plain white tee but a sweetheart neckline and some detailing will really perk up the gypsy genome. If you want a more feminine look, go for an off-shoulder top.

Finish off with sparkly accessories: flat boots or sandals with a hint of glitter will look perfect, as will a clutch purse or cross-body bag.

Gypsy makeup halloween 3Gypsy makeup #8: The jewel effect

What’s a gypsy without the piles of gorgeous, clanky, oversized jewellery? If you have to pick one thing, go for large hoop earrings in either gold or silver – these are a staple in the jewellery arsenal of any gypsy. Add beaded necklaces and gold or silver bangles to complete the look. You can also wear a large statement ring for more drama.

Gypsy makeup #9: Savour the scarf

No gypsy costume is complete without a scarf, especially one that is made from a shiny fabric or has a paisley print. You can wear it in many different ways but for the most authentic look, fold it in half and place the middle on top of your head, then tie it in the back. Another option is to drape the scarf over the back, top and sides of your head (so that only your face shows) and tie it underneath your chin.

Gypsy makeup #10: The pot o’ perfume

Lush floral-orientals, patchouli, amber, musk, sandalwood, incense… celebrate the sensual and the dramatic with a perfume like Tom Ford’s Black Orchid, Byredo’s Gypsy Water or Diptyque’s L’Eau.

gypsy makeup halloween 2

So, there you have it: gypsy makeup. What do you think? Corny or glam?