I have a pathological dislike of pain. Which is why my legs get shaved rather than waxed. And which is why they are usually sporting horrid-looking nicks, cuts and super-dry skin that no amount of Bliss Naked Body Butter or L’Occitane Ultra Rich Body Cream is able to transform into skirt-skimmingingly glowy gorgeousness!
Then I ran into a college friend who now lives in Russia and has legs like butter… no exaggeration. And being a great buddy, she bestowed upon me this Russian shaving oil recipe that’s been around for a few hundred years and apparently gives ultra-sexy skin every single time!
Plus, it’s super-simple: Pour 3 tablespoons of almond oil in a bowl. Add half a tablespoon each of wheat germ oil, canola oil and sesame oil then stir till everything is all mixed up. Slather onto legs and shave. Simple, right? And this has a long shelf life so you can make a larger batch and store in a pretty bottle (the pretty bottle won’t make it more efficient – it’s just my personal commandment). As for the razor – dunk it into a shot glass of vodka (this is Russian, remember?) for a couple of hours and it shall come out all clean and fresh, sans any oily traces!
I have tried this thrice and my legs are definitely looking much better. This week, I might even bare them in this thigh-skimming floaty chiffon-silk dress from Leaves of Grass. What do you think? Good for a chilled-out Sunday champagne brunch? Or should I keep it more chic and monochromatic with the Alice by Temperley number on the right? I need your help here!
If you were in Russia, your day would probably begin and end with vodka, which is called upon for everything from rinsing the mouth to curing hair loss. Translating as “little water” or “dear water” in Russian, this crystal clear liquid was invented in 1503 by Kremlin monks who used it as a topical antiseptic and cure-all drink. The tradition continues till date – which can be a little weirdness-inducing at first glance. Then you see the zillion beauty benefits and figure that it’s simply like the French love for wine… cheers!
On this trip to Moscow and Samara, I pestered scores of women for traditional vodka-based beauty recipes. So, save a few sips of this potent alcohol for absolute (Absolut?) miracles on your face. And hair. And every other pore of your body. Salud!
Vodka’s beauty benefit #1: Astringent action
Mix equal amounts of vodka and water, then apply with a cotton ball to your face as an astringent. It will cleanse the skin and tighten pores.
This one comes straight from beauty guru Ole Henriksen and is perfect for tightening pores and firming the skin. All you need is equal amounts of fresh lemon juice, strongly brewed rose hips tea, strongly brewed mint tea and vodka. Blend all ingredients together and pour into an ice cube tray. When frozen, wrap an ice cube in a thin cotton handkerchief and rub across the entire face and throat for 2-5 minutes. Ice brings down the bloat, while vodka and lemon juice tighten pores and brighten the skin. Rose hip tea calms any inflammation and mint tea promotes micro-circulation to impart a healthy glow.
Vodka’s beauty benefit #3: Go frizz-free
Roughed up cuticles? Zero-shine strands? Add a shot of vodka to your deep conditioner. It will lower hair’s pH, helping the cuticles to close – and sealed cuticles mean reduced frizz and tons of shine.
Vodka’s beauty benefit #4: Clarifying rinse
Mix a mug of water with a tablespoon of vodka and use it as a final rinse after shampooing and conditioning. Perfect for removing product buildup from the scalp and strands, making hair lustrous and shiny!
Vodka’s beauty benefit #5: Diminish dandruff
Flaky scalp spoiling your beauty cred? Add three teaspoons of dried rosemary to a cup of vodka and leave overnight. Next day, strain the solution and massage it into your scalp. Leave for half an hour, then wash off with cold water.
Vodka’s beauty benefit #6: Prevent hair loss
Mix a tablespoon of organic honey and onion juice in a jigger of vodka and apply on your scalp. Leave it on your hair overnight and wash off in the morning. Vodka cleanses the scalp, removes toxins from hair and stimulates the growth of healthy tresses.
Vodka’s beauty benefit #7: Bust foot odour
Simply rub each foot with a shot-worth of vodka. Goodbye, funky odour!
Vodka’s beauty benefit #8: Ban bad breath
Swish around half a shot’s worth of vodka in your mouth for a minute and your breath will go from poor to pleasant.
Vodka’s beauty benefit #9: Cold sores
Apply a dab of vodka on a cold sore to dry it out.
Vodka’s beauty benefit #10: Poison ivy
Pour a bit of vodka on a poison ivy rash to help relieve itching – it removes the urushiol oil that causes this problem.
Vodka’s beauty benefit #11: Smooth shave
An uber-smooth shave begins with an uber-clean razor. So, soak your blade in a cup of vodka after shaving. Vodka will prevent it from getting rusty and clear any bacterial buildup.
While I have yet to achieve Louis Litt’s levels of mudding (What? You don’t watch Suits? Why??!!), the lure of a simple clay mask that literally sucks out toxins and other accumulated grime from deep under your skin is massively ooh-worthy!
That’s why this innocuous ingredient, which literally comes from the earth and has been used by some of history’s most gorgeous women since ancient times, is fast becoming one of the trendiest staples in today’s beauty circles. From face masks and soaps to foundation sticks and hair conditioners, clay seems to be just everywhere.
And it’s one of the simplest face masks to put together: Mix with a liquid (plain water/milk/rose water/yogurt/aloe… the possibilities are endless) and apply. That’s all!
But which clay to choose? Bentonite? Kaolin? Fuller’s Earth? Which one will work with your skin type and sort your specific complexion or hair issues?
Let’s figure it all out.
This fine-particled, grey-green clay (avoid the white variety – it’s over processed) comes from volcanic regions and is rich in magnesium. Bentonite’s signature is its unique molecular structure, which develops an electrical charge and swells up like an open sponge when mixed with water. This makes it particularly great at sucking out toxins, bacteria, fungus, oils and even excess sodium (hello water retention and puffiness) from the skin’s very follicles.
All properties that make bentonite perfect for oily, acne-prone skin and complexions suffering from large pores, is subjected to pollution or has chronic infections. On the other hand, dryer skin types should try and avoid this particular clay – not using it more than once a week.
This ancient volcanic ash sediment – also known as Multani mitti – is so absorbent that it’s even called upon to soak up small oil spills and draw out poisons from the body. It looks very similar to bentonite and is again great at drawing out toxins, excess oil and other impurities from the skin.
However, it has one additional property: This particular clay is great for treating hyper pigmentation, because of its mild bleaching action. It also boosts circulation but may be too drying for some complexions.
This finely milled clay is the gentlest of all and comes in many colours. White kaolin (which is also used to make porcelain) is the mildest. And rather than being absorbent, it’s a gentle exfoliant that’s great for softening the skin. This make white kaolin clay perfect for dry, sensitive complexions. Yellow kaolin is a little more absorbent and exfoliating, with the additional benefit of boosting skin circulation.
Red kaolin is the most absorbent, making it perfect for oily, congested and acne-prone skin. Pink kaolin is a mixture of red and white, which is great for oily yet sensitive skin that needs medium-level exfoliation and detoxification.
French green clay
Made of mineral-rich volcanic ash mined from the bedrock quarries of France, this green clay’s molecular structure helps pull out deeply seated toxins, bust blemishes, soak up excess oil, boost circulation and balance skin’s pH levels. It is also a great anti-ager, given its toning action, which boosts circulation to repair damaged skin, soothes out fine lines and tightens the pores.
French green clay is a boon for oily and acne-prone skin, though it may be too drying for those on the other end of the spectrum.
Mined from Morocco’s lava fields, Rhassoul clay has a dual action: It contains a super-potent blend of minerals and is negatively charged. Since most skin toxins are positively charged, the latter quality literally helps suck out blackheads (it’s seriously the best treatment for blackheads!), excess sebum and other debris out of skin pores. The inherent minerals simultaneously tone, calm and soften the skin.
This means Rhassoul is not as drying as bentonite or Fuller’s earth, making it great for dry skin as well. This particular clay is also great for hair and scalp, since it sops up excessive oil, pollutant and product buildup.
Indigenous to the Umbrian region of Italy, this clay is super-loaded with minerals and is also highly absorbent. It’s not only great for detoxifying and de-greasing, Umbrian clay also helps maintain the skin’s pH levels, soothe irritations, calm inflammation and refine the pores.
Umbrian clay is best suited for normal to oily complexions, though drier ones that are tempted by its other benefits can also bring it out once a week. The trick is to not let it dry on your face completely; rinse off while the clay is still a bit wet to the touch, to stop it from dehydrating your skin.
One of the rarest cosmetic clays around, blue clay is found in Siberia and has an exceptionally high mineral content. Besides being super-absorbent and drawing out impurities, it also nourishes the skin, stimulates blood circulation and tones the complexion.
This makes it perfect for mature skin, since it has a potent ant-ageing action, ironing away fine lines, stepping up cell metabolism to keep wrinkles at bay and restoring suppleness and elasticity.
Dead Sea mud
Though this is technically not clay – mud is a mixture of soil, silt, clay and water – the terms are often used interchangeably in the beauty industry. And Dead Sea mud (seen above in its natural habitat – the Dead Sea) is one of the most cult skincare ingredients out there, revered for its super-high concentrations of salts and minerals (specially magnesium, sodium, calcium and potassium). This makes it a terrific deep cleanser and exfoliator, while killing acne, nourishing the skin, restoring pH levels, treating conditions like psoriasis and eczema, toning and clarifying the complexion, improving its texture and even smoothing out cellulite and stretch marks.
Dead Sea mud also has another huge benefit: It is great at easing out the pain of sore muscles, combatting inflammation and relaxing the mind and body, hence appearing in a lot of body masks and scrubs. It is good for all types of skin, including dry and sensitive ones.
European Moor mud
Also known as Balneoo Peat, European Moor mud actually contains almost no clay. Instead, it contains the organic residue of multifarious flowers, herbs and grasses, which make it rich in natural enzymes, minerals, amino acids and vitamins. Originating from Hungary and the Czech Republic, its high humic content makes it a potent anti-inflammatory and circulation booster, which helps detoxify the body, decongest the skin, soothe joint inflammation, ease achy muscles and smooth away cellulite. European Moor mud is highly soluble in water, so it won’t clog up your bath tub either.
Have you tried a clay product before? How was your experience?
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!
1. 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.
9. 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?