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!

Beauty recipes: Make your own under-eye mask (Time: 10 minutes)

Lately, a new category of beauty products has been taking over the skincare aisles: under-eye masks. They are literally everywhere, with super-cool brands like GlamGlow, Le Métier de Beauté and Bliss keeping the credit cards busy. A slew of spas, including Ananda in the Himalayas and the Waldorf, even have a full fledged roster of under-eye treatments on their menu.

Stands to reason. After all, our under-eye area has some of the most fragile skin anywhere on the body. And it’s seriously overworked. By the time you finish this post, you will have blinked more than 50 times. Those who suffer from eyestrain (if you work with computers, odds are you do) and have slept less than 7 hours last night, will blink twice as much. This stresses the delicate muscles under the eyes.

Add in years of sun exposure, pollutants, allergies, squinting (another computer side effect), stress… and it’s no wonder that your eyes are often rimmed with dark circles, puffiness, sagging skin or crow’s feet.

Yet, even as we get our backs massaged, our legs buffed smooth and our hands pampered, the eyes mostly get overlooked. Time to change that, I would say. Added bonus: why not do it with pure and fresh ingredients straight out of the refrigerator? After much testing, harrowing the experts and comparing treatments literally side-by-side (two eyes – one covered with white store-bought goo, the other covered with colorful homemade goo!), I have zeroed down on these 3 under-eye mask recipes that work just as well as – if not better than – the store-bought versions.

Destroy the dark circles under-eye mask

Why it works: All these ingredients are potent sources of Vitamin K, which heals damaged capillaries and minimises the pooling of blood under the eyes – the main causes of dark circles. Over time, it also thickens the skin around our eyes. And since thinner the skin, the more visible the dark circles, it’s a powerful 1-2-3 punch to make those racoon-like shadows go far, far away.

Ingredients: 2 cups water, 1 bunch basil, 1 bunch parsley leaves, 3 lettuce leaves, 3 cabbage florets

Method: Boil the water and add the remaining ingredients. Simmer for 20 minutes, then strain the liquid and pour it into a glass jar. Apply this liquid (once it’s absolutely cool) with a cotton ball under the eyes and leave on for 10 minutes. Finally, rinse and gently pat dry. Repeat daily.

Storage: This mixture must be refrigerated; discard if it smells rancid.

Banish the crow’s feet under-eye mask

Why it works: Chinese women have been using soybeans since antiquity to fight premature ageing. And today science is following suit, with soy appearing in several skincare products. That’s because soybeans contain powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents. They also have a collagen-stimulating effect, which boosts skin elasticity. Combined result: lesser fine lines and crow’s feet.

Ingredients: 1/4 cup soybeans that have been soaked overnight in a cup of water, 1 tablespoon whole milk

Method: Pour the soybeans into a blender and process till they reach a paste-like consistency. Add the milk and blend for another minute. Apply under the eyes and leave for 15 minutes, then rinse off.

Storage: This mixture must be refrigerated; discard if it smells rancid.

Pass on the puffiness under-eye mask

Why it works: Witch hazel has a refreshing, astringent action on the skin, thereby helping deflate under-eye circles. Similarly, celery is packed with over a dozen anti-inflammatory agents, including apigenin, which is an integral part of several anti-inflammatory drugs.

Ingredients: 2 celery stalks or 2 tablespoons celery juice, 1 green tea bag, 2 cups witch hazel, 1 tablespoon glycerin

Method: Puree the celery stalks in a food processor (or juicer) and strain the juice. Place the teabag in a glass beaker. Heat witch hazel until hot and pour it on top of the teabag. Let the tea infuse for 2-3 minutes, then remove the teabag. Add celery juice and glycerin. Saturate a gauze pad and place over the eyes for 15 minutes.

Storage: Can be kept refrigerated for up to 10 days; discard if the mixture becomes cloudy.

Have you been looking after the skin around your eyes? What’s your go-to strategy for dealing with dark circles, crow’s feet and puffiness? Tell us in the comments below.

The easiest (and most effective) sunburn treatments EVER. And they all come from your kitchen

Got a little too much sun? It happens to all of us. And unfortunately, it often happens when we don’t have the usual array of sunburn-busters – like aloe vera or cocoa butter – on hand. Cue: pain, blisters, peeling skin, itchiness, burning… the works. Thankfully, the doctors themselves recommend a host of home remedies that are easily available in every kitchen. From rubbing potatoes on your skin to dipping in an oatmeal bath, here are a few unusual and effective ways to ease the pain of your sunburn.

PS: It’s not just about the sunburn. These remedies are also good for all post-sun time. Any prolonged exposure to the sun can irritate our skin and leave it vulnerable to premature ageing. So, slather on these pantry staples as a post-sun soother for damage control even when you are not actually burnt to a crisp!

treat sunburnSunburn treatment #1: Pat down with potatoes

Burn-fighting effect: The plain old potato is great at relieving pain and inflammation, making it a perfect quick-fix for sunburnt skin. The juices from a raw potato help strengthen the upper layer of the skin, even out its colour and provide moisture to dry areas. Plus, potato’s starchy compounds help take the sting out of a sunburn. Who knew?

Sunburn treatment: Cut 2 washed potatoes into small chunks and puree them in a blender or food processor; add a bit of water if they look dry. Pat this puree on the sunburnt areas, wait till it dries and then take a cool shower.

Or, you can simply cut the potato into thin round slices and place them on the sunburn for a few minutes – it might look a bit weird but it’ll definitely help with the pain.

Sunburn treatment #2: Lay on the lettuce

Burn-fighting effect: Lettuce’s natural pain-killing properties help wipe away the sting of a sunburn.

Sunburn treatment: Boil lettuce leaves in water. Strain, then let the liquid cool for several hours in the refrigerator. Once chilled, dip cotton balls in the lettuce water and gently wipe over irritated skin.

turmeric for sunburnSunburn treatment #3: Treat with turmeric

Burn-fighting effect: Turmeric’s antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties make it a great remedy for the treatment of sunburn blisters.

Sunburn treatment: Take 2 tablespoons of turmeric powder and add enough water to make a paste. Apply this paste over the blistered area for 10 minutes, then wash off gently with cold water. Follow this remedy once daily until the sunburn blisters are cured.

Sunburn treatment #4: Tone up with tomatoes

Burn-fighting effect: According to scientists, the red tomato helps protect the skin from sunburn and skin ageing caused by sunlight exposure thanks to the ingredient lycopene – the natural pigment that gives this fruit its red color.

Sunburn treatment: Puree a frozen tomato and apply it directly to the burnt area. Eating tomatoes can also help prevent future sun damage.

Sunburn treatment #5: OD on olive oil

Burn-fighting effect: Olive oil is a natural moisturiser and is known for having a healing effect on sun-damaged skin.

Sunburn treatment: Dip a cotton ball in a small cup with olive oil and apply to all the sore areas.

Sunburn treatment #6: Bathe in oatmeal

Burn-fighting effect: Oats hold moisture and have a high silica content, making them an ideal skin soother. An oatmeal bath soothes dry, itchy or irritated skin.

Sunburn treatment: Fill up the bathtub with cool – not cold – water. Don’t use bath salts, oils, or bubble bath. Instead, scoop 1/2 to 1 cup oatmeal – an ideal skin soother – and mix it in. Soak in this bath tub for about half an hour or more, then let your body air dry.

Sunburn treatment #7: Yay for yogurt!

Burn-fighting effect: Plain yogurt contains an abundance of probiotics and enzymes that help heal painful sunburns.

Sunburn treatment: Wash your hands and apply cool yogurt directly to your burn. Let it sit on your skin until it warms up and then rinse it off with cool or tepid water. Apply as often as needed.

Sunburn treatment #8: Wash it with witch hazel

Burn-fighting effect: Witch hazel contains tannins that, when applied to directly to the skin, help reduce swelling, repair damaged skin and ward off nasty bacteria.

Sunburn treatment: Pour witch hazel into a bowl and soak cotton balls or a clean cloth in the liquid. Dab on just enough to cover the burn – it doesn’t need to be dripping off. Reapply as needed for soothing the pain.

treat-sunburn-4Sunburn treatment #9: Cool it, cucumber!

Burn-fighting effect: Instant relief… that’s what a plain and simple cucumber means to scorched skin. Not only is a cucumber soothing to the burn simply because its cool, but its antioxidant and analgesic properties also promote healing and provide further (and long lasting) relief from discomfort.

Sunburn treatment: If you’re going for mainly quick pain relief, slice up a chilled cucumber and lay the slices on your burned skin. Flip the slices when the first side heats up, like how you flip a pillow to get the cool side up after a long nap. For a longer lasting effect, chill 1 or 2 cucumbers and toss them in a blender to create a paste.

Sunburn treatment #10: Bring out the baking soda

Burn-fighting effect: Baking soda is alkaline in nature and thus it can be very soothing to the skin. At the same time baking soda has antiseptic properties that can help in getting relief from the itchiness that often accompanies sunburn blisters.

Sunburn treatment: Fill your bath tub with cold water, add 1-2 cups of baking soda and mix properly. Soak your body in this bath for about half an hour. For instant relief from the burning, you can mix some baking soda in water and apply this paste over the affected areas.

Sunburn treatment #11: Make for the milk

Burn-fighting effect: Milk creates a protein film on your skin that will help ease the discomfort of fresh sunburn.

Sunburn treatment: Fill a bowl with cool (not cold) milk. Soak a washcloth or gauze in the milk. When the gauze or washcloth is saturated, let the excess liquid drain off. Drape across your burn, pressing gently so that it stays in place, and leave it on for as long as needed. If the milk in the bowl becomes room temperature chill it before re-dunking your compress.

Hair oils: Exactly which one is right for you?

With benefits ranging from conditioning and adding shine to treating dandruff and stimulating growth, hair oil has become like liquid gold for our tresses. And forget all those drippy, sloppy, sticky after-effects: the big beauty players are creating a completely new generation of oils for the hair. They’ve swapped sachets for sleek pumps, heavy textures for featherweight silkiness and potent blends that do a zillion things at the same time. In fact, I would contend that hair oil is the new hair serum.

choose-hair-oil4How? While it creates a glossy, swishy shine, the humble hair oil also provides protection and nourishment for your strands. And where serums simply coat tresses with silicone, oils add shine in a far more hair-friendly manner by calling on essential fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants that penetrate the follicles to treat and condition simultaneously.

And that’s not all: hair oil tames frizz and leaves strands manageable, while also protecting against the harshness of heat styling. Plus, it speeds up drying time as the oil reacts with heat to repel water from the hair. And the good ones even create a barrier against the environment: slip some on to protect your hair from sun, salt water and chlorine, or use it as a mini-shield against the effects of pollution.

However, before you dive into the world of hair oil, it’s vital to know exactly which one will work for your strands. There is a hair oil for all textures and types – including the most baby-fine heads of hair. You just need to pinpoint your best fit!

Hair oil for coarse, dry or chemically processed tresses

Hair becomes coarse and dry when it’s damaged, hence you need nourishing oils to repair its structure. One of the top hair oil choices here is virgin coconut oil, which penetrates the hair shaft to patch and protect it from the inside-out. Besides this, it is also lightweight, non-greasy (making it great for fine hair) and helps prevent dandruff.

Then there is avocado oil, which is rich in proteins and amino acids, along with high levels of vitamins A, D and E. All these are vital for hair’s health: for instance, proteins help fill in the cracks in the cuticle, so each strand becomes stronger. However, since avocado is a heavier oil, it works best on medium to thick hair.

Argan fruit and oil
Argan fruit and oil

Argan oil is loaded with vitamin E, omega-3 and omega-9 fatty acids that provide rich nutrition for your hair. It also contains linoleic and oleic acid to moisturise the strands. Plus, argan oil’s small molecular structure allows it to penetrate the hair shaft, repair damaged hair follicles and restore lost moisture. Using it as a hair oil puts back lost lustre from hair straightening and other chemical treatments, helps keep colour vibrant, prevents dryness and acts as a shield against harmful UV rays and environmental pollution.

Hair oil for dull tresses

Sweet almond oil has high amounts of vitamins A, B, and E. As a hair oil, it heals split ends, improves scalp circulation and adds shine to dull hair. The fatty acids provide UV protection by reflecting harmful rays, while vitamin E makes strands grow longer and stronger.

Or try pomegranate seed oil, which contains punicic acid to revitalise dull strands and increase flexibility. It also safeguards your tresses against environmental pollutants, thereby helping keep them in optimal condition.

Hair oil for thick tresses

While everyone is reaching for argan oil these days, the exotically fragrant oil is more suited to thicker heads of hair. It is sticky and can be hard to get out of fine hair – you’ll need to shampoo two or three times to fully rinse it out, or else you’ll get build-up. Yet for richer locks, argan oil can strike the perfect balance of shine, scent and manageability.

Hair oil for fine tresses

Thin or fine strands get weighed down very easily, so look for a light oil that can give them some texture. The structure of jojoba oil is closest to that of our scalp’s natural oils. This allows it to absorb immediately, making it the lightest and most non-sticky of all hair oils. Yet it also packs a hefty nutrient punch with anti-bacterial properties to keep the scalp healthy, stimulate hair growth and moisturise the strands.

choose-hair-oil2Oil for hair loss

Extra virgin olive oil is rich in high levels of mono-unsaturated fatty acids, which are terrific for moisturising, protecting and nourishing the hair. It also has B vitamins (niacin and biotin), vitamin D and vitamin E to help banish bald patches. If that’s not enough, olive oil helps in battling dandruff, which can be one of the reasons for hair loss. Other benefits include deep conditioning, sealing split ends and strengthening hair from the inside out. However, because of its heavier texture, olive oil is more suited to thicker hair.

For fine hair, there is coconut oil. This is made up of saturated fatty acids that soothe the scalp and keep it hydrated. A hydrated scalp promotes hair growth because there are no dead or dry skin cells to clog the hair follicle. Coconut oil also helps reduce hair breakage by strengthening the hair shaft.

Or try out rosemary essential oil. It contains over a dozen antioxidants, vitamin B, iron and calcium, so its application works to strengthen brittle hair and treat scalp problems that hinder hair growth. At the same time, it easily penetrates follicles and delivers the essential nutrients, thereby making hair grow faster and thicker.

Hair oil for dandruff & itchy scalp

Thyme essential oil is antimicrobial, so its usage as a hair oil can help treat itchy scalps plagued by bacteria and fungus. It is best used with grape seed oil as a carrier, since the former also contains Vitamin E and linoleic acid to nourish the scalp and help prevent dandruff.

Thyme oil
Thyme oil

Oil for ALL hair types

Still a bit puzzled? You won’t go wrong with rice bran and hemp seed oils, which suit all types of hair. Rice bran contains vitamin E and creates a harder shell around the cuticle so your strands suffer less breakage; while hemp seed oil is packed with amino acids, omega-3 fatty acids, proteins and minerals that make hair stronger and healthier.

Mix-and-match your hair oils

You can also custom-blend various hair oils according to your needs. For example, if you have coarse hair that’s also afflicted with dandruff, mix coconut oil and thyme essential oil. Similarly, you can use a nourishing oil for scalp and a light oil for hair strands. So, use your own experience of your hair and create a personalised oil blend for yourself. Or pick a blend off the store shelves – just read the ingredient list to know whether it suits your strands.

Do you use a hair oil? Which one? And will you be making any changes after reading this post?