My first book: The Paris Bath & Beauty Book

A deliciously warm, sweet and slightly powdery mist rising from the cobblestones, flower stands spilling with freshly cut lilies, bustling cafés serving smoky teas, cozy boulangeries waking up the mornings with crusty baguettes, the rich wood and crystal interiors of Versailles, the endless eras of history peaking out of the Louvre, women dressed in red lipstick and a splash of No. 5… is there any wonder that I am totally and irrevocably in love with Paris?

And that I would choose the city of love, lovers and eternal seduction as the inspiration for my very first book?

So, presenting to you: The Paris Bath & Beauty Book. My very first book, co-authored with Chrissy Callahan and published by Cider Mill Press. A book that celebrates the beauty secrets of Parisian women, right from the regal Marie Antoinette face mask to a gorgeously aromatic jasmine hair mask and a luscious rose petal lip balm.

These are recipes gleaned from the pages of history, the dark libraries of musty chateaus and the annals of the Parisian oral tradition, where secrets are handed down through the generations till they almost become coded in the nation’s genetic memory.

paris-bath-and-beauty-bookTime then, to light a pretty candle, cuddle under the duvet, sip on some champagne and pick your favourite recipe. And pretty please do drop me a note, however short, to tell me what you think. Because, like all first loves, this book is the one that will always hold my heart within its pages. I am already working on another one but nothing will ever come close to the thrill I felt when holding this little creation in my hands. So, do let me know if you get your hands on one (it’s available on Amazon here and Barnes & Noble here).

Here are three of my personal favourite recipes to give you a little preview.

paris-bath-and-beauty-book-2Lavender and coconut milk hair mask

Both lavender oil and coconut milk are great at replenishing hydration without weighing down your strands. Bonus: they’ll make your hair smell amazing!

What makes it Parisian?

Because it’s lavender! And because French women love soft, naturally glossy hair that doesn’t need to be subjected to styling tools!

What does it do?

The lavender oil and coconut milk are perfect for softening and adding gloss to dry and brittle strands. This recipe makes enough for shoulder-length hair; there should be just enough to coat your strands lightly without dripping. If you have longer hair you may scale up the volume accordingly, maintaining the one-to-one ingredient ratio.

Ingredients

1 teaspoon lavender oil
1 teaspoon fresh (or canned) full-fat coconut milk

Method

1. Combine the lavender oil and coconut milk

2. Massage the mixture into dry hair before you hit the bed; leave the mask in your hair while you sleep

3. Simply wash and condition your hair as normal in the morning… you won’t believe the texture!

French milled soap

French milling creates the smoothest, most luxurious bar of soap in the world. No self-respecting Parisian would go for anything less!

What makes it Parisian?

This is an ancient soap making technique discovered by French soap makers in the 1700s.

What does it do?

Milling extracts excess water from the soap. This not only creates a longer lasting product but also ensures that the ingredients are well blended and that the soap bar’s texture is smoother and more uniform, sans impurities.

Ingredients

3 bars any unscented natural soap
1 cup warm water or coconut milk
Additives (choose from aromatic essential oils, herbs, colloidal oatmeal, flower petals etc.)
Cheese grater
Double boiler or non-reactive pot
Wooden spoon
Soap molds
Wax paper

Method

1. Grate soap bars into a double boiler or non-reactive pot, then add water or coconut milk; mix well

2. Heat on low, stirring often with a wooden spoon. If bubbles form, stop stirring until they cease; if soap starts drying out, add more water or coconut milk

3. When soap flakes melt, remove mixture from the heat and add additives (except essential oils)

4. Stir mixture until it’s cool but pourable, then add oils

5. Spoon mixture into molds, packing well to avoid air bubbles. Once molds are full, tap gently against counter to settle soap and remove air pockets; then set aside to dry

6. Once hard, remove soap from molds and set on wax paper in a cool, dark place to cure thoroughly (this may take a few weeks)

7. Turn soaps once weekly; they’re ready when you can press them with your finger and not leave an impression

8. Wrap soaps in fun paper of your choice to gift or store!

AlmondsAlmond paste for hands

This paste feels slightly coarse and you will need to really massage it into the skin – but it’s all worth the effort for perfectly smooth hands.

What makes it Parisian?

Almonds from the South of France have long been revered the world over for their skin-nourishing properties and robust scent.

What does it do?

Almonds are très rich in calcium and minerals and leave skin soft and smooth.

Ingredients

1 cup bitter almonds
3 cups whole milk
4-5 white bread crumbs
Mortar & pestle (or food processor, set on low)
Heavy bottomed kettle

Method

1. Blanch almonds in warm water and remove skins; Leave to dry out completely

2. Beat the almonds in the mortar or food processor, adding just enough milk to form a paste.

3. Soak bread crumbs in milk and add them to the almonds; beat together until everything is well mixed. Pour this mixture into the kettle

4. Add enough milk to completely cover the mixture and let simmer over low heat until it turns to the texture of a soft paste; keep adding more milk if the mixture starts to look dry

5. Scoop paste into a glass bottle and store in the fridge

Any thoughts on The Paris Bath & Beauty Book?

Witch hazel: Adding magic to your beauty routine

Double, double, toil and trouble. Fire burn and cauldron bubble. Witch hazel sounds like something that would be used in a potion or spell, right? But you probably didn’t realize that it’s actually a pretty common ingredient in skin care products ranging from Clarins’ Beauty Flash Balm to Clinique’s Clarifying Lotion… and for good reason.

What exactly is witch hazel?

witch-hazelWitch hazel is an ancient herb that has been used for medicinal purposes since centuries. It was first discovered by the Indians, who found a way to extract oils from the bark of Hamamelis virginiana – commonly known as the witch hazel shrub. Although the origins of its distinct name are unclear, it may have come from the Middle English word “wich”, which means “flexible”, in honor of the plant’s bendy branches.

Witch hazel contains tannin, flavonoids and strong anti-oxidants, which can help clear up a multitude of skin problems. Native Americans used the plant to ease swelling and treat minor wounds, abrasions and several other skin conditions. Today, herbalists consider it a powerful remedy for relieving muscle aches and pains, treating varicose veins, as well as to stem bleeding from cuts and scrapes.

However, it is as a beauty treatment that witch hazel keeps its mystique. And you don’t even have to wash your face with it from a silver bowl at full moon. It works quite simply and effectively at any time of day and the benefits are underlaid with solid scientific proof.

What to do with witch hazel

De-grease your hair: To reduce excessive oil, dampen a cotton ball with witch hazel and dab it along your hairline and parting. Leave on for 10 minutes, then rinse off with cool water.

Spot control: Witch hazel helps disinfect and reduce the inflammation on a pimple, which is why it can be found in many over-the-counter acne treatments. For maximum effectivity, try this potent mask: mix a teaspoon of witch hazel with two teaspoon of honey (for dry skin) or an egg white (oily skin). Apply this to the affected area and leave for 20 minutes; rinse off with cool water.

Soothe sunburns: Treating a sunburn with witch hazel will lessen healing time and prevent the infamous skin peeling and flaking. And it’s simple – just spread a thin coat of witch hazel on the ‘burn. It will both cool and soothe.

Treat dry skin: Apply witch hazel immediately after showering… it will “lock in” the moisture that has just soaked into your skin.

Pore perfecter: The high level of tannin content (which strengthens pore walls) in witch hazel makes it great for soothing and tightening large pores. Plus the herb is naturally antibacterial and effectively sucks out dirt and oil without over-drying. To use, simply soak a cotton pad in watch hazel and gently rub over cleansed skin twice a day.

A branch of witch hazel

A branch of witch hazel

Toner: Unlike many harsh toners that contain chemical ingredients, witch hazel naturally firms the skin without making your face feel too tight. It also helps reduce inflammation and redness, while having a cooling touch that leaves you feeling refreshed.

Anti-aging: Witch hazel is rich in antioxidants, which defend our skin against free radicals. Free radicals can damage skin, leading to premature skin aging. So, apply witch hazel regularly to clean skin when you want to slow down the clock.

Refresh tired eyes: NOT by squirting witch hazel in them, but by soaking a clean rag in witch hazel and cold water and placing the cold compress over your closed eyes for 10 minutes. The anti-inflammatory effects (which make witch hazel one of the magic ingredients in Preparation H) will help relieve strained, puffy or red eyes.

Heal a bruise faster: Been in a fight recently? Well, maybe not. But if you bang your leg or arm and are left with a nasty bruise, a thrice-daily dab of witch hazel can help speed up the healing time. It also works as a disinfectant for cuts, cracked skin and blisters.

Soothe (or prevent) razor burn: The anti-inflammatory properties of witch hazel stop itchy bumps from forming around irritated hair follicles. Apply before or after shaving – this goes for both ladies and gentlemen.

Scars and age spots: Pour 2 tablespoons of witch hazel into a bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice and mix well. Use a q-tip to dab the mixture onto the age spots before bed. Let dry and put on the night time moisturizer. Repeat process for 2 weeks to fade the spots.

Do a deo: The same antibacterial and astringent properties that make witch hazel so effective at reducing oiliness can also help your underarms. Simply saturate a cotton ball in the liquid, dab it on your underarms and let it dry. You can also add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to give it a nice scent.

Varicose vein relief: Soak wash cloths in witch hazel and lay on legs (which are propped straight out) to reduce pain and swelling from varicose veins. Witch hazel will help tighten the veins, relieving discomfort temporarily.

Soothe poison ivy and poison oak: Just like acne and blemishes, witch hazel reduces itching and relieves swelling. Something definitely worth packing on your next picnic or camping trip.

Do you currently use witch hazel in your skincare regimen?

Want to make your hair grow faster? It’s much easier than you think

Maybe you’ve had a bad haircut. Or are craving sexy, face framing tresses. Or are prepping for a big occasion. Or channeling Blake Lively’s cool-girl spirals. Or maybe you just want a change. Whatever the reason, these easy-to-do-at-home beauty recipes will speed up the rate of hair growth so that you get the long and luscious locks of your dreams. Do them twice  a week – I normally alternate all of them in turn. Which one will you try first?

make hair growHair growth mask #1: Pass the mayo please. And the mustard.

Put 1 tablespoon mayonnaise (preferably freshly made), 1 tablespoon mustard and a dash of cayenne pepper in a small bowl; stir well till everything is blended. Rub the mixture all over your scalp. Leave it on for 30 minutes, then was with your regular shampoo.

Hair growth mask #2: Drunk on length

Pour 2 tablespoons each of castor oil and cognac in a small bowl; mix well. Apply this all over your scalp, then wash out with shampoo after 25 minutes.

Hair growth mask #3: All for aloe

Mix together 2 tablespoons each of aloe vera juice and honey. Apply the mixture all over your scalp and let it sit for 20 minutes. Then rinse with warm water and shampoo.

Are you trying to grow out your hair? What are your secret tips for speeding up the process?

Beauty secrets of the ancient geishas (that will totally change your skin!)

Every time I travel to Japan, my skin develops an inferiority complex. I mean, have you ever seen those Japanese women with their smooth, glowing, absolutely flawless skin? There is not a single blemish or an enlarged pore to be seen anywhere. And this time it was even worse, considering that I was in Kanazawa to meet with one of the greatest cultural icons of all times: an honest-to-goodness geisha. One of those magical superwomen who can seduce with a downward glance, fascinate with her silent sensuality and entrance with a flick of the wrist. And then there is that unbelievably smooth, porcelain-like skin, glossy hair and ruby red lips that are unrivalled across the world.

So, this time I decided to tackle the eternal question: what are the secret skincare and haircare recipes that make geishas so beautiful, so ageless and so dazzling? There are really just a few of them and they can be easily incorporated in our daily lives with products right out of the pantry.

geisha-beauty-secrets-1Sea salt

Since Japan sits on the waters, it makes sense that sea salt would be a part of the geisha’s skincare routine. Salt is a wonderful body scrub, while also being terrific for cellulite. However, unlike us mere mortals who mix it with oil, the Japanese geishas prefer whipped cream.

Follow suit by blending 2 tablespoons of sea salt with a little whipped cream to create a body scrub. Massage in circular motions over warm skin, preferably halfway through a shower. Finally, rinse and finish off with body lotion. Massaging with sea salt breaks down fat and makes skin firm and smooth. Easy, ain’t it?

Rice bran

The chemical composition of rice bran is similar to that of human skin. Add to this its potent water retaining and exfoliating abilities and you can see why this husky flour has been a skincare staple of the geisha since 1100 AD. An added bonus: while other scrubs can tear and damage the skin cells, rice bran leaves them rejuvenated, cleansed and healthy.

For the best results, mix 1 tablespoon of rice bran flour with enough milk or yoghurt to form a smooth paste. Apply this to warm, freshly cleansed skin and leave on till dry (approximately 10 minutes). After that, remove the mask using warm water and circular motions of your fingertips. Pat dry and apply your usual skincare.

Rice

The beauty benefits of rice have been treasured for hundreds of years by women not only in Japan but also in Indonesia and other Asian countries. That’s because rice is rich in gamma-oryzanol – a powerful antioxidant that boosts collagen production. The most popular rice mask involves powdering 2 tablespoons of rice in a coffee grinder. Mix this rice flour with 1 tablespoon of whipped cream. Apply this paste to your face and neck; rinse after 20 minutes.

Persimmon

Known as the fruit of the Gods in ancient Greece, persimmon contains calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, iodine and super-high levels of vitamins. A geisha understands the multifaceted benefits of this fruit and used it in many different ways – from face masks to skin tonics and detox diets.

A favorite recipe: mix 1 tablespoon of mashed persimmon with 1 teaspoon each of honey and egg yolk. Apply to clean skin and leave for 15-20 minutes before washing off with warm water. This face mask will hydrate, nourish and protect against environmental damage.

Geisha beauty secretsGreen tea

Green tea is loaded with polyphenols, which fight free radicals, reduce skin inflammation, provide protection against skin cancer and bust any nasty toxins or bacteria that may be lingering in your pores. Geishas are famous for their elaborate tea ceremonies, often involving green tea, but it is a less widely known fact that they use that very same tea to keep their skin glowing and gorgeous.

How? Boil, strain and cool 1 cup of green tea. To this, add 1/2 cup ground oats, 1 tablespoon avocado oil or mashed avocado and 10 drops lemon juice. Mix the ingredients into a paste that you apply on clean face. Let it sit for 10-15 minutes, then remove with washcloth and lukewarm water. Do this twice a week for skin that absolutely radiates its flawless perfection.

Apple cider vinegar

The enzyme-rich apple cider vinegar literally melts away dead skin cells. Which is why geishas add it to their shampoo to prevent dandruff and stimulate hair growth. They also add it to the bath to keep their skin young and healthy. Follow in their footsteps by mixing organic apple cider vinegar in the ratio of 1:1, soaking a cotton pad in the mixture and patting it onto your skin. Leave on skin for 5-7 minutes, then wash off with plain water. The result? Clean and fresh new skin.

Camellia oil

Japanese women have known for centuries about the wonderful haircare benefits of camellia oil. It is exceptionally high in oleic acids, proteins and glycerides that are perfect for maintaining hair health, as well as adding volume and gloss. And using it is super-simple: lightly heat 1 teaspoon of camellia oil and rub it along the length and tips of wet hair. Then cover your strands with a towel for 20 minutes. Finally, shampoo your hair and rinse well; condition as usual.

Will you be trying any of these secret beauty recipes of the geishas? Tell me in the comments section below!