The (many) beauty benefits of lavender: Ultra-easy DIY recipes included!

To me, nothing says summer more than lavender. Just its fragrance is enough to evoke the memories of balmy countryside days, soft purple bushes shimmering against a blue sky, emerald green grass glowing with refreshing dew drops, rolling fields stretching towards the mountains… all of childhood rolled into one pretty package.

But lavender is much more than just a pretty flower. It is also one of the most powerful remedies in the plant world, offering relief for problems as varied as sunburns, acne and dandruff, because of which the ancient Egyptians and Romans treasured the oil extracted from its leaves and flowers.

This amazing spectrum of healing powers is due to lavender’s complex chemical makeup, which is chockfull of antiseptic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory goodness. Even a mere whiff of its fragrance has potent aromatherapy benefits. And this is no subtle, old lady fragrance – it’s a heady scent that rivals bottled perfume.

Through various trips to Grasse and Kashmir, I have reaped the recipes of some gorgeous face masks, scrubs and body butters that help you harness all the beauty and wellness of lavender in its purest form.

Rejuvenating lavender toner

How to: Take a handful of fresh lavender and 100 ml water. Boil the water and then pour in the lavender buds, making sure they are completely submerged. Cover the bowl and leave the brew to steep for a few hours. Then drain the mixture, pour the water into a clean glass bottle and store in the refrigerator. After washing your face in the morning, spray a little bit of the lavender water on a cotton pad and gently wipe your face to instantly refresh the skin.

The science: Lavender boosts circulation, thereby increasing blood flow and ensuring that the skin cells receive adequate nutrition and oxygen. This keeps the cells healthy and boosts their turnover.

Anti-acne lavender remedy

How to: Dab lavender oil onto acne blemishes or skin infections with a cotton swab.

The science: Essential lavender oil is antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. These properties allow it to both attack the bacteria causing acne infections and reduce the swelling and redness.

Lavender sunburn soother

How to: Add a few drops of lavender oil to a bowl of cool water. Make a compress and apply it to the sunburn.

The science: Lavender oil is a natural anti-inflammatory, so it helps reduce itching, swelling and redness.

Lavender burn cure

How to: Pour a few drops of lavender oil onto cotton and apply to burns for healing sans scars.

The science: Lavender oil’s burn-healing superpowers are responsible for the birth of modern aromatherapy. In 1928 a French chemist, René-Maurice Gattefossé, burned his hand. He accidentally applied lavender oil to it and noticed the burn healed much faster than expected. David then discovered that lavender stimulates new skin cell formation. This reduces scarring and helps burns heal quicker. It also works as a pain reliever, while the antiseptic action helps reduce infection.

Lavender detox sugar scrub

How to: Whisk together ¼ cup each of white and brown sugar, then stir in 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract. Add 1 teaspoon dried lavender, gently crushing the buds between your fingers. Stir in 1 teaspoon almond or jojoba oil and then add 1 tablespoon honey, mixing until everything is evenly combined and you have a thick paste. Transfer the scrub to a glass jar and store in refrigerator.

The science: Lavender contains powerful antioxidants, which counter the effects of environmental pollution on the skin. Plus, it also helps dispel stress and nerves, both of which make skin appear coarse and lifeless.

Purifying lavender face mask

How to: Add 3-5 drops of pure lavender oil to 1 tablespoon of organic yogurt and apply to your face (avoiding eye area) for 10-15 minutes; rinse with warm water.

The science: Lavender keeps acne-causing bacteria in check, while increasing cellular rejuvenation. This means you will have fewer acne breakouts and infections if you follow this recipe once a week.

Lavender wrinkle buster

How to: Beat an egg white and add 3 drops of lavender oil. Apply to your face for 20 minutes, then rinse well with warm water.

The science: Lavender eases tension, stress and inflammation – all of which are the major contributors to skin aging. Plus, it boosts the circulatory system, thereby increasing the flow of oxygen and nutrients to skin cells. In fact, one study found that women who have undergone Botox injections recover better after applications with diluted lavender oil.

Lavender mineral bath salts

How to: Mix 1 cup sea salt, 1 cup Epsom salts, 1⁄2 cup baking soda, 1⁄4 cup dried lavender flowers and 5-6 drops lavender essential oil; stir well. Spoon into a clean container with a tight fitting lid. Add 1 cup to your bath as you fill the tub; soak for 15-20 minutes.

The science: Mineral baths and bath salts are perfect for relaxing sore muscles and rejuvenating the body. Lavender, in the meantime, is astringent and cleanses the skin.

Lavender body scrub

How to: Place 1 cup dried lavender flowers, 2 cups whole oatmeal and ½ cup baking soda in a food processor or blender. Grind until you have a smooth, fine powder with the consistency of whole grain flour. Store in a dry, clean container. To use, pour 1/2 cup in your bath as you fill the tub.

The science: Lavender is a relaxant, while oatmeal and baking soda are soothing to dry, sensitive skin.

Lavender body butter

How to: Combine 1⁄4 cup cocoa butter, 2 tablespoons sunflower oil, 1tablespoon coconut oil, 1 tablespoon flax seed oil, 2 tablespoons grated beeswax and 1 teaspoon vitamin E oil; gently heat until melted (in the microwave or on the stove top on low heat). Stir well and add the lavender essential oil, pour into a clean container and allow to cool completely. To use, massage into your skin, especially rough spots such as elbows, heels and knees.

The science: This rich body butter works as a potent salve to heal dry areas, soothe the skin and make it glow-y.

Lavender hair mask

How to: Crush ½ cup lavender florets; add ½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar and stir well. Then stir in 1 cup applesauce and 1 teaspoon sea salt. Apply a thick layer of this paste to dry hair, pre-shampoo. Wrap your head with plastic film and cover with a towel. Relax for 8-10 minutes. Rinse well and shampoo as usual.

The science: Lavender has a gentle clarifying action on the scalp, while also helping to normalize sebum (oil) production and restoring a healthy bounce to hair.

Lavender dandruff destroyer

How to: Wet hair with warm water and towel dry. Mix 15 drops of lavender essential oil in 2 tablespoons olive or almond oil. Microwave for about 10 seconds or until it feels warm. Massage the oil into your scalp, pop on a shower cap, let set for an hour, then shampoo out.

The science: Lavender oil rejuvenates the follicles, thereby encouraging hair growth. It also kills lice and dandruff; regular use can improve your hair texture.

Lavender relaxing remedy

How to: Put a handful of dried lavender in a vase on your nightstand – or use a diffuser with lavender oil.

The science: Breathing in the smell of lavender lowers heart rate and blood pressure, putting you in a relaxed state.

Lavender sleep spray

How to: Combine ½ cup distilled water, 1 teaspoon witch hazel and 5-6 drops lavender essential oil; pour into a clean spray bottle. Spritz onto clean skin or fresh linens before going to sleep. Lavender tea can also be helpful.

The science: The scent of lavender increases alpha waves in the area of the brain responsible for relaxation. Besides this, it also shortens the length of time taken to fall asleep and helps ease you into deep, REM sleep faster.

Lavender bloat buster

How to: Sprinkle dried culinary-grade lavender on Greek yogurt.

The science: Bloating and poor digestion are usually the consequence of “bad” bacteria. The polyphenols (a type of antioxidant) in lavender help reduce these bad bacteria, while increasing digestive capability and allowing food to pass through easily.

Ever used lavender in a beauty remedy? What’s YOUR secret lavender recipe?

Beauty DIY: Rose recipes that pack a potent skincare punch

Today, my thoughts keep wandering back to roses… I have no idea why! Maybe it’s the Absolis by Patyka Damask Rose Toning Lotion that landed on my table in the morning. Or the fresh batch of rose water I made last evening… the lush fragrance is still wafting through my rooms. Or the Lancôme Absolue L’extract Regenerating Ultimate Elixir that I have been road testing.

Whatever the reason, roses are everywhere in the beauty world right now. And these fragrant flowers are doing far more than just charmingly perfuming our products: their delicate petals are also chockfull with antioxidants, which help heal skin and reduce inflammation. Plus, they have superb antiseptic and antibacterial properties, making them ideal for a number of skin problems.

In fact, roses were a prominent element of traditional Indian, Chinese, Persian, Arabian, Egyptian, Greek and Roman medicine before making their way to European apothecaries. Which set me thinking: wouldn’t it be amazing if we could harness the therapeutic properties of this precious plant right at the source? Make its beauty benefits even more potent by adding fresh roses to the mix?

So, to help you enjoy a little petal power, here is a bouquet of rose-based lotions, potions and scents. And since roses are said to banish melancholy, I hope these beauty recipes also help to chase away the mid-week blues for you!

First, some tips

  • Use the freshest flowers you can find – ideally, they should be picked on the same day.
  • Where the recipe calls for rose water, you can buy it from the market (look for organic versions) or make it yourself with these easy recipes.
  • Look for organic or pesticide-free blooms since these will be applied to your skin.

Rose petal body polish

How-to: Gently rinse 1 cup rose petals to remove dust. Grind the petals as finely as possible, using mortar and pestle. Mix the ground rose petals with 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1/4 cup rolled oats, 1/4 cup 1/4 cup buttermilk powder1 teaspoon cornmeal and 3-5 drops of rose absolute oil. Pour everything into a food processor and process until you have a fine mixture. Add just enough olive oil to create a paste when you want to use the scrub. Store remaining mixture in a lidded container.

The science: Roses boost the body’s circulation, while simultaneously purifying the blood by flushing out wastes and toxins.

Floral bath soak

How-to: Mix together 3 cups Himalayan pink salt3 cups Epsom salts, 1 cup baking soda, 2 cups rose petals, a few drops of glycerin and 1/2 teaspoon rose absolute oil. Add the blend to a warm bath, then slip into the tub and relax for 10-15 minutes in fragrant bliss.

The science: Rose petals are a staple in Ayurvedic medicine to calm, clear and soothe both mind and body.

Rose & almond body oil

How-to: You’ll need 1 cup of rose petals (2-3 roses) and 1 cup of almond oil (rich in vitamins E and D, yay!). Put the petals in a jar, crush them up a bit with a wooden spoon and pour in the oil. Let the mixture sit for 1 week, then strain and use. This feels so good right out of the shower and smells delish!

The science: Rose oils help reduce swollen spots or redness on your skin. Its calming properties can also help sooth rosecea and eczema.

Refreshing rose toner

How-to: Mix together 1 cup rose water, 6 drops of glycerin and 3/4 cup witch hazel. Pour into a sterilized bottle. To use, moisten a cotton pad with the rose toner and swipe all over your face after cleansing.

The science: As a natural astringent, roses help tighten pores and restore suppleness for a glowy complexion. Unlike conventional alcohol-based toners, this leaves skin feeling smooth, not dried out. Plus, the addition of glycerin and witch hazel make this recipe astringent and hydrating.

Fresh rose face mask

How-to: Mix together one teaspoon of honey, 6-8 rose petals, two teaspoons rose water and one teaspoon plain yogurt; stir till you have a smooth paste. Apply this on your face and neck and wait for 10-15 minutes, then rinse with warm water. Skin will feel super-hydrated and shall recover its lost nutrients.

The science: The natural oils found in roses help lock moisture into the skin, keeping it silky smooth. They are especially good for sensitive skin because the sugars in rose petals soothe the complexion.

Deep cleansing rose face mask

How-to: Mix 3 tablespoons of rose water with 1 tablespoon of plain yogurt and 2 tablespoons of oat flour. Apply this paste for about 20 minutes and then wash it off with lukewarm water. Your skin will be deep cleansed and feel super-supple.

The science: The naturally antibacterial rose water is great for treating acne and acne-prone skin. Plus, the sugars found in rose petals add to their soothing effect, helping calm down troubled complexions.

Rose renewing moisturizer

How-to: Pour 2 cups of rose water in a small mixing bowl. Then break 2 vitamin E capsules and squeeze their contents into the bowl. Add 4 teaspoons each of olive oil, honey, coconut oil and rose water. Mix well and transfer to a container that has a lid. Refrigerate when not in use.

The science: Roses contain high amounts of vitamin C – a powerful antioxidant that can help strengthen skin cells and regenerate skin tissue. It also helps protect skin cells from sun damage other environmental toxins, thereby preventing premature ageing.

Rose petals hand cream

How-to: Mix 1/3 cup glycerin and 2/3 cup rose water. Store in cool dry place.

The science: Rose oils are not only incredibly moisturizing, they also help stimulate circulation in the skin while simultaneously tackling thread veins and broken capillaries.

Smoothing & plumping rose lip balm

How-to: Well rinsed and lightly blotted rose petals ground with beeswax can heal dry lips. Keep in a small covered tin to apply easily throughout the day. The darker the color of the rose, the darker your lips will become.

The science: Roses contain high levels of vitamin C, oils and proteins, which help keep skin soft and moisturized. Plus, it has retinol (vitamin A), which treats lines, wrinkles and other visible signs of aging.

No-sweat rose tea

How-to: Combine 4 cups boiling water, 1 teaspoon dried hops1 teaspoon stinging nettle, 1 teaspoon fresh rose petals, 1 teaspoon dried strawberry leaves1 teaspoon walnut leaves and 3 tablespoons dried sage leaves. Cover and steep for an hour. Strain and sweeten with honey if desired. Besides being aromatic and calming, this tea can also reduce excessive perspiration.

The science: Rose oils inhibit water loss from the skin and lower the concentration of cortisol (a stress hormone) in the body.

What are your secret recipes – or product picks – for these pretty petals?

Your skin’s 24-hour cycle (because for skincare, timing is EVERYTHING!)

If I was to force feed you a rich meat stew at 6 am, followed by a roast chicken an hour later, it’s a definite possibility that your digestive system would rebel AND your energy levels would go into free fall. Similarly, there are reasons we don’t (usually) hit the gym at 3 in the morning, nor do we schedule killer tasks for midnight. Our bodies have a definite internal clock, which predetermines the best time to do work, eat meals and sleep. And for most of the time, we’ve learnt to understand and respect the same.

Unfortunately, we forget that our skin is also a biological entity (in fact, it’s the body’s largest and fastest growing organ) that has a similar internal clock. This internal clock determines the best time to moisturise, shave, wax or apply a treatment. There is also a time when skin will be most vulnerable, most oily or most sensitive. Often, we ignore this skin clock, which may well explain why all those beauty treatments are not delivering on their promise. So don’t ignore your skin’s daily schedule, as that’s what decides the ultimate effectiveness of any product or treatment. Here you have it in a nutshell.

skin-clock7 am – 10 am

  • This is the prime time for puffiness and creases, as lymphatic fluid pools while you sleep, especially under the eyes. So try a cold compress, apply an eye mask or opt for an eye gel that’s enriched with refreshing botanicals like briar rose, cucumber and chamomile.
  • Skin is at its most sensitive right now, so save the deep cleansing, exfoliating, spot-squeezing and massaging for later; instead keep your morning skin routine simple – cold water, mild cleanser and toner.

10 am – 1 pm

  • During this period, our levels of adrenaline (which fight stress) and endorphins (natural painkillers) are highest, making it the perfect time for ouch!-inducing treatments like electrolysis or waxing.
  • Going in for fillers or Botox? Try it during these hours – it’s advisable not to lie down or rub your face for several hours as this could make the serum leak into adjoining areas, causing unevenness and drooping.

1 pm – 3 pm

  • These are the hours when the skin is at its best and the natural barriers are functioning optimally, making it the best time of the day for exfoliating treatment, including DIY peels and clinical microdermabrasion.
  • However, this also the time when you face peak sun damage. Twenty minutes in the midday sun can cause more skin damage than two hours in the early morning, so reapply the sunscreen.

3 pm – 5 pm

  • There is a reason behind the dreaded afternoon oil slick: oil producing glands pump out twice as much at this time, compared to the rest of the day. That’s because androgens (male hormones) increase mid-afternoon, making sebum levels rise to peak-production. To foil the shine, soak up the grease with blotting papers, then apply a thin layer of matte translucent powder.

skin-clock-25 pm – 7 pm

  • These are the most polluted hours of the day, stepping up risk of free radical damage, which can gradually disintegrate skin cells and accelerate the ageing process. Make sure you wear moisturiser that’s spiked with the anti-oxidant vitamins A, C and E.
  • A study from Manchester Metropolitan University shows that this is the best time to hit the gym: your energy levels are high and muscles and joints are at their warmest, lessening chances of injury. However, avoid having a beauty treatment for at least two hours after the workout, as the rise in body temperature adversely affects the skin’s natural protective barriers, making it extremely sensitive.

7 pm – 9 pm

  • Blood vessels are at their most dilated now, making us go red most easily. So make sure you use some concealer to spare the blushes.
  • As blood flow to the skin increases and endorphin levels drop considerably, you will also become more aware of pain and irritations such as allergies, insect bites or eczema, so keep some calming lotion at hand.

skin-clock-39 pm – 11 pm

  • Your face is more receptive in the evening, when skin temperature is higher and the surface layer more porous, allowing for greater penetration of active ingredients. Start by washing away makeup and grime to prevent clogged pores, blackheads, breakouts and lackluster skin, along with providing a clean canvas for treatment products, helping them penetrate faster and work better. Now is the best time to have a warm, relaxing bath and a cleansing facial massage, followed by the heavy-weight treatments.

Post-11 pm

  • That old adage ‘an hour before midnight is worth three afterwards’ is true; the hormone that triggers sleep – melatonin – peaks at around this time, making 11 pm the hour we should go to bed for maximum skin benefits. But more on this later as it’s a chapter in itself!

Have you noticed your skin responding to an invisible clock? Let’s talk.

Sleep less, weigh more: 6 ways lack of sleep is making you pile on the weight. LOTS of weight.

What if I told you there’s a super-effective weight loss technique that costs nothing and doesn’t need a single change in your diet? Yes, it’s true. No, it’s not a magic potion.

It is – wait for it – SLEEP. Yes, saying that that people who sleep more end up eating less (and being less hungry) might be oversimplifying a little too much, but in essence, that’s what multiple studies have found. Along with a host of other facts that have a massive impact on your weight. Read on.

Sleep controls your hunger levels

Constantly feeling a niggling hunger? That doesn’t go away even with proper meals? It may be down to your sleep cycle. Cortisol levels start rising when you’re short on sleep. This shuts down the regions of your brain that make you feel satisfied after a meal, meaning you feel hungry all the time – even if you just ate mammoth portions.

And that’s not all. Cortisol doesn’t just make you crave any food – it specifically makes you crave high calorie foods, adding insult to injury. Research by the American Heart Association shows the sleep deprived usually end up gorging an extra 500 calories a day. This roughly translates to two pounds of weight gain over a month.

All because of simple lack of sleep.

sleep and weight2You can’t shift the weight

Working out, eating right and still can’t budge those pounds? Poor sleep literally changes your fat cells, making it near-impossible to lose weight. The American Health Association steps in again, with statistics that prove those on a sleep-deprived diet experience a 55% reduction in fat loss compared to their well rested counterparts.

How? Why?

According to researchers at the University of Chicago, when your body is sleep deprived, it suffers from “metabolic grogginess”. This basically means your fat cells become exhausted, dazed and confused when you’re short on sleep – just like the rest of your mind and body. Unfortunately, they can’t be revved up by multiple shots of espresso and within just four days of sleep deprivation, your body’s ability to properly use insulin drops by more than 30%.

Why’s that bad?

Insulin instructs fat cells to flush away the fatty acids and lipids from your blood stream. When it’s disrupted, these fats keep circulating in your blood, ultimately getting stored away in all the wrong places – such as your liver. And that is exactly how you become fat and suffer from diseases like diabetes.

You have inane food cravings

Contrary to popular belief, hunger and cravings are not a function of willpower. They are actually controlled by two hormones: leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is the hormone that tells you, “Put down the fork, I’m full”. So, high levels of leptin keep hunger at bay. Ghrelin, on the other hand, makes you feel hungry, while slowing down your metabolism (hence reducing your calorie-burn) and increasing the amount fat you store.

It’s a cinch to figure out why throwing leptin and ghrelin out of balance is the last thing you need. But sleeping less than 6 hours makes leptin levels plummet and ghrelin levels rise, setting the stage for high calorie feasting after a restless night. QED.

sleep weight lossSleep deprivation sabotages gym time

To make a bad situation worse, lack of sleep doesn’t just affect your diet – it also sabotages your workouts. And it’s not just that when you’re suffering from slept debt, everything you do feels tougher. Scientists from Brazil have found that sleep deprivation decreases your body’s protein synthesis, causing muscle loss and creating a higher potential for injuries.

Plus, lack of sleep also slows down the production of growth hormones, which makes it harder for your body to recover from exercise, lowers the fat burn and leads to premature ageing.

Sleep (literally) helps you burn more calories

Another inducement to sleep on time? Your body will burn more calories throughout the day. How? According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, normal sleepers’ resting energy expenditure (the amount of calories burned when you’re not moving) was 5% higher than their tired counterparts. Plus, the former also burned 20% more calories after a meal.

Sleeplessness leads you to poor decisions

Skimping on sleep dulls your brain’s frontal lobe – the region that controls decision-making and impulse control – thereby setting you up for bad decisions. Plus, when you’re overtired, your brain’s reward centers rev up, looking for something that feels good, aka energy-dense, high-carb junk foods. In short, while you might be able to squash comfort food cravings when you’re well-rested, your sleep deprived brain may have trouble saying no to that third doughnut.