Is rice water Asia’s best kept beauty secret?

Next time you boil rice, think twice before tossing the water. Rice water is rich in beauty minerals and vitamins that make it fantastic for both skin and hair – a secret those flawless-skinned Japanese geishas have known for centuries. And it’s super-easy to make: simply boil some rice (preferably organic rice and boiled in distilled water), then pour the excess water in a lidded glass jar and store in the refrigerator. Once cooled, it will be a potent ingredient for crystal clear skin and super-shiny hair.

rice waterFlawless face

Wash your face, then soak a cotton pad in the rice water and apply it all over, as you would do with a toner.  Rice is rich in a complex of B vitamins called ‘inositol’ that helps promote cell growth, slows down the aging process and stimulates blood flow – the perfect recipe to tighten pores and bring a glow to the face. Besides this, rice water also has moisturising, antioxidant and UV-absorbing properties, along with an ability to bind to naturally occurring copper in the skin, thereby preventing the formation of melanin formation (hyper-pigmentation) and age spots.

Haute hair

After shampooing, work in some rice water into your hair. Leave it on for a few minutes, then rinse well. Rice proteins strengthen the hair shaft and fill in the cracks. The result? Ultra-smooth, seriously shiny hair.

Beauteous bod

The soothing nature of rice water makes it an effective remedy for rashes and other irritating or painful skin conditions. In a dermatological study at Brussels University, patients with atopic dermatitis (chronic inflammation of the skin) saw a 20% improvement after taking 15-minute baths filled with rice water twice a day.

Recipe for health

Drinking rice water is also extremely beneficial for overall health. It contains 8 essential amino acids, which form the building blocks for tissue and muscle regeneration. Rice water also provides energy due to high concentration of carbohydrates.

What do you do with your rice water? Will you be seeing it differently after reading this?

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.

Beauty recipe: Super-easy DIY detox juice from the Mandarin Oriental

Gooooood morning, ladies and gentlemen. Hope you had an awesome weekend! And if it was as full of boozy cocktails and stacks of greasy burgers, help is at hand in the form of this detox juice, which is a great way to rid your body of toxins while replenishing it with nutrients it needs. It’s been concocted by Chef Toni Robertson for The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, New York and he recommends drinking a glass whenever you need a refreshing pick-me-up.

Added bonus: it tasted delicious and takes about 10 minutes to make and gulp down… which is a definite blessing on hungover mornings!

Detox juice: Ingredients

2 green apples
2 large cucumbers
1/3 stalk lemongrass
1/3 small piece (thin slice) fresh ginger
1 freshly squeezed lime

Detox juice: How-to

1. Using a juicer, press the apples, ginger and lemongrass. Include the skin and stalks because these contain the highest concentration of antioxidants.

2. Add cucumbers with skins and strain the juice through a very fine sieve.

3. Mix with the freshly squeezed lime juice in a cocktail shaker; shake the juice with crushed ice and serve cold.

How was your weekend? And what’s your go-to detox remedy?

How to make totally indulgent herbal compresses (Time: 10 minutes)

Through 8 years of marriage, Mr. TBG has realised that when I twitch with sore muscles or cry over a strained back it’s more conducive to call the spa before summoning a doctor. But I am not alone in my belief of massage before medicine: hot herbal pouches have travelled a long way since their origins in Ayurveda more than 5,000 years ago. Today, besides being a staple on luxe spa menus worldwide, they are also called upon by physicians, physiotherapists, dermatologists and even psychiatrists for everything from stress to muscular pains and the flu.

herbal massage pounchThat’s because the sensory experience of having these gorgeous, steaming parcels of aromatic herbs and spices pressing against your skin not only heals the body but also induces immense calm. The heat and herbs are absorbed by the body to reduce aches and pains, increase lymphatic drainage and condition the skin. Besides this, they also harmonise the body, loosen energy blockages and recoup deficiencies.

And because I am blessed with going through life in the most accident-prone manner, we have now learnt to stock up on a “first aid kit” of herbs and spices to brew up our own heat therapies right at home. Fragrant pouches of earthy goodness, soft muslin fabrics, dim lights, the comfort of my own home and hubby’s firm hands sweeping away the aches and pains… sigh! Wonder if he ever catches on that half the time I am only faking the pain to revel in the sheer indulgence of it all 😉

Hot herbal pouches: The basics

A hot herbal pouch is made by wrapping specific herbs, spices and flowers in natural cloth like a “dumpling” and then heating it to your preferred temperature (hot but bearable – don’t burn your skin!). Even though you can simply pop them into a microwave for 90 seconds, prepping them the old fashioned way – with steam – is more beneficial as it softens the compresses, releases the essential oils and intensifies the aroma. Prep two pouches for a session, keeping one heating on the steamer while using the other. Then massage all over your body, paying special attention to problem areas.

hot-herbal-pouch-5All the way from Bangkok

I don’t think there is a more perfect place to experience the indulgence of a hot herbal pouch than Wat Pho – the Temple of the Reclining Buddha – in Bangkok. In the past, only trained monks were allowed to practise treatments and prescribe medicines, so this ancient legacy dates back to the 14th century.

Ingredients: 3 tablespoons fresh ginger (grated), 5 tablespoons lime zest, 10 eucalyptus leaves (crushed), 1-2 stalks lemongrass (crushed), 1/2 tablespoon tamarind powder, 1/2 tablespoon camphor granules1/2 tablespoon rock salt, pure cotton or muslin square, cotton string

Method: Mix all ingredients together, wrap in the cloth and roll up into a tight pouch; tie tightly with string.

Laotian herbal compress

In ancient Laos, local herbs and plants were fashioned into compresses made from indigo-coloured fabric. Indigo is the spiritual color of Eastern medicine and is believed to enhance the detoxification process. Today, the color is optional but the treatment remains identical: steaming compresses thoroughly pounded over the body to relieve pain and fatigue, especially after playing a sport or doing hard physical work.

Ingredients: 3/4 cup cooked rice, 1/3 cup fresh lemongrass (crushed), 1/3 cup fresh ginger (crushed), 1/3 cup fresh basil, 1/3 cup fresh pepper, 5 cinnamon sticks, pure cotton or muslin square, cotton string

Method: Mix all ingredients together, wrap in the cloth and roll up into a tight pouch; tie tightly with string.

Balinese Boreh herbal compress

Jamu – the signature wellness therapy in Bali – is centred around the Boreh herbal compresses that are called upon to reduce muscular pains, improve blood circulation, relieve rheumatic symptoms and leave you with a warm, relaxed feeling.

Ingredients: 1 cup rice powder, 1/3 cup fresh ginger (grated), 1 tablespoon turmeric powder, 3-4 cloves, 1-2 sticks cinnamon, 1 tablespoon coriander, 1/2 tablespoon nutmeg (grated)

Method: Mix all ingredients together, wrap in the cloth and roll up into a tight pouch; tie tightly with string.

hot-herbal-pouch-4Indonesian herbal pouch

Inspired by the ancient rituals of Indonesia, these hot herbal pouches use medicinal herbs to restore physical and emotional balance. They are massaged over the body in circular strokes to stimulate circulation and reduce fatigue, insomnia and hypertension. Added bonus: cooked rice softens the skin.

Ingredients: 3/4 cup cooked rice, 1 tablespoon chamomile, 1 teaspoon dried ginger, 2 teaspoons sandalwood powder, 1 tablespoon lemon peel (chopped), 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder, 1 teaspoon vetiver (optional), flannel or cheesecloth square, string

Method: Cook the rice and leave to cool. Add all other ingredients to a cup of water, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cool and strain. Mix the rice with the strained mixture, heap onto the cloth and fashion into a tight pouch.

Maldivian versatility

Maldivian therapists have their own interpretation of the hot herbal compress and it’s probably the simplest: combine 2 cups of clean sand with 3/4 cup of dried herbs, fashion it into a pouch, heat and use all over the body. However, since it’s not easy to find sand everywhere, the The Ritz-Carlton Resort & Spa suggests this recipe instead:

Ingredients: 4 cups uncooked rice, 1/2 cup dried herbs, 1 pair clean socks

Method: Combine ingredients and pour into a sock (though personally, I think a fabric pouch is much more attractive). Knot the end, put into the other sock, knot again.

Which herbs? Lavender is the most popular because of its relaxing scent and anti-inflammatory properties. Other good options include the following.

Camphor: Has a strong antiseptic, analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect. It also stimulates the brain, heart and blood circulation. Besides this, it helps to ease stress, anxiety, depression and insomnia.

Cardamom: Has a spicy, exotic floral aroma and is a terrific pain reliever.

Cloves: Also good for treating chronic pain.

Elderberry flowers: Help rid the body of toxins, increases circulation and purifies the blood.

hot-herbal-pouch-6Ginger: Helps eliminate wastes and congestion, enhances circulation and acts as a catalyst for other herbs to increase their effectiveness.

Kaffir lime: A potent antioxidant, it’s called upon to banish colds and congestion, boost digestion and regulate blood pressure.

Lemongrass: Works as an anti-inflammatory, while also boosting digestion, releasing tension, curing colds and treating skin infections.

Mint: Calms the stomach, intestinal tract and the nervous system while cleansing the skin.

Myrrh: Highly favoured for soothing muscles and wounds, while also detoxifying the mucous membranes.

Tamarind: Has an antiseptic and blood purifying effect. It is used for constipation, colds and fever, as well as skin cleansing and refining.

Turmeric: Has antiseptic, antibacterial and antifungal properties. It is also used for relieving pain and has an anti-inflammatory effect.


  • Before putting a compress on the skin, test the temperature by pressing it against your arm.
  • Don’t rest the compress on one area of the skin for too long – just touch, press firmly, lift and move in a constant and rapid motion. Each session should take 15-20 minutes.
  • Do not use essential oils. Most essential oils have a low flash point, so they will burn away rapidly when you heat the pouch. Not only does this make the pouch more flammable, it also means its scent will fade very quickly.
  • These hot herbal pouches can be used 3-4 times when dried completely. Store in the refrigerator after every use. Discard when the ball becomes very pale – or almost white – as this indicates that the herbs have lost their potency.
  • Information and advice contained on this website should not be used for the purposes of diagnosis or as a substitute for medical advice. Always consult your doctor or healthcare professional before beginning any new treatment.

Have you ever tried a hot herbal pouch compress? Liked it?