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?

From Brazil to you: DIY beauty recipes for glossy, glow-y, super flawless skin (no waxing required!)

Alessandra Ambrosia, Adriana Lima, Isabeli Fontana, Isabel Goulart, Barbara Fialho, Lais Ribeiro, Daniela Braga… when almost every second Victoria’s Secret model turns out to be Brazilian, you know the country is on to something.

So, it’s not surprising that I spent much of the Rio Olympics trying to figure out the secret behind a whole nation’s worth of glossy, glow-y, flawless women both on and off the stage.

Seriously, what is it about these Brasileñas? How do they manage to look so effortlessly beautiful? Those taut limbs, that glossy skin, the sexily tousled hair… they must be spending hours at the spa, right? Wrong.

These gals take their skincare way too seriously to be content with once-in-a-while spa visits. Beauty is a way of life. Turns out they are doing it every day, all the time: By the beach, at work, while prepping for bed. Seriously, ALL the time.

This has made Brazil the third largest beauty market in the world after the USA and Japan. One of the biggest lures for beauty brands is the treasure trove of ingredients found in the country’s lush vegetation, making it no surprise that the rest of the beauty world is following where Brazil leads. Subsequently, many breakthrough beauty rituals have been developed here, some of which you may love already, and others you need to know about… like sand. And carrot juice. And sea salt.

And then shhhhhhhh… I am off to put these glorious beauty tips in action. You?

A photo posted by Adriana Lima (@adrianalima) on

Brazilian beauty secret #1: Sand

Yup, that’s it. Plain and simple sand. Used as a foot and body scrub right on the beach! Don’t be so shocked: massaging sand into the skin stimulates circulation, thereby busting toxins, breaking up fat tissue and chasing away cellulite. It’s also a terrific exfoliator that gets rid of dead skin. To be 100% Brazilian, simply grab a handful of sand and rub into damp skin in gentle, circular motions (as you would with a body scrub). For a more spa version, mix 1 cup of dry sand with 1/4 cup of olive oil and 5 drops of almond oil. Use this as a body scrub that both exfoliates and moisturises the skin.

Brazilian beauty secret #2: Carrot juice

These women have complexions so glowingly gorgeous that the Brazilian tan has become the hottest catwalk and celeb trend worldwide. But Brasileñas are also super sunscreen-savvy and you won’t find them baking in the sun sans some foolproof skin protection. So how does this reconcile with those tans of gold? The answer lies in carrot juice. Carrots, you see, are packed with beta-carotene, which is super-good at promoting a tan and giving skin a natural glow. Plan for at least 2 glasses of carrot juice a day and don’t forget the sunscreen.

Brazilian beauty secret #3: Açaí berries

Even as fashionistas and health-savvy celebs are increasingly swapping their cappuccino for superfood packed smoothies across the globe, beauty juices (or sucos in the native lingo) have been away of life for Brazilians forever. The most powerful (and popular) ingredient? Açaí berries. These pulpy berries areloaded with antioxidants that neutralise environmental damage and help you ditch signs of ageing like wrinkles, age spots and fine lines. For a truly Brazilian power smoothie (called batida de tai or açaí smoothie), take 2 cups of açaí juice (or 2/3 cup of dried açaí berries), 1 cup plain yogurt, 1 teaspoon honey, 1 banana and 3 tablespoons oatmeal. Blend, slurp, be a goddess !

Brazilian beauty secret #4: Babassu oil

With half of Brazil being home to the Amazon, this country is ripe with skin and health boosting plants. And increasingly, global beauty brands are reaping them for their products, including Kiehl’s Açaí Damage Repairing Skincare, Aveda’s Uruk makeup and MAC’s semi precious stone laced Mineralize collection. True Brasileñas, however, believe in going straight to the pure, unadulterated source, with simple ingredients like babassu oil (also known as cusi oil). This clear vegetable oil is terrific at nourishing the skin and regulating sebum (skin’s natural oils) sans greasiness. Simply do as the Brazilians: Rub a dollop of babassu oil straight into your skin to keep it soft and hydrated through the day.

Brazilian beauty secret #5: Cupuaçu

Cupuaçu (coo-poo-ah-SOO) is another hot favourite with the golden limbed. This fruit is super-rich in flavonoids – in fact, it has two flavonoids that can’t be found anywhere else on earth. Cupuaçu also has five fatty acids, including a powerful Omega-3, which dramatically improve skins tone and texture. So, this chocolatey-vanilla tasting fruit packs a solid 1-2 punch by both fighting environmental damage and improving skin quality. And it’s available fresh or frozen in many speciality stores around the world. When you find it, try this easy smoothie recipe: Mix 1 cup of cupuaçu pulp, 2 tablespoons chopped lemongrass leaves, 2 tablespoons honey and 2 cups cold milk in a blender. Blend on high, then strain out the floating solids. Drink chilled. PS: Also look for cupuaçu butter in health stores. It feels smooth and decadent, has a deliciously sweet aroma and helps lock in moisture for super-silky, supermodel skin.

Brazilian beauty secret #6: Sea water

Sea water gives you more than just sexy beach hair. It actually coats your strands with 26 minerals that make them ultra-soft and create oodles of natural volume, sans the need for any chemicals. It also adds loads of texture, making it easier to hold a style (hello curls and tousled waves!). No sea insight? Pour 1 cup plain water, a tablespoon of coconut oil, a tablespoon of sea salt and a tablespoon of hair gel into a spray bottle. Shake and spritz through your hair. Channel Adriana Lima. Voila!

A photo posted by Lais Ribeiro (@laisribeiro) on

Brazilian beauty secret #7: Sea salt

I would have never believed this one without actually seeing it in action: Sea salt actually helps heal acne, cold sores and minor wounds. That’s because sea salt is a strong antiseptic and if you can take the sting, this simple DIY recipe will clear up those blemishes: Mix 1 tablespoon sea salt with tap water; apply as a paste on the spots.

Brazilian beauty secret #8: Seaweed

The sea has even more in store: Seaweed is a potent combo of vitamins and minerals that are easily absorbed as this gelatinous substance’s unique molecular structure is very close to that of human skin. This makes seaweed a terrific ingredient to help purify, firm up, nourish and rehydrate the skin. It also slows down ageing and boosts cell generation, all while improving skin texture and tone. Plus, it makes tresses super shiny and stimulates blood circulation to promote hair growth. Enough for you? Then take 1 cup seaweed, 1 ripe avocado, 1 tablespoon plain yogurt and 1 tablespoon olive oil; blend apply to hair and/or face for 20 minutes.

Have you tried any of these ingredients in your beauty rituals? What’s the key beauty ingredient in YOUR culture?

What is chronic inflammation? And why is it giving me acne? Or wrinkles?

It’s skincare’s latest buzzword: Chronic inflammation. Everyone from dermatologists and endocrinologists to physical trainers and nutritionists are reaching out for this term to explain (and treat) skin problems like chronic acne, eczema, wrinkles, fine lines, dullness and sagging. And that’s not all: ‘chronic inflammation’ is also a key reason behind deep rooted diseases such as diabetes, auto-immune disorders, heart trouble and even Alzheimer’s.

But what is chronic inflammation? And is it really as bad as we are led to believe by a slew of specialists and celebrity lifestyle pros?

What is inflammation?

At the most basic level, inflammation is our body’s response to any foreign organism or injury. For instance, suppose you are stung by a wasp. This punctures the skin and also releases a flood of foreign chemicals inside our body. When this happens, our body calls upon certain types of blood cells and natural chemicals to isolate and destroy the invaders. Consequently, the area around the bite gets swollen. Once the attack has been negated and skin is healed, the swelling subsides.

This swelling and the process which brings it about is inflammation – of the good kind.

Sometimes, this process is not visible to the naked eye. Like when our body is dealing with an internal problem such as food poisoning or a cold. That’s when we have internal inflammation, which works to isolate and heal the organs inside our body.

Again, this is good inflammation. In fact, it’s necessary inflammation, without which our body would not be able to get rid of bacteria or virus and heal itself.

When does inflammation become ‘bad’?

Sometimes, our body makes a mistake and starts treating its own organs as if they are foreign invaders. This kind of inflammation exists even when there is no wound or infection that needs healing. It starts creating a swelling under the skin or around our vital organs – such as the heart or liver – putting extra pressure on them (think of it as an extra layer of fat or mucus that’s squeezing the organs), while simultaneously blocking optimal supply of nutrients.

This is known as internal chronic inflammation and unlike external inflammation, it is trickier to spot and treat. In fact, you may live with chronic inflammation for several years and not realise it at all.

inflammation2What happens when you have chronic inflammation?

A lot! Skin-wise, chronic inflammation invariably starts piling on the acne, sallowness, puffiness, lack of radiance, loss of smoothness, fine lines, dark circles, wrinkles and sagging. If left untreated, it manifests in more chronic skin problems such as dermatitis, psoriasis, eczema and rosacea.

And that’s not all: chronic inflammation is also a known factor in diabetes, heart disease, dementia, inflammatory bowel conditions, arthritis, cancer, stroke, asthma and a whole lot of other ailments.

Do I have chronic inflammation?

Internal inflammation is difficult to spot and tricky to treat. However, if you lead a busy lifestyle, live in a city or indulge in bouts of junk food, you’re at risk and prone to chronic inflammation. And as with anything, prevention is better than cure.

So, how do I tackle chronic inflammation?

Luckily, it is possible to keep inflammation in check with small lifestyle changes – whether for your looks or your health.

inflammation 3Slim down: When you are overweight, the body pumps out more of the chemicals that cause inflammation. Belly fat is particularly dangerous – it is estimated that up to 40% of the fat cells in our bellies are producing inflammatory chemicals. Lose the excess weight NOW!

Exercise regularly: Any physical exercise releases chemicals that decrease both pain and inflammation. So, get moving!

Eat better: When you eat refined sugars or starches, there is a rapid rise in blood sugar. This, in turn, causes insulin levels to rise. And when insulin levels are high, it kicks up an inflammatory response. If this happens often, the body enters a state of chronic inflammation. The solution? Switch to an anti-inflammatory diet. This would include lots of leafy greens, fruits and spices for the antioxidants; essential, monounsaturated fats, like those found in nuts and olive oil; and high alkaline content foods such as avocados, leafy greens, soya beans, radish and broccoli.

Get a health checkup: Untreated infections, like bronchitis or tooth decay, can create chronic inflammation.

Manage your stress: Stress increases cortisol levels, which regulate the body’s anti-inflammatory response. While stress is an inevitable part of urban living, we can still minimise its effects by getting adequate sleep, exercising, meditating and getting professional counselling.

Quit smoking: Smoking causes diseases such as bronchitis, which lead to long term inflammation. Another reason to quit!

Put on the SPF: When UV rays penetrate our skin cells, they sets off inflammatory reactions. In fact, sunburn itself is an inflammatory reaction. One of the best ways to prevent this kind of inflammation is to use sunscreen every day.

Are you suffering from signs of chronic inflammation? How do you deal with it?

Why Moroccan mint tea is your skin’s secret weapon!

It rarely gets hotter than summer in Morocco, where average temperatures cross the 40°C (104°F) mark with scorching regularity. Add in the dry, dusty desert winds and you have an oven of a country, where even the air conditioners struggle against the forces of nature. So how is it that you see people sitting and sipping HOT tea everywhere in Morocco, all through the day? Surely, no mere mortal could be that immune to the heat – even with some sizzling genetics thrown into the mix?

They are definitely not immune. It’s actually the tea itself that bolsters their body against the heat, packed as it is with lashings of mint.

Mint, you see, is something of a wonder herb. Not only is it superb at cooling down the body (menthol, a chemical in mint, binds with our body’s cold-sensitive receptors to trick our brain into actually feeling a cold sensation) and raising its defences against the heat, these green sprigs also act as a powerful antioxidant, soothe an upset stomach, relieve heartburn, boost mental performance, promote focus, loosen congestion, break up coughs, chase away bad breath, inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungus, help with nasal allergies, cleanse the blood and clear up skin disorders (like acne). Whew!

Add in all the already-established benefits of green tea and you have a potent blend that’s not only unusually cooling but also packed with enough health and beauty benefits to have me chasing up the best Moroccan mint tea recipe that can be recreated outside of Morocco.

Fortunately, it’s a pretty simple task. All you need is a handful of mint leaves (fresh spearmint works best but any garden variety will do the job), some green tea (again, gunpowder green tea holds up best against the assertive flavours of mint but any green tea will work) and the sweetener of your choice. All set? Here’s how you go about making the best Moroccan mint tea for your health, beauty and body temperature!

Moroccan mint tea: Ingredients

2 tbsp loose green tea (or 3 green tea bags)
3/4 cup mint leaves
sugar to taste (traditionally it’s sugar but you can use Stevia or honey)
6 cups water
 

Moroccan mint tea: How-to

1. Bring water to a boil. Turn off heat, add the mint and allow to steep for 5 minutes.

2. Return the water to a boil, turn heat to lowest setting, then add the tea and sweetener (I normally use 2 teaspoons of brown sugar). Allow everything to lightly simmer for no more than 3 minutes as green tea becomes bitter when steeped too long.

3. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer to remove the biggest leaves and check the sweetness – simply stir in more sweetener, if needed.

4. Serve into tall and narrow glasses (or short shot glasses) and garnish with a sprig of mint – then sip, repeat and chill out. If hot tea is not your thing, make iced Moroccan mint tea by refrigerating until cold or pouring cooled tea over ice.

PS: If you are feeling exceptionally Moroccan, pour the tea from as high as you can manage (I am currently topping 12 inches after a week’s practise!). This creates the characteristically frothy top you will spot in authentic Moroccan mint tea. It also aerates the tea, creating a richer palate.

Ever since I discovered Moroccan mint tea last month, there is always a huge pitcher in my fridge and you will find me sipping on its icy coolness every couple of hours. And this minted-and-sweetened brew has made me feel so good, it’s unbelievable. No stomach upsets for one thing and even my annual summer-heat-induced acne is staying at bay. Plus, it tastes delicious. Try it once – and tell me whether you fell in love with the refreshing mintiness as well!

Have you ever tried Moroccan mint tea?