Beauty recipe: This crushed Cabarnet scrub is the ultimate smooth skin secret

I have worshipped at the shrine – or rather, beauty counter – of Mathilde Thomas, ever since she founded Caudalie in 1995. Today, this French skincare brand has garnered a cult following and created a global spa empire, which has given the world a whole new beauty vocabulary, peppered with potent ingredients like vinotherapy, polyphenols and resvesterol.

Thomas holds a bagful of patents for grape-based skincare, many developed in association with leading dermatologists from the Harvard Medical School and Bordeaux University. No wonder products from Caudalie grace tables of the who’s-who of the beauty world, including Audrey Tatou and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. I, personally, cannot live without the Vinoperfect Radiance Serum.

So, imagine my delight when Thomas put out a book distilling the best tips, advice and beauty recipes she’s picked up over a lifetime of working deep in the beauty industry.   From relaxing à la French to makeup tips and diet secrets (lots of wine and cheese!), The French Beauty Solution: Time-Tested Secrets to Look and Feel Beautiful Inside and Out is like having your own French BFF whispering life altering beauty advice into your ears.

My favourite section, however, is the one where she spills DIY beauty recipes from the Caudalie wine spa. Because what can be better than enjoying a bit of all-natural French beauty indulgence right at home? As an example, take a look at this brightening, smoothing and detoxifying grape seed scrub, which has quickly become my go-to for brighter, fresher skin.

From Mathilde Thomas…

The great  thing about this scrub is that you can customise it to your liking. Adding more sugar means more buffing power; adding more grape seeds means more scrubbing power. It smells wonderful as is, or you can add a few drops of your favourite essential oil for its therapeutic properties and luscious scent. Try lemon, geranium, rose, lavender, rosemary, or sandalwood.

You will need

1/4 cup organic brown sugar
2 tablespoons grape seeds
At least 1/3 cup grape-seed oil (add more if needed)
1/4 cup raw organic honey
A few drops of essential oil (optional)

Method

  1. Place the sugar and grape seeds in a microwavable bowl
  2. Pour on grape-seed oil until the sugar and seeds are fully saturated, then add the honey and essential oil, if using, and mix well
  3. Warm the mixture in the microwave for 20 to 30 seconds (this step is optional)
  4. Massage into your skin before stepping into the shower, focusing on areas like elbows, knees and the backs of your thighs, and then rinse off
  5. Apply a nourishing body cream while your skin is still damp

Stressed? Exhausted? At the end of the road? Your Skin NEEDS this DIY face mask

What is life without a bit of stress? And we all know what stress does to skin. Acne, lack of radiance, dryness, dullness, wrinkles, rashes… it’s not a pretty sight. And nobody likes to battle with horrid skin.

While I can’t actually take away your stress (sorry!), here’s a solution to the skin woes at least.

Carrots are a terrific source of antioxidants, which neutralise the effect of stress and environment-induced free radicals. Their beta-carotene (which is often referred to as the “beauty vitamin” because of its importance in maintaining the skin’s health) boosts the renewal process of skin cells, besides helping to nourish, tighten, revitalize and rejuvenate the complexion. Add in their potent antiseptic and anti-inflammatory qualities, and you have the perfect base for a face mask that will reset your skin to its original sparkling, dewy self by negating the effects of pollution, sun damage, junk food, late nights and (at least in my case!) occasional bouts of pure skincare laziness.

The honey in this anti-stress face pack is super hydrating, to keep skin supple and glowy. Plus, its enzymes soften the skin, while antiseptic and anti-fungal elements penetrate clogged pores to draw out impurities, thus tackling breakouts, reducing redness and calming inflammation.

Baking soda (yes, simple baking soda!) is alkaline in nature and hence disrupts the growth of bacteria (without disrupting the pH balance of the skin) to help fight acne.

stress face maskYou will need

2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon fresh carrot juice
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

How to make the anti-stress face mask

  1. Pour all the ingredients in a small bowl and stir well.
  2. Apply this paste all over your face and leave it on for 20 minutes.
  3. After that, remove the mask with lukewarm water.
  4. Finally, dip a cotton ball in rose water (or plain mineral water) and gently dab it all the face and neck.

How do you keep yourself sane when the world is spinning out of control? 

Beauty DIY: A hair mask that will make your strands feel like spun silk. Guaranteed.

There are few things I love more than the scent of jasmine flowers. It’s soft and sensuous in equal measures… heady and soothing, intoxicating and purifying, soulful and exotic… so many contradictions, all bundled into tiny white buds that have the power to evoke cooling summer breezes and languorous, chilled out afternoons with a single whiff.

In fact, my first blog was called Sandalwood & Jasmine, and I am a sucker for any fragrance with these two ingredients. Which has a bonus effect on many, many days, since science has proved that the aroma of jasmine flowers is as calming as Valium. Seriously.

So, imagine my happiness at stumbling upon this jasmine-based hair mask while visiting Grasse – the jasmine capital of France, where legendary perfumes like Chanel’s No. 5 and Jean Patou’s Joy get their notes. My hair has never looked so soft and… so… swishy, I may say… and the beautiful scent lingers long after the mask is washed away.

No wonder this hair mask is a cult favourite amidst those chic French women, who would rather take care of the basics – like the health of their hair – than resort to measures such as complicated blow dries and chemical-laden styling products.

How does it work?

The natural oils in this hair mask will relax and purify the scalp, along with stimulating blood circulation and encouraging hair growth. They are also great for nourishing dry and frizzy strands, turning them smooth, sleek, and glossy with regular use.

jasmine-hair-maskIngredients

1 cup fresh jasmine flowers
1 cup yogurt
1 tablespoon coconut oil

How to make the jasmine hair mask

1. Crush the jasmine flowers to release the oils

2. Add the yogurt and coconut oil; and mix well

3. Apply this paste to dry hair, pre-shampoo

4. Put on a tight bathing cap (or wrap your head with plastic film) and cover with a hot towel; let this remain for half an hour, then shampoo as usual

PS: You can enjoy more French beauty recipes in The Paris Bath & Beauty Book, which is a distillation of everything I’ve learned in this glorious country!

Do you love jasmine as much as I do?

Spring beauty essentials: The 12 new beauty products I am obsessing over this season

After a long career in magazines, I have developed a deep distrust of that particular industry’s beauty awards, top 10 lists and best-of-the-best new launch announcements. Why? Because the unwritten rule in literally every magazine that I have ever worked for is simple: The position and number of products on any of these lists is directly proportional to the number of advertising pages bought in the magazine by the beauty brand. That ‘world’s best lipstick’ tag doesn’t sound half as authentic after that, right? Even if it comes from your favourite publication?

Here, instead, I’ve put together a list of the top beauty launches for this season that come sans payment or inducement of any kind. Hopefully, they will catch your fancy for all the right reasons – as they did mine!

Clarins 4-Color All-in-One Pen, $30

Anyone growing up in the ’90s will definitely remember those four-colour retractable pens that were the height of cool back in the good ol’ days! Well, Clarins now has a makeup version for you, with three eyeliners – blue, black and brown – and a neutral coloured lip liner. All available at a click. Makes packing that vanity kit so much easier!

clarins-4-color-penClarisonic Sonic Foundation Brush, $35

If I had to choose one single product from all the ones listed here, this would be it! The company that has so far been taking off every last bit of our makeup at 18,000 micro-pulses is now going to be putting it on at 18,000 micro-blends… simply by popping on this new brush head onto any existing Clarisonic device. It works with both creams and liquids, the sonic technology making primers, foundations, blushes and concealers simply melt into the skin for a flawless, airbrushed finish that mere mortal hands would find nearly impossible to rival. Total blessing for someone like me who knows we need to blend, blend, blend and then blend some more… but is usually just too lazy tired to follow it through!

Clinique Chubby Crayola Stick Moisturizing Lip Colour Balm Collection, $17

It’s not just about the packaging. The joint venture between Clinique and Crayola has made every childhood dream of scribbling on your lips with jumbo crayons come true. The limited edition collection of 10 Chubby Stick Moisturising Lip Colour Balms is not just encased in the signature Crayola packing, the two companies have also worked to colour match and name match to actual crayons in the latter’s sets. My favourites? The punchy Brick Red and sangria-hued Red Violet.

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Sephora Sweet Balms, $6

Did I mention the ’90s theme running through almost every one of Spring’s beauty products? Sephora joins the bandwagon with Push-Pop-inspired lip balms. They come in three tints – violet, pink, and coral – and will transport you right back to days filled with Bonne Bell lipsticks and PEZ candy dispensers!

sephora-sweet-balmsLabiotte Chateau Wine Lipstick Fitting, $15

Wine + Korean cool = Total awesomeness. This time in the world of lipsticks. Labiotte’s wine bottle-shaped lippies contain actual wine extract and come in four varietals: Malbec Burgundy, (a purplish berry), Nebbiolo Red (a cherry red), Shiraz Red (a more pink-tinted red) and Cabernet Red (a deep rose). Or you can opt for one of the six long wearing lip tints, or one the eight Wine Melting lipsticks, which mimic the look of wine-stained lips.

labiotte-chateau-wine-lipstick-fittingNars Sun Wash Diffusing Bronzer, $40

Finding a bronzer that’s just the right amount of glow-y without piling on the shimmer may just be the Holy Grail of makeup. And NARS seems to have gotten it just right, debuting the cult Laguna bronzer (along with three other shades) in a brand new super finely milled formula that seems to light up your face from the inside out. It’s so fine that while the texture starts out as a powder, it literally melts into skin like a cream. And you can build it up from sheer to super-pigmented with just a few swipes.

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Tom Ford Soleil Lip Balm, $36

There’s just something about summer that makes me want to stay far, far away from heavy lipsticks in the daytime (is that just me?). But I also don’t much like the look of bare lips, especially when offset against a tinted moisturiser or a touch of glow-inducing bronzer. Tom Ford’s new lip balm flirts with just the right amount of colour and the perfect levels of hydration to keep lips both tinted and supple in one go. It starts off as a sheer wash of colour but moves into serious pigment territory with a few more swipes, making it totally multipurpose. And since it’s a balm, there’s no wilting, drying or slippage in the heat. Win-win all around.

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Julep Love Your Bare Face Detoxifying Cleansing Stick, $28

This one’s perfect for popping in your purse – a face cleanser that comes in stick form and is packed with rice bran oil, reship oil and fruit enzymes. Just rub the stick across your face and rub gently with damp fingers to emulsify for squeaky clean skin. No fear of spills. No breakage. Just easy portability married with maximum efficiency.

julep-love-your-bare-face-detoxifying-cleansing-stickYuni Shower Sheets Large Body Wipes, $15

These are a Godsend for long journeys and other offending factors where you feel icky (hello, long day in office hell!) but having a bath is simply not an option. The oversized sheets can be reused multiple times and will leave you looking and feeling minty fresh. I have taken to stocking one in my purse just in case, coz who knows what waits round the next corner!

yuni-shower-sheetsLush Metamorphosis Bath Bomb, $8.95

What looks grey and grungy but explodes into the most gorgeous, pretty-inducing ribbons of pink, orange, yellow and green when it enters your bath? The Lush Metamorphosis Bath Bomb. Forget about the sexy, spicy myrrh and black pepper scent… I want this one purely for the feeling of bathing in a rainbow!

Pixi Peel & Polish, $24

While I am all for an at-home facial, sometimes there are just not enough hours in a day to get everything done. Enter this brilliant new peel, which sits on your face for just two minutes, dissolving away dead cells and other accumulated grime. I pop it on while in the shower to maximise time efficiency… genius, or what?

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Charlotte Tilbury Instant Magic Facial Dry Sheet Mask, $22

While I adore sheet masks, they’re sometimes too sticky and slippery and sloppy for my taste. Charlotte Tilbury’s “dry” version solves that problem with a precedent-setting fabric that substitutes traditional sheet mask serums for tiny vectors of vitamins, floral extracts, peptides, oils and butters. It also works on a smart technology, which tailors the mask to your specific problems. So, for instance, your T-zone may need brightening, your cheeks may need hydration and your jawline may need lifting… and the mask will tackle each zone both independently and simultaneously. According to Tilbury, you can even use it over your foundation for a creamy radiance. And it comes with these clever loops that hook around the ears and hold the sheet firmly against the skin.

My only grouse? Each mask is capable of being re-used there times, which means a lot of folding and popping it in and out of the packet. Given my way, I would stick to the single use, chuck-it-out effortlessness but in this case, the pros clearly outweigh the cons.