Beauty DIY: How to make lotion bars (the perfect gift for yourself or someone else!)

As summer transitions into Fall and we enter gift giving season, the mind turns to… lotion bars.

Yes, simple but utterly scrumptious lotion bars that literally caress the skin to buttery smoothness and leave behind the most beautiful glow.

And you can so easily make them at home, customised to your own specific tastes. Plus, unlike the store-bought versions, there are no added chemicals, making them beyond perfect for your skin.

Handmade lavender soapYou will need

1 cup beeswax pellets
1 cup grated shea butter, kokum butter or cocoa butter
1 cup almond oil or extra virgin olive oil
25-30 drops essential oil of your choice
A collection of molds (empty Altoids tins are just the perfect size but cupcake molds, cookie cutters and yogurt containers work just as well)

How to make the lotion bar

1. Assuming you don’t have a double boiler (I don’t!) rig up your own by boiling water in a large pot and rest another pot over the same. I place a thin sieve over the large pot and place the small pot on top of the sieve.

2. Pour the beeswax into the small point and stir till it begins to melt.

3. Add the oil; continue stirring till the beeswax is completely melted.

4. Add the butter of your choice; stir till everything is melted then quickly remove from the heat.

5. Pour the mixture into the moulds while it’s still of liquid consistency.

6. Add the essential oil (before it sets) and stir it in using something super-slim, like a knitting needle.

7. Leave the moulds in a dry, cool place to set – this can take from a few hours to a day.

8. Once the mixture is set, pop it out of the mould.

9. Wrap in plain butter paper or baking pan liner paper. Or add some pretty bows and sparkles to make them look as pretty as they are functional.

And you are done!

What does your lipstick color say about you?

Gone are the days when we were compelled to play matchy-matchy with our clothes and lipstick. Choosing the latter is now far more intuitive and we are more likely to pick a lip colour based on who we are… or what we want to be.

Bold red? Demure pink? Femme fatale brown? Or maybe an ironical shade of blue? What secrets are your lips spilling?

Here’s the scoop from the colour psychology geniuses over at Pantone, who decode what your choice of lipstick says about you. And conversely, which lipstick to reach for when you want to make a certain impression.

lipstick shadesRed lipstick

Red is bold, sensual and look-at-me… a confident big city girl who doesn’t let the grass grow under her feet. But you’re not really quite as badass as you’d like to be… after all, it’s the signature colour of all those ultra-chic French women for a reason. Classic red would not look out of place in a country club or a silk-and-pearls restaurant. It’s a colour that you can wear from the ballrooms of the Ritz to the bohemian seediness of Paris’ Montmartre. In short, it’s the colour of a woman who is fun loving, passionate, energetic, independent and extremely adaptable. With a hefty side of lady-like chic thrown in for good measure.

Baby pink lipstick

You are feminine and girly, love dressing up, are impeccably groomed and much prefer the candy floss world of dreams and cotton clouds more than the harsh realities of modern-day living.

Hot pink lipstick

More adventurous than classic red, hot pink lips are the domain of a woman who’s fun, flirt, bold and outgoing. You enjoy spending time with your girl gang and are not easily cowed down. And you keep an eye out for trends, transitioning from vintage chic to bohemian funkiness with equal élan.

Rosy lipstick

In between the baby soft pinks and the hot fuchsia versions, lies a rosy pout, which is primarily owned by she who loves nature and the outdoors. It’s the rosiness of glowing good health and fits the personality of a woman who is cool, calm, down to earth and confident in her own skin.

Orange lipstick

Even though orange looks fun and bouncy, it’s not really an easy colour to pull off for everyone. If you gravitate towards this palette, you’re likely to be carefree, wild, vivacious, whimsical, energetic and adventurous. You don’t mind standing out in a crowd and easily throw caution to the winds.

lipstick shades3Berry or wine-stained lipstick

You shy away from being pastel pretty and revel in the power of your sensuality. You also like drama and are an all-or-nothing kind of person… doing things halfway has never appealed to you.

Nude lipstick

Nude is simply not a look-at-me colour and hence it’s perfect for women who marry comfort with discreet chic. Yet, they are also very très fashion and keep an eye out for the latest trends while playing it safe with investment pieces, rather than one season wonders. This one is unlikely to rock the boat or loudly demand to be the centre of attention!

Burgundy or purple lipstick

It’s edgy with a hefty dose of badass, making purple perfect for women who women who are edgy and appreciate a good challenge. You don’t suffer fools too gladly and like to temper trends with your own individual flourish.

Purple lipstick

More layered than red, more mysterious than a bright pink, a purple lip is usually worn by a woman who revels in her power and femininity. She’s strong, confident, sexy, individualistic and a bit unapproachable… not someone who suffers fools gladly.

Brown or plum lipstick

Forget the image of racy reds and striking fuchsias, the true femme fatale wears brown. Or plum. Women who love these deep and moody shades are most likely to have a seriously adventurous streak. They’d rather play risky than safe, love challenges, are ambitious, driven and independent.

Blue or black lipstick

While many of us may push the envelope and experiment with black nail polish once in a while, black or blue lipstick is for the seriously daring. You don’t give a hoot about society and will, in fact, go out of your way to flout traditional norms. You are powerful, like to remain mysterious and unapproachable, and run as far away from “pretty” as possible. Your fashion statement is more ironic than trendy, and remain young at heart always.

No lipstick (or maybe just a clear lip gloss)!

You look like you don’t care… because you really don’t. You are fuss free, low maintenance and are cool without caring to be cool. You are a leader rather than a follower, and just want to get on with life!

Which is your favourite go-to lipstick shade?

Also read: What does your nail polish say about you?

Royal fables: A tryst with Udaipur and its cult skincare recipes

The city: Udaipur, India. The most legendary of towns in Rajasthan, known as the “Venice of the East” due to its stunning lakeside location, rambling old palaces and stunning architecture painted in every shade of white known to mankind.

The quest: Soaking in the ancient beauty of the landscape and going to the very roots of the glorious indigenous beauty recipes that have originated in this land and been adopted by literally every brand, from Aveda to Estee Lauder.

The quandary: A missing camera that’s left sitting on my desk approximately 7,467 miles away. In a land that begs a photo at literally every turn of its winding paths.

The solution: Yes, thankfully there is one. In the form of the ubiquitous smartphone that’s almost surgically attached to my hand 24 x 7. Which is a blessing, it turns out, in more ways than one. Not only do today’s smartphones almost rival DSLRs in their photo quality (the Coolpad Note 5 comes with a 13 MP rear camera) but it’s also small and inconspicuous enough to get into tight spaces to capture a micro-detail, take candid shots without making people feel too self conscious and light enough to take literally everywhere without yoour shoulder falling off. And, of course, then there is the fact that I have yet to meet a camera that lets you take the perfect selfie, complete with a forward facing lens AND night mode to chase away the darkness (hello again, Coolpad Note 5, with your 8 MP front facing camera with flash!).

The result: A wealth of traditional beauty recipes that have made Rajasthani women some of the most revered in the world, along with a treasure trove of photographs that will make for the memories of a lifetime.

Enjoy them both here!


Playing princess for a night 🙂 #CoolPadNote5

Indian beauty recipe #1: Sandalwood & almond face scrub

Rose water is purifying, while almonds and saffron represent fertility. But that’s just the ritualistic part. The reason Indian women have revered this scrub since the times of Ayurveda is because almonds contain essential fatty acids for smooth and super-supple skin. They are also packed with antioxidants, including vitamin E, to neutralise environmental toxins and keep skin healthy.

Rose water and saffron, in the meantime, are packed with skin soothing and complexion perfecting ingredients, like Vitamin C and polyphenols, which can erase fine lines, boost collagen, clear blocked pores, soften the complexion and hydrate cell tissues.

4-5 almonds
3-4 strands of saffron, dissolved in a few drops of warm water
few drops of rose water

1. Rub the almonds on a coarse stone with rose water till you get a paste

2. Mix this paste with the saffron water

3. Apply the mask to your face; let it dry, then rub it off with wet hands. Weeks of accumulated grime and dead skin will come off with the paste


…. but simply can’t compete with the originals painted on the walls of the City Palace #CoolPadNote5

Indian beauty recipe #2: Heal chronic acne

Sandalwood has potent antiseptic, astringent, anti-inflammatory and disinfectant properties that make it a treat for flawlessly glow-y complexions. It’s also superb at reducing skin scarring of all kinds. Vetiver is antiseptic and very effective in treating chronic acne. Added bonus: this paste smells divine!

1 small bunch vetiver
few drops of vetiver essential oil
2 tsp sandalwood powder 

1. Soak the vetiver in a little water overnight

2. Next day, strain the water and mix it with the sandalwood powder

3. Add few drops of vetiver essential oil to the paste

4. Apply this paste on your face, paying special attention to the affected areas; wash it off once dry. Repeat daily till for 2-4 weeks; the left over paste should be kept refrigerated

Falling in love with the fabrics of the region

Falling in love with the fabrics of the region #CoolPadNote5

Indian beauty recipe #5: Whole body mask

This traditional body mask (called an ubtan) is applied to both bride and groom for seven days before the wedding. It’s messy but superb for making skin smooth, flawless and glow-y. Turmeric cleanses, disinfects and glosses; sandalwood is antiseptic, astringent and anti-inflammatory; gur (jaggery) is packed with glycolic acid for exfoliation and humectants to keep everything moisturised; yogurt’s lactic acid helps slough off dead skin cells; chickpea flour busts grime and toxins; and ghee deep cleanses, moisturise and heals.

2 cups besan (chickpea flour)
1 tbsp sandalwood powder
2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp gur (sugar cane jaggery)
2 tbsp yogurt
2 tsp ghee (clarified butter)

1. Mix everything together to form a paste

2. Apply the paste to clean skin; wait till it dries (approximately 15 minutes), then rub it away with wet fingers. Finally, rinse clean with lukewarm water

No wonder they call it the Venice of the East

No wonder they call it the Venice of the East #CoolPadNote5

A room with a view... at the Fatehprakash palace

A room with a view… at the Fatehprakash palace #CoolPadNote5

A peep through the arches

A peep through the arches #CoolPadNote5

Touched by the hand of God

Touched by the hand of God #CoolPadNote5

The beauty lies in the details... often made up of millions of glass mosaics

The beauty lies in the details… often made up of millions of glass mosaics #CoolPadNote5

Kokum comes of age: The perfect-skin secret you’ve never heard of!

Now, this is an Indian ingredient I never imagined seeing on an international platform  – that too, courtesy one of my favourite brands. I just picked up Burt’s Bees Ultra Conditioning Lip Balm With Kokum Butter and it’s anchored around, of all things, kokum butter – a little known fruit that is native to India’s Western Ghats (think Mumbai and the surrounding areas) and is rarely seen beyond this area. And it’s not just Burt’s Bees… a quick search shows this fruit cropping up majorly in skincare products nowadays.

In fact, I had never heard of kokum till it was introduced to me by my grandmom-in-law in Mumbai. Scientifically known as Garcinia Indica, the kokum tree is a tropical that’s pretty low maintenance and needs few – if any – chemical fertilisers or pesticides. It bears dark red fruit, which look a little like small plums. In the kitchen, it is used as a souring agent (like tamarind) and has a sharp, acidic flavor with a fruity aroma.

Kokum fruit

Kokum fruit

And what does kokum have to do with skincare?

But it’s in the realm of skincare that kokum really comes into its own. The seed contains 23-26% oil (extracted as butter), which has made it the traditional moisturiser for the local population since centuries. It also has high levels of Vitamin E, is non-comodegenic (non-pore clogging), reduces degeneration of skin cells and restores elasticity.

And most ideally for a hot land, kokum butter has a relatively high meting point, which means it remains solid at room temperature and does not need refrigeration. This is what makes it perfect for an organic brand like Burt’s Bees, where it allows for the use of less wax and more butters for maximum skin benefits.

Exactly how to DIY your skincare with kokum?

When used in its purest form, kokum butter is held near a flame and the melted oil is applied straight to the skin (it’s especially great for tackling rough patches or cracked heels).

This is how you will see it being used in most traditional homes, where the women swear there’s nothing better to keep skin glowing, hydrated and wrinkle-free than this simple formulation.

Kokum butter is also excellent for healing burns and allergic rashes, since it simultaneously cools the skin while hydrating.

Kokum butter

Kokum butter

Don’t people drink kokum juice as well?

Absolutely! Kokum juice – made by steeping the fruit in water – is used to relieve gastric problems like acidity, flatulence, constipation and indigestion. It is also helpful in controlling diabetes and is especially popular during summer as it has a cooling effect and shields the body against dehydration and sunstroke

Besides this, kokum also contains rich amounts of anti-oxidants that bind with free radicals and prevent oxidative damage to body cells. It also helps promote cellular repair and regeneration.

One of the easiest ways to enjoy this delectable, multi-benefit-laden fruit is through the appetizing sol kadhi, which is a much-in-demand summer drink as it cools the body internally, thereby reducing sun damage and keeping heat-related problems like acne at bay.

Kokum is easily available in Indian stores across the world – when buying, look for dark, soft, pliable rinds that release their juices easily. Then just dunk in the water and enjoy!

Have you ever tried kokum butter or kokum juice?