Thursday, February 5, 2015

Traditional Beauty Practices

I've been curious of late about beauty traditions and how they change over generations. It's well known that each decade had a certain "signature" makeup look associated with it; of course, there were also beauty rituals that are no longer followed today (lead-based eye khol, anyone?).

Being from India, there have been many of these "traditional" beauty rituals that are still followed today, and for good reason - they work! Now while I can't explain the science behind it (maybe I should make that my next research project) I'm here to share them with you.

The healthy hair treatments
To this day, I still swear by using a deep conditioning treatment using coconut oil. Warm up some coconut oil in a bowl, and massage it into your scalp from roots to ends. If you can, use, curry leaves (available at Indian stores) and infuse them into the coconut oil (warm the coconut oil with a few curry leaves).
Leave it on as long as possible - I usually leave it overnight (make sure you cover your pillowcase with an old towel!) - and wash it off the next morning.
This leaves your hair soft, smooth and silky, and in the long run makes your hair healthier.




You can modify your coconut oil by adding herbs and other oils to enhance hair health! A couple of these are:

  • Bhringaraj (Eclipta alba) - promotes hair growth, and inhibits hair loss. It's also considered a good treatment for dandruff, and it's supposed to reduce greying of hair.
  • Amla (Indian gooseberry) (Phyllanthus emblica) - nourishes the scalp and strengthens the roots of the hair. It's also supposed to reduce hair loss.
  • Castor oil (Ricinus communis) - promotes hair growth and reduces hair fall, reduces split ends and dandruff, and is a good conditioner for hair.
  • Almond oil (Prunus dulcis) - leaves hair shiny and is a good conditioner, and is useful for treating dandruff and scalp inflammation.

The clear face treatments
There are so many face masks that I've been told of over the years that are supposed to help with problematic skin. As someone who struggles with oily skin, one of my favorite ingredients to use in a homemade face mask is multani mitti (Fuller's earth). Dry skins are recommended yogurt, honey, and coconut milk.

For oily skin: use Fuller's earth
2 tablespoons Fuller's earth
1-2 teaspoons honey
1 pinch turmeric
Rose water to form a paste

Mix ingredients, and apply to the face. Leave on for 15 minutes (or till dry) and wash off.

Substitutions:
1. Dry skins can add tomato juice and reduce the quantity of Fuller's earth.
2. Use milk instead of rose water for more hydration. 
3. Add almond paste for glowing skin.

For dry skins: use coconut milk and honey
2 tablespoons mashed banana
1-2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon grated coconut 
Coconut milk to form a paste.

Mix ingredients, and apply to the face. Leave on for 15 minutes (or till dry) and wash off.

Substitutions:
1. Use yogurt (Greek yogurt, non-sweetened) or milk instead of coconut milk.
2. Add almond paste for glowing skin.
3. Add 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon powdered nutmeg if you have acne-prone skin.

For all skins: use Gram flour [Garbanzo bean flour/Besan] (Cicer arietinum), Sandalwood (Santalum album), Oats (Avena sativa), Aloe vera or Cucumber (Cucumis sativa)

Gram flour (besan) mask
2-3 tablespoons gram flour
1 teaspoon honey
1/5 - 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
Yogurt or milk to form a paste.

Mix ingredients, and apply to the face. Leave on for 15 minutes (or till dry) and wash off.

Sandalwood mask
2 tablespoons sandalwood powder
1 teaspoon honey
Rose water or milk to form a paste.

Mix ingredients, and apply to the face. Leave on for 15 minutes (or till dry) and wash off.

Oat mask
2-3 tablespoons oats (finely ground)
1 teaspoon honey (optional; use if you want a more hydrating mask)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (optional; use for acne-prone skin)
Yogurt to form a paste (can substitute with rose water).

Mix ingredients, and apply to the face. Leave on for 15 minutes (or till dry) and wash off.

Cucumber mask
2 tablespoons cucumber pulp
1 teaspoon aloe vera (optional; use for a more cooling mask)
A pinch of turmeric (optional; use for acne-prone skin)
Yogurt to form a paste.

Mix ingredients, and apply to the face. Leave on for 15 minutes (or till dry) and wash off.

Aloe vera mask
1 tablespoon aloe gel
2 tablespoons almond paste
1 tablespoon mashed banana (optional; use for a more hydrating mask)
Yogurt to make a paste.

Mix ingredients, and apply to the face. Leave on for 15 minutes (or till dry) and wash off.

It's easy to customize the mask according to the issue you want to address. In general, Fuller's earth is good for oil control, honey, banana, yogurt are excellent moisturizers, turmeric and nutmeg are good for acne-prone skin, and aloe vera and cucumber are good for sunburns. Almond paste and gram flour are good for adding a glow to the skin.

The soothing under-eye treatment
I got this from my aunt, who gave it to me when I mentioned that I'd been struggling with dark circles. It uses coffee, which helps in reducing puffiness and dark circles, aloe vera and Vitamin E oil as a source of hydration.

2 tablespoons coffee grounds (not the instant kind; use a finely grounded one)
1-2 teaspoon aloe vera gel
5 drops Vitamin E oil

Mix ingredients, and apply to the skin under the eyes. Leave on for 5-7 minutes, and gently wipe or wash the mask off.

The glowing skin treatment
My grandparents and my mother always advocate the use of gram flour as an alternative to soap. A mixture of turmeric, gram flour and ground almonds helps stimulate circulation, helps to give glowing skin, and also reduces hair growth! To this day my grandpa always tells me to use gram flour because it's natural and non-harmful. I would use it daily if it weren't for the fact it's a little messy to use.

1 cup besan flour
1/4 cup ground (dry) almonds
1 tablespoon turmeric

Mix the dry ingredients together, and store in an airtight jar. Before use, add a small amount of water to form a paste, and use the paste as a scrub.

It's worth noting that should you want to try any of the above, you have to do a patch test before trying any of the masks, just to make sure you're not allergic to it! I also need to mention that you won't get any instantaneous results with these; continuous use will bring about the change desired over time.

Do you have any family beauty traditions? Comment below and let me know!

5 comments:

  1. I LOVE the idea of some of these, need to try them when I get back home. :o

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    1. Besan flour masks are my thing. My face looks SO glowy after I use one! My mom loves it too, and she's got lovely skin :D

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  2. where do you get amla oil from? I can never find pure amla oil :( it's always refined and mixed with mineral oil :(

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    1. I use the Dabur Vatika hair oil - it has amla mixed with coconut oil, which is what I like. If you're in India, I believe you can get the pure oil from ayurvedic stores?

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    2. Ah, thanks a lot!! :)

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