By Conchita de Souza
There is no hiding just how much we love spices here at No Worries Curries. But what you may not know is that some of the key spices which we add to our authentic, preservative-free and vegan spice blends, we also use on our hair and bodies to make us feel and look fabulous. It seems to follow that the good stuff we put into our bodies will also be good on our bodies and that is definitely the case with certain spices and other key ingredients found in almost every Indian pantry.
Some of these hacks have been passed down through the generations and are worth giving a shot because they are low-cost, natural and involve travelling no further than your kitchen pantry. I am not skin or hair specialist, so I do advise that you run these by your dermatologist, especially if you are prone to skin/scalp irritations.
Skin, Face and Complexion
Besan Haldi and Dahi Face Mask (Chickpea flour Turmeric and Yoghurt)
I must share with you my annoyance towards beauty ads or beauty bloggers who apply face masks and make it look like icing a cake; so damn perfect that their lips and eyes are symmetrically left untouched by the mask and the application is so smooth it may as well be painted on by Monet. Whenever I apply face masks, I manage to get that ish inside my nostrils, all through my baby hairs and even on my toenails (you read it right). I took photos of this one just to prove to you that face masks, especially homemade ones, are messy, un-sexy (is that even a word?) and far from glamorous but the results outweigh all that.
‘Besan’ is a common cooking ingredient in Indian cuisine and is chickpea flour. Any girl hailing from the Indian subcontinent would have at least once in their lifetime applied besan on their skin to remove tans and give the skin a natural glow. It has alkalising properties which makes it a great cleanser that maintains the pH of the skin. It is great for those who have oily skin because it absorbs the oil without leaving the skin dry. I naturally have dry skin, but using besan has never dried it out anymore so it is safe for those with dry skin too. Couple besan with the ever-powerful turmeric and you’re set for a healthy party all over your pores. Turmeric is known for its antiseptic and anti-ageing properties, and has been used in Indian cuisine for millenias before the western world ‘discovered’ turmeric latte. And yoghurt is full of probiotics so add that in the mix too and it will help you fight acne (and is also very cooling).
I made this mask myself and I kid you not, my skin felt softer, looked brighter but smelt a little funny because the yoghurt I used was a little sour (or maybe just off completely). Maybe next time I might try mixing it with just water.
How to use: Mix 1 tbs besan, ½ tbs of turmeric and 2 tbs of yoghurt (or water) until it forms a thick paste. Apply and leave for 15-20 minutes before washing off.
Clove & Honey Face Mask
This fragrant spice is used in the festive Indian dish Biryani and produces a beautiful aroma. When used on skin, cloves are said to remove blemishes and fight bacteria, thanks to its antiseptic properties.
How to use: Crush 3-4 cloves into a powder and mix it along with a tablespoon of honey and a few drops of freshly-squeezed lemon juice. Mix the ingredients and apply it to your face for 5 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water.
Cinnamon Lip Balm
Something I only recently found out is that cinnamon is a wonder spice. It improves blood circulation which increases cell turnover and repair, and is antibacterial in nature so can be used to soothe acne/pimples. The heat in cinnamon pushes the blood to your skin and gives you a radiant look. Apply it to your lips and you’ll notice that they become fuller.
I read that applying cinnamon to your lips makes it fuller so I gave it a shot. I think I mixed more cinnamon powder than I did vaseline (my go-to lip balm) which resulted in me looking like I had very messily eaten too many oreo biscuits and all the crumbs had gotten stuck on my lips. I left it on for longer than the time suggested and noticed a slight tingling/burning sensation where I applied it. After washing it off, I did not notice any visible difference to my lips in terms of size or colour, but they felt fuller to me (placebo effect maybe?).
How to use: Add a little to your homemade lip balm, wash off with warm water after 2 minutes and be sure to kiss someone straight after so they get to feel your soft and rosy lips.* You can also make a paste by mixing 2 tsps honey and 1tps cinnamon and then apply it to your face. Rinse with lukewarm water after 10 minutes.
For many centuries, Indians have used coconut oil in cooking as well as for their hair and skin. This is particularly so in the southern regions of India, where women are renowned for their long, strong and healthy hair which is both slow to grey and hard to break. As kids, my mother would massage coconut oil in mine and and my brother’s hair once a week. It is a practice I still adhere to today.
Coconut oil is rich in medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) - a kind of fatty acid that contains both antibacterial and antimicrobial properties which help to nourish the body and protect it from bacteria.The acids include Lauric acid and Capric acid, both of which aid in dandruff prevention. The Lauric acid also assists with protein development in hair because it is able to penetrate the hair shaft and is therefore a good option to those suffering from hair loss. If you are aiming for hair growth, coconut oil can be paired with rosemary essential oil as an effective elixir for growing you hair, as advised by Dr. Axe.
How to use: Massage into the roots of your hair by heating the oil just a little. The residue oil on your hands can be used to massage your scalp. For best results, let the oil stay in your hair overnight before washing it out in the morning.
Methi Seed Mask (Fenugreek)
Fenugreek is an ingredient native to Indian soil and are seeds of the methi plant. The leaves form the base of many popular dishes in India, including Methi Murg (Fenugreek Chicken). Like coconut oil, applying fenugreek to your hair (as well as on your skin) has numerous benefits which I’ve summarised in dot points below because well, there are just so many!
- Repairs damaged hair - If you are like me and suffer from split ends and frizzy hair, fenugreek is a great option to reverse damage (especially if you’re afraid of evil hairdressers cutting off your long locks). It contains Lecithin which nourishes and strengthens hair follicles and acts as a natural conditioner. To use fenugreek as a conditioner, soak the seeds overnight in water and grind it into a paste. Mix this paste along with aloe vera or coconut milk for extra sheen to your hair. Apply this to your hair and rinse with a light shampoo.
- Helps prevent hair loss - Fenugreek is high in protein and Amino acids which are key in preventing hair thinning as well as hair loss. Follow the same process above and instead of adding aloe vera, add plain yoghurt. This mixture also aids in treating dandruff or itchy scalp.
- Promotes faster hair growth - I am forever trying different natural ways to grow my hair faster (can I get a resounding ‘Amen’ if you too are in that boat). Fenugreek contains Nicotinic acid which is nature’s agent in promoting hair growth.
- Delays greying of hair - Fenugreek is high in potassium which helps to prevent premature greying of hair. Make a mask using fenugreek paste and add the juice of gooseberries (rich in Vitamin A and B as well as minerals like calcium, iron and phosphorus) to prevent your hair from greying earlier than it should.
In addition to these ‘hairy’ benefits, fenugreek paste can be applied to the face to treat acne. Fenugreek is known for stimulating breast milk production, controlling diabetes and even reducing the symptoms associated with menstruation and menopause. Talk about a superfood!
How to use: Fenugreek can be used as a powder, paste or oil. It entirely depends on what you prefer and what is convenient to you. Check out this link for more useful ways to improve your hair’s health with fenugreek.
Beauty products are often filled with chemicals and unknown substances which we cannot even pronounce. If you can eliminate or at least reduce the ‘unnatural’ products you use on your body in favour of natural products, then it is definitely worth the effort. If you have tried any of these methods before or have your own natural beauty tips, just comment below!
* I unfortunately did not have anyone nearby to kiss and verify the fullness of my lips but will make sure someone is handy next time round.
**Featured image: http://www.discountmantra.in/
By Conchita A. de Souza