Several months ago, I was waiting at the corner to cross the street and happened to notice that the woman standing next to me had the world’s most beautiful complexion. Trust me, Detective Beauty here, your inveterate Spry Living sleuth would never let a possible beauty secret escape on my watch. So I came right out and asked her what products she used to give her such flawless skin.
“Well,” she blushed, “it’s a tradition that has been handed down in my family from generation to generation.”
I myself have very good skin, but I care for it religiously and am always looking for new tricks, trends and therapies. So I couldn’t wait to hear her secret. ‘I bet it’s wild yak milk,’ I thought to myself. I had just that morning read somewhere that people who live in certain remote, snow-capped regions of the Himalayas appear ageless. Now either it’s because all they eat is yogurt – or they use the milk of the indigenous wild yak as a moisturizer. It had to be the yak. This girl was extremely sturdy and she was wearing several warm layers of bright woven fabrics even though it wasn’t particularly chilly out. I assumed she was probably a Sherpa who came to New York to take a break from scaling yet another summit. And she looked quite capable of milking a yak. Maybe she came from a long line of yak milkers.
“It’s Dial soap,” she blurted out, just as the light turned green. “That’s what I use every morning and evening.”
Seriously? A deodorant soap? On your face? I mean, not that there’s anything wrong with Dial. Truth be told, I use it in the shower and I’m sure it’s especially appreciated when I’m in a crowded elevator or if I were to wait my turn on a long, snaking line for the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Ride at Disney World on a sweltering day. (Note: It probably should be mandatory for general admission to the park.) But that’s not the kind of tip I was looking for.
Needless to say, what was handed down to her were good genes, not antibacterial cleansers. But it got me to thinking: As a society, we are becoming more and more aware—and certainly skeptical—of the ingredients we are putting on our skin. And that’s a good thing. With so many lab-developed products crammed on the beauty shelves these days, many of us are looking closely at what’s in them. You see, our skin is our largest organ; but being porous, it also absorbs 90% of what we put on it topically. Organic lotions, potions, creams and cosmetics—like organic food—are proliferating, now even found in the health and beauty aisles of mega-chain stores. Although some mainstream brands claim to have hopped on the ‘Green Train,’ boasting to be free of synthetics and petrochemical compounds, buyer beware: Just like I advise for nutrition, get in the habit of reading labels—the basic rule should be if you can’t pronounce it, don’t buy it.
But I digress. When recipes for do-it-yourself beauty products and at-home spa treatments from ingredients we have right in our very own refrigerators and cabinets came across my desk the other day, I was extremely interested. What could be more natural than eggs, cucumbers, milk, walnuts and vinegar, to name a few? My mother, who had access to any and every high-end product on the market, swore by using castor oil around her eyes and lemon cups on her elbows to make them soft and smooth. The suggestions were from Michelle (Shelly) Ruch, CEO of the Bella Simplice Beauty Company, and they sounded so effective, not to mention appetizing, that I even invited her to be a guest on my radio show.
Shelly agrees that the trend for beauty is the same as for food—natural, simple and healthy. “In addition, I have found that I can add some simplicity to my already complicated life with these treatments, “she says. “And with the lack of time and money, especially after the holidays, these are a few easy and affordable steps to a less complicated you. Remember, you don’t need a large bank account to have great skin!”
That said, here are a few of those basics, courtesy of Shelly Ruch:
1) Whipped egg whites are perfect for keeping the skin moist and giving it needed nutrients. Just apply to your face and leave on for 20 minutes.
2) Regular use of mashed cucumbers prevents wrinkles, dry skin and even break outs as they contain great hydrating, nourishing and astringent properties all in one. They also have the same pH as the skin so they help to restore the skin’s natural acid mantle.
3) Cocoa powder is a wonderful conditioner for brunettes, making their shade a deeper, richer brown. Chamomile tea, raw potato and lemon enhance sunny blonde shades, and carrots and cranberries boost red locks.
4) The natural acids in vinegar open the cellular doors to the pigmented molecules of your skin and make any moisturizer work better.
5) Ground walnut power gently exfoliates dead skin and removes impurities that ordinary cleaners can’t tackle.
6) Cold whole milk constricts blood vessels and reduces swelling. Also, the natural fat replenishes dry, irritated skin and the lactic acid helps remove dead cells.
7) White sugar and salt are excellent body scrubs.
8) Ground coffee is a great skin tightening agent.
9) Honey is the perfect hydrator for both hair and skin.
10) Oatmeal soothes skin irritations and is a great addition to any face mask.
11) A few drops of pure, organic olive oil is one of the best moisturizers around.
Okay, now let’s put a few of these ingredients to work for our head- to-toe beauty therapy:
- For a protein-rich hair mask: In a medium-sized bowl, thoroughly combine 1/2 cup yogurt, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and 1 egg. Apply the mixture to your scalp after cleansing, leave on for about 20 minutes, and rinse well with warm water.
- For puffy eyes: Pour ice-cold whole milk or cream into a small bowl; soak two cotton balls in the liquid, then squeeze out the cotton balls slightly and put one over each eye. Once the cotton balls warm up soak two more and repeat for up to 15 minutes.
- For a moisturizing exfoliation mask: 1/3c quick cooking oatmeal, 2 tbsps. honey and plain yogurt each, one egg white and ½ cup of hot water. Mix water and oatmeal. Set aside and allow to cool and thicken while you blend the rest of the ingredients together with a mixer. Combine the two, apply to your face, let sit for fifteen minutes then rinse with warm water to remove.
- Finely ground walnut powder gently exfoliates dead skin to remove impurities that ordinary cleansing cannot tackle: Mix 2 tablespoons plain yogurt with 2 teaspoons of finely ground walnuts. Wet your face and gently work the scrub into the skin avoiding the under eye area.
- For soft hands and feet: Soak hands in a basin of warm, whole milk for several minutes, then rub them with warm almond oil, avocado oil, or light olive oil, or apply an oil-rich hand and nail cream, paying particular attention to your cuticles. For dry cracked heals, simply soak them in warm water for five minutes before bed. Put on lotion and cotton socks.
- For the best body scrub: Pour ¼ cup of table salt or granulated sugar into a small bowl or container. Cover the salt with olive oil. Stir and rub the scrub all over your body. Rinse well.
- To de-stress the entire body: Run a bath into which you put a few drops of such essential oils as rose, neem, jasmine or basil. You can also take a bunch of fresh or dried herbs and bundle them into a piece of muslin cloth to make a tea bag for your tub. Candles and fresh flowers placed around the tub and soft music further calm. As you soak, close your eyes and breathe deeply, releasing tension with each exhalation. Keep yourself warm after the bath and go right to bed, relaxed and at peace.
No need to milk a yak after all, I guess. Apparently, cow milk is utterly fine. (Sorry! I couldn’t resist!)