Indian mothers have a way of making you really freaking scared to experiment with any beauty products that don’t qualify as “all-natural.” Take, for instance, the following gems from a South Asian mother:
• Red lipstick is basically the equivalent to the devil’s play thing. Start wearing it too young, and “your lips will eventually turn black.”
• Using hair dye was strictly prohibited “because your hair will prematurely gray.”
• And forget trying to use any acne products too early because “you’ll ruin your skin and get even more pimples.”
But for every strange cause-and-effect beauty theory that Indian mother hand down, they have some equally effective remedies for hair and skin that come straight from the kitchen.
These DIY beauty remedies work so well, that many women still use them over drugstore brands. Plus most of them are not at all difficult to implement in your routine:
Hot oil scalp massages were practically a three-times-a week ritual in my household: Heat up a few tablespoons of coconut oil in the microwave for a minute (at room temperature, coconut oil is actually solid, so you’d have to melt it before applying), dip your fingers in and massage it on your scalp. Then thinly coat your hair from root to tip. Braid your hair and put a towel on my pillow and shampoo it out the next morning. Your hair will be softer and stronger in weeks. Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid which helps prevent hair loss. Even more than coconut oil though, I’d use virgin olive oil.
After a few weeks of these oil treatments, my hair would GLEAM. Tip: Don’t OVER-oil your hair since you’ll end up using too much shampoo to wash it out and in turn, will dry it out. Just a thin coat is perfect, and make sure you massage it thoroughly on your scalp!
My mom claims when her grandma died at 75 years old she didn’t have even one white hair. Her secret? Castor oil. My mom said she’d coat her hair with it, and even use it as a moisturizer to prevent wrinkles. TMI: She’d even drink it once a month as a laxative. As it turns out, castor oil is rich in fatty acids and anti-microbal ricinoleic acid.
A Complexion-Clearing Face /Scrub
My mom has been using this mask FOR-EVER. Credit good genes or this mask, but she still doesn’t have a wrinkle on her face. She mixes this concoction herself using ingredients straight from India: Mix 1 teaspoon of turmeric, dry coriander, sandalwood powder, Indian gooseberry all in equal parts (so 1 teaspoon each), and add 5 teaspoons of powder of green gram lentil mix with curd and lemon. (Your best bet is to look for them at a South Asian grocery store). If you mix a teaspoon of this with a few drops of water until it turns clumpy, it makes a great scrub. Just rub it against skin and wash off. Or, add even more water until it’s a little more paste-ey and apply to wet skin as a mask.
Wait 10 minutes until it hardens then wash off. It sucks out the impurities. Consider this a power-packed mask: turmeric has amazing antiseptic properties, coriander fights against pimples and blackheads, sandalwood has brightening properties, while the Indian gooseberry tones and firms. On a recent visit back home, my mom sent this back with me in a Ziploc.
In India, my mom said they would mix a cup of vinegar in water, and use it as a “final rinse” for their hair in the shower. The vinegar would neutralize and get rid of the dandruff.
My little sister had all these split ends but wanted to grow her hair longer instead of chopping it off. She said this super-hydrating mask helped her parched locks like crazy. My mom showed her this recipe and it worked like a charm. Her hair was splendidly soft and shiny afterward.
Scoop out half of a ripe avocado and toss in the blender. Add a teaspoon of olive oil so it blends a little easier into a paste. Massage it from roots to end (it goes on fairly clear). Wash out in the shower.
I guess I really do have to thank my Mom for passing down some pretty amazing beauty knowledge on to me. Except when she never let me shave my legs because she said it would make my hair grow back even thicker and eventually turn me into a hairy beast that no one would want to marry. That was just not cool.