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Growing up in a Pakistani household, it’s not uncommon to raid your pantry for an elaborate beauty ritual. Whether it’s a vigourous head massage with coconut or almond oil, a dead-skin sloughing homemade ubtan scrub, or a simple yogurt hair mask, chances are most women will have at least one such ritual in their skincare regimen. Something that’s been ingrained in them after years of watching their mother, grandmother, or aunt do the same.
In the past few years, the beauty industry too has experienced a shift in approach, and we’re now looking back at age-old beauty practices that have been handed down generations. There’s also been a significant push towards cleaner, natural ingredients – this is because most mass-produced everyday use produces are chock full of harmful toxins, chemicals, and synthetic ingredients that wind up causing more harm than good.
Lucky for us, Pakistan has an incredible culture of natural beauty rooted in herbal skincare. Our age old traditions revolving around skincare and beauty feature all-natural ingredients that are so pure, you could eat them. Literally – if you can’t eat it, your grandmom probably wouldn’t advise you to put it on your face!
That said, there are plenty of natural ways to make your skin feel and look beautiful without needing to buy expensive and harmful chemical-laden commercial products, and here are some of our favourite all-natural alternatives for our everyday skincare routine:
Rosewater as toner
A good and inexpensive substitute to your daily toner is pure distilled rosewater. Rosewater has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce redness and soothe irritated skin, get rid of acne, dermatitis and eczema. It is a great cleanser and aids in removing oil and dirt accumulated in clogged pores.
To use rosewater as a toner, use it as a spray and mist it all over your face, or dab some onto a cotton pad and apply it on your cleansed face.
Lemon essential oil for salicylic acid
Salicylic acid is a wonder ingredient for women with oily skin. It helps to combat the acne and redness. It effectively cleans up the pores to reduce the whiteheads and blackheads and prevents the acne breakouts. But, sometimes, it can cause over-drying of your skin. However, you can use lemon essential oil as a substitute for salicylic acid. It is rich in vitamin C that helps in treating acne, whiteheads, blackheads and pigmentation. Besides, lemon essential oil detoxifies the skin and restores its lustre as well.
Grapefruit, yoghurt or pineapple for AHA
AHA acts as an amazing exfoliator. It removes the dead skin cells and reveals a fresh and radiant skin, which in turn reduces the occurrence of acne scars and signs of ageing. You can find AHA in anti-ageing products as well. Not to mention, it can be used to repair the sun damage of skin, too. This synthetic ingredient can be replaced by grapefruit, yoghurt or pineapple as they are a natural source of Alpha Hydroxyl Acid. Grapefruit is the strongest source of AHA that helps in exfoliating the skin. Yoghurt has lactic acid, a natural form of AHA that is quite effective in reversing the sun damage. Pineapple acts as a great exfoliator because of the presence of AHA.
Rose oil for hyaluronic acid
Well, hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring polysaccharide in your body that provides suppleness, moisture and radiance to your skin. Babies are born with the highest level of hyaluronic acid that keeps their skin so soft and supple, and as soon as you start to age, the production of this acid decreases. Thus, you need to use skin care products containing hyaluronic acid to maintain the softness of your skin. However, if you do not want to use this synthetic ingredient on your skin, you can replace it with rose oil. Rose oil is intensely hydrating and increases the permeability of the skin. Apart from making your skin soft, supple and plump, it also facilitates the absorption of skincare products into your skin, which in turn improves your skin texture.
Chamomile or neroli essential oil for hydroquinone
Hydroquinone is known to provide you with an even-toned skin and is considered as one of the most harmful skincare ingredients. It works by decreasing the production of the melanin in the body by inhibiting the enzyme tyrosinase. Over the time, it actually starts damaging the skin by damaging the pigment cells. Since hydroquinone is not safe for long term use, swap this synthetic ingredient with chamomile or neroli oil. Chamomile essential oil has azulene that is produced by your skin naturally. It helps in lightening your skin and provides you with an even-toned skin. On the other hand, neroli essential oil is obtained from orange blossoms and is a rich source of vitamin C that is well known for skin lightening. It helps in repairing the damaged skin cells while providing you with a flawless skin.
Honey as a face mask
When it comes to natural face masks there are tons of options; think: good to eat, good for your skin, good for you. You can apply most fruits (lightly mashed up) directly to your face for a quick five to 10-minute mask.
Raw honey was prized for its healing properties in ancient civilisations. In Egyptian and Ayurvedic traditions, honey was used to treat skin wounds and disorders. Cleopatra swore by milk-and-honey masks, so we’re inclined to believe it must be that good!
Honey has incredible antimicrobial properties, and is full of antioxidants. It’s good for unclogging pores, as well as hydrating parched skin. It’s no wonder that honey features in so many beauty and skincare products! To use it as a mask:
· Use one teaspoon of high quality raw honey and gently massage it over your entire face.
· Leave it on for about 15-60 minutes.
· Rinse with lukewarm or cool water and pat face dry.
Various oils as moisturisers
You could use oils like olive oil, coconut oil or almond oil to nourish your body. It’s common practice in herbal skincare to choose an oil based on the season – coconut for summer, and almond/sesame for winter. Give your full body a luxurious oil massage before stepping into the shower, or use some post a bath for a leave-in moisturiser. Even a quick massage will do wonders for your lymphatic system by boosting circulation and lymph drainage.
If you’re looking for a moisturiser that doesn’t leave a greasy film, aloe Vera gel is your best bet. It softens the skin without clogging pores and helps heal cuts and acne. It’s also wonderful to soothe sunburnt skin!
Coconut oil as a lip balm
Instead of spending a bomb on lip balms you could use something from your kitchen instead. Coconut oil nourishes your lip while also giving it a glossy look.
Olive/castor oil as a face wash
Contrary to popular belief, you can actually use oil to cleanse your face. The oil cleansing method operates on the premise that oil dissolves oil. While you might be hesitant to use oil on your face, cleansing your face with oil is the most efficient and effective way to cleanse, soothe, and balance your skin. Most recipes recommended are a 1:1 ratio of olive oil and castor oil. Then increase the amount of olive oil for dry skin or castor oil for oily, acne-prone skin.
Helpful things to note when using natural ingredients in your skincare practice
· It’s imperative that you use absolutely the purest quality of ingredients. For example, common store bought turmeric is often laced with inferior powders or synthetic colours to make it stain brighter yellow, which won’t go down too well with your skin. Same with honey – packaged honey is often laden with sugar. Choose organic, pure, quality ingredients for best results.
· If you’re allergic to any food items, it’s best avoided even in your skincare ritual.
· Some of these natural ingredients, though wonderful, might be too harsh for your skin if you’re sensitive. Do a patch test on your arm before trying anything new on your face to rule out chances of breakouts or reactions.
· Exercise caution when using scrubs, and don’t go overboard. While scrubs are great for exfoliation, removing dead skin, and boosting lymphatic circulation, overdoing them might do more harm than good by stripping down your skin of its natural oils and making it too dry.
· When in doubt, or if you feel itchy or red after using any of these recipes, stop use immediately! Again, your judgement is best when it comes to your body
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