Super ingredients at their most potent.
With the beauty industry bringing impressive new technologies and advanced formulas, we sometimes forget about the natural remedies coveted by women for centuries, which tend to come with a smaller price tag, but equally effective results.
The father of modern medicine, Hippocrates, famously said “let food be your medicine” and this is what women around the globe have been doing since antiquity. While modern beauty products can slow ageing and boost skin health, the glowing complexions of our grandmothers, whose beauty regimes consisted of homemade cleansers and face masks, is testament to the healing power of natural ingredients, which are too often pushed to the side. From Southeast Asia to Africa, we divulge the herbs, spices and oils women have sworn by for millennia.
POWER OF TURMERIC
The fragrant spices of India have made it one of the top culinary destinations in the world, but far from being just another ingredient in your kitchen pantry, these colourful powders offer a treasure trove of beauty benefits. For centuries, turmeric, known as haldi, has been mixed with rose water and sandalwood powder to create a paste applied to the feet, knees, arms, hands and face of a bride during a pre-wedding ceremony, as a means of cleansing the body and soul in preparation for marriage. While this established tradition bestows the symbolic meaning of turmeric, it also points to its anti-ageing properties.
If you look at the ingredients list on many natural beauty products on shelves today, you are likely to find haldi in there somewhere. Rich in antioxidants, turmeric stimulates new cell growth, which in turn improves skin elasticity – the secret to a younger-looking complexion. It’s also believed to diminish dark spots and pigmentation for flawless skin.
The secret behind turmeric’s medicinal power lies in its curcumin compound, which is responsible for its golden pigment. Widely used in Ayurvedic skincare treatments, curcumin boasts antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Perhaps this is why it’s considered the natural cure to skin problems such as acne and eczema. Whether you use it in powder or paste form or buy the dried root, turmeric is a simple way to boost skin health.
Rose water has been revered by women in globe all corners of the for centuries, from egypt to the middle east.
RICHES FROM THE ZAMBEZI
Known for its beautiful surrounds, it’s no surprise that Africa is rich in natural healing ingredients. One in particular has been used for generations by indigenous tribes in Zambia – mongongo oil. Also known as manketti nut, it comes from the mongongo tree, which grows in abundance along the banks of the Zambezi River in Southern Africa. While the Kalahari people make use of the bark from the tree to build dugout canoes, it is the inside of the fruit where perhaps the real treasure lies.
This miracle oil is extracted from the kernel of the fruit and offers a myriad benefits for the skin and hair. With plenty of vitamin E, it is one of nature’s best moisturisers, rehydrating dry, cracked skin – one can only assume therein lies its appeal in sub-Saharan Africa. Being a non-comedogenic oil, mongongo oil won’t clog your pores, unlike other oils such as coconut. Aside from its
effectiveness in nourishing parched skin, it improves hair health too –
applying this oil to your roots will lock in moisture for salon-perfect
locks. The high concentration of linoleic acid, a polyunsaturated
omega-6 fatty acid found in many botanical oils, provides an
anti-inflammatory effect that also helps to improve acne and contributes
to the regeneration of cell membranes for firmer skin.
A FLORAL FIND
Rose water has been revered by women in all corners of the globe for centuries, from Egypt to the Middle East. Believed to have originated in Persia, rose water was considered a symbol of beauty and used predominantly as a facial toner for its healing, moisturising and anti-inflammatory properties.
Created through a process of steam distilling fresh rose petals, this softly scented tonic soothes irritated skin and helps to neutralise redness by balancing pH levels – it’s a great treatment for anyone suffering from rosacea. The gentle fragrance of the water is mimicked by its gentle effect on your skin and hair, and many beauty products use it as a key ingredient.
Add a few drops to your regular shampoo for softer tresses, or use it as an alternative to chemical-laden make-up removers. For anyone who suffers from dark under-eye circles, rose water-soaked cotton pads placed over your eyes will brighten the area.
The glowing complexions of our grandmothers is testament to the healing power of natural ingredients.
RIGHT: The mongogo tree hails from Africa. BElOW: Olive oil boasts healing properties; rose water has long been considered a symbol of beauty.
AN ANCIENT HEALER
Dubbed “liquid gold” by ancient Greek poet Homer, olive oil’s health benefits were first discovered in this part of the world. According to ancient Greek mythology, athletes would anoint themselves with olive oil before the Olympic Games believing in its healing properties.
Hippocrates described the oil as the “great healer”, identifying more than 60 ways in which it could be used, one of which was to treat dermatological conditions. Aside from a moisturiser to combat the signs of ageing, women in ancient Greece were believed to have mixed olive oil with sugar to create a natural exfoliant. While it boasts a host of antioxidants, there’s one in particular that makes it a wonder oil.
Polyphenol is a potent ‘super’ antioxidant that helps to prevent wrinkles and fine lines – a priority for most women. This along with vitamin E, which
quenches dry skin, and vitamin A to treat oily or acne-prone complexions, makes olive oil a multitasking treatment.
FOOD FOR THE SKIN
Often overshadowed by other oils, avocado oil is a powerful beauty ingredient that’s finally garnering the attention it deserves. Indigenous to Central America, avocados were first used as a beauty treatment by the ancient Aztecs, Incas and Mayans who are said to have applied the pulp of the fruit to their face like a mask.
Considered one of the most penetrating oils, it is more easily absorbed compared to other oils, offering more intense hydration. While it may have been ignored for many years, its moisturising effect on skin and hair is being recognised by major beauty brands who are using it in their cosmetics. Kiehl’s, for instance, has realised the potential of this superfood, launching their Creamy Eye Treatment, containing avocado oil, to rave reviews.
But the oil’s benefits extend beyond just nourishing dry skin. High in sterolin, vitamins E, D and A and omega-3 fatty acids, avocado oil diminishes pigmentation, boosts the production of collagen, soothes sunburn and can even stimulate hair growth when regularly applied to the scalp. A miracle oil indeed!