Archive for the ‘ancient beauty secrets’ Category

Vacationing on the beach with Jaya Ajji

My great aunt, whom I call Jaya Ajji, visited recently and shared her most loved Ayurvedic beauty recipes for you all to use.

Ayurveda is the world’s most ancient form of medicine, originating in India thousands of years ago. It was a highly complex science for its time- Ayurvedic physicians even performed eye surgeries!

The below recipes are for an Ayurvedic hair pack and face mask.

This hair pack is excellent for encouraging hair growth and preventing hair loss. It is also effective for maintaining color in the hair: since she began using it, Jaya Ajji says she went from coloring her hair every 3 weeks to coloring it only once every 2 months or so! She says she has also stopped losing hair, when before it shed copiously when brushed or washed.

Ayurvedic Hair Pack

  • 1 teaspoon henna powder*
  • 1 teaspoon amla powder*
  • 1 tsp aritha powder*
  • 1 tsp shikakai powder*
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon fresh aloe vera gel

Mix the ingredients together thoroughly and apply to dry hair for 30 minutes or up to 4 hours. Wash off in the shower and shampoo as usual. Do this regularly- once or twice a week- to experience amazing hair protective results!

Jaya Ajji’s Ayurvedic face mask is brilliant for moisturizing and for developing an even skintone. The fresh turmeric and sesame seeds will give you a healthy glow, while the banana and ghee will provide a generous dose of moisture to parched skin.

Ayurvedic Face Mask

  • 1/2 of a banana
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground turmeric*
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fresh aloe vera gel
  • 1/2 teaspoon ghee (clarified butter)*

Blend the ingredients together into a fine paste. Apply the face mask for 10 to 20 minutes to clean skin, then wash off. Enjoy your radiant skin!

* = These ingredients can be found at your local Indian grocery store.


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I share a beauty secret with Rani Mukerji, and that’s Margo Original Neem Soap!

Margo Original Neem Soap has been around for ages- it’s that one you see in all the Indian grocery stores, and quite possibly, overlook.

Cut that out. Rewind. Pick up a bar of Margo soap yourself (I get mine 3 bars for $5!) and revel in the antibacterial essential oil goodness!

Margo soap is a simple facial and body soap that has been enriched with the awesome antibacterial and healing powers of neem essential oil. The use of neem oil for healing purposes began with Ayurvedic medicine in India thousands of years ago. Ancient Ayurvedic practitioners spoke highly of the benefits of neem for skin disorders- including acne.

So my great-great-great…-great grandmother might have been using neem in a very similar way to what I am today!

Margo soap is a green soap bar with a distinctive herbal scent. The soap lathers well and successfully removes all of my makeup- including my sunscreen. I do like to preface washing by removing my eye makeup with baby oil; Margo washes away all traces of the oil as well. I use it morning and night, and I love the clear skin results it delivers!

I’ve tried every cleanser you can think of: oil cleansers, liquid soaps, cream cleansers, all-natural cleansing pastes, and bar soaps. Margo is the facial cleansing soap I kept going back to- and now, will always stay with.

Thank you, Rani. Thank you, Margo.

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Do you think Freida Pinto is beautiful or average-looking?

Would you say Aishwarya Rai’s looks are Indian or Western?

Who IS the “perfect” Indian woman? Who is the most beautiful Indian woman?

In this post I am going to attempt to address the SOCIALLY CONSTRUCTED Indian beauty ideal. I’ll look at the questions above and attempt to break down the expectations. Will this mean that if you don’t look like the women below, you’re not beautiful? Absolutely not. There are no heavenly-ordained guidlines for deciding who has perfect features and who does not- this post is addressing social constructs, culture and society, and a little history.

From ancient sculptures on the sides of temples to modern calendar art depicting Hindu goddesses, we find trends that inform us on what characteristics, through the ages, have been considered “most beautiful” in South Asia. Ancient poets wrote of women with flowers strung in their hair, whose feet were small and delicate as the lotus, who enticed their lovers with their generous breasts, small waists, and almond eyes.

So who, in modern times, physically embodies the Indian beauty ideal? South Indian actress Shriya Saran.

Shriya’s looks are “textbook” perfect for understanding the features most valued on Indian women for thousands of years:

ALMOND-SHAPED EYES: Her eyes are large and expressive, a quality valued for centuries in a nation proud of its culture of theatrical dance.

A STRAIGHT, SHARP NOSE: Shriya’s nose is prominent but sharp and straight, making it a noticeable but positive feature on her face.

FULL LIPS: No explanation needed here! Her full lips are a symbol of sexuality and fertility.

HAIRLESS BODY: Obviously a result of diligent hair removal, Shriya’s body is devoid of extraneous hair. Ancient poetry spoke of the appealing beauty of a woman “without down”.

THICK BLACK HAIR: Shriya keeps her hair long, representative of femininity, and her hair is thick and rich, a trait valued in Indian women as a sign of good health.

HOURGLASS FIGURE: Shriya is tall, but not drastically so; she is slim, but not willowy; her breasts and hips are ample (also suggestive of fertility), and her waist is narrow.

Now, let’s talk about Miss World and Bollywood-Hollywood actress Aishwarya Rai, whom the Queen of America Oprah Winfrey recognized as “the most beautiful woman in the world”. I agree, but why didn’t I name her the ideal Indian beauty? Two reasons: first, the light eyes. I love them, but they are, in the context of the social construct under discussion, an anomaly. In ancient India, light eyes were derogatorily called “cat’s eyes”. Second, her nose is crooked. Sorry. Otherwise- heck yes, she’d be the ideal!

While we’re on the subject of the light-skinned Aishwarya… you’ll notice I didn’t list FAIR SKIN up above. That’s because this is a questionable addition to the list. Yes, I’ll grant that many Indians value fair skin above dark skin. However, considering India’s very long cultural and religious history, and factors you’ll be bored by that I might discuss in a later post, it remains unclear as to whether or not this is a phenomenon primarily influenced by the Western beauty ideal (totally different ballgame) that has recently taken India by storm.

Moving on to Freida Pinto. This young Hollywood actress from Mumbai is considered beautiful and sexy in the United States, where she hit the scene in “Slumdog Millionaire”. But in India, she was a struggling model who achieved little notable success, and remains fairly unadmired in comparison to her popularity abroad. What gives?

Many Indians believe Freida’s looks to be average, dime-a-dozen. To understand this attitude, try and look at her in the context of what’s working for Shriya above. Freida’s eyes, by comparison, are small, her nose is slightly beaky and wide, and her lips are asymmetrical. Her jaw is squared, unlike Shriya’s and Aishwarya’s, whose jaws are chiseled and pointed at the chin. Her hair is fine, not thick (and yes, her skin is darker than the others’, I add grudgingly). Freida is also very petite- small in frame and small in the chest. While Freida’s looks allow her to fit in perfectly with the Hollywood crowd (read: Western beauty ideal), she would be lost among her Bollywood contemporaries.

While you may or may not personally agree or adhere to these beauty ideals, it can be important to understand perceptions of beauty within a larger cultural framework.

I hope this was illuminating!

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Since time immemorial, Indian women have been massaging their scalps and hair with nourishing oils. These oils are filled with healthful vitamins and minerals and help to soften the hair and encourage it to grow in strong and shiny. Today, countless Bollywood actresses use this beauty secret to pamper their hair, including Kareena Kapoor (pictured here), Sonam Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, and Hema Malini.

Massage your dry scalp and hair with a mixture of almond, castor, coconut, and olive oils. For better penetration into the hair strands, gently heat the oil mixture before applying until warm (not too hot!). Leave on for a few hours or overnight, keeping hair away from clothes to prevent staining. Wash thoroughly with shampoo (Fun fact: celebrities indulge in the Kerastase hair product line for their tresses). A hot oil hair massage can be done up to twice a week or just once a month for your hair to reap the benefits.

Care for your hair today!

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