Beauty doesn’t begin with an ubtan or a skin cream, it begins with how you think. For a bride this is doubly essential – a calm mind and a happy heart will make you more radiant than all the beauty treatments in the world. Today, the concept of beauty from the inside out is more relevant than ever before.
More than anything else, your wedding is also an opportunity to change your lifestyle for good. Because you want to look your most beautiful, you will relook at your diet, skincare and exercise routine. The wise bride will go beyond just this occasion and use this chance to make long lasting changes. But that can only happen if you begin work well in advance.
As a bride you’re working with a deadline. Therefore, the sooner you begin, the less stressed you will be. If you don’t get into a routine much in advance, you’ll find it harder to keep up later. The biggest mistakes brides make is over exercising and crash dieting. While even doing one of these will destroy that inner glow, the combination of both (which is commonly practiced by brides) is a recipe for disaster. It leads to sallow skin, dark circles, low energy, moodiness and hair fall.
Simple diet changes for radiance
Eating healthy isn’t about getting on a fad diet to quickly shed the pounds. When done right, food changes increase muscle mass and skin quality and reduce chronic disease. Besides, it’s easier than you think.
Keep A Food Diary: Just a week of writing everything you eat (even if it’s one extra biscuit) can give you insights about where and how you cheat. Most of us snack mindlessly, then we don’t understand why the weight refuses to budge. A week or 10-day-long food diary will reveal hidden sources of sugar and fat that didn’t even appear on your radar. Once you’re aware of when and how you cheat you can eliminate the culprits and replace them with something healthier. For instance, if you go through a pack of biscuits at 4 p.m., you must respect the fact that your body wants something carb-heavy in the evening. Instead of taking away that snack replace it with something healthy like a small portion of home-made granola.
Add Healthy Fats: Good fats give that lustrous quality to skin and hair. A lot of brides go on a fat-free diet, which robs their skin of radiance. It is better to eliminate all sources of unhealthy trans fats (chips, cakes, cookies – anything made in refined oil or butter) and add healthy fat to the diet. The first step should be to remove all refined oil at home and replace it with cold-pressed coconut or mustard oil to cook with. Then add a tsp of ghee in your dal every day. Eat a handful of mixed nuts (this is also a healthy snack to carry), and half an avocado every day. You can also ask your dermatologist or nutritionist to prescribe Omega 3, evening primrose oil, or vitamin E.
Check Vitamin D: While this essential vitamin, which works as a hormone, helps improve bone health, it is also very important for skin and hair. Being deficient in vitamin D can give you dry, red, inflamed skin. If you do find that your levels are lower than normal, work with a doctor to get supplements or shots to make your skin supple and moist.
Eat A Green Portion: Leafy greens work as fibre and give your skin a boost of antioxidants. The best way to eat them is lightly cooked. This is because most of them contain a compound called oxalic acid, which prevents the absorption of certain vitamins and minerals. Cooking breaks down this oxalic acid, and when you cook them with a bit of healthy fat like mustard oil they also make oil soluble vitamins such as A and E more bioavailable for the body. You can either steam or stir-fry greens with a bit of oil and eat a portion every day.
Say Yes to Protein: Proteins are the building blocks of the body. They give you healthy hair and strong muscles. If you are vegetarian, you can go for good quality A2 milk. Vegans can eat beans, lentils and quinoa, but must only eat soy products not more than thrice a week. The best time to eat protein is half an hour after your workout.
Hold this mudra for 15 minutes every day right in front of your pelvis to create a sense of wellbeing. This mudra also helps heal gynecological conditions.
Don’t Forget Your Fibre: Think of fibre as a broom that sweeps toxins out from your body. You need both types of fibre – soluble and insoluble. You get soluble fibre from fruits and vegetables and insoluble fibre from the husk of grains such as oats, whole wheat, and brown rice. Other than sweeping out toxins, fibre also acts as food for the healthy bacteria in your gut, thereby improving digestive health in more ways than one. Get your fibre from two to three portions of fruit, a raw salad and a couple of portions of whole grains every day.
Hydrate x 100: If there’s one thing that can dramatically improve your skin, hair and energy levels it is water. Carry a bottle with you everywhere. If you add some cut up fruit or crush some mint leaves or lemongrass into the water, it not only makes the water more palatable but also easily absorbed by your body. Warm water is better than cold water as it aids detoxification. Drink about three litres of water every day, more if you train hard. Coconut water, fresh juice and herbal (not caffeinated teas) count in your water intake every day.
Drink Smart: Experts recommend that women drink no more than five to seven units of alcohol in one week. It is up to you as to whether you want to use this allowance in a day or use it over one week. Personally, I like the no alcohol policy at least a month or two before the wedding. This reduces bloating and puffiness on the face. Just remember that your drink is doubly lethal when combined with salty snacks, which tend to increase water retention. If you must drink eat vegetables crudités alongside instead of reaching for a salt-laden snack.
Do A Daily Tea-tox: Herbal teas are great allies in the quest for beautiful skin. You can rotate several teas in the day for different purposes. A cup of nettle tea (made by steeping a tsp of dried nettle leaves in boiling water for 10 mins) helps improve liver function thereby aiding detoxification and clearing skin. Drink it first thing in the morning. Tulsi has been proved to protect the body from pollution and also aids internal detoxification. What’s more, it also alleviates anxiety. I like to steep tulsi leaves in boiled water and slowly drink it when I’m feeling very anxious. It’s no wonder that many researchers call it yoga for the mind.
Lastly, the ayurvedic herb anantmool is excellent for all types of skin problems. You can boil half a tsp of the powder in boiling water to drink as is or add half a tsp of shatavari powder to balance hormones. Take off the heat and add a couple of saffron threads for added skin benefits.
Make Room for Treats: Do make room for dessert. Try to choose healthier options instead of extremely sugary, buttery confectionaries. Good desserts would be dark chocolate, greek yoghurt with honey and peanut butter, dates, or a small portion of homemade halva. Choose your dessert wisely and indulge in it once a week.
Skin & Hair Basics
While you take care of the inside it’s important to choose the right beauty routine for glowing skin and beautiful hair. But whether it’s nutrition or skin and body care, consistency is the key. So, with that in mind:
Find A Goal: Even when it comes to skincare it’s important to start any new series of facials or a new skincare routine six months in advance. But before you begin, it’s important to set a goal. What is it that you’d like to improve? Do you want to tighten your skin or make it glow? Do you want to eliminate pores or clear pigmentation? Once you identify your goal, then begin working on your skin.
Personally, I find that a good AHA toner used every alternate night and vitamin C serum with the strength of 15% vitamin C used in the day suits most people. Needless to say that a sunscreen is absolutely essential. Just remember that no matter what routine you choose, do not experiment with new products close to the wedding date as they might cause a reaction on your skin.
The best face masks are made at home. The essential ingredients to a mask include the base, which can be honey, yoghurt, cream, milk, aloe vera, or fruit. Add clay or lentil powder to draw out impurities. I love kaolin clay and masoor dal powder. Add to it herbs that add glow and clarify the skin.
Oil is Your Best Friend: Massage your body with oil and add a drop of face oil to your moisturiser. Just the act of self-abhayanga or self-massage is like an act of love directed inwards. For the face Seabuckthorn oil is good for all skin types, while Moringa oil is especially good for extremely dry complexions. A drop of Manuka honey or Immortelle oil helps calm angry-breakout prone skin. For the body, Sesame is good for all skin types and seasons, Almond for dry skin types and Jojoba for oily skin.
The best way to apply oil is when your skin is still slightly damp. This helps it spread easily over the skin and you only need a drop for the face on damp skin. Apply oil at night to wake up with plump, nourished skin in the morning.
Don’t Forget to Exfoliate: You can easily make your own scrub at home with a bit of honey, almond flour and colloidal oats. Keep it on as a mask and then gently rub it off. Add a splash of raw milk if your skin feels dry. Use this every alternate day. If your skin is breakout prone then stick to an AHA toner, which you can get at a dermatologist’s office, to keep your skin clog-free.
Devise an At-home Mask: The best face masks are made at home. The essential ingredients to a mask include the base, which can be honey, yoghurt, cream, milk, aloe vera, or fruit. Add clay or lentil powder to draw out impurities. I love kaolin clay and masoor dal powder. Add to it herbs that add glow and clarify the skin. I love adding a pinch each of kasturi manjal, red sandalwood, liquorice, and gotu kola. Mix well and apply on your face every alternate day.
Go Natural with Haircare: Forget in salon treatments. Nothing nourishes the hair like a good oil massage. It may be a tip from your grandmother’s arsenal but oiling stimulates new growth, conditions the shaft and cools the mind. Bhringaraj oil is known for stimulating new growth, Karanj oil is great for those with a flaky scalp, while Bitter Apricot oil is great as a conditioning oil or (just a drop) as a hair serum. To make the hair dark and lustrous I love my mother’s Coconut hair oil recipe:
- 50 ml virgin coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon hibiscus powder
- 10–15 curry leaves
- 2 teaspoons fenugreek seeds
- 2 teaspoons brahmi powder
- A fistful of dried amla
1. Heat the virgin coconut oil. Once the oil is hot, add the hibiscus, curry leaves, fenugreek seeds, brahmi powder and dried amla. Let it boil for 2 minutes and switch it off. Once cool, store in a glass jar. No need to strain.
Eliminate Stress: Mental equilibrium is a magic beauty pill for the bride-to-be. When you’re at ease, your skin and hair look better because there is less inflammation in the body. Besides, going about your wedding preparations in a relaxed manner means that you can remember this time for the happy memories rather than sleepless nights. To get rid of stress there are herbs you can take and yoga exercises that you can practice every day.
Apana Vayu Breathing: Sit on a chair with your back straight and feet bare on the floor (you can also practice this in the garden with your feet on the grass). Inhale into your pelvic floor and imagine that you’re exhaling out through your feet. Repeat 15-20 times till you feel the stress melt away.
Yoni Mudra: Interlace your fingers, pointing upwards, joining together the tips of the middle, ring and little fingers of both hands. Join the tips of the forefingers and point them downwards and the tips of the thumbs together and point them upwards. When joining the tips try to get close to the tips of the nails rather than pressing the pads together as the nerve endings are located at the top of our fingers. Hold this mudra for 15 minutes everyday right in front of your pelvis to create a sense of wellbeing. This mudra also helps heal gynecological conditions. You can hold this mudra while you practice the Apana Vayu breathing. In fact, both done together is an excellent combination.
De-stressing Herbs: I have mentioned the anxiety relieving benefits of tulsi earlier when I wrote about a tea-tox. But there are a couple of other herbs that can make you feel incredibly relaxed. For me the most important herb is jatamansi, which works as a mild sedative. This herb is in fact so mild that ayurvedic doctors also recommend it for children. You can mix a tsp of jatamansi powder in hot water, let it steep for 6-8 hours and drink before bed. You can also boil the herb in a cup of milk and add a few threads of saffron once you take it off the heat.