“Beauty is the illumination of your soul”
— John O’ Donohue
Did you know, the earliest historical records of cosmetic use have been found to date back to the Indus Valley Civilization? And that the earliest reference to a beauty expert has been found in the Mahabharata, the ancient Indian epic? We went back to lot of our history lessons to find some of the heritage rituals, just for you!
Historians have also found evidence of advanced ideas and practices of self-beautification in ancient India, often linked to the seasons as well as to daily life. Interestingly, these practices were directed towards not just looking good, but also towards good deeds (punya), longevity (aayush), a healthy, disease-free life (aarogyam), and happiness (anandam). The all-natural ingredients performed the four-pronged task of cleansing, allaying skin trouble, covering up imperfections and beautification. In the Ashtanga Hridaya, an ancient treatise, the use of different lepas (masks) and thailams (oils) was advised for different seasons and to address a variety of woes. Many of these remedies and practices continue to exist, in modern times, to help bring out your inner glow, usually just before a big day.
We’ve got you a round-up of the five most popular (and easily doable) rituals you can try at home. Because each one of us deserves some spa time!
our favorite ancient beauty secrets
1) champi, or the indian head massage
What it is: An intensive oil massage, to your scalp and hair, which also extends to your forehead, neck, shoulders and upper back. All you need is enough oil to soak your strands through and deft fingers for a rigorous massage.
Glow giver: Great for lymphatic drainage, the champi moisturises and conditions the scalp, reducing dryness and dandruff. It strengthens the hair shaft, preventing split ends and hair breakage. It also improves the flow of oxygen to your brain, helping you to destress, lowering anxiety levels, and bolstering your mental health, while relaxing your muscles and relieving tension. Most popular oils for a champi are sesame, almond or mustard oil. Coconut has anti-microbial properties, which makes it a great choice too, if you have dandruff or psoriasis. Feel free to mix a few oils to get the best of each.
Ritual at home: Place a bowl with the oil of your choice in a bowl of warm water, to warm it up just a bit. Divide your hair into sections, then use a ball of cotton wool to apply the oil into the partings. Massage it through your scalp and strands, using your fingertips. Leave for at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 hours. Wash it off with a mild shampoo.
The amaiaa touch: There is some debate on where the word ‘champi’ comes from. Some claim it translates to massage, while others claim it refers to the heavy, oiled, greasy look that it entails. Yet others believe it to be a literal derivative of ‘champa’ or the Indian Jasmine, the oil of which is an essential ingredient for a superlative champi and is also an active ingredient in our saya facial oil. The saya oil also has apricot, argan and olive oils, which are all great for your hair. Add just a few drops of our oil in the oil you plan to use, and watch it work its magic!
2) ubtan, or the home scrub
What it is: The ubtan is a gentle exfoliating and smoothening agent, made with oatmeal, for dry or sensitive skin, and with gramflour for combination skin. Other ingredients include turmeric (haldi) for its healing properties, sandalwood (chandan) for its soothing and anti-microbial properties, and rose water or lemon juice for their astringent properties. Mixed into a paste, these are applied onto the skin and gently scrubbed, so you exfoliate the dead cells, like a gentle, non-chemical peel, revealing smooth, glowing, healthy skin. The gramflour scrub is best used once a week, but the oatmeal scrub can be used more often.
Glow giver: Ubtan works for the skin on your face as well as on your body, treating acne and pigmentation, and fighting signs of ageing and oxidative damage—turmeric is a super-powerful antioxidant! Besides, removing dead cells improves the skin’s ability to regenerate, boosting collagen production. An added bonus: Ubtan has a gentle depilatory effect on your facial and body hair, if used regularly.
Ritual at home: Mix two tablespoons oatmeal or gramflour with one tablespoon sandalwood powder and half a tablespoon of turmeric powder. Squeeze in one lemon (for oily, acne-prone skin) or enough rosewater (for dry or mature skin) to make a paste—you can use both, if you don’t have any specific skin issues to address. Apply this paste to your skin, leave on for 2-3 minutes, and then start to scrub, gently. If it feels too dry, dip your fingertips in lukewarm water or a little bit of oil—it shouldn’t tug at your skin.
The amaiaa touch: If you have dry skin, apply a light oil before applying the ubtan. Our atma oil is light and non-comedogenic, so it allows the goodness of the ubtan to seep through. It also has rose and sandalwood as active ingredients, complementing the ingredients of your ubtan. If you haven’t put oil before the ubtan, you can take just a little bit of atma oil on your fingertips, and then scrub, so you’re not rough on your skin, which can cause rashes or redness.
3) the oil bath
What it is: In Ayurveda, it is called the Abhyanga, or soaking the body in oil. The idea is to pretty much bathe yourself in oil, which is said to help your body destress, while your skin derives healing benefits from the oil, depending on the oil used. The oil should be lightly warmed, before application, for easier absorption and to release the tension in your muscles.
Glow giver: Sesame oil prevents dryness in the body (and skin) and coconut oil has anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties, which make it great for those with skin disorders, such as eczema, psoriasis and acne. You can also add other ingredients to the oil, to help specific problems, such as garlic, which helps relieve eczema with its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and aloe vera, which moisturises dry skin. Leaving oil on the skin for a while also helps restore lost moisture.
Ritual at home: Take half a cup of the oil of your choice and start by applying the oil in and around your ears, navel and eyes, then move on to a gentle massage of your scalp and hair. Wrap your head in a warm towel or put it under a steamer, before you move on. Remember to be very generous with the oil, throughout. Apply a palmful on your chest, across the torso and onto the shoulders and arms, then move to your legs. Pay special attention to rough skin around your elbows, knees, heels and knuckles. Finally, massage your face in circular motions. Relax for 10 minutes, before you step into the bath. It’s a good idea to follow this up with an ubtan.
The amaiaa touch: Oils extracted from tree barks, such as sandalwood, are soothing as well as grounding, with anti-anxiety and anti-depressant properties. While sandalwood oil, on its own, is incredibly tough to massage with, the atma oil uses it as an active ingredient. We recommend adding a few drops of atma oil to your oil bath. It also has rose, which is uplifting, energising and has restorative properties.
4) the mud pack
What it is: The ancient science of naturopathy recommends using a mud pack to detoxify and nourish your skin as well treat certain health disorders. The mud is mixed with water to make a paste, which is then liberally applied to the face and/or body to flush out toxins and regulate body temperature and functions.
Glow giver: Mud detoxifies through the process of adsorption—the toxins cling to its molecules and leave your body for good. A great mud pack can help make your skin taut, cleanse your pores and also moisturise. In India, traditionally, Fuller’s Earth has been used to cleanse the skin and treat acne. However, we now have a host of options that are readily available, from Kaolin and Lava clay to Bentonite, Aztec and Dead Sea clay. Each of these is rich in minerals (different ones, of course), helps boost circulation and gives you glowing skin. It has also been found to help fight off serious skin conditions like leukoderma and psoriasis, and other health issues like hypertension, indigestion and migraines. Applying a mud pack after an oil bath helps lock in the moisture for longer.
Ritual at home: Make a paste with the clay of your choice and water. You can add a few drops of rosewater to it, to add a little more hydration. Apply it on to your face and/or your body (ideally after an oil bath), and leave for 10 minutes. Wash it off with cool or lukewarm water, depending on your comfort level.
The amaiaa touch: Our saya oil has frankincense and lemongrass, which are also detoxifying, and work very well with mud packs. Add a few drops to the mud pack to improve hydration and give its anti-ageing properties a boost.
5) the henna masque
What it is: Applied to the hands and feet at Indian and Middle Eastern weddings, henna is a therapeutic and beautifying agent when applied to the scalp and hair, as a masque that deep conditions. A word of caution though: Henna is a natural dye, so leaving it in too long may alter hair’s natural color. Not recommended if you color your hair.
Glow giver: The cooling henna calms irritated scalp and helps balance pH levels. Henna also has antimicrobial properties that help fight off dandruff, and unclog the pores on your scalp, boosting hair growth, preventing hair fall and improving hair texture. It is also extremely nourishing to your hair and deep-conditions the shafts, improving hair elasticity and reducing split ends.
Ritual at home: Mix 2 tablespoons of henna with water, and leave it overnight. In the morning, oil your hair, then apply the henna paste. Leave for at least 30 minutes and wash it off. With a gentle shampoo. You don’t need to use conditioner immediately.
The amaiaa touch: The saya facial oil has apricot, argan, safflower, jasmine and olive, which deep-condition, yet are light, which makes the oil an ideal companion for henna, with its coolness. A few drops in the oil you massage before you apply the pack, or directly into the henna, if you don’t have the time to do both, will work wonders for your scalp and hair.
We hope you enjoyed learning about these techniques, as much as we did putting them together for you!
Find that natural glamour inside out!
Inner radiance is the road to elegance!