Health and Beauty

Lemon: Your detox friend…and a lemon mask recipe

Continuing with the good start of 2013, here are a few detox tips using lemon. During the dark winter months when the evenings are long, the only thing we want is to cuddle up in bed with a warm hot chocolate and comforting food. To restore your energy levels and freshen up before the spring, I recommend a very simple recipe: hot water with fresh lemon, first thing in the morning.  Lemon, from the citrus family (Utruj in Arabic) has a long list of health benefits : it is high in vitamin C which strengthens the immune system (which is why it is recommended for colds) and is an antioxidant. However, whereas orange juice is acidic, lemon juice is actually helps digestion one of the most alkaline fruits and helps to balance the body’s pH. It supports digestion by kickstarting the production of bile, thus why it is good to drink it before having breakfast.

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The great thing with hot lemon water is that it helps me to reduce my coffee intake, and it is a diuretic, so it helps the body to get rid of toxins. Lemons are mentioned several times in Islamic traditions: in one hadith, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said: “The citrus fruit is like a true believer, with a sweet taste and a pleasant scent” (Sahih Bukhari). In Suyuti’s medicine book, lemon is described as such: “The sour citrus is cold and dry. From it is made lemon juice, which is good for hot stomachs. It also strengthens and gladdens the heart, stimulates the appetite, quenches the thirst, satisfies hunger, cures diarrhoea and palpitations.”

There are hundreds of different recipes for the skin and the hair using lemon juice, zest or peel, mixed with honey, egg, avocado… Lemon is especially good for oily skins and acne, as it is purifying and antiseptic. As I tend to have a more sensitive skin, I chose a more gentle facial mask recipe to share with  you. It only requires oats and a lemon.

Lemon and Oat face mask

Cook 1/4 of of oat (I simply used organic porridge oats!), and once it has cooled down, add the juice and zest of half a lemon. You can add an egg yolk as it is also good for reducing oils in oily skin. Mix together until you get a smooth paste.

Apply on clean skin and leave until dry. Remove with warm water. Job Done!

Health and Beauty

Choosing a good cleanser ( and a recipe to make your very own!)

Cleansing your skin is essential to keep it healthy, especially for those who live in big, polluted urban centers. Think about how much dust  and dirt is left on your skin every day! When choosing your cleanser, avoid the ones containing soap because it dries the skin out, alcohol that can be aggressive in particular for sensitive skins, and the fragranced ones. It is healthier to choose a simple, unscented cleanser with a limited number of ingredient. According to what type of skin you have, go either for a cream-based cleanser, good for dry skin, or a gel for oily skin. Natural ingredients such as aloe vera (soothing), or tea tree oil (for problem skins or acne) can work wonders when used to cleanse the face.

First, wash your hands, remove any make up, and wash the face with fresh water. then apply your choice of cleanser, massage into the skin, and rinse off. This will only take you 2-3 mins everyday, but it makes a big difference and will help your skin look clearer. The skin is the body’s biggest organ but it is also very vulnerable, being exposed to the sun, to temperature changes, to pollution…We often cover ourselves in expensive creams to prevent ageing, but do we ever check the composition of the beauty products we buy? They are often full of chemicals and attack the skin in the long term. Looking after yourself doesn’t have to be expensive not time consuming: invest your money wisely. Everyday kitchen ingredients such as milk are actually known to be good cleansers.

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For those of you who would like to make your own cleanser, here is a quick recipe for normal skin types and using two of my favourite natural ingredients, orange flower water and coconut oil (inspired by “Make your own Skincare” by Sally Hornsey)

SImply mix together the following ingredients:

-20g orange flower water

-30g spring water

-15g coconut oil

-5 drops of lime essential oil

-10g sucragel (sucragel is a natural emulsifier and thickener developed from sugar; sucragel AOF is organic and can be bought on the internet)

Preservative can be added. Store in a dark storage.

Health and Beauty

The benefits of Black Soap (Savon Noir)

I talk about the wonders of oil, in particular olive oil, in a previous post, in particular about their health and beauty benefits. Well Black Soap, produced in North Africa, is like a condensed version: it is made out of oil, often using the famous Moroccan Argan oil, and macerated olives, and it is thus packed with therapeutic qualities. Black soap is particularly rich in vitamin E and is known for deeply purificating the skin, as well as preparing the skin for exfoliation. In Morocco, women often use it in the hammam (public baths) before peeling their skin with a loofah. It should be applied on wet skin and left a couple of minutes to rehydrate and purify the body, before being rinsed off.

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Black Soap or Savon noir from Morocco

Don’t be fooled by its aspect: its texture is more like butter than regular soap, but it is all natural, works with all types of skin and has a light scent. The damage of chemical perfumes added to soaps, shower gels and shampoos on the skin and hair is well documented:  Black soap is a great, 100% natural and organic alternative, usually made the old fashioned way by small producers. If you want to try making your own black soap, try my basic black soap recipe.

Black soap can also be diluted with water and used as a cleaner and detergent. It has tons off properties: it can be used to clean floors and tiles, windows and leather furniture, it removes grease from ovens, baking trays or plates, and it is also used as a stain remover.

Furthermore, it can also be used in the garden to help get rid of parasite. Just spray diluted black soap on affected plants and leaves. It is a great product before it acts as a natural repellent without destroying the environment as would do traditional pesticides. In fact, black soap has so many different uses that I can’t list them all! Stay blessed!

Health and Beauty

How to make simple, cheap, organic sprays for the skin

Rosewater and Orange blossom water are very popular throughout the Middle East for cooking and pastries. Their cosmetic qualities are less known, but both have been used for centures as cleansers, moisturizers and astringents. I use a rosewater spray every morning to tighten and refresh my skin: I only mixed half a cup of rosewater (you can make your own by decanting rose petals if you have the time!) and half a cup of purified water, added a few drops of rose essential oil (a natural remedy for wrinkles) , and popped the result into a spray bottle. You will find many recipes on the net of different sort of masks to make with rosewater and other ingredients such as cucumber; but I find that it works well as a simple spray. It can also be used on the hair to make it softer.

Orange blossoms

Orange blossom water has a variety of benefits. I absolutely adore its smell: I add some to cakes, to tea and coffee, to fruit salads. I even have a sweet tajine recipe that uses it (I might share it if you ask!). As a cosmetic product, it can be used as a toner: apply it on the face and neck with wool to revive dull skins, or make a spray. I also add a few drops to ghassoul when I wash my hair or make a face mask. Voilà! Two simple ways of making your own natural sprays, just make sure you get good quality, organic bottles of rosewater and orange blossom water rather than the synthetic ones.