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, Uncategorized

A great organic lip balm for the cold days!

Salaam alaykoum, Peace be upon you all!

I made myself a batch of mandarin lip balm this week, and since I’m very satisfied with it, I am going to share the recipe! It’s very very easy (once you have sourced all the ingredients), and it keeps my lips soft and moisturised in the freezing weather. No chapped lips for me this year inshallah! I even use it on my face as I have a sensitive skin, and I get red dry patches because of the cold.

Anyway, enough talking, let’s get cooking! This recipe will make about 100ml of lip balm, so I got 10 little tips of 10ml each. You will need the following ingredients, preferably organic:

15g Yellow beeswax

50ml Apricot Kernel Oil

15g Cocoa Butter

25g Shea Butter

Just mix everything in a glass jug and cook in a Bain-marie ( which means place it into a pan of boiling water), and wait until it has melted into a liquid before taking it out of the fire. You can also do in the microwave, but it’s more fun to do it this way! 

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My little tins cooling down!

You can then add essential oils of your choice: I used Tea Tree oil because of its antiseptic qualities (about 20 drops) and Mandarin (about 40 drops) for its soothing and uplifting qualities, and because of its great smell. Mix with a spoon and pour into your containers before it cools down.

Done!

You can easily modify the recipe according to your needs: divide by ten if you only need one tin of lip balm, replace the Apricot Kernel oil by Almond oil if it is easier to find, or use 40g of Shea butter instead of using two different kinds. You can also use Mango butter which is very moisturising and a good anti-wrinkle.

My finished little products, ready to be used!
My finished little products, ready to be used!

A word of caution: I completely understand that you people are busy and don’t necessarily have the time to make your own gorgeous, precious, organic lip balm  when you could just pop in your local supermarket and get a cheap lipstick. The problem is that most of what you will find will actually dry out your lips even more rather than moisturising and soothing chapped lips. That’s because they prevent the air from passing, and because some ingredients such as alcohol, menthol and petroleum are aggressive for the skin. So please check the ingredients before you hand your money!

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.