By: Kate Dixon
Why buy expensive beauty products when you can make your own at a fraction of the cost? Why use beauty products that may cause animal suffering when you can create your own without testing on animals? It’s easy to make your own face masks, teeth whitener and body scrub using inexpensive natural ingredients readily available in Yangon, such as aloe vera, avocado, papaya, turmeric and coffee.
All these plants are rich in antioxidants, natural substances that reduce inflammation and help prevent oxidation of molecules in our body. Oxidation releases substances called free radicals, which damage our cells and cause diseases.
Look around and you’ll discover thousands of natural antioxidant compounds at your disposal.
Avocados, for example, are a great source of lycopene and vitamin E. Papayas are rich with vitamin C and flavonoids. When applied to the skin, antioxidants can reduce wrinkles, firm skin, lessen the effects of acne and repair sun damage. As for the benefits of aloe vera, not much needs to be said. It’s rich in polyphenols, an antioxidant that prevents the growth of bacteria that cause infections and inflammation. When used regularly, aloe vera can reduce and prevent wrinkles by increasing collagen production. It also sooths sunburn and other skin irritations. The ancient Egyptians used it to reduce fever and treat burns and wounds. Cleopatra used it in her daily skin regimen.
As our largest organ, skin bears the most signs of ageing, so it’s only natural that we should take good care of it. Applying face masks made with natural ingredients is an effective and harmless way to protect our skin and combat the effects of ageing. My personal favourite is the aloe vera face mask, which I find to be the easiest to make and the least messy.
While it’s common to find natural components in many commercial beauty products, why not save money by devising your own treatment at home? Read on to get ideas on how to get started.
Aloe Vera face mask
Cut off a long spine near the base, wash, and cut into chunks 4-5 inches long. Cut one section in half lengthwise to expose the jellylike insides. Rub the exposed side over your face and neck. Sit back and relax for 20 minutes and rinse off. That’s it!
If you wish, spoon the translucent gel into a small bowl, mash with a fork or blend, and spread it over your skin with your fingers.
Aloe vera also works well as a hair gel. Simply work the gel into your hair as you would a manufactured hair gel. I found it worked just as well. You can also make a healthy juice out of aloe vera by blending it with lemon or orange juice.
I bought a big hunk of aloe vera for MMK 1,000 from a woman near the intersection of Mahabandoola and 26th Streets. To store, scoop the gel into a glass bottle with a tight lid or cut the leaves close to the base of the plant, wrap in plastic cling film or a plastic bag and store in the fridge, thorns facing up. Or, to have an ongoing supply, grow your own. I’ve seen aloe vera plants sold at the nurseries in Kandawgyi Park near Go Green, across from the Japanese Embassy.
Avacado face mask
To make an avocado face mask, cut the avocado in half and remove the seed. Eat one half and scrape the creamy green flesh from the other half into a bowl. Mash well with a fork or use a blender (the smoother the paste, the easier it is to spread evenly). Smooth the paste evenly over your face and relax for 20 minutes or so for it to work its magic. Wipe the excess off with a tissue to avoid blocking your drain and then rinse off the remainder with water.
Papaya Face Mask
Cut a small papaya in half and remove the seeds. Save half to eat and spoon the flesh from the other half into a small bowl. Mash with a fork or blend until smooth. Spread over your face and neck and wait 20 minutes. Wipe and rinse.
Turmeric to whiten teeth
I’ve sprinkled turmeric into my morning smoothies for years, as I’ve long known turmeric is an anti-inflammatory agent that prevents disease and promotes good health. But I’ve recently started using turmeric to brighten and whiten my teeth. And it really works. It couldn’t be any easier. Simply dip your toothbrush into some ground turmeric (I keep mine in a small tea cup) and brush over clean teeth. Let sit for three to five minutes, rinse well and then brush your teeth with regular toothpaste.
Studies have shown that turmeric benefits overall oral health by reducing plaque, gingivitis symptoms and bacterial activity. To make turmeric mouthwash, add water to turmeric powder to make a thick paste, swish it around your mouth, spit and rinse. Note that turmeric turns everything it touches bright yellow, though most stains are easily washed out. You can buy turmeric powder in packages from CityMart or in bulk at the Thein Gyi Market near 26th and Mahabandoola.
Coffee Foot Scrub
As I walk a lot in sandals, my feet get very dirty. I was delighted to discover that coffee grounds make an excellent foot scrub that cleans my feet and rubs away dead skin very effectively. And it feels great. Simply soap your feet and the area around your ankles, then massage them with coffee grounds before rinsing. I recommend rinsing into a plastic tub and then pouring the water and grounds into the toilet, as the grounds may eventually block drains. You can also use the grounds to smooth your hands, elbows and other rough areas. You can even make your own exfoliating soap bar by pressing the grounds into a wet bar of soap. I like to scoop the grounds from my French press into a glass jar, which I then leave in the shower room, ready to use when needed.