Beauty really is different for everyone, isn't it? And it is always best when it feels good. Here is a little compendium of things I picked up along the way and still love because they work for me. If you find anything interesting or inspiring, it would please me; if there's something you wish to share, I'd welcome it!
I studied French dressmaking with a third-generation Armenian dressmaker in her 80s. Her mother had been a dressmaker for the Ottoman dynasty in the final years of the Empire. My teacher was a couture magician and had zero tolerance for anyone who wasn't so her class was both fascinating and terrifying, despite the fact that she only came to my shoulders (and I am 5'1"). One evening I had a fitting for a homework garment and asked a classmate for her opinion on length. Big mistake. Madame I-can't-remember-her-name-she-scared me-so-much looked up and shouted: Why would you EVER ask anyone else what they think of what you are wearing and what length suits you? She was so angry that she ignored me for the next half an hour. But she gave it to me for life because she was absolutely right.
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate: We all know we need water for clear skin that glows, for cells to detoxify, for homeostasis, mood and energy. During part of the summer I can drink up to 3 liters of water, but this isn't for everyone, and its not even always for me.
I like to use different drinks, not just plain water for different effects. I am sugar sensitive, and I believe good clear skin has a lot to do with a stabilized blood sugar levels. Over time, tea and spiked water have become central to my health and well being routine because they work for me. When I'm drinking like this, my skin is at its best. Again, you have to know how you are feeling and what feeling you are after.
Aloe vera juice straight: I usually take a probiotic supplement with the aloe vera, so it is an easy pairing, and done. OR lemon in hot water with or without raw honey: The lemon gives me superb mood boost that is good for the skin. I find this is great once a day, best in the morning, to keep the body alkaline and get the good vitamin C, which of course helps with collagen production. Followed by...
Matcha for my morning (along with matcha in my cleanser), because I love the taste and the antioxidants, and the alpha waves, and because I like to focus, not reel. And then jasmine green tea for the rest of the day, unless it is meal time-- then I like Hoji-Cha. And no bags of tea, please--unless I'm desperate. I like loose leaf tea so sometimes when I'm really organized, I l keep a tea ball prepared in my handbag. So much tea may be way too much caffeine for most people. I probably drink 4-6 cups depending on the day.
Gotu kola (Centella asiatica), or one of the Brahmis, in my midday water for mental clarity, energy, and its benefits for skin, hair and nails. I don't filter my water because it is well water and I'll take all the minerals. I also like that it isn't treated with fluoride.
2 teaspoons of Organic Sulfur or MSM (Methylsufonylmethane) in another glass of water. This is great for allergies, inflammation, joint health, and collagen production. MSM is quite bitter, but I drink it straight (because I'm kind of lazy) and have become used to it. Btw, this goes well with the lemon water, because the vitamin C helps absorb the MSM. One has to chase MSM with several glasses of water for it to be very effective. So I do, or at least I try to.
Nightcaps: Lavender Tea & Ashwagandha. Lavender is perfect for winding down, and combined with mint it is a great digestive. I also love it because when I am with my parents we drink lots of it together, so it always reminds me of them.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an adaptogenic herb that I only drink at night. I began using it as a blood sugar stabilizer and as a gorgeous sleep promoter when my 6 year old was a baby and my 11 year old was 6. I recently got an ashwagandha plant and it is beautiful. I've tried consuming it in different forms: powder, cut root, & tincture. They all seem to have different effects, but I like simmering roots in water, for the sweetness of the flavor and for the sepulchral sleep.
Coffee None in the last five years--it gave me too much of a cortisol response. I loved it so much I had to walk away from it altogether because it wrecked my blood sugar stability. I am over missing it, but I love to smell it still.
Alcohol I don't really like it. It messes with my blood sugar, my mental clarity, and is like straight sugar and fire to my very vata/pitta constitution. It adversely affects my skin instantaneously, as in: Here, have a drink, have a blemish. If it is something sparkling--crisp, white and very dry, or an occasional gfree beer, I might say yes to half a glass and deal with the consequences if it is a nice social occasion. But then I have to have lots and lots of water and more tea. Otherwise its not worth it. I drink so little that If I really need to take the edge off, kombucha usually does the trick.
On Saturdays I drink a shot of expressed ginger in hot water. I get it easily at a place close to my daughter's violin lesson. Then I enjoy it in the warm, zen environment of her teacher's home.
Regular meals and lots of probiotic-rich, fermented foods. If I'm cooking at home lot, then I'm preparing and eating nutritious but simple food.
8-9 hours. I usually have less, unfortunately, but I am at my level best when I get 8-9 hours. I have particularly good rest if, in the dark before sleeping: 1) I can visualize my whole day backwards with detachment so I have less to work out in dreams, and 2) I tell myself I'm going to sleep as if for 100 years. If I don't have great sleep, my skin will remind me all day long to try, try, try again.
If you are reading this, you know that I like my skincare fresh, probiotic, and aromatherapeutic. For me Balbec is a gift every day. I love it for how it saved my skin and for how it soothes, cleanses, and leaves my skin soft and protected. I adore how the cleansers, hydrosols, and oils work together, and the calming energy I get from breathing deeply when using it at the end of the day. I do think cleansing is the most important step of topical skincare and I do love a double cleanse...more on that here.
For the body I like to briskly dry brush my body with a rough cotton mit that my sister brought me from Istanbul and then follow with a single-ingredient oil (camellia seed or jojoba) onto the skin. I like a very warm/ hot shower, so the oil protects me a bit and I come out moisturized. I have my daughters do this too, especially in winter, but I am very gentle with the dry brushing on their young skin.
Favorite Makeup Inspiration
It comes from Santemeridien/Intelsoma's founder Junnon Merigoux. When she came to NYC for a visit in 2005, her make up consisted of one item: a bright greeny blue eye shadow pencil that she had acquired in Japan during a forced shopping trip with her mother and aunt. She told me she bought it because had seen a bird with just that color lining the top of its dark eye and she wanted the same effect. Of course it was perfect on her and she completely changed the way I related to makeup.
Anti Aging: I tend to focus on my teeth
because that is where I've noticed that age can really show. So I called my cousin Meera Tailor who is a dentist in the UK for a quick fact check. She said good oral hygiene is straightforward and simple, and the lion's share of it is proper home care every day.
1) Clean every single surface on each tooth. Meaning clean in between teeth with floss or water irrigator. 2) Brush well twice a day (electric tooth brush preferred) 3) Do NOT forget to brush the tongue. 4) Too much of an acid ph in the mouth is not good so be careful with the sparkling water, the sugary snacks, and (here's where I'm going to consider myself forewarned but drink it anyway) lemon water, especially hot lemon water. These acids (lemon hasn't turned alkaline yet in the body) tend to contribute to bacteria build up, wreak havoc on the enamel, and promote tooth decay. I will say that I love my irrigator and my floss and my electric toothbrush.
When I am around dust around (in attics, basements, rearranging books, etc), I have found that if I wear a mask, I will save my skin from a breakout, because I am sensitive to dust. Directly after a dusty activity, I precleanse with oil, and then leave a clay and yogurt cleanser on for an extra few minutes. I follow with hydrosol, then oil, and I feel great.
In the morning if it is not freezing cold, I walk on the wet grass or stand on the moss barefoot for a few minutes to absorb the earth's electrons. It feels great and it is anti-inflammatory. I make my daughters do it too.
"I saw all the mirrors on earth and none of them reflected me." --Jorge Luis Borges
**photo from: Fantasia of Color in Early Cinema, by Gunning, Yumibe, Fossati, & Rosen (2015)