Having spent three months travelling around India last year and visiting Kerala again this year to shoot the cover story for SUITCASE Vol. 15, Bunny Hazel Clarke naturally developed a curiosity for the country’s beauty secrets. You might have heard of Ayurveda, an ancient holistic system of medicine which acknowledges nature’s power on every aspect of the body, particularly the skin – every ailment has a concoction with some serious healing potential, so she made it her mission to collect and try out everything she could get her hands on…
It all began with a slightly naïve moment on a beach in Gokarna when I cut my leg badly on a rock and, before I knew it, had an ‘Eat, Pray Love’ moment where an elderly jewellery seller had gone running into the jungle in search of some medicinal leaves. Just like in the book, she crushed up the plants and made a paste to spread on my leg (much to my friend’s worry and amusement). Thanks to the heat and some ill-advised swimming in the sea, my leg didn’t heal and her efforts were a waste – but I still wonder if her treatment would have worked otherwise. Arguably not the best start to plant power, I began my search for more skincare-focused ingredients to discover if their potency could work on me.
I’m currently road testing an oil made with saffron extract – something I’d only ever thought of as a fragrant ingredient in the finest cuisine. Saffron is supposed to promote an even skin tone and after a few weeks of using it under my make-up I can say that any remaining red marks from spots have vanished. It’s like my skin has a natural tinted moisturiser effect and all I’m topping it up with is an under-eye brightener. Look out for this wonder ingredient in Nuxe’s Nuxuriance ultra anti-ageing rich cream, packed with 88% natural ingredients (including saffron bi-floral cells). It offers targeted and continuous action, stimulating the generation of new major cells and in turn creating a more even complexion.
A wonderfully hippy friend in LA swears by a weekly turmeric face mask to brighten and even out her complexion. There are two types of turmeric: kasthuri manjal (wild turmeric) and curcuma longa (the stuff you use in cooking). Wild turmeric has antiseptic and antibacterial properties and can be mixed with milk or water to create a 15 to 30 minute face mask – with regular use it can apparently remove scars and unwanted facial hair. If you don’t want to make your own, Kiehl’s have a turmeric and cranberry seed energising radiance masque, which calms and brighten as the seeds gently exfoliate.
Neem is another wonder ingredient which I came across countless times in India, where it’s known for its antibacterial, anti-fungal and antiviral properties. In addition to its function as a liver cleanser, neem is one of Ayurveda’s primary plants for reducing inflammation and purifying the blood. It doesn’t smell great but neem oil is high in vitamin E and rich in emollients and fatty acids. As such, it is useful for the treatment of skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and acne. A. Vogel’s soothing neem cream is made from the tincture of neem leaf and will calm allergic reactions and insect bites.
When in northern India, you’ll find rose petals in everything from lassis to incense, though rose water is the one to look out for. A forgotten beauty recipe in the modern world of micellar waters, it’s as effective as it is simple for its hydrating and toning properties. Try Jurlique’s classic rose water balancing mist or Pukka’s organic rose water. Go for a generous spritz after cleansing to tighten pores and remove the last traces of make-up.