The Prized Beauty Secrets of Indian Royalty
As generational practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine, and gatekeepers of some of the most powerful beauty and wellness formulas, the UMA family earned the honor of becoming family physicians - and the resident beauty experts - for much of Indian royalty. Here are some of our prized recipes.
Household Ingredients to the Rescue!
Some of the most powerful solutions for skincare – especially for skin ailments – came right from the backyard. Honey masks made for surefire remedies for everything from relieving acne to achieving that pre-wedding glow. Some of my favorite honey mask recipes? Bananas (or avocado), honey and cinnamon mashed together and applied to skin for 15 minutes and rinsed with cool water. Also, green tea and honey masks (yes, just empty your green tea bag into two tablespoons of honey!) are a powerful and instant anti-oxidant pick me up for your skin!
For the more stubborn type of acne – enter Neem. Known for its anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and antibacterial properties, this plant was often prescribed as a skin-protecting agent. The most traditional application of neem is made by crushing washed neem leaves into a paste and applying it to the skin. The paste can be left on skin for about 30 minutes. (Also works wonders as an overnight spot treatment!). If you would like to recreate this ritual, you don’t necessarily need the leaves! You can find neem leaf extract at many online retailers.
Finally, Indians have had a love affair with turmeric well before it made headlines! This ingredient has been a choice healing herb for centuries in Ayurveda. With a plethora of amazing benefits, it can be used to soften skin, reduce wrinkles and treat acne and oily skin. Try this turmeric remedy for clear skin: Take 2 tbsp of clay or sandalwood powder, ½ tsp of organic turmeric powder, ½ tsp of dry oats, a few drops of honey (or water for a vegan option) and mix it with water. Apply this evenly over the face for 15 minutes before washing off with lukewarm water. Use this mask daily until the acne subsides, and switch to weekly to keep blemishes from coming back! One thing to keep in mind: while using turmeric, use only in very small amounts to avoid leaving a yellowish tinge on skin.
Precious Natural Extracts
These wouldn’t be beauty rituals for the royals if they didn’t involve some uber-precious, rare ingredients! Still rare and very much prized by beauty aficionados today, these ingredients are fortunately more commonplace today. Three that you should consider incorporating (or find products that use them as a key ingredient) are frankincense, rose and sandalwood essential oils.
Immortality was constantly on the minds of Indian royalty, so it’s no surprise that princesses and queens sought any method to appear ageless, which is why frankincense was one of their most beloved beauty products despite its rarity. Frankincense essential oil aids in cellular turnover which can revitalize skin as well as limit the appearance of wrinkles.
Roses were also prized by royalty and rose gardens were considered a gorgeous show of opulence. A precious essential oil was derived from roses, which had the skin hydrating and brightening effects royal Indian woman craved. Pure rose essential oil is extremely difficult to produce; it takes 12,000 rose petals just to produce 5 ml of rose oil! You can still find it in skincare products today, but read the label, as many beauty brands try to cut costs by diluting rose oil with other less expensive essential oils.
Finally, sandalwood essential oil, rare because of government regulation in India and the necessary growth time for sandalwood trees (15 years!), was one of Indian royalty’s best kept beauty secrets. Its luminosity boosting and anti-inflammatory benefits made it an essential part of their ritual back then, and today it can be found in luxury beauty products.
Beauty rituals didn’t stop at the face
Lush, healthy locks were the crowning glory for Indian royalty (apologies for that irresistible pun!), who practiced a careful hair care routine that extended from protecting the strands to promoting scalp and root health.
One of the more popular remedies was moringa oil, which Ayurvedic therapy recommended for both hair and skin. Also called the “Miracle Tree,” moringa oil can moisturize the scalp and strengthen hair by delivering important nutrients to the hair follicles. Moringa oil can also fight dandruff and split ends. You can find pure Moringa Oil at certain retailers, or in certain hair products.
Indian Gooseberry (or amalaki) is another rich ingredient beloved for its hair benefits. Iron and carotene rich, this ingredient can treat dry hair, prevent hair loss and protect natural hair color. This ingredient can be found in a few hair products today.
Hair oil massage were an important part of the beauty routine, for good reason – it makes for deeper penetration of nutrients and boosts circulation in the scalp! Coconut, Almond or Olive oil might be readily available and provide a good substitute for moringa or amla when you’re up for a good head massage!
Household ingredients make a comeback here in hair masks: Eggs were commonly applied to the hair for 30 minutes before a shampoo for shine (optionally with a very small amount of yogurt for very dry or damaged hair). Diluted lemon juice was also used on the scalp for fighting dandruff. Word of caution with this last set of recommendations: they’re definitely for the brave of heart and can take a while to master (too much yogurt can leave hair excessively oily; eggs come with their smell that can linger!)
Tell us how you fare, princess!