Homemade Rice Flour and Licorice Exfoliator (& Some Books about DIY Skincare)

I wrote this post a few years ago, and since then I’ve been saving a ton of money by making a lot of my own skincare items.  I just cleaned our linen closet out, where we keep all of our extra bathroom things, and I’ve found several glass jars of various creams, one of which may or may not have been made out of tallow because of some crazy blog post I read a few years ago. And in the same clean-out I threw out the remnants of a probably $10 container of some organic exfoliator I had bought at the health food co-op last year. It just didn’t work very well, and I wish I had saved the $10 and just gone back to making my own exfoliator (recipe below).

I’ve been re-inspired about this after recently reading a few lovely books (Skin Cleanse and The French Beauty Solution) that both contain a bounty of skincare recipes by women who know their stuff. There are obviously about 70 billion blog posts written by random people with random make-it-yourself skin care ideas (of which yes, this is one), and I’ve used a lot of them. (I’ve used this recipe for deodorant for over 3 years now I think. Costs pennies, and uses zero plastic.) But I do think it’s helpful to have a book or two written by a somewhat qualified person if you really want to learn more about making your own skincare products.

ANYWAY. Adina Grigore, the author of Skin Cleanse compellingly lays out how companies market skin care products to us by making us believe that our skin is too oily, too wrinkly, our pores are too large, that we are deficient and ugly and we need their product in order to be beautiful. I think it is deeply important and good for us to learn how to care for our whole selves, skin and all, with gentleness and grace, and that sometimes skin care products are part of that. But for some reason, reading Skin Cleanse made it click with me that I do not want to literally buy into that whole scheme. I will NOT be a cog on the wheel of the mass marketing of skincare products. Also, I can’t afford to buy all that crap.  So I’ve been using some of the Skin Cleanse  and French Beauty recipes. Buying 90% fewer skin care products in stores.

Which made me remember this exfoliator, some version of which I’ve used off and on for years now.

So. One of my favorite skin care products of all time (which I have bought exactly once in my life, now over 8 years ago) is Dermalogica’s Daily Microfoliant.  It is a super fine powder that you mix with water and use wash your face.  It isn’t abrasive at all, and it made my skin feel unbelievably lovely.  It contained oatmeal, rice powder, and licorice root extract, among other things.  When I ran out all those years ago, I decided to make my own version of it instead of buying a new (very expensive) bottle.

The first time I made this I used my coffee grinder to grind brown rice.  Unfortunately, my grinder wasn’t able to get the rice fine enough, so I bought some rice flour at the grocery to use instead. I just kept the bag in the freezer and have used it for subsequent batches. (I also added goat’s milk powder, as it is part of the skin regimen recommended for oily skin in Absolute Beauty, a wonderful book on Ayurveda and health/beauty/skincare).  This stuff is wonderful, and has such a calming effect on the skin.  Here’s the recipe:

Rice flour and Licorice Cleansing Grains

Mix together 3 T brown rice flour, 3 T oat flour, 2 T milk powder* (doesn’t have to be goat’s milk), and about 1/2 t. licorice root powder (probably easiest to find in capsule form. I used 3-4 capsules, gently broken open (discard the capsules)).  Mix together, and put through a sifter if the milk powder is clumpy.  To use: Once or twice a week– Remove makeup first, if wearing makeup.  Mix about 1/2 t. powder with lukewarm water and massage gently over damp skin.  Rinse, and pat dry.  (You can also mix into a thicker paste and leave on your skin for 10 minutes as a mask.)

Store in a clean salt/pepper shaker for easy dispensing!

*Some people may be sensitive to the milk powder.  If you have a milk allergy, obviously don’t use this ingredient, and if you experience any irritation, discontinue use.

Licorice root is soothing to the skin, anti-inflammatory, helps with acne and eczema, and is often used in skin-brightening products.

Rice powder is also used to lighten skin and clear the complexion.

Milk powder contains lactic acid, which is a type of alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) which works as a gentle exfoliator, promotes the production of collagen, and helps improve skin texture.  It is also hydrating and has anti-bacterial qualities.  Helps to even out skin tone and diminish scars.

 

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Easy Way to Save Money! (And a few pictures of life around here)

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So probably everybody already uses Ebates, or there’s some really dreadful thing about it that I just don’t know yet, but I just heard about it and signed up for it and even just used it to buy some insoles for my LL Bean slippers (the shearling is totally worn out in my right heel, not sure why). SO for anyone doing last-minute Christmas shopping this is a super easy and awesome resource for saving some money! (Well, making some money back on stuff you would be buying anyway).

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So anyway, for people who might not know: Ebates is a website where you can sign up, and when you use their website to shop online you get a certain percentage back in cash. They just mail you a check. Or put money in your PayPal account! You don’t give them your social security number, your bank account numbers, or anything scary like that.

You can shop at just about any website at all: Amazon, Gap, Nordstrom, J. Crew, Groupon, Snapsfish, Sephora, Target,  Amazon, Walmart, Ebay, and on and on. Even Etsy!!! And did I say Amazon?! And travel booking websites! You just go to the ebates website, and search for the store or item you’re looking for, click that link to go straight to whatever website you want, and get cash back for stuff you would have bought anyway.

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Today a lot of the cash back deals are doubled, so for a lot of stores you can get 10% cash back. And when you sign up and spend $25 in purchases within the first few months, you get a $10 credit. And you still get each individual store’s discounts! So for example, everything at Lands End is 40% off today, and if you shop through Ebates, you get that 40% off plus 8% cash back through ebates.

And if you refer 3 friends you get a $100 credit. So that’s awesome.  (If you sign up using this link you will count as one of my 3 people, ahem, mom, dad, etc, cough, cough.)

Ok, that’s all for now!

Cucumber Lemon Water

Beautiful, thundery morning in Ithaca.  I woke up early and read The Silver Chair on the couch for an hour or so before John woke up.  When he woke up we sat on the porch watching the rain and talking about our tiny garden and plans for the day.

I’ve been making a big pitcher of lemon water lately– just squeezing one lemon into a 2-liter jar.  Sometimes I add some slices of cucumber to it.

Lemon water is really helpful for maintaining bright, clear skin, and cucumber is also beneficial for the skin, containing plenty of anti-oxidants and helping to reduce inflammation in the body.  Cucumber also is a gentle diuretic and helps to cleanse the digestive system (which in turn helps to clear the skin).

Give yourself an easy, nearly free spa day:  drink lots of lemon cucumber water (or just lemon water if that’s all you have), take a break from makeup, and avoid sugar and bread-y food.  Do some yoga if you’re into that, or just remind yourself to take really long, deep, deliberate breaths as often as you can remember. If you have time, do a little facial at home, like these or this one with just honey, lemon juice, and banana.  Also, check out this article for an ayurvedic weekend detox or this 7 Day Detox plan (though not if you’re pregnant or nursing!).

Cucumber Lemon Water

1 lemon

1/4 c. sliced cucumber

2 liters of water

Squeeze lemon juice (through a strainer if you want to keep the seeds out) into the water.  Add cucumber slices.  Stir or shake to help the juices blend into the water.  (Store in the fridge.  Best to drink this within 2 days.  After that, discard and make a fresh batch).

Basil, Mint, and Kiwi Sorbet (no sugar added)

I bought a few kiwis at the grocery this week, planning to cut them in half and eat them out of their skins with a spoon.

But then I decided to make some sorbet.   I didn’t add any sugar, so the end result was pleasantly tart.

(Kiwi is packed with vitamin C and contains fiber, potassium, vitamin E, and the antioxidant lutein.)

Basil, Mint, and Kiwi Sorbet

(serves 1-2)

2 kiwis

1 T chopped fresh basil and mint

(optional– 1 t. raw honey, agave nectar, or sugar, to taste)

Scoop the green flesh (including seeds) out of the kiwis into a bowl.  Using a small knife or fork, gently chop/mash the kiwi (or blend/food process for a smoother consistency if you’d like).  Add chopped herbs, stir, and freeze for an hour or two.  Depending on how frozen yours gets and how you want to serve it, you might want to run a little lukewarm water on the outside of the container to loosen the sorbet.

Variations:  Try half and half kiwi and avocado (add some lime juice and a teaspoon of finely diced, seeded, jalapeno?).  Or kiwi and banana.  Or kiwi plus some pineapple.  Make in popsicle molds or freeze in individual serving cups.

Health Benefits of Raw Honey

I think the first time I ever encountered raw honey was in France.  But I didn’t know it was raw, and I didn’t know there was a difference between regular honey and raw honey.

It was in the kitchen of the parents of the woman whose children I was there to nanny.  In a wisp of a town on the coast of Brittany.  And there was always a little pot of honey on the counter in the kitchen.  A soft, solid-ish, creamy, golden kind of honey.  I had never seen semi-solid honey before. But I would put a teaspoon in my afternoon cups of herbal tea and it tasted like heaven.  Nothing like the regular liquid honey you typically see in stores.

So what is raw honey, anyway?  Raw honey is unpasteurized; “regular” honey has been heated, a process which also depletes the honey of most of its healthful properties. Raw honey will cost a tiny amount more than regular honey, but it is worth it, I promise.  Also, if you can find it locally produced, of course buy that.  Raw honey will often come in a solid or semi-solid form and can range in color and taste, depending on the type or types of flowers the bees have been visiting, the season, etc.

Health Benefits of Raw Honey  (these benefits do not apply to regular honey– look for a label that says Raw)

* Contains propolis, which is a substance the bees produce to keep bacteria and viruses out of their hive.  The propolis contains a number of healthful enzymes that are destroyed when honey is heated (i.e., regular grocery honey– or even raw honey is heated above about 118 degrees f.).  And people, I do not know what enzymes are, I’m just going to be honest with you.  But they’re important. (Some theorize that the body’s appearance of aging is connected with the depletion of enzymes, and raw honey is one of the few foods that can be ingested to get a surplus of amalase, an important enzyme.)

* Contains healthy bacteria (such as are found in yogurt and fermented foods)

* Full of powerful anti-oxidants, including the flavanoid pinocembrin, which is unique to honey

* Can be used topically as a moisturizing and acne-fighting mask, which is great, if you are approaching 30 and are trying to somehow battle aging skin and blemishes at the same time, which is something that I obviously don’t know anything about, but it would really suck I bet.

* Aids digestion

*Alkaline forming

*Increases fertility

*Heals burns and other skin wounds (obviously please check with a doctor first for serious injuries)

* Helps to keep blood sugar balanced more than white sugar (has a lower Glycemic Index number, which means it’s absorbed more slowly into the bloodstream– but still, if you are watching your weight, be careful because even raw honey will still cause you to gain weight.)

* Thought to help improve symptoms of allergies

* Also reported to slow down hair loss (read here for more)

*A study at Penn State showed that children with upper respiratory illness improved significantly when given raw buckwheat honey (see here)

* Elderberry syrup and raw honey work wonders together for colds and other such sicknesses (I had a terrible sore throat a few weeks ago, the kind that, for me, usually turns into 2 weeks of misery and a couple of visits to the doctor and a round of antibiotics– and I drank somewhat enormous quantities of homemade elderberry syrup with raw honey… and I got better.  Fast.)

Be careful not to feed honey to infants under 1 year.

Raw Honey and Heat

Just as regular store-bought honey is rendered less healthy by a heating process, raw honey can be damaged by over-eating as well.  In Ayurveda, heated honey (above 118 F) is actually believed to be a poison to the body.  I’m not sure why, but I do know that the living enzymes and probiotics in raw honey will be killed at 118 degrees F, so try to keep it warm, rather than hot.  (You can test a liquid for temperature with your finger– if you can keep your finger in it for 10 seconds or so without pain, you know it’s cool enough to put the honey in.  If it’s hotter than that, the enzymes and probiotics will be destroyed.)

Sources and More Information

Read here for more information on medical studies, the history of honey, etc.

Read here for a list of ailments for which honey can be used as a treatment

A somewhat inscrutable John’s Hopkins article on enzymes and aging

Read here for more information on honey and Ayurveda

Health Benefits of Ginger

Ginger has been used medicinally in China and India for ages.  Pickled ginger is eaten with many meals in Japan.  It’s delicious and has warming properties, so it makes a great winter-time tea.  Ginger is especially beneficial for the digestive system (which in turn is beneficial for the skin).

[As always, if you are pregnant of breast-feeding please check with your physician.  This post is not meant to diagnose or treat any illnesses.]

Health Benefits of ginger

* Contains the powerful anti-oxidant gingerol, which promotes elasticity and radiance in the skin

* In Ayurveda, it is believed that ginger clears out ama (which are toxins that are the source of disease, according to Ayurveda) from the body

* Stimulating and warming (dry ginger more so than fresh)

* Helps to calm upset stomachs and relieve nausea, morning sickness, and motion sickness (In traditional Chinese medicine, ginger tea is drunk to help relieve menstrual cramps)

* Aids the digestive process.  Promotes the secretion of digestive enzymes, can reduce bloating and other digestive issues.

* Anti-viral properties– helps to prevent and relieve common cold

* Lowers cholesterol

* Acts as an anti-histamine and helps to relieve allergies

* Anti-inflammatory– helps alleviate symptoms of arthritis.  The anti-inflammatory properties may also help to relieve eczema and acne.

Ways to Prepare

*Fresh and dry ginger contain different healing properties, so feel free to use both!  I use a lot of ginger powder when I am not feeling up to the task of peeling fresh ginger.

Ginger tea:  You can easily make fresh ginger tea by boiling some pieces of ginger (skin on) in water for about 10 minutes.  You can make a super concentrated batch of this and keep it in a glass jar in the fridge– just add a little to your cup and top with boiling water.  You can also just dissolve half a teaspoon of ginger powder in hot water!

Ginger Peanut sauce: In a small saucepan over low heat mix about 1/4 c soy sauce, 1/3 c. peanut butter, 1/2 c. water, 1 T fresh chopped (peeled) ginger, a dash of cayenne pepper, 1 T sugar (brown or white, or honey or agave nectar), 1 T. rice vinegar (or apple cider vinegar) and 1 T each fish sauce and sesame oil if you have some.  Add more ginger to taste.  You can substitute dry ginger powder if you want.  Use as a sauce for noodles, tempeh, or stir-fried vegetables.

Ginger ale— I haven’t made this but it looks pretty easy.

Lacto-fermented ginger

Pickled ginger

Sources

Read about some medical studies with ginger (studies dealing with morning sickness, arthritis, ovarian and other kinds of cancer)

Ginger in Ayurveda (also, here)

weird culinary things to do if you don’t have a job

I know what you’re thinking, if you’re my parents/adoring husband/other productive member of society: “I can think of a weird culinary thing to do if you don’t have a job, and it’s called look for a job!!!!”

And you would be right.  Yes.  So I will go try to apply for some jobs, right after I finish this and maybe one or two other things that are pretty important.

So, this morning I bought a slab of tamarind at the grocery for $1.49.  And I made tamarind paste.  Tamarind paste is made from the fruit of the tamarind tree, which is in the evergreen family, apparently? To quote the authors of this lovely cookbook (which every man, woman, and child should own and read and cherish forever): “tamarind tastes of dense, sour dried fruit with a strong sense of citrus and a lingering sweetness.” It is commonly used in Indian, Thai, and Caribbean cuisine.  You can use it for pad thai, curries, etc.  (And it’s full of vitamins and all sorts of things that are wonderful for your health!)

[IMPORTANT UPDATE:  tamarind and chocolate is the most wonderful combination of all time.  Put a dollop of tamarind paste on some brownies and you will be so happy.]

For most people, who have jobs and lead productive lives, making their own tamarind paste from scratch may not be worth it (though it is beyond easy and pretty fun and takes about 30 minutes and probably less if you have a better strainer than I!).  So just in case anyone wants to know here’s how you do it (I learned how from this beautiful post— worth a read, and check out what she says about her grandmother using tamarind for her skin! hooray! new weird thing to try for my skin!!):

How to make tamarind paste/pulp (better yet, read her instructions!): Put tamarind in a bowl with equal amount of water (I used oz of tamarind and 8 oz water).  Slowly twist and break off pieces of the tamarind and sort of knead/massage/pull/press it until it turns into a paste.  At first you will think you are crazy and that it will never turn into anything resembling a paste, but you are wrong. Keep working at it, and soon you will have a pulpy paste. Press through a strainer* (save pulp for a little facial scrub or mask).  And voila: tamarind paste.  It will last for maybe a week in the fridge, and you can freeze what you don’t want to use for later (freeze 2-3 T each in small ziplock bags)

* The tamarind paste wouldn’t go through the strainer very easily– I had to press for awhile and then scrape the paste from the underside of the strainer.  It would have been easier using something with slightly bigger holes! (As you can see it is a messy process.  But also satisfying, wrestling a block of tamarind into a silky paste with your bare hands.)

And I ended up with this (about a cup of tamarind paste!):

To read more about the health benefits of tamarind.  Oh, the Splendid Table ladies recommend drizzling it over whole-milk yogurt, which sounds amazing.

health benefits of ghee

For the past week or so (as part of my new skin care regimen, based on the recommendation of this book) I have been drinking warm milk (or maybe half and half diluted with a little water because I didn’t have any milk) with a teaspoon of ghee at night before bed.  I also add a pinch of turmeric and the whole thing is just golden and lovely.

Ghee (a staple in Indian cooking and similar to clarified butter) is butter that has been heated until the water is cooked off, the milk protein (or casein), lactose and other milk solids sink to the bottom, some impurities rise to the top to be skimmed off, and the milk solids are strained out, leaving pure, golden, beautiful, delicious ghee.

According to a 16th c. Ayrvedic text,  “Ghee is sweet in taste and cooling in energy, rejuvenating, good for the eyes and vision, kindles digestionbestows luster and beauty, enhances memory and stamina, increases intellect, promotes longevity, is an aphrodisiac and protects the body from various diseases” (quoted from here).

HEALTH BENEFITS:

* anti-inflammatory

*alkaline-forming

* stimulates the digestive system and may promote weight loss

* “lubricates connective tissues and promotes flexibility”

* said to help brain function and assist in mental health

* promotes healthy glow in the skin

* highly recommended for women during pregnancy (though of course please check with your physician or a qualified nutritionist first)

* helps to heal burns

* contains conjugated linoleic acid, a powerful antioxidant

*Ghee will last indefinitely stored at room temperature (if kept in an airtight container and moisture-free), and its beneficial properties grow better with age— up to 100 years, according to one article I read.

*Its chemical structure withstands very high temperatures– over 400 F– which makes it ideal for cooking.

HOW TO MAKE, AND USES

I just bought mine at the store, but if you want to make your own it’s very easy.  You will need unsalted (preferably organic) butter and some cheesecloth or clean dishtowel.  Here’s a video that will teach you how, and some good written instructions here.  You can use ghee just about anywhere you would use other cooking oils– you can sautee vegetables in it, roast potatoes in it, etc. (I don’t think you can replace butter with ghee in baking, though!)

THE BEAUTY OF FAT

So yes, ghee is very high in fat, but this stuff actually will help you to lose weight if taken with moderation.  Here’s an interesting article about what happened when Indians stopped eating ghee and Americans stopped eating butter (the link includes a video showing how to make ghee).  And another interesting article on the nutritional benefits  of regular butter. This is a heated topic in nutritional circles, and again, I am not a microbiologist or nutritionist or chemist. But I also drink half and half with melted (basically) butter at night, and I haven’t gained an ounce of weight. I mean, if you eat a pound of ghee a day you might be in trouble, but a heaping teaspoon in some milk is not a problem.

Sources:

The Yoga Journal

The Health Benefits of Cooking with Ghee

Agriculture Society

tips for healthy skin, part 6: homemade rice flour and licorice root cleanser

One of my favorite skin care products of all time (which I have bought exactly once in my life) is Dermalogica’s Daily Microfoliant.  It is a super fine powder that you mix with water and use wash your face.  It isn’t abrasive at all, and it made my skin feel unbelievably lovely.  It contained oatmeal, rice powder, and licorice root extract, among other things.  Alas, I ran out, and so I decided to make my own version of it instead of buying a new (very expensive) bottle.

My first attempt, a few weeks ago, I used my coffee grinder to grind the brown rice.  Unfortunately, my grinder wasn’t able to get the rice fine enough, so I bought some rice flour at the grocery to use instead.  (I have also added goat’s milk powder, as it is part of the skin regimen recommended for oily skin in Absolute Beauty, the book on ayurveda I’ve been reading and highly recommend).  This stuff is wonderful, and has such a calming effect on the skin.  Here’s the recipe:

Rice flour and Licorice Cleansing Grains

Mix together 3 T brown rice flour, 3 T oat flour, 2 T milk powder* (doesn’t have to be goat’s milk), and about 1/2 t. licorice root powder (probably easiest to find in capsule form. I used 3-4 capsules, gently broken open (discard the capsules)).  Mix together, and put through a sifter if the milk powder is clumpy.  To use: Remove makeup first, if wearing makeup.  Mix about 1/4 t. powder with lukewarm water and massage gently over damp skin.  Rinse, and pat dry.  (You can also mix into a thicker paste and leave on your skin for 10 minutes as a mask.)

Store in a clean salt/pepper shaker for easy dispensing!

*Some people may be sensitive to the milk powder.  If you have a milk allergy, obviously don’t use this ingredient, and if you experience any irritation, discontinue use.

Licorice root is soothing to the skin, anti-inflammatory, helps with acne and eczema, and is often used in skin-brightening products.

Rice powder is also used to lighten skin and clear the complexion.

Milk powder contains lactic acid, which is a type of alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) which works as a gentle exfoliator, promotes the production of collagen, and helps improve skin texture.  It is also hydrating and has anti-bacterial qualities.  Helps to even out skin tone and diminish scars.

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