Whip up these simple at-home beauty treatments for a glow straight from the Mediterranean.
Mediterranean Spa Treatments: The sunny region bordering the Mediterranean Sea has long been associated with health and beauty. In fact, many modern beauty treatments and products originated in ancient Greece and Rome. This region provides skin- and body-healthy ingredients, such as fresh herbs, oils and honey—all full of skin-beautifying and anti-aging nutrients.
Fresh Mediterranean herbs such as oregano and thyme have been used for centuries because they are strong antioxidants and also contain antibacterial properties. Pure honey has been used as a natural energizer and is also a natural humectant, attracting and locking in moisture. Natural oils such as olive and grapeseed are used to cleanse and moisturize skin and hair. Grapeseed oil is easily absorbed by the skin and is also loaded with resveratrol, the same antioxidant found in red wine. Other popular ingredients that can be used to keep your skin and hair clean and healthy are pine nuts, chickpeas, Greek-style yogurt and fresh tomatoes.
The Turkish hamam, or bath, is an ancient healing treatment that has been around for thousands of years and is still popular today, especially in western Europe. The hamam also can refer to a structure, specially outfitted for the treatment. A full treatment includes a time of relaxation, dry brushing, bathing, skin exfoliation, and a massage of rich oils and lotions. There is no time limit, but give yourself at least an hour for complete head-to-toe pampering.
The process is similar to that of a sauna, where bathers sit in hot rooms and perspire before bathing in warm water followed by a cool water rinse. During the bathing process, scented soaps, body scrubs, and brushes are used to cleanse and refresh the skin. Some treatments include a massage with natural oils after bathing, then a period of relaxation in a cool room. Often, a cup of Turkish coffee or tea is enjoyed.
Thanks to modern plumbing, you can recreate the feeling of a hamam at home—just add a cup of mineral salts and a few drops of a favorite essential oil, such as sweet orange, to the tub, and soak away. Use a body scrub, like the Orange Spice Body Scrub, and a natural brush or loofah while bathing. Pat your skin dry with a Turkish towel (if you have one) and massage a rich natural oil such as grapeseed or olive oil into your skin to lock in moisture. Lie down in a cool room and enjoy a cup of spiced tea and relax, or even nap. Turn the page for some more simple at-home spa recipes to try.
GREEK-STYLE YOGURT: Found in the dairy section of your grocery store, Greek-style yogurt is thicker than regular yogurt and contains more protein. Use as a skin-cleansing and softening facial mask. Simply spread a tablespoon or two onto clean skin, let sit for 15 to 20 minutes, then rinse well.
GRAPESEED OIL: Found in the cooking oil section of your grocery store, grapeseed oil might seem an unlikely source for healthy skin. Unlike other heavy and greasy oils, this oil is light and easily absorbed by the skin. Grapeseed oil makes a wonderful after-bath or body oil to help seal in moisture.
PINE NUTS: Pine nuts are mostly known for making pesto, but they also are perfect for skin cleansing and make a mild scrub for sensitive skin types. Pine nuts contain pinolenic acid and pycnogenol, both powerful antioxidants. To use, simply grind fresh pine nuts in a food processor or blender and mix with a bit of Greek-style yogurt or water to create a skin scrub.
OREGANO: This popular herb is not just for pizza and Greek salads—it has powerful antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Ancient Greeks used oregano in their baths and in scented oils because they enjoyed the mood-altering, uplifting scent. Place a handful of fresh oregano inside a muslin tea bag and add to your bath, or add dried oregano leaves to bath salts and oils.
TOMATOES: These fresh red fruits make an excellent skin-cleansing mask perfect for oily skin types. They also help rid your complexion of blackheads and surface impurities because they are mildy acidic and cleansing. Tomato juice also is a well-known deodorizer and can be used as a hair rinse to rid your hair of strong smells, such as smoke.
Fresh thyme has been used by the Greeks as a cleanser since ancient times. Soldiers even bathed in thyme water to give themselves vigor and strength. They were onto something; thyme’s antiseptic properties make it a useful ingredient in skin cleaners, which is why we still use it for beauty products in modern times.
Janice Cox is the co-author, with her daughter, Lauren Cox, of EcoBeauty (Ten Speed Press, 2009).
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