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5 Beauty Secrets From India

05/08/2014 11:57 am ET | Updated Jul 08, 2014

Ever notice how Indian women have glowing skin and the shiniest hair?

Well, you're not alone.

While I was living in Mumbai though, you definitely wouldn't be able to mistake me for a local. With the intense humidity, my hair had never been frizzier and my skin, so out of control. I was in need of some serious help.

Conveniently, I was living at an orphanage with hundreds of girls -- who soon became my beauty mentors. These girls were humble, generous, brave and resilient, not letting their circumstances come in the way of their dreams. To me, they embodied being beautiful on the inside.

However, their outer beauty shone though too. They divulged these recipes, passed down from generation to generation: secrets for smooth skin and glossy hair.

All of these tricks are natural and effective. They're also relatively easy to source (most of can be found at your local Indian grocer or Whole Foods) and cheaper than buying chemical-laden products at the drugstore.

1. Coconut oil

Coconut oil is great for the scalp -- plus regular scalp massage promotes blood circulation and hair growth, and the oil provides a deep conditioning treatment for the hair as well. Take a tablespoon of coconut oil, heat it up and massage on your head. Leave on for an hour or two before washing off. Try using organic coconut oil as a body moisturizer too -- it works especially well in the winter. If your feet are feeling a little rough, put on a layer of coconut oil and sleep with some old socks on, and by the morning your feet should be feeling soft and smooth.

2. Turmeric

This root is packed with nutrients and beloved in India for cooking -- but it has also been used by Indian women for centuries to care for their skin. One of the most important ceremonies of an Indian wedding is the 'haldi' ceremony, where the bride prepares for her wedding by applying turmeric paste to her face (and the rest of her body) to make her skin vibrant. You can make your skin glow too by mixing 1 teaspoon of organic turmeric powder with enough yogurt and honey to make a thick paste. Apply the mixture to your face for 15 minutes or until dry and then wash off. You'll instantly be left with a bright, even complexion.

3. Gram flour

Essentially chickpea flour (also goes by 'besan flour'). Its coarse texture makes it ideal for a chemical-free exfoliant. Keep a jar of gram flower in the shower and mix it with a bit of water to make a simple body scrub that will improve your circulation. For those with acne prone skin, mix 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder with a few drops of lemon juice and a tablespoon of gram flour, and apply the paste to your face. Let dry for 15-20 minutes and wash off. This mask gently cleanses the skin while removing excess oils and residue.

4. Tulsi

Also known as holy basil, this plant is well loved in India for its healing properties. For women concerned about aging, this plant is your new friend, as it contains antioxidants to make you look more youthful. Make a simple face mask grinding Tulsi leaves in a mortar and pestle and adding a bit of honey to make a thick paste. Apply to the skin and wash off after 10 minutes. This mask replenishes cells and helps the skin retain its natural moisture, thereby delaying the aging process.

5. Amla

Also known as Indian gooseberry, it's especially high in Vitamin C. Many Indian women use Amla powder to restore health and vitality to their hair. Try it at home by mixing amla powder with enough warm water to make a paste, before massaging it on your scalp. Put on a shower cap and let the paste sit for at least a half hour before washing out. If done regularly, this simple hair mask will make your hair both stronger and thicken and prevent premature greying.

I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I do. Here's to celebrating women's beauty around the world, both inside and out!

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