Sunday Street Stories: It’s all about great hair

In Yangon (and most of Myanmar) women young and old have gorgeous, poker-straight hair. Their secret? Not their genes or diet or combing techniques… But regular trips to the beauty salon.

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So how are Myanmar women different from women worldwide? After all, almost every country has a vibrant and thriving beauty industry. Well, for one, it’s the number of visits women make to the salon (to straighten their hair, to colour their hair, to wash their hair, to massage their head, to blow dry their hair, and of course, paint their nails). So salons do brisk business. And then, the  sheer number of salons in business. Within just a 60-metre radius around my building, I’ve counted seven beauty salons. (Maybe there are more). If anyone did a worldwide survey of  beauty salons per capita or beauty salons per square kilometre, Myanmar might just win hands down. The salons here often work till late night,  staying open even after restaurants shut down!

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Location: Hledan Street, Yangon, Myanmar
Date: June 25, 2016
Device: Google Nexus 5

Myanmar’s beauty secret

Walking through the streets of Yangon, I see painted faces. Not the kind smiling down from giant signboards advertising vitamin supplements, but real people faces. Painted. Women young and old, little boys and girls and (some) men sport the paint like it’s part of them, as natural as wearing clothes or applying moisturiser. In the sundrenched streets, in the bustling wet market, at the airconditioned supermarket, in packed buses, I see cheeks and foreheads sporting circles and streaks of ochre, like a sort of war paint.

Myanmar girl in Thanaka

This “war paint” is thanaka or thanakha (pronounced tuh-naa-kaa), and it functions as a potent weapon to protect Myanmar people from the harsh sun.

Myanmar folk believe thanaka is a wonderful antidote to the harmful effects of too much sun. It keeps their skin de-tanned, safe and non-greasy.

Made from the bark of the wood apple tree that grows across Myanmar, thanaka paste has a gentle fragrance that vaguely reminds me of Indian sandalwood. Market vendors sell chopped pieces of thanaka bark at different prices, based on size. You choose your bark, take it home, and pound it into a paste with some water in a special grinder called kyout pin (pronounced chow-pi-ye).

Here’s the bark I spotted in my neighbourhood wet market (Hledan Zei):

Wood apple or thanaka bark Myanmar

And this is the grinder (kyout pin, picture courtesy Myat Su San)

Thanaka grinder Myanmar

If you don’t own the grinder (like me) or don’t know how to make the paste, you buy ready thanaka paste from the supermarket (like me). It’s less effective than home-made thanaka but still works, according to this experiential feature in Myanmar Times.

Thanaka in Yangon supermarket

Thanaka in Myanmar supermarket

Take some paste with a spatula or fingers, apply on your cheeks and voila! You’re ready to soak up the sun. You can also apply thanaka on your forehead, arms or any body part exposed to the sun. Some artistic Myanmar moms paint flowers on their daughters’ cheeks with thanaka. So cute!

Thanaka can stay on all day, but I’ve only used it for short periods of time, and my skin feels radiant, soft, bright and fresh after washing it off. Most importantly, I don’t get a post-sun headache and my skin feels cool when I’m in the sun. So yes, I believe it works. And the nearly blemish-free, bright skin I’ve seen on most Myanmar people is proof enough for me.

When people ask me what thanaka is, I say it’s sunblock, sunscreen, gentle exfoliator, face pack, cream, all rolled into one. You only need to try it to feel its magic!

My favourite shopping streets in Europe

Also read: Awesome shopping streets in Asia.

Strøget, Copenhagen (Denmark)

A gorgeous street in Copenhagen, but alas, the shops close by 7 pm and the prices are outrageous for tourists on non-European salaries. Strøget is one of the longest pedestrian streets in Europe, and is lined with popular high street stores like Topshop, Zara, H&M and some local brands. There’s also a giant Lego store (yay!). The summer of 2014, Strøget was buzzing with tourists and locals enjoying the atmosphere, sipping coffee at outdoor cafes, and just strolling about. I especially enjoyed the walk on cobblestoned streets and checking out the heritage buildings, still in excellent condition.

Shopping Stroget in Copenhagen

Stroget shopping Copenhagen

Taksim Square, Istanbul (Turkey)

Back in 2010 when I visited Turkey, the famous Taksim Square was THE PLACE to be on a Saturday night. Crowded even in the day, the place came alive on weekend evenings, with thousands of people partying, shopping and grabbing a bite well past midnight. The streets off the square became a no-car zone, dozens of food and souvenir vendors set up shop and the “party” began. The atmosphere was pulsating with high energy, and I felt like I’d just had two Red Bulls. After a quick pizza, I made my way through the packed streets to go shopping, spending at least an hour at the multi-storeyed Mango store. The best part—shops were open till midnight!

PS- Due to the changing political situation in Turkey, I’m not sure if the late-night shopping continues.

Kurfürstendamm, Berlin (Germany)

Who would’ve thought that the staid German capital would have such wonderful shopping! Kurfürstendamm (quite a mouthful no?) is the center of most tourist activities in Berlin and a great place to shop. The street has all the high street brands you could name- Zara, Diesel, Uniqlo, H&M, Pull & Bear… you get the idea. I shopped till I dropped at Pull & Bear, and got a great leopard print backpack from Zara for just €10. I also bought kitchen appliances at the German department store KaDeWe, which was stocked with unbelievable appliances in the German aesthetic: clean design and high-tech precision. Also the souvenir shops are worth checking out for cool tees, shot glasses and Berlin messenger bags that look great and are easy on the pocket.

Berlin Kufustendamm shopping

La Rambla, Barcelona (Spain)

Being in Spain, you expect to see local fashion brands at every corner. And well, they are! In and around the 1.2 kilometre-long La Rambla, you have the choice of the world’s best-known fashion and beauty brands, and you will never want to stop. I shopped at Zara, Mango, H&M, Bershka, The Body Shop, Shana… This was in 2011, and the Euro was not as frightfully expensive as it is today. At the Plaza Catalunya end of the street (north end), there’s the Spanish department store El Corte Inglés, where I bought Bobbi Brown makeup and tons of accessories. El Corte Inglés is a quintessential part of the Spanish life and each store is different from the others. It’s a must-visit anywhere in the country.

Barcelona shopping La Rambla

Barcelona shopping La Rambla artists

Review: Dabur Vatika Enriched Coconut Hair Oil

Our Indian roots tell us that coconut oil is best for hair. And yes, we respect our grandma’s opinion on this, but in this age of consumerism we are spoilt for choice when it comes to hair oils, so what makes one coconut oil different from the other?

That’s what I set to find out when I tried Dabur Vatika Enriched Coconut Hair Oil. My hair hadn’t been at its best recently. It was weak so I encountered some hair fall, dry as the desert giving me a frizz which I dislike, and there was an itchiness that wouldn’t go away (dandruff ?!). To be honest, I hadn’t really paid attention to my hair in the past few months, other than the regular shampoo-condition schedule. It was time to get on to a good hair routine, starting with Dabur Vatika Enriched Coconut Hair Oil.

Vatika-Enriched-Coconut-Hair-Oil

In just a couple of massages with the coco++ oil, I noticed a difference. My scalp was definitely less itchy and my hair felt thicker and stronger! I noticed lesser hair fall as well. But the most remarkable difference was pointed out by the hubby, who said that my hair looks better than it did a few weeks ago. Then he tried the oil as well, and said it made his hair softer, thicker and shinier.

Besides deep conditioning the scalp and nourishing hair, coconut oil is known to promote hair growth. But Dabur Vatika Enriched Coconut Hair Oil goes a few steps further for more comprehensive hair nourishment. It helps deal with hair damage and related issues like hair breakage, hair graying and extreme dryness. The additional ingredients of hibiscus, amla and henna join hands with the coconut to battle dandruff, and other problems like split ends, frizz and hair fall. No wonder this special concoction is not just coconut oil, but coco++.

Dabur Vatika long hair

How I use the oil:

Step 1: I prefer “less oily” hair massages so I usually pour some oil on to a piece of cotton, then apply on my scalp and then massage gently till I’m done with the entire scalp.

Step 2: Chill for an hour. I usually read a book, decide my outfit, and pamper myself with a face pack. 😉

Step 4: An hour later, I step into the shower and wash my hair with my favourite shampoo.

Step 5: Condition and rinse.

Step 6: I let my hair dry naturally.

Step 7: Barely half an hour later—voila! My hair looks so much better.

Read more about Dabur Vatika Enriched Hair Oil.

Note: Chic Promotion

 

No more excuses: Bye bye hair damage!

We Indian women love long and strong hair but ever wondered why most women today don’t have the gorgeous tresses our grandmothers had?

Hair fall, of course.

We all notice the beginnings of hair fall without really registering it. Then it hits us: you’ve barely touched your hair and it breaks, or when you comb you shed hair like a furry dog. And you still keep growing your hair, but that causes more hair fall, because your hair is weak and damaged.

Our terrible eating habits (fries, icecreams, cakes!), all that work stress, the heat and pollution in our cities and harmful chemical-laden hair products are all hand-in-glove to damage our hair and cause hair fall.

DAMAGED-HAIR-image

So you grow and grow your hair till you finally realize your hair ends are mere wisps of straw and it’s making you miserable. So what do you do? Cut it off!

Drastic step, yes. But sadly, that’s the truth. A lot of women end up chopping off their locks because of hair damage. Truth be told, long hair looks lovely only when you’ve got healthy hair and no hair damage or hair fall. Frayed ends and split ends look plain ugly and who wants to see innumerable hairs on their comb every day, right?

But all this can change. We can have long, strong and healthy hair with minimal damage. Of course, we can’t change our eating habits overnight, move to unpolluted Himachal valleys or stop shampooing our hair for fear of chemicals damaging our hair.

The solution is simple: Dabur Vatika Enriched Coconut Hair Oil.

Vatika-Enriched-Coconut-Hair-Oil

Dabur Vatika Enriched Coconut Hair Oil has the right mix of natural ingredients to banish all those hair damage problems. It’s not just coconut oil. It’s also got hibiscus, amla and henna to repair hair damage. So no more hair fall, no more split ends, no more straw-like hair. And no more excuses to cut off your hair. Just long, strong and gorgeous hair.

Long black hair

Read more about Dabur Vatika Enriched Hair Oil.

Note: Chic Promotion

Shaving for women: 5 easy steps

Yes, I’m officially a “shaver” now. My Gillette Venus kit has been my handy companion across three countries already (India, Myanmar and Thailand) and of course it’s coming with me wherever I travel next.

Here’s why I’m loving shaving

Bang for the buck: So the total cost of the kit is Rs 849, and I’ve been using it for over two months now. Compare this to the cost of waxing, and it’s great value for my hard-earned money!

Gillette Venus shaving kit

Easy to carry: My shaving kit with extra cartridges came in my suitcase when I moved to Myanmar few weeks ago, and it easily fit into my small suitcase for a weekend trip to Thailand. In Yangon, I don’t need to explore salon and parlour options and whether they are affordable and hygienic.

Super convenient: I can shave anytime at home. It saves me so much time and hassle of making a trip to the salon (taxis aren’t exactly cheap in Yangon!). And if there are sudden plans or plans to wear a sleeveless top or short dress, I don’t need to bother if my arms or legs are ready for it.

5 steps to shaving

I have a mantra for shaving now: We Love Shaving Most Regularly OR WLSMR (stands for wash- lather- shave- moisturize- repeat).

Step 1: Wash

Preparation is crucial. Take a quick warm shower before you shave, or wash your arms, legs or underarms before you shave so you remove all oil, perspiration and product residue (lotions, fragrances etc) and it makes your hair softer to raze. Let your arms or legs stay moist.

Step 2: Lather

Apply shaving foam or gel on the to-be-shaved area and spread it all over. Choose a product that is suited for your skin type. There are several brands and types available, so go with one that you know works best for you. I don’t think it’s a good idea to use your husband or brother’s shaving foam though they work essentially the same way.

Gillette Venus shaving kit

Step 3: Shave

Pick up your razor, touch the cartridge’s pad to your skin and drag it along your arm or leg. You don’t need to press hard, because the hair comes off easily. It’s easy to lose your “shaving” track so I’ve been following my own thumb rule of shaving in straight vertical lines on my arms and legs. Knowing that you’ve completely razed a certain part of your arm or leg makes for a quicker shave.

Gillette Venus shaving razor

Step 4: Moisturise

Once you’re done with shaving, all you need to do is quickly rinse or wipe off the excess lather, then follow with your personalised post-shave routine. I usually follow up with little aloe vera gel (to calm my skin) and sun screen if it’s day time. You can add or subtract from this routine based on your skin type and skin care routine.

Step 5: Repeat

There’s no specific time period on when you need to shave again. Some women like to shave almost every day, but I don’t feel the need to shave more than once a week. Unless you have very dense or thick hair, you won’t really need to shave every day. But yes, keeping a little time for shaving aside couple times a week is a good idea.

Any questions on shaving? Leave a comment below.

You can buy the complete shaving kit on Flipkart, or buy the razor and cartridges separately.

This blog post is part of the #SubscribeToSmooth series in collaboration with Gillette India. Check out their Facebook app and follow Gillette Venus India on Twitter.

Note: Chic Promotion

Long hair in summer: Why and how you can do it

I’ve always been an advocate of short hair for women, especially in the summer, given the heat and humidity. For busy working women, managing long hair can be a stressful task in addition to their daily chores, long work hours and commute. But a couple years ago I started growing out my hair, and long hair has been a good experience!

After all, only with long hair was I able to experiment with wonderful hair styles, like braids (a hot beauty trend), chic buns and updos, besides waves and curls. I’m happy to say these cool styles got me a lot of flattering compliments. 😀

Long dark hair is gorgeous and very Indian- it instantly gives a woman an “exotic” appeal and looks stunning on Indian women. Take a look at my pictures in long and short hair and decide:

Short hair

Long hair

Medium hair

Of course, managing long hair wasn’t easy, especially when it looked dull. Long hair is supposed to look good, no? It’s supposed to be shiny and healthy, but it isn’t always so. Besides the shampoo, I had to spend a bunch of money on a good conditioner.

But then, summer’s not a very good time for hair. My hair looked quite dull, and the frizz made me look like a scruffy dog. So like almost every summer, I contemplated chopping off my hair to solve all these problems.

But when I discovered Dabur Vatika Enriched Coconut Hair Oil, I realized that long hair isn’t much of a problem anymore!

DAbut Vatika hair oil review

Since I’ve begun using it, my hair feels and looks great. It’s got a lovely sheen, and it’s smooth and silky. I can’t remember the last time my hair felt like that. My hair now radiates “healthy”!

And because it looks so good, I don’t think I’m chopping off my hair. 🙂 Why don’t you try Dabur Vatika Enriched Coconut Hair Oil and give your hair a much-needed boost this summer?

Dabur Vatika hair oil review

[Chic Promotion]

On Shaving: Views from men and women

The best expert on shaving is a man. They shave every (working) day. They’ve seen the bad side of it- nicks, cuts, uneven shaving… So who better to discuss shaving than a man, right?

Gillette Venus shaving kits

As you can see, men’s shaving kits are a bit different from women’s due to the difference in hair and skin textures. But men need similar tools– lathering foam and a razor with blades.

The husband on shaving

When I shaved for the first time couple weeks ago (read my blog post on my first shaving experience) and informed the husband, his immediate reaction was, “Did you cut yourself???”

I laughed and replied “NO!”

“So did it hurt or poke you?”

“What?! Nooooo!”

Pause.

“It was quite a pleasant experience actually,” I continued. “I didn’t feel a thing, because of the soft protective cushions around the blades.”

Anyways, later that day, the husband and I compared notes on our shaving experiences. Here’s what’s similar and what’s different between shaving for men and women.

Comparing shaving experiences

Nicks and cuts: Ladies, this one is entirely for men. Yay! From teen boys to grown men, several men often cutting themselves while shaving. Thanks to the cushioning, chances of us girls getting cut while shaving are near zero.

Gillette Venus shaving kit for women

Hair change after shaving: S confirmed his hair thickness or growth never changed and I confirmed that too! My regrown hair is exactly the same as it was pre-shaving.

Itch or No Itch?: Can you imagine men walking around with itchy faces every day? Me neither. Ditto with shaving for women- I didn’t get any itching. I did feel a slight discomfort when I wore a very skinny pair of jeans the day after I shaved my legs, but that was mostly because of the humidity and the thick fabric. And the discomfort lasted all of two minutes with no urge to itch.

Bad skin: Nope, shaving didn’t affect his skin or mine (and mine is sensitive). Men love a good aftershave lotion (and so do women, wink wink), but women’s “aftershave” is nothing but a good moisturiser suited for their skin type and perhaps a soothing lotion like aloe vera or calamine lotion.

Gillette shaving kits for men and women

Shaving vs waxing vs hair removal creams

Men don’t have other options to get rid of facial hair, like us women. I’ve tried waxing regularly and depilatory (or hair removal) creams for emergencies. Even after all these years, waxing is painful. And I’m still not comfortable going to local parlours or high-end salons alike (for hygiene reasons).

As for depilatory creams, I’ve been careful with them but I have felt a slight burn when I kept it on for a few seconds longer than mentioned on the packaging. That’s the chemicals at work. 🙁 And the looooooong list of precautions that are printed on a cream’s packaging is quite unnerving. Seems like anything could cause a reaction!?

I’ve shaved a few times already and I’m going to continue- it’s quick, comfy and painless. Time to #Subscribe to Smooth everyday!

You can buy the complete shaving kit on Flipkart, or buy the razor and cartridges separately.

This blog post is part of the #SubscribeToSmooth series in collaboration with Gillette India. Check out their Facebook app and follow Gillette Venus India on Twitter.

Note: Chic Promotion

Why my first shave was a big surprise

I tried shaving for the first time. What happened next surprised me.

(Oops, cheesy internet meme mood!)

I wrote in my previous blog post that I haven’t shaved before and the panel discussion with Kriti Sanon, Dr Rashmi Shetty and Namrata Soni partly inspired me to try it out. Well, I did earlier this week and the results were completely unexpected.

Urgently needed: Smooth arms for a sleeveless blouse

I’ve been moving homes, so my current place is an absolute mess and there’s been no time for personal grooming. Not a quick face pack at home or eyebrow grooming. And certainly no time for a wax. So when I had to head out for a ladies lunch in a sleeveless top I realized it was time for my first shave.

Pre-shave prep

After quickly brushing through the notes I’d jotted down during the shaving discussion, I started out by taking a warm shower and laid out the tools—Gillette Venus shaving razor with cartridge and Gillette Satin Care shaving gel.

Gillette Venus shaving kit

The First Cut

I sprayed on a bit of the shaving gel on my left arm. It looked like this:

Gillette Venus shaving gel

With my right hand I spread it all over my arm and voila- I got a soft gentle foam all over my arm. Then came the moment of truth.

I shaved, drawing the razor through the length of my arm. I bit my lip, expecting a nick, cut or even a prick. But nothing. Really, didn’t feel a thing at all. All I felt was a soft pad brushing against my arm where the razor was doing its job.

I moved in quick, long vertical strokes along my left arm and then my arm pit, rinsing the razor every couple of strokes to get rid of shaven hair. I was done shaving both arms in barely five minutes though I was shaving slowly (since I was terrified of getting cut).

No pain, no gain? I disagree.

When I touched my arms after the shave I felt soft, smooth, clean, hairless skin. I followed this with my right arm and ended with a moisturizer and aloe vera on both arms.

Did I miss out a few hairs? Yes, being the first time and all that.

Did I pick or cut myself? Nope.

Did it hurt? Not at all. (I think the pain or discomfort from shaving is all in the head.)

Before and after

Here’s the before and after for all of you to see:

Gillette Venus shaving review (7)

Gillette Venus shaving review

As you can see, there’s no dryness, no change to my skin tone, no patches, no prickly hairs, no roughness or swelling, no redness, no irritation. Smooth, soft and clean skin.

Then I wore the sleeveless cowl neck blouse that had been waiting for me and headed out for lunch.

#truestory

PS- Now that my misconceptions about shaving have been razed off (sorry, bad pun), I’m going to try shaving again. 😀

You can buy the complete shaving kit on Flipkart, or buy the razor and cartridges separately.

This blog post is part of the #SubscribeToSmooth series in collaboration with Gillette India. Check out their Facebook app and follow Gillette Venus India on Twitter.

Note: Chic Promotion

 

9 things to know about shaving for girls

I have a confession: I have never shaved my body hair before. I’ve mostly waxed and used a depilatory creams for emergencies. The women in my life (mom, cousins, friends) don’t really shave and I’ve never really considered it an option.

But then I attended an eye-opening session on shaving with actor Kriti Sanon, dermatologist Dr Rashmi Shetty and makeup and hair expert Namrata Soni last week. During their candid discussion, I learnt that Kriti and Namrata have been shaving for years and swear by the technique. Both these women knew a lot about shaving and shared their personal experiences with hair removal, especially shaving.

Shaving for womenGillette Venus (8)

9 things about shaving I learnt from the experts

1) All three experts said that shaving is completely safe.

2) Namrata and Dr Shetty mentioned that dermatologists advise patients to shave instead of wax for patients afflicted with certain skin conditions or undergoing certain treatments.

Shaving for women Gillette Venus

3) Shaving does NOT make hair grow back thicker or darker.

4) Shaving is less painful than waxing, if you’re careful.

5) Shaving is super quick- you can do it in the shower or just before a party.

Shaving for women Gillette Venus

6) As long you calm your skin post-shaving (with calamine, aloe vera or a soothing moisturizer), you don’t need to worry about itches or rashes.

7) Since shaving doesn’t involve chemicals like depilatory/ hair removal creams, it won’t harm your skin.

Kriti Sanon panel Shaving for women Gillette Venus

8) No ingrowths if you shave correctly! (This often happens when I wax.)

9) You can shave your bikini area if you really want to and you’re comfortable with it.

Now that I’m hearing some positive (read non-scary) things about shaving, I’ve decided to give it a shot over the next few weeks. I will be taking up the Subscribe To Smooth Challenge and try shaving! Stay tuned for my experiences with shaving.