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!

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]

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.

Parachute revives Art of Oiling with Nargis Fakhri

Most of us Indians (girls and guys) love a good champi (remember the old Johnny Walker song Sar Jo Tera Chakraye? Tel Maalish!). It can be relaxing, energizing, de-stressing, cooling and more…. whatever you want it to be.

Oiling is an ancient Indian tradition and coconut oil is a pan-India favourite. But oiling seems to have fallen out of favour with young Indians and hence Parachute Advansed Knowledge Centre is now seeking to revive this tradition with their Art of Oiling campaign. I got introduced to the Art of Oiling by actor Nargis Fakhri and international massage expert Moses Chundi.

Moses Chundi at Parachute Advansed Art of Oiling

The Art of Oiling is closely linked with massages, DIY and otherwise, using coconut oil. The best way to learn it is to do it, of course, so Moses took us through some quick, cool and easy DIY massages. As he explained scalp and face massage techniques (called The Art of Facial Glow), Nargis happily demonstrated them, while we followed with our oiling kit.

Parachute Art of Oiling kit

Nargis Fakhri at Parachute Art of Oiling

These simple massages take barely a few minutes but are quite effective. As I massaged my forehead, I could feel the difference already- my thoughts disappeared and I was less tense. Couldn’t get a better testimonial, right? 🙂

The good news is that these massages don’t need lots of oil, so if you don’t like greasy hands, you can still try them. Moses suggested applying oil with a cotton ball instead of pouring it into our palms.

The Art of Facial Glow:

Use your fingers and thumb for step one of this technique. Starting with the middle of your forehead press and rotate your fingers in small circles in upward and outward movements. Move downward, across the forehead, temples, cheeks, nose, under the nose, under the lips, chin and the neck. Then repeat with small pinches, and then just the first three fingers. Choose a comfortable pace—the massage can be as fast or slow as you want.

I had a chat with Nargis Fakhri about what she thinks of the Art of Oiling. Here goes:

PS- Coming soon- DIY massage and #artofoiling videos with Nargis Fakhri.

Pick of the Week: The Body Shop Tea Tree Flawless BB Cream

I have a confession: I am not a fan of BB creams. I tried several of them (from Maybelline to Bobbi Brown) when the initial hype began, but none of them worked for me. Most BB creams made my skin look flakey or too grey, or the shades were not right for my skin tone. After spending lots of my hard-earned money on BB cream fails, I finally gave up on them.

But then, last month I tried out The Body Shop Tea Tree Flawless BB Cream (perhaps the tenth BB cream I’ve tried!). The shop assistant selected the shade 02 for me, and while I was initially hesitant about the colour, it was perfect for me. And voila, finally a BB cream I like!

The Body Shop BB cream

Why I like The Body Shop Tea Tree Flawless BB cream:

  • First (and most important), the BB cream is right for my skin tone and it does not leave a grey film on my face.
  • The BB cream does not dry out my skin, nor does it make it oily. No adverse reactions, thank God!
  • The BB cream seemed to be in place even after an entire day of being out. (I refreshed once with a pressed powder).
  • The product provides good coverage, though not as much as a foundation. And yes, as per the claims, the product is light-weight!

So is it the perfect BB cream?

Not really. BB creams are supposed to be all-in-one products, but I did need a moisturizer and sun screen with this one. And while the product is good, it won’t be replacing my foundation anytime soon. The product is a tad pricier than other BB creams (it’s Rs 1095 for 40 ml), and I think it’s worth that price tag, that’s just me.

How I use the BB cream:

As advised by The Body Shop assistant I apply the BB cream after my moisturizer and sunscreen, using very little of the product (too much product makes me look dull and greasy). I apply the product like I apply a liquid foundation (little dots on the face and neck, then blend with fingers). Though the product has a foundation-like texture and consistency, it does not need a few minutes to “settle” like foundation. So I immediately follow it up with my favourite day compact powder.

Verdict: The Body Shop Tea Tree Flawless BB cream has now become one of the most important products in my daily makeup routine. Enough said! 🙂

 

Rating: 4/5

MRP: Rs 1095 (40 ml)

The Body Shop Tea Tree Flawless BB Cream is available at The Body Shop stores and counters across India. You can also buy it online on The Body Shop website.

Note: The product was provided by the brand / its representatives for consideration. However, the views expressed in the blog are honest.

How I am fighting the SALE shopping temptation

How I am fighting the SALE shopping temptation

The mall is a bad, bad place to visit these days. The SALES are extremely tempting, and my upcoming wedding has given me the best reason to shop. So the question I’ve been asking myself is – should I shop during the end of season sale? I mean, everyone shops during sale, right? (And the cool gif from Hidesign below makes it even more alluring).

Hidesign Sale

It’s not an easy answer, so I’m just going to put you through a YES and NO debate that went on in my mind for the longest time ever.

YES, a bride should totally shop on sale, because:
She will get the best prices so she can shop on a budget. And there is so much choice because all brands stuff their stores till they overflow.

NO WAY, a bride should not shop on sale, because:
It’s old season stuff, honey. Not the right options for a stylish trousseau. You don’t have place in your cupboard to hold all the lovely new clothes. She will end up splurging on clothes and accessories she doesn’t need or want.

Still no answer to my original question. So here’s what I did:

Step 1: I made a shopping list of things that I need to buy. (The key word here is need, not want).

Step 2: I then struck off those things that I don’t need immediately, like a watch, clutch etc. (I own these accessories and can use them for a while).

Step 3: This left me with just a few things on my list, such as a pair of office shoes, a good moisturiser, casual slippers (for the house) and similar stuff.

Step 4: And then I went and bought these things– they were all important because I didn’t have a good pair of work shoes and my home slippers broke.  And what of the rest?

Step 5: I went back to my original list, pondering each item carefully. I figured out the things I didn’t need immediately, but would be a good price during sale, and were unlikely to change with “trends”. This included staples like black pants, classic white blouse and a pearl necklace. And oh, lingerie.

Step 6: Meanwhile, my mom added a few things to the list- gifts! Mom’s wishlist can’t be ignored, so it got added to my list.

Step 7: I will be heading to the mall as the discounts go deeper, armed with this list. And I intend to stick to it! (I know I will).

Now, is that the path to being a smart, stylish and financially-savvy bride? I say YEAH!

PS—Do try this at home (and the mall)! No expert guidance needed.