Rose and Vanilla Almond Oil Treatment For Lustrous Skin

The first thing that I found interesting about Brussels was not its Manneken Pis mascot (chalk it up to the uniquely Bruxellois sense of fun) and not even the common sight of beer drinking at 8am (chalk it up to the grey weather). It was the dense concentration of beauty and hair salons. Every street, whether elegant or run down, has several of them, ranging from omnipresent franchises like Olivier Dachkin to tiny hole in the wall places that look like someone’s living room. Judging by the perfectly coiffed and perfumed grandmothers, age has no bearing on the desire to be beautiful.

The women in my family take their beauty rituals seriously, but spas and luxury salon treatments rarely tempt them. Ask my mom or my grandmother about their tips for silky hair or luminous skin, and you will get a lecture, along with handwritten recipes. My great grandmother left behind several thick notebooks filled with beauty and health advice. Nothing can inspire me to take better care of myself than leafing through the yellowing pages that smell of vanilla and sawdust and wondering if as a young woman, my great grandmother really made hair masks of egg yolks and cognac and rubbed her hands with cucumber juice, as she advises in her delicate, loopy handwriting. The recipe I follow most often is a simple almond oil treatment. The note next to it says, “will make your skin as lustrous as mother of pearl,” and it was all the incentive I needed to go to the store and buy a bottle.

The almond oil won’t require a trip to France and not even a visit to Sephora. It won’t put you back more than $10-15 per bottle. It’s my strong belief that the simplest treatments are sometimes the most effective. Of course, you won’t find them in fashion magazines filled with sponsored product placements and ads for $200 creams. When luxury seems to be defined chiefly by the price tag, I find comfort in simple pleasures that are easy to enjoy.

The almond oil treatment itself could not be easier. Rub a spoonful of oil onto your damp skin after the shower. The idea is simply to coat the skin with a thin layer of oil, not to mimic a glistening body builder readying for a promo shot. Then, rinse off the excess with warm water and towel dry. Almond oil, which is rich in Vitamins E and D, leaves skin soft and smooth. Any flaky or dry patches will disappear in time, and you will find yourself not needing creams or body lotions. I do this treatment twice a week in our relatively humid climate, although you can try it as often as once a day. A friend who has lived most of her life in Spain mentioned that the almond oil rub is a common Spanish beauty trick, believed to protect skin and prevent stretch marks.

When I feel like creating something even more luxurious, I make a scented scrub on the basis of almond oil. I usually use finely milled sugar, but my Spanish friend recommends sea salt. Either way, it’s an excellent treatment that will make you feel as if you’ve just splurged on an expensive spa treatment. In reality, the only thing you will need is a few basic ingredients and 10 minutes of your time. And isn’t feeling good in one’s own skin the greatest luxury of all.

Rose and Vanilla Almond Oil Scrub

1 cup of sea salt or granulated sugar

1 cup of almond oil

3 Tablespoons rosewater

1/4-1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix all of the ingredients well in a large widemouth jar, cover with a lid. Store in a dark, cool place. You can use the scrub right away, but the perfume gets stronger and more well-rounded as it macerates. For the best scent, give it a whole week of maceration time.

Use 1-2 Tablespoons of the scented salt after your shower. Rub into damp skin, concentrating on the dry, flaky areas. Start with your legs and slowly move up. Be extra gentle when rubbing the skin on your chest and other delicate areas. Rinse off with warm water and towel dry.

Variations: if you prefer, you can leave the scents out or use other aromas of your choice. You can use other oils, such as untoasted sesame, apricot seed kernel or grapeseed oils . Olive oil is another great alternative, with excellent benefits for skin, but its heavier scent will be more difficult to mask. You can also mix in dried flowers, such as roses, jasmine and lavender (be sure to use a drain sieve to prevent your bathtub from being clogged.) Also, take care to clean the bathtub, as the oily residue can make it slippery.

Almond oil is available from grocery stores,”natural food” stores, and online from amazon.com. To find the rosewater buying instructions, please click on the rosewater tag.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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120 Comments

  • Divya: That has to smell great! Reminds me of the weddings over here… they would sprinkle rose water on all the guests, mixed with the smell of the sweets everywhere… its a riot! V, are you familiar with Kewra? September 6, 2012 at 8:27am Reply

    • Victoria: That’s a nice association! I love Indian wedding so much that I had one. 🙂

      I love the scent of kewra, pandan leaf! To me it smells a little bit of basmati rice as it cooks, but sweeter and greener. September 6, 2012 at 11:50am Reply

      • Divya: wow that’s great! I have so many memories of my childhood when we used to have old desert coolers where the panels were linned with real vetiver grass and roots! 🙂
        I read in a comment of yours about reactive skin… if I may suggest, masoor dal and milk? The lentil itself is coral in color, cleanses and is a great Ph balancer. The milk makes the skin suple and moisturizes. September 8, 2012 at 6:35am Reply

        • Victoria: I will definitely try that, Divya! Thank you very much. I’ve heard of besan (chickpea) flour, but never of masoor. I even have a bag in my pantry, so I will try it tonight.

          Ah, the desert coolers lined with vetiver grass! My first visit to India was to Delhi in July, and the apartment where I stayed had only one such cooler available. Maybe, that’s why I have such tender associations with vetiver. 🙂 September 8, 2012 at 8:41am Reply

        • jeannie: divya
          what is massor dal and milk? where do you buy this
          my skin is sensitive and redish rosacea. any ideas what to do
          victoria maybe you have also some great ideas September 8, 2012 at 11:03am Reply

          • Victoria: Jeannie, if you have sensitive skin, you have to be very careful with scrubbing. If anything makes it red, it isn’t good for your skin type. So, before you do anything, try a patch test on the skin on your inner arm and see how it reacts.
            Masoor dal is an Indian lentil, which is pink. It looks like this:

            It would have to be ground to fine powder and then mixed with milk and used a mask (5-10 minutes). I haven’t tried it yet, but once I will, I will let you know. September 8, 2012 at 11:33am Reply

            • jeannie: Thank you, love all your ideas, marvelous
              great website September 8, 2012 at 11:51am Reply

              • Victoria: Thank you, Jeannie! I hope that we continue sharing, since there are so many of us, girls with sensitive skin. 🙂 September 8, 2012 at 11:53am Reply

  • marsha: I just love natural skin treatments like this and MY mother could not care less. I went to visit her the other night and she asked me to look at something on her back and her skin was so dry! I want to do something like this so badly on her back and shoulders but she would not sit still for it! I stayed with an aunt (her sister) until I started school so my Mama could go back to work and this aunt was a little more into creams and perfumes and I guess that is where I got my extreme love for skincare.

    I would looove to look at the notebooks your greatgrandmother left (bless her sweet heart!!!).

    Where can I buy a good quality rosewater? They do not sell it in the drugstores here (eastern NC – USA). September 6, 2012 at 8:41am Reply

    • marsha: RE: My *extreme love for skincare* – my late, long-suffering but patient husband called it my love for *lotions and potions!* September 6, 2012 at 8:43am Reply

      • Victoria: Here are a few of them! She had notebooks filled with food recipes too, which are the ones in this photo. She filled out these books mostly after the WWII, so you can see how judiciously she tried to use the paper. 🙂
        September 6, 2012 at 12:08pm Reply

        • Ruth: How beautiful and what a family treasure! Look at the lovely graphic (is that a cover on the book?) design, even the simplest things were made to please the eye. This reminds me of the small notebooks full of recipes that a friend recorded while they lived in Japan, learning to cook from neighbors and friends. I hope her children and grandchildren appreciate them when they’re handed down. September 6, 2012 at 12:53pm Reply

          • Victoria: That’s such a treasure! I’ve been trying to persuade my in-laws to collect their family recipes, especially since many women in the family are excellent cooks. Unfortunately, unless I stand by one of them and measure and write things down, they won’t do it. They aren’t used to measuring.

            Yes, that’s the notebook cover. I think that the cover was added separately and sown into the pages. September 6, 2012 at 3:34pm Reply

        • marsha: What treasures!! September 6, 2012 at 12:55pm Reply

          • Victoria: Alyssa’s comment about her grandmother’s book of journal cut outs reminded me that I have something like that from my grandmother. They are from the Soviet magazines from the 1970s and 1980s and are really funny. But have lots of great advice on maintaining the household and delicious recipes. September 6, 2012 at 3:39pm Reply

        • Alyssa: Oh that’s great to see, V. September 6, 2012 at 1:51pm Reply

          • Victoria: I brought them with me in my carry-on, next to my jewelry and passport. 🙂 September 6, 2012 at 3:25pm Reply

        • Austenfan: I adore this photo! September 6, 2012 at 3:51pm Reply

          • Victoria: By the way, the little spoon in my photos comes from the same great grandmother. It isn’t as old as the notebooks though; she must have bought the set in the 1980s. September 6, 2012 at 3:58pm Reply

        • marsi: What a treasure you have! September 7, 2012 at 9:07am Reply

    • Victoria: I know what you mean. The grandmother I grew up with, my dad’s mom, was definitely not into creams and perfumes. Even when we offered to give her something, she would always refuse. I don’t think that she ever wore makeup or cared at all how she looked, but she was very much into plants. I get my love of scented plants from her, while from my maternal grandmother and other ladies on that side of the family I got a more hand-ons knowledge on how to use them. My material grandmother never leaves the house without some lipstick and perfume. 🙂 September 6, 2012 at 12:02pm Reply

  • marsha: Okay, I saw the rosewater tag!!! September 6, 2012 at 8:45am Reply

    • Victoria: Do you have Whole Foods nearby? They carry one of my favorite brands–Heritage. But for the body treatment, you can use almost any rosewater you can find. The less expensive variety from the Indian grocery stores has a very strong scent, which is too strong for food preparations, but perfect in these kind of scrubs. September 6, 2012 at 12:10pm Reply

  • Austenfan: A great recipe! I like using Borage ( huile de bourrache) oil on my skin, especially when it’s itchy. It hasn’t got a strong smell so it might be an alternative. Almond oil is lovely on your skin, and not very expensive, I think Borage oil is a little pricier. September 6, 2012 at 8:55am Reply

  • Suzanna: A lovely recipe, V! To it I will add a lemon-sugar variation.

    Fantastic photography, too. September 6, 2012 at 9:21am Reply

    • marsi: Whats your lemon sugar variation, Suzanna? September 6, 2012 at 10:40am Reply

      • Suzanna: Use Victoria’s basic recipe, with sugar, and add fresh lemon juice. Perhaps two lemons. Sometimes I go crazy and add four or five. September 7, 2012 at 12:42pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much, Suzanna! 🙂
      I was just trying those Les Exclusifs body creams you and I were talking about the other day. Really nice, but for the price, I would rather use a simple moisturizer and save my money for the perfumes. September 6, 2012 at 12:12pm Reply

    • sara: I’m also curious about the lemon sugar scrub! September 7, 2012 at 11:31am Reply

  • Absolute Scentualist: What a lovely article, Victoria, and quite a coincidence as my daughter and I do this very thing.

    We use a bit of rose essential oil and almond oil and usually stick with sugar and make time for facials together twice a week. But sometimes I use sea salt, olive oil and a lively orange or pink grapefruit essential oil to make a quick morning scrub for the shower or as a hand scrub before I apply hand cream, especially during the winter. There are so many fun and easy beauty treatments one can create just in their own kitchen.

    We found a hair treatment of approximately 90% water to 10% freshly squeezed lemon juice (you can adjust to 95% water/5% lemon for hair that isn’t as stubborn as hers lol) truly brings out, defines and adds shine to my daughter’s waist-length ringlets, and cucumber is amazingly versitile as a calming facial treatment (mash and apply to freshly washed skin), for tired eyes and yes, for one’s hands as well.

    I still can’t give up my luxury bath and body items, but feel that creating many of them at home balances things out a bit at least. 😉 September 6, 2012 at 9:36am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much. I’m busy writing down all of these great suggestions, and I will be trying them soon. I was thinking that olive oil+lemon zest (or essential oil)+honey and sugar would make a great body treatment.

      My skin was always normal, but once I came to Belgium, despite the humid climate here, it started reacting to absolutely everything and getting very dry. I’ve tried so many things, and then finally I remembered the oil treatment and it really improved my skin. Still figuring out to how to deal with hard water and its effects on my hair. September 6, 2012 at 12:19pm Reply

      • Austenfan: Don’t underestimate the effect of all the stress on your skin. It may go back to being what it was, once you are more settled.

        For your hair: why not use an olive oil mask once a week, or use coconut oil? September 6, 2012 at 2:26pm Reply

        • Victoria: You’re right, the stress probably has a lot to do with it. I remember when I first started university and moved to a new city, my skin was behaving really strangely too.
          It takes time to adjust to everything new.

          I did the olive oil mask this morning! Really loved the results. September 6, 2012 at 3:18pm Reply

          • Austenfan: When I am really nervous about something my normally wavy to curly hair goes almost strait. Weird isn’t it? September 6, 2012 at 3:54pm Reply

            • Victoria: Wow! I wonder what’s responsible for that. But it’s true, the body definitely responds to stress in a very acute way. In the Chinese medicine, extreme emotions of all sorts are considered very destabilizing. September 6, 2012 at 5:12pm Reply

    • jeannie: what is the hair treatment you speak about ? i would really like to know it..
      i have very dry and frizzy hair what can i put to control and helpdry and frizzness thats more natural
      thak you so much September 7, 2012 at 1:54pm Reply

    • jeannie: youir facial powder do you leave it for maceration before?

      and what is this great ghair prouct you use?
      thank you. September 8, 2012 at 11:25am Reply

  • marsi: Gorgeous post and photos! My mom always rubbed my skin with olive oil when I was little. I still do it especially in the winter to keep my skin soft. Almond oil is common too, your friend is right. September 6, 2012 at 10:39am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Marsi! Another friend says that she uses olive oil to remove makeup, which sounds like it could wear really well. September 6, 2012 at 12:20pm Reply

      • solanace: Oh, this is perfect. After I tried olive oil I never used any other makeup remover again. It removes everything, deeply and perfectly, even the most stubborn eye stuff, and leaves the skin really nice, even radiant (whatever this means), and if you are travelling or something, it is so easy to find! (which reminds me I have once tried unsalted butter, with similar results.) September 7, 2012 at 8:14am Reply

        • Victoria: A Moroccan friend mentions that she uses argan oil, and yes, I can imagine that any oil would do the trick. Plus, I wear sunscreen every day, and nothing but oil removes it properly. September 7, 2012 at 8:52am Reply

        • marsi: My roommate in college thought I was weird for sneaking our olive oil into the bathroom to remove makeup. Then she got hooked herself!! September 7, 2012 at 9:08am Reply

  • Elia: This is a perfect recipe for me, because I’m a student on a very tight budget. My extra “beauty” money goes towards perfume. Do you have any scrub recipes for face? September 6, 2012 at 10:49am Reply

    • Absolute Scentualist: Hi Elia. I’ve used the sugar/almond oil recipe as a face scrub and it works beautifully, even on my combination skin. Obviously you don’t need very much and want to probably do a patch test first to be sure, but it has never broken me out when I use a light oil like almond or grapeseed. Also, if regular white sugar feels too abrasive, you could always run it through a coffee grinder for a second or two to get a finer texture. Hth and totally understand about most of one’s luxury money going toward perfume! It makes for tough decisions and creative alternatives. 🙂 September 6, 2012 at 11:52am Reply

      • Victoria: I was always worried that sugar would be too abrasive, but I like your idea of using finely milled sugar. September 6, 2012 at 12:27pm Reply

      • Elia: Thank you, thank you, thank you! I’m so happy to learn so many nice and economical facial scrub ideas. This poor student will be beautiful and sweet smelling after all. 🙂 September 7, 2012 at 3:15pm Reply

    • Victoria: Elia, I’ve been a student on a budget for most of my life, so I can completely relate! Anyway, no scrub works better for me than baking soda. I have sensitive skin, but baking soda never irritates it. Just take a small amount into your palm, add some water and make a thick paste. You can use it on your body too, by the way. September 6, 2012 at 12:26pm Reply

    • solanace: The wet coffee leftovers (don’t know the name in English, what is left after you made the coffee) is a great face (and body) scrub. It’s very, very gentle, and packed with natural oils, antioxidants, caffeine and other stuff good for your complexion. Another favorite of mine is corn flour, mixed with fresh orange juice. It is very gentle too. I lived on scholarships all my (extended) youth, so I totally relate with you. Even today, my money is better spent on a bell jar! September 7, 2012 at 12:02pm Reply

      • Elia: Thank you, solanace! I fell down this rabbit hole thanks to a sample of Rahat Loukoum. It’s my dream to have a bell jar. That’s what I’m saving my pennies for. September 7, 2012 at 3:21pm Reply

        • Victoria: Serge Lutens bell jars tempt many of us! 🙂 September 8, 2012 at 3:10am Reply

  • smellslikeroses: As you can see from my screen name, I love to smell like roses. 🙂 I already bought a bottle of rosewater to make your strawberry jam, so now I’ll be putting it to more good uses. Ha! September 6, 2012 at 11:57am Reply

    • Victoria: Great! I hope that you will enjoy it. 🙂 September 6, 2012 at 12:28pm Reply

  • Jan: For a daily face scrub, use baking soda. I keep a box in the br and dip my moistened washcloth in, then just scrub hard or easy , whichever you prefer. September 6, 2012 at 12:06pm Reply

    • Victoria: That’s my favorite scrub too. I no longer even bother buying any fancy facial scrubs. They just don’t work as well. September 6, 2012 at 12:32pm Reply

      • solanace: baking soda? That’s new. Gonna try it right now. September 7, 2012 at 8:05am Reply

        • Victoria: Please let me know what you think! September 7, 2012 at 8:50am Reply

  • Caro: Dear Victoria, I had to rush and try the formula as soon as I read it! I now feel invigorated and soft…and lustrous as mother of pearl.
    I used to make my scrubs with olive oil. Almond is more user friendly.
    Thank you for the lovely recipe!

    Caro September 6, 2012 at 12:25pm Reply

    • Victoria: I’m so happy to hear that you’ve already tried it, Caro! And even happier that you like the results.
      I like almond oil more, because it isn’t as heavy as olive oil. It doesn’t leave a heavy film on skin. My friend who lived in Spain says that the almond oil treatment is used a lot in the summer for this very reason. September 6, 2012 at 12:30pm Reply

  • Nancy A.: Hi Victoria,

    Only this morning I reached for my Aveda birthday gift “freebie” that consists of a natural scented oil of one’s choice: Jasmine. So, today’s review is well received. Question is must it be almond oil? Can one use jojoba or apricot kernel oil? I love scrubs and the wisdom of our mothers/grandmothers are tried and true. As always, thanks for the recipes.
    ******

    Message to Marsha (NC): If you are trying to find a good quality rose and orange blossom water contact Whole Foods and Fairway Markets (primarily located in NYC and the outlying areas) who will probably provide mail order service. September 6, 2012 at 12:29pm Reply

    • Victoria: You can definitely use other oils too. Apricot kernel is one of my other favorites, but it isn’t as easy to find as almond. As I mentioned in the variation on the recipe, the possibilities are really quite varied. The only thing about using heavily scented oils like olive and coconut is that the delicate perfumes of rosewater and vanilla extract will stand no chance with their natural aromas, but other than that, it really doesn’t matter. September 6, 2012 at 12:34pm Reply

    • marsha: Thank you! September 6, 2012 at 12:54pm Reply

  • Vishishta: Honey is a great facial mask about once a month. It draws out all impurities and leaves your skin very soft and clean.

    Another great beauty tip is to soak dried, unsulphered organic apricots in water, boil them and eat 1/2 cup daily for a week. By the end of the week, your skin will be glowing! September 6, 2012 at 12:52pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, I read your comment and soaked some apricots. I love dried apricots and I just bought a big bag, so I will be trying this recipe this week. I will report back, Vishishta! 🙂 September 6, 2012 at 3:36pm Reply

  • Alyssa: I love that in the midst of giving us instructions for our beauty regime you find time to protect our plumbing. 🙂

    What a treasure to have those pages and pages of your grandmother’s handwriting. I saved a couple of my grandmother’s recipe scrapbooks–things she cut out from magazines. Very telling of her time and taste, but not the same thing as notes. September 6, 2012 at 1:57pm Reply

    • Victoria: 🙂 I don’t want you, beauties, to struggle with unclogging the drain, as I’ve done on an occasion before. I think that the worst incident resulted from the oatmeal bath. Well, at least, my skin was silky soft for days afterwards.

      I realized when I started reading the books and magazines from the era that my great grandmother’s are in the same spirit. Some definitely look like they were copied out of some books, but others are her own, or else written down based on someone’s recommendation. Her notes on the danger of certain bad habits (smoking, biting nails, etc.) are so charming. She has a recipe for an anti-aphid tobacco based spray, and next to it she writes, “very effective, a good reason why smokers should consider quitting their bad habit!” September 6, 2012 at 3:24pm Reply

  • Daisy: This looks wonderful! Admittedly, I have always been a little intimidated to mix my own scrubs. Not sure why since I cook so much . . .

    I have been wanting to try a scrub made with turbinado sugar and coconut oil, but worried that it might be too heavy for my skin. Almond oil seems like a much better alternative!

    Thanks for the recipe! September 6, 2012 at 8:31pm Reply

    • Victoria: You shouldn’t be intimidated, especially not for something like a scrub. I won’t make my own face creams (although I happily use pure argan oil time to time), but a homemade body scrub works better than anything store bought. L’Occitane sells their oil-salt scrub for $36 for 14 oz, which seems too much to me. If you don’t want to use an oil base, you can mix a scrub on the basis of lemon juice and water, or milk, or heavy cream (very decadent!), or yogurt. September 7, 2012 at 3:45am Reply

      • solanace: Heavy cream!!! September 7, 2012 at 6:22am Reply

        • Victoria: Imagine how decadent and wonderful it feels! September 7, 2012 at 8:49am Reply

          • Daisy: I never thought about other bases like heavy cream! Very decadent 🙂 September 7, 2012 at 11:09am Reply

  • Andrea: Your grandmother’s journal sounds charming! I recently bought a cookbook that was written by the grandmother of Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love); she had it reprinted and has a wonderful “forward” to add to the book. It is really very funny… Perhaps one day you could publish something similar, I know you would have an immediate fan base!

    My mother recently sent me my Grandmother’s prayer journal; it was a compilation of prayers she had said at her women’s club in her role as “chaplain”. I had not realized she was involved in this manner, and her prayers were so similar to devotions which I had been writing for years. Elizabeth Gilbert said the same thing, that her writing style was so similar to her Grandmother’s style. Do you also find this to be true? She called it “the family voice”…

    PS As for oils, I have read that coconut oil fully soaks into the hairshaft to strengthen hair. And another article convinced me to buy grapeseed oil to “seal” in lotion. I could never bring myself to do it, though, as I have such a huge stock of lotions/oils to get through before they turn
    rancid! September 7, 2012 at 1:00am Reply

    • Victoria: The family voice sounds like such an appealing idea. I find it difficult to gauge her voice from these notes, because they are mostly instructions. I mostly imagine her as someone organized, caring and interested in health and beauty topics. She died a few years after I was born, so while I’ve met her, I have no memory of her. My image of her comes mostly through the stories. And these notes.

      I know that coconut oil mixed with rosewater is one of the methods used in India to help with hair growth. In South India, women and men use it as a styling product, and you often see ladies with knee long braids glistening with oil. September 7, 2012 at 8:41am Reply

  • solanace: What a lovely grandmother, and what a beautiful treasure! My mom is a half indian from the Brazilian ‘outback’; no ‘Sephora’ there, only trees and rocks and nuts, so she has always cherished and taught me this family habit of doing our own stuff… This oil scrub is just my kind of thing! Can’t find a trustworthy almond oil here, though, but organic coconut or sesame oil should do the trick!
    By the way, do you know that French online store, ‘aromazone’? They carry all kinds of oils from all over the world, it’s a feast, such a shame they won’t deliver here… September 7, 2012 at 6:21am Reply

    • Victoria: I bet that your mom’s knowledge of plants is impressive, and it’s wonderful that she taught you in turn. I would love to hear more about some of her favorite beauty recipes, or the ones that you use most often.
      By the way, sesame oil is my other favorite for this scrub. The addition of vanilla really makes it smell like a sesame candy.

      I’ve never heard of aromazone, but I just looked at it, and you’re right, that’s an impressive store! September 7, 2012 at 8:49am Reply

      • solanace: There are many good plants indeed, some of which I even have in my garden, but I wouldn’t know their name in English, or even in latin. I have a little plant (atroveran) that looks a bit like basil (what a scientific description!) and is a very effective painkiller, the most amazing thing… There is another one (mastruz) that helps heal the bones, like when kids break an arm… Arnica, for bruises. Boldo, for hangover, passion fruit, for calming down (does not work with my boy!)… But Europe is full of crazy herbs as well, isn’t it? This is such a feminine culture, so ancient, and it is so nice to see bits of it preserved. Our ‘maman française’ is from Auvergne, the French outback, and she is full of wisdom, not what someone might expect just looking at her posh Parisian self! September 7, 2012 at 12:37pm Reply

        • Victoria: That’s fascinating! I don’t know those plants, but I will try to do some research. The plants that are most loved and used in my family are chamomile (for skincare and sound sleep), linden (against colds), pine buds (breathing the vapors to cure the stuffy nose and generally to use when having a cold/flu/respiratory infections), nettles (great for hair and simply for general health). Even doctors in Ukraine would suggest herbal blends as a matter of course, but these days with pharmacological companies paying them commission, they are just as likely to push antibiotics onto you. September 8, 2012 at 3:09am Reply

          • solanace: Our maman française introduced us to linden tea. It was delicious! Too bad I couldn’t like Andy Tauer’s Zeta as much.
            I’ve had a hard time finding a good doctor for my son. He is a professor at a big university, very expensive and always travelling, but at least he is not a freakin’ drug company SA! One of these days I was reading about the therapies with phages in the Soviet Union. Fascinating stuff.
            By the way, I tried the baking soda face scrub. It is perfect, my face felt so nice. Forget about the coffee and the cornflour I suggested above!
            Have a nice weekend!!! September 8, 2012 at 4:51am Reply

            • Victoria: Linden tisane is one of my favorite evening drinks. It’s so soothing, and the flavor of green jasmine and orange blossom is seductive.
              A friend of mine recently had a baby, and it’s incredible how many shots and drugs doctors push onto kids today. Her mother-in-law was quite shocked too and commented that she didn’t remember something like this from her time as a new mom.

              Isn’t the baking soda fantastic? A friend recently gave me a couple of samples of La Prairie scrub, and after using them up, I honestly couldn’t tell any difference. Other than the price–$1 dollars (or 50 centimes) for a pack of soda, and something like $100+ for La Prairie. September 8, 2012 at 5:32am Reply

            • jeannie: baking soda scrub, how do you do it and when ?
              morning?
              evening after the demake up? or instead of?
              thnaks

              victoria and all i found this website i love it September 8, 2012 at 10:44am Reply

              • Jan: I do it in the morning, just whatever feels good to you.
                Wet a washcloth, put a couple of fingers up into the washcloth, dip your finger/washcloth in the baking soda, then scrub gently on your face. Rinse, apply whatever your preference is. September 8, 2012 at 10:53am Reply

                • jeannie: thank you Jan September 8, 2012 at 11:04am Reply

  • Annunziata: Your blog is a continual delight to me. Thank you for this recipe. Its grandmotherly provenance is charming. Since I would rather spend money on things like perfume and concert tickets than cosmetics, this is very welcome information. I’m going to try the apricots, too. I’ll be at the local health food store tomorrow, stocking up. September 7, 2012 at 10:00pm Reply

    • Victoria: Vishishta’s suggestion is so great. I already had my breakfast cup of apricots, and they are delicious. The unsulphured variety tastes almost like caramel. If you add a little bit of vanilla, it tastes even more like creme caramel. Don’t know if I look better already, but I sure do feel very good. 🙂

      Thank you, Annunziata! The provenance also makes it more special to me, but in the end, almond oil really works better than the fancy body creams. September 8, 2012 at 3:14am Reply

      • Andrea: Victoria, what kind of vanilla do you use? Vanilla extract or vanilla bean seeds? If extract, do you use alcohol-free? I tried some with the alcohol in my coffee and I felt that all I could taste was that ingredient instead of the vanilla.

        Also, I am foregoing my Phyto oil and using the coconut oil/rosewater that you mentioned. How long do you leave it on and do you rinse with regular shampoo? Does it come out easily?

        Thank you for such a great post. It’s fun to see how much we all seem to have in common. At the very least, we are certainly the softest and best-smelling bunch of readers that any website ever had! September 8, 2012 at 5:20am Reply

        • Victoria: We truly are! 🙂
          I use , which is alcohol based, but any other fragrant vanilla extract works too. Until I started making my own, I would buy Nielsen-Massey vanilla products. In cooking, I use both the extract and the whole vanilla beans.

          Another thing to try would be to cover chopped vanilla beans with oil and macerate them for a couple of weeks, but of course, vanilla beans are more expensive than the extract.

          Apply the coconut oil+rosewater, put on a shower cap and wrap your head in towel. 30 minutes would be enough, but 1h is even better. You don’t have to use too much of oil. Simply massage the mixture into the roots of your hair and then rub the rest into the ends. Rinse off with your regular shampoo. After you are done shampooing, you can additionally do a final rinse of water + rosewater (1 cup + 1-2 Tablespoons of rosewater). It would be great for the skin and will leave a delicate scent. Of course, as with any new skincare, if you haven’t used rosewater on your skin before, do a patch test. Please let me know what you think! I’m going to do this on Monday. September 8, 2012 at 5:42am Reply

  • annemariec: Good grief! This is fantastic! I remember in my childhood seeing magazine articles full of home skin care recipes and advice, but I hardly ever see that kind of thing now. Instead, it’s all ‘science’ based stuff. We may have our friends at Clinique for starting that trend, as I have heard that they were the first, or among the first, to start promoting the science of skin care. Does anyone remember the Clinique ‘computers’ they used to have at all the counters?!

    I tried the straight almond oil treatment today and loved it. Feeling rather daring, I also tried it on my face. I rubbed it with a few swift strokes of almond oil on a cotton wool ball, left it for five minutes, and then patted it off gently with a warm wet face washer. My face felt lovely and moisturised, and relaxed, afterwards. Later, before I went out, I applied my normal moisturiser with sunscreen. Sunscreen is one scientific advance I am happy to accept. 🙂 September 8, 2012 at 6:29am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s interesting to observe this evolution in magazines based on the Russian editions. In the early post-Soviet era, the advertisers were few and the articles about homemade skin care were common. Now that Russia is a big market, the magazines are filled with the same puff pieces as all others. I have nothing against the scientific understanding of skincare, and I do like knowing how different ingredients affect the skin, etc., but the unsubstantiated claims and pseudo-science that some skincare lines are based on really irritate me. If I part with my money, it has to be for something special. Two main things have improved the look of my skin tremendously–wearing sunscreen every day and simplifying my skincare regimen. Sometimes I fall for something new or for a particular persuasive sales pitch, but my simple routine wins out in the end. September 8, 2012 at 8:39am Reply

      • annemariec: Yes indeed. Reading reviews on Makeupalley often leave me with the thought that some people are just using too many products, or too many products in the wrong combinations. No wonder their skin gets annoyed! September 8, 2012 at 6:21pm Reply

  • marsha: This has been such a fun and interesting post! September 8, 2012 at 9:08am Reply

    • Victoria: It really has! I got some great new ideas to try out too. 🙂 September 8, 2012 at 11:34am Reply

  • Awfulknitter: Wow, so many comments and ideas!

    I was just going to say that I’ve used sugar-and-oil (or salt-and-oil) scrubs – just commercial ones – and I really like them. I shower briefly to wet my skin, then pile on lots of scrub and get into a bath. It’s a really nice way to relax, particularly if the scrub is well scented (I confess to liking the cheap-ish one from The Sanctuary). When I get out after using a scrub, there’s no need for moisturiser – I usually put on body lotion after every shower or bath, so it feels like a nice time saver! September 9, 2012 at 2:26pm Reply

    • Victoria: It was so much fun! I already tried Divya’s masoor dal (pink lentil) mask this morning, and my skin feels like velvet.

      I like the time saving aspect of the oil scrub–soft, glowing, well-moisturized skin. What more can a girl ask for? 🙂 September 10, 2012 at 3:54am Reply

      • Andrea: I also tried the rosewater/coconut oil hair treatment. I dampened a towel and placed it in the microwave for about 30 seconds (old hot pack trick! BE CAREFUL when you try this as the steam is very hot! And no embellishments on the towel, be sure you dampen it all.). Then I wrapped it on my hair and topped with plastic wrap, as I couldn’t find my shower cap. It worked wonderfully, but I had to shampoo it twice to get all of the oil out.

        I plan to use this once a week. It smells wonderful! And I did the rosewater rinse, which I think made my hair soft. It smelled great! Which rosewater do you use for this? Heritage? I have Heritage and Costas in my fridge but used Shea Terra Organics brand because it smelled best. September 10, 2012 at 5:25pm Reply

        • Victoria: And that’s what I did this morning as well (it was my morning of beauty treatments, I suppose!) I used Heritage, because for now I have only Mymoune and that one. Mymoune is best in food, so I save it for that. Heritage, on the other hand, is a great all-purpose rosewater. Costas is another very good brand.

          I like your towel idea, which I will try. I simply wrapped my hair in a bun (couldn’t find my shower cap either; maybe ours are congregating someplace together). Even so, my hair is shiny and silky. My husband claims that he smells rosewater on it, but I can’t tell anymore.

          Glad that you liked it, Andrea! September 10, 2012 at 5:38pm Reply

          • Andrea: I had a “Brazillian Blowout” this spring, and my hair was SO silky from the (chemical) process. It gradually grew out, but today my 17-yr-old walked up and began feeling my hair, asking me what I did to it! She says it is smoother and now she wants to do it, too! (See what you started?!) September 10, 2012 at 11:50pm Reply

            • Victoria: Ah-ha! We’re converting the young ones too. Good job, Andrea! 🙂 September 11, 2012 at 5:54am Reply

        • jb: sounds great how do you do the rince water rose? do you rince with water then you rince with rose water or do you mix all in a bol and rince?

          i am trying to see myself under the shower?

          i have to try all theses souns gread September 11, 2012 at 6:55am Reply

          • Victoria: To make a rinse, mix one cup of water and 2 tablespoons of rosewater. Once you shampoo your hair as usual, turn off the shower and simply pour this scented water over your hair. It will feel nice and invigorating too (and good for your face). 🙂 Then towel dry, style as usual and that’s it! September 11, 2012 at 10:04am Reply

            • jb: you need to do a full rince first? then do the 1 cup ?
              1 cup of water is not going to do it probably..or i do not understand September 11, 2012 at 11:10am Reply

              • Victoria: Yes, rinse out the shampoo out of your hair completely. Rinse out the conditioner if you’re using it. And only then do the rosewater rinse. September 11, 2012 at 11:15am Reply

  • Kerrie: Hi Victoria – I am catching up on my emails and am especially grateful to find this post! I have always loved simple home beauty regimines so really appreciate these recipes. I recently had surgery (where they pump you full of medications) and it sure did a number on my hair and skin. I can hardly wait to try these healthy treatments which are so much better for us (and the planet). Thank you Victoria! 🙂 September 10, 2012 at 7:07pm Reply

    • Victoria: Kerrie, I’m wishing you a quick recovery! And I would be glad to share more of these simple, natural preparations. My move (and some other sad occurrences before it), though much less traumatic than a surgery, took quite a toll on my health and my skin, but I’m happy to say that I’ve managed to get them back on track. Mostly through these kinds of treatments. What I love is that they really don’t require much to put them together. Even just olive oil (if you don’t have the almond oil) and sugar on their own work magic. Also, I loved Suzanna’s variation with lemon juice. September 11, 2012 at 5:42am Reply

  • Kerrie: Thank you Victoria! I’m glad you were able to find ways to restore your health and skin and I look forward to learning more from you about natural preparations. I have very sensitive skin to start with so going back to remedies that have been handed down through the ages is going to be so helpful (and fun to experiment with). I’m also going to make myself a special little recipe book like the lovely one you showed us from your great grandmother. September 11, 2012 at 12:21pm Reply

    • Victoria: The little booklets are so helpful, and I have two of them filled out. I used to be more disciplined about it, and now I’m glad that I took notes, because I can’t remember all of the things I’ve tried and liked. Plus, I love well-made notebooks and Moleskins. I have so many of them around.

      My mom just reminded me of an old Ukrainian preparation that is used to get people back on their feet after an illness, surgery or just as an energy boost–dried apricots and walnuts. She said that you grind unsulfured apricots and walnuts together and add enough honey to bind them into a thick paste (store it in the fridge). Then you eat a spoonful of this mixture every day first thing in the morning. It’s like an energy bar but tastier and better! When I was little, she would make little balls out of this mixture and told me that it was candy. 🙂 September 11, 2012 at 3:29pm Reply

  • jb: wao sounds so cool September 11, 2012 at 3:34pm Reply

  • Kerrie: Wow – thanks for that Victoria (and your mom) 🙂 The combination of walnuts, apricots and honey would be very healing indeed so I will certainly try it.

    Yes, I like well-made booklets too so this one is going to become a treasure! September 11, 2012 at 6:17pm Reply

    • Victoria: You’re welcome! Hope that you will like it. Since I mentioned it to you yesterday, this morning, I had some apricots and walnuts for breakfast. Whatever effect it might have on my health, it sure tasted delicious. 🙂 September 12, 2012 at 4:43am Reply

      • Kerrie: Hi Victoria – just wanted to follow up and tell you I am really enjoying the apricot/walnut ‘candies’ every morning. They are so delicious and comforting – I am sure they are giving me good healing energy.
        I also looked into skin oils and have started using rose hip oil which feels very nurishing on my sensitive skin and so much better than creams.
        Thanks again Victoria! September 16, 2012 at 11:59am Reply

        • Victoria: So happy to hear this, Kerrie! I’ve whipped up a batch too, and it’s such a good way to start the day.

          Rose hip oil is definitely a treasure for sensitive skin. I’ve been using it in the past, and I really loved the results. It makes my skin so radiant. September 17, 2012 at 6:30pm Reply

  • Kerrie: Me too! It’s fun to share this 🙂 September 12, 2012 at 11:18am Reply

  • marsha: Victoria: I have to drive in excess of 50 miles to obtain apricots that do not contain sulphur dioxide. Is there anything you could do to them to make them acceptable for these purposes? :-(((((((((( I knew I had to try them when you said they tasted like caramel when they were cooked down!

    Marsha September 17, 2012 at 7:06pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s just that non-sulphured apricots naturally turn caramel-sweet when they are dried out (sulphur dioxide is a preservative, so it keeps them from browning and developing those caramel like compounds). For a caramel flavor, you can stew regular apricots with some brown sugar. I do that sometimes when I make an apricot filling for bar cookies. September 17, 2012 at 7:47pm Reply

      • marsha: I do think I may be able to get some organic regular apricots, but I’m not sure. If you use the apricots with the preservative, will they still have the same benefits for your skin? September 17, 2012 at 8:31pm Reply

        • Victoria: I don’t really know, to tell you the truth, but in the past I’ve used the regular apricots and didn’t see any ill effects. You can also try looking for dried figs, which are very good for you and are usually dried without any preservatives. September 18, 2012 at 3:26pm Reply

          • marsha: Thanks so much Victoria! This has been such a fun and interesting post! September 18, 2012 at 7:20pm Reply

  • jb: always a pleasure to read you all of you
    best September 19, 2012 at 8:34am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Jeannie! September 19, 2012 at 10:42am Reply

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