Ancient Arab Beauty Secrets You Can Find In Your Kitchen
By: Blanche Shaheen / Arab America Contributing Writer
When people think of Arab beauty, they might think of kohl lined almond eyes, thick lush hair, high cheekbones, full lips, and flawless glowing skin. Arab women have had many years to practice, as their beauty regimens have evolved for centuries since 3500 BC, even before the time of Cleopatra and Nefertiti.
While today’s beauty products are often filled with toxic chemicals like phthalates, parabens, and even formaldehyde, Arab beauty products were completely natural, made from either whole foods or plants, many of which you might be able to find in your kitchen today. While these products are not marketed in glossy colorful packages listed for hundreds of dollars, they are still just as effective as they have been for centuries. Below are some of the most accessible and popular Arab beauty secrets you can still practice today.
Before going into more topical products, let’s start with the whole concept of the sauna or steam bath. The Arab region originated the whole concept of the hammam, or steam bath, which is highly popular in Turkey as well. “Hammam” in Arabic literally means bath, and public baths were prolific in ancient Islamic culture. The deep sweating from the hammams improves skin cell turnover and opens pores, creating new cells that diminish acne. This cell rejuvenation keeps the skin looking healthy and smooth.
The Original Sauna With a Splash of Rose Water
After a sauna session, it was not unusual to douse the skin with rose water, which serves as a toner. A toner helps to balance the pH level of the skin and reduce inflammation and redness. Cleopatra was a huge fan of rose water, and used the fragrant water to combat signs of aging. After the toner, Arab women love the potency of either olive or argan oils for both skin and hair.
The Magic of Plant Olis
Olive oil is particularly effective in unclogging pores, and infusing the skin with anti-aging properties with its polyphenols. Research shows that polyphenols can protect and rejuvenate aging skin when applied topically, as well as when ingested as part of a healthy diet. Olive oil is also great for treating dry cuticles and strengthening weak nails. Dull and lifeless hair can also reap the benefits of olive oil. Just brush a couple of tablespoons of olive oil into the hair. Wrap and leave in for a minimum of 30 minutes before washing. Some women even leave in the olive oil treatment overnight for maximum shine. Wash out the oil with a chemical free shampoo and style as usual.
Argan oil is another middle eastern favorite for both hair and skin. Argan oil is rich in antioxidants and essential fatty acids, making an excellent moisturizer leaving the skin with a radiant glow. This oil can also be used as a hair mask just like olive oil, however it has the added use as a styling product to smooth out the hair and combat frizziness. A little argan oil goes a long way however, so use sparingly in the hair.
Kohl For Mysterious Eyes
Arab women love to emphasize their eyes the most, and before the dawn of liquid eyeliner, kohl was the go-to for achieving that winged look. The kohl, made naturally from the resin of trees, had multiple benefits. Not only did the black kohl around the eyes emphasize the lash line and create dramatic and mysterious eyes, the kohl also protected the eyes from infections or sun damage.
Dairly to Block the Sun
Preserving healthy youthful skin in the harsh desert terrain was quite a challenge. So ancient Arabs used labneh, or soft kefir cheese, to treat sunburn. Labneh softens and moisturizes the skin, and is full of healing probiotics to fight inflammation.
The Sugar Wax Treatment
Arab women were also the first to create the original hair wax made of sugar called halawa. To make the halawa, they heated sugar, lemon juice and water, creating a pliable caramel. This caramel treatment was excellent for waxing off hair while leaving smooth skin behind without ingrown hairs. Halawa is also less painful than the traditional synthetic waxes used in spas today.
Your Skin Reflecrs What You Eat
One tip to remember is no amount of beauty regimens will work if your diet contains excess sugar, processed food, or even alcohol. Even ancient Arab women believed that true beauty shined from within. So they focused on a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats like olive oil –with moderate meats and grains. This combination spawned the modern Mediterranean diet which has been proven to be the most heart healthy diet from prominent medical institutions like the Mayo Clinic.
To learn how to incorporate the some of the most popular beauty products on this list into your daily life, click on the video below:
Arab Beauty Ritual For Skin
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp coarse coconut sugar
Juice of half lemon
1 tsp baking soda
Mix all of the ingredients and rub onto the skin. Leave in for 30 minutes before washing. Add rose water if you wish as a toner, then moisturize with a light amount of olive or argan oil.
Blanche Shaheen is the author of the cookbook called “Feast In the Middle East, a Journey of Family and Cuisine” which you can order here: https://secure.mybookorders.com/mbo_index.php?isbn=9781545675113 She is also a journalist, and host of the popular cooking show called Feast in the Middle East. She specializes in Arab cuisine of the Levant and beyond. You can check out her cooking video tutorials at https://www.youtube.com/user/blanchetv Her recipes can also be found at https://feastinthemiddleeast.wordpress.com/
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