Beauty lovers in India take pride in tried and tested secrets. These are characteristically handed down from grandmothers and mothers, for whom such recipes were more a way of Life, than mere experiments. Popular ingredients, such as Sweet Almond, Sesame, Coconut, and Castor Seed Oils; Honey, and Aloe Vera; Hibiscus, Rose, Jasmine; and Fenugreek, Turmeric, Neem, or Cardamom, took centre-stage in regular, cathartic therapies, anchored in the healing power of touch. We now realise that generations before us relied on these, because their wisdom directed them to learn, and teach the art of self-care, and self-rejuvenation.
We take the amount of work our hands and feet do for us for granted. That we do not give this much thought, is itself proof of the fact! The only time we do focus on them in our busy lives, is when they begin to hurt.
What are some of the pure, natural ingredients we can add to our never-ending list of treasured secrets, for gentle and kind hand and foot care? Read on:
Himalayan Pink Salt
Inherently red, pink, and white, thanks to its iron content; Himalayan Pink Salt has 80+ macro and trace minerals - including Sodium Chloride, Magnesium, Calcium, Potassium, and Zinc. All are necessary for overall healthy internal functioning, metabolism, and for strong hair, skin, and nails.
Why Himalayan Pink Salt in a Hand and Foot Soak?
It is a powerful detoxifier. When dissolved in Water, it draws out toxins from the adipose tissues, which results in the body feeling lighter, and more energised. Simultaneously, the process of dermal absorption allows for skin tissue hydration, and reduces muscle soreness and cramps.
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV).
ACV is a Vinegar like any other, except, as the name suggests, it is made from (fermented) Apples. The fermentation turns Natural Sugars in the fruit, to Natural Alcohol. Acetic Acid-producing bacteria, turn the Alcohol into Natural Acids. Besides Citric, Lactic, Acetic, Mallic, and Succinic Acids, ACV draws on the antioxidant benefits of Apples; which are necessary to accelerate skin hydration, and arrest skin ageing. This is why it is crucial to use an ACV which has the ‘Mother’ Vinegar - that muddy, cloudy, brown sediment at the bottom, which has all this nutritional goodness in a most concentrated form.
Why ACV in a Hand and Foot Soak?
ACV has deodorising properties. It seems ironic that something which smells like feet, would help make them smell better! It is the Natural Acid Complex in ACV that softens corns, warts, and calluses, mollifies cracked skin, and cleans out odour-producing fungus and bacteria. The combined exfoliating prowess of the Salt, and Acetic Acid cleans, softens, and brightens your hands and feet. With all the hard work being done by the ACV and Pink Salt, you don’t really miss your trusty Salon manicurist-pedicurist.
Stage 1: Making this Salt-Vinegar Soak.
• Fill a plastic basin with enough lukewarm Water to cover your hands and/or feet completely. Roughly 3-4 fistfuls of the Salt, and 1 regular mug of Vinegar for every 2 mugs of Water is a good guiding formula.
• If you feel you are in danger of spreading the pungent aroma of Vinegar around your room, do not worry. It seems like that in the beginning, but it is not too bad.
• Soak your hands and/or feet for a good 45 minutes. Avoid the tendency to pick at hardened skin. Instead, use a pumice stone, a Natural Fibre loofah, nail brush. Avoid any soap or aromatic body wash at this stage.
• A word of caution regarding open cuts and sores – it is probably a good idea to avoid Salt and Vinegar Soaks till these heal; otherwise they might burn and sting.
Stage 2: Further Aesthetic Exfoliation.
This part is easier on the eyes and nose, when you change the Water in your basin, and add your Essential Oil or Bath Oil of choice.
• If you need to conduct further exfoliation, use a foot and/or hand Scrub, as these are specially concocted for the purpose. Scrubs with kernels of Apricot, Almond, Walnut or Pine Nut work best, as these make excellent natural polishers without being too harsh on your skin.
• Rose Oil – an unshakeable Aromatherapy favourite in Indian culture. It is hydrating, antimicrobial, and good for muscle pulls and cramps. It is also emotionally relaxing, and helps dissipate anxiety. Lavender is another great option, if you are looking to go to bed straight after your regime. Peppermint, Thyme, Tea Tree, and Eucalyptus Essential Oils are also antibacterial, deodorising, analgesic, and good for healing infections and wounds. Cedarwood and Basil Oils work well for soreness.
• Push back cuticles with the right tool (you can always purchase a good quality one), and cut and clean your nails at this stage. All the cleaning and hydrating has softened them, making it easier for you to cut and shape the nails and nail bed.
• If you like, you can add more warm Water, and do absolutely nothing for some time. Let your hands and feet soak up the aromatic goodness of the Essential Oils!
Stage 3: Moisturisation and Massage
• Finally, wipe your hands and feet with a soft towel, and use a richly hydrating Cream. Any good one designed for hand and foot care, would have Natural Butters– Almond, Cocoa, Shea, Mango, and Kokum (Mangosteen); or Oils like Coconut, Sweet Almond, Olive, and Calendula.
• For those who enjoy Oil massages, Natural Herb, Bark, and Spice Formulations, blended in healing Oils, are highly recommended. Sesame Oil is a quintessential go-to in Indian households. Massage Oils with pain-relieving Pepper, Camphor, Ashwagandha, Manjishtha, and Lavender or Sandalwood are ideal. For a fuss-free, efficient clean-up of the Oil, wrap your hands and/or feet in a hot towel for a few minutes, then gently wipe as you pull the towel off.
• Put socks on your feet (if not gloves on your hands, but go for it, if you like), so that the warmth and moisture of the Cream remains ‘locked’ in. A useful tip if you are going to bed straight after, so all the creamy hydration soaks into your skin through the night.
For a concluding flourish, enjoy a cup of Rose, Peppermint (or Spearmint), or Chamomile Tea, to prepare your Mind and Body for a deep, restful sleep.