My grandmother was a wise woman. Her name was Eva. She only achieved a 4 th grade education and rarely left the corners of her own home but she could cook the most magnificent Caribbean dishes you would ever hope to taste and had a wealth of knowledge about home[opatic] remedies that rivaled any wellness expert today.
She was a voracious reader, she could read an entire book in a single day. Mami Eva (that’s how we called her) and my grandfather always used to say that books are the best teachers: they don’t lose patience, they’re always available and ready to impart their knowledge and they’ll repeat what they have to teach you as many times as you need to, until you finally get it.
Some of my most precious memories of my grandmother involved her teaching my sisters and I tricks and tips to get softer, shinier and more beautiful skin and hair.
She would read about a particular herb, condiment or food that contained this or that vitamin. Or use us as guinea pigs to try a new concoction she learned from someone else’s travels to India, Africa or the Middle East.
It was all very strangely nurturing and we loved it. Because, the truth is, they totally worked!
Here are some of the best and most effective beauty tips you’ve probably never heard of, straight from Mami Eva’s drawer:
Avocado Hair Mask
This wonderful fruit is ubiquitous in the Caribbean. We use to eat it regularly but when the avocados were too ripe to eat, we would mash them and put them in our hairs as a hair mask. The oils in the avocado can penetrate the hair molecules better than almost any other oil, nourishing it and protecting it from the sun, the environment and the chemical process.
Hydrogen Peroxide Facial Toner
This is hands down the best toner I’ve ever used. Just like it cleans wounds and prevents infections, it clears dirt, excess make-up and excess oil from your face like nothing else I’ve tried. It is wonderful to prevent and heal acne, including adult acne (which I had suffered from for years). And the best part is, there are no chemicals, or harsh residues to deal with, just water and oxygen. For oily skin, use it once a day. Normal to dry skin up to 3 times per week.
Brown Rice Mask
Apparently used by women in Asia for hundreds of years, a simple mask made of organic brown rice and water is known to help clear out blemishes and hyper pigmentation, fight wrinkles and works as sun protection. We used it, not only on our faces, but pretty much everywhere. It will leave your skin feeling hydrated, and soft like a baby. Wash the rice thoroughly first, then cover it with distilled water and let it sit overnight. The rice will become a paste that will sit at the bottom of the bowl. Remove the excess of water and apply the remaining paste on your face and body. Leave for 10 minutes before rinsing off.
Garlic For Hair Growth
The smell could be a bit strong but it is oh, so worth it. My grandmother used to say that the garlic’s anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties would help clear out and heal clogged hair follicles and allow the scalp to breathe, which in turn promotes hair growth. Generation of women in my family have used minced garlic on their hair and we all loved the end results. Mince a clove of garlic and add it to 1/3 cup of jojoba oil (we used olive oil back in the day but jojoba will help neutralize the odor a lot more effectively). Spread it over your scalp with a cotton ball and let it sit for up to 20 minutes.
Eat For Beauty
My grandmother’s mixed heritage included African, Native American (Taínos) and Spanish. She learned cooking traditions and the use of wonderful herbs and condiments from her own grandparents. Later in life, she realized that some of those herbs consumed regularly and generously, could help you stay young and beautiful for years. So every time she made a stew, a soup or almost any other dish for us girls, she added things like coconut oil, dandelion, fennel or basil. Other great foods she used that are great for your skin and hair include tomatoes, safflower oil, carrots, spinach, aloe and sweet potatoes.