A Hike in the Rain in the Montes of Malaga

A few weeks back I mentioned in a post about rain how sometimes we go for a hike in the rain. So here’s our latest rainy weather adventure.

Montes de Malaga Spain

This is a short and easy walk in the Montes of Malaga that’s accessible to anyone in good walking condition. There are practically no climbs or descents at all. And you don’t need a car to get there. The city bus can take you there.

So since we have no car, the city bus is precisely our only means to reach it. We take the number 2 bus upwards to Ciudad Jardin all the way to the end and get off at the last stop.

Right in front of us, the street veers left and heads out of town towards the countryside. We grab that street. It’s a residential street full of beautiful single family homes.

A lovely place to live, in fact, and so near the countryside—if only it weren’t so d*** far away from everything! Basically, you do need a car if you live here.

We continue walking down the street. It crosses an overpass that goes over some sort of major freeway out of Malaga. You can catch glimpses of the Botanical Garden on the other side.

We still continue walking and it’s not long before urban concrete gives way to countryside and greenery. Here’s a pic from a few years back of this part of the way.

Montes de Malaga Spain

Yes it is foggy there. Don’t ask. Sometimes it’s foggy here. This might be Malaga but sometimes we have fog too. All the same it was 30 degrees that day (Celsius). Doesn’t seem that way but it was.

Soon we reach an intersection. The left turn dives under a tunnel and leads to the door of the Botanical Garden. We don’t want to go to the Botanical Garden, so we veer right.

The right-hand road climbs upwards for a while. But not to worry, it’s not a steep incline. When we get to the top of it we find a cluster of country homes. Just before these houses begin, there’s a fenced-off area. The path to the Roman aqueduct begins just beyond the fence.

Bridge

But please don’t go there or if you do, and you still insist on crossing the Roman aqueduct anyways and you fall off about 10 or 12 4 or 5 storeys to the terrible ground below and break a few bones, don’t tell me I didn’t warn you! (You can see there is no railing, and plenty of vertigo-inducing places.)

Anyways. Long story short. Don’t cross the Roman aqueduct.

Nope. The proper way to get onto the trail is to just keep walking up the road, past all the lovely country homes and haciendas and ranches. (We didn’t know that the first time we went this way so we rather pigheadedly insisted on crossing the Roman aqueduct. Don’t cross the Roman aqueduct!)

Roman Aqueduct Malaga

(The way back, incidentally, that first time, before I learnt about the proper way to access the trail, since I was adamant that we would nevermore cross the Roman aqueduct again, in the end the only means we could find to return to civilization required us to, of all things, plunge our feet into the coldest, iciest, shiveringest water you will ever find and cross a watering canal instead. And, you know, this being Spain and not merry ole England and all that, we don’t go for country walks with wellies.

But I preferred frozen shins to broken bones.)

Well, as I was saying. Soon you’ll come to a gate which indicates that that is where the trail begins. You can follow the indications on the sign at the gate. Or you can just angle downwards towards the stream. There’s a path that’s easy to see, before you enter through the gate.

Once you reach the stream, you can have the time of your life. If you’ve got kids they can go mad jumping in the water and trying to build log bridges and whatever else it is that kiddies do in streams.

Kids Playing in a Stream Malaga Spain

My kids look pretty tame, don’t they?

The first time I went there with the kids that is what they did. But the last time I went, I only managed to drag the eldest, “Ermenegildo”, along. The little one, “Lucrecio”, was convalescent at home.

Convalescent from what, you might be wondering? Well, from his PE teacher’s vain attempt to turn the whole class into parkour ninjas and instead of flying up a wall, Lucrecio crashed down on his ankle instead.

We just followed the stream up a ways as long as the daylight allowed. We’d left home after lunch (we’re not particularly inclined to catching the early worms nor, for that matter, the late worms either, we don’t like worms very much) so that wasn’t a long time.

Even though it was raining (okay sort of raining) it wasn’t the least bit cold. So no raincoats (not that I have any), parkas or anoraks required.

Ermenegildo in the Rainy Forest

We chanced upon a pack of wild dogs so kept a prudent distance from them. Luckily they chose to grapple their way up the mountainside and disappear. Didn’t occur to me to snap a few Polaroids. Dawggonit.

In all reality, the river goes on and on and on, I have no idea how far it reaches but probably too far for anyone except a seasoned hiker (ie. not us) to walk. One day, when we have the whole day free and manage to crawl out of bed before sunset, we might actually decide to tackle it and follow it down a significant length before turning back.

And since I’ve written a few books I’m not going to deny that I’d feel real chuffed if you’d check them out. As someone I know once told me, trying to urge me to check out some books: They’re thrillers! Grab all the deets here.

Rainbow After the Storm

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Walking in the Rain

Rainy Day in Malaga ForestI LOOVEEE to walk in the rain.

If you’re British you probably think I’ve gone off my rockers and I’m totally bonkers and I need to see my psychiatrist PRONTO!

But do understand, I’ve gone from a land that is buried in 3 feet of snow during 8 months of the year to an absolute desert. So where in this formula does rain factor in at some point?

 

 

The saddest life is one that is lived from cradle to grave without any rain, methinks.
(Tweet that, as someone I Follow likes to say.)

I talk to my friends in Canada right now and ask them about the rain and they say: What do you expect? Snow snow and more snow! Snow up to our eyebrows. When was the last time we saw rain?

And here in Malaga it’s two thirds of the same. Except here we’re not up to our eyebrows in snow, of course, but rather in endless blue skies.

When I first arrived in Spain I thought: oh wow, sun! It’s hot and sunny every single day!

A few weeks later I started to wonder: oh, so when does it rain here?

Well to the land’s credit, we do have 3 months of drought every summer. And we’d arrived just before summer. So it was fairly normal that we didn’t see rain for a while.

But at the time we arrived here, I didn’t know that.

Normally the storm clouds finally, thankfully, roll in come September and we finally get some relief from the endless scorching and searing and sunburning.

Now, for those of you who hate rain, I must ask you: If there were no rain, what would we drink? How would plants be able to live?

THIS is what the world would look like if there were never any rain. Day after day after day after day the whole year round:

Desert at Almeria

Okay okay, I realize that’s not quite fair. I realize that’s a beach, not a desert. But that’s still what the world would look like if there were no rain. It’s great for a week. For a month. For 3 months. But for a whole year, year after year after year?

And it is the desert: that’s Almeria, which is almost a desert. Do you happen to notice any greenery in there?

So, *ahem*, as I was saying, that, friends, is why we need rain.

Which takes me back to the (almost forgotten) original subject of this post: walking in the rain.

As I just mentioned, I love to walk in the rain. And I also love to take photos.

So when I walk in the rain I take photos.

So this is a collection of photos that I’ve taken, on different days, at different occasions, as I walked in the rain.

I love the beach in the rain because it’s completely deserted.

Beach in the Rain Malaga

In fact, for that matter, the beach when it’s raining is absolutely, scrumptiously INCREDIBLE! There’s no one there. When else on the entire Costa del Sol could you ever expect to find the beach so empty?

I often go to the beach when it’s raining, so I have quite a few photos to fill up quite a few galleries. Here’s just a short selection of them (because it takes me so &$/*^# long to edit them, d*** blast it!).

Rainy Beach Malaga

Paseo Maritimo in the Rain Malaga

There’s nothing I love more than to leave work and be greeted by a sudden rain shower or rather, a torrential downpour that lasts for about 4 hours. Because that’s how it rains here: no rain for 30 days, then suddenly we get half a year’s worth of rain in one evening.

Malaga Neighbourhood in the Rain

But that’s what I love.

Walking in a drizzle (which I also do) is a bit boring, actually.

No. I much prefer wild, out-of-control, inundating tropical madness. The kind that makes your eyes sting and fills your mouth with sweet water.

The kind where the rain hits you so hard you feel like you’re drowning.

The kind where you can walk around and no one knows you’re crying hehe.

Sometimes we go out hiking or for woody walks in the rain as well. I love hiking in the rain, there’s no one else about and we get the whole countryside all to ourselves.

Rainy Walk in the Woods

Roman Aqueduct MalagaThis aqueduct is AMAZING. I have no idea how it got there, when it dates from and most of all, why it’s so abandoned all alone out there!! What a way to treat ancient Roman monuments (if indeed it is Roman).

We’ve crossed on it a couple of times but I wouldn’t recommend it and most especially not with kids. It’s very high up and there are no railings or any sort of security at all. In fact, now it’s fenced off. But since we discovered it before it got fenced off, we knew how to wind our way through the woods to find it again. (Pic below taken on a different day hence why it’s so sunny.)

Roman Aqueduct Andalucia

Path in the Woods SpainWe don’t know what this is and speculation runs wild between my son and me. “Maybe it’s to hide from the rain,” suggests “Ermenegildo” as he glares balefully at the chubby raindrops pelting against him.

“Try hiding in it,” was my response. A bit too small for him I do believe. “For hunters,” Ermenegildo concluded.

Who’s right? Well, we’ll leave it up to you to decide.

Walk in the Woods Spain

Just a tiny pic of Ermenegildo. He hates me putting up his pics. So here you can’t see him very well.

People ask me if I don’t get frozen in the rain. I never wear a raincoat — in fact, don’t even own one for that matter. So since I’m also quite anti-umbrella (for my use, not for my kids’ use haha!) I suppose it would stand to reason that I could get rather cold and miserable.

But then again, this is southern Spain! Not northern Scotland. It’s warm all year round.

So the rain is usually warm and toasty too. And who doesn’t enjoy a toasty warm sprinkling?

Rainbow After the Storm

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Proper Hair Oiling For Long, Drop-Dead Gorgeous Locks

The women of Kerala, in southern India, are renowned the world over for their long, thick, shiny locks. I think in general most people know, or consider, East Indian women as having the most beautiful hair in the world.

Genetics? Maybe. It’s certainly true that nature does seem to have endowed them with naturally long, thick, abundant hair.

But I think a great part of their secret is what they choose to DO to make the most of and ENHANCE what nature had already given them.

And among all their haircare routines, HAIR OILING is what most stands out.

If you don’t believe me, let me show you a photo of what MY hair looks like since I started a practice of REGULAR HAIR OILING:

Hair Oiling

I certainly don’t have Indian hair. And I do agree, I also don’t have kinky locks that curl inwards very tightly, so I realize that at least to a certain extent, genetics do play a part in the kind of hair you have.

But regardless of what type of hair nature decided to give you, I feel that EVERYONE can achieve the most beautiful locks and make the most of whatever you DO have naturally, with hair oiling.

Hair Oiling Basics

So, this is how I oil my hair.

I do it twice a week. You can do it just once a week, or more often if you like. The women of Kerala oil their hair absolutely every single day. They even walk around with their hair sleek with oil the whole day long, and go out on the streets with oiled hair. It’s a normal practice in their society, and if you go out with oiled hair no one is going to come up to you and say, Ew, what greasy hair you have!

Of course here in the West you can’t go out on the streets with oiled hair, or people will come up to you and say, Ew, what greasy hair you have!

But you can most certainly walk around your home with oiled hair.

Benefits of Hair Oiling

  • Oiling your hair will make your hair MUCH STRONGER and more resistant to breakage, keeping it from becoming fragile.
  • Oiling your hair will prevent split ends.
  • It will make your hair MUCH softer and shinier and bouncier.
  • It will protect your hair from damaging elements and the heat of hair styling.
  • It will encourage hair growth and prevent baldness.
  • It will help your hair grow long, since it won’t break off or fall off as much, and because you won’t have to trim it as much since you won’t have so many split ends.
  • It can repair your hair if you’ve already damaged it (and most people have damaged hair, what with chemical hair dyes, hair dryers, flat irons and hot curlers and the like……).
  • Although I don’t know if it’s true, the women of Kerala claim that oiling your hair regularly will also prevent white hair.

As I said, I do hair oiling twice a week. I always use either pure coconut oil or pure olive oil. I’ve also prepared a mixture of castor oil with olive oil which I use for the roots, as it’s supposed to encourage hair growth and prevent hair from falling.

I dunno but I do seem to find a LOT less hair shedding since I started this routine.

Steps For Oiling Your Hair

I always follow the same steps. It works, at least for me.

I begin with dry hair. I apply hair to the roots first, from the middle of the part downwards on both sides. I simply dip my fingers into the oil and rub them in the hair. I do this until all the roots are covered, and then I give myself a relaxing, soothing massage.

Next, I divide the hair into two on each side. I cover both palms with oil and stroke (or rather, pour, as I’m a bit wild haha) the oil all the way down the hair to the tips.

I do this several times until all the hair is saturated with oil.

After that, I dip just the tips of my fingers into the oil and finger comb the hair to get rid of all the tangles. I have coarse, curly hair that naturally just LOVES to tangle, so I usually have tangled hair. And I have found that this step makes a HUGE difference in the way the hair looks afterwards!

One final stroke of oil all the way through from crown to tip, and it’s done!

Your hair should look somewhat like this when it’s finished:

Hair OIling

After this, you can put your hair in a shower cap or wrap it up in a towel if you like. I find that very uncomfortable, and prefer to put my hair up in a plait. You can make one or two plaits.

Most people get satisfactory results keeping the oil on just one hour. I always keep it a minimum of two hours and longer if possible. That simply gives the oil more time to penetrate into the core of the hair shafts, which is where it works its magic.

The deeper the oil penetrates into the hair shaft, the more it is working in there, strengthening the hair and moisturizing it.

When you wash the hair later on, the oil will be stripped from the outside of the hair shaft. But if you’ve left it on long enough, there will still be oil INSIDE the hair shaft, where it will continue moisturizing your hair and providing it with flexibility and strength. Hence that glorious soft sensation after you’ve been oiling your hair.

Some people like to sleep with oil in their hair overnight and wash it out in the morning in the shower. I like to take a shower at night, so I put the oil on in the evening and keep it on until it’s time to take a shower.

If you’re going to sleep with oil in your hair, you can just cover your pillows with towels.

Washing It Out

When I get into the shower, I wash the oil out with shampoo and condition as usual, or use a hair masque.

I find one washing more than enough for the length, but I do need a second washing for the roots, which are oilier.

I used to use normal shampoo but I’ve switched to natural soap (either solid or liquid) and bar shampoo, because I want to be as natural as possible, and avoid toxic chemical detergents.

I do need conditioner or a masque at the end. Firstly, as mentioned earlier, washing the hair removes the oil on the outside of the shaft, so you still need something to smooth down the hair cuticles and make the hair soft, manageable and easy to comb. And that is what conditioner does.

The second reason is because, with the Medusa locks that I was naturally gifted with, that were programmed to tangle right from the start, the only way I can possibly get a comb through my hair is with gobs and gobs of conditioner on top!

If you have thick, coarse, curly hair like me, the best type of comb to use is a wide-toothed one. I never use a fine-toothed comb or a brush. A brush would just pull out all the natural ringlets.

But you should choose your comb or brush according to the type of hair you have and what works best for you. Straight hair seems to do very well with a vigorous brushing every day.

Dry, Dry, Dry My Hair

I always air dry my hair and shy away from dryers or irons. I really don’t understand people’s obsession with ironing away their gorgeous natural curls. Curly hair is, in my opinion, much more exciting than straight hair. And it’s also rarer, throughout the world, since the majority of people have straight hair. Which makes your curls more special, I say.

It’s true that perhaps in some countries, like Spain, curly hair is the norm. So if you live in Spain and you have curly hair, it might make you feel like your hair is ordinary and everyday and run-of-the-mill.

But really, if you look at people throughout the world, most people have straight hair and it is really straight hair that is more everyday and run-of-the-mill.

Sometimes, people with curls complain that their curls are frizzy, so they need to iron the frizz away.

Well, personally, I don’t feel like you have to grab the hair-damaging iron to get rid of the frizz. If you start oiling your hair, it should naturally become less frizzy just simply as a result of the hair oiling.

Then, if you still have frizz, there are products out there to get rid of frizz. And you don’t need to call upon the iron, which burns your precious locks.

In India hair oiling is a real pleasurable experience. People don’t have to oil their own hair there. In India people live with their extended families, so in most households there are many women. All the women get together to oil each other’s hair. So it is a very pleasurable activity. Women chat as they oil each other’s hair. Or the woman who is getting her hair oiled can do whatever she wants, watch TV, read a book, whatever, as long as she sits still, and other women oil her hair. Then she oils other women’s hair.

It’s also customary for all the women to gather together and sit down together and oil each other’s hair while they chit-chat. It’s like a quilting party, but instead of making quilts they oil each other’s hair.

Of all the things you can do to preserve the health of your hair, I feel that hair oiling is the king and the queen and reigns supreme on the list of good things you can do to your hair. If you try it and keep up a regular practice, I’m SURE you will soon notice the difference.

So, how about you? Have you tried oiling your hair? What results did you find? Please don’t hesitate to leave me a comment. I LURRRVE (positive, non-spammy) comments from readers!

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Foray Into Black and White

I was just thumpin’ around today with the nigglin’ itch to keep blogging even though I’ve already beaten my record for frequency of posting these past couple of days. Didn’t know what to do, though, so I thought I’d flip on over to Patrick Latter’s photography blog and browse around for some inspiration. So here is the inspired blog that follows.

I was so totally entranced by Patrick’s black-and-white photos that I decided to try a hand at black-and-white as well. Obviously, there’s no way I can compare to Patrick. As you can see, it’s clear I’m just a fooler-around, definitely not an expert or a professional like Patrick is. But come on, give a girl a break! After all, these are the first black-and-white photos I’ve ever made!

Park Pond

Although it’s quite clear that this is a park, most of the photos in this post were taken in private gardens belonging to friends.

Private Garden Tree

Private Garden

Well, this isn’t exactly a “private” garden, since anyone can visit it and if you live ’round here I’m sure you’ll recognize this very famous park in Torremolinos which, as I mentioned in a previous post, is one of my favourite towns anywhere.

Parque de la Bateria Torremolinos

Now back to gardens again. Wild, overgrown and definitely not very English orchards dominated by orange trees.

Orange Tree and Cat

Nature is very beautiful in black and white, too.

Lone Surfer

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Henna

With all the different subjects out there that I could muse about, in the end I decided to continue on a bit more with the theme of natural health-natural cosmetics-natural beauty. So today let’s talk about hair!

I’d always wished I’d been blessed with gorgeous, shiny locks of brilliant spun gold, not only is golden hair beautiful, it also rejuvenates and endows the features with light, youth and grace. But I wasn’t so lucky, in fact Mother Nature decided that not only would I not enjoy a crowning glory of royal gold waves, she actually went ahead and weighed me down underneath sheets of heavy black.

Well you could go on and praise the magnificence of raven black locks. It was the colour that Anne of Green Gables daydreamed of so insistently that she actually went out and dyed her own carrot-red waves, against her strict adoptive mother’s will, with the unreliable concoctions that existed 100 years ago, when the story was written. With the unfortunate result that her hair turned a glorious dishwater, slimy green.

I’ve got the opposite problem of Anne, however, but unlike her I am able to fulfil my dreams of flaunting a head full of fiery red. Well maybe not that fiery, but in my books it’s certainly an improvement over jet.

Last post I recounted my secret for beautiful skin. Now I’m going to talk about my tips for lovely hair. Well, for lovely black, brown or brunette hair at least. In a future post (if I ever get around to it) I will, nonetheless, hopefully, explain how you can enhance your drop-dead to-die-for golden locks without laying your hands on a single chemical, as I did for my baby:

But today black or dark hair is the order of the day. So let’s go, talking about henna!

Henna is a plant, a small tree, whose unassuming leaves produce a belligerent red dye when crushed and mixed with liquid, preferably a slightly acidic one. I suppose everyone has heard about body art and temporary tattoos made with henna. However today’s post only deals with henna for hair.

Henna has traditionally been used for millennia to enhance women’s hair in lands where the plant grows and where, coincidentally, women also generally sport black or dark hair naturally.

I imagine that all this theory, however, probably doesn’t contribute tremendously to what women (and maybe the occasional man too!) really want to know, and that is, how do we use henna?

Well the internet is chock full of websites about henna and how you can prepare it. I’ll just explain what I personally do. It’s easy and quite effective, for me at least.

About a day before I want to put henna into my hair I prepare a henna concoction. I use 300 g. of henna and I have long hair. If you have shoulder-length hair I would recommend about 100 g. and 200 if you have mid-length (a bit below the shoulders) hair.

I mix the powdered henna (I just buy it from a local natural food shop, very lucky to have found it heehee!) with a large mug of lemon juice. Okay I’m lazy I buy lemon juice in a bottle from the store and it works just great. But of course real natural freshly-squeezed lemons is better!

After that I cook up a strong infusion of chamomile, chamomile seems to lighten black hair slightly and make the henna show up more, in addition to bestowing a splendid glow and shine to hair. Once the infusion is cooled (don’t put boiling infusion into the henna because it will cook the plant and cooked leaves won’t yield any dye) I mix as much liquid into the henna concoction as needed to form a thick paste, with the consistency of very thick yogurt.

Imagine that you will be putting this onto your head, so you don’t want something that drips. But if it is too solid it won’t spread well. Finding the perfect balance is simply a matter of practice. Since you get the best results if you apply henna once every month, you can acquire plenty of practice!

Once your concoction is all mixed up, let it sit for about 12 hours in a warm place. This stimulates the henna leaves to release their dye, dye which will later go onto your head and into your hair.

And now, when you’re all ready, let’s get into the shower. Keep in mind that you should set aside about 4-6 hours of uninterrupted time for this process, so a good moment to do it is when you don’t have to go to work. If you’re so lucky as to have light coloured hair, like mousey brown or blonde, you can take less time. If, however, like me, you have the deepest most impenetrable locks, then you must think that it will take a long time for that coveted auburn stain to take hold.

Step into the shower or bathtub with your large pot of mud, which is what henna looks like. Now you can have the time of your life smearing muddy henna all over your head in any order. Or you can smear it on in an orderly fashion, one lock at a time starting with the crown and working your way down to the ends, like professional hairdressers do. Any way you do it, the end result is a mass of tangled mud, which you pile onto the top of your head. Wrap saran wrap around it and you’re ready to face your day!

For me facing the day usually means tiresome tasks like cooking and washing. Yep, when you have a family you don’t get breaks so you can relax with your henna. As you’re scrubbing the pots you can daydream about all those lovely Middle Eastern misses who could permit themselves the luxury of lounging indulgently in public hammam with their hair up in a hennaed bun while professional masseurs gave them the full spa treatment.

If you’re lucky, however, maybe you can get in a chapter of CSI or Castle during breaks from the kitchen.

I leave henna on for at least 4 hours, but if you’re one of those fortunate ladies with pale hair you can get away perfectly with maybe just 2. When you’ve left it on long enough, it’s time to wash it out.

Easier said than done. Henna leaves your hair like a bird’s nest. Like the nest of a bird that just had a knock-down-drag-out battle with an eagle.

I find that the easiest way to disentangle bird’s-nest recently hennaed hair is by slathering conditioner on generously. Don’t leave a strand uncovered with the conditioner. Once you’ve straightened your hair out a bit with this conditioner you can then shampoo and condition as usual.

Lastly, dry and style as always and enjoy your cascade of ravishing, flaming waves.

One last note for healthy hair naturally. I always like to give hair a deep oil treatment once a week. Just rub oil all over your hair from root to ends and leave it on for an hour or 2. You can put it up in braids or a bun if you prefer, so it won’t rub off on everything. I like coconut oil (as you can easily discover by reading on to the next post) or olive oil. After normal shampooing and conditioning, both will leave your hair strong, super soft and shiny, healthy and moisturized. Now you can throw all your expensive salon formulas out the window and never look back again.

Coconut oil

Most unprofessional photo if I do say so myself, but that's what my humble little jar of coconut oil looks like.

Okay so this isn't coconut oil it's coconut milk, but my coconut oil is in an unmarked jar, and this pic has a photo of a coconut which sure looks yummy!

All Natural Skincare

Well I’m thinking it’s about time I babbered on a bit about one of my favourite peeves: natural skincare and the people who don’t bother to take care of their skin.

I understand that there are lots and lots of reasons and excuses out there for people not to take care of their skin. The first one, one my sons always use: males don’t take care of their skin!

Well I’m not a male so I’ll pass on responding to that one. I can’t get into a man’s head (though maybe I can get into a little boy’s haha), so I really don’t know what a real-life man might have to say about that.

However for the other half of earth’s population, namely, women, well that’s another story. “I’m a man” is not a valid excuse for them to not take care of their skin.

One excuse I’ve heard is that vanity is a sin. Our lives shouldn’t revolve around our looks, people who judge us for our looks aren’t worth our bother anyways, they’re shallow and frivolous etc. etc.

Okay so maybe it’s a bit true, maybe we shouldn’t care that much about what other people think of us. I mean after all, you can take it from me who am pretty plain if I do say so myself. Aren’t the heroic princesses always flaunting their ravishing golden waves while the witch is burdened with heavy, raven black locks (just like black cats)? (That’s why I’ve always claimed I was a witch, but that’s for another post.) And I’ve got John Wayne’s strong, square jaw, which is okay if you’re John Wayne but……. I don’t think anyone has ever called me “John” yet.

But what about what we think about our own selves?

When you look in the mirror, wouldn’t you like to see something pleasant? Something that makes you feel good? Good looks aren’t just poreless skin, a salon hairdo and designer outfits. Good looks, more than anything else, reflect good health. And who doesn’t want to be (and feel and look) healthy? Even the plainest Jane can presume good health, and have it reflect on her face. You don’t need perfect bones to enjoy a radiant cutis. And you don’t have to have Cindy Crawford’s spectacular figure to impress people with the silkiness of your skin.

Which brings us (at last) to the subject of this post.

Many people say they don’t take care of their skin because creams are too expensive. Well, to them I can reply, I never buy expensive skincare creams myself. I never even buy cheap ones for that matter. I don’t buy creams at all.

All right I do make one exception. For daytime wear I do regularly use this brand called Olay that makes a very cheap little pink thing, it only costs me 6€ at my local drugstore and it lasts for many months. But that isn’t what this post is about.

What I felt like blogging about today is natural skincare. Skincare products and routines that don’t use any artificial chemicals, parabens, sodium laureth sulphate, formaldehyde (a common ingredient in many commercial products and also used for embalming, so if you’re putting that onto your skin then you’re literally embalming your skin too), alcohol, petroleum by-products or any other of these “nasties”.

Now, I personally do use makeup sometimes (yeah I know, so unnatural, the main reason I do so is precisely because I am vain and I don’t see myself as looking very nice au naturel, no skin problems but I’ve got the yuckiest bone structure you’ve ever seen…….). However, I don’t use chemicals to remove that very chemical and unnatural makeup afterwards.

I use oil.

And I recommend oil as a natural makeup remover to everyone.

The kind of oil, I’d say, is also fairly important. You don’t want to be smearing beef tallow or bacon fat all over your face, after all! I use natural plant oils, usually sweet almond oil or coconut oil, to remove makeup. It is so absolutely simple, effective and cheap. If you can’t come by these products which really don’t cost a lot you can always use the olive oil you cook with. I don’t use it even though I live in Spain so it’s everywhere, because it stings my eyes. However I know people that it doesn’t sting their eyes.

After that, I suppose you’ll be wanting to get all that grease off of your face, right? So you probably reach for that milky cleansing cream or that bi-phase gel.

Wait. Don’t do that.

There are more natural items out there that will clean your face just as fine as anything high-end and it will be much cheaper and much gentler and healthier on your skin. And unlike those chemicals it will actually be good for you and maybe in the process ward off some aging and maybe even prevent a bit of cancer.

I like to use all-natural, handmade soaps for cleaning. In the US it is so easy to find them. I’ve never tried any American-made natural soap but I’ve heard that Chagrin Valley makes a superb one. In fact they ship all around the world at very very reasonable prices, so one of my dreams, someday, when (as I wrote here in this post) I’m no longer living just hand to mouth, is to be able to order a bunch of soap from them.

If you don’t want to order soap online, however, or like me you can’t afford to, you can usually find some kind of natural soap in your local grocery store. I can find a few, and this is Spain that we’re talking about so it’s not like the stores are piled to the ceiling with 50 million national brands of anything. So if I can find them in my local supermarket here in Spain, you can find them too.

I have a few made of glycerine (and speaking of glycerine – oh were we speaking of glycerine? – well as I was saying, speaking of glycerine, a lot of glycerine soaps pretend to be all-natural just because they have glycerine in them well that is quite a silly idea, that would be like saying that plastic bottles are all-natural just because they have natural water inside them), some made of oatmeal and another one made of olive oil, all from my local supermarket. If you want to know if it’s true when they claim that their soap is “all-natural” you do have to read the ingredient list. All-natural soap shouldn’t have anything more than lye (sodium hydroxide), plant oils (usually coconut oil), water and maybe some essential oils. Artificial colorants are also okay for me in my book however. If they have things added to enhance them (like oatmeal, lemon peels, etc.), well obviously they should be things that are clearly natural, like oatmeal, lemon peels, etc.

Ayurveda recommends that you cleanse your skin with chickpea flour mixed with a little sweet almond oil, milk and turmeric. Rice meal is also fine. I used to do that but owing to the fact that here in Malaga they don’t sell chickpea flour, and also, why not admit it, to the bonanza that at the time I moved here there was this most awesome and heavenly store called “More Than Soap”, I gave up my chickpea flour and turned to a bevy of the most divine and exotic soaps from my favourite shop. Unfortunately they went out of business because, who can compete with dollar-store, chemical-laden, carcinogenic shower gels that only cost 60 cents (well 75 cents now, they upped the price of course)?

After you cleanse your skin, of course, it’s time to MOISTURIZE. That is so important. Cleaning your skin will undoubtedly keep it healthy, but if you want it to look good and defy the ravages of time, you must moisturize.

This is what happens if you don’t moisturize.

This is a person whom I know who proudly declares that she never moisturizes her skin. In that photo she’s younger than 40. (And to all the people who know me, please don’t ask me who this is, top secret! I will never reveal!)

Well I originally wrote a long spiel debunking the zillion excuses that she likes to resort to to explain why she prefers not to moisturize. But now I’ve changed my mind. I figure, it’s her skin, she can do what she wants with it. (As long as that doesn’t mean her complaining to me 5 years from now all perplexed as to where all those crows’ feet, sagging jowls and etched lines suddenly and mysteriously materialized from………)

Anyways, so I promised to tell you my secret to beautiful skin (or to beautiful, natural, healthy moisturizing at least), but I’ve already told it to you. It’s natural plant oils. Once again.

I alternate the oils I use every night, so I can receive their different benefits and also to prevent allergies (you can get allergies even to natural products). Here is a list of some of the oils that are out there, some of which I use (and some which I don’t because I don’t have that kind of skin):

  • sweet almond oil: good for all kinds of skin, a general, all-purpose moisturizing oil, I find it too heavy for the hot Mediterranean summers however (if you want to read just how hot we can get here you can do so at this post)
  • avocado oil: for drier skins, deeply nourishing, especially good because it purportedly encourages collagen production (don’t know if that’s true, I haven’t actually gone out and measured how much collagen I have), I like this oil very much and use it all year round, it gives very soft, beautiful, glowy skin
  • coconut oil: also another good, general, all-purpose oil, this is recommended for oily skins especially because it regulates oil production, if you have too much oil on your face coconut oil will actually dry it out a bit and keep the oil down, I like it for this reason in the summer as high temperatures make your skin go crazy pumping out oil day and night (skin probably thinks that you ought to be frying that egg on your face, and wants to make the task easier)
  • rosehip oil: excellent for mature skins, prevents wrinkles and deeply moisturizes and nourishes, also helps to attenuate light scars
  • vitamin E/wheat germ oil: another goody for mature or dry skins
  • extra virgin olive oil: a richer oil that nonetheless won’t make you oilier than usual, however because it is thick I’d recommend it only for night-time use, it makes all skins soft and supple and the vitamin E in it fights free radicals, which helps your skin stay youthful
  • hazelnut oil: an astringent oil, supposed to dry out oily skin big time but still leave you with a soft, smooth complexion, the only oil listed here which I’ve never tried

Well I’ve gotten tired of this topic so I suppose I will have to carry on another day. However all the oils that I personally use are on this list and they work stupendously for me.

This is all that I ever need for good, complete care of the complexion. Even sunscreen (as strongly recommended as it is and even more so here at these latitudes) is something I use sparingly. Some people allege that chemical sunscreens cause cancer. I won’t enter into that debate at this moment, but I do use sunscreen sparingly. I prefer to prevent sun damage the “natural” way: I stay out of the sun whenever my work permits it.