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We all have our idea of physical beauty. (To be clear from the start, this article is not about inner beauty or becoming a better person - although that is also the subject of some excellent research.)

To some of us, an athletic body is the epitome of beauty. To others, thick hair, big eyes and sharp features are beautiful. And others still might be won over by glowing skin and a gorgeous smile. Of course, our ideas of beauty are informed by our cultural influences and biases.

So how do we arrive at a consensus on what makes someone beautiful? The dictionary defines beauty as "a combination of qualities, such as shape, colour, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight". For the purpose of this article, we are equating beauty to health. Healthy hair is beautiful hair. Healthy skin is beautiful skin. A healthy body is a beautiful body. And a healthy mind is a beautiful mind.

The following are some of the components of achieving health and beauty:

  1. Regular skincare, nailcare and haircare routines
  2. Beauty products, supplements and treatments
  3. Exercise for a healthy and beautiful body
  4. Diet for a healthy and beautiful body
  5. Mental health aspect of beauty

Regular skincare, nailcare and haircare routines

Our skin is the biggest organ in the body. As air pollution grows in our cities, it needs a lot of extra care and nourishment. The same goes for our hair and nails.

We have many traditions in India around skincare: many of us have grown up having our moms apply malai or besan or multani mitti on our skin. The benefits of neem and neem oil, turmeric, sandalwood, rosewater, aloe vera and aloe vera gel for skin have also been known in Indian households for many decades.

Marrying traditional knowledge with scientific breakthroughs, to find a skincare routine that works for you is the key. Start by determining your skin type and work your way up from there to find solutions for reducing signs of ageing, for glowing skin, etc.

Similarly for hair, start by figuring out if you have oily hair, dry hair or normal hair. Then, build a hair care routine that is specific to your hair type and conditions. You can even try home remedies for hair growth and to promote healthy hair.

Beauty products, supplements and treatments

New discoveries are made every day. These discoveries help us understand what makes our skin youthful and wrinkle-free and our hair smooth and shiny. For example, we now know that hyaluronic acid helps to moisturise the skin as few other things can and biotin (essentially vitamin B7) helps to strengthen the hair. Staying up to date on scientific research on healthy skin, hair, nail and body weight can help you make better choices for greater beauty.

As for beauty products, there are a few rules of thumb you should keep in mind:

  • Expensive does not mean better: make sure you try a small sample of any product before applying it on your skin and hair.
  • Do your research: read up on the benefits and side-effects of a chemical or natural remedy before investing in it. This could be something as long-lasting as laser hair removal or something as immediate as buying the sunscreen. There are many supplements available in the market: read up on whether collagen supplements help to achieve youthful skin or if vitamin C serums helps to reduce under-eye circles before buying.

Beauty treatments, from keratin treatment for hair to micro-needling, can also help to achieve healthier and more beautiful hair and skin - it is a good idea to talk to a dermatologist or cosmetologist before opting for chemical treatments such as platelet-rich plasma treatment and chemical peels. Some treatments, like nail art and eyelash extensions, don't serve a health purpose (except to give your confidence and happiness a short-term boost - these are important goals, too). That said, it is important to keep the risk factors and precautions in mind before opting for any such treatments.

There are also simple, inexpensive home remedies for a range of skin and hair problems. For example, home remedies to stop hair fall, home remedies for acne (pimples), home remedies to prevent wrinkles that can also enhance beauty. Read all about them in the articles that follow!

Exercise for a healthy and beautiful body

A body that is free from disease is a healthy body. And a healthy body is the most important aspect of beauty. When we are healthy in the true sense of the word, our skin looks and feels beautiful, our hair looks and feels luscious and our body stays in proportion (good form).

Conversely, someone who is ill may look pale and sickly. They may experience hair fall or premature greying as symptoms of their disease. Swelling and acne - which are also common symptoms of some diseases - may affect their skin.

Now, there are some things that are out of our control. For example, if we have a family history of diabetes, then we will be more prone to the disease. Still, there are things that are within our control, such as exercise for a healthy body.

Research has shown that just 35 minutes of brisk walking, three or four days a week has tremendous benefits for the body and mind. While this is bare minimum everyone should do, people who want an athletic body should do a mix of strength training and cardio workouts like swimming, cycling and running. Compound exercises, functional exercises and bodyweight exercises are also excellent for staying fit and beautiful.

Diet for a healthy and beautiful body

We are what we eat. A balanced diet with whole grains, legumes, eggs, dairy, fish, chicken, nuts and seeds, and five portions of fruits and five portions of vegetables a day provides all the macro and micronutrients we need for beautiful hair and skin.

Mental health aspect of beauty

Studies have shown that stress is the underlying factor in a number of diseases. It also causes greying of hair and speeds up the signs of ageing on the skin. Managing stress, through meditation or yoga, can do wonders for your beauty care routine, too.

While the idea of beauty may be different for different people, we can all aim towards better health as a way to becoming the most beautiful version of ourselves. Here's to being - and feeling - beautiful! 

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