You won't see her, but she's there, in the salons, spas and shops, and she's happy to share her secrets on kitchen cosmetics.
On a recent trip to Bali, armed with a copy of the book Eat, Pray, Love, I went in search of my own soul-soothing, stress-busting, serene experience. I had heard of the tranquil spas in this part of the world, which put the focus on centuries-old holistic health and beauty treatments, so I thought a cleansing facial or a rejuvenating massage would be a good starting point for my quest for self-preservation and eternal youth.
I was also keen to emulate the luxurious shining locks and clear complexions of Indonesian women. Stepping into my first spa I was handed the treatment list, which I soon realised looked more like a shopping list than a spa-treatment selection. I soon found myself lying on white fluffy towels, having my face expertly cleansed with food that was very similar to the breakfast I had greedily wiped from my chin hours earlier: egg white toner, spice and yoghurt exfoliation, honey and oat face mask, papaya cream.
Many natural beauty preparations originated in the palaces of central Java, where princesses used raw plant extracts and food to slough off dead skin cells, fight wrinkles, sooth dry skin or make a natural SPF. If you aren't near a rainforest, try Bath & Bodyworks'new Lemon Sugar Body Scrub, The Body Shop's Cranberry Body Butter or Honey & Oat 3-in-1 Face Mask for a fruit- and food-infused body-treatment cocktail.
Ancient Egyptians applied honey to soften their skin, exfoliated with a mixture of crushed pumice stones and water, and moisturised with olive oil. Cleopatra, of course, was known for her daily milk baths. Well, indulge in Philosophy's Strawberry Milkshake Shampoo, Shower Gel and Bubble Bath and you, too, can feel regal.
The spa at The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai, meanwhile, allows you to have your cake and eat it - choose from a Wild Berry Body Buff, Gingerbread Cocoon or Chocolate Indulgence to whet your appetite and arouse your senses. The Anantara Spa,Emirates Palace is also big on the benefits of herbs and tonics. Pamper yourself with their Tamarind Body Blast; a blend of tamarind fruit, yogurt and honey is spread over your body to exfoliate, nourish and polish the skin. But perhaps the spa that really takes the biscuit is The Hilton Dubai, where if you book a Chocolate Body Scrub you receive a complimentary chocolate afternoon tea. If the above treatments don't do wonders for your skin, this will at least do wonders for your taste buds.
We love this new Calvin Klein scent, inspired by one of our favourite flowers, the lily. "Beauty" is fresh and sensual with hints of jasmine and cedarwood. And the bottle is a joy, elegant and handy, just the right size to keep in our desk for when we need a pick-me-up.
Calvin Klein Beauty Eau de Parfum Spray, 3.4oz/100ml, Dh430
ESTEE LAUDER PURE COLOUR EYESHADOW, DH118 This high-impact colour with fade-resistant formulas gives eyes a bold attitude and a versatile look.
BOURJOIS LITTLE ROUND POTS, DH51 Fun and striking shades with a soft and silky texture - you can smudge easily with a brush or just use your finger.
SMASHBOX SINGLES, DH66 Highly pigmented and packed with vitamin E. Enhance your eyes with this blendadable shadow for a lasting look and a luminous shine.
What I tried Elche's No. 1 Cleansing facial, a two-hour treatment at Elche Natural Beauty Retreat on Jumeirah Beach Road. Family-run for generations by expert herbalists, this was the first organic ladies salon in Jumeirah and boasts hand-mixed products containing 100 per cent fruit and plant nutritionals that are good enough to eat.
What I wanted The summer heat had left my skin thirsty and dried out, and as I'm also guilty of that top beauty sin of not drinking enough water, my skin looked lifeless and dull. I therefore wanted a treatment that would make my complexion look and feel healthy, clear and glowing.
What happened I was looking forward to this treatment: a beautiful, tranquil salon, a kind and knowledgeable therapist and edible beauty products. What better way to spend an afternoon? I would get to feed my face as well as my stomach.
I entered Elche's walled garden retreat and was greeted by warm smiles. After being led to one of the quiet and serene treatment rooms, I lay down on the bed and my make-up was delicately removed with lemon cleansing milk and a fruit enzyme peeling gel.
Elche offers skin-care treatments with products mixed to suit your skin type; my skin was dehydrated, with an oily t-zone, so a hot paprika mask was applied to draw out toxins. This mask lived up to its name, as I felt a slight burning sensation, but when the mask cooled it made my skin feel tingly but energised. A rose-hip serum was then gently worked into my pores, and a soothing massage of my face and neck soon followed.
By now my stomach was beginning to rumble, because the products smelled divine; it took all my strength not to rugby-tackle my therapist, Reka, to the floor and start sticking my fingers in what looked like yoghurt pots of fruity goodness. It won't hurt if you eat the products, but it's not advised.
On to the extraction part of the treatment. A deep-hydrating machine blew steam on my face while Reka applied an herbal honey gel mask. Honey is a natural antiobiotic, so this part of the facial is an important one.
Next was the necessary evil of any good facial - the removal of blackheads. With Reka's nimble hands this was over quickly, and then it was pampering all the way with a seven-herb mask for my face, quince gel for my eyes and orange pumpkin serum for my neck. A smidgeon of cinnamon lip balm polished off the treatment and I was left alone to relax.
The Results Even a few days later, my face feels baby-soft and totally cleansed, and I am told I have a real glow. The entire experience was a treat, and I left the salon feeling relaxed and keen to begin drinking the recommended daily quota of two litres of water, something that we all should make part of our daily routines.
Elche's No. 1 Cleansing treatment costs Dh795. Elche Natural Retreat, Villa 42, St. 10 c, Jumeirah 1, Dubai 04 349 4942/ 349 5952
(From The Tropical Spa by Sophie Benge, Dh85, available at www.amazon.com)
For Dry Hair Massage the creamy insides of an avocado into clean dry hair and leave for 15-20 minutes. OR Massage coconut oil into your hair and leave for a few hours. Wash several times so your hair feels silky rather than oily.
For Lacklustre Hair Massage two large, grated carrots into damp or dry hair. Wrap your hair in a towel and leave for 15-20 minutes. OR Squeeze half a lemon into 200 mls (1 cup) of water and use the mixture as a final rinse after shampooing.
For Thinning Hair Whisk two eggs and massage them into your hair. Wash off after 10 minutes to enhance hair growth and strength. OR Put several sticks of celery through a juicer and massage the juice into your scalp. Leave for 15 minutes before washing.
For Dandruff Mix a large handful of crushed mint leaves into your conditioner and leave on the hair for 15-20 minutes.