Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Raiding the Pantry: Making Your Own Beauty Products April 7, 2011

One my biggest beauty misadventures occurred a very long time ago and involved a bottle of olive oil.  I have thick, unruly, frizzy hair, and I was looking to condition and tame my hair.  Somewhere I read that if I applied olive oil to my hair, left it on for about 10 minutes or so, I would be left with soft and cooperative hair once I rinsed it off.  So I borrowed our family’s olive oil from the kitchen, poured A LOT of olive oil all over my hair, wrapped my hair up for 10 minutes or so, and waited.  Then I tried to rinse the olive oil out.  That proved to be very difficult.  In the end I had to shampoo my hair at least twice if not three times so that I wasn’t left with an oily, greasy mess of hair.  Did my hair become softer?  Frankly, I can’t remember.  All I remember is my hair being insanely oily and greasy and that it seemed to take me forever to get that oil out.

After that misadventure with using food as a beauty aid I have pretty much steered clear of the kitchen when it came to skin and hair care.  Only recently have I taken a tiny step back into that arena by trying to exfoliate my face with milk (more on that later).  I’ve also exfoliated my body with used coffee grinds (very effective and very messy) and a homemade concoction of sugar and olive oil (effective, cheap, and less messy than the coffee grinds), but otherwise I’ve never tried facial masks made of avocados or put mashed up fruit on my face in order to exfoliate.  Of course that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t give these ideas a whirl.

Ok so if you want to raid your fridge, medicine cabinet, and pantry in order to treat your skin here are some ideas from the March 2011 issue of Allure:

  • For puffy eyes: Ice, tea bags, or cucumbers –  A washcloth soaked in ice water helps shrink swelling.  Tea bags are even better: Caffeine constricts blood vessels to counteract redness, and the tannic acid in the tea can temporarily tighten skin.  Chilled cucumber slices have soothing properties, too.
  • For dull hair: Beer – The ridges and chipped cuticles that make hair look damaged and dull can be filled in by protein in beer, giving hair the ability to reflect more light.  Rinsing with a thick, dark beer, such as Guinness Extra Stout, works best.  Cheers.
  • For zits: Aspirin and Visine – Acne-fighting salicylic acid is the compound from which aspirin is derived; a paste made from a crushed tablet and a few drops of water can help heal a spot.  To lessen redness, douse a cotton swab with Visine, pop it in the fridge until cold, and hold it on the blemish for a few minutes.
  • For redness: Milk – The proteins and fats in whole milk can calm irritated or sunburned skin – just make sure to follow a compress or cold powdered-milk bath with moisturizer.  Otherwise, the skin get right and dry as the liquid evaporates.
  • For rough skin:  Olive oil or vegetable shortening – cooking oils soften parched skin – ideal for chapped hands, feet, or elbows.  Slather on a thick coat of Crisco or olive oil before bed, then put on cotton gloves and socks to avoid messing up your iPad or sheets.  Let it soak in overnight.

My take on the advice from Allure:  Avoid the Visine entirely since it is too harsh to apply to skin.  A cold q-tip applied for a minute or so to a breakout should help take down some of the redness or just get out your green concealer (I always have a green concealer from Physician’s Formula on hand to counteract red marks and breakouts).  The milk treatment could work, but rinse off the milk before applying moisturizer.  And lastly, if you slather yourself with Crisco you will smell disgusting and be super greasy.  Use jojoba oil instead or just straight up petroleum jelly.

Earlier in this post I referred to trying to exfoliate with milk.  I got this idea from Dr. Ellen Marmur’s book Simple Skin Beauty.  On page 94 of her book Dr. Marmur writes about how exfoliate your skin if you have rosacea:

Scrubbing can aggravate rosacea or a painfully dry complexion.  And because acids work by temporarily lowering the natural pH balance of the skin, they can be very irritating for someone with sensitivity.  The gentlest option is lactic acid, which is probably the cheapest and easiest exfoliant around.  Just soak a washcloth in plain whole milk, then rest the damp cloth on your face, neck, and upper chest for a minute or two.  (You can dunk the cloth again and repeat, but don’t overdo it and cause inflammation.  Four minutes on your skin is more than enough to see results.)  Essentially, you’re getting a light chemical peel, but the fatty proteins in the milk act as a moisturizing buffer to the lactic acid.  Milk also has anti-inflammatory and humectant properties that help to sooth and moisturize skin simultaneously.  Talk about a perfect (and organic) beauty food!

After I recommended this exfoliation technique to a client who has rosacea I figured I had to give it a try myself.  I poured whole milk into a bowl, dunked my washcloth in the milk, and spread it all over my face as I watched TV.  Ok well I think first I put it on my forehead and then on the lower half of my face so that I could actually see the program I was watching on TV.  I definitely left the washcloth on for more than two minutes; I think I left it on for about 5 or 7 minutes.  Afterwards my face felt very, very tight so  I rinsed my face in warm water.  Then I felt my face – it felt very smooth.  But I have to admit that besides leaving my face very smooth I didn’t really see a difference in my complexion.  On the other hand, I have oily, acne-prone skin so I wasn’t exactly the person Dr. Marmur was referring to when making this tip.  If you are looking for a new, gentle, and cost-effective way to exfoliate I definitely would give the milk exfoliation a try.

Some of the most popular food ingredients that you can use to make homemade beauty products like facial masks:

  • Honey which is a humectant
  • Avocado and olive oil which are emollients or moisturizers
  • Cucumbers and oatmeal which are anti-inflammatory
  • Milk (as already mentioned above) and yogurt which gently exfoliate

Of course in order to combine these ingredients into effective facial masks you’ll probably want a recipe.  Both and your local chain bookstore have plenty of DIY beauty books.  But whatever you do just make sure you are using the right ingredients for your skin type and condition.  For instance since I have oily, acne-prone skin (as I already mentioned above) I wouldn’t want to use a mask with avocado or olive oil but I could probably try a mask with honey if I was feeling a bit dry.

I would love to get some feedback from my readers about your own home experimentations with food or other household items made into beauty products.  If you’ve got the food lying around, and aren’t planning on eating it, I see no reason not to give it a try.

Further Reading:

  • The Skin Care Book: Simple Herbal Recipes by Kathlyn Quatrochi.  This is a little gem of a book that I found at my local library.  It has lots of interesting sounding recipes though be aware that buying the ingredients for the recipes could add up and you will certainly need to set aside time in order to make the recipes.  I haven’t tried any myself (and clearly I will be staying away from the olive oil hair mask recipe), but if anyone has tried these recipes please post a comment below.
  • In her book Feed Your Face Dr. Jessica Wu has devoted an entire chapter to homemade beauty remedies – Chapter 11:  Food on Your Face.
  • My Facial is Tastier than Yours – The New York Times from Nov. 18, 2008.  A fun article about a group of people trying homemade masks and body treatments.  I was particularly interested in the fact that the author had a very similar olive oil hair mask misadventure like I did.  The article includes recipes for the masks and body treatments.
  • 3 At-Home Recipes for Natural Skin Care – Prevention magazine

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