When it comes to gorgeousness, there are plenty of natural skin-savers/hair-rescuers/body boosters, lurking on your kitchen shelves or in your fridge. Having written an entire book on the subject of making your own cosmetics (The Ultimate Natural Beauty Book, published by Kyle Cathie), I’ve experimented with most things. They haven’t always worked wonders, but I’m going to share a few recipes here for simple-to-create beauty treats that will make you look and feel – well, if not a million dollars, then pretty darned good.
Try an apricot softening mask, for glowier, nourished skin. Blanch two apricots in just-boiled water for 1 minute to make it easy to peel off the skin, slice to remove the stones, and mash to a smooth pulp, adding a teaspoon of avocado oil in a trickle. Spread onto the face and relax for 20 minutes while the softening ingredients get to work.
Or give yourself a fruit-bowl facial. Blend 25 g (1 oz) finely ground oatmeal and 25 g (1 oz) finely ground almonds in a bowl. Then add 50 g (2 oz) chopped and mashed fruit or vegetables of your choice – strawberries, raspberries, apricots, peach, plums, blueberries, cucumber, lettuce or tomato – and combine until the mixture is well-blended. Stir well, adding just enough water to make a soft paste (make sure it’s not too runny). Spread the mixture onto your face and massage in, avoiding the eyes and mouth. After 10-15 minutes, rinse well with warm water.
And let a lettuce leaf mask make you smile. Lettuce has an amazingly skin-softening effect and this is a fun – well, OK, hilarious – mask to try. (You won’t want to answer the door while wearing it!) Cook 8 leaves of washed lettuce leaves in 300 ml (10 fl oz) milk for three minutes. (Little Gems are perfect.) Don’t stir, as you want them to remain whole. Strain off the liquid and put aside. Layer the leaves over your pre-cleansed face, and relax for 20 minutes with them in place. Remove the leaves, and give skin a final swoosh with cotton pads, soaked in the milk you put aside; any excess can go into a soup.
Use olive oil as the ultimate beauty multi-tasker. I swear by this. Swear by it! I slather it on my hair as a pre-wash deep treatment (warm an old towel in the airing cupboard and wrap it round your head to keep the oil from dripping; the longer you leave the oil on, the better); then shampoo twice and condition as normal. Olive oil is also a fantastic body moisturiser (add a few drops of a favourite olive oil if the scent’s a bit grassy for your taste). And (don’t tell a soul because this is beauty heresy!) I even use it on sunny days in the UK instead of sun protection. I never seem to burn, despite being fair (though I don’t, of course, bake for hours); my guess it’s the high level of antioxidants in extra virgin cold pressed olive oil that do the sun-protective trick, but I will probably have a contract out on me by the entire beauty industry for saying this.
Blitz your blackheads with a tomato. Yes, a tomato – a lovely ripe one. The fruit acids in tomato are great for getting rid of blackheads (to which oily skins are prone) and brightening dull skin by gently loosening surface cells. Slice the tomato thickly, then lie down and apply the sliced tomato to the face. (Cut into shapes or thin slices that make it possible to cover the nose with the tomato.) Rinse, then pat dry. Do not then apply moisturiser to the nose zone (or other affected areas), as you’ll only start to block the pores again.
Go to work on your skin with an egg-white. Whip the white of one egg, a teaspoon of honey and a tablespoon or two of oats, until you’ve a paste thick enough to spread on the face. This cleanses skin and also helps loosen blackheads.
Never throw out an avocado skin. Well, not before rubbing the inside of it into your hands and elbows. I suggested this to a doubting friend who reported back: ‘I never would have believed this worked – and I was convinced that it would turn me Shrek-green – but instead, I’m baby-soft and not green at all.’
And for some seven more natural wonders of the beauty world…
Baking soda This can be the basis of a tooth powder – or be used in baths as a soothing soak for itchy skin. Try in a footbath, to relax and to neutralise odour-causing bacteria and natural acids.
Beer Beer – especially flat beer – makes a terrific setting lotion, and the sugar and protein combine to thicken hair and give body. (You won’t smell like an old pub: the smell disappears as soon as your hair dries.) I’d recommend organic beer as most commercial beers contain chemical additives.
Cider vinegar (sometimes spelled ‘cyder vinegar’) Made by fermenting natural apple juice, this is packed with minerals – think magnesium, calcium, iron and phosphorus – and very skin-friendly. (In fact, used in bath water or toners, cider vinegar – also sometimes spelled ‘cyder vinegar’ – helps restore skin’s acid balance.)
Coconut oil Skins love this ingredient (which attained ‘cult’ status as a food supplement last year, so many kitchens now feature a jar in the cupboard.) It melts at (warm) room temperature and is wonderfully lubricating and smoothing for skin; great for locking in moisture but also fantastic for glistening up skin in summer, when you’ve got your legs and arms out.
Cornstarch (or cornflour) This is made from powdered corn kernels, and a perfect alternative to talc. (It eases irritated skin, too.)
Fuller’s earth A type of clay – it’s a fine, grey powder – this makes a great base for masks and hair packs, when blended with other ingredients. Not really a food ingredient (although some people drink it as part of a detoxing regime!), but you may just have some lurking.
Powdered milk To soften bathwater, throw a cupful of this beneath the running taps. If you like, add your favourite aromatherapy oils, but the milk in itself is beautifully skin-quenching, because of the lipids in the milk.
Cult creams and pricy treatments are all very wonderful. But don’t ignore the larder…!