Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Kitchen Skin and Hair Care

The only thing that Laura Mercier and I have in common is our first name (although the lovely CEO was my next-door neighbor when I lived in a high rise in Houston,TX). I have never been one to purchase expensive cosmetics and have been appalled by the prices paid by friends and relatives for teeny, tiny tubes of La Mer creams and lotions.  So, with these disclosures, I promise never to offer cosmetic advice!  However, I love to have really clean hair and skin.  I revel in  the way my face feels after a professional facial.  So I am delighted to recreate that clean, smooth result with common kitchen ingredients (1- 3, that require less than 2 minutes to assemble and cost less than $12).  Below are 14 recipes.

Readers:  why NOT compare a home made application on one  side of your face and your favorite purchased item on the other, or alternate two procedures, for a week each? See what you think. 

            Dead skin cells dull complexion AND, in a rather gross bit of information, contribute to a lot of those dust bunnies in your home!   
1) Super easy and cheap exfoliator: Baking soda.  One book I respect (see below) said that baking soda either is  or is like the material used in $100 professional dermabrasion sessions!   When your face and neck or hands are damp, gently rub some plain old baking soda in circles into your skin (avoiding eyes). Don't forget to rub onto your lips, too, if they get dry, and on your hands. Then rinse.  This does not take any longer than washing one's face or hands. Warning: if you have any cuts or abrasions, this could sting those areas.  Baking soda smooths rough, dry spots as well as resulting in overall softer skin.  Apply a moisturizer afterward (see below). 
2) To exfoliate the body, buy a “body brush” (about $5 on line or at a drug store).  This is softer and denser than a hair brush.  Dry brush the skin before bathing.  It is invigorating for circulation and it loosens dry skin.  Then wash up.  This may be particularly helpful to people who get ingrown hairs and/or dry, itchy skin.  The first few times you do this, if you are in the right light, you will see yourself actually generating dust motes around you as your dead cells fly off!  Wow!   In subsequent treatments, there are fewer of them - that is motivating!  

 1) Honey:  By itself or in combination with other ingredients, honey is great for skin and hair.  It is a humectant, which means that it attracts moisture (so it is very soothing after sun or windburn).  Depending on the density of your supply, you may choose to apply to damp or dry skin or hair.  For the face and neck, I use about 2 tablespoons.  For hair, about 1/4 cup.  This smells great, of course.  Pat onto the face and leave on for a few minutes - you will feel the skin tighten.  Or apply to one's hair about an hour before showering.  It is very easy to rinse out.  My hair is softer and maybe glossier, as a result.  You can also combine the honey with sugar as an exfoliating moisturizer or with lemon juice.
​2)  I  use a drop or two of jojoba oil on delicate skin, like around the eyes, and coconut oil, on hands and cuticles. I also rub a few drops into my husband's dry, curly hair. I have tried other oils, like olive, but they do not penetrate as quickly, resulting in waste. Jojoba oil has a composition similar to the human skin oil, sebum, so it is easily absorbed.  Never heard of it?  It is commercially harvested and 95% is sold to the cosmetic and massage industries for its light, unscented qualities. You can buy it online or where natural health and beauty products are sold.  Prices vary by vendor and quality.  I bought a 4 oz bottle for $12 and have seen 1 lb bottles for $16.  
3)  Coconut oil works as a lip balm, too (although I prefer one I make from honey, olive oil, and beeswax).  Why on earth apply a petroleum based product, like Chapstick to your mouth?  Yuck!  

  I enjoy the feel of a mask.  You can feel its effectiveness immediately: the skin heats up, the blood is circulating close to the surface, and the skin is tightening. 

1) I store a container of  bentonite clay powder ($12) in the kitchen.  Occasionally, when I am cooking or reading,  I  mix a tablespoon of the powder with however much water is needed to spread a mask that won't drip too much, and leave it on for about 15 minutes.  Then I scrub and rinse it off with a washcloth.  Note: When I started doing this regularly, the mask  drew out and cleared an impacted blackhead that professional facials in various cities failed to remove over the course of two years!  I am sold on giving myself this mask at home. 

2) Egg white and corn starch:  Whenever I make a food recipe that requires the egg yolk only (like hollandaise or chocolate mousse), I always make an egg white mask while cooking the other!  Beat together 1 egg white and 1 tsp cornstarch.  Apply to face and neck and let it dry for about 20 minutes.  Some recipes say to lie down so the face will not be “pulled down” by any mask but I never seem to have the time for that, and I don't believe that 15 minutes of a mask can reverse 24 hours of gravity.
3) Yogurt:  Spread 1 tablespoon of yogurt on the face.  Leave on for 20 minutes and then rinse off.  This can be a bit runny until it dries.  A variation is yogurt mixed with ground oatmeal (which is very soothing for skin with bug bites or plant rashes, like poison ivy). The proportion depends on the liquidity of the yogurt, but start with a 1:1 ratio.    
 Because yogurt contains lactic acid, it is a gentle alternative for people who buy expensive Retin A products to even out  blotchy skin tone.  For such a purpose, repeated use of a yogurt mask is recommended, several times a week.  Like Retin A, it is also a nonabrasive exfoliant.   I tend to do this when I am finishing up a yogurt container.
4)   Fruit masks are messy but smell great.  Most cooks know that papaya and pineapple based marinades soften tough meats.  Well.... they works for facials, too!  Banana, applesauce, peaches and cucumber are all moisturizing. After grating or smooshing any of these fruits apply the gloppy mess to your face.  This is very funny to do while looking at friends, but otherwise I consider it something of a novelty, like when my fruit is going bad and I can't think of an immediate food preparation for it, or when I want to give a cool, soothing, aromatic treat to a sick friend or relative (who  is lying down).

pH restorer and cleaner for hair and body (and even surfaces of my home)

To me, it makes  sense to use the same cleaners on my hair, body and even the surfaces of my home (I clean windows, floors, coffee pots, and sinks with vinegar, a key ingredient, below).

Since most soaps and shampoos are alkaline, diluted vinegar and other acidic liquids (like lemon juice) help strip the hair and body of soap/conditioner that build up.  This can restore or “balance” the pH.  (Gardeners understand the importance of soil pH.  It is equally valid for skin, hair, and stomach, too).   My fine, thin hair tended to be weighed down by purchased products.  It is much fluffier, thanks to vinegar rinses, no matter the water source (hard or soft, well or city system).  

1. Vinegar and water:  To about 2 cups of water, add 1/4 – 1/3 cup of vinegar (plain, apple cider, other).  If you don't like the smell (which will dissipate when the hair/body is dry), add scent.  You could buy essential oils, but you can also just add herbs from your kitchen, like rosemary leaves, mint, lemon peel, or cinnamon, which will infuse better if you give the liquid a few days before using or if you heat and then cool it.  Shake or stir.  You can apply with a spritz bottle or simply dip a washcloth in a container.  The hair rinse will last a long time with no refrigeration, so I just keep it in the shower. Note:  this will sting if it gets in your eyes.

2. Vodka and water:  To about 2 cups of plain vodka, add 3/4 – 1 cup of water.  Add a scent, if desired.  To tell you the truth, I have never used this because vinegar is cheaper than vodka and I have other internal uses for vodka!.  But this recipe is particularly recommended after really hard, sweaty, or greasy work. Note: this will sting if it gets in your eyes.     

3. Vodka and witch hazel:  1/2 and 1/2 of each liquid.  Add 2 TBS of any other aromatic herb you favor (mint, lavender, lemon balm, rosemary, grated lemon or orange peel etc). Shake each day for a week or two for the herbs to infuse the liquid.  My husband likes this for a pre-shampoo head massage, and it can be used as an aftershave, too. It might sting any open cuts. 

Mouth hygiene:
1. Oil pulling:   This summer,  I have  tried this  ancient  (like 3000 year) practice for oral hygiene.   One simply swishes a tablespoon of certain vegetable oils in one's mouth in order to freshen breath, whiten teeth, strengthen gums and teeth, and extract mouth bacteria (by spitting it out). I use coconut oil.  Sesame oil is also recommended.  Articles I have read on the Internet proclaim far broader benefits than mere oral hygiene, (such as  toxin removal from other parts of the body, too).  I cannot attest to that.  The recommended duration of swishing is 15 – 20 minutes. To tell you the truth, I have yet to reach that length because the oil/saliva mixture reaches a volume I want to deplete by spitting.  I can, however, report, that even my desultory efforts have reduced morning breath (the following day).  The process is easy to do while conducting other morning chores and I have found not a single negative report on this process.  So why not?
2Baking soda:  Tastes salty, but it is an age old version of toothpaste and it does make one's mouth feel clean.  Just dampen on the toothbrush with water and brush/rinse or sprinkle on purchased toothpaste for additional abrasive tooth whitening. Can sting any sore gums.  I just do this occasionally hoping to get used to it but I hate the saltiness.  Some reports express concerns about abrading the enamel of the teeth if done too frequently.
3 Strawberries:  Who knew that strawberries are a natural tooth whitener? Sort of counter intuitive, isn't it?  Well, you can brush your teeth with a pulverized tablespoon.

Previously, we gobbled up all the strawberries we grow, but last year, we planted dozens more, so perhaps I will have enough to allocate some of this luscious fruit for dental care.
4. Hydrogen peroxide:  For many years, a friend has swished her mouth twice a day with 50%/50% hydrogen peroxide (3% strength, no alcohol additive) and water (and then spits it out) to clean the mouth and teeth.  Some reports express concern about degredation of interior tooth health.  I do this occasionally.  No flavor.  Easy. 

Conclusion:  For any reader who likes to try out various food recipes, I encourage applying common kitchen ingredients on your hair and skin, too.  This can appeal to the frugal reader as well as those who wonder, “is my skincare expenditure worth it” or “should I be concerned that I do not recognize any of the ingredients that I am lathering onto my body” or “what did Cleopatra and Marie Antoinette use for beauty treatments?” 

My husband and I have had no adverse reactions to anything we have tried, but perhaps other people with sensitive skin, etc should start slowly or do some additional research.  


There are a number of sources for homemade hygiene recipes online and in books.  My favorite is Organic Body Care Recipes by Stephanie  Tourles, who is a licensed holistic esthetician.  Her book is well organized and informative, with 175 recipes. I have enjoyed making, using, and comparing many of her cheap and easy products!   Several of her recipes are cited or adapted in this article.

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