It turns out beauty can be more than skin deep: The average person uses numerous lotions and potions each day. But many of us have never stopped to consider exactly what ingredients go into these skin and hair care products.
Wandering the beauty product aisles of the supermarket, or entering one of the high-end cosmetic stores on island can be daunting. The choices, prices and plethora of scientific words adorning the packaging can overwhelm.
It may come as a welcome surprise to many searching for a simpler alternative that the answers to some of our beauty woes can be found in the food aisles of the supermarkets and in our own kitchen cupboards.
Here are some store-cupboard remedies for skin and hair.
Coconut oil has seen a surge in popularity in recent years, understandable due to its vast array of uses which secure its place on both bathroom and pantry shelves. The edible oil is an all-rounder, and something we can easily get locally, with extra virgin coconut oil being the best option.
The medium chain fatty acids in coconut oil moisturize skin and absorb quickly, leading many to incorporate it into their daily moisturizing routine. Those whose faces do not welcome the oil can still benefit by rubbing it on elbows and other rough areas, or on cuticles for a freshly manicured look.
At the end of the day, the oil can also be used as a great natural makeup remover. Simply apply to a cotton pad and gently wipe in circles around eyes to get rid of makeup before rinsing.
Truly a head-to-toe product, coconut oil also benefits hair, moisturizing and reaching deep into hair shafts whether used as an overnight hair mask on its own or combined with olive oil, honey or avocado. A small amount used solely on hair ends during your daily styling regime is still effective if your hair’s tolerance for extra moisture is low. Rubbing a tiny amount between palms and smoothing over hair also calms frizz and creates a barrier to more frizzing.
This high-fiber food benefits you inside and out and has been used in beauty regimes for thousands of years both in its natural form and, more recently, as part of over-the-counter products.
Polysaccharides in the oats retain moisture in the skin and its fats work as an emollient, further helping with dry and itchy skin. Phenols within the grains exude anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, while saponins remove dirt and oil. All of these factors combine to form a powerful skin rejuvenator. Its physical properties allow it to work well as a body scrub and exfoliator, removing dead skin cells.
Colloidal oatmeal is best for skin care regimes. This can be made easily at home by grinding or blending oats down to a very fine powder. This will make the oats easier to dissolve in water or lotions and more easily absorbed by the skin.
Here are some simple ways to use this versatile grain:
Face masks: Blend oatmeal until fine. Mix 2 tablespoons with enough milk to dampen oatmeal. Rub over face and let sit. Rinse face with cool water.
Oatmeal bath: Sprinkle one cup colloidal oatmeal into bath water as it is filling. Soak in the bath for 15 minutes.
Dry shampoo: Ground oatmeal can absorb excess oils. Combine one cup of ground oatmeal and one cup of baking soda, massage a tablespoon worth into scalp and then brush out.
Honey has antibacterial properties due to its low water activity, low pH and the antibacterial compounds it contains, making it a useful ingredient for wound healing as well as acne treatments and prevention.
Ancient cultures applied honey onto wounds due to its anti-inflammatory properties, cleansing effects and stimulation of tissue regeneration. These characteristics, as well as its humectant effects, make it useful in beauty regimes today, cleaning, moisturizing and reviving dry skin and hair. Use raw organic honey instead of pasteurized alternatives in the following ways:
Face treatment: For a clean and smooth face, apply a thin layer directly to your face and leave the honey to work its magic for 10 to 15 minutes before rinsing with warm water.
Hair cleanser: Mix three tablespoons of water to one tablespoon of honey to create a cleansing conditioner. Apply to hair and let sit for 30 minutes before rinsing.
Skin soother: For a soothing bath, add ¼ cup honey, 2 cups milk and a few drops of essential oil to your hot bath water.
Avocado is full of natural oils which are beneficial for rehydrating skin and hair. As well as moisturizing, its vitamin content offers alternative benefits. Vitamin A contained in the fruit adds sheen to hair, and vitamin B corrects oil imbalances in hair and skin while supporting hair growth. The sun damage many of us in Cayman are victim to can also benefit from avocado’s vitamin E.
Ripe avocado can be mashed into a paste on its own and applied directly to skin or hair, or can be used in combination with other store cupboard ingredients. Those with acne problems, however, may want to stick to eating the fruit rather than slathering it on their skin.
Why not try one of these combinations for a lovely face mask:
- 1 ripe avocado + 1 Tbsp of honey
- 1 avocado + 1/2 cup oatmeal+1/3 cup of honey
- 1 avocado + 2 Tbsp plain Greek yogurt
- ½ avocado + 1 Tbsp honey + 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- Or for a replenishing hair treatment:
- 1 avocado + mayonnaise/egg yolks/sour cream
- 1 avocado + 1 banana + 2 tsp olive oil.
Ginger has long been used internally for the relief of ailments, especially stomach and intestinal issues, and its benefits can also be felt externally.
The juice contained in ginger is a powerful antiseptic and, as well as killing acne-causing bacteria, it can unclog pores and reduce inflammation, making it an efficient treatment for acne and blemishes. Simply cut a piece of ginger and gently massage the exposed flesh into your blemish for five minutes. Some people also report that applying ginger to scars has a diminishing effect.
Ginger can also stimulate the skin and create a warming effect, making it a perfect addition to relaxing bath salts. Here is a recipe for cinnamon and ginger bath salts, which can be added to a hot bath:
- 1/4 cup coarsely ground sea salt or Epsom salts
- 3 tsp peeled, finely ground or grated ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 5 drops essential oil.