Natural skincare for beginners

Your kitchen has everything you need to make your skin soft and your hair shiny. So, why not get mixing and spritzing your own beauty products? These recipes are super-safe for your skin, they make beautiful gifts and they’re (almost) good enough to eat.

Our skin absorbs the products we put on it. This is bad news if we’re soaking up nasties like sulphates, parabens and synthetic fragrances (which have been linked to allergies and even cancer). With homemade beauty treats, you get the same benefits as you do if you cook from scratch. It can be cheaper than buying organic, premium products and you get to decide what goes in, and what’s left out. For example, you can even go scent-free if you’re sensitive to perfume.

Saves packaging
Bottles, jars and pots of products add up to a whole lot of packaging. Often, they are also packed into boxes to make them look more attractive on the shelves. So, while you can re-use and recycle some of this, using less of it in the first place has got to be a bonus.

Uses food waste
Homemade beauty treats don’t need top notch ingredients and you can use nearly everything. Yes, there’s even recipes out there for those dusty old lentils at the back of your cupboard!. It’s easy to make face masks from over-ripe bananas (mash with a dollop of yoghurt and a spoon of honey) and body scrubs from used coffee grains.

Inspiration
The revival in make-your-own plant based beauty means there’s no end of ideas on social media. From herbal hair infusions (heat a ladleful of cider vinegar with a handful of fresh kitchen herbs, cool and use as a hair rinse) to using raw beetroot to stain your lips (a trick that was used in wartime Britain) and, of course, applying foundation with a boiled egg. A quick google will throw up plenty of ideas and once you’ve got going, you can dream up your own recipes too. And don’t forget that children can get involved. Plant-based beauty, with ingredients from the kitchen, should be safe for teenage skin, and young children love shaking rose petals and water in jam jars to make perfume. Quick, easy, fun (and free).

For some products – such as the bubbly bath treats – you may need to get a few extras. Citric acid, for example, a weak organic acid found in citrus fruits, can be bought at home-brew shops or online. However, most of the ingredients are everyday foods so you can whip up a treat or two as you’re cooking.

Super speedy treats

Here are a few of my favourites: when you’re peeling an avocado, rub the inside of the skin on your elbows as a quick moisturiser. When you’re peeling a papaya wipe the inside of the skin over your face and neck to freshen your skin (then rinse with water). Throw a handful of oats into the bath to soften the water; use cold chamomile tea for a skin toner; mash past-their-best strawberries with a squeeze of lemon for a face mask (leave for a few minutes before rinsing with water). Another money-saver is to buy sweet almond oil in bulk and use it as a body moisturiser after the shower.

Lavender Bath Bombs

Roughly speaking, you need just under double the amount of bicarb to citric acid if you want to scale the measurements up. This recipe makes around four small bath bombs or a jam jar of crumble.

Ingredients
80g citric acid
200g bicarbonate of soda
40g Epsom bath salts (optional)
Oil – olive oil is fine, you need around 10ml
Water – a few drops to wet your hands
Essential oil – a few drops (optional)

Decorations: dried herbs and flowers (optional)
Natural food colouring (optional – you might not want to stain the bath!)

Method
Sift the citric acid and bicarb into a bowl. Add the salts and decorations, if using. In a separate container, mix the oil, essential oil and natural colouring (if using). Then slowly add the oil to the dry ingredients, until you have the consistency of dampened sand. You may need to wet your hands with the water or add a few drops of it. The mixture needs to hold when you pack it together.

Form small balls and pack them into the moulds. You can buy specially designed plastic moulds for this but I use a fairy cake/muffin tray. Leave them to set for around 15 mins (no longer as they’ll stick). For a variation, you can make bath crumble, just rub it together and sprinkle it into a jar to dry out, and then throw a handful into a warm bath. Easy!

Sweet Rose Scrub

Ingredients
To make a jar, you will need:

Equal parts of sugar and oil. I measure these, half and half, in the jam jar, then scoop the ingredients into a bowl for mixing.
Rose oil – a few drops
Dried rose petals (optional).

Method
Mix the sugar with the oil, rose oil and petals and seal in a jar. Use a spoonful when you’re in the shower as a body scrub.

Notes: The sugar can be brown or white and if you don’t have sugar, you could use salt. For the oil, olive is fine and so is coconut (often available at discount supermarkets or on offer at health food shops) or go for almond oil. A mid-range oil works well: there’s no need to splash out on expensive, extra virgin organic olive oil but that said, you don’t want to spread chip fat on yourself either.

Any tips of on natural skincare you make or use? Leave a comment below or let us know on Facebook

About

Joanne O'Connell

Joanne O'Connell

Joanne O'Connell is a freelance journalist who writes for The Guardian and The Observer. Her new book The Homemade Vegan is out now. In 2013, she lived without supermarkets for one year.

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