Ever since I was a kid, I loved to dabble in kitchen alchemy. Not only cooking or baking (I was the baker of the house since middle school) but also making stuff to put on my skin or hair.
It seemed a little weird to wash the hair with egg yolks and rinse it with herbed vinegar, even though those were proven recipes from the old days. But I did it, just like Gradma taught me, and my hair was happy.
Then, since I moved to the USA in the 1990s, I wanted to try all the brand-new shampoos, conditioners, face creams and lotions. Commercially produced, chemically laden cosmetics had colorful packaging, and out-of-this-world claims of excellence… Additionally, the times weren’t yet very keen on “ancient” wisdom and herbalism. So for a while I forgot all about homemade skincare.
Times are different now, and many of us are realizing that nature is best, and often the most effective ingredients for skin and hair care can be found in our garden, fridge, and pantry. And additionally for me, ever since my cancer dance started, I have been searching for clean alternatives to mainstream products. And so I found myself getting back to these ancient ways and back to the basics.
So today, I want to briefly introduce you to my favorite and super simple, yet effective, face masks that can be whipped up in a minute or so. They are easy, powerful, and cost close to nothing. And they are 100% natural, usually vegan (unless you opt for eggs and/or yogurt), and of coure, cruelty-free.
Ever heard of lactic acid? It can be found in milk products such as yogurt and kefir. Aside from lactic acid which can act as a mild exfoliator, yogurt also has beneficial probiotics which can be helpful in maintaining balanced skin.
And it can be as easy as taking a tablespoon of whole milk yogurt and slathering it on your face to encourage cell turnover. And, it has been scientifically proven, as this NIH study confirms.
What does yogurt do for you?
Moisturizes and rejuvenates skin.
Reduces wrinkles and fine lines. (gentle exfoliation and probiotics)
Fights acne. (thanks to probiotics)
Fades blemishes and hyperpigmentation. (thanks to the lactic acid)
Reduces dark circles.
If you get a sunburn, put some yogurt on your burn and feel it dissipate.
It's also beneficial for hair health. Make a hair mask of yogurt and one of the hair healthy oils (jojoba, argan, castor, or birigaraj)
You can up the ante by adding some additional beneficial ingredients:
Yogurt and Honey Mask
Honey has amazing antimicrobial properties. It is also soothing and moisturizing to the skin. It can help even with difficult to deal skin conditions such as rosacea, psoriasis and eczema.
Make sure to use raw honey and plain yogurt only (sweetened yogurts will do more harm than good).
Turmeric, Yogurt and Honey Mask
For oily or blemish-prone skin, adding a sprinkle of turmeric can do wonders. Turmeric is one of the herbs with amazing anti-inflamatory properties, it can help soothe inflamed skin and will banish pesky breakouts.
(A word of caution: adding yellow turmeric might lead to staining. The yellow will wash off skin without any problems, but it might stain towels or clothing. If that happens, sunlight is best to get the stain out. Wash your garment or towel and then air dry it in full sun)
Egg whites are an excellent source of protein (including albumins, mucoproteins, and globulins) which may potentially contribute to maintaining the elasticity of the skin. Egg whites are also high in collagen and vitamin A, both of which are important allies in treating wrinkles, scars, and minor imprefections.
The recipe is super simple: Beat an egg white until it is stiff. Apply as is or add 1 tsp of lemon juice and 1 tsp of honey. Apply the mask to clean skin. Leave on the skin for 15-20 minutes and rinse off. (It will run, so protect your clothes)
Veggie and Fruit Masks
There are so many to choose from. Really, almost every fruit or vegetable can be turned into an effective mask. Some might not be advisable though like beet or carrot because of staining but if not for that little problem, they would be beneficial to the skin as well. Let's look at some powerhouse veg and fruit masks.
Avocados are all the rage these days: avocado oil, avocado toast, avocado mock-chocolate mousse, guacamole, and more. Avocadoes are great fruits for delivering the “good” fats internally. But this yummy fruit offers also plenty of benefits when used topically. Avocados contain vital minerals such as calcium, iron, copper, potassium, magnesium and other vitamins that can enhance skin’s elasticity, help treat sensitive, dry or acne prone skin, and even revers the early signs of aging.
Making the simplest avocado mask is easier than making a bowl of guacamole.
Simply mash the flesh of the fruit and put on your cleansed face. Relax for 15-20 minutes and rinse off.
You can add other ingredients to up the ante:
Honey and/or tumeric– anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial
Lemon juice or apple cider vinegar – lightening and exfoliating
Yogurt and/or banana – restoring moisture
Tomatoes are wonderful veggies (sorry anti-nightshade crusaders!). They are a great source of lycopene which is one of the most powerful antioxidants and can even help ward of cancer.
Tomatoes are also champions when it comes to skin health. Here are some crucial ingredients and their benefits for the skin:
Vitamin A (fades dark spots and blemishes and smooths out rough skin)
B-vitamins (combat free radicals and prevent damage to healthy skin cells)
Vitamin C (essential for building up collagen; together, Vitamin C and collagen keep the skin plump, taut and elastic)
Calcium (needed for the top layer of skin, it helps heal dry skin)
Potassium (crucial for moisturizing and hydrating skin cells)
Magnesium (combats premature aging of skin)
Making a tomato mask is another no-brainer. Get an organic tomato (roma or other low-seed type would be best), peel it (scorching it with boiling water for one minute will make it easy), and mashi it into a pulp. You can use it as is or if you want to make it less runny (it can get messy), you can add some oat flour to make more of a paste.
Add a few drops of lemon juice for extra lightening effects and/or some honey for antimicrobial benefits.
Here is what you can expect after applying tomato mask on the skin:
cooling and soothing, great to fight sun- or wind-burn
astringent and pore tightening
balancing sebum production, and so particularly beneficial for oily and blemish-prone skin.
fighting premature aging and lightening the skin
No wonder strawberries are considered a superfruit. Not only are they crucial for our health when taken internally, they can also help the state of our skin tremendously.
Filled with anti-oxidants and polyphenols, strawberries can boast amazing astringent and anti-inflammatory properties that can help slow down aging process. The berries are also filled with fruit acids: alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) help exfoliate dead cells and reveal younger, glowing skin. They also have a high content of salicylic acid which is crucial in treatment of acne and blemish-prone skin.
How to make it? Easy! Wash a few organic berries, crush them with a fork to make a pulp, add a touch of honey for a better slip, place on your face for 15-20 minutes, rinse off. Done!
You could also add a teaspoon of cocoa powder for extra anti-oxidant boost and added glow.
Instead of making a face mask, you can also use the strawberries as an excellent face scrub. The berry seeds act as mechanical exfoliator while the fruit acids help sloth off dead skin cells on the microscopic level. Just rub a few crushed berries on your face over a sink, then rinse off.
Because of their high water content, cucumbers are a classic go-to when it comes to hydration of parched skin. Additionally, they are packed with vitamin C and caffeic acid, which both can soothe inflamed or irritated skin. Cucumber juice by itself is an excellent toner, cucumber slices put on your eyes combat puffinees and dark circles. So use it all over your face, either as juice or pulp. Both will work great to give you the glow back.
A nice touch is to freeze cucumber pulp and juice in ice-cube trays and then use them first thing in the morning under your eyes. Puffiness and dark circles disappear, and you look refreshed as it you slept 12 instead of 5 hours.
Pumpkin face pack are great glow-makers thanks to high content of enzymes, vitamins and minerals, and AHA acids present in the fruit. Brimming with vitamins A and C, pupkin pulp is particularly good when lightening and evening out of the skin tone is needed.
But the benefits of a pumpkin mask don’t stop there. Pumpkin can also:
deliver antioxidants and bioflavonoids to the skin, which help combat signs of aging
deeply moisturize and plump the skin
thanks to high vitamin C content, it will stimulate collagen production
provide beta carotene, amino acids and fruit enzymes to the skin
How to make it?
All you need is a can of pupkin flesh and a can opener. Get a spoonful of the pulp and spread all over your face (avoiding eye area). You can add the usual add-ons such as honey, turmeric, or lemon juice to bolster the lightening and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Keep on your face for 15-20 minutes, rinse off with warm water. Use weekly.
You can also use the pulp mixed with ground cinnamon to make a plumping lip scrub. It will gently exfoliate and make them plumper than before.
Mixed with sugar, pumpkin pulp can be used as a scrub for all over the body. Mix equal amounts of the pulp and sugar, take the mix with you into the shower. Scrub and rince, and – with regular use - say hello to less cellulite and more even skin tone.
Similarly to pumpkin, papaya is full of beneficial vitamins, minerals, and fruit enzymes. Use the flesh of papaya like you would use the flesh of pumpkin.
Additionally, you can dry the seeds of papaya, grind them and use them in a homemade exfoliating scrub. (They are edible, and taste like mild black pepper, with added benefits of the enzymes)
There is More
There are other fruits, veggies, and other food stuff to consider. Really the possibilities are almost endless. Here are just some:
Bananas – great for dry skin and hyperpigmentation
Apple Sauce – for dull skin, to restore the glow
Peaches or Apricots – amazing wrinkle fighter, can be mixed with yogurt or cream (“Peaches and Cream”)
Carrots – Beta Carotene will rejuvenate and replenish the lost moisture to the skin
Oatmeal – can be used cooked and cooled, or dry in powdered form – great for dry and dull skin
Olive Oil – perfect for restoring the lipid to dry, parched skin
Apple Cider Vinegar – use as toner for all skin types, but especially for oily and acneic skin
Baking Soda – wonderful daily face scrub, just mix a tea spoon with water and wash your face with it.
Aloe Vera – amazing hydrator and glow maker from your garden or flower pot.
So, run to your garden, fridge or pantry and find something to make a spa night at home. Some candle light and soft music will help too!