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Do-It-Yourself Beauty

By Amalah

I have heard that people who use natural products instead of moisturizers on their face (olive oil mixed with a herbal essence for example) are always complimented on how young and great they look — does this really work? I like the idea of a cheap and natural moisturizer, but am worried that years from now I will look back and regret not going for a “real” product. What do you think? Should I give it a try for a few months and see how it goes or would I be making a big mistake? As I write this, I have an olive oil and apple cider vinegar blend on my face…greasy, but my skin feels less dry than it did before I put it on.
Noosa (39 yrs)

I think there’s definitely something to be said about homemade beauty and skincare solutions. I’m just not sure I’m the right person to say…whatever that something is to be said. (Am writing viking!) I just don’t know that much about them, honestly.
avocado.jpgI once tried washing my face with olive oil on the advice of my mother-in-law. It did not go well. (She later switched back to “real” products as well.) But lots of people swear by it, so I’m guessing it’s just like any skincare routine — you have to find the one that works for you. If I had chronically dry skin or never wore makeup, perhaps the olive oil method would have been it.
But there was no harm in trying it, nor should you be that worried about giving your oil and vinegar routine a shot for a few weeks. My two big unbreakable and nonnegotiable rules for skincare and aging are 1) protect your skin from the sun and 2) lay off the harsh-harsh stuff (scrubs and alcohol and acids and fragrance) as much as possible. In the meantime, if you’re happy with what you see in the mirror NOW, I wouldn’t stress out too much over abandoning the poor little mainstream cosmetics industry.
I’ve found a few green-living-type sites that offer a ton of homemade beauty tips — so many, in fact, that it’s hard to know where to start. But your question (and a few other similar ones I’ve received…sorry I can’t post them all), has inspired me to start trying some of them out and report back on my progress. The Smackdown’s going green! Sometimes!
Reader Anna submitted a couple ideas of her own, which are just too good not to pass on:

I have waistlength hair (and I am freakishly tall, so we are indeed talking long). The ends used to be a disaster for years – didn’t look too bad but felt dry and lifeless. Distributing a few drops of hair friendly oil on the ends – so few that it is not at all noticeable to the eye – (I use jojoba) has made a WORLD of difference.

I also found that the best exfoliator, hands down, is either softly ground coffee residue, if you brew your coffee at home, or a few drops of oil mixed with sugar or salt. Sophia Loren’s recipe, and you can’t say the lady doesn’t look good! Final magic tip: to fade any red spots, control breakouts, brighten the skin and moisturise it at the same time: crush a few aspirin pills in a few drops of water, mix it with honey, slap it on, rinse in 20 minutes, and voila!

What say you, peanut gallery? Any inexpensive and homemade solutions you’ve tried and loved? (Or hated, you know we always welcome the crankiness here.)

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Avi

    October 10, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    Long time reader, but I haven’t commented before…sorry if I’m nervous and babble a bit! : )
    I worked for a company for a year or so who sold ingredients to small businesses for hand-made beauty products. They’re called “From Nature With Love”
    There website is HUGE. They carry all kinds of oils, essential oils, salts, butters, etc. It goes really in depth on each item and what it’s recommended for. (soap, facial oil, scrubs…) You can buy really small (1-2 ounces) or large sizes.
    From what I learned there, and tried, I found that the Organic Virgin Coconut Cream Oil is the lightest and absorbs the best for a straightup oil moisturizer. The owner of the company uses it daily, and her skin is fantastic. It has a neat physical property as well. At cooler temperatures, it becomes fairly solid, but when warmed on the skin, melts almost instantly.
    I’ve found that for me at least, olive oil is too heavy.

  • linda

    October 10, 2007 at 3:32 pm

    I’m a fan of the crushed aspirin mask, only I do mine with a few drops of jojoba oil instead of honey. Let 4 regular aspirin tables disintegrate in a *small* amount of water, add a few drops of jojoba, smear on your face, avoiding the eye area. After a few minutes (I’ve done as little as one and as many as 30), wet your face and rub gently to get a bit of extra exfoiliating. Rinse and pat dry.

  • linda

    October 10, 2007 at 3:34 pm

    Wait, I thought of one more – apple cider vinegar rinse for hair. Mix about 1/4 cup ACV with warm water, pour over hair, massage gently, leave it on as long as you can stand it, rinse. Does a great job of sealing the cuticle to make your hair shinier and less frizzy.

  • OneSmartCookie

    October 10, 2007 at 4:16 pm

    I’m curious about the aspirin and honey or jojoba oil mixture. I’d love to try it as a way to reduce redness but I’m worried that honey or jojoba oil will be too much for my combination skin. If you’ve tried it, did you have a problem with it clogging pores or is it really as great as it sounds? Do you think that there is a mixing option that is best for combination skin? (ie, Will honey give me pizza skin but jojoba will make me glow??) Thanks!

  • BaltimoreGal

    October 10, 2007 at 4:20 pm

    I always recommend olive oil for deep hair treatments but if you want something fancier and nicer smelling, Origins has a great organic line including hair oil. I use it sometimes when I’m letting my hair dry naturally. It smells great and is conditioning and frizz-fighting yet not too heavy.

  • Broad

    October 10, 2007 at 6:20 pm

    @ onesmartcookie: After seeing the aspirin mask recommended on another site, I decided I would try it out over the weekend on my sort-of-oily-and-pimply-yet-dry-with-rosacea skin, and it IS the shizznit. Cleared the pimples right up and left me feeling soft without the grease. I mixed mine with aloe vera, though, so I can’t speak to what honey would do, but honey does have antibiotic properties, so it should be fine.

  • Kimba

    October 10, 2007 at 7:20 pm

    Hi! So, I’ve got a product for you to try, if you want to go the natural route, but maybe are a little anxious about stealing from your kitchen. A little while ago I recieved a free DHC facial kit in the mail. I believe the website is, and I think you can pay $5 shipping and get the sample kit. I used the samples for a few weeks (it lasted MUCH longer than they said it would) and absolutely and completely fell in love with it. My skin felt so SOFT and healthy, and I’m saving my sheckles (I hate this phrase) so that I can buy the full size olive oil kit. It’s amazing.

  • cledbo

    October 10, 2007 at 10:43 pm

    My friends and I did a couple of ‘natural beauty’ party sleepovers when we were teenagers (and one far more recently too!) mainly because when your 16 you’ve already spent all your money on clothes and cds (this is back when people bought them, of course).
    Some of my favourites, which may or may not do any good but they make you smell yummy and cost bugger-all:
    Warm avocado face mask with honey. Squish avocado insides in bowl, add honey. Nuke until warm (not hot!), put on face. Makes your skin feel super soft.
    Feel free to add cucumber slices/cotton pads soaked in cold milk/cold used tea bas over eyes for various de-puffing actions.
    Sea salt scrub. Take sea salt (buy a bag, there’s not enough in your grinder trust me), add various small amounts of essential oils, and a carrier oil such as olive, almond or massage (fragrance free). Rub on body and rinse. Don’t put on cuts! Also, don’t use this if you have sensitive skin or eczema like I do. Man, so painful. My friends enjoyed it though, so i’m taking their word for it.
    Egg white hair mask. Get 2-3 egg whites. beat lightly, just to add some air but not until they go white. Add oils if you want it to smell like something other than egg white. Put on hair, leave for a while, then rinse off. It’s meant to make your hair super shiny, but I could never really work out how long it lasted cos we always did it at night in out PJs.
    There are millions more on the net, these are more pampering ones than a daily routine.
    BTW apple cider vinegar is also good for combating mould if you live in a dank, moist pit (like I did overseas). Miracle cure for everything hurrah!

  • katy

    October 10, 2007 at 11:02 pm

    I love the olive oil moisturizer thing. I tried telling a friend about it once, and she just smirked at me, like, “Never in my life will I be so stupid as to put oil on already oily skin.” Bygones. The point is, oil doesn’t make your skin oily. The trick is not to use too much. I put my finger on the little hole in the top of the olive oil bottle, tip the bottle a couple times and dab the oil on my cheeks, chin and forehead before massaging it into my skin. A little goes a LONG way. Makes my skin nice and soft and balanced. Love it.
    My best friend uses baking soda and a little bit of castille soap (I think) to wash her face and apple cider vinegar as a toner, followed by olive oil to moisturize. She’s created her own 3-Step.

  • Plattie

    October 11, 2007 at 4:35 am

    A few summers ago I tried putting lemon juice in my hair and sitting out in the sun to get some nice natural highlights.
    I do not recommend this. All I managed to do was get really sticky and attract lots of flies.
    Also, years ago, I tried putting egg yolk in my hair to make it shiny. Again, sticky. Although that time no flies.

  • becky

    October 11, 2007 at 9:48 am

    What funny timing! I just started using the “oil cleansing method” for nighttime cleansing a week and a half ago and, contrary to my expectations, I am loving it. My routine is wash my hands, take about 1/2-1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil, massage gently over my face for about 2 minutes, take a washcloth run under very hot water, wring it out and drape it over my face until it cools down (1 minute?) and then rinse out the washcloth with hot water, wring, wipe the oil off gently, repeating until all the oiliness is off and my skin just feels soft. Then splash with cold water, and I’m done. It takes probably 5-6 minutes from beginning to end. I don’t need an extra moisturizer because of the oil that has already been absorbed by my skin (replacing the dirty oils from the day)
    I am especially excited about this because I had just started looking into expensive acne products but decided to give this a two week trial first and I’m finding that my acne is clearing up at least as well as it did with a benzoyl peroxide routine and my overall skin looks way healthier. My skin used to break out worsening over time on my cheeks and chin, and now the old blemishes are clearing up and any new ones are tiny and gone in 2-3 days instead of a week or two. I’m still using my regular drugstore cleanser (Garnier Nutritioniste) in the shower in the morning, but I’m getting results far better than I got with that morning and night before.

  • Dapbim

    October 11, 2007 at 1:38 pm

    I second the egg white thing, but rinse with no more than vaguely lukewarm water, otherwise the egg cooks in your hair and then it’s not quite so shiny. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…

  • TasterSpoon

    October 11, 2007 at 1:41 pm

    I have the adult acne a lot of us are always complaining about. Went to a dermatologist, she prescribed a combination of tretinoin (Retin-A) cream, erithromycin (antiseptic-type) cream, and a benzoil peroxide wash. It was moderately successful, but I was too cheap and too afraid of Retin-A related cancer to keep it up.
    So I swapped out for a drug store benzoil peroxide wash and toner of some kind, plus the occasional dab of BP cream, which again was moderately successful, but the BP totally bleached my sheets and towels and I’m sure made me an unwelcome houseguest.
    And then recently I just read that tea tree oil (diluted) was just as effective as benzoil peroxide at treating pimples, so I’m experimenting with a homemade toner of witch hazel (yeah, I think there’s alcohol in it), distilled water and tea tree oil. And three weeks into it IT’S TOTALLY WORKING. Plus no bleached shirt collars, and it seems not drying AT ALL.
    You didn’t need the background, but I just wanted to make the point that maybe you don’t need to go all hard core with the docters and chemicals when you can get tea tree essential oil anywhere.
    Also, after this success I hippied out and have been trying that deoderant crystal (I think it’s a big block of salt), and have been surprised to find that it works, too. You do get moist in the pit area, but you don’t smell like anything. Since it’s supposedly the antiperspirant that turns the pits of shirts yellow, I’m going to stick with this for a while for the benefit of my clothes. Of course, I may switch back come summer.

  • Alice_R

    October 11, 2007 at 4:31 pm

    I wash my face with honey, and know a lot of others who do as well. FYI, for those who wondered, it won’t make you break out – in fact, it helps clear up breakouts! I use raw organic honey – I got a big jar of it at the grocery store a few weeks ago and so far have used so little of it, it barely looks like there’s any missing. I just put it in a glass bottle with a pump dispenser & keep it in the shower – while I’m showering it warms up enough to pump easily. If you wear a lot of makeup, you will need to dissolve it with a gentle cleanser like Cetaphil first.
    My skin is much softer and my breakouts are disappearing. I also use a toner made of witch hazel and tea tree oil (a little TTO goes a LONG way!) and apply it directly to breakouts. I use olive oil as eye makeup remover and it works great.
    I also make a really yummy body scrub out of brown sugar and coconut oil.

  • Anna

    October 14, 2007 at 5:27 pm

    Reader Anna here! Very excited that my little tricks made it to the column 🙂
    OneSmartCookie, I have sensitive combination skin with enlarged pores on and around my nose, and have had mild adult acne for a while. The honey-aspirin mask doesn’t make a perfect skin, nothing does, but I have found it reduces shine, reduces the redness, controls the acne, moisturises AND tightens the pores. It also makes me coffee, does the dishes and signs me lullabies! Okay, not the latter… but honestly, I’m not exaggerating the effects on my skin, and I haven’t heard a single person not liking it. I also finish it off by lightly moisturising afterwards with commercial face cream, and I do this routine twice a week. So I am pretty sure you’d be safe giving it a try.