Skin, our largest organ, plays an important role in supporting and protecting the rest of the body. That’s why it should be treated kindly by using natural, chemical-free ingredients. Many U.S. beauty products contain hidden chemicals, including dozens of ingredients that are banned in other countries. Even products labeled “organic” or “natural” can contain potentially harmful petrochemicals, according to the Environmental Working Group
A natural skincare routine doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. Balms, masks, scrubs and toners can be made from healthy, everyday products already present in most homes. “Oats, yogurt, coconut oil, honey: there are many kitchen staples that you can easily use in your skincare routine,” says Marlene Adelmann, founder of the Herbal Academy
, in Bedford, Massachusetts, and author of Botanical Skin Care Recipe Book
As an example, face masks can be made with ingredients from the spice rack, including turmeric and black pepper. “One-ingredient treatments, like a honey or yogurt mask, feel so good and are easy to make,” says Stephanie Gerber
, the Nashville author of Hello Glow: 150+ Easy Natural Beauty Recipes for A Fresh New You
Facial, body and foot scrubs are great beginner creations, according to Stephanie Tourles
, author of Pure Skin Care: Nourishing Recipes for Vibrant Skin & Natural Beauty
. The Marble Falls, Texas, esthetician recommends starting with a base of sugar or salt and adding an edible oil such as almond, plus a few drops of an essential oil. Essential oils should be diluted—add only six to 12 drops per ounce of finished product. Her favorites are lavender, tea tree, sweet orange and frankincense. Lemon, lime and bergamot are phototoxic and can cause sensitivity if added to any scrub before sun exposure.
“Scrubs are wonderful for softening, soothing and exfoliating the skin,” Tourles says, cautioning that salt scrubs can sting if applied after shaving or waxing. Other common ingredients that can be added are oats, almonds or sunflower seeds ground in a coffee grinder. When mixed with water, cream or yogurt, they offer a moisturizing facial treatment.
Tourles loves homemade body balms using oil and a thickener such as cocoa butter or beeswax. “Balms are easy to make, great for kids and good for dry cuticles and lips. You don’t have to worry about ingredients spoiling. They condition the skin and smell great,” she says.
In harsher weather, skin requires a little extra TLC. Tourles suggests a hydrating winter toner made with a 50/50 mix of aloe vera juice and rosewater. “Honey is also nice for the face and incredibly hydrating for winter,” she says. “Simply warm a little bit, apply it to your clean face for 20 minutes, then rinse with warm water.”
“People often forget to apply more moisturizer in winter. One of the best things you can do is exfoliate your face with a simple scrub to slough off dry, dead skin. Use gentler ingredients for your face than your body, like oats, baking soda or almonds ground finely,” says Gerber. For chapped lips, she recommends a gentle exfoliant like sugar and honey applied as an antibacterial lip scrub.
“Matcha green tea makes a beautiful mask that astringes and tones skin. Combine it with aloe gel and honey for some soothing moisture in the colder months when our skin needs rejuvenation,” says Adelmann.
Some products are best purchased from a commercial source. “You can make many preparations at home—from masks to cleansing scrubs, cleansers, lotions and creams—but when these recipes contain water, they have a short shelf life. If you are looking for something with a longer shelf life, you’re going to run into more complicated instructions incorporating preservatives,” says Adelmann.
“Moisturizers, creamy cleansers and hand creams have the steepest learning curve to craft yourself,” says Tourles. “Trying to emulsify watery ingredients like herb tea and aloe vera with oils, butters or waxes is like mixing oil and vinegar in a salad dressing; these ingredients want to separate.” According to Gerber, sunscreen is another product worth buying rather than trying to make at home.
Homemade or store-bought products aside, the best skin enhancer is a drink of water, according to Gerber. It doesn’t get easier or more economical than that.
Connect with Washington, D.C., freelance writer April Thompson.