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13 Food Hacks for Better Skin and Hair

Hack your beauty regimen and turn to fruits, veggies, and pantry staples for DIY scrubs, masks, and hair treatments.
13 Food Hacks for Better Skin and Hair
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Good news: There are kitchen DIY projects that don’t require any cooking skills (who knew?). We’ve got 13 homemade solutions — from honey to mayo — for dry skin, rough elbows, and unruly hair. They’re cheaper than the fancy schmancy stuff sold in stores and use ingredients already in most pantries or fridges. (And guys, good skin isn’t just for the ladies — no one will know that the items from your latest grocery run are about to be lathered all over your face.) Check out this list for some antioxidant packed recipes that moisturize and refresh, some so good you could eat ‘em!

 

Body Scrubs

Roughin’ it never looked so good. Exfoliants remove old, dry, dead skin cells and allow new cells to surface, leaving skin feeling silky smooth, and looking refreshed [1]. Pro Tip: Scrub lips for an extra smoochable pucker. Don’t scrub too much, though: If skin is exfoliated more than once or twice a week, it’s hard for the body to create new skin cells the way it naturally does. “Most people don’t need to exfoliate at all,” says Greatist Expert and dermatologist Dr. J. Scott Kasteler. Scrubbing too much, or with too harsh an abrasive, is never a good idea because it makes our skin more susceptible to sun damage [2]. But he says if skin is looking a little scaly, it’s okay to gently scrub every once in a while.

Homemade scrubs typically contain two parts “grit” (usually salt or sugar) and one part oil (like coconut or olive). Start with one part oil and two parts sugar or salt (depending on how much you’d like to use, and where you’re scrubbing, a good amount to shoot for is ¼ cup of oil and ½ cup of grit). Brown sugar or sea salt tend to work best because they’re on the coarser side, but for a more gentle scrub, it’s OK to use table salt or good ‘ole white sugar (especially for more sensitive skin, like on the face). Pantry lookin’ pretty bare? Try flax meal, ground coffee, or oatmeal.

How To

Mix the oil and sugar slowly until the mixture forms a slightly wet ball (thick enough it won’t slip through your fingers). Rub the scrub (a dub dub) on the skin in a gentle, circular motion and pay extra attention to tougher areas like the knees, feet, and elbows. Try not to scrub too often or you might irritate the skin. Disclaimer: Be careful when using a whole lot of the scrub — the oils can make the shower floor pretty slippery.

Recipes

Banilla Scrub (Oil Free) For an oil-free option, use a fork to blend ½ cup of brown sugar and 1 mashed banana. Add a drop of vanilla extract. Try not to eat it.
The Benefits: Bananas can moisturize if you've got no oil on hand.

Lemon Refresher Scrub Start with ¼ cup of oil and ½ cup of sugar or salt. Add the zest and juice of one lemon.
The Benefits: Not only does it smell divine, but lemon has astringent qualities and can help banish shine and tighten the skin.

Cup-o-Joe Scrub Start with ¼ cup of oil and ½ cup of sugar or salt. Add in 2 tablespoons of ground coffee.
The Benefits: Coffee is a top source of antioxidants — primarily polyphenols and caffeine — which can reduce swelling [3]. The good news is that coffee’s antioxidant properties remain after brewing, so we recommend recycling old grounds that are chilling in the filter instead of using the fresh stuff [4].

Calming Milk and Oats Scrub (Oil Free) For less intense exfoliation, start with ½ cup of oats and ¼ cup of whole milk (the fat content will help moisturize).
The Benefits: Oats have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to slough off dead skin in a much gentler way than harsher scrubs [5]. For centuries, oatmeal has been used to soothe itchy, irritated skin because of its polyphenols (a type of antioxidant) [6] [7].

Face Masks

Masks will undoubtedly make you look funny (keep those fingers crossed that the UPS man doesn’t ring the bell), but they’re also a great way to deeply moisturize the skin. The acids in fruits like papaya, pineapple, and lemon also work as gentle exfoliants without all the scrubbing, says Kasteler. And it’s especially nice to know that the stuff that’s smothered so close to your mouth and nose is completely edible.

How To

Rub the tasty ingredients on your face and let them chill out for 15 to 30 minutes, carefully avoiding the eyes and mouth when layering it all on.

Recipes

Avocado and Honey Mask Mash together half an avocado and 1 tablespoon of honey.
The Benefits: Honey has antioxidants like phenolic acids and flavonoids and may also help with acne because it is an antimicrobial agent, while avocado oil can help moisturize [8] [9] [10].

Yogurt and Watermelon Mask Puree ½ cup of watermelon chunks and mix with a 3 tablespoons of plain yogurt.
The Benefits: Yogurt helps soothe and moisturize irritated skin (and sunburns!), as well as brighten skin [11]. The lactic acid, a natural alpha hydroxy acid (an acid that works as an exfoliating agent), helps smooth skin and may even reverse signs of aging [12] [13]. Watermelon is a good source of vitamin C which helps produce new collagen (helping skin stay supple) [14] [15] [16].

Tropical Fruit Mask Mash a small amount (3 tablespoons will do) of raw papaya, and add 2 tablespoons of pineapple juice.
The Benefits: The two fruits contain enzymes that dissolve oil and dry skin cells [17].

Pumpkin Pie Mask Mix up 3 tablespoons of pumpkin puree with 1 teaspoon of honey, 1 teaspoon of milk, and a dash of cinnamon.
The Benefits: Pumpkin has a natural form of salicylic acid, which helps clear and prevent blemished skin [18]. Cinnamon can also help reverse the clock because of its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties [19] [20].

Hair Treatments

Hair is always hungry for moisture — especially after a summer filled with sun and chlorinated pool water. But even when hair is perfectly hydrated, the strands can turn into a greasy mess (like when life gets so busy that there’s no time to lather, rinse, and repeat). Layering on a hair mask, or rinsing with a budget-friendly household item like vinegar can give locks a little love.

How To

For hair, we’ve got ways to moisturize (longer treatments, and quick ones too!), and ways to degrease when you’re in a rush. Layer on the masks and let them sit for at least 15 minutes.

Recipes

Honey Avocado Hair Mask Mash a medium avocado with 2 tablespoons of honey. Slather it on and wrap hair into a neat bun for 15-30 minutes. A shower cap can help keep the mask from defiling the couch. Go hit the town with your new do, or wash hair as usual and then make your way into a public arena.
The Benefits: Both ingredients moisturize skin and hair [21].

Drunken Do We’re warning you: This one will not taste or smell good. Add a shot of vodka to ¼ cup of mayonnaise.
The Benefits: The alcohol lowers the pH level of the hair, closing the cuticles and making hair appear shinier (goodbye, frizz) [22]. The mayo moisturizes locks because of its oil content and protein-packed egg. Extra bonus: the lemon juice or vinegar in mayo also lowers hair’s pH.

Vinegar Shine Rinse For a quick fix that requires no mixing, rinse hair with vinegar (you can do it right in the shower with a small squeeze bottle) to add shine. Make sure to wash it well to remove any lingering vinegar smell.
The Benefits: Vinegar is also a great pH adjuster (with a similar pH to lemon or lime juice).

Coconut Conditioner When cold winter weather threatens to dry out tresses, turn to coconut oil. A few times a week, soak hair in a few tablespoons of coconut oil (make sure it’s in it’s liquid state). Let it sit for at least 30 minutes or overnight (for deeper conditioning).
The Benefits: Coconut oil is attracted to hair proteins and can penetrate the hair shaft, while other oils — like mineral oil, and sunflower oil — have a much harder time moisturizing [23]. Coconut oil also protects hair from hygral fatigue, which is when hair becomes damaged from expanding when wet, and contracting when dry [24].

Dry Shampoo A mixture of coarse-ground cornmeal, essential oil of lemon, and castor oil can de-grease a slicked back head of hair. Massage a small amount of the mix through the scalp, then brush out the meal. For a quick fix, try cornstarch for lighter hair, or a mixture of cornstarch and cocoa for dark hair, to absorb excess oil.
The Benefits: A little extra scalp grease isn’t going to hurt, but soaking some up in a pinch could definitely make you feel better!

The Takeaway

Everybody is different, and so too is their skin. A heavy scrub may be too much for some of us, while an oat based one may not be enough for others. Since facial skin is thinner and more sensitive (especially because it’s exposed to the sun more often), it’s best to try out the scrubs and masks on less sensitive areas on the body, like the arm.

Kasteler says more expensive does not mean better when it comes to beauty treatments, so it’s perfectly ok to try concocting some food-based stuff at home. “The skin is simple,” he says, “It will tell you what it needs.”

Do you make homemade beauty treatments? What are your favorites? Tell us in the comments section below or tweet the author @nicmcdermott.

This article has been read and approved by Greatist Experts Dr. J. Scott Kasteler and Dr. Marilee Benson.

Photo: Bigstock

Works Cited +

  1. Evidence and Considerations in the Application of Chemical Peels in Skin Disorders and Aesthetic Resurfacing. Rendon, M.I., Berson, D.S., Cohen, J.L. Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, 2010 July; 3(7): 32-43.
  2. Dermabrasion in dermatology. Gold, M.H. Gold Skin Care Center, Nashville, Tennessee. American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, 2003; 4(7):467-71.
  3. The total antioxidant content of more than 3100 foods, beverages, spices, herbs and supplements used worldwide. Carlsen, M.H., Halvorsen, B.L., Holte, K. Nutrition Journal, 2010; 9:3.
  4. Antioxidant properties of roasted coffee residues. Yen, W.J., Wang, B.S., Chang, L.W., et al. Department of Food Science and Technology, Chia Nan University of Pharmacy and Science, Taiwan, Republic of China. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2005 Apr 6;53(7):2658-63.
  5. Mechanism of action and clinical benefits of colloidal oatmeal for dermatologic practice. Department of Dermatology, Barts & The London NHS Trust, Royal London Hospital, London, UK. Journal of Drugs and Dermatology, 2010 Sep;9(9):1116-20.
  6. Avenanthramides, polyphenols from oats, exhibit anti-inflammatory and anti-itch activity. Sur, R., Nigam, A., Grote, D., Preclinical Pharmacology, Skin Research Center, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Products, Skillman, NJ. Archives of Dermatological Research, 2008 Nov;300(10):569-74. Epub 2008 May 7.
  7. Antioxidant capacity of oat (Avena sativa L.) extracts. 1. Inhibition of low-density lipoprotein oxidation and oxygen radical absorbance capacity. Handelman, G.J., Cao, G., Walter, M.F. Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts. Journal of Agricultural Food and Chemistry, 1999 Dec;47(12):4888-93.
  8. Honey: a novel antioxidant. Erejuwa, O.O., Sulaiman, S.A., Ab Wahab, M.S. Department of Pharmacology, School of Medical Sciences, Kelantan, Malaysia. Molecules, 2012 Apr 12;17(4):4400-23.
  9. Honey for wound healing, ulcers, and burns; data supporting its use in clinical practice. Al-Waili, N., Salom, K., Al-Ghamdi, A.A. Al-Waili’s Foundation for Sciences, Chronic Wound Management and Hyperbaric Medicine, Life Support Technology Group, New York, USA. Scientific World Journal, 2011 Apr 5;11:766-87.
  10. Identification and quantification of antioxidant components of honeys from various floral sources. Gheldof, N., Wang, X.H., Engeseth, N.J. Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, University of Illinois, Urbana, Illinois. Journal of Agricultural Food and Chemistry, 2002 Oct 9;50(21):5870-7.
  11. Clinical efficacy of facial masks containing yoghurt and Opuntia humifusa Raf. (F-YOP). Yeom, G., Yun, D.M., Kang, Y.W. Skin Science Laboratory, R&D Center, Republic of Korea. Journal of Cosmetic Science, 2011 Sep-Oct;62(5):505-14.
  12. Effects of alpha-hydroxy acids on photoaged skin: a pilot clinical, histologic, and ultrastructural study. Department of Dermatology, Hahnemann University School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 1996 Feb;34(2 Pt 1):187-95.
  13. Cosmetic use of alpha-hydroxy acids. Vidt, D.G., Bergfeld, W.F. Department of Dermatology, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, OH, USA. Cleveland Clinical Journal of Medicine, 1997 Jun;64(6):327-9.
  14. Topically applied vitamin C enhances the mRNA level of collagens I and III, their processing enzymes and tissue inhibitor of matrix metalloproteinase 1 in the human dermis. Nusgens, B.V., Humbert, P., Rougier, A. Laboratory of Connective Tissues Biology, Tour de Pathologie, University of Liege, Sart Tilman, Belgium. The Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 2001 Jun;116(6):853-9.
  15. The effect of vitamin C deficiency on complement systems and complement components. Sakamoto, M., Kobayashi, S., Ishii, S. Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, 1981;27(4):367-78.
  16. Section 22.3 Collagen: The Fibrous Proteins of the Matrix. Molecular Cell Biology. 4th edition. Lodish, H., Berk, A., Zipursky, S.L., et al. New York: W.H. Freeman; 2000.
  17. Bromelain: biochemistry, pharmacology and medical use. Maurer, H.R. Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, Institute of Pharmacy, Freie Universitat Berlin, Germany. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, 2001 Aug;58(9):1234-45.
  18. Salicylic Acid Topical. AHFS Consumer Medication Information, Last reviewed: Oct 1, 2010.
  19. Cinnamon extract promotes type I collagen biosynthesis via activation of IGF-I signaling in human dermal fibroblasts. Takasao, N., Tsuji-Naito, K., Ishikura, S., et al. Department of Biological Chemistry, Division of Applied Life Science, Graduate School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Osaka Prefecture University, Naka-ku, Sakai, Japan. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2012 Feb 8;60(5):1193-200. Epub 2012 Jan 27.
  20. Cinnamon and health. Gruenwald, J., Freder, J., Armbruester, N. Analyze & realize ag, Berlin, Germany. Cricial Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 2010 Oct;50(9):822-34.
  21. [Dermo-pharmaceutical efficacy of emulsions with NEO-PCL: galenic and rheological studies]. Departamento de Farmacia y Tecnologia Farmaceutica, Facultad de Farmacia, Universidad de Alcala de Henares, Madrid. Anales Pharmaceutiques Fraincaises, 1997;55(4):174-80.
  22. Atomic force microscopy of human hair cuticles: a microscopic study of environmental effects on hair morphology. O’Connor, S.D., Komisarek, K.L. Baldeschweiler, J.D. Division of Chemistry, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 1995 Jul;105(1):96-9.
  23. Effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damage. Rele, A.S., Mohile, R.B. Research and Development Department, Nature Care Divisioln, Marico Industries Ltd., Mumbai, India. Journal of Cosmetic Science, 2003 Mar-Apr;54(2):175-92.
  24. Secondary ion mass spectrometric investigation of penetration of coconut and mineral oils into human hair fibers: relevance to hair damage. Ruetsch, S.B., Kamath, Y.K., Rele, A.S., et al. TRI/Princeton, NJ 08540, USA. Journal of Cosmetic Science, 2001 May-Jun;52(3):169-84.

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