Keep it simple. Keep it natural. That is the advice most of us try to follow in our beauty regimes. However, it can be impossible to tell just how natural our hair and skin products really are. There is an increasingly high number of chemicals present in modern moisturisers and creams, which over time can tire out our skin, clog up our drains with harmful toxins and make a significant hole in our wallets.
About a year ago, returning to the hard water of London from a long stint in Scotland I was amazed to see how quickly my hair became dry, my skin taunt and flaky and my nails weakened and brittle. Desperate for a beauty boost, and finding high end products repeatedly let me down, I overheard a friend waxing lyrical about the benefits of egg white blackhead removal masks. Skeptical, but interested in dropping some pound of my skincare budget, I gave it a go. It gave me some of the softest, skin I have seen in a long while and and a whole new outlook on my beauty regime. I have been raiding the kitchen ever since, fascinated by the potential of natural ingredients used for cooking in boosting and maintaining healthy hair and skin.
I am certainly not the first to do so. If we look at history we see many great beauties kept things au natural, with Cleopatra famously floating in a pool of asses milk, miraculously avoiding a severe yeast infection. Or Queen Elizabeth II who studded her hair with more orange peel, cloves and cinnamon sticks than a pan of bad office party mulled wine. Modern vegans may be a little alarmed to hear that Empress Elisabeth of Austria was known to slap slices of raw veal on her face several times a week in order to maintain her glowing complexion. These simple treatments, using raw untreated food products, were used religiously for centuries. As simple and natural as it comes.
Oh, how our beauty industry has evolved! They are certainly far removed from our modern beauty icons like Kim Kardashian, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jane Fonda who can only keep their looks through a ritualistic slathering of various creams, scrubs, peels and injections. Costing hundreds of quid a pop, this kind of beauty treatment can seem out of reach for the majority of us. Little simple or indeed, affordable about it. Certainly, in the constant, exhausting social media-driven stream of the beauty industry it can be hard to know what works for us and what beauty treatments will last, and promote skin and hair health over time.
Perhaps we have more to gain from looking at beauty cures from our past and indeed our own kitchens to find long lasting regimes that will work time and time again and allow our skin gentle, truly all natural nourishment.
I call it Store Cupboard Glamour, and I have tried and tested a number of foods, probably in the back or your cupboard or fridge right now that will work wonders on your skin and hair.
What: Loaded with protein, eggs are like a hearty meal for hungry hair. It can also be used as a face mask, the whites being particularly good for oily skin.
How: Whisk an egg in a small bowl and a few drops of essential oil if you prefer (I personally love a few splashes of lavender oil.) Spread evenly on dry hair with a tinting brush and allow to rest for between fifteen minutes and half an hour. Rinse with cool water and shampoo thoroughly until removed.
Pros: Glossy nourished hair.
Cons: Make sure you get it all out before applying heat. Hair dryer+egg+hair=scrambled locks!
What: Cooling and somewhat astringent, cucumber is a great ingredient for face masks and scrubs, particularly suitable for those with skin on the oilier side.
How: Best applied after a steaming when the pores have been newly opened, simply finely chop or blend a cucumber and loosen slightly with cool green tea and a teaspoon of honey if you want a deeper cleanse. Allow to sit for about ten minutes and wash with cool water.
Pros: A zesty, cooling action that eliminates dark circles and smells lovely.
Cons: A slight tingling sensation that may irritate certain skin types. Those with more dry or sensitive skin may want to keep theirs in a salad.
What: Avoid expensive ‘sea sprays’, you can rustle up your own treatment at home. Best for those with a slightly thicker and coarser hair texture. Just think beach holidays and those big, bouncy curls a dip in the salt water can magic up.
How: For best results drop a teaspoon of salt in a spray bottle with any extra bits and pieces (lemon, olive oil, lavender oil all work nicely.) Spray on damp washed hair and dry and leave in curlers overnight.
Pros: Deep conditioned hair with added volume and oomph.
Cons: Dry or dyed hair may find this lifts all moisture out their ends. Also salty scalp is no joke.
What: The natural acid in berries, and most notably strawberries offer a fantastic exfoliating effect, Rich in vitamin C, the humble strawberry will promote the healing and regeneration of skin and reduce fine lines and wrinkles over time.
How: Add a few crushed strawberries to any of the facemasks above or make a scrub with a little salt or crushed cranberries.
Pros: You’re face will glow after this. Expect rosy, youthful clearer skin.
Cons: None, although being bright red, may be particularly alarming facemask to greet visitors with.
What: Just think of a knob of rich creamy butter sinking and softening into a dry slice of toast, butter is deeply nourishing, containing linolec acid a great softening agent.
How: Simply melt a small knob of butter in a pan or microwave and when cool add a teaspoon of honey and mix well. Apply to the face and allow to sit for half an hour. Drop a few blitzed berries in this mixture and you’ll be guaranteed radiant, glowing skin
Pros: Beautiful plumped up skin that is soft and supple to the touch.
Cons: Can leave you smelling a little of cake batter. I would suggest this mask is best suited to dry and combination skin, as the butter obviously contains fats that may clog pores.
What: You'll see the change with this one almost instantly and a weekly beer rinse will see your hair in the best condition in a long while.The hops used in beer have been a secret ingredient of many conditioners and hair treatments for years, lifting and strengthening the follicle, adding softness and shine to your hair.
How: For best results wash hair with shampoo as normal then rinse with a little beer. Condition and wash off with beer. Allow the beer in the hair to sit for a few minutes as well as adding any unused liquid. Wash with water until completely removed.
Pros: Voluminous strengthened hair with softness you have never seen before.
Cons: None! Although I wouldn’t waste your best craft beer on this as basic supermarket beer will do the job.
What: Redheads will really see the benefits of carrots as a hair treatment, although the vitamins C and Beta Carotene that these veggies contain will nourish all hair shades.
How: Simply chop and parboil a carrot until softened, then blend in a hair processor until it forms a soft puree. Feel free to add a little apple cider vinegar for finer hair or yogurt for dryer thirstier hair.
Pros: The carrot will stimulate hair growth and reduce breakage as well as leaving a gentle gingerish colour.
Cons: Leave time for this treatment and a particularly fine toothed comb as this hair mask can be particularly sticky, and tricky to remove.
What: What a little miracle this spice is! You may have seen increased popularity of turmeric tablets and supplements, used to treat inflammation and arthritis but it has great hair and skin uses too. Turmeric can be a godsend for sensitive and acne prone skin and subtle hair colorant.
How: A little turmeric mixed in a bowl with a little greek yoghurt or olive oil. Apply evenly over damp skin. Allow to settle for 15 minutes. Wash and pat dry. A little turmeric in one of the hair treatments above can also boost a golden colour in the hair.
Pros: A cooling and comforting face mask perfect to fight aging and uneven skin tone.
Cons: Turmeric leaves a slight stain on the skin so allow time to properly rinse the skin. Also keep well away from light coloured fabrics!
These are just a handful of ideas. Not all will work for you, as all skin types and hair textures differ and there is a definite sense of trial and error with DIY natural treatments. For example, I have long fine textured hair with a tendency towards oiliness. I may mix a little cider vinegar in a mask which will cut through any greasy residue. It really does depend on you finding what works for you.
Equally, following these doesn’t mean completely ditching your previous beauty regime, but rather enhancing it. Going completely natural is a challenge and a little change really does go a long way. See an all natural treatment as a reset button for worn out hair and skin, used perhaps only once or twice a week, and you will reap the most benefits.
Using fresh ingredients can be a wonderful, sensory experience and yield genuine positive change in your beauty regime. You can buy the ingredients for all these treatments for less than a fiver so what do you have to lose giving them a go! Cheap, environmentally friendly and fabulous. Store Cupboard Glamour offers endless possibilities and enviable results.