As I have mentioned before, about a year or two ago I made an effort to purge my cosmetics and skincare supplies of unhealthy chemicals, and I have been so pleased with the results. Nowadays, it’s rare that I breakout so badly it requires intervention!
But my replacement creams, lotions and other ingredients were much more expensive. And since all the ingredients listed on the label were recognizable and commercially available, I thought, why can’t I just make this myself?
Well. Here’s why. Emulsifying oil and water is HARD! My attempts at homemade moisturizer ended up as nothing more than a huge mess in my kitchen.
Perhaps with more experimentation I could have gotten it right, but I wasn’t keen on wasting more ingredients. Furthermore, in my research I discovered that homemade cosmetics still require nasty parabens if you want to keep them longer than a week unrefrigerated.
So I gave up on trying to create lotions and creams. But, it is easy enough to make simple masks, scrubs and bath ingredients that effectively improve your complexion, while saving you money too! There are several books available with basic recipes; one I like is called Ecobeauty by Lauren and Janice Cox.
Naturally managing breakouts
Nowadays, most people are aware that the healthiest food options are those that minimize processed, unpronounceable ingredients. So why not adopt the same paradigm for our skin? Shifting to natural and safe products has made a world of a difference in my complexion. Growing up, we were always told in our beauty magazines that “natural doesn’t mean better.” But I am starting to question that idea.
Speaking for myself, I have learned that this incessant need to “medicate” my “problem” skin was the culprit all along. Approaching my skincare as nourishment and not treatment has led to great improvement, but I do occasionally need some intervention. With a few basic ingredients, I am able to control breakouts with readily available ingredients, and without the harsh and irritating junk found in conventional cosmetics.
Salicylic acid is the active ingredient in most over-the-counter acne medications. For many years, before being synthesized in laboratories, it was obtained from the bark of the white willow tree, and used primarily as an analgesic. These days, you are probably more familiar with its commercial name aspirin.
Salicylic acid also causes our skin to shed dead layers and replace itself more quickly. Though most drugstore acne treatments contain it, you can avoid the harmful inactive ingredients and apply a more concentrated form by crushing an uncoated aspirin pill, diluting in water and blotting on problem areas.
Acetylsalicylic acid, the synthesized version, is strongest, but there are natural options as well for a gentler treatment. It is an allelochemical used by many plants in defense against pathogens. As mentioned above, the bark of the white willow tree is a common source, and you can purchase it in powdered form and add it into any mask or scrub, or even mix in with your moisturizer, to help with problem skin. You could also dilute it in water, green tea and/or witch hazel to make a gentle, calming toner.
Strawberries are another source of salicylic acid, and ground up into a paste you can make a healing mask for acne-prone skin.
Another important skincare ingredient is honey. Honey is naturally antimicrobial and when applied to skin can help fight acne-causing bacteria. A lot of honey purchased at the store is processed beyond recognition, however, which reduces its beneficial properties — so seek out more natural brands.
With all that in mind, here are a few recipes for facial masks and scrubs that can help manage breakouts. If you have attempted everything to no avail, I encourage you to give these a try!
Basic honey mask
This is a preventive antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory treatment.
1 part honey
2 parts lukewarm water
Combine ingredients and make a paste. Apply to face and leave on for 20 minutes. Rinse with gentle soap and water.
Repeat daily for 1-2 weeks and then continue 1-3 times per week for general maintenance.
Add a few crushed strawberries or powdered willow bark to the above mixture to infuse acne-fighting salicylic acid. Mix it all in a food processor or by hand.
Mermaid skin scrub
This is a recipe from the book Ecobeauty mentioned above. Seaweed supposedly helps draw toxins and impurities away from the skin. The pectin in the apple juice also softens, while the sugar is a gentle exfoliant. I also added some powdered willow bark during application.
1/4 cup powdered kelp (I actually just ground up 2 pieces of nori in my food processor…)
1/4 cup granular sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1/3 cup apple juice
Combine kelp and sugar in a bowl, then mix in the honey and the apple juice. Apply to skin, gently scrubbing, and leave on for five minutes.
Stored in a clean jar, this mixture will keep about 2 weeks in the fridge.
I tried the mermaid scrub for the first time last night, and my skin is noticeably softer this morning!
If you are satisfied with your skincare routine, no need to change a good thing — but if you are tired of sub-par results or want to save some money, I encourage you to give homemade products a try! I’ll continue to post more recipes I discover as I try them.