POSTED ON SEPTEMBER 3, 2008:
Backyard Beauty Lab
Bring the spa home with these natural, homemade beauty remedies
Veg Out. Everyone's seen a half-hour television program where a woman visits a spa only to have cucumbers placed over her eyes. This is the first simple step a person can take with her at-home spa treatments. The cool cucumbers constrict the blood vessels around the eyes and reduce puffiness.
While doing research for an upcoming feature, I spoke with someone working in Tulsa's cosmetic industry who said that more women are investing money into themselves because our bodies are with us longer than anything else.
In a financial world, where people are recommended to place their money into ventures to increase their capital--IRAs, stocks and properties, it is fascinating to think that some of these aren't on steady ground. Homes can lose their value, stocks can plummet, but what's with you the whole time is yourself.
She was referring to big changes on the body, permanent alterations (you know, plastic surgery), but while everyone does not indulge in those high-end, high-priced practices, there are few women who don't spend at least a pinch of money on products aimed at their appearance. It's more than just makeup, which is essentially a temporary fix. Women of every age buy products, potions and elixirs to minimize aging, rejuvenate their skin, shrink their pores and to make their hair sleek and their skin smooth.
Certainly we should invest time into taking care of ourselves, but we shouldn't necessarily invest all of our savings. I'd be the first to say that, if you can pay someone to do something, you should. But it's so easy to become tethered to a costly process. One professional mani-pedi turns into a bi-monthly process; one nice face cream turns into years spent investing in a new bottle every few months. And although these products and services claim to better ourselves, there's still the science and the synthetic that we are annually, monthly or even daily putting in, on, or around our bodies that could equate to future health dangers.
This doesn't mean that beauty products are bad or that people should do without. Many lines in recent years are boastful of their all-natural ingredients, from the ever popular Burt's Bees to Aveda skin and hair products. There are healthy, cheaper variations that produce just as great a result.
Beauty remedies and at-home-spa treatments performed by yourself may eliminate some of the pampering. They do require elements of time and energy spent; plus your kitchen or bathroom is probably not eliciting the calming sounds or smells as a spa. But, the money saved over time by performing these tasks on your own could be used for something really relaxing. Tropical vacation, anyone?
If beauty is skin-deep, then beauty products are kitchen cabinet-deep and grocery store isles-deep. Making natural products is not only more frugal, but is vastly better for the environment. By making natural products at home, chemicals aren't being washed down a drain and plants aren't cranking out products into nature's resources.
And, hopefully this is no longer an issue in 2008, it's possible you could be preventing animal testing. That makes all of these home remedies vegan friendly. Test your own products on yourself. But even that should be taken with precaution. While some things are made in nature, it doesn't necessarily mean nature agrees with you. You should always test products on a small part of the skin or the back of your hair before dousing your entire body in it; this will ensure any skin reactions are small and not spread over your face or body.
Everyone's seen a half-hour television program where a woman visits a spa only to have cucumbers placed over her eyes. This is the first simple step a person can take with her at-home spa treatments. The cool cucumbers constrict the blood vessels around the eyes and reduce puffiness. The same effect can occur with moistened tea bags because of the caffeine. In fact, constricting blood vessels can reduce redness throughout the entire face.
If smaller pores are what you seek, all it takes are two egg whites mixed with a little lemon juice. As the egg whites dry, they tighten the skin and the lemon juice works as an acidic exfoliant to remove the buildup in pores. You could follow up that treatment with a facial mask. The Internet is an endless source for facial masks that could nearly be licked off your face rather than washed off. Many of these masks feature ingredients like milk, honey, oatmeal, yogurt and other soothing, gentle ingredients. Based on what you want your mask to accomplish -- acne purposes, smoother skin, reduce redness, skin that is less dry -- there is an all-natural, kitchen-concocted product out there.
For the body, you need a scrub to slough off dead skin. That means you need grit. As most store-bought exfoliates are made of salt or sugar, you would be better off financially just making your own. I prefer working with a sugar-based grit for the simple fact that if I have a cut or irritated skin, the last thing I want to do is throw some salt in the wound. But it depends on what additional ingredient you use as your exfoliant. For instance, a honey-based exfoliant may not work if you use sugar. Does adding a sugar to a sugary product equal more sugar? I honestly don't know, but that's the wonderful part of experimenting with this stuff in your own kitchen. No risk of a lab explosion and not (a lot) of money wasted.
A quarter cup of honey mixed with a good consistency of salt will do the trick. Some of the kitchen creations for the body are like cooking in that it's all about feeling it out, at least that's what I've heard about cooking. Add the salt until you feel it's enough grit; some people prefer a harsher exfoliant to a gentler one.
Similar with the sugar exfoliant. If you are interested in using sugar, throw in some olive oil. Again, mix the ingredients until you reach a desired consistency. You can also add essential oils to make a more spa-like experience or if you make a larger batch to use again and again. As with any oil-based exfoliant, be cautious about shaving directly after exfoliant use; the oil can clog up a razor, making it dull and useless.
But if you do get on the natural beauty wave, you may to invest in a lot of essential oil and olive oil. Olive oil has been used throughout the centuries, most notably in Greece. This saturated fat is just as good for the outside of the body as the inside. Post shower, rub olive oil on your damp skin to lock in moisture. The essential oil can be used with the olive oil anytime it reaches the skin; it simply adds a delightful smell like you would have with other product lines. If you are using the olive oil on your hair, which you can, nix the essential oil that could have drying effects.
Skin So Soft
Some things not necessarily recommended for the inside of the body do wonders for the shell of your body. Several lard-based products, while disgusting in phonetics, texture and often taste, provide remarkable moisturizing elements. Like olive oil, mayonnaise and avocado (not technically a lard, but a healthy, fat-saturated vegetable) make for resourceful hair treatments. They restore shine and moisture back into the hair shaft and can reduce the look of split ends. They also leave the hair smelling, as you would guess, tremendously gross with the texture of someone who has not washed their hair in years. So, for all nature has provided us, you may have to break out the science post-natural fatty hair treatment. Your shampoo may not be natural, but will be necessary.
And while those smells can be washed away, some natural ingredients will stay with you. Like a body crème ... made from vegetable shortening. Working like the mayo would for your hair, this moisture-rich kitchen product is just as good for greasing down food (I'm no chef, I have no idea when this stuff is used; baking?) as it is your body's drier spots. Melt the vegetable shortening slowly, add any essential oil scent you want and let it cool. This can be used for lips, knees, elbows and heels. I would recommend this as a home product for lazy days. Throw on some lazy sleepwear on a night when no one will smell you and indulge.
It's unfair to say that these concoctions smell weird or don't work. Just as with store-bought beauty treatments or treatments performed at a salon, their results will be based upon your genes. But the great thing about at-home spa treatments is, unlike the store-bought counterparts, if they don't work for you specifically, you can still use them. A deep conditioner that doesn't appear to work is upwards of $10 wasted; a deep conditioner of mayonnaise that doesn't work is an ingredient for chicken salad or cole slaw. Wait, mayo is in cole slaw, right? Either way at-home spa treatments are good for the environment, your wallet and your body.
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