Foods that double as beauty products

Published On: Jul 19 2012 09:30:46 AM CDT   Updated On: Jul 31 2012 02:47:08 PM CDT

By Jessica, Pure Matters

A few years ago, I discovered the EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. I immediately began looking up the products I regularly used to see how dangerous they were, and the results floored me -- even the so-called “natural” beauty items I had been using contained harsh chemicals. It’s no secret that we all come into contact with environmental toxins every day, but to be purposely using products every day that contained known carcinogens seemed like an unnecessary price to pay for beauty. So I started experimenting with stuff that I already had in my kitchen. Here’s what I use today:

I’ve always had that kind of not-curly-enough, not-straight-enough wavy hair that is too in the middle to look good without product. Or, I did until I ditched shampoo in favor of baking soda. I fill an old hair dye bottle with one tablespoon of baking soda and eight ounces of water, dampen my hair, apply as much as I need to my scalp and massage. It’s like a gentle clarifying shampoo with no buildup. I have bangs, so I generally use it on the front of my hair every day or two, and on the back every two or three. Combined with my natural conditioner below, I don’t even need product to give me soft, shiny waves.

When I first started researching natural conditioners, apple cider vinegar kept coming up and I dismissed it, because who wants to smell like apple cider vinegar all the time? The fact is, you need such a small amount of ACV that it doesn’t smell at all. I use the same ratio as the shampoo: one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar: eight ounces of water. It is hands down the best detangler I’ve ever used. These two products have changed my contentious relationship with my hair forever.

When I started discussing using natural oils as moisturizer with my friends, I was surprised by how many of them were already doing it. The three that came up most often were coconut oil, hemp oil, and jojoba oil. Finding which one works for you takes some trial and error, but here’s what works for me: coconut oil as my heavy-duty nighttime moisturizer, and hemp oil as my light daytime one. Bonus: the hemp oil minimizes fine lines. My skin has never looked better.

Confession time: I am, more often than not, unprotected in the sun. It’s laziness on my part -- I only want to use sunscreen without dangerous chemicals, and many of the natural versions are either not really natural or kind of terrible. I haven’t bothered to do the research required to make good choices about protecting myself from UV rays. The upside of my recklessness? I made an amazing discovery two summers ago at the Jersey Shore. Breakfast with the in-laws turned into an hour-long walk in the hot sun, and my fair, unprotected skin didn’t make it out unscathed. Except on my face, which had been moisturized with hemp oil and wasn’t even red. After doing some research, I realized that many natural oils contain moderate levels of SPF. I’d never tell you to ditch your sunscreen completely, but if you’re using a natural moisturizer, you’re probably getting some protection from UV rays as well.

Awhile back, my brutally honest hair stylist informed me that, at 36 years old, it was about time I started exfoliating. I tuned out when she started listing good products, but I heard the overall message. After playing around, I found a combination I liked: olive oil, lemon juice and white sugar. Other ingredients that work well for facial scrubs include honey, yogurt, almond meal and oats.

Acne Treatment
In my early 30s, I learned a bummer of a lesson: acne doesn’t end in your teenage years, especially if you’re a woman. Ah, hormones. But when I started using coconut oil as a moisturizer, my face cleared up tremendously. My dermatologist was dubious, but there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest that coconut oil works on acne. For stubborn blemishes that don’t respond to the coconut oil, I’ve found that a little bit of apple cider vinegar at night will generally clear them up in a day or two.

Keep in mind that these are the natural products that work best for me, and it took a lot of trial and error to figure it out. If you’re interested in being a more natural beauty, though, you’ll probably find it’s worth the work. I know I did.

Lest you think I’m more virtuous than I actually am, I haven’t given up everything. I plan on being an unnatural redhead until the day I die. None of the truly natural deodorants stopped me from smelling like I’d been at an outdoor concert for three days in August. And I love my mascara with a passion. But I am proud to say I’ve probably cut down on the dangerous chemicals by about half, which, in my opinion, isn’t half-bad.