Homespun skin and hair care

by Mary Ann Reese

This article was originally published in May 2010

(May 2010) — Long ago, a kind neighbor gave me her family’s Health Journal published in 1909. I’ve often enjoyed reading through it and trying the recipes, amazed at how milk, salt, yogurt, honey, eggs, olive oil and other kitchen staples can be used for simple, homemade body and hair care treatments.

Making your own saves money and packaging, too! Here are a few of my favorites.

Facial care

You can make an easy, gentle facial cleanser by mixing yogurt and oatmeal (1/2 cup of each). Oats are absorptive and help to soften skin, while yogurt hydrates and provides nutrition. The lactic acids in yogurt also act as an exfoliant. Lemon, which naturally cleanses and sloughs off dead skin cells, also can be mixed into a bit of oatmeal for another facial cleanser so gentle it can be used daily.

Tomato juice mixed with a bit of filtered water is another good cleanser for the face. Gentle to most skin types, it helps to remove excess oils. Adding a small amount of cornmeal will create an exfoliant that will leave your face fresh and smooth.
Simple as it sounds, watermelon is a natural skin beautifier when rubbed on the face, neck and shoulders.

Milk also is a natural beautifier. A massage with milk or cream has been known to help get rid of wrinkles. Cucumber “lotion” contains valuable elements known to brighten the complexion. Simply crush the seeds and pulp of a cucumber and apply to the skin twice a day.

Olive oil applied to the face or body is an excellent moisturizer. It works best when applied to damp skin, as water helps reduce any feeling of greasiness.

Jojoba oil is another perfect moisturizer after a good cleansing. Its composition is said to be very much like that of our skin, allowing it to seep beautifully into the skin at room temperature. Simply massage a few drops over your face.

Long ago folks mixed ground barley, honey and egg white to use as a night cream for the face. Leaving it on for 20 minutes then rinsing it off reportedly left their skin soft and their pores closed.

Hair care

Eggs also were used for shampoo in the old days by mixing one in about an ounce of water, then massaging the scalp vigorously with the mixture. Rinsing afterward left hair conditioned and soft.

You can make a salon-quality protein hair treatment by mixing a whisked egg with 2 teaspoons olive oil. Massage into hair and leave on for an hour, then rinse completely out. The proteins in the egg are said to repair damaged ends and the oil softens and conditions the hair and scalp.

Hair highlights at a salon are expensive and can use toxic chemicals, but you can make an old-fashioned lightener for light hair with equal parts rhubarb stalks and honey steeped in three parts of white wine. After steeping for several hours, apply to hair, leave to dry, then rinse out.

Vegetables make fun, harmless hair darkeners. Pare a dozen potatoes, cover them with cold water and let them boil in a pot until soft. Strain off water and let cool. Apply to the hair and let dry, then rinse out. For reddish highlights, mix 1/2 cup beet juice with 1/2 cup carrot juice, pour over damp hair, and let sit for an hour before rinsing out.

Nothing beats castile liquid soap for a gentle, deep-cleaning shampoo. You can find it at any PCC, with or without infused herbs and scents, or you can infuse them yourself with herbs and flowers.

After shampooing, use jojoba oil as a powerful, effective conditioner. Simply apply a small amount to the ends after shampooed hair is towel dried.

If you need a deep conditioner and have some leisure time on your hands, try working mashed avocado in to restore natural oils back into damaged hair.

Sea salt is indispensable for both skin and hair. Rubbed into hair and then brushed out carefully, it serves as a scalp cleanser and hair tonic. It’s also a great facial exfoliant — just rub gently over your face (before washing) to remove dead skin cells.

You’ll have to make most of these treatments right before you use them (especially those that use dairy and eggs), or you can make larger batches and store them in the fridge.

Mary Ann Reese is a freelance writer and editor. She may be contacted at

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