Avocado, cornmeal, cabbage, honey, milk, eggs, potatoes, cucumbers, apple cider, yogurt, lemons, cottage cheese, wine, oils, lard, ground spices, herbs, salt, bananas, tomato pulp, flowers, clay, pigmented minerals, seawater, fish scales, ground insects, and yes, mule’s urine, placenta, and bird poop.
Once you start looking into the history of self-adornment, you’ll soon find that as far back as the Stone Age, people have tried just about every natural substance at hand--animal, vegetable, and mineral--to improve or alter their appearance.
The anthropological and historical records show that since the emergence of homo sapiens, people (not only women) have used all sorts of natural materials to primp and preen, defy the aging process, cover scars, remove blemishes, lighten or darken skin, create unique identities, decorate their bodies for ritual purposes, or mark their social status.
Many of the ancient natural products are still in vogue. For example, nightingale poop (marketed euphemistically as the “geisha facial”) is currently all the rage, reportedly favored by Tom Cruise, Victoria Beckham, and other celebrities.
Concerned about the high price and potential toxicity of modern skincare and cosmetic products, and looking for a little creative fun, many Americans have taken to making their own bodycare products and cosmetics.
Psst! Here’s a startling secret
Unless you’re allergic to it, you probably can’t go wrong using just about any in-season fruit or vegetable, mashed up and applied as a therapeutic and cleansing face mask, hand softener, or hair-conditioning treatment. (Cook and puree firm vegetables such as potatoes, beets,carrots and squash first.) Many pigmented fruits and vegetables even lend themselves to making blushers and lip stains.
Each fruit or vegetable contains a unique blend of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial compounds that may help prevent damage and heal damaged tissues, just as they do in the plants they came from.
You could apply it plain, or blend your fruit/vegetable pulp with a little yogurt and honey. Add a tablespoon or two of cider vinegar or lemon juice for oily skin and hair, or a dribble of olive oil to treat dry skin or hair.
You could also try one of these recipes:
Yogurt-honey face mask
- 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
- 2 or 3 strawberries or 5-6 raspberries
- 1 tablespoon apple cider or lemon juice (for oiy skin)
- 1 tablespoon raw honey
Mash ingredients together. Apply evenly over face, taking care to avoid your eyes and the sensitive under-eye area. Leave on for 15 minutes, then rinse off with warm water.
Refreshing cucumber facial
- 1 small cucumber, peeled and seeded
- 1 tablespoon raw honey
Blend ingredients on high speed and spread evenly over face. Lie back and relax for 15 minutes, then rinse well with warm water.
Banana hair mask
This simplest-possible hair treatment works well for tired, lackluster hair.
Simply mash a ripe or overripe banana, leaving no lumps.
Using your hands, work the gooey banana puree to your hair. Leave it on for 15 minutes, then rinse well and wash/condition as usual.
Color your cheeks and lips
For those times when you want a bit of color to your face and lips, think beets!
Grate a couple of tablespoons of beeswax into a small stainless-steel pot.
Add a tablespoon or two of vegetable glycerin or raw coconut oil to the beeswax.Set the pot in a larger pan, and the melt wax over boiling water.
Peel and grate a large beet and add it to the waxy oil mixture.
Allow the mixture to to simmer at low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Strain into a small glass or stainless-steel container to remove the beet bits and allow the now-pigmented liquid to cool. Store in a tightly-capped glass container; apply with your fingers.
If you want a more liquid product, reheat and add a bit more oil. If you’d prefer a firmer product, reheat and add a pinch more of grated beeswax. For your second batch, try altering the color by adding a little grated carrot or a few fresh berries along with the beets.
Margaret Boyles lives in a wood-heated house in central New Hampshire. She grows vegetables, eats weeds, keeps chickens, swims in a backyard pond in summer, snowshoes in the surrounding woods in winter, and commutes by bike whenever possible.