Do These Four DIY Beauty Hacks Actually Work?

In the name of spring detox, I finally gave dry brushing, oil pulling, and weird-smelling natural masks a whirl.

I usually try new beauty treatments and products as soon as I hear about them. I have no problem slathering my face in scrubs and serums that hold the promise of miracles (it also helps that it’s part of my job).

But there are some remedies (often headlined as "hacks") that I keep filed away for that elusive “at-home spa day.” I’ve even recommended them to friends based off of all the great things I’ve heard. Natural detox? Try oil pulling. Want a great at-home mask? Get this clay my friend swears by. Lymphatic stimulation? Here’s a body brush. The funny thing is, I never actually got around to trying these DIY wonders myself, which is kind of ridiculous, given that they’re cheaper, more natural, and easier to procure than 90 percent of my other beauty products. With spring around the corner, I thought it was a good time to put them to the test.

1. AZTEC SECRET HEALING MASK TO FADE ACNE SCARS

For the past five years, I’ve struggled with adult acne and its subsequent scars. While I’ve become a blemish-covering ninja, I’d love to get rid of them naturally and completely. I’ve used tons of products and nothing seems to work long-term.

Two of my friends with flawless skin (and other xoVain contributors) say Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay can do the job. It’s available at Whole Foods and costs less than $10 for a jar that claims it is “the world’s most powerful facial” and you will “feel your face pulsate!” How could I refuse? To make the mask, I combined about a tablespoon each of the clay powder and apple cider vinegar, per the instructions. Since you’re not supposed to use any metal bowls or utensils when prepping it, I found that the flat handle of a wooden spoon works really well for mixing and application. The resulting paste went on smooth and thick and started tingling almost immediately, which made me feel like it was doing its job. The apple cider vinegar scent was kind of pungent, but hey, no one said getting perfect skin was easy. After ten minutes, I rinsed with warm water: My skin was brighter, tighter, and had less visible pores.

To be honest, I wasn’t completely blown away--the results were similar to those I get with my Blue Lagoon Iceland Algae Mask--but at $8 (compared to algae mask’s $105), I’m definitely willing to give Aztec Secret a go. I’ve only used it a few times times (recommended use is once or twice weekly), so it will likely take a few months before I see real results.

In the meantime, I decided to try another purported healer: Greek yogurt.

2. GREEK YOGURT TO SUPPRESS ZITS

I’ve long known that Greek yogurt has many digestive benefits, but only more recently found out it also soothes skin inflammation and fights bacteria. It’s often recommended as a simple mask, but I decided to first use it as a spot treatment for a few stubborn zits.

After cleansing with CeraVe, I used my finger to dab on a little Fage yogurt (the plain, unsweetened kind) and went to sleep. In the morning, the redness had subsided by about 50 percent and the inflammation had gone down almost entirely. Impressed, I tried it again the following two nights. On the third morning, all that was left was a faint mark where the zit had been. Magic!

Since it worked so well as a spot treatment, I figured I should try it all over my face. Some people recommend adding a probiotic capsule to the yogurt to maximize the benefits, but I decided to try just yogurt first. After cleansing, I used a cotton pad to swab on a thin layer of yogurt and let it sit. The sour smell was a bit off-putting, but I powered through and rinsed with warm water after 10 minutes. My skin was definitely softer and my pores were smaller, but, like the Aztec Secret mask, I think I will have to use it long-term to see major changes in my skin. For now, the overnight spot treatment will be my first go-to.

3. OIL PULLING FOR A CLEANER, WHITER SMILE

I’ve been thinking about oil pulling since it had its mainstream beauty moment a few years ago. But, for various reasons (mainly, it sounded gross), I held off on trying it.

I have a pretty good oral hygiene routine, but I decided I should at least try it due to the strong link between oral health and overall health. And it’s natural, which has to be better than the chemical mouthwashes out there.

I called my dentist ahead of time to make sure it’s fine to do it with my dental work (a cap and some fillings) and he gave the OK. So I picked up a tub of organic, extra virgin coconut oil and braced myself. (You can do it with other oils, like sesame or sunflower, but coconut sounded the tastiest.)

By far, the hardest part about oil pulling is the fact that you have to swish the same fluid--spit gobs and all--in your mouth for 20 minutes. On the first day, I couldn’t even make it to the five-minute mark. The second day, I worked my way up to seven minutes; then ten minutes, and so on.

The recommended 1 teaspoon was a little too much for my mouth on the first day, so I reduced it to ¾ of a teaspoon going forward, which definitely made a difference. The key to not gagging was making sure I was doing things while I was swishing--for example, I washed my face, got dressed, and prepped my yoga bag to keep my mind off of it. After swishing, I spit the coconut oil (and, hopefully, toxins!) into the trash to avoid clogging the sink pipes, rinsed with warm water, and brushed my teeth as usual.

My teeth feel smoother after each time I pull, and my mouth definitely has less residue left over than it does with brushing or mouthwash. I didn’t get the detox “high” some people report, nor did I see any increase in tooth whiteness, but again, it might just take some time.

I’ve had cellulite since I was a tween, so I was originally drawn to dry body brushing because it can supposedly make cellulite less visible. But now that I’ve actually tried it, I’m way more into it because of the way it energizes my entire body: It’s great for lymphatic stimulation and flushing, and it gives my skin a really nice exfoliation workout.

Before I brushed, I did some online research to perfect my technique (this Mio Skincare video tutorial is a great place to start). The overall gist is that you dry brush before hopping in the shower, starting at your extremities and stroking up and in toward your heart. It kind of hurt at first--my skin isn’t used to so much scraping--but it was also weirdly soothing, like scratching an itch I didn't know I had. My whole body tingles for at least 10 minutes afterward, which is a great way to start the day.

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So, do I believe the hype? As I said, I’m still waiting to see how things play out long-term. For now, I’m going to incorporate these treatments into my daily routine--spending a few more minutes each day thinking about skin and oral health can’t hurt. Plus, these products are a pretty good beauty bang for your buck: Everything you see here totals less than $50.

  • Have you tried any of these treatments? What did you think? How long did it take you to see or feel results?
  • Are there any other DIY or natural beauty tricks you’d recommend for healing skin? What about for oral health?