Hardly a day passes without the results of a study, a news article or TV show highlighting the part we all play in guarding the environment, reducing food waste, opting for natural products above heavily processed ones and of course, looking after our health.
So when I recently cleaned my kitchen I felt immensely bad about the outdated products I had somehow accumulated. So I decided to be the model of morality and environmentally friendliness and make home-made natural beauty treatments.
Being someone who works at least eight hours a day and allocates little time to the details, I’m something of a cynic when it comes to these things. However, I tried these all the same in the hope I would hit on some impressive remedies and hey…maybe even become a better person (weep!)
I chose a bunch of traditional and more out-there treatments from a range of health and lifestyle websites to keep things varied. Many have several variations, so I went with those most popular. All of these products are practical for any gender, so this one goes out all the sexes. You’re welcome.
Chakra Balancing With Stones
Goal: To achieve relaxation.
Instructions: Find some flat stones from the beach or an outdoor space, warm them slightly in the sun or by gently heating at home and place them on your body's seven energy points, or chakras, for around 20 minutes.
I went out and found seven classy-looking pebbles from a reasonably secluded setting, as opposed to scabby boulders from the local car park. Back at home, I lay down and placed them on my seven chakra points.
After the recommended 20 minutes, the only feeling I experienced was one of profound idiocy. Lying on the cold floor, very little relaxation, nil enlightenment and no heightened sense of physical alignment visited me. I will deem this DIY treatment mildly amusing and a failure.
Demerara Sugar and Honey Face Scrub
Goal: End up with well-exfoliated, smooth skin.
Instructions: After washing your face thoroughly, apply a small amount of scrub to wet skin and massage gently in a circular motion. Avoid the eye area, rinse face well and pat dry.
Of all the treatments I tried, I expected this to be among the easiest and most promising, Demerara sugar and honey are cupboard staples and the mixture takes less than a minute to make. However, practice presented a problem I did not envisage, Demerara sugar is incredibly knobbly. After 20 seconds of gently rubbing it in, it felt as though I’d grabbed a handful of gravel and applied it to my face with a belt sander. What it gained in speed it lost in the mess factor.
No matter how tightly you tie everything back, this sticky stuff lodges itself in the ringside seats around your hairline. As if my skin wasn’t raw enough, I then had to use hot water to melt the ingredients off, leaving my face looking not so much soft and dewy as like the eye of Sauron. I was considering recommending a softer brown sugar such as muscovado, but to avoid phone calls from lawyers and if you generally value your visage, I’d avoid this altogether and buy a friendly clay mask.
Failure, bordering on hazardous. If you find that your face comes in useful occasionally, do not try this treatment!
Oats, Yoghurt and Honey Face Mask
Goal: To calm sensitive skin.
Instructions: Mix two tablespoons of oats with one tablespoon of plain yoghurt and half a tablespoon of honey. Massage over your face, leave for two minutes, rinse well.
After Demerara-gate I eyed the oats with suspicion, but nobody can stay mad at an oat. Oats are our friends, peddled as the good guys, the most wholesome breakfast possible, a magic ingredient for heart health and can coax slugs from plants without using pesticides (that works, I promise).
Mixing this was simple and the whole application and rinse took no longer than the average store-bought mask. It wasn’t exactly pleasant to put all over my face, since it had the consistency of vomit or papier mâché and kept falling off in lumps onto the bathroom floor. My skin didn’t feel any better or worse afterwards, so this one is a big neutral from me. Meh -- undecided.
Mayonnaise and Avocado Hair Conditioner
Goal: To revitalise frizzy, dry hair, leaving it soft and silky.
Instructions: Mix half a mashed avocado with a few tablespoons of mayonnaise, apply to scalp and ends. Leave for 20 minutes before rinsing and shampooing as normal.
This conditioner was my Waterloo of the experiment due to me disliking avocado and harbouring an "unreasonable" hatred of mayonnaise. How it looks, everything about the blobby, greasy, offensive stuff creates a mini-tsunami in my stomach. I imagine mayonnaise is what human fat looks like, wobbling away under the skin, so slathering it all over my head and leaving it on for 20 minutes required a Rocky Balboa mindset.
In the interests of abandoning my comfort zone however, I took the hit. The mixture was relatively easy to make, but horribly messy. Lumps of avocado ended up all over me, the kitchen, the sink and the floor. Upon shampooing, my hair felt unusually dry and I was paranoid that the hot water would cook the avocado and I would be left with a head of Tex Mex.
My hair did feel softer than usual afterward though, so I will have to deem this treatment (a disgusting) success.
Milk, Honey and Orange Blossom Foot Soak
Goal: Smooth and revitalised skin.
Instructions: Mix a cup of warm milk with three tablespoons of honey and a quarter of a cup of orange blossom water. Add to your bath.
Like many people living in rented accommodation, I don't have a bath. What I do have though is an outdated bottle of orange blossom water, so I adapted this remedy into a foot soak that took a minute or two to make and smelled fantastic. It stayed warm for a couple of hours, so I managed to watch "The Hobbit" and sink a beer while enjoying this -- a good night indeed.
It left my skin, as promised, feeling immensely smooth and I felt as though I was walking on kittens for at least a day afterward. An unexpected side-effect was immense relaxation, so I think this would fly as a full bath. Climb in with a book and ignore the world for an hour or two. A roaring success.
Coconut Milk Hand Cream
Goal: Make a natural hand cream.
Instructions: If you keep coconut milk in the refrigerator for a few days, it will thicken and become the consistency of a hand cream, at which point you can use it.
After using half a can of coconut milk in a Malaysian curry, I poured the other half between two glass ramekins and left them in the refrigerator, uncovered. After a couple of days they started to harden in large lumps, so I decided to leave them for longer to see if they smoothed out.
After a few days they started to release a sickly scent so I decided to persevere in the hope of them improving. Two weeks later, both dishes looked like bacteria colonies. The prospect of rubbing yellow and brown mold all over my skin didn’t appeal so these went straight into the bin with a look of disgust. Failure (probably my fault).
Lemon Skin Exfoliator
Goal: A remedy for rough, scaly skin.
Instructions: Slice a lemon in half and rub it over your elbows, heels or knees for a few seconds then rinse. You'll notice a difference immediately.
This was the easiest one here preparation-wise, being fast to apply and wash off. Apparently this works with an orange or lemon, but the latter was all I had. I followed the instructions, rubbing away at my joints and achieving the look of a scurvy-ridden pirate dancing a sea shanty. At this point I was grateful I have no house mates.
This natural treatment promises that your rough skin patches will immediately feel smoother, which I found to be complete nonsense. See sexy "before and after" elbow shots and draw your own conclusions. Failure.
Despite the hit-and-miss nature of the beauty treatments you can source online, I did conclude that here is a place for the natural and home-made in our lives. The main reason being, not that one or two of them actually make you feel great, but more that they force you to spend some time on yourself.
However, what I will never condone is making others feel guilty for sticking with store-bought products. During my research, I came across the scientifically unfounded and generally guilt-mongering ramblings of natural beauty bloggers, even one who mentioned “cancer-in-a-bottle store bought lotion” -- OK then.
Replacing all mass manufactured products with home-made treatments isn’t practical in terms of time and expense. So until I trade my job and apartment for an open field and tonnes of free time, home-made and store bought products will have to exist in harmony on my shelves.