It's gonna get sappy up in here.
I don’t keep food in my house. This is something that I generally avoid telling people, because it makes me seem like a bit of a crazyperson – I am completely terrified that if I have a stocked fridge, I will never stop eating.
It’s been a couple of months since I’ve purged, which is amazing, but I am constantly terrified of going back to active bulimia. I can’t imagine many things more upsetting than the idea of going back to spending my days alternating between the supermarket and a bathroom, a bakery and a bathroom, the chocolate counter at Selfridges and a bathroom, the discount aisle at Iceland and a bathroom.
I wake up in the morning, and I go out to buy a yoghurt or some fruit for breakfast. I come home, or go to work. I then buy lunch. Later, I buy dinner. It costs a fortune, but it doesn’t cost as much as I was spending on binging and purging, an addiction that destroyed me financially.
My oscillation between anorexic and bulimic tendencies means that some days I eat nothing, and feel proud, feel in control. Sometimes, one day is three days. I might not be vomming, but I have a long way to go.
Since the start of December, my food plan has slipped. And by slipped, I mean disintegrated. I eat white flour, white carbs, refined sugar, I drink fruit juices – all things that I know massively affect me. I’ve put on weight, I think about it constantly. I don’t really want to get out of bed because I am thinking about it and I’m ashamed. It’s painful, and miserable, and feels fucking pathetic.
So when people asked for beauty tips from kitchen essentials, I psyched out and felt utterly inadequate. I don’t have kitchen essentials. I have a hilariously disordered food cupboard, containing 50 types of sweetener (agave, white sugar, brown sugar, demerera, honey, an aspartame low-cal, cane sugar, fruit sugar…) and coffee.
I know how to cook, I’ve worked as a chef, a job that you find with disconcerting regularity on an Eating Disorders Unit, but I’m terrified of the ingredients.
Then I thought fuck it, I’m going to go and try some beauty grocery shopping. I don’t want to keep living in this weird half-recovery. And here’s what I found, using products that normal people might already have in their kitchen.
NB – I would like to shoutout to XO reader Rielle Hunter, who gave me heaps of ace suggestions.
Apply the juice of a lemon to your face. Leave for 10 minutes. Rinse off with warm water.
I fucking love a sacylic acid mask, and this works sort of in the same way. It stings, which I always enjoy because it feels effective, and it tightens pores, kills bacteria and naturally exfoliates dead skin cells. Leaves your face a little tight, but you just use grapeseed oil afterwards and you’re sorted. I read you can make a less intensive version of this by mixing juice with honey or olive oil, but I like the intense version.
NB – I also tried this with store-bought lemon juice. Did not work. Do not try.
Use as a moisturizer on your face, cuticles, and dry spots.
Because it is a fine oil and a mild astringent, grapeseed oil doesn’t cause breakouts – Emma Stone swears by it, apparently. This was really amazing, possibly my favourite beauty kitchen secret – it removes makeup and balances skin (I’m already a huge fan of facial oils) and is a wonderful moisturizer for chapped winter skin. It basically makes you glowy and radiant.
However, it isn’t quite heavy enough to use on my legs after shaving them, so I mixed it with olive oil, which seemed to do the trick perfectly.
Brown Sugar and Honey
Use as a facial exfoliant.
I’m sort of obsessed with exfoliating because the idea of dead skin cells disgusts me, but it is really hard in winter when my skin gets really dry. The good thing about using honey with the sugar is that it moisturizes and acts as an antioxidant.
I added a bit of grapeseed oil to make the mixture less sticky and easier to apply and then this was a lovely and fairly gentle exfoliant, which is what my skin needs, although it is hard to escape the satisfaction of a microdermabrasion scrub…
Coffee Grounds and Olive Oil
Use as a body exfoliant to reduce cellulite, but be careful it doesn’t clog up your drains.
You can use used coffee grounds, but if you use new ones, you get the caffeine which apparently helps combat cellulite. I don’t really understand cellulite, but I thought I’d go full hog anyway. This was pretty effective in the sense that I was pretty smooth, but it kind of stained my nails and didn’t feel particularly lovely. Kind of like rubbing grainy olive oil all over myself. On the bright side, using the olive oil as a mixer means that I didn’t need to moisturize afterwards.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Use as a hair rinse, like a clarifying shampoo, for extra shine.
This smelled gross. It made my hair shiny, yes, but I try to avoid sulphates and parabens in my shampoos which cuts down on buildup anyway, and my hair smelled really disgusting. Does anyone have any tips on making this smell less disgusting? I don’t want to smell like a pickle, even if my hair is shiny shiny.
[I was going to try this as my hair's gone a bit...claggy. But I won't now. Any other suggestions? Anyone? ANYONE? --Rebecca]
Grind up your oatmeal using the back of a spoon, so that it's a little finer than usual. Add a few drops of an essential oil and scoop into a muslin cloth or coffee filter (or, I discovered, the foot of some old tights). Make a little sack out of the cloth and drop it in your bath as you run it.
This is meant to be soothing and relaxing and it was okay but not great. I am really, really enthusiastic about bathing and a bit of oatmeal combined with my coffee granules did not feel like the most luxurious experience I’ve ever had. I think it made my skin a bit softer but it was hardly revolutionary. I do remember this working really well for my baby sister’s eczema though… maybe I’ll reserve it for when I have kids.
However, I have had bowls of oatmeal for breakfast for the past four days. This is kind of revolutionary for me at the moment, so I feel very proud.
Cinammon leaf oil
Do not use this if you are pregnant. Put it on your lips for 10 minutes (it stings a bit. You can mix it with olive oil if it stings too much). It plumps them!
I was obsessed with Lip Venom for years, which was kind of like a gloss that irritated your lips so made them swell up. Turns out that it was pretty much just cinnamon leaf oil, packaged nicely.
I rubbed some of this on my mouth and it was effective at plumping them but I got a bit in my mouth by accident and it really, really stung. I love the smell of cinnamon though, so I keep just liberally sprinkling it everywhere.
Chop up parsley and add to boiling water. Leave for a bit, and then strain it, then use it as a toner.
I’m not ordinarily the biggest fan of toner, I usually prefer splashing ice cold water on my face after cleansing. I kept this in the fridge so that it got really cold and applied it with cotton wool after cleansing and it smelled lovely and refreshing and also works as an antiseptic so is ideal for when you have breakouts. I am converted to my DIY toner.
Also, I bought a little parsley plant for only £1 and have put it on my windowsill and feel like a proper grownup. Even I will struggle to binge on parsley.
Cucumber and Olive Oil
Dab around your eyes to reduce puffiness.
I like to dab on the oil and then sort of smear the cucumber slices around my eye sockets a bit, then just leave them laying there for five minutes, like one of those women in adverts. This actually does work, but only temporarily. It doesn’t work long-term to reduce puffiness or dark circles, but it does work before a night out or if I’ve been having a cry.
Ultimately, I am semi-converted. I will keep on using grapeseed oil, because it is amazing, and I will use the parsley toner until it runs out, and I quite liked the lemon and the cinammon oil.
It doesn't quite have the same luxury that I crave from my beauty products, the little rush I get from buying things in nice packages, the pretty bottles and luxe smells - but it's not bad when it's come to the end of the month and I'm poor and feel rough. Also, this time next month, I might look like Emma Stone.
But weirdly, the most important part of this has been that I've had breakfast in my kitchen every day for the past five. And I made a salad, and I used olive oil on it and everything and then I didn't cry about it.
And that's more than enough for me, for this week anyway, because it made me feel a tiny bit like a normal person and a little bit less like a pathetic pile of disordered eating chaos. Win!
Do you have any at home beauty tips for me? Do any of these work for you? How do I stop my hair smelling of vinegar?
Olivia is on Twitter @oliviasinger.