Who says you have to spend a fortune on pricey organic beauty products to reap the benefits of nature’s best ingredients? Some of the finest all-natural beauty remedies can be whipped up at home using basic items you probably already have in your kitchen. To give you some ideas, we got beauty experts to share their favorite “recipes” for curing common skin and hair gripes using equally common pantry staples. So go whip open the cabinet doors, tally up what you’ve got in there and get cookin’—in a matter of minutes, you’ll look good enough to eat.
10 Kitchen Pantry Beauty Ingredients
French fries may not be great for your thighs, but raw potatoes make for an excellent skin-brightening scrub, says Shobha Tummala, owner of the Shobha salons in New York City. Her trick is to mix equal parts grated raw potato and loose tea (cut open a tea bag, if need be) with 1/3 as much olive oil and slowly massage onto your face with your fingertips, using light circular motions. Then rinse with warm water. “Potatoes contain lanolin, which is moisturizing, and the dried tea leaves work as a natural medium to exfoliate the skin’s top layers,” Tummala says. “Your skin will be left with a natural glow.”
“Bananas are very soothing and moisturizing to the skin, so they make a great homemade mask,” says New York City makeup artistKimara Ahnert. Just mash up a nice ripe one and spread it all over your face. Leave on for a few minutes, then rinse with warm water. For added oomph, Boston dermatologist Ranella Hirsch, MD, likes to mix half a banana with 2 Tbsp full-fat sour cream and 1 Tbsp honey and leave the blend on for 15 minutes before rinsing and applying moisturizer. Bananas also work magic on parched hair; mash one together with half an avocado and leave on damp hair for at least 30 minutes as a deep treatment, suggests hairstylist Ryan Nickulas of New York City’s Ryan Darius Salon: “Wind your hair into a bun, throw on some sunglasses and lip gloss, and you can wear this out as a chic beach look while hydrating your hair at the same time—without anyone knowing it.”
3. Brown Sugar
Even though he sells his own line of skincare products, Hollywood spa owner Ole Henriksen still loves how brown sugar’s fine granules leave skin feeling warm, soothed and soft. Try his favorite make-at-home shower scrub: Mix about 2 ounces brown sugar and 2 ounces oil (he uses sesame, but olive would work too). To add aromatherapy benefits, buy an essential oil in a relaxing scent, like lavender, and add 15 drops to your scrub. Slowly massage the scrub into your body, starting at your toes and working all the way up.
4. Tea Bags
Got puffy bags under your eyes? Grab a different sort of bag as a quick cure—a tea bag (just not the decaffeinated kind). “Brew some tea using two bags, then let them cool and place them under your lids,” says New York dermatologist Macrene Alexiades-Armenakas, MD, PhD. “The natural caffeine helps shrink blood vessels to visibly diminish puffiness.” Chilling the bags in the fridge for a bit will intensify the effects, since the cold also helps reduce swelling.
5. Kosher Salt
To give hair that great textured look it has after a day at the beach—even if you live nowhere near the shore—try this trick from Nickulas: Fill a spray bottle with about 3 ounces water and add 3 teaspoons kosher or sea salt and a couple squirts of any hair gel, then shake it up. “Spray it onto hair and scrunch to get that tousled beach look,” he says. The coarse salt clings to your strands and gives it sexy texture and volume
Not only is it an excellent ingredient for heart health, oatmeal can also help keep you looking youthful and glowing, says New York dermatologist Jeannette Graf, MD. “Oatmeal contains beta-glucans, which are very skin-soothing, and it also has a tightening effect when you apply it as a mask,” she says. She likes mixing 1 tablespoon oatmeal (preferably not the instant kind, which is more finely ground) with 3 Tbsp plain yogurt—which helps exfoliate and moisturize the skin thanks to its lactic acid—and 1 Tbsp soothing honey. Apply this blend to your face and leave on for about 5 minutes, then rinse with warm water. “Your skin will feel soft, smooth and refreshed,” she says.
7. Coconut Milk
Okay, maybe you don’t have this one in your pantry yet—but it’s worth running out to grab a can. Coconut milk is a very effective ingredient for hydrating dull, dry hair, Dr. Hirsch says. She suggests mixing half a can with a mashed-up medium-size avocado, combing the blend through dry hair and leaving in for 20 minutes before washing it out. Raw coconut oil is also a favorite hydrator for hair and body, and it’s inexpensive to purchase online or in health food stores.
“Asparagus contains chlorophyll, which brightens and exfoliates the skin, giving it a natural glow,” Tummala says. One of her favorite recipes for dry, flaky skin: Purée some raw asparagus with milk (which contains lactic acid, another great natural exfoliant), then mix in an equal amount of super-hydrating avocado and honey. Apply to a clean face, leave on for 15 minutes, then rinse. Also happen to have an orange on hand? Grate the peel into your moisturizing mask before you apply it. “It will exfoliate dead skin when you wash it off,” she explains.
Attention kitchen-phobes: For this treatment, literally all you have to do is cut an orange into wedges. “After you shower, lightly squeeze some orange juice onto each part of your body and massage it in,” Henriksen says; this exfoliates the skin thanks to natural alpha hydroxy acids (the stuff that gives citrus a slight sting). You can also rest dry elbows in cut grapefruit halves while watching TV to help soften stubborn rough patches.
Don’t toss those aromatic grounds after you brew your next pot of coffee, says Meredith Fish, founder and CEO of Brownberry sunless tanner. Instead, use them to exfoliate skin before you apply self-tanner for extra-even and streak-free results. Mix about 3 Tbsp of the grounds with 1 Tbsp salt (optional) and massage over your whole body while in the shower. “Not only are coffee’s granules ideal for dead-skin removal, coffee beans contain vitamin E and other antioxidants, and they’re antibacterial and stimulating,” she explains. Rinse well and let skin dry completely before self-tanning.