13 Food Hacks for Better Skin and Hair

Look no further than the kitchen for skin and hair boosters

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Good news: There are kitchen DIY projects that don’t require any cooking skills (who knew?). We’ve got 13 homemade solutions — from honey to mayo — for dry skin, rough elbows and unruly hair. They’re cheaper than the fancy-schmancy stuff sold in stores and use ingredients already in most pantries or fridges. (And guys, good skin isn’t just for the ladies — no one will know that the items from your latest grocery run are about to be lathered all over your face.) Check out this list for some antioxidant-packed recipes that moisturize and refresh, some so good you could eat ‘em!

Body Scrubs
Roughin’ it never looked so good. Exfoliants remove old, dry, dead skin cells and allow new cells to surface, leaving skin feeling silky smooth, and looking refreshed. A pro tip: scrub lips for an extra smoochable pucker. Don’t scrub too much, though; if skin is exfoliated more than once or twice a week, it’s hard for the body to create new skin cells the way it naturally does. “Most people don’t need to exfoliate at all,” says Greatist Expert and dermatologist Dr. J. Scott Kasteler. Scrubbing too much, or with too harsh an abrasive, is never a good idea because it makes our skin more susceptible to sun damage. But he says if skin is looking a little scaly, it’s O.K. to gently scrub every once in a while.

Homemade scrubs typically contain two parts “grit” (usually salt or sugar) and one part oil (like coconut or olive). Start with one part oil and two parts sugar or salt (depending on how much you’d like to use, and where you’re scrubbing, a good amount to shoot for is ¼ cup of oil and ½ cup of grit). Brown sugar or sea salt tend to work best because they’re on the coarser side, but for a more gentle scrub, it’s O.K. to use table salt or good old white sugar (especially for more sensitive skin, like on the face). Pantry lookin’ pretty bare? Try flax meal, ground coffee or oatmeal.

How to: Mix the oil and sugar slowly until the mixture forms a slightly wet ball (thick enough it won’t slip through your fingers). Rub the scrub on the skin in a gentle, circular motion and pay extra attention to tougher areas like the knees, feet and elbows. Try not to scrub too often or you might irritate the skin. Disclaimer: be careful when using a whole lot of the scrub — the oils can make the shower floor prettyslippery.

Banilla Scrub (Oil Free)
For an oil-free option, use a fork to blend ½ cup of brown sugar and 1 mashed banana. Add a drop of vanilla extract. (Try not to eat it.) The benefits: bananas can moisturize if you’ve got no oil on hand.

Lemon Refresher Scrub
Start with ¼ cup of oil and ½ cup of sugar or salt. Add the zest and juice of one lemon. The benefits: not only does it smell divine, but lemon has astringent qualities and can help banish shine and tighten the skin.

Cup-o-Joe Scrub
Start with ¼ cup of oil and ½ cup of sugar or salt. Add in 2 tablespoons of ground coffee. The benefits: coffee is a top source of antioxidants — primarily polyphenols and caffeine — which can reduce swelling. The good news is that coffee’s antioxidant properties remain after brewing, so we recommend recycling old grounds that are chilling in the filter instead of using the fresh stuff.

Calming Milk and Oats Scrub (Oil Free)
For less intense exfoliation, start with ½ cup of oats and ¼ cup of whole milk (the fat content will help moisturize). The benefits: oats have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties to slough off dead skin in a much gentler way than harsher scrubs. For centuries, oatmeal has been used to soothe itchy, irritated skin because of its polyphenols (a type of antioxidant).

Face Masks
Masks will undoubtedly make you look funny (keep those fingers crossed that the UPS man doesn’t ring the bell), but they’re also a great way to deeply moisturize the skin. The acids in fruits like papaya, pineapple and lemon also work as gentle exfoliants without all the scrubbing, says Kasteler. And it’s especially nice to know that the stuff that’s smothered so close to your mouth and nose is completely edible.

How to: Rub the tasty ingredients on your face and let them chill out for 15 to 30 minutes, carefully avoiding the eyes and mouth when layering it all on.

Avocado and Honey Mask
Mash together half an avocado and 1 tablespoon of honey. The benefits: honey has antioxidants like phenolic acids and flavonoids and may also help with acne because it is an antimicrobial agent, while avocado oil can help moisturize.

Yogurt and Watermelon Mask
Puree ½ cup of watermelon chunks and mix with a 3 tablespoons of plain yogurt. The benefits: ogurt helps soothe and moisturize irritated skin (and sunburns!), as well as brighten skin. The lactic acid, a natural alpha hydroxy acid (an acid that works as an exfoliating agent), helps smooth skin and may even reverse signs of aging. Watermelon is a good source of vitamin C, which helps produce new collagen and helps skin stay supple.

Tropical Fruit Mask
Mash a small amount (3 tablespoons will do) of raw papaya, and add 2 tablespoons of pineapple juice. The benefits: the two fruits contain enzymes that dissolve oil and dry skin cells.

Pumpkin Pie Mask
Mix up 3 tablespoons of pumpkin puree with 1 teaspoon of honey, 1 teaspoon of milk and a dash of cinnamon. The benefits: pumpkin has a natural form of salicylic acid, which helps clear and prevent blemished skin. Cinnamon can also help reverse the clock because of its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Hair Treatments
Hair is always hungry for moisture — especially after a summer filled with sun and chlorinated pool water. But even when hair is perfectly hydrated, the strands can turn into a greasy mess (like when life gets so busy that there’s no time to lather, rinse and repeat). Layering on a hair mask, or rinsing with a budget-friendly household item like vinegar can give locks a little love.

How to: For hair, we’ve got ways to moisturize (longer treatments, and quick ones too!), and ways to degrease when you’re in a rush. Layer on the masks and let them sit for at least 15 minutes.

Honey Avocado Hair Mask
Mash a medium avocado with 2 tablespoons of honey. Slather it on and wrap hair into a neat bun for 15-30 minutes. A shower cap can help keep the mask from defiling the couch. Go hit the town with your new do, or wash hair as usual and then make your way into a public arena. The benefits: both ingredients moisturize skin and hair.

Drunken Do
We’re warning you: this one will not taste or smell good. Add a shot of vodka to ¼ cup of mayonnaise. The benefits: the alcohol lowers the pH level of the hair, closing the cuticles and making hair appear shinier (goodbye, frizz). The mayo moisturizes locks because of its oil content and protein-packed egg. Extra bonus: the lemon juice or vinegar in mayo also lowers hair’s pH.

Vinegar Shine Rinse
For a quick fix that requires no mixing, rinse hair with vinegar (you can do it right in the shower with a small squeeze bottle) to add shine. Make sure to wash it well to remove any lingering vinegar smell. The benefits: vinegar is also a great pH adjuster (with a similar pH to lemon or lime juice).

Coconut Conditioner
When cold winter weather threatens to dry out tresses, turn to coconut oil. A few times a week, soak hair in a few tablespoons of coconut oil (make sure it’s in it’s liquid state). Let it sit for at least 30 minutes or overnight (for deeper conditioning). The benefits: coconut oil is attracted to hair proteins and can penetrate the hair shaft, while other oils — like mineral oil and sunflower oil — have a much harder time moisturizing. Coconut oil also protects hair from hygral fatigue, which is when hair becomes damaged from expanding when wet, and contracting when dry.

Dry Shampoo
mixture of coarse-ground cornmeal, essential oil of lemon and castor oil can de-grease a slicked back head of hair. Massage a small amount of the mix through the scalp, then brush out the meal. For a quick fix, try cornstarch for lighter hair, or a mixture of cornstarch and cocoa for dark hair, to absorb excess oil. The benefits: a little extra scalp grease isn’t going to hurt, but soaking some up in a pinch could definitely make you feel better!

The takeaway: Everybody is different, and so too is their skin. A heavy scrub may be too much for some of us, while an oat-based one may not be enough for others. Since facial skin is thinner and more sensitive (especially because it’s exposed to the sun more often), it’s best to try out the scrubs and masks on less sensitive areas on the body like the arm.

Kasteler says more expensive does not mean better when it comes to beauty treatments, so it’s perfectly O.K. to try concocting some food-based stuff at home. “The skin is simple,” he says. “It will tell you what it needs.”

Do you make homemade beauty treatments? What are your favorites? Tell us in the comments section below or tweet the author @nicmcdermott.
This article has been read and approved by Greatist Experts Dr. J. Scott Kasteler and Dr. Marilee Benson.
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