"I've decided to devote my life to cultivating my natural beauty!" — Lucy, in Clark Gesner's You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown
Now, I realize that some folks scoff at beauty aids and cosmetics. That's just because they don't know how rejuvenating playing with cosmetics can be. Taking a few minutes a day — or a couple of hours one afternoon a week — to attend to one's "natural beauty" can be very relaxing. Besides, it's fun! And this luxury doesn't have to be expensive or hazardous to your health. Not if you make your own beauty aids out of all-natural ingredients found in your kitchen or garden. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Our mini-manual, Hazardous Household Chemicals pointed out some of the dangers of using commercial cosmetics.]
Of course, there are about as many different concoctions to be made from such raw materials as there are ingredients to make them from. But for starters, let me guide you through a day's worth of some of my favorite easy-to-create home beauty recipes so you can make the most of beautiful you.
Waking up in the morning can mean bad breath and furry teeth, right? You can combat these foes easily by brushing with "tooth soda," a teaspoon or so of baking soda mixed with an equal part of salt and topped off with two drops of oil of peppermint. Now doesn't your mouth feel fresher? [EDITOR'S NOTE: One of our editors found that this recipe also erased coffee and tea stains from tooth enamel.]
Next on your agenda is livening up that old sleep-filled face. If your skin is oily, wash it with uncooked oatmeal (or bran plus a tad of baking soda) blended with just enough water to make a paste. Massage this into your face and neck, rinse it off with warm water, rub on an astringent made of equal parts of water and apple cider vinegar using a cotton rub. If you have dry skin, squeeze the juice from one lemon and one tomato into a dish and add an equal amount of almond oil (or safflower, apricot kernel, or any other pure vegetable oil you may have on hand). Gently massage this rich formula into your face and neck, then rinse it off with tepid water. For an astringent that will get rid of all the excess oil, try swabbing on plain old witch hazel.
OK, now that your face is awake, jump into the shower and lather up the rest of your skin with pure and gentle castile soap. Here's a recipe that will make your castile go further: Mix 3/4 cup of almond meal with 1/2 cup of rice powder and 1 1/4 cups of the shaved soap; store this in a tightly sealed jar. When you want to use it, simply lather it up in your hands with warm water.
While you're in the shower, what about a shampoo? Almond meal adds nutrients and oil to your hair while cleansing it, so wet your crowning glory and, applying small handfuls of the meal at a time, rub the gritty stuff into your hair and scalp while adding water to work up a good lather. (This takes a little longer than with ordinary soap, but it's worth it.) For a rinse, use a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice diluted in one quart of water. If your hair's oily, you may want to towel it dry and then apply watered-down witch hazel with cotton pads.
Got a special event to go to this evening? But — what's that? — you were up all last night with a sick child, and one glance in the mirror tells you that today you don't just feel frazzled, you look it? Don't worry: All you need are a few extra beauty tricks to add to your normal routine to pull you together and make you glow.
First, smooth a little milk under your weary eyes to remove any puffiness. Let it dry, then repeat the treatment. While your eyes are resting, soften and smooth your elbows by letting each rest on the cut side of a halved lemon for about ten minutes.
Next, relax in a nice warm bath that's lightly laced with the juice of a fresh grapefruit. This will not only refresh you but, because of the citrus's slight bleaching effect, will do wonders for tired, sallow skin.
After your bath, put your feet up and read a book or listen to Chopin while a stimulating natural mask feeds your skin and really boosts your complexion with its astringent powers.
Before you put on a mask, though, be sure your face is ready for it. Gently massage your skin and splash on a little warm water so your pores will be open and receptive. Here are a few mask recipes.
For normal skin, mix 1 tablespoon of wheat germ with 1 tablespoon of honey. Apply the creation liberally, leave it on for about 20 minutes (or until your face feels tight and tingly), then rinse the mask off with cold water. After removing all traces of it, pat on ice-cold water to close your pores again.
Delicate skin will practically purr with pleasure beneath a mask made from a few dried apricot pieces blended with an equal amount of honey. Let the mask stay on your face for 20 minutes, then wash it off, first with warm water then with cold water. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Facial masks are slightly drying, so you may want to smooth on an emollient or lotion after using one. Almond oil mixed with a drop or two of scented oil —such as sandalwood, rose, or whatever you prefer — feels pleasant.]
Create a complexion mask for oily skin by adding just enough milk to a cup (or so) of uncooked oatmeal to make a paste. After spreading this concoction on your face, wait 10 to 15 minutes and then wash it off.
Now, after you've had a luxurious shower or bath and a facial, don't you feel better? You're rested and relaxed, your skin's all aglow, and you're ready for that night on the town! Later, when you come home, unwind with a cup of rose hip or chamomile tea. As you sit back and sip, place the tea bags (or cotton pads soaked in the tea) over your eyelids to ward off or ease redness and puffiness.
Then, before going to bed, try dabbing on just a little plain mayonnaise. The natural emollients in this creamy dressing will soothe you right off to sleep.
And there you have a full day's quota of back-to-basics cosmetics. Frivolous? Perhaps. But once you get started, you'll find that at least occasionally devoting yourself to the cultivation of your "natural beauty" can be spirit-lifting and harmless fun!
EDITOR'S NOTE: With a "patch test," you can check for allergies to any ingredients you've never used before. Put a little of the substance on the sensitive skin inside your elbow, and cover it loosely with a Band-Aid for 24 hours. If your skin shows no sign of irritation after that time, the ingredient is probably safe for you to use.
For further reading on natural cosmetics, Jeanne Rose's books can't be beat. Start with Herbs & Things and Herbal Body Book, both of which can be ordered for 57.95 (plus $1.50 each to cover shipping and handling) from Putnam Publishing Company.