14 Amazing Skincare Products You Already Have In Your Pantry (And The Best Concoctions)

Betty Adewole for Tom Ford Beauty Spring/Summer 2014
Betty Adewole for Tom Ford Beauty Spring/Summer 2014
Sometimes, I just can’t be bothered. With my fans, yes, but also with skincare; if I had bought all the skincare products I’d ever wanted, I’d be homeless. And though undoubtedly dewy, I imagine my glow would feel less delightful while sleeping on a bed of newspapers. Sometimes, it’s necessary to work with what we’ve got – which, as it happens, isn’t that terrible of an alternative! So if you’re craving a skincare or hair pick-me-up, but refuse to leave your abode, fear not: simply survey this list and try these beauty treatments instead.

1. Extra virgin olive oil.

Everyone these days is talking about the benefits of oily skin and hair. The cool thing about opting for extra virgin olive oil is that it’s cheap, can be found at the grimiest of bodegas, and can also be a handy tool if you’re trying to trick house guests into believing that you cook regularly.

If you’re like me and familiar with grease, you’re probably hesitant to pour olive oil straight onto your face. And that’s OK. Extra virgin olive oil is a great tool even for removing makeup, as well as DIY face and hair masks, face and body scrubs, and cleansers.

Linda Rodin, of the famed skincare line Rodin Olio Lusso, has always been an oil-on-face crusader; the success of her line can be attributed to the success of her celebrated face oil. In her opinion, 2-3 drops of oil, rubbed all over the face after a thorough cleanse, “just makes your skin the best it can be naturally.” Simply put: it moisturizes. Everything. And is great if you’re looking for a sweaty hair look.

2. Avocado.

Apparently its uses extend beyond the realm of Taco Chulo – beyond the realm of guacamole, that is. The natural fat-filled fruit contains both phytosterols and polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols, which help reduce inflammation (sensitive skin, redness, bumps, dryness, etc.). Avocados also have a healthy dose of vitamin A – which, in its purest form, is retinol, the skincare ingredient all med school students on their way to becoming dermatologists use since it’s proven to tighten and lift the skin. And they’re packed with the amino acid gluatamine and antioxidants too – the latter of which helps prevent wrinkles, spots, and environmental damage.

If you’re one of those rare species who’s kind to their kitchen and fills it with healthy, Whole Foods-type products like avocado oil, know that this is a great ingredient for the skin as well. It can be used as an alternative to olive oil for taking off makeup, and even as a spot treatment to quickly erase red spots or scars.

3. Vinegar.

So, too, is vinegar a thing in the beauty world. But be sure to do your research before you decide to execute any vinegar-based skincare or hair treatments; after reading that vinegar was the latest skincare and hair ingredient, I thought, “say no more,” and foolishly decided to halt my research, march on home and, for an entire night, breathed into a bag of salt and vinegar chips like it was some sort of humidifier.

But yeah…vinegar – minus the salt and chips part. Why should you use it on your skin instead of on your salad? Well first, let’s get one thing straight: unless you’re soaking an old t-shirt in it for sunburn-ameliorating purposes, go for apple cider vinegar. It’s packed with minerals and potassium and it helps reduce allergies by breaking up mucous – which probably explains why chef and nutrition counselor Fernanda de la Puente takes a shot of apple cider vinegar every morning. That, and for its hair, skin, and nail strengthening powers.

4. Bananas.

You might already know that bananas, when consumed, are a great source of potassium. But there are other benefits to the fruit too – particularly when mashed up and applied to the face. As a fruit, bananas are super hydrating; yet unlike most fruits, they lack a high acidic content.

5. Tea.

A simple tea bag can go a long way too; just be sure to utilize these tea-bag-tips in the comfort of your own home and not, say, during tea time at The Wolseley (and that can be hard, given all of the opportunities we’re typically afforded to have tea at The Wolseley).

Green tea is usually your safest bet; it has just enough caffeine to reduce puffiness, and just the right amount of antioxidants to help with inflammation, building collagen, and reducing cell damage from UV rays. EGCG is a good ingredient to look out for – it’s green tea extract and a more productive way to soak in all of green tea’s antioxidants. Many have even touted green tea as an effective spot treatment too.

The tannins in black tea help to hydrate and smooth the skin and can really help if you’re suffering form a sunburn. And for a gentle rinse or cleanser, chamomile is always a safe bet.

6. Sugar.

Again, be sure to do all of your research first; as much as I’d love to sit in a warm bath for hours with sour patch kids melting on my eyes – I really, really shouldn’t. Because, firstly — I should probably get this out of the way now – sugar is of no use to our skin unless it’s brown and/or raw. And its benefits, while limited, are still very powerful – particularly its ability to exfoliate. A great alternative to sugar that you might also have in your pantry is oats.

7. Honey.

Another great ingredient for the DIY, Etsy-fanatic in you, honey’s benefits are threefold. It’s hygroscopic, meaning it’s really good at absorbing moisture — then keeping the skin moist — and aids in scar healing. Honey is also antimicrobial – it limits bacteria and, as such, has proven to be a great cure for acne. And it’s also full of those damaged-skin-protecting, anti-aging antioxidants we all love.

8. Coffee.

Apart from its alleged “depression-fighting, disease-combatting, and liver-restoring benefits,” coffee’s caffeine content does wonders for the skin too. When applied topically, it helps to increase circulation and reduce cellulite.

9. Cinnamon and nutmeg.

Anti-inflammatories, people!! Which winter certainly calls for. These ingredients shouldn’t really be used alone, but rather as an addition to an at-home face mask. Bonus points if you take cinnamon and nutmeg straight from those sprinklers at Starbucks.

10. Lemon.

A few things about our sour friend monsieur limon: it’s got a high citric acid content and should therefore be used sparingly – too much acid can really hurt the skin. It’s also photosensitive and should thus only be applied to the skin at night. Other than that, it’s a great way to pack some citric acid into an at-home skin or hair remedy .

11. Turmeric.

OK so maybe you don’t keep turmeric in your pantry. Maybe your pantry is filled with only one product that goes by the name of Cup-n-Noodles, but…work with me here; after all, I am giving you the benefit of the doubt.

I can tell you firsthand that ingesting turmeric will murder a cold, but what of its topical benefits? Apparently the spice, with its strong anti-inflammatory properties, works as a great spot treatment and overall face mask.

12. Frozen spoons.

Now I know what you’re thinking and I, too, assumed this was nothing more than a cold-shoulder trick to throw bae’s way while spooning. But actually, it’s (arguably) better and far more simple. Cold spoon is no metaphor. Nor is it code for a meth addict run dry. It’s simply a cold spoon — no more, no less — and a fine way to de-swell your eyes.

13. Coconut oil.

I’d be lying if I said that coconut and extra virgin olive oil are the only two oils you should use on your face and hair. But then again, you’d be lying if you told me you keep jojoba, rosehip seed, neem, and grapeseed oil in your pantry, wouldn’t you?

The benefits of coconut oil pretty much overlap entirely with olive oil’s and avocado oil’s benefits – it moisturizes, sinks in well, and comes calendula-flavored, which is especially helpful in reducing inflammation.

14. Yogurt.

With lactic acid and hydrating lipids, yogurt – must be full-fat and unsweetened – works as a great base for face masks.


And now, we DIY. Or: how to combine these ingredients into skincare and hair saviors, without killing yourself in the process.

Lip scrubs:

  1. One tablespoon of raw sugar plus one tablespoon of coconut oil.
  2. Fill a small bowl with baking soda and sugar. Dip a toothbrush into said bowl. Now gently brush your lips until all of the dead skin is exfoliated off. Finish off with Aquaphor, Vaseline, or Elizabeth Arden’s 8-hour cream — something that’s sure to keep the moisture intact.

Body scrubs:

  1. Mix oats with honey. Model Andreea Diaconu — who’s been modeling since, uh, 13 — learned this trick from her mom while growing up in Bucharest and swears by it.
  2. Raw sugar mixed with an oil of your choice works too — as previously mentioned, sugar and oats serve the same purpose when applied to skin.
  3. Then there’s this formula I learned about on Into The Gloss: 1 cup of avocado oil or grapeseed oil, 1 cup raw sugar, and a bit of lemon zest. An exfoliator, cleanser, and moisturizer — all in one.
  4. César Vega, the founder of coffee company Café Integral, knows the power of coffee, both when consumed and applied straight to the skin. For his body he apparently uses mixture of used espresso grounds (“which are super fine” and “contain the most residual caffeine), olive oil, and honey.
  5. Brown sugar, a pinch of olive oil, and salt for a once-a-month, full-body exfoliation.

Face exfoliators:

  1. Mix raw sugar with honey. Try manuka honey if you’re feeling fancy; apparently, it can be “classified as a medical-grade microbial agent.
  2. One cup of yogurt — unsweetened and full fat — with a light spritz of lemon.
  3. Honey, raw brown sugar, and olive oil — Taali M’s facial exfoliator of choice.

Face masks:

  1. The “gentle moisturizing banana and avocado mask,” which I read about on — where else? — Into The Gloss: Throw one medium-sized banana and half an avocado into a bowl, and stir until it becomes a uniform paste. Apply evenly to face and let it sit for 20 minutes.
  2. Another ITG favorite, the anti-inflammatory honey spice mask: One quarter cup of honey combined with half a teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg. Leave on face for 15 minutes, and rinse with tepid water.
  3. Apparently turmeric is a powerful skin agent entirely on its own. Used either as a spot treatment or as a face mask, turmeric greatly reduces inflammation.

Face cleanser:

  1. A fully soaked chamomile tea bag.

Hair masks:

  1. Olive oil (can be swapped out for yogurt) with a squeeze of lemon.
  2. After shampooing, but before conditioning, rinse hair with apple cider vinegar. It’s especially good for greasy hair.
  3. New York-based artist Andrea Mary Marshall puts coconut oil on the ends of her hair when its dried out.

Face toners (both found on Into The Gloss):

  1. Make one cup of green tea, add half a teaspoon of honey, and mix. When cooled down (and if you happen to have it handy), add three drops of jasmine essential oil. Store in an airtight bottle.
  2. The juice from one lemon, one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, and 200 ml of mineral water. Only use at night and store in airtight bottle. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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