Her use of whole foods in the kitchen is masterful, but when we recently heard her speak on her love of beauty DIYs, we knew we had to learn more. As beauty DIY skeptics, we asked Lily to dish it all out for us: which DIY beauty ingredients are worth dabbling with and which should just stay in the fridge? Here’s Lily…
Should you be washing your hair with apple cider vinegar or putting it on your face? Lathering up with egg whites or scrubbing with oatmeal? Can you really apply coconut oil everywhere? And what on earth are you supposed to do with yogurt, besides put it in your mouth?
Healthy, glowing skin is a product of maintaining the epidermis’s natural pH, or what’s called its acid mantle. Most traditional skin cleansers and treatments throw the acid mantle out of whack, resulting in infections and breakouts. Gross. Give me back my mantle. Pure skincare ingredients preserve your skin’s acid mantle, resulting in skin deliciousness year-round. But which pantry products are skincare legit, and which aren’t worth your time?
My mother regularly slathered every edible ingredient in sight on her body, and turned her abundant knowledge of aromatherapy and herbology into a thriving body care business. The family practice of food-as-beauty care left me glowing from avocado, comfrey and aloe — and instilled me with a healthy degree of skepticism for the DIY beauty trends that emerged decades later. Thirty-five years after the publication of my mom’s first book, Living With the Flowers, my book Kale & Caramel: Recipes for Body, Heart, and Table was published, complete with my favorite DIY body and beauty solutions.
In the spirit of practicality, here’s my gut check on the pantry body and beauty care items I love, and those I’d rather keep on my plate.
Remember: Always experiment with your skin, your face, your hair — you know you best.
Gimme | Honey is the queen of queens, the supreme entity of the DIY beauty universe. I wash my skin with a half teaspoon of raw honey every night, letting its antibacterial, naturally preserving (read: anti-aging), lightly exfoliating properties work their magic. Bonus: Honey wouldn’t dream of messing with your acid mantle.
SALT & SUGAR
Gimme | Salt and sugar make excellent bases for pure-enough-to-eat exfoliators — though keep in mind that sugar crystals are far gentler than salt. Salt shouldn’t be used on the face, and even sugar can be a bit abrasive for sensitive skin. Salt will sting any open cuts or scrapes.
Gimme | Oatmeal is a natural skin soother, providing relief for itchy and rashy conditions as well as softening the epidermis. Its gentle texture makes it ideal for facial scrubs and masks, or for blending into a fine powder for an oat milk bath.
Proceed With Caution | Fresh citrus juice and zest have tremendous skin brightening power (literally — they can actually lighten your skin) but should be used with caution. The acid in citrus is so strong that it can also cause increased risk of sunburn — so make sure you rinse well after using citrus in your DIY treatments.
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
Gimme | Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is all the rage right now, for balancing pH in everything from the hair to the gut. Most importantly, ACV has a similar pH to the skin itself, which helps to maintain skin’s acid mantle while it gently exfoliates. Do remember: It’s a vinegar, and those acids can be harsh to sensitive skin and scalps.
No Thanks| I’m fine with admiring egg whites from afar, but when it comes to getting a raw scramble all up on my face or in my hair, I’m gonna pass. There are so many other ways to get that dewy glow.
Gimme | I dig plain yogurt for a face mask — it’s cooling, easy to manage, and the active cultures and subtle acids do an excellent job of gentle exfoliation.
No Thanks | As much as I love avocado, I stopped slathering it on my body when I was in the eighth grade. It’s difficult to get completely smooth, resulting in chunky masses that fall off your face and are a nightmare to weed out of wet hair. Pass.
Proceed With Caution | I love lubing my whole self up with coconut oil as much as the next modern lady, but don’t overdo it: Coconut oil is comedogenic — pore clogging — and, in most cases, shouldn’t be used on the sensitive skin of the face. And while some of us with coarse, curly hair can get away with using coconut oil for scalp and hair treatments, thinner hair will be unpleasantly weighted down by the oil.
Gimme | Olive oil is a skin and hair hydration quick-fix — in a pinch, it’ll serve as a moisturizer, leave-in conditioner or even a light lotion (emulsified in a blender with water).