For truly nourished, hydrated, and protected skin, it’s important to care for it both on the inside with healthy food and lifestyle choices, and on the outside with natural skin care products and treatments. The great news is that you can cultivate or supplement your daily skin care routine (inside and out) with foods that you likely already have in your kitchen.
Today, we explore 5 of our favorite natural ingredients for skin from your kitchen.
Avocados are quite nutrient-dense, offering a combination of healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and trace minerals. Avocados provide monounsaturated fatty acids (which are healthy fats) that help regulate blood sugar, support healthy HDL cholesterol, and nourish skin cells.
Avocados are also a source of complete protein (about 2 grams in one avocado half), as well as the minerals iron, magnesium, and potassium which nourish and fortify the skin’s acid mantle, and aid in nutrient absorption. They’re also an excellent source of vitamin E, vitamin C, and carotenoid antioxidants that protect and repair skin. Avocados have a creamy texture, which make them ideal for DIY face masks, as well as a delicious addition to salads, grain bowls, and smoothies. For these reasons, we love using avocado for skin.
Honey is one of the most ancient and powerful remedies that nature provides. Using honey for skin and wellness dates back to Ancient Egypt ,Greece, India and Sri Lanka (it’s a well known Ayurvedic remedy), and has also been used extensively by indigenous peoples in the Americas, Africa, Australia, and New Zealand. Honey is rich in natural sugars, which serve as prebiotics to nourish the skin’s microbiome, in addition to 18 free amino acids, B vitamins, flavonoid antioxidants; calcium and phosphorus as well as other minerals.
Honey’s main skin benefits, however, are its naturally occurring antimicrobial properties which can help balance the skin’s microbiome, and its naturally occurring enzymes and alpha hydroxy acids to support gentle exfoliation and a healthy skin pH. It’s important to use raw honey for skin, since the pasteurization process in conventional honey destroys the enzymes, antioxidants, and other beauty nutrients. You can use honey as a standalone facial cleanser or treatment mask, or incorporate it into another single-use DIY skin care product such as Dr. Cates’ Organic Honey and Tea Tree Cleanser on page 178 of Clean Skin from Within.
Oats are known for their soothing and calming skin benefits for irritated or angry skin. You may remember soaking in an oatmeal bath when you had chicken pox or poison ivy as a kid for those reasons. Oats are highly beneficial for the skin, and contain different types of phenolic and flavonoid antioxidants, minerals, amino acids, and naturally occurring saponins which assist with cleansing.
However one of the best reasons to use oats for skin is due to its demulcent property. Oats produce mucilage when they come into contact with water, which is a gel-like substance that soothes, nourishes, hydrates, and protects the skin. To use oats for skin, you can grind them into a fine powder or flour and mix them with honey, aloe, tea, or water as a gently exfoliating cleanser or face mask. You can also steep the oats in hot water as you would a tea, let it cool, strain out the oats, and then use the mucilaginous liquid leftover as a DIY toner or soothing facial compress. Dr. Cates offers several DIY recipes using oats for skin in Clean Skin from Within as well.
Aside from honey, yogurt is one of the most ancient natural ingredients to be used for skin care and to promote health and longevity. Using yogurt for skin (for cleansing and moisturizing) dates back to 2000 BCE, while consuming it as a food dates back to at least 8500 BCE. Yogurt is a fermented milk product, rich with the main probiotic strains Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophiles, though sometimes additional strains of beneficial bacteria and yeast are added. The fact that yogurt contains live, intact, and bioavailable probiotic strains (assuming it hasn’t been pasteurized) makes it ideal to nourish the microbiota both in the gut, and on the surface of the skin. The normally harder to digest proteins and sugars found in milk are broken down into soluble and easier-to-digest forms, which make yogurt easier to digest for people with dairy sensitivities, than milk.
In addition to its probiotic benefits, yogurt is also a natural source of lactic acid, a larger molecule alpha hydroxy acid that gently exfoliates, while also increasing skin hydration and supporting a healthy pH. It is very easy to use yogurt for skin. Some options include blending it with other natural ingredients such as honey and powdered oats as a cleanser, or simply applying a thick layer of yogurt on its own as a hydrating, exfoliating, and moisturizing mask. The DIY skin care section at the end of Clean Skin from Within includes several recipes that incorporate yogurt. We recommend using organic, whole milk yogurt–raw if possible.
In the worlds of nutrition and aesthetics, papaya is considered most useful for its main enzyme papain. Papain is an enzyme that digests proteins, both internally and topically. On the skin, papain is used in products intended to exfoliate, improve the appearance of scars and overall skin texture, and brighten dark spots and uneven pigmentation. It is important to note that the papain found in conventional skin care products is often synthetically made and far more concentrated than that found in raw papaya. However, even in its whole food form, papain is a powerful enzyme that may cause irritation for more sensitive skin types; so we don’t recommend applying straight raw papaya to the skin if you have a Heath or Emmet skin type. However, papaya is often fine for Amber, Olivia, and Sage skin types.
When in doubt, either juice it or mash it up, and mix it with some of the other natural ingredients mentioned today for a highly nutritious DIY treatment mask. Using papaya for skin also helps to deliver a potent dose of Vitamins C and K, and carotenoid antioxidants that the skin can store and then convert to usable forms of Vitamin A when it needs it. In addition, papaya’s natural sugars function as prebiotics that feed the skin’s microbiome.
What natural skin care ingredients do you already have in your kitchen?
Your kitchen is chock-full of beauty nutritious fruits, vegetables, grains, and other highly beneficial foods to use topically, and consume internally for glowing skin. We encourage you to head to your refrigerator and pantry and take a quick inventory. Do you have any of the five foods from today’s blog post? If not, add them to your shopping list and pick them up on your next grocery run–they are all easy to find in most stores.
What foods do you already have in your kitchen that you can use for skin care? Tell us in the comments below!
Rachael Pontillo is an IAHC and AADP Board Certified International Health Coach, Certified Nutritional Aesthetics Practitioner®, licensed aesthetician. A bestselling author of the book Love Your Skin, Love Yourself. She’s the creator of the popular skincare and healthy lifestyle blog, Holistically Haute, and the online boutique skincare certification and business course, Create Your Skincare.