Don’t think of the grocery store as a single-use destination. It’s not just for deciding what’s for dinner—it’s a veritable beauty mecca. Your favorite foods like papaya, avocado, and even olive oil aren’t just for eating; they’re for preening and primping. So no matter your motivation (you want to save a few dollars, up your green quotient, or just find a novel way to pass the time), here are 21 cosmetic uses for food that are just as good, if not better, than their store-bought counterparts.
You can either save your leftover egg whites for an omelet or angel food cake, or use them for your next facial. Just one white, beaten until smooth, is enough to cover your face. As with other masks, let it dry completely, then rinse off. It will leave you feeling refreshed, and your skin will be noticeably more taut.
Guacamole isn’t just great for a party, it’s also great for giving your skin supple elasticity. Just mash it with some hot water and honey, apply to your face, and wash it off after a few minutes. Your skin will be smooth and your face mask might be destined for a tortilla chip or two!
3. Tea Bag Eye Rejuvenator
The quintessential home cosmetic remedy is using cucumber slices on the eyes to reduce puffiness. While that certainly works, brewed black tea bags are even more effective. Place them on your eyes (which should be closed, of course) and let the tannins work their magic—about five minutes should do the trick.
Because what do you think those expensive bath oils are? That’s right, just edible oils with fragrances and dyes added. Try this totally natural alternative: Just add a couple of tablespoons to your hot bath and emerge with moisturized skin. If you crave a scent, add a drop or two of grapefruit essential oil to the water, too.
Oatmeal has calming properties that soothe the skin and help reduce redness. It can be used in a variety of ways, from a body wash to a mask, but the most basic is this simple face wash: Mix together equal parts warm honey and lemon juice, then stir in three parts instant oatmeal until it turns into a paste. Apply to your face, then wash off with warm water.
Swap your conditioner for vinegar twice a month and you’ll get rid of any nasty buildup, as well as improve your hair’s silkiness and shine. Seriously. Don’t use dark or expensive vinegars; stick to cider or white wine vinegar for less strain on the wallet and better results. But don’t do this more than a few times a month or you’ll risk drying out your hair.
Fill a jar about two-thirds full with honey, add a scoop of brown sugar and one halved vanilla bean, and mix. Keep this in the shower and use it as a body scrub that will leave you smelling nice and feeling smooth.
Tighten your pores and improve your skin’s texture with this common pantry item. Just mix it with 2 parts water and then lightly mist or dab onto your skin after cleaning. This helps lock in moisture and keep your pores tight.
9. Cornstarch Bath Powder
Superabsorbent and extremely fine, cornstarch is the kitchen equivalent of baby powder and can be used in the same way. Combine it with a few leaves of a nice-smelling dried herb (rosemary, lavender, or sage, for instance) and pulse it in the food processor until evenly mixed. Sift out any large stray leaf bits, transfer to a container with a shake top (like an old baby powder bottle), and use to freshen up anything from your body to your sneakers.
10. Lemon Juice Lightener
Beach-goers have been doing this for years to lighten their locks. Just combine the juice of half a lemon with a handful of leave-in conditioner (which is less goopy than regular conditioner), spread on your hair, and comb through, then wash out. (Note: Highlighted or color-treated hair should be spared this homemade remedy, which could make your hair look brassy.) Many people also apply lemon juice directly to age spots to bleach them out, though this should be avoided on sensitive skin because lemon juice is highly acidic.
11. Parsley Breath Freshener
That little sprig of green on the side of your plate isn’t just to add a pop of color—it combats halitosis! After a garlicky pasta dish or a fiery curry, just chew some parsley and the herb’s oils release, banishing bad breath on the spot.
12. Coffee: Scrub and Shine-Maker
Your leftover coffee grounds can clog your drain or, if you’re feeling adventurous, be used as an invigorating scrub. Needless to say, avoid doing this if you have sensitive skin. Leftover brewed coffee can also be mixed with some coffee grounds and conditioner to help increase shine in dark hair.
13. Baking Soda Teeth Cleaner
Mix one teaspoon of baking soda with a quarter teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide for one of the most basic forms of tooth care that exists. It’ll clean your teeth (some would argue better than store-bought toothpaste), but you’ll be missing out on the minty freshness. Of course, you could just go totally au naturel and gnaw a bit of spearmint for that.
14. Chocolate Face Mask
Cream, cocoa, honey…everything in this face mask sounds good enough to eat! Chocolate is a strong antioxidant, cream helps hydrate, and honey softens. Your skin will never look—or smell—so fantastic!
15. Oil Moisturizer
Take a page from many a Mediterranean grandmother: Olive oil works fabulously as a lotion. Use too much and you’ll smell like pasta, but in small doses it works wonders as a daily lotion or massage oil. If olive oil isn’t your thing, sesame oil (regular not toasted), peanut oil, almond oil, and argan oil work too.
16. Mayonnaise Hair Mask
Mayonnaise takes center stage with nary a BLT in sight. Lather it on warm, damp-cover your head with a plastic shower cap, and in 20 minutes, rinse. The heat helps the mayonnaise penetrate the damaged, dry hair so when you wash it out, the hair is silkier and healthier than ever before.
17. Papaya Face Mask
It’s not just for tropical breakfast anymore! Papayas are rich in antioxidants and vitamins A, C, and E. They help hydrate and soften the skin as well as removing impurities. Simply blend it with honey and lemon, put it on your face, and try not to lick it off!
18. Oatmeal and Honey Exfoliant
Nope, not a cookie recipe. This is an easy and nonabrasive way to gently remove dead skin cells from your face and body. Grind the oats to a fine powder, then combine with honey and touch of apple cider vinegar. Rub on your face, leave for 10 minutes, and then wash off with warm water for impeccably soft skin.
19. Cucumber Eye Mask
The oldest trick in the book and one of the best. Place two ice-cold cucumber slices on puffy, tired eyes and leave for 20 minutes—take a nap, if you want. The cucumbers almost magically de-puff and relax your eyes.
20. Salt Scrub
That kosher salt can really give your skin a workout! Combine it with a large amount of any oil (such as vegetable or coconut), add a few drops of essential oil, and mix well. Use it in the bath or shower for smooth, soft skin.
21. Coconut Oil
This wonder food is also a wonder-cosmetic. Slather it on your lips, your eyes, your hair, your dry elbows, your eczema…anywhere that you can put it, coconut oil will leave your skin more pure and soft than it was originally. Plus, it never hurts to smell like a Hawaiian vacation, does it?
This story was originally published as two different stories, both written by Aida Mollenkamp
Sarah Spigelman Richter is a New York City–based writer, blogger, and social media manager. She has developed recipes for Tabasco, blogs about her favorite restaurants and recipes at Fritos and Foie Gras, and can be found, most Friday nights, watching "Arrested Development" reruns.