Cosmetics companies strive to position their products prominently in an ever more crowded market. They spend millions to research and develop products that promise beauty in a bottle. High-tech cleansers and luxurious moisturizers seem even more appealing when they’re displayed on store shelves in their elegant containers. It’s hard not to draw a parallel between these beautiful boxes and a more beautiful you, but the superfluous packaging that surrounds those pretty pots isn’t so lovely when it winds up in landfills.
These household products may not seem as glamorous, but they’ll leave you looking gorgeous without selling you more than you want — no extra packaging, no synthetic additives, no artificial colors or fragrances. Even better, you probably own most of them already.
The same baking soda that puffs up your muffins and sweetens your refrigerator can also improve your skin. Add a small amount of soda to your regular facial cleanser to transform it into an invigorating scrub that will leave your skin glowing. Baking soda is an inexpensive, natural exfoliant that turns a product you already have into a multi-tasker. The fewer specialty products you buy, the less waste you create. Another benefit is that by mixing your own scrub, you control the level of cleansing suitable for your complexion — a pinch for dry or sensitive skin, more for combination or oily skin. No matter your skin type, remember that baking soda is alkaline, so follow up with thorough rinsing to let your skin regain its natural pH.
If baking soda isn’t for you, try aspirin. Its anti-inflammatory properties can help calm redness, making it a good choice for those with acne or rosacea. Uncoated aspirin tablets dissolve readily in water; add a few drops to each tablet to dissolve it into a paste the consistency of wet sand. Apply this paste either as a scrub by rubbing it on gently with your fingertips or as a mask by patting it on. Aspirin is an acid and may make sensitive skin feel itchy or uncomfortable; if this happens, try diluting the mixture with more water and using it as a clarifying toner instead of a scrub or mask. Be sure to rinse well regardless of the concentration you use.
A little makeup can make skin look poreless and perfect even when it isn’t. There’s no need to buy a primer full of synthetic ingredients to get that even surface, though. Ordinary milk of magnesia has none of the additives and all of the effectiveness of fancier products. This ubiquitous household stomach-soother goes under foundation to provide a flawlessly smooth canvas for your cosmetic art. Apply one or two drops of milk of magnesia to a lightly dampened cosmetic sponge, smooth over a clean face, allow to dry, and buff away any residual whiteness with your fingertips before applying foundation. It may leave your skin so matte, even, and seemingly poreless that you decide to skip foundation altogether.
If you do wear makeup, sooner or later you’ll want to remove it. Facial cleansers and toners often can’t break down the oils and waxes that comprise most products. A specialized makeup remover can do the trick, but many of them come wrapped in plastic and loaded with dyes or fragrance. Olive oil does the same job for a fraction of the ecological cost and leaves skin feeling moisturized. Apply a few drops of olive oil to a cotton ball or gauze and smooth it over the face. Give the oil a couple of minutes to soften the makeup (especially around the eyes), then remove with a damp washcloth. Follow up with your usual cleansing regimen or your favorite scrub.
Natural beauty doesn’t have to be no-frills. Decant your olive oil into a lovely crystal vial or keep your baking soda in a vintage powder box and enjoy both pretty packaging and practicality. By repurposing older containers, your “natural wonders” will be as purely beautiful as they are beautifully pure.