Before there was a product for every imaginable beauty woe (lash conditioner, cuticle softener, lip buffer), women took a simpler approach to hair and skin care. Dry skin might merit a slathering of olive oil, while puffy eyes called for cucumber slices. Now it seems grandma was ahead of her time: Many of today's top spa treatments take their cues from old-fashioned home remedies, and there's science to back up the ingredients' effectiveness.
To find the best remedies, we consulted with three natural-beauty savants: Philip B., creator of Philip B. Botanical Products; Donna Perillo, owner of New York City's Sweet Lily Natural Nail Spa & Boutique; and Barbara Close, founder and president of Naturopathica Holistic Health and author of "Well Being: Rejuvenating Recipes for Body and Soul." These healthy hair and skin savers are among their favorites-and you can get everything you need on your next grocery run.
Use it to calm and soften skin
Why it works: Soothing and anti-inflammatory, oatmeal contains beta glucan, a soluble fiber that creates a thin, moisture-retaining film on the surface of the skin.
How-to: Close suggests placing a handful of whole oats in a clean washcloth and using a rubber band to secure it. Next, immerse it in a sinkful of warm water and squeeze the bag 4 or 5 times. Once the water is cloudy, splash it on your face and then air-dry. (If you must towel dry, pat as gently as possible.)
Use it to repair dry, sensitive skin
Why it works: Avocado oil's abundant fatty acids help balance skin's moisture levels, and the antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E protect skin from further damage.
How-to: Combine equal parts avocado oil and evening-primrose oil (which supports collagen synthesis with its gamma linoleic acid) in a sealable bottle and shake to blend, advises Close. Massage 5 or 6 drops into clean skin, and then cover your face with a warm washcloth for a minute to help the oils sink in.
Use it to exfoliate hands and feet
Why it works: Rich in oil, walnuts make for extra-gentle sloughing.
How-to: Perillo likes to blend 1/4 cup shelled walnuts, 1/2 cup olive oil (for extra emollients), and a tablespoon of honey (to seal moisture into your skin) in a food processor set on a slow speed, creating a fine-particle scrub. Standing in the shower (if you're scrubbing your feet) or over a sink (if it's for your hands), work the mixture thoroughly over your skin for a couple of minutes. Rinse with warm water.
Use it to: Slough dry skin off heels, knees, and elbows
Why it works: The fruit acid loosens dead skin cells.
How-to: Cut a fresh orange in half and squeeze the juice of one half into a bowl. Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar and 1/4 cup olive oil and then blend into a moisture-rich scrub. Next, rub the exposed side of the other half of the orange over knees, elbows, heels, and any other dry spots. Last, rub in the sugar mixture to slough off dead skin. Rinse with warm water and pat skin dry.
Use it to soothe and soften dry, sensitive skin
Why it works: The lactic acid in milk serves as a gentle skin exfoliant, while its natural fat content acts as a body moisturizer.
How-to: Add 1 gallon of whole milk to a tubful of warm water and soak. It's a great alternative to sugar and salt scrubs, says Perillo, which may be too abrasive for people who suffer from eczema, psoriasis, or sensitive skin. If you prefer a fragranced bath, add 10 to 20 drops of an essential oil such as lavender.
Use it to add strength to damaged, weakened hair
Why it works: Eggs' high protein content helps improve hair's resilience and luster.
How-to: Philip B. suggests whisking together 1 egg, 2 tablespoons coconut oil ("rich in moisturizing fats," he says), and 2 tablespoons sesame oil. Apply the mixture to dry hair and wrap a hot, moist towel around your head. Relax for 5 to 10 minutes. Without wetting hair first, work in a handful of shampoo, and then rinse and condition your hair.
Use it to fight breakouts
Why it works: Its high acid content makes skin inhospitable to blemish-causing bacteria.
How-to: Place a handful of parsley (a skin-clarifying herb) into a French press and cover it with 1/2 cup of boiling water, says Close. Steep for 10 minutes, and then plunge and let the liquid cool. Transfer to a spray bottle along with a splash of vinegar and 4 drops of tea tree oil (an antiseptic), shake well, and spritz on a freshly cleansed face. (Store the spray bottle in the fridge.)
Use it to pump up flat, dull hair
Why it works: Yeast and hops help to swell the hair shaft and plump the cuticle, adding volume. The acidity of the beer helps remove built-up product residue.
How-to: In the shower, after you've shampooed, pour a bottle of beer over your hair, Philip B. advises. Rinse briefly with fresh water (the idea is to avoid the Eau de Barfly effect while retaining the beer's body-boosting benefits). A rich beer with a high yeast content works best. (Read: No light beer.)
Text by Abbie Kozolchyk