DIY beauty products can make skin glow

Cleopatra did it. So did Queen Elizabeth I, Estée Lauder and even my mother. These women and millions more throughout the centuries looked to their gardens and kitchens to create homemade natural beauty products to make their faces look radiant, their hair shine and their skin glow.

“Using natural products is good because those products and ingredients are as old as time. Of course science has modernized a lot of today’s skin care but why not try some thing that dates as far back as Cleopatra, who was known for taking milk baths because of lactic acid’s benefits to the skin,” says Amy Leavell Bransford, owner of The Aviary Beauty + Wellness Collective and an early proponent of using organic ingredients in her Old Fourth Ward spa. “Plus most household have the necessary ingredients in the refrigerator, medicine cabinet or pantry.”

Bransford is right. Items in the supermarket and garden present a variety of options to customize a beauty product. Similar to making a DIY smoothie, research which natural products will give you the result you want and whip them up in your kitchen. A quick list of ready produce that can be used for beauty and health remedies include: avocados, turmeric, papaya, honey, nuts, milk, olive oil, carrots, squash, lettuce, tomatoes, rosemary, lavender, blueberries, flaxseeds, sage, sandalwood, lavender and limes.

Yolanda Owens not only makes the products she sells and uses in her Castleberry Hill salon, Iwi Fresh Farm-to-Skin Spa, she goes out to the farms and picks them herself. “I’m inspired by my grandmother (we called her the Home Remedy Queen) who was always making products found in the garden and she’d whip up various healing remedies and beauty masks. I go out to the farm and hand pick fruits and vegetables, bring them back to the spa and mix them. I want to do justice to her skincare recipes.”

Owens has turned her small business into one that is soon getting a regional reach and potentially a national one as well. Whole Foods has started carrying her products throughout the Southeast, and she also intends to franchise her spa across the country. She hopes that the pandemic-delayed opening of her Lakewood Heights 12,000 square foot center, Iwi Fresh Farm Oasis, offering wellness and beauty services, will happen soon.

“Iwi” stands for “it is what it is” and she is very open about what ingredients are put into her products. Kale-it-Out, a make-up remover, is a blend of kale and fractionated coconut oil with wheatgrass powder, vitamin E, evening primrose and rosemary essential oils thrown in for good measure. To make fractionated coconut oil, heat it above the melting point and when it cools, take out the solid part from the liquid and use it. Fractionated oils tends to absorb better in the skin than regular oils.

“It’s about getting back to basics and remembering that the skin is the largest organ of the body,” she says. “We take it for granted, but what you put on your skin goes into your bloodstream. We make sure — and everyone should — that what they put on their skin has nutritional value and is not toxic.”

Owens says a few ingredients can be universally used, no matter skin type or ethnicity include avocado, Greek yogurt, turmeric and raw honey. “These are the safest things. You can’t go wrong with any of them. On the whole, Black skin tends to be oilier than white skin so the ratios have to be altered for each person.”

She recently introduced Veggie Soul Face, a three-serum product that features sweet potatoes to prevent hyper pigmentation, collard greens for acne and black-eyed peas for dry skin. The pack, selling for $42.50, is available at a couple of local Whole Foods locations and is selling well. It will soon be launched on the internet.

She even uses fruits and vegetables that are about to be thrown out. She does a weekly podcast, Zero Waste Save Face, where she advocates using over-ripe and past-their-prime fruits and vegetables for skincare recipes. “For instance, take the inside skin of a banana and rub it on your face. It’s full of nutrients; same as a papaya. These are powerhouses in terms of nutrients for your skin and hair.”

Jill Harris, spa director at The Woodhouse Day Spa at Avalon, also advocates DIY beauty products. The Woodhouse has a full organic line from Ireland that uses hand-cut seaweed as one of the main ingredients. At home, she makes an exfoliating scrub of sea salt, olive oil and lemon juice. “It scruffs off dead skin and the olive oil helps to hydrate my skin.” She also makes facial masks using pumpkins, while a little bit of coconut oil on wet hair tames the frizzies, she says.

She puts lavender oil in her bath to relax and rosemary oil to combat headaches. People can even pick lavender and rosemary from their gardens, dry them, put them in sachets and place under their pillows. “They’ll keep for several months and they help you sleep and cut down on headaches.”

Owens says the beauty world has been going toward organic ingredients for the past 18 years, but thanks to her grandmother, this Atlanta native was always aware of the benefits. “There is a connection between health and beauty. Your skin doesn’t lie. It tells you what is going on with your body and you have to be conscious of it. I believe in feeding your skin the truth.”

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