When pimples keep popping up or you're about to lose it over dry skin and dark spots, your first instinct might be to reach for your wallet to shop for some products. But what if the secret to healthy, glowing skin could be found in your kitchen? Seriously, you’d be surprised at all the magical skincare elixirs you can concoct with a few simple pantry ingredients, like oatmeal, aloe vera, and turmeric.
Still, licensed esthetician Morgan Rackley says to use caution when trying DIY treatments. “Often they can cause more harm than good,” she says, adding that the ingredient concentrations can be too high for topical use, and they can even burn the skin.
But if you’re interested in trying natural remedies, there are a number to consider. Whether you’re looking for an anti-inflammatory product, a DIY exfoliant, or a blackhead eliminator, we’ve got the lowdown on all the best home remedies, and they’re as easy to whip up as a bowl of cereal.
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It may seem almost too simple, but ice can be a very useful tool in your skincare routine. “My favorite home remedy is to use ice to lower inflammation of acne and general puffiness,” says Rackley. “I think ice is a severely underutilized resource.”
Here’s all you need to do to treat a breakout: “Take an ice cube and gently rub it over the inflamed area for two minutes,” says Rackley, adding, “Do not place and hold, the ice should be in constant movement.”
When it comes to puffiness, ice can be used first thing in the morning after cleansing. “I personally like to take the ice cube out of the freezer, wait one minute, then use it on the skin,” says Rackley. “Using it directly out of the freezer can be a little too cold and rough on delicate areas around the eyes.” If ice is too much for your skin, cold water can help do the trick too.
This humble grain is way more than just a healthy breakfast. Oatmeal’s natural calming properties make it great for healthy skin as well, especially for acne-prone skin. Reach for this grain when you’re looking for an exfoliant, a natural oil absorber, or a clean way to treat blemishes.
Oatmeal can be used in a number of different DIY treatments, but we’re partial to this one: Mix a handful of oats, a few drops of honey, and a few drops of lemon juice together in a bowl (don’t overdo it on the lemon, or you could burn the skin). Blend well and then apply to your face. Gently rub the oats into your skin, moving your fingers in a circular motion all over your face as you exfoliate. Allow the face mask to rest on your face for a few minutes before you wash off with warm water.
If you’re not in the mood for a DIY, snag an oatmeal mask like the FIRST AID BEAUTY Ultra Repair Oatmeal Face Mask to give your skin a weekly pick-me-up. This formula uses colloidal oatmeal, shea butter, and sea buckthorn to calm even sensitive skin types.
Yogurt has long been championed by nutritionists (and moms around the world) as a healthy way to start your day, but it’s also a natural skincare solution. “Using plain yogurt as a mask as it contains small amounts of lactic acid can gently exfoliate the skin, giving you a nice glow,” recommends Rackley. However, she says, “I would not suggest this for those with acne.” For your DIY adventures, skip the flavored fruit yogurts and instead reach for an unsweetened, plain variety.
For days when your fridge is full of takeout and leftovers, load up on the HEY HONEY Sweet Treat Wild Berry & Honey Yogurt Recovery Mask. This mask has our favorite natural ingredients—honey and yogurt—and promises to improve skin elasticity and amp up your skin’s protection against the natural elements.
Speaking of honey, one type rules above all else when it comes to skincare: Manuka honey. The New Zealand–harvested ingredient is pricey, but it has higher concentrations of certain amino acids and pollen that can benefit the skin. So not only is it more moisturizing, it also has increased anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties as well.
If you can get your hands on a genuine jar of Manuka honey, you can apply it straight from the jar as a face wash or mask to reap the benefits. Or, try the KIEHL’S Pure Vitality Skin Renewing Cream, made with Manuka honey and anti-aging red ginseng root.
Tea tree oil is an essential oil with natural antimicrobial benefits found in the leaves of the Australian tea tree. Luckily, it’s easy to find stateside, both on its own and in many product formulations. To use solo, apply a few drops of tea tree oil directly to a small cotton ball, then gently press the cotton ball over clean skin, taking special care to apply on any breakouts. Alternatively, it can also be used as a spot treatment.
If you have sensitive skin, it's always a good idea to dilute tea tree essential oil before you use it on your skin. A good rule of thumb is to use about one to two drops of tea tree oil for every 12 drops of carrier oil. If you're not up to creating your own diluted blend, it’s easy to find tea tree oil as a hero ingredient in pre-formulated skincare products. One of our faves is the AROMATICA Tea Tree Balancing Foaming Cleanser. This is a great everyday essential for acne-prone skin, as it helps to promote clear skin by balancing oil and purifying pores without ever overdrying.
In addition to tea tree oil, several other essential oils can be used to help clear skin, particularly on the body. Using essential oils can be tricky, especially if you have sensitive skin or certain skin conditions, like eczema or rosacea. They should always be diluted with a carrier oil to avoid irritation, but they can still be effective. A few essential oils that can help with breakouts include thyme oil, rosemary oil, and lavender oil.
Witch hazel has been a dermatologist-approved astringent for, well, ever. You can rely on this simple plant extract to target excess oil, clear your pores, and reduce acne inflammation. Witch hazel is also gentle enough to apply raw to your face as a toner, especially if you have oily skin. Pour a few drops over a cotton pad until it’s moist, and then pat over your face to cleanse and brighten your skin.
This natural ingredient can also make for an excellent spot treatment when paired with other acne fighters. For a potent, ready-made option, we love using ORIGINS Super Spot Remover™ Acne Treatment Gel. The clean formula pairs witch hazel with 1.5% salicylic acid to target pimples and clogged pores.
Your sunburn savior is more than just a summer staple—aloe vera gel deserves a regular spot in your skincare routine because of its amazing anti-inflammatory properties. If it can dramatically tame sunburns, just think of the wonders it can work for red pimples.
There are a handful of ways you can use aloe to treat breakouts, and one of the easiest is to use a small amount directly on a pimple as a spot treatment. Another option is to swap out your moisturizer for raw aloe, giving you a potent dose of the ingredient’s naturally moisturizing and anti-inflammatory benefits. Or, try incorporating a serum like TAHNYC Vegan Hyaluronic Acid in Aloe Vera Molecular Serum into your a.m. and p.m. skincare routine as a daily hydration booster and redness reducer.
One surefire way to indulge in self-care is with rose water, a soothing ingredient on its own or paired with other skincare products. Try using it as a toner or spritzing it on as a hydrating face mist to soothe redness and inflammation.
FEEL Harmony Rose Petal Facial Mask combines roses (including actual rose petals) with vitamin E and vitamin C for extra antioxidant properties. Swap this in between your full-strength peeling masks to maintain your bright, glowing skin.
You might reach for turmeric when you’re stirring up your favorite recipes, but this powerful spice doesn’t just belong in the kitchen. Turmeric’s natural anti-inflammatory properties make it a solid pick for evening out your skin tone and keeping your glow going. But just to warn you, turmeric can and will stain the skin, so it’s good to pair it with a pigment-removing oil such as olive or coconut oil.
If you’re mixing ingredients, add just enough turmeric to the carrier oil so that you get a bold yellow color, but keep the consistency closer to an oil than a paste. Leave the mixture on as a mask for 10 to 15 minutes, then wash thoroughly with lukewarm water. If you’d prefer not to play chef and esthetician, load up on the APTO SKINCARE Healing Mask with Turmeric after an exfoliating session. This mask is balanced with azelaic acid, giving an extra boost to turmeric’s power in reducing skin redness and breakouts.
Don’t forget about the skin on top of your head, aka your scalp. If you struggle with a dry, itchy scalp, apple cider vinegar can do wonders. ACV has natural antibacterial and antifungal properties, which can kill and prevent yeast on the scalp. This yeast leads to things like dandruff. It also contains an alpha hydroxy acid called malic acid, which helps gently exfoliate dead skin cells—the key word here being “gentle.” Folks love an ACV rinse over, say, a harsher dandruff shampoo, because it’s safe for dry curly and coily hair, as well as strands that have been dyed and/or chemically treated.
Be sure to dilute the apple cider vinegar before applying it to your scalp. Try one part ACV and five parts water. It’s not a perfect science, but you’ll find what works best for you. Then, shampoo your hair with your usual favorite. Tip your head back and apply the ACV to your scalp. (Close your eyes and mouth!) Leave it on for about 30 minutes, rinse out, and condition hair. Fans of this treatment use it about once a week or every few washes for a clear scalp and ultra-clean strands.
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