Grade A beauty products are already right in your kitchen

Evermore imaginative anti-aging products and treatments keep proliferating — in fact, the global beauty market is expected to hit a lofty $265 billion this year alone, according to Lucintel, a Texas-based market research firm. But consumers opting for a clean and natural look need search no farther than their kitchens for effective potions. Even, Gwyneth Paltrow’s high-living lifestyle website, runs DIY beauty recipes.

Why make your own? Many commercial lotions and creams expose users to harsh chemical ingredients, according to the watchdog Environmental Working Group. And it can be hard to justify dropping hundreds of dollars on a wrinkle-defying serum or a collagen-building cream that shamelessly exaggerates what it can accomplish “when used on a regular basis.” (Many of these “miracle workers” run more than $1,000, so use on a regular basis can easily cost more than a Chanel bag.)

But hidden away in your pantry and fridge is a stockpile of beauty ingredients that hydrate skin, lend a healthy glow and reduce the signs of aging — often as effectively as their pricey counterparts. “Americans, in general, have a misconception that skin care and beauty require fancy products with lots of ingredients to work better,” says organic spa owner Charmaine Leah, who writes the blog. “The reality is that an inexpensive bottle of sweet almond oil from the market will likely work just as well as an expensive bottle of the latest big-brand moisturizer.”

While there’s no official definition of “clean” (as opposed to “organic,” which the U.S. Department of Agriculture codifies using a precise set of certification guidelines), so-called clean products are typically derived from plants and other natural ingredients, and are devoid of the most demonized cosmetic chemicals (e.g., parabens and petroleum jelly).

Cold-pressed organic vegetable oils contain many phytochemicals, antioxidants and nutrients that help moisturize, protect and strengthen your skin. “Basically, if an oil can be ingested, it’s good for the skin,” says Los Angeles acupuncturist Carmella Pingatore, who makes her own oil blends. The exceptions, she says, are canola, corn and modified vegetable, which are likely derived from genetically modified crops that have been sprayed with heavy doses of harmful pesticides. Here are some of the ways other versatile oils can be used in your beauty regimen.

Best for dry skin: Olive and sunflower oils
There’s a reason Mediterranean women have used olive oil as a moisturizer for centuries. In addition to providing intense lubrication, the rich antioxidants that make it so good for your insides benefit your outsides too. Sunflower oil is just as good as olive oil but a little less expensive. In addition to being a rich moisturizer, it makes for a good massage oil because it’s thinner, more slippery and absorbable than other oils.

Best for eyes and neck: Grapeseed oil

A byproduct of winemaking, grapeseed oil comes from the seeds of pressed grapes. “It’s especially good for thin skin and fine lines around your eyes and neck,” says Pingatore. “It’s also high in vitamin C, which brightens your skin.”

Best hydrating treatment:
Virgin coconut oil (VCO)

At cooler temps, coconut oil solidifies, but if you warm it by rubbing a bit between your hands, it will turn into a smooth body moisturizer that Paltrow, Courtney Cox and other beauties swear by. The Mayo Clinic even reports that ingesting VCO can help reduce waist size. It can also be a blessing for hair — not only is it a great styling and conditioning aid, the oil can correct a shade gone brassy. Trader Joe’s carries convenient travel packages. But a word of caution: avoid using it on your face if you’re prone to acne.

Best for puffy eyes and sunburn: Cucumber

Cucumbers’ antioxidants reduce irritation, and applying cold slices reduces puffiness. Place thick slices in a plastic bag and chill (or freeze if you’re in a hurry). Place over eyes for five to 10 minutes. Applying them to sunburned skin also reduces burning and itching.

Best filler bruise
prevention: Pineapple

The tropical fruit contains bromelain, which helps decrease bruising and swelling both by eating it and applying it to affected skin. You can use pineapple that’s sold in slices, but it must be fresh, not frozen or canned. Eat half the pineapple before your treatment, the other half after. “Ingesting pineapple is part of the protocol when we’re doing cosmetic surgery,” says Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Robert Kotler, who does not also apply the fruit topically. You can buy bromelain in pill form, but fresh pineapple is more effective, beauty experts say.

Best blemish-battling mask: Yogurt

The zinc in yogurt diminishes skin redness and inflammation while reducing the amount of sebum (oil produced by the sebaceous glands). Keep pores clear by using yogurt made from skim organic milk — the lactic acid in yogurt gently exfoliates skin yet soothes for noticeable results. Apply to damp face for 10 to 15 minutes, then remove with warm water.

Best for fighting skin dullness: Sugar

It’s actually one of the best exfoliants for sensitive skin. A sugar-based scrub will dissolve as it exfoliates, so it’s impossible to overdo it. Use weekly to gently slough off dead skin cells that can rob you of your glow.

Best for busy mornings: Apricot kernel oil

Apricot kernel oil is super-light and absorbs quickly, making it a great moisturizer for busy days. It’s also full of vitamins A, C and E — antioxidants that protect the skin from signs of aging and sun damage.

Best for shiny hair and a quick facial: Egg whites

Boost your hair’s shine by adding a beaten egg white when washing with your regular shampoo. For a fast facial, beat the whites until stiff and apply to face and neck until it dries, then rinse.

Best for keeping hands smooth and clear: Milk

For reddened hands, wash them in warm milk each night — the lactic acid helps lighten skin. Here’s another good skin bleach: one ounce each of lemon juice, honey and perfume, combined. Finally, keep elbows smooth by rubbing them with lemon rind.

A final plus to using healthy cooking ingredients on your skin: If you don’t like the way one feels, you can still use it in cooking — money doesn’t goes to waste, and bathroom cabinets don’t get cluttered with half-empty bottles. Keep the oils in a cool, dry, dark place. When applying any of them, aesthetician Pingatore notes, less can be more. “If it hasn’t absorbed within a couple of minutes,” she says, “you’re using too much.”


Yummy-smelling essential oils, such as lavender, citrus, jasmine, rose, tea tree oil, frankincense and evening primrose, come from specialized cells within the plant. Readily available in health food stores, they are marvelous for targeting particular skin issues but are too potent to apply directly to one’s skin. The basic formula is add one drop of essential oil to three drops of a carrier oil (e.g. coconut, olive, sunflower or jojoba).

And then there’s that stress-relieving, muscle-relaxing, mind-relieving tub soak we all crave. Most of us run a bath, add a few drops of essential oils, then step right in. “Wrong,” says Suzanne Teachey, herbalist and owner of Nectar Apothecary in Prescott, Arizona. She offers a few tips to enhance the experience: “When it comes to putting essential oils in the bath, remember — essential oils are not water-soluble.” Combining essential oils with a carrier oil prevents the essentials from just sitting on top of the water. To get the most from a single bath, she recommends adding three to 12 drops of essential oil to one tablespoon of carrier oil.

For full aromatic effect, fill the tub and turn off the water before adding essential oils. “Otherwise the hot running water will cause the essential oils to escape the bath and scent the bathroom instead,” says Teachy.

Now that you know the essentials, it’s time to test the waters. Here, Teachey shares her go-to combos for turning tub time into transformation. All recipes should include one tablespoon of carrier oil:

Mood boost bath: This revitalizing combo can also boost concentration and memory.

5 drops lemon

3 drops rosemary

2 drops thyme linalool

Muscle-soothing bath: Target tired, overworked muscles with this trio shown to dial up circulation and dial down pain.

5 drops marjoram

4 drops lemongrass

3 drops lavender

Relaxation bath: This calming combo has been linked to less stress and better sleep.

5 drops lavender

4 drops chamomile

3 drops frankincense 


The Arcadia-based hair products company, known for its rich keratin conditioners, offers a kaleidoscope of bold hair colors along with classic California blonds.

Sarah Jones knows hair. Throughout her life, she has worked it from every angle: as a stylist, then a traveling salesperson for Redken and now CEO of Joico, an Arcadia-based midlevel beauty line known for restoring damaged hair. Under her 14-year reign, the company has expanded into producing a full line of products that reaches 89 countries.

Jones was hired in 2005 to turn the company around, three years after it was bought by Shiseido, a high-end Japanese beauty multinational. Mission accomplished: instead of bleeding money, Joico is today worth $160 million, according to the company.

Friendly and direct, Jones says she has always wanted to work in hair. Her ultimate dream was to own a salon one day. She passed on college in favor of cosmetology school, and she’s been working in the field ever since.

What sets Joico apart from the multitudes of hair products on the market? The company was a pioneer in infusing its products with keratin, the protein naturally found in healthy hair. “The original owner, Steve Stephano, was a hairdresser who could never get the conditioning results he wanted,” Jones says. “He was a chemistry buff and he had chemist friends. They decided it made sense to replenish compromised hair with the purest essence of healthy hair. They created this original keratin protein [formula] that went into the products [in the K-Pak collection]. It’s hairdressers’ go-to for severely damaged hair.”

That’s more important now than ever. Jones says the days of severe cuts are over. Today, her own tresses are a glossy, shoulder-length tawny blond. And she’s on a mission to help you achieve a healthy, natural look as well. “I used to think everyone needed help,” says the Claremont resident. “Now nothing makes me happier than to simply see beautiful, bouncy, shiny healthy hair. I really appreciate that because I know what it takes.”

Joico also surfs the wave of rainbow hair colors for people who like to stand out in a crowd. The company launched a vivid color palette in 2009. “We introduced blue, green and purple for a stylist who wanted it for his fantasy work. We never dreamed it would take off, especially on the East Coast,” says Jones, adding that Joico now offers hundreds of hues, including 30 metallic shades alone. Last month, the company introduced several new InstaTint Temporary Color Shimmer Spray shades for adventurous fashionistas (Hot Pink, Ruby Red, Light Purple, Periwinkle and Titanium). Also new are several Color Intensity “Metallic Muse” collection hues “that mimic the muted luster of liquid metal” (Moonstone, Violet, Bronze, Mauve Quartz and Pewter) and Color Intensity Confetti shades (Mint, Sky, Lila, Rose and Peach). If it’s in the rainbow, Joico has it covered. Customers can upload a photo and “try on” bold shades with the company’s new JoiColor System App.

Of course, the general West Coast trend has long been “blondie,” she observes.  Hair lightening has always come with a certain degree of risk because it takes harsh chemicals to remove natural pigment. That hasn’t stopped legions of women from seeking sunnier pastures. Many women opt for home coloring because a $12 box is much cheaper than a $90 pro treatment, although Jones notes that sometimes you get what you pay for. “It’s a tricky biz,” she says. “It doesn’t always cover the gray, or it’s too harsh. Or you want to lighten slightly but it lifts too much and then you have that brassy color.”

The other nemesis of healthy hair is hot tools. “Ten years ago, the tools you’d buy at the store didn’t have the heat of salon products. Today the tools are just as progressive as those in a salon. The girls are stripping their hair of moisture and protein, making it frizzy, lifeless and dry.” Somewhat paradoxically, “what’s bad for hair is good for business,” she says. “We sell a lot of blow-dryers, curling irons, flat irons.”

Fortunately, hair care tends to be recession-proof, since it’s relatively affordable — a cut and color seem to slice through whatever is going on with the economy.  “It’s a great business in terms of sustainability and income,” Jones says. In rough times, a person may choose not to buy a new car or eat out as much, but he or she will usually continue to get haircuts and highlights. And when times are good, salons are booming.

That’s true in part because hairdressers typically have the “expertise to analyze and prescribe,” she observes. “Think about it: you’re with your stylist for every big event in your life. As we get older, hair thins. A high percentage of women have balding problems. It’s devastating. So the stylist and client develop a relationship that deals with touchy personal issues as well as hair.”

Jones is as proud of Joico’s sustainability platform as she is of its products. The company invested in wind turbines as an alternative source of electricity to help power its plant in Geneva, New York. In 2011, it launched new packaging using a bioplastic resin hybrid, one of the first beauty companies to use this innovative material.

Jones is also an active philanthropist. She won the City of Hope’s Spirit of Life Award in 2011, partly in honor of her efforts to recruit beauty industry insiders to help raise funds for the top cancer hospital: in 2010, Joico created Beauty for A Cure, offering free online support for salons raising funds in their communities. “It started with Joico,” Jones said in a statement, “but the City of Hope Salon Industry. Leadership Council is very excited about exploring ways to take the program industrywide, as well as finding more ways to engage salons.” Beauty for a Cure has also helped salon pros raise funds for breast cancer and Hurricane Sandy charities.

Jones is in the office before 7 a.m. to make those East Coast calls to the corporate office in Connecticut. She heads home at 3:30 p.m. because, although it’s only a 17-mile drive, the traffic can be murder. She learned early on, during those traveling salesperson days, how to avoid burnout by balancing work and life. “My work is a passion, not a burden,” says Jones, whose 24-year-old daughter, Chelsea, works as a wedding planner in Oahu. Jones always takes her vacation time; not surprisingly, it involves plenty of visits to Hawaii. She and her retired husband of 26 years, Wayne, are avid golfers.

But Jones considers her work at Joico among her most gratifying pursuits. She frequently refers to a 2014 study that revealed the prime ingredient in a woman’s self-confidence — good hair. “You can have Manolo shoes, a Chanel jacket,” she says, “but if the hair isn’t good, you’re having a bad day. You’re not going to feel good if the hair isn’t right.