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8 Kitchen Staples as Good for You On The Outside as In

September 23, 2016

Your pantry can do double duty: We partnered with Wedderspoon Honey to share how you can use ingredients from the kitchen for more than cooking.

My grandmother used to say that you should eat half an avocado and put the other half on your face. I am usually, admittedly, more interested in eating both halves of the avocado than using it as a face mask—but I have to say, I tried it once with an avocado that was headed south fast, and despite the guacamole-on-my-face sensation, a little avocado smear does make your skin very, very smooth.

This makes sense, of course: We love avocados for their "nature's butter" quality; they're rich and smooth, and that makes them perfect for spreading onto toast (of course) or whirring into fudgy vegan desserts. The same fats that give avocado its creaminess make them—and other kinds of oils—moisturizing. So: Onto the face it goes.

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Whether or not she knew it, my grandmother was riffing, with her avocado face treatment, on the Hippocratic "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." And avocado's not the only kitchen staple that's good for you on the outside as well as in. Here are a few other multitasking ingredients (that, yes, crunchy queen that I am, I really do use—and maybe you already do, too):

Honey makes the mask. Photo by Bobbi Lin


Honey is a humectant, which means that it retains water (the opposite of a desiccant!). With this knowledge, go forth and add it to face scrubs or homemade moisturizers (or add a little to your regular moisturizer). Our Digital Marketing Manger, Megan Lang, uses manuka honey (which is harvested from a variety of the plant that produces tea tree oil—also heralded for skincare usage!) in her face masks. I have even happily used honey as face wash—and because it's just honey, which is naturally antibacterial, it's friendly to very sensitive skin like mine, which can deal with little more than water.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is like Windex in My Big Fat Greek Wedding—it's touted as the solution to anything and everything. I don't know about that, but it is a real renaissance ingredient. To start, coconut oil is a great moisturizer (even for those with sensitive skin like, ahem, mine). As a bonus, it's antibacterial and anti-fungal—more good news for all skin types, not just sensitive ones. Use it to oil cleanse your face, in teeny-tiny amounts as a face moisturizer, on dry feet and elbows. It also makes a great scrub: mix equal parts coconut oil and sugar (any kind) and keep it in a little jar in your shower. Alternately, treat your hair with it, rubbing it into dry ends or roots.

Olive oil

Olive oil can be used for anything coconut oil is used for. I especially love it as a hand salve (and have a jar of it by the sink for soothing dishpan hands).


Do you remember when you got chicken pox as a wee babe and were plunked down into a warm oatmeal bath? You can do that as an adult. Alternatively, you can scrub it on your face. (Guys! Pretty much anything can be a face scrub. Just be gentle, okay?)

Baking soda

Baking soda makes for a heck of a teeth cleaner. Either dip a wet toothbrush in it and brush away, or make a paste with a little coconut oil. Or make your own deodorant by combining equal parts baking soda and cornstarch with enough coconut oil until it's just short of a smooth paste. I have used this DIY deodorant for a few years now, and I still have all my friends. I swear.

Coffee grounds

Waste nothing and turn used, dried, coarse-ish coffee grounds (or freshly ground ones, if you prefer) into a scrub. Many say good things about the effects of caffeine on skin; whether or not that's true, grounds essentially do the same work as those beads that come in squeeze bottles of face scrub (except you know what they are, and they're compostable).

Apple cider vinegar

Three years ago, I stopped using shampoo and conditioner on my (very short, thick) hair and started washing it with apple cider vinegar once a week. This may not be for everyone; I can't speak to how it will work on your hair, but it's made my hair strong and shiny (and also lets my scalp self-regulate, oil-wise). I will also say that it makes me feel sort of like I live in an apple orchard. And no, you don't smell like vinegar once your hair dries.

What skincare products have you DIY'd from things in your kitchen? Share any tips you have in the comments.

Honey's a pantry staple, so we partnered with Wedderspoon, known for its high-quality manuka honey (it's raw and non-GMO), to share a few ways to use it beyond tea and baking.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • sarah
  • beejay45
Writing and cooking in Brooklyn.


sarah September 24, 2016
I used coffe grounds with olive oil as a face and body scrub, but for me it was too fatty. (I tend to have oily skin) Since I'm substituted olive oil with shower lotion for sensitive skin, I'm very happy. The smell is great!
sarah September 24, 2016
oh, and also olive oil as hair oil works good for me. It goes well with my long and fine, coloured hair. Since it looks 'greasy', I use it over night and wash normally on the next morning.
beejay45 September 23, 2016
I'm allergic to bee stings, so I've always wondered if honey would kill my skin. I may have to give it a try since, as you say, it's easy enough to wash off. Also, they give honey facials by spreading slightly warmed honey (so it spreads more easily), gently, in an upward motion, all over the face, then gently tapping all over (called tapotement, if I'm remembering the spelling correctly). When you tap, gently, with your fingertips, they stick to the honey a bit and each tap pulls the skin up just a tiny bit. c The overall effect of all those taps is much improved circulation to the skin. It's sort of like a body massage but much gentler. 'And it rinses off easily. ;)

On coconut oil, I've read several times/places that putting a tablespoon or so into your mouth and keeping it there (JUST keeping it there) for 10 minutes will kill plaque or plaque forming germs? Something like that. But you're not supposed to swish or gargle and definitely must just spit it out when the time is up -- do no swallow. But I can't see myself being able to just leave a mouthful of oil there for that long. I'd probably sneeze or something, swallowing half and spitting the other half all over everything. Sounds like something for the serene and allergy-free individual only.