Reader Q&A: DIY home skincare

Dear Below Freezing Beauty,
My skin is *so* bad. I’ve been terrible about taking off my makeup before sleep lately. My diet has been not at all nutritious and stress abounds. I used my tried and true Yes to Tomatoes mud mask last night with none of the usual results. The market for beauty products is limited where I live. Is there something I can whip up the kitchen to repair this mess?
Sincerely, Desperately Researching A Breakthrough

Hey, DRAB, you just described my skincare routine for large chunks of last year. Despite the fact that one of my 2011 beauty resolutions was to get my skin under control, I was also stressed out and planning a wedding and… well, this isn’t about me. (I also didn’t yet master false lashes. That’s a 2012 task.)

YES, there are ingredients in your kitchen right now that can help out your skin. The hard thing is figuring out which ones work for you. The Internet is packed with recipes and video tutorials for DIY facials and masks. Some of them seem like pure nonsense. And even the ones that are based on actual science will also be more or less effective depending on your skin type. But here are a few I’ve tried and can recommend.


Here’s something you maybe didn’t know (I know I didn’t): Salicylic acid, which is used in many acne treatments, is the chemical basis for aspirin. I’m not a scientist, so this is by no means a precise description, but basically, aspirin is synthesized from salicylic acid. Anyway, regardless of what the science is exactly,  lots of people swear by aspirin masks for acne-prone skin. You can mix it with tea tree oil, honey or aloe, depending on your specific needs, or you can just use water, which is what I tried. There’s a great long thread about aspirin treatments on Makeupalley. (You may have to register to read it. Go for it. It’s free, it’s a great resource, and they never bug you with spam.) Some people also use Excedrin because it contains caffeine (good for under the eyes) in addition to aspirin.

I picked up a bottle of uncoated generic aspirin at my local drugstore for a couple of bucks, and then finely ground a small handful of pills with the chopper attachment of my hand blender. You could also just whack them with a rolling pin or mortar and pestle, I suppose, but I’m lazy and happened to have the perfect appliance on hand, so I used it. (I also didn’t want a lot of big chunks left over.) I mixed the powder with a little bit of water to make a paste, rubbed it all over my face, and let it sit for about 20 minutes. Then I rinsed it off with some warm water, rubbing gently as I went to exfoliate.

I wouldn’t say I saw immediate results with my aspirin mask, but my face felt clean, and it didn’t irritate my skin. Since it’s cheap and easy, I’ll definitely try it again, although I think I’ll wait a few days, since I could see it being overly drying if used too often.

Baking soda

I’ve seen some videos on YouTube about using baking soda for skincare, but I’ve always held off because baking soda has just seemed too harsh to put on my face. It’s cheap and readily available, though, so I figured I’d give it a go as a spot treatment. I mixed a few drops of water into about a half teaspoon of baking soda, dabbed it on a couple of zits and let it sit for about 30 minutes.

This? Actually worked really nicely for me. They didn’t disappear or anything, but I could tell it definitely sucked some moisture out of them, and the next day the spots were smaller and less red. I still don’t think I’ll be rubbing baking soda all over my face, but I could see using it to stand in for my usual overnight spot treatment, Mario Badescu Drying Lotion. There’s a great Makeupalley thread on baking soda as well.

Apple cider vinegar mask and toner

I’ve shared this video before, but this mask did really work nicely for me. Plus the girl in the video has such a cute Belfast accent. This tutorial also uses green tea, sugar and honey.

One comment

  1. I should have added that if the Yes to Tomatoes products usually work for you, you might try going straight to the source and just using a fresh tomato on your face, sprinkled with some superfine sugar if you want a bit of a scrub, or tomato pulp mixed in with your aspirin mask. I took a look at the product line ingredients and in addition to tomato extract, they're using other fruits — pumpkin, watermelon, avocado, red pepper — in addition to aloe and sometimes olive oil. Just keep in mind that the fruit acids could be a bit harsher on your skin when applied directly without the buffer of kaolin clay, glycerin, etc. Be sure to use sunscreen afterward.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.