Photographs by Ryan Benyi
The kitchen offers a place to nourish the body and soothe the soul. A handful of fresh berries can give an instant energy boost, a cup of steaming chamomile tea can melt away the day's stress. It's only natural, then, that the wholesome foods in our kitchen might have a similar rejuvenating effect on our skin, hair, and nails. Packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, fruits, vegetables, and pantry staples like honey, rolled oats, and powdered milk can quench parched skin and infuse dull hair with radiance. The most beautiful part, though, is that creating your own natural hair and body treatments is as simple as whipping up a favorite recipe handed down from a grandmother. "In the past, when women wanted to look their best, they used whatever they had in the kitchen to make their own beauty products," says Linda West Eckhardt, who teaches a homemade beauty class at A Cook's Table, a cookware store and cooking school in Baltimore. Eckhardt's grandmother softened her skin with a mask of carrots and fresh cream, and Eckhardt teaches her students that same recipe today—proof that the best pick-me-ups still come straight from the heart of your home.
Pure, wholesome ingredients look right at home in vintage glassware—perfect for presenting treatments as gifts. Here: Canning jars and a pretty bottle hold masks and lotions; a sugar shaker provides sweet packaging for bath powder.
Homemade beauty products are the treatments of choice for people with sensitive skin, because they're free of the artificial dyes, fragrances, and preservatives that can sometimes cause irritation. And since you control exactly what goes into your treatments, you can be sure that only fresh organic ingredients and pure distilled water touch your hair and skin. Those with food allergies need to be extra cautious, though. Never include an ingredient that might trigger an allergic reaction. Choose a different recipe or substitute an ingredient you're not sensitive to. (If you're allergic to peanuts, for example, use olive oil in place of peanut oil.) And when you're giving homemade beauty treatments as presents, always list each ingredient you've used on the jar's label.
Preparation is key to a Zen-ful treatment-making session, so lay out ingredients and tools beforehand. Sterilize jars before use, and always store treatments that contain perishable ingredients in the refrigerator. Most treatments should be used within one to two days.