Writer Staff Writer | Photography Supplied
Long before YouTube DIY and how-to videos became a thing, women across the Caribbean were using natural ingredients from their gardens and kitchens to create homemade facial masks, body scrubs, and shampoos. Back then, organic meant “related to the body,” not the overhyped claim of pure process and rampant overpricing we now see on food and beauty products.
In our research, ingredients such as coconut oil, honey, oatmeal, aloe, avocados and turmeric kept popping up. An avocado and goat’s milk face mask keeps Jamaican Lisa, looking youthful after a long shift at work. For Afro-Cuban T, it’s avocados and mayonnaise for deep conditioning the hair. And, XOJane blogger, Christine, swears by her Haitian grandmother’s lip-softening, honey and brown sugar recipe. Here’s how you can keep these traditions going with ingredients right from your kitchen.
A Cornmeal Facial
A simple and inexpensive way to naturally smooth and tighten skin is with a DIY cornmeal and egg white mask. Cornmeal acts as an exfoliant to remove oil, dirt, and debris, while the protein-rich egg white tightens skin, cleans pores, and removes whiteheads for a smooth, clear complexion.
Try It | Mix 1 tbsp. of cornmeal and 1 egg white in a small bowl to create a thick paste. Apply all over the neck and face, avoiding the eyes. Let it sit for 5 – 10 minutes, then rinse with warm water and pat dry.
Coconut oil is now a mainstream cure-all, and that’s great! But people from the Caribbean also know the nourishing, skin-loving properties of coconut milk. When this nutrient-rich ingredient is not simmering in “rice and peas” and “oil down”, it’s used to restore dry, damaged hair, soften skin, and prevent premature aging.
For soft, supple skin, try a coconut milk bath. No, you don’t need a tubful of it, just a can will do.
Try It | Fill up your bathtub with warm water and add 1 ½ cups of coconut milk. Enjoy this basic beauty recipe, or experiment with additional ingredients like soothing oatmeal and relaxing essential oils.
Turmeric Does the Trick
Turmeric’s powerful anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, antioxidant, and astringent properties have made it a veritable medical panacea in West Indian circles. As a cooking ingredient, it turns up the flavor in curries and stews, but it’s also used to brighten skin, smooth stretch marks, and fight wrinkles. Turmeric is all it’s cracked up to be.
Dry, cracked heels? Here’s a turmeric and coconut oil paste that might help.
Try It | Combine 3 tbsp of turmeric powder with a bit of coconut oil, just enough to create a thick paste. Apply to your feet and let it sit for about 30 mins. But be sure to stay put until it’s time to rinse it away.
The holy grail of healthy fats, avocados are great for the body, inside and out. They’re an excellent source of over 20 vitamins and minerals, and are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. Avocados, “nature’s butter,” moisturize the skin and hair, and are a much-loved ingredient in homemade deep conditioners.
Try It | Combine 1 cup of mayo with ½ ripe avocado, mashed. Smooth over dry areas of the hair and cover with a plastic wrap or shower cap. Let it sit for about 20 mins. Rinse with cool water.