The Best and Worst Foods to Use for Beauty

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Many of us have wild tales of household beauty regimes implemented by our moms and grandmas. My mom would often encourage me to do mayo hair masques in order to add body and shine to my hair. A friend’s mom encouraged milk and honey facials. The jury is out on whether a lot of these are more legend than fact, but there are a few that the experts agree are great (or not so great!) for at-home beauty.



Not just good for sushi rolls or as a low-cal snack, ground-up seaweed can easily be incorporated into a brightening and anti-aging mask. Seaweed is rich in proteins, amino acids, vitamins, antioxidants and minerals, says esthetician, certified aromatherapist and natural cosmetics formulator Michelle Ornstein, founder of Enessa Skincare.

Olive oil

Use olive oil as a gentle moisturizer for dry skin. “Apply it directly to your skin with a cotton ball or add a few drops to your favorite moisturizer to amp up its effectiveness,” says Lindsey Fredell, Spa Director and Lead Esthetician of George the Salon in Chicago. “Olive oil has the same healthy fats as avocado, and plumps and moisturizes the skin with a combination of vitamin E and vitamin A.”

Nettle tea

Delicious as a tisane for sipping, brewed nettle tea is great as a sebum-regulating toner or scalp treatment, says Ornstein.

Matcha green tea

Matcha is rich in chlorophyll and catechin, which are both packed with antioxidants. Matcha also detoxifying and antibacterial, says Ornstein. Since it’s in powder form, it could easily be infused into any beauty product: cleansers, toners, facial masks, bath soaks, etc.

Ground flaxseed

Fantastic for natural facial exfoliating, as it’s gentle and high in omega 3s, says Ornstein.


Due to high levels of lactic acid, yogurt can act as an exfoliator as well as dark spot corrector, says dermatologist Dr. Gary Goldfaden. Yogurt also helps fight acne due to its anti-fungal and anti-bacteria properties. Always use plain yogurt, and look for the lowest amount of sugar.


Lemons can be used to exfoliate chapped, dry lips. Rub a little lemon juice your on lips before bedtime and rinse in the morning. But if you have open cuts on your lip, do not attempt this—it could burn your lips, says Dr. Goldfaden.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil will nourish and hydrate your hair. “Coconut oil is an anti-oxidant with anti-microbial, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. It can be used as a makeup remover, moisturizer (high in Vitamin E) or an acne fighter,” says Dr. Goldfaden. “Coconut oil helps with sun protection by screening about 20 percent of UV rays; however, we still recommend a physical block SPF,” Goldfaden continues.


“Honey naturally has the ability to attract and retain moisture—and the skin’s ability to retain moisture affects its appearance, touch and elasticity,” says Candice Betz, director of Austin, Tex.’s AWAY Spa []. “Studies also indicate significant antioxidant properties. Antioxidants play a huge role the revitalization of damaged skin cells. Honey also is an effective antimicrobial agents— which inhibit growth of certain bacteria and help fight against blemishes and breakouts.”


“Pumpkin is rich in antioxidants, keeping skin nourished and healthy. Pumpkins are loaded with immune-boosting antioxidants. They’re especially beneficial to dry, tired skin, providing an amazing boost of nutrients during winter months,” says Betz.


“A wine facial is a great way to infuse an antibacterial homemade facial packed with antioxidants and lactic acid to bring back the glow back to your skin,” says esthetician Jentri Chancey of Mecca Gym & Spa. “Red wine also helps fight against free radicals and recover blood flow.” To make an at-home facial, Chancey advises mixing 1/4 cup of plain organic yogurt with three teaspoons of the wine of your choice, plus one teaspoon of honey. Apply on moist skin and leave on for 10-20 minutes before rinsing.


Lemons and limes

Although this is also on our ‘do’ list, lemon comes with a warning. “The same acid that can help exfoliate the lips can upset the skin’s pH balance, as well as cause severe susceptibility to sunburn. Be wise when using lemon as it is an acid,” says Dr. Goldfaden.

The same goes for applying lemon juice to hair, says dermatologist Dr. Rebecca Kazin. “Both [lemon and lime juice] serve as an accelerator to sun exposure, which is how the lemon or lime works to lighten your hair. You need to be diligent about washing it off of your face and shoulders.” And when enjoying drinks by the pool, be careful not to spill lime juice on your skin. “Lime juice becomes toxic when exposed to sun and can react negatively with skin, potentially causing berloque dermatitis (dark blisters on skin),” Kazin continues.


With the craze of DIY treatments, sugar is a popular ingredient. But stop putting sugar on your face. “Many recipes call for sugar as the main ingredient for a physical scrub. Sugar crystals are jagged and can tear, irritate, cause redness and even prematurely age the skin,” says Dr. Goldfaden.

Coffee grounds

Though rich in caffeine and antioxidants, coffee grounds are too coarse to use as a facial exfoliant. They could cause micro-tears and inflammation, says Ornstein.

Aly Walansky is a lifestyles writer based in New York City. Her greatest loves include her shih tsu, soap operas, and extra dirty martinis. Follow her on Twitter:@AlyWalansky.

Photo by Kurtis Garbutt BY