Beauty secrets? Check the fridge — Make skin cream and a snack, too

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Sometimes it’s OK to have egg on your face – or banana or yogurt or apricot or avocado. Just call it a food facial.

Facials at salons can be expensive, great for a birthday present for a friend, maybe, or a splurge for yourself. Instead, consider shopping for your salad and your beauty at the same time; think of it as an investment in good nutrition for both inside and outside your body.

Drugstore and department store shelves are lined with products like oatmeal face scrub, apricot facial mask, orange and grapefruit-infused cleansers, cucumber-like slices for your eyes, relaxing milk and mustard baths. Things we normally eat are in products sold to rub into our skin. But why?

Tammi Baxter, a licensed esthetician and spa director at Le Pli in Harvard Square, says avocados are rich in fat and oil, and therefore are good for dry skin. They also contain vitamins A and E, often used in lotions and skin products. Oatmeal softens skin and apricots are rich in Vitamin A. Acids, present in strawberries, lemons, and grapes, help cleanse the skin and soften it.

Dairy products contain lactic acids that also help soften skin and eliminate dead cells, called exfoliating. Apple slices, tea bags, and chilled cucumbers soothe tired and swollen eyes. The coldness of the cukes and the tannins in the tea bags and apples slices help reduce swelling. Cucumbers are also a good astringent that helps close pores.

Then there is the chocolate body treatment fad. Chocolate is one of the identifiable villains in the Battle of the Bulge, but Baxter says anti-oxidants in chocolate and caffeine in coffee help the anti-aging battle when applied to your skin. Le Pli doesn’t offer a chocolate bath yet, but Baxter offers a yogurt and yeast body treatment.

”It’s cool and soothing, and the lactic acid in the yogurt makes your skin very soft,” she says. As good as home remedies sound, however, Baxter makes the case for a professional facial when you can afford it.

”It’s like going to the dentist for teeth cleaning,” she says. ”They do a more thorough job.” Between visits, keeping your skin clean and moisturized should be a priority. She suggests weekly masks and daily cleansing, toning, and moisturizing, adding that sunscreen is a must even on cloudy days when damaging ultraviolet rays still get through.

Adrienne McCann of Portland, Maine, a licensed cosmetologist, says a sweet way to get rid of dead skin on chapped lips is to rub sugar over them, which acts as an exfoliant. Kristen Lopez, a licensed cosmetologist at Image Creators Salon in Lexington, suggests making a paste of yogurt and sugar and using it on your face once a week for the same purpose.

It’s not only your face that can benefit from raiding the kitchen. Many of us with ”dirty blonde” hair remember going to the beach with lemons and squeezing on the juice for blonde highlights. Brunettes say they were doing rinses with rosemary. McCann has another tip for giving your hair some bright highlights: ”While you are working on your tan, put cranberry juice in a spray bottle and wet your hair.”

Rubbing food all over your face feels weird at first. The mash is mushy and tends to drip. When the drips drop, flick your tongue and lick. Seriously – why waste it?

I smoothed several concoctions over my face – one made with avocado, one with banana, and one with apricot – taking care to swirl and cover every surface, just like icing a cake. The nose was a bit tough, so I ”painted” it with a pastry brush. With cucumber slices on my eyes, I lay back for the 20 minutes of forced relaxation. Soon I could hear the birds and smell the light fragrance of apricots. It’s aromatherapy, too. Fortunately, the doorbell did not ring. When the time was up (too soon), I stood over the sink and wiped away the mask with a damp washcloth. My skin felt wonderful and smooth, and a friend said my skin was glowing. Mind over matter?

Having some leftover mashed avocado in the fridge, I added chopped tomatoes and made guacamole. I folded whipped cream and some gelatin into the apricot and skim milk powder mix, and had mousse for dessert. Alas, there were no infants around to slurp the bananas and oatmeal cereal, but if there had been they surely would have loved it.

It’s a mixture of folklore and science for sure, but what a delicious way to pamper yourself. (One thing to remember, of course: If you have sensitive skin or food allergies, check with a dermatologist first. )

Here are a few more tips from Baxter:

Whip egg whites into soft peaks and paint your face. Let it sit and dry for about 15 minutes for an instant, if short-lived, face lift.

Sea salt, sugar, and grape seed oil make a good exfoliant for your body.

Recipes

Avocado mask

1/2 avocado, peeled, pit removed
1. Mash the avocado until smooth. Apply to entire face. Let set for 20 minutes.
2. Gently wipe off with damp wash cloth.

Apricot face mask

1/2 cup chopped dried apricots, soaked in water until softened
1 to 2tablespoons skim
milk powder
1. Puree softened apricots and powdered milk in food processor until well blended.
2. Apply to face and let sit for 15 minutes. Gently wipe off with damp wash cloth.
Adapted from Rachel Paxton at www.gottabemegirl.com/facial

Banana oatmeal mask

1/2 banana
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 to 2 tablespoons oatmeal
1. Mash half a banana with honey and sour cream.
2. Add oatmeal one tablespoon at a time until you have a soft paste.
3. Apply to face and let set for 10 minutes. Gently wipe off with damp wash cloth.

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