Since the dawn of time, womankind has relied on ancient herbal wisdom for skincare and cosmetics. It is only in the last few decades that western women have been able to go to beauty counters – rather than the herb garden – and bought cosmetics. But there are still good reasons why we should consider concocting our own cosmetics – at least occasionally.

  • It’s great fun (and can be shared with children).
  • It’s a way of using up what’s in the fridge before you head for the supermarket.
  • It’s the only way to be absolutely certain about what you’re putting on your face or body.
  • The easiest and quickest face-treats to make yourself are masks.
  • Oily skins respond to whipped white of egg (dries, tightens), yoghurt (cleanses, nourishes), mashed strawberry (counteracts oiliness) and clay (absorbs oil).
  • Yoghurt is used as a natural face mask in many eastern countries. It contains a form of lactic acid, which is a natural exfoliant, similar to the AHAs used in some commercial products.
  • If your skin is blemished, experiment with a plum mask: boil six plums (enough for one application), strain and leave to cool. Mash with a teaspoonful of sweet almond oil.
  • Dry and sensitive skins love egg yolk, crushed grapes, honey or glycerine (attract moisture), sunflower or sesame oil (soothe). In South Africa, mashed avocado pulp is rubbed onto the face to counteract the drying effect of the sun. Any good home-made mayonnaise, straight from the jar, also works.
  • On combination skins, slather an oily skin mask on your T-zone, and a dry skin mask elsewhere. Mix and match ingredients to find out what is best for you.
  • A winter salad face mask perks up skin: take fresh vegetables in any combination (e.g. cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, celery, lettuce, spinach, beansprouts). Whizz in a food blender or mash with a pestle and mortar, and add a few drops of jojoba oil if your skin is very dry. Apply to a cleansed face, then lay two tissues over the top (to absorb excess liquid). Leave for 15-20 minutes, then rinse.


  • Actress Barbara Carrera’s stay-young secret? Forget expensive lotions and potions: ‘I think you can find whatever you need in your own kitchen. Instead of throwing away watermelon rinds, banana peels, papaya skins, lie down and put them on your face for half an hour. It’s incredibly reviving and feels yummy.’
  • Liz Earle whisks up her own face mask with one beaten egg white sprinkled with a teaspoon of vitamin C powder.