Growing up in Guyana, my grandmother would slather my skin and hair with coconut oil for an at-home beauty ritual. This light oil seemed to be the solution for everything in our household: cooking, hair care, dry skin. As a kid, I knew only that I loved the sweet, nutty smell of the oil. How funny that coconut oil would turn out to be one of the most talked-about beauty tools in my adult life!
Rich in fatty acids, vitamin E and containing antifungal, antimicrobial and anti-bacterial properties, coconut oil is still one of my go-to's for beautiful skin.
Though I might not have appreciated it back then, my grandmother's old-school, natural approach to beauty and skin care was far ahead of its time. Here are five other DIY beauty tips I learned from my grandmother in South America.
1. Use castor oil for luscious skin and hair.
Similar to coconut oil, castor oil is used daily in South America. An incredibly thick and potent oil, we use it for healing burns, eczema and scarring. A favorite beauty use for castor oil is on eyelashes and brows. Daily use of mascara and eye makeup remover can result in dry brittle lashes, and castor oil is a simple remedy with luxurious results!
Use a clean mascara wand to gently brush a little castor oil along eyelashes and eyebrows. In as little as 4-6 weeks, the hair is lush, thick, shiny and healthy.
2. Use turmeric for a soothing (or brightening) face mask.
Known primarily as one of the spices that lend curry it’s color and flavor, this bright yellow powder is making it’s way stateside, going from pantry staple to beauty staple. Turmeric is related to the ginger family, so this spice is warming and a powerful anti-inflammatory.
For oily skin, create a paste of turmeric and water, apply and allow to dry. It'll help reduce secretions from sebaceous glands and regulate the production of sebum. For a brightening mask, use milk instead of water. When washed off, the slightly grainy texture will give you a nice, light exfoliation as well.
3. Use aloe vera as a lightweight moisturizer.
Considering our year-round warm temperatures, aloe plants are always kept in the house for after-sun care. Containing 99% water and as many as 20 minerals (including copper, iron, potassium, zinc and magnesium), the aloe plant is one of the best herbal remedies to keep on hand.
Cut a leaf open and scoop out the gel to apply directly to the face as a natural, lightweight moisturizer. Though the slimy consistency may take some getting used to, it's nature's own anti-aging serum.
4. Drink ginger for younger-looking skin.
Consuming ginger produces what we call “a fire in the belly.” This incredibly warming spice is powerful in that it gets to the real root of beauty: digestion. It's known to improve blood flow as it stimulates circulation and encourages perspiration, helping to rid the body of toxins. Full of antioxidants, drinking ginger tea daily helps to reverse visible signs of aging like fine lines, dull skin and loss of elasticity caused by our exposure to free radicals.
5. Rejuvenate your cells with papaya.
Besides being a delicious fruit, papaya is skin's best friend when it comes to rejuvenation. Papaya contains papain, a powerful fruit enzyme that loosens damaged skin cells without harming healthy ones. This makes it ideal for regular, gentle anti-aging skin care, and has actually become a star ingredient in many natural skin care products. A simple mask of fresh papaya applied to the skin for five minutes, twice a week will work to considerably brighten and soften skin.