While there are plenty of wonderful products to help keep our skin clean, clear and radiant, there’s something to be said for the power of Mother Nature. From improving your skin’s texture to preventing acne and beyond, there are plenty of reasons to incorporate process-free, au naturel elements into your skincare regimen. If you're already using, say, a clay mask or oatmeal bath to boost your skin’s health and clarity, here are a few other options—including some you might not expect.
This healthy nut is a veritable powerhouse when it comes to optimum nutrition and beauty. Almonds are one of the best sources of vitamin E, which helps nourish skin, and their antioxidant activity may even help protect skin from the sun’s UV rays. When applied topically during a massage or added to a body scrub or moisturizer, almond oil—which is made from dried almond kernels and called sweet almond oil—is incredibly emollient, meaning it softens and soothes skin. What’s more, the oil's combination of linoleic and oleic acids makes it less greasy than other oils and readily absorbed by skin, so it's easier to get the benefits of the nut's nutrients. In addition to giving you a younger-looking, radiant complexion, sweet almond oil can also help reduce scar tissue from acne, stretch marks and dark spots. Though it is safe to use on your face, if you have naturally oily skin, you may choose to use almond oil on your body only.
Beauty Bonus: Using almond oil during a scalp massage will remove dead skin cells at the base of your hair shafts, which promotes growth.
The next time you get a massage (or request one from your partner at home), opt for amber oil, which has been shown to prompt the growth of new skin cells. The result of that cellular turnover? Smoother, softer, more even skin. Amber oil also helps deep clean pores and gives your complexion a dewy glow. You can use it on your entire body, or mix two to three drops in a bowl of hot water for a facial steam.
Beauty Bonus: Massage a few drops into your scalp to rejuvenate hair follicles, which can help your hair grow longer and thicker.
This aromatic Indian spice does much more than add flavor to food: When cardamom seeds are crushed and distilled they produce an essential oil with therapeutic effects. Cardamom oil is a powerful anti-inflammatory, which helps calm and soothe irritated skin, open pores and prevent breakouts; try mixing two or three drops with water to use it as a cleanser. On the other hand, this spice is also known as a stimulant, and when the oil is applied to the skin during a massage or used in a perfume it can jumpstart the senses and even create a warming sensation.
Beauty Bonus: When applied to your scalp, cardamom oil can treat dandruff and other infections, as well as add shine to your hair and help strengthen its roots.
Your morning cup of Joe does more than give you a much-needed energy boost: When combined with almond oil, for example, and applied as a paste during a massage or body wrap treatment, ground coffee beans can temporarily tone and tighten skin, reducing the appearance of cellulite. This effect is thanks to caffeine, which dilates blood vessels, increases circulation and reduces water retention, helping to smooth uneven skin surface. Plus, the antioxidants in coffee help to release toxins from the skin, which is not only helpful for cellulite but also gives you a healthy glow from head to toe.
Beauty Bonus: Ground coffee can also help remove product build-up from your hair, as well as add shine. If you have dark hair, try rubbing some leftover grounds into wet strands and then rinsing. (Skip if you have light, highlighted or bleached locks, as coffee could darken them.)
You may think it’s a waste to apply this sweet treat topically, but dark chocolate makes an amazing facial treatment. That's because its flavonoids are powerful antioxidants, helping to neutralize the negative effects of everything from environmental pollutants to packaged foods, all of which can irritate and age skin. Melt a few ounces of dark chocolate (choose a brand with at least 70 percent cacao) and when it’s cool enough to slather on your skin, apply the chocolate like a mask. Let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes, then rinse.
Beauty Bonus: Unsweetened dark chocolate can also add shine to hair. Mix some melted, cooled dark chocolate with 2 tablespoons honey and 1/2 cup plain yogurt and apply as a hair mask, covering your head with plastic wrap and letting it sit for about an hour. Wash out with cool water.