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Looking in the mirror at DIY beauty lessons from past recessions
To stay looking your best in times of economic difficulty, all you have to do is get creative. Even if you refuse to give up your priceless lotions, potions, or makeup (and let's face it- certain things are non-negotiable), there are always suitable homemade substitutions in other areas of skin care. Some of the best beauty solutions can be found in your own fridge. As Truth in Aging has expanded its coverage of DIY recipes for face and body, it occurred to me that the appeal of making your own cosmetics is hardly new. Neither recessions nor world wars have deterred women from indulging in beauty regimens in the past.
So, what exactly did women do before never-ending cosmetics counters, Botox, and the internet? The first half of the 20th century was witness to some pretty bizarre beauty solutions. During the Great Depression, for instance, women relied on self-control instead of Botox to eradicate expression lines. A popular practice at the time was to stand in front of a mirror checking any tendencies to squint, furrow, or frown at the sign of emotion and then trying to restrain these impulses. Mostly, however, women simply headed out back to their herb gardens or down the street to the pharmacy to gather the necessary ingredients for an at-home preparation.
It was in the 1920's that women started to become increasingly aware of sun damage. A magazine article in the July 1926 issue of "The Lady" advised: "Although sunshine has a wonderfully beneficial effect on health, more harm than good may be done by sitting on the beach in the full glare of the sun." A DIY recipe appeared in this same article for a sun protection lotion containing calamine, oxide of zinc, spirits of ether, glycerin, and rose water. There was even a solution for the ashen effect of zinc oxide sunscreen: "This can be tinted with a little powdered ochre and burnt umber to a shade that is becoming."
While a lady might want some color on her face, pure whiteness was sought on the neck, an area of the body that was considered particularly feminine. To retain its "subtle beauty," women adhered to a rigorous cleansing regime of their necks and finished the job with a bleaching potion. One such recipe appeared in the May 1931 issue of "The Lady," instructing women to blend a whitening lotion from "rose water, tincture of myrrh, opoponax, benzoin, essence of lemon, and tincture of guillaya. An updated version is Phillip B's rosemary body toner, which reduces discoloration for a more even skin tone.
As evidenced by these recession-ready recipes, one of the most timeless preparations to cook up and fine-tune is a face mask. While the modern-day version may incorporate store-bought actives, like the components of our anti-aging face cream, all you really need is a combination of fresh produce and kitchen basics. Though enhancements like vitamins and essential oils may be thrown in any mixture for an added beauty boost, fruits, veggies, and dairy products are naturally loaded with antioxidants and skin-nourishing properties.
Oily skin typically responds best to yogurt (cleanses, nourishes), egg white (dries, tightens), crushed strawberry (counteracts oiliness), and clay (absorbs impurities). Yogurt acts as the base of Ildi's parsley face mask. Dry and sensitive skin, on the other hand, loves honey or glycerin (attracts moisture), egg yolk or avocado (nourishes), and almond, sunflower, or sesame oil (soothes). Our natural face lift recipe relies on the multipurpose egg for toning skin, reducing pore size, and smoothing fine lines.
Even though we appreciate all of the organic cosmetic options that have proliferated in recent years, you can feed your skin with the same nutrients (often in a more concentrated form) if you do it yourself. Not only is whipping up your own cosmetics a fun, efficient way to use up leftovers in your fridge, but it's also the only way you'll know with absolute certainty what you are putting on your face or body. So rather than throw out that banana peel, papaya skin, or watermelon rind, lie down for half an hour with the fruit on your face. You may look funny, but your skin will have the last laugh.