Homemade Natural Beauty

30 Apr

The idealization of natural beauty is very widespread, as we’ve extensively read and discussed in class. A popular phenomenon in the natural beauty realm involves achieving natural beauty using natural products, or things you can find in your kitchen.

The website “Kitchen Beautician” advertises “natural, skin-nourishing body care” that is “paraben-free and formaldehyde-free.” Pinterest is full of DIY homemade beauty products, from a teeth-whitening paste containing baking soda to a liquid containing lemon juice used to soften the legs.


These homemade beauty products call to mind Kathy Peiss’s discussion of them as the first kind of products women used to achieve beauty. Women have used homemade, natural products for centuries, but once beauty products began to be manufactured and were so easy to obtain and use, this trend was expected to decrease. It did not; Peiss writes, “even in the 1920s many women continued to make their own beauty preparations…vinegar, cream, lemon juice and bay rum, or rosewater and white Vaseline went into popular homemade face lotions” (172). More uses of household products included “peroxide and buttermilk to bleach the skin, Vaseline or castor oil to lengthen eyelashes, and witch hazel as an astringent” (172). Instead of using professionally made products that contain chemicals to help improve skin problems, such as salicylic acid to improve acne or alpha hydroxy acids to give anti-aging benefits, many women are turning to their kitchens to care for their skin.

I am wondering why. Every so often, a celebrity will come out and tell a magazine that they use drugstore products or kitchen products to achieve their beauty. This insight into a celebrity’s beauty regime is intended to make the celebrity seem like an average woman, and to make the average woman think that she can achieve the same look.


Recently, Scarlett Johansson told Elle magazine that her secret to luminous skin is splashing apple cider vinegar on her face. According to her, it helps heal skin that is prone to breakouts. She also mentions her use of lemon juice for “lightening,” although it “can be a little bit stinging.” She likes it because “it’s a good trick and it’s natural.” You can read the full interview here:

I do not believe that Scarlett Johansson relies on vinegar and lemon juice as a regular part of her beauty regimen to make herself look the way she does. Sure enough, in an interview with Marie Claire in 2011, she said that she uses Jurlique products on her face, including the face mask and the day cream, one of which costs $70.00 for 50 ml. She also mentioned using Clarin’s HydraQuench Cream Mask, which costs $35.00 for 2.5 ounces.


I think she made the claim about lemon juice and vinegar in an effort to align herself with the natural beauty movement when in fact she, like a lot of other women with disposable income, rely heavily on the chemistry of skin care.

Still, today many women prefer to use homemade remedies to solve beauty problems than to use manufactured products that can contain worrisome chemicals. I think women are still idealizing the natural and are under the illusion that to be completely natural is somehow better.

Kathy Peiss, Hope in a Jar, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1998.


Posted by on April 30, 2013 in Uncategorized


3 responses to “Homemade Natural Beauty

  1. Lilly

    May 4, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    A question of clarification: You say, “Still, today many women prefer to use homemade remedies to solve beauty problems than to use manufactured products that can contain worrisome chemicals. I think women are still idealizing the natural and are under the illusion that to be completely natural is somehow better.” Does this mean you believe that completely natural cosmetics are a bad thing?

    Anyway, although I do have many manufactured cosmetic items, I still love to try out homemade creations with recipes I find from YouTube tutorials or magazines. I don’t use them all the time, but something like mixing sugar and honey to make a lip scrub really softens and smooths my dry, chapped lips in the winter… and it tastes good, too! Also, fun things like avocado or honey masks or scrubs are fun to try. I think they work for the purpose of me rehydrating my skin or clearing away any dryness, and it’s a cheaper alternative than buying the expensive skin care line that Scarlett uses. For me, it’s not that these techniques or recipes are natural or that I’m idealizing the natural look, it’s that they are convenient, easy to make, affordable, and fun.

  2. Nikki

    May 5, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    I’m from Washington, where stereotypically there are a lot of hippies. I know a ton of people who make cosmetics because they like to know what’s in them – particularly things like lotions. They definitely use “additives” if you include things like extracts that are there for smell, but given that context, I am inclined to say that their choice to use “natural” beauty products has more to do with concern about knowing what goes on their bodies (and usually goes along with a broader lifestyle of preferring “natural” things – local food, not a ton of clothes, etc). So there are two definitions of natural being played out here, though it would be interesting to see how they intersect. I could definitely see people making “natural” lipstick and other kinds of makeup that fall more in the “paint” category, but somehow that does have a different feel to me than natural, say, lotion.

  3. eondich

    May 12, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    I know people, too, who want to use products they know are biodegradable and won’t harm animals exposed to them since many of our beauty products do end up in water, which is one of several ways the movement for natural beauty products ties into the larger modern movement to be natural, eco-friendly, and local. I agree that in some ways this might be problematic- just because you don’t recognize the names of all the chemicals on the label of something doesn’t mean it was made in a way much more unnatural than homemade concoctions, and it doesn’t mean it’s going to hurt you. But I also agree with Lilly and Nikki, and like I said, I think there are larger forces at work here. The people I know who do tend to try to be natural started out thinking about the chemicals in their food, which I think is a concern.

    Another interesting thing to think about would be who is using these more “natural” products or trying to create beauty products on their own. Is it related to class, area of the country?


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