From Kitchen Cabinet to Medicine Cabinet

Honey and sugar and mint, oh my! Author and beauty expert Barbara Hannah Grufferman shares how pantry staples could stand-in for our beauty favorites.


For years, my mother-in-law has used Crisco — a lard-like vegetable shortening that my German grandmother lovingly referred to as “fat in a can” — as a makeup remover. “Why not just use Pond’s Cold Cream or soap and water?” I ask her every now and then. “Because it works,” she says, every time.

Even though my dermatologist gasped during a recent exam when I blurted out this bit of family lore, my mother-in-law will never use anything else. For her, it does the trick.

My own mother believes in the power of honey — both as a cough or sore throat remedy and because its antibacterial properties and natural moisturizers are a perfect (and inexpensive) face mask.

Since I was thirteen and acquired my first tube of Love’s Face Gel, my policy has always been to get the newest beauty product out there — and the more expensive the better. But a few years ago, staring at my over-50 face in the mirror, I realized I needed to make adjustments in my beauty routines. After consulting with a host of beauty experts, I learned that when it comes to makeup after 50, less is truly more. Carmindy, bestselling author and makeup artist on TLC’s hit show “What Not to Wear,” opened my eyes to the tremendous skin care possibilities waiting in my kitchen. As it turns out, some of those things are better used on our bodies — for example, white sugar — than in.

When I asked friends if they ever used ingredients from their kitchens in place of cosmetics, a floodgate opened: Their grandmothers had used this, their mothers had used that. I tried almost all of the suggestions, and discovered that homemade solutions are often better — and certainly less expensive — than the name brands in which I had been investing for years.

My short list of “beauty substitutes” is … well, short. Though I tried all of the suggestions that came my way, I found that some of them were so wacky or messy they just weren’t sustainable. The ones that made the final cut “do the trick” (as my mother-in-law would say) without a lot of muss, fuss or expense. And use the money you’re saving to buy something even more important to our health and well-being: shoes!

Editor’s Note: Barbara Hannah Grufferman is the author of The Best of Everything After 50: The Experts’ Guide to Style, Sex, Health, Money, and More

3 Responses so far.

  1. avatar Chris Glass` says:

    I’ve used honey for colds and sore throats for a long time. It worked better than some of the drugs prescribed by my doctor. I plan on trying the green tea for puffiness.

  2. avatar Lizzie R. says:

    After I had a CO2 laser on my face I used Crisco rather than the stuff my dr. had prescribed, as it irritated my skin. The Crisco was so bland that it caused no reaction, but kept the raw skin moisturized.

  3. avatar jwil5423 says:

    I recently came across a whole book of these and tried them out.  One of my favourites was honey, yoghurt olice oil and an egg yolk mask.  Once it was washed off, the skin was soft and fresh as a daisy!  Good refresher between work and going out.
    The book is called Skinsational and is available at the followling link: