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Women (and some men) have increasingly begun to prefer natural beauty aids to those made in factories. And for good reason, too, since manufactured chemicals are often found to have toxic properties. That is why even cosmetic firms are turning to herbs, flowers, and fruits. The Body Shop proudly retails skin care aids made from tea tree oil, aloe, chamomile, and grapeseed. One giant American firm boasts that their face pack is made from herbs from seven countries!

But you do not have to go to seven countries to find herbs with cosmetic properties, or the flowers and fruits which the Cleopatras and Padminis of the world have used through the ages. In fact, you don’t even have to leave your kitchen in order to find the necessary ingredients to improve the health of your skin, hair, and body more generally.

Over the last five decades, I have been researching and trying out various “household hints” to share with my friends and family. The following are tried and tested aids for supple skin without blemishes.

Invigorating Face Washes

The following is ideal if you have an uneven tan or patches on your face and would like to develop a cleaner complexion. Mix even quantities of milk and lemon juice, and clean your face with this lotion once a week. Repeat more frequently if necessary.

For radiant, blooming facial skin, beat up three or four raw eggs and mix vigorously with one 12 oz. bottle of beer. Apply only a small quantity.

Oranges are a rich source of vitamin C. Soak a piece of cotton in water; squeeze the cotton to remove the water, and then squeeze a few drops of fresh orange juice onto the cotton. Rub it smoothly over your face—there is no skin tonic more refreshing! Even orange peel, which we usually throw away, can be a great beauty aid. Dry the orange peel, powder it, then mix with lemon juice and milk. Now you have a face pack that softens the skin with the added bonus of bleaching unwanted facial hair.

Treatment for Greasy Skin and Pimples

To temporarily reduce greasiness, grind a lettuce leaf with a small handful of rose petals. Mix in a few drops of lemon juice. Apply the paste to your face for half an hour, then rinse with water.

If you have pimples and blemishes, grind half a dozen mint leaves into a smooth paste and apply to your face every night. Be sure to wash the paste off fully each morning.

If you have been a victim of pimples in the past and want to reduce unseemly scars, neem leaves are the answer. Boil a few handfuls of neem leaves in a pan of water until the water is reduced to 75 percent of its original quantity. Cool and strain the water, then use it when taking a bath or shower. Within a week, your scars will lighten, and you will substantially reduce the likelihood of getting pimples, boils, and other skin ailments in the future.

If you are not able to find neem leaves, the acidic qualities of yogurt can also help reduce acne. Mix sour yogurt with a little limejuice and apply to the affected areas. Wash off after ten minutes.

Skin Restoration

Tulsi leaves have curative properties for skin blemishes, but they have even greater preventative properties. Smear tulsi paste over your body once in a while, and you will keep skin diseases at bay.

The earthy dals have their uses as well. Any dal can be finely ground and made into a paste with milk, lemon juice, a pinch of salt, and turmeric powder. This paste will soften and strengthen your skin.

For dry, sallow skin, take the juice of an orange, a little honey, and a few drops of lanolin. Mix well and apply all over your face and neck gently in a rotating motion. After 15 minutes, wash off with warm water. Splash cold water onto your face to tighten pores.

Homemade Suntan Lotion

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons white vinegar

Apply mixture to exposed skin. Effective for up to one hour.

Lily Tharoor is a homemaker and mother of three grown children. Having lived in London, Bombay, Calcutta, and New Delhi, Lily now makes her home in Coimbatore, India.