While food has been used in facials forever, aestheticians have begun pampering the skin with some very unexpected ingredients, like beer, açai berries, and even—believe it—cold clamshells. “These new treatments tend to be more potent than their predecessors, yet they remain gentle enough for most complexions,” says Francesca Fusco, a dermatologist in New York City. What’s more, since you can whip them up yourself, you can indulge anytime (not just when there’s an opening at the spa). Here are six of our favorite facials that you should try at home. Before each one, gently cleanse and exfoliate (unless otherwise noted) for the best results.
2 of 7Mitchell Feinberg
Wrinkle-Smoothing Wine Facial
Adapted from the Harvest Facial at theCalistoga Ranch, in Napa Valley, California.
How it works: Resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant found primarily in red wine but also in smaller amounts in white, may help to repair the damage caused by sun exposure that can lead to wrinkles and sagging, according to a growing body of scientific research. Kaolin clay draws out impurities, while the grapeseed oil moisturizes and hydrates and the oat flour gently exfoliates.
Do it yourself: Combine all the ingredients. Apply to the face, neck, and décolletage. Rinse with warm water after 10 minutes.
Didi’s take*: “I’ll start with the smell. Let’s just say it was incredibly appealing after a long, hard day of work. Full disclosure: I may have poured myself a glass or two as I sat with the mask on my face. The texture reminded me of papier-mâché; it was cool, chunky, and gritty and dried into a delicate shell. After rinsing, I had a thin film on my skin that seemed to iron out my wrinkles a bit—temporarily, anyway. And when I woke up the next morning, my skin was definitely more hydrated.”
*Didi Gluck is Real Simple’s beauty director and consummate guinea pig.
What you need: ⅔ cup sugar; 2 teaspoons açai powder or ¼ cup açai slush (a pulverized form of the berry; both sold at health-food stores); 10 fresh, whole berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, or a mix); and 1 tablespoon olive oil.
How it works: Berries are rich sources of polyphenols, a class of antioxidants that, besides being used as wrinkle fighters, have another talent. They’re a strong astringent, so they tighten the skin and minimize pores, says Soheil Simzar, a dermatologist in Santa Monica, California. Fatty acids in high doses, like the ones found in açai berries, seem to combat hyperpigmentation, according to a 2010 paper published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. The sugar and the olive oil form a gentle scrub, which also assists in removing debris trapped in pores.
Do it yourself: With a potato masher, mash the sugar and açai powder or slush with the berries, then slowly add the olive oil; combine coarsely with a whisk. Massage into the face. Leave on for about 5 minutes, then rinse with warm water.
Didi’s take: “I opted for açai powder, which, when blended with the sugar, oil, and berries, produced a paste that smelled vaguely like a health-food store: sweet in a not altogether good way. But it provided stellar exfoliation and revealed clear, smooth skin, albeit slightly purple-tinged from the açai powder; nothing that a makeup wipe couldn’t fix. My pores were indeed undetectable, yet my face didn’t feel the slightest bit tight.”
What you need: 10 fresh strawberries; ¼ cup bee pollen (sold at health-food stores); 3 tablespoons raw honey (health-food stores); 1 tablespoon olive oil mayonnaise; and a few drops of lavender essential oil.
How it works: Strawberries not only are rich in vitamin C but also contain alpha hydroxy acids, which exfoliate the skin. The grainy texture of the bee-pollen granules helps to exfoliate, too, allowing the honey, a potent humectant, to better penetrate the skin’s surface. Olive oil moisturizes and is infused with antioxidants; mayonnaise softens the skin while giving the whole shebang a rich, creamy texture. The lavender? Pure aromatherapy.
Do it yourself: Combine all the ingredients. Apply to the face, avoiding the eye area. Relax for 20 minutes, then rinse with warm water.
Didi’s take: “A whisk was the ideal tool for whipping all the ingredients together. It’s not the prettiest mask I’ve ever worn—I looked as if I had gotten caught in the cross fire of a colossal food fight. But when I took it off, my skin felt crazy soft, and I didn’t even need to apply moisturizer that night, though I did go to bed craving a strawberry smoothie.”
What you need: 1 egg white; ½ cup beer (any brand); and 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice.
How it works: Beer is a soothing cleanser. “It contains B vitamins, hops, saccharides, and yeast, which help dissolve dead cells and increase the skin’s luminosity,” says Fusco. When mixed with egg white, the yeast in the beer creates a filmy mask that hydrates and improves the elasticity of the skin. Adding a dash of lime, a source of vitamin C, helps to clear pores and fade brown spots.
Do it yourself: Combine the egg white and beer with the lime juice. Slather onto the face. After 10 minutes, rinse with warm water.
Didi’s take: “The mask, which I painted on with a basting brush, is clear and dries quickly, so you can walk around the house with it on. It smelled so fresh and felt so cool that I kept it on for an extra five minutes. After I rinsed, my face felt smoother than a silk pillow and was, in fact, so luminous that my husband asked if I was testing a new face cream. A new face cream—right, that’s it.”
What you need: ½ teaspoon spirulina powder (sold at health-food stores); 1 mashed ripe banana; and 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice.
How it works: Spirulina has antibacterial properties, helping to keep your pores clear and tight. Plus, it is loaded with more antioxidants than blueberries, which means that it may be effective at lessening the effects of sun damage and reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, says Fusco. The banana infuses moisture into the skin while making the powder spreadable, and the lemon juice brightens.
Do it yourself: With a whisk, mix the spirulina powder and banana, then add the lemon juice. Apply to the face and leave on for 10 to 20 minutes. Rinse with warm water.
Didi’s take: “Do not try this one in front of the kids! Spirulina is green, very green. You will look like the Hulk. That said, I loved this mask. It smelled like banana and left my skin bright and so hydrated that it was actually springy to the touch.”
What you need: 2 polished clamshells. (Those found in their natural state at the beach are too rough against the skin. Find smooth clamshells at seashellco.com.)
How it works: Shells are great conductors of cold and can hold their chill for a long time.
Do it yourself: Submerge the shells in ice for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the ice and slip the tip of a finger snugly into the narrow mouth of each shell. Rub gently over puffy areas until the shells are no longer cold. Try this in the morning, before you’ve done anything else to your skin, to take down under-eye bloat that may have accumulated overnight.
Didi’s take: “I got to disassemble the tacky shell necklace I bought at Disney a few years ago and make better use of it. The unstrung, chilled shells stayed cold for 20 minutes—at which point I no longer had to run them over my under-eye bags, because they were gone.”