Rummage through the kitchen cupboard for cheap but effective beauty aids, says Nick Walker
When you are looking run-down, the initial temptation is to dash for the bathroom cabinet and its comforting array of bottles, creams, pills and potions. If nothing works you can, at least, lock the door behind you. But why bother, when you need look no further than the kitchen cupboard for a quick body overhaul? Here are the essential ingredients.

Baking powder

A weakly alkaline sodium salt, bicarbonate of soda is magical stuff. Powder can be sprinkled into trainers or shoes as a deodoriser. Split or cracking nails can be strengthened by soaking in a solution of water and a tablespoon of baking powder. The nails can then be rubbed dry after soaking for 10-15 minutes and brushed with olive oil. Baking powder can be added to your normal moisturiser for a brisk facial clean; it also makes a good dry shampoo in an emergency.


Home-made shampoos of any credibility tend to include eggs. The most basic kitchen-sink, pre-conditioning shampoo, according to Philip Kingsley, author of Hair: an Owner's Handbook, involves taking two eggs, cracking them in a bowl, filling the shells with olive oil and mixing; then applying to the hair. Eggs are an exceptionally good moisturiser, and ideal for shampoo, as most dry hair is caused by lack of moisture rather than a deficit in oils.


Long regarded as having antiseptic properties, honey has been used to treat wounds, including mouth and varicose ulcers and burns. Honey is also hydroscopic: it attracts water and can be used to draw infections or poisons from the skin. More recently, the moisturising properties of honey combined with its low pH have been used to stop skin growing over hair follicles after the hair has been waxed, thus reducing the chance of ingrown hairs.


The juice can be used on light brown hair to give it that sun-kissed golden colour. Do not throw away the peel, however, as it can be used as an emergency toothpaste. Nowhere near as protective as fluoride toothpaste in the long-run, lemon peel rubbed on the teeth does leave them feeling remarkably clean with a nice "zingy" taste.


Can be used as an exfoliant, removing dead skin cells and grime from the face. Mix some oatmeal - the fewer additives the better - with normal moisturiser and gently massage into the face with the fingertips in small circular patterns. Do not massage too roughly as this can damage the skin. Leave on the face for five minutes, before rinsing thoroughly with cool water.

Olive oil

Another good shampoo ingredient. Indeed, Madonna started a short-lived craze in the Eighties for olive oil as a hair additive. Any nut, vegetable or fruit oil can be put on the hair, but it provides no great therapeutic benefit for the scalp nor the hair, unless used in an emulsion with moisturising ingredients, such as eggs or avocados. Equally, some cheaper oils leave you smelling like take-away food.


Salt baths can encourage the skin to perspire, drawing toxins to the surface. Dissolve two kilos of salt into a warm bath. Lie in the bath with the water up to your neckline for a good 10 minutes, but no longer than 15. Get out of the bath slowly, as the cleansing effect of the salt may cause slight dizziness; salt baths are not recommended for anyone with heart or kidney problems or high blood pressure. Salt is also a mild antiseptic. Sufferers of puffy, itchy and stinging eyes from pollen during the summer can bathe them in a solution of warm, salty water. Sore throats can be relieved by gargling with a saline solution.


Rinsing the hair with vinegar was popular in the days before shampoo, so as to give a shine after washing with soap. Alkaline soap could take the "hardness", usually in the form of calcium deposits, out of the water and leave it on the hair, robbing it of its lustre. Acid in the form of vinegar would neutralise the deposit, flattening the cuticle and giving it shine.


Steaming the skin is one of the most natural methods of cleaning blocked pores. Place your face about 10 inches from freshly boiled water, as any closer risks causing the tiny blood capillaries in the face to burst. Steam the skin for one to two minutes, then wipe before steaming for a further two minutes. Rinse with cool water.