Chances are, at some point in your life, you’re going to be broke. I’m not talking about paying-your-bills-and-then-only-having-a-hundred-bucks-left-from-your-paycheck kind of broke. I’m talking about hide-from-bill-collectors-and-steal-condiments-from-the-break-room broke. And I don’t know if you’ve been to the store lately, but health and beauty products are the broke person’s personal hell. I’m a non-profiteer by day and a writer by night, so you’d better believe that I’ve been embarrassingly broke many times in my adult life. When my bank account made me cry actual tears of fright, these were my top 5 go-to items for all my homemade beauty product needs.*
Five dollars for a couple month’s worth of toothpaste? No no no, my friend. Buy a box of baking soda for two bucks and you can brush your teeth for a couple of years! Oh, and you know what most toothpaste brands contain as a main ingredient? Yeah, that’s right. Baking soda.
Does it taste good? Oh, no. Not in the slightest. Can you fix that? Yes, though that adds to your budget. What’s the cheapest way to fix the inexplicably salty-yet-bland taste of baking soda? Crush up a few mint leaves and leave them in the baking soda (in the fridge in a sealed container) for several days, then remove the mint. It’s as close to AquaFresh as you’ll get for $2 (and whatever the going rate is for mint leaves.)
Baking soda can also be used as an effective antacid, bicarbonate being one of the main ingredients of all the name brand indigestion and acid fighters.
Most surprisingly – and I have my mother to thank for this – a half teaspoon in 12 oz of water makes an energy drink that can hold up to any of the name brands – without any of the sugar or unpronounceable stuff. Once again, I must stress that it won’t taste good. However, a splash of lemon or other citrus juice and a dab of honey or sweetener of choice can at least make it chuggable.
Apple Cider Vinegar
I could write a whole post about how great ACV is, so I will keep this based around my personal experience using it. I have used it three different ways in the past, and I have found that ACV makes a great hair rinse, bath soak, and pimple warrior.
In terms of a hair rinse, it cuts down on the oil and styling product buildup without stripping your hair. For anyone who suffers from dandruff or an itchy scalp, an ACV rinse once a week can help combat that. If your dandruff is more on the moderately severe to severe side, definitely splurge and get that dandruff shampoo from the store. However, doing a rinse once a week will only help that shampoo work better!
Since ACV is acidic – being vinegar and all – it is a great friend for your skin. Not only does it do a great job softening your skin and reducing oil buildup (like it does on your hair), it can also help to soothe achy joints. I have a very fond memory of moving into a new apartment and having a body full of aching joints and a bank balance of only $20 (security deposit AND two month’s rent?! You greedy little landlord…) A fancy soak wasn’t in my future. So, I ran a hot bath, adding 2 cups of vinegar, and remained immobile in that bathtub for a solid hour. At the time, I was soaking all the sweat and grime off my poor battered body (moving in July? Noob move…) but I found that my joints were much happier afterward. Years later, ACV has become popular as an anti-inflammatory for joints.
I am a complete monster without coffee or caffeinated tea in the morning. Yes, I know that means I should probably give it up, but you will lose an arm if you suggest that again. And I really don’t want to have to do that to you.
Anyway. If you’re a javaphile like me, you probably have coffee grounds taking up space in your garbage or compost bin. Put them to further good use before tossing them! Coffee grounds are the perfect kind of gritty to use as an exfoliator all over your body, from the tips of your toes to the top of your glorious head. As an added benefit, the caffeine in the grounds is said to revitalize your skin.
Two words: hair repair. One more word: lotion. A final collection of words: add sugar and lemon juice and you’ve got another exfoliation possibility that not only sloughs skin but also moisturizes it.
Really, any vegetable, fruit, or nut oil will work in place of coconut oil, but I find that my skin doesn’t break out when I use coconut oil, and it does with olive and walnut oil. I can’t guarantee that will be your experience, as that may just be my skin being a high maintenance little brat. It has a tendency to do that.
Oatmeal is another skin soother, and adding half a cup of pulverized oatmeal to your bath can help with anything from dry winter skin to poison ivy/oak/sumac to sunburn. Perfect soothing bath: oatmeal, ACV, and a sugar scrub made with coconut oil. Your skin will feel completely brand new!
So, there it is. Five things that you either have already in your pantry or can easily get from the nearest grocery or corner store. And, if you just happen to be on the SNAP program (formerly known as food stamps) all of these things are covered, while traditional health and beauty products are not!
*This will never provide you with every single thing you need. There is no replacement for hairspray, deodorant (at least, not for me!), or nail polish remover.