cucumber slices on eyes to reduce puffiness before, but there are lots of other (sometimes surprising) DIY remedies in your fridge that can enhance your skin, hair, and even your nails. Likewise, many of these same foods and basic pantry staples contain vitamins, antioxidants, and acids with incredible beautifying properties when you eat them. Alexis Wolfer, editor of The Beauty Bean, combines both of these ideas in her new book, "The Recipe for Radiance: Discover Beauty's Best-Kept Secrets in Your Kitchen." Yahoo Shine caught up with who some have called "female beauty MacGyver" to get the inside scoop on the ingredients and recipes that can make you prettier from the inside and out in an all-natural, ultra-affordable way.
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Yahoo Shine: What is the most versatile ingredient used in your recipes and what can it do?
Alexis Wolfer: Coconut oil. Internally, it's a great cooking oil because it has a higher smoke point than olive oil and its lauric acid is a great metabolism booster and detoxifying. Studies show it also helps burn belly fat. As for topical uses, I literally use it for everything, from eye makeup remover to hair conditioner to body scrubs. It's great for all skin types because it's antibacterial and antimicrobial, and it also helps to gently exfoliate.
Y.S.: Which surprising ingredients benefit your skin or hair?
A.W.: Topically, I love champagne! It has a higher concentration of grapeseed extract than most skincare products, and it just feels so decadent as an anti-aging toner. There is a strawberry and champagne toner recipe in the book I just love. And I highly recommend non-vegans eat fatty fish, like sardines. If you buy good ones (boneless, skinless, in olive oil) they're pretty delicious, and are literally like beauty in a bite, especially for your hair health.
Y.S.: What are five must-have foods you keep in your fridge or pantry to whip up topical treatments?
A.W.: Full-fat Greek yogurt. It's an amazing spot treatment or face mask for all skin types! It's rich in lactic acid to break down dead, dull skin cells, and packed with probiotics so it will reduce the appearance of blemishes, reveal a more youthful complexion, and hydrate dry skin.
Raw coconut oil. It's the best eye makeup remover I've ever used, but it also makes for a great moisturizer for acne-prone skin since it's high in laurie acid. It prevents clogged pores and is antibacterial, too.
Strawberries. One quick swipe of half a strawberry on your face is like a gentle chemical peel for less than a dollar. Rub it on, let it sit, and rinse off after 10 minutes.
Lemon juice. The citric acid breaks down dead skin cells to help soften flakey elbows (just dig your elbow into a half), eliminate dandruff (add one tablespoon to your shampoo), and even out a bad self-tanner mishap.
Raw honey. It's antibacterial so it's great for applying on everything from a pimple to a burn. Plus it helps sooth irritated skin and is a humectant, so a drop added to any lotion will up the ante.
Y.S.: What are five food you always keep around to eat that aid in beautifying?
A.W.: Sweet potatoes or carrots. They're packed with vitamin A (which helps encourage cell turnover from the inside out for a brighter complexion less prone to breakouts and age spots). Plus, they are a great staple for anyone with a sweet tooth too since they'll help keep sugar cravings in check.
Berries. They're loaded with antioxidants, which help fight environmental damage from the inside out. Eat enough and your internal SPF will even go up!
Nuts and seeds. A lot of women are scared of nuts because of their fat content, but eating fat is actually essential in order for your body to burn fat. And some vitamins, like vitamin A, are fat-soluble meaning they need fat in order for your body to absorb the benefits.
Lemons. Just a bit of lemon in your water raises the ph level of the water, helping your body absorb the hydration and promoting detoxification. A higher internal ph also boosts immunity.
Raw cacao powder. In its raw state, cacao powder is high in antioxidants and magnesium and is a natural energy-booster. The raw brownie batter pudding in the book tastes like a decadent chocolate treat, but it's super healthy, vegan, and gluten-free.
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Y.S.: Which foods are best to eat for a youthful, fresh appearance?
A.W.: Healthy fats, antioxidants, and vitamin A! Make a steamed or baked sweet potato, top it with avocado and pomegranate seeds, and you hit all three!
Y.S.: Which are best in a pinch for any flare-ups or cranky skin?
A.W.: Staying hydrated is key. But for immediate relief from flare-ups from the inside out, it's more about what to avoid, like dairy which can aggravate hormonal acne and gluten which can increase inflammation.
Y.S.: Does using organic fruits and veggies make a difference?
A.W.: Organic produce has a higher concentration of vitamins and minerals and it's toxin-free. It's not essential (eating non-organic fruit is still a better choice than organic cookies) but if you're buying and cooking your own food, choose local and organic when available. When it comes to DIY remedies, what you put on your skin goes into your body so you want to keep toxins out whenever possible.
Y.S.: Can natural products get you the same results as chemical treatments?
A.W. Some DIY remedies are actually more potent than their store-bought alternatives because they have properties that aren't stable enough for mass packaging or long shelf lives. (Sake, for example, has an enzyme that's amazingly effective at stopping and reversing the melanin production, which causes dark spots.) When comparing an exfoliating mask using fruit acids to a chemical peel at a dermatologist's office the DIY method takes longer, but you won't have any downtime and won't risk suffering burns. Like most products on the market, it usually takes three months to see a big change, but most of these DIY remedies will show results immediately.
Y.S.: What is the first DIY treatment you ever tried? Was it a success?
A.W.:It must have been in 5th or 6th grade. I remember making hair masks with a friend from elementary school. I'm sure my hair didn't actually need a mask (it was well before my flourishing friendship with dye and bleach came into play), and I'm even more sure I wouldn't have known whether or not it worked. At the very least it sparked in me a love for DIY beauty, so I guess that makes it a success!
Y.S.: Which over-the-counter products do you love?
A.W.: I love almost everything from Arcona, the Yes To Cucumbers wipes, and Burt's Bees tinted lip balms are the best.
Y.S.: What is the first DIY treatment you ever tried? Was it a success?
A.W.: It must have been in 5th or 6th grade. I remember making hair masks with a friend from elementary school. I'm sure my hair didn't actually need a mask (it was well before my flourishing friendship with dye and bleach came into play), and I'm even more sure I wouldn't have known whether or not it worked. At the very least it sparked in me a love for DIY beauty, so I guess that makes it a success!
Y.S.: Is there a stand-out recipe from your book that you can't get enough of?
A.W.: Oh, the chilled Thai almond butter noodles are insanely delicious. And the butternut squash porridge. Those are my personal favorites. Although I've been making the raw brownie batter pudding a lot recently because everyone else seems to go crazy for it.
Y.S.: What is your personal eating philosophy?
A.W.: I'm vegan-ish and mostly gluten-free, but I don't like rules. I try to listen to my body (and my body doesn't like gluten or dairy), but I'm not crazy about it. I do, though, try to stick with a "eat real food" philosophy. If it comes from the Earth, it's OK by me. But if you're craving a milkshake and fries, that's OK! But enjoy it. Don't feel guilty about it. And remember that everyone's body is different, so what works for one person may not work for you.
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