The ingredients your skin needs might just be in your kitchen

Nothing's more annoying than running out of cleanser or spot cream. Especially if it's a weekend or holiday or you're suffering a break-out on the eve of a big event. I once forgot to pick up the bag containing my carefully measured out 100ml bottles of cleanser, shampoo and moisturizer on a work trip to Spain. I arrived at midnight in a small, mountainous village with nothing. I had access to the kitchen at the villa where we were staying and begged an egg cup full of olive oil, which is what I use at home to clean my skin.

My skin reacts to almost all known chemicals with suspicion verging on paranoia. When in doubt, it flares up. So I now use olive oil almost exclusively, sometimes mixed with a little castor oil, which is good for removing impurities. I mix the oils together and rub a small amount (a penny size) in my palms to warm it. Then I massage the oil into my face. I use a face cloth run under the hot water tap to clean the oil off my face and then usually follow up with a cold face cloth to close the pores. This oil-cleansing method does not give me spots or cause break-outs. It is also very cheap.

If I need to do some more rigorous work on my face I turn to aspirin (Disprin, the dispersible aspirin available in the UK are particularly good), not strictly a kitchen ingredient, but one that many people keep in their bathroom cabinets. Aspirin contains salicylic acid, an exfoliant used in many expensive 'peels' for the skin. I grind four aspirin in an egg cup with about a teaspoon or less of water to produce a paste. I rub the paste around my t-zone (forehead, nose and chin) and it gently removes old and rough skin. Note: make sure you test a small amount of skin first before you do this on a larger area, just in case you react to the dispirin). If you're not sure that your skin would like aspirin, try rock salt or brown sugar mixed with olive oil as an exfoliant. Friends of mine also swear by finely ground rice.

For tired and sore eyes cucumber is an old and tested remedy. You'll have seen photographs of cucumber slices on people's eyes. They definitely reduce soreness. You can also use slices of cucumber on dry or wind-burned skin. It is gentle and kind for children, too.

If your skin has problem areas such as spots or other inflammation, try honey. Manuka honey from New Zealand is particularly good at zapping bacteria but all honey will help reduce inflammation and make your skin soft. Trying mixing it with ground almonds and lemon juice to make a mask or cleanser.  Another good face mask ingredient is avocado, which can be combined with any of the ingredients above to moisturize tired skin. I mash half an avocado in a tea cup and add a teaspoon of lemon juice.

If your hair is a bit lacking in shine, try rinsing it with cider vinegar or lemon juice. This helps to remove residues from shampoos or conditioners and gives a great lustre.

Once you start looking at your kitchen shelves it's amazing how much you can use in beauty treatments. You'll certainly benefit from a financial saving as well.