Put Some Food on Your Face: Easy Homemade Face Cleanser

All photos by Shiraz Leyva

Are you looking for truly natural skincare? Reading the ingredient labels on your products may make them seem less beautifying and more like chemical cocktails. The overwhelming majority of the products we use—even many of those marketed as “natural” – are packed full of potentially harmful ingredients.  According to the Environmental Working Group, “cosmetic companies can put just about anything in their products – even chemicals associated with cancer and endocrine disruption.”  On average, women use 12 personal care products a day, exposing themselves to 168 chemical ingredients; while men use six products, exposing themselves to 85 chemicals. These numbers don’t account for the countless toxins we encounter from household items, food, air pollution, and other sources. The good news is that you can decrease your exposure by replacing some of your conventional products with effective homemade alternatives. Today I’m sharing a recipe for DIY face cleanser, which you can easily make in minutes with four simple ingredients.

Rethinking Beauty

I’m what you might call a beauty junkie. Throughout my life I’ve visited countless spas and tried an even greater number of beauty products. Beauty is fun, and although I’ve enjoyed many of my experiences, I’m increasingly drawn to a more holistic approach to beauty for both health and environmental reasons.  I was moved by reports about carcinogens in nail polish and plastic from commercially manufactured body wash collecting in our waterways. I had to ask myself, does being pretty mean we have to destroy the environment, and ultimately, ourselves? That’s when I decided to experiment with homemade skincare. 

Inside Out/Outside In/Above and Below

My love of cooking and my work as a recipe developer means I spend a lot of time with food. I believe that diet is linked to health, life force, and radiance. But even for many of us who eat clean, organic is usually limited to an inside out approach. Skincare remains largely a chemical affair. After all, when I was growing up, many doctors asserted that putting natural food products on the skin was pointless, as the molecules were not small enough to penetrate it.  However it now seems that the benefits of exposing ourselves to the organic world aren’t as simple as was once believed. In her book Real Food for Mother and Baby, Nina Planck notes that traditionally, children probably got some iron from dirt floors in huts or tents. Recent early studies seem to support her idea, indicating that walking barefoot on the earth, or earthing, bolsters human health. Making direct contact with the earth seems to increase antioxidants, decrease inflammation, and even improve sleep.  

Gut Feelings

Another important reason to decrease the use of chemical cleansers is related to the microbiome, the 100 trillion bacteria that live in and on each of our bodies, primarily in the gut.  There’s growing evidence that the health of the microbiome influences the immune system, the expression of many common debilitating diseases, and even weight. Studies are finding that many of our everyday products disrupt the healthy balance of our ecosystems.  “We are super-sanitizing ourselves into illness,” warns Dr. Robynne Chutkan, gastroenterologist at Georgetown University Hospital.

Triclosan, a chemical widely used in beauty and personal care products, indiscriminately stops or kills bacteria completely. The safe amount of triclosan and the extent of its damage are still debated. However, the chemical is increasingly found in human bodies, including plasma, urine, and breast milk, and is also now present in surface, ground, and drinking water, indicating its ability to persist and accumulate.  Triclosan is also used in plastics, kitchen utensils, and toys. 

The Pretty Pantry

Today I wash my face with a simple combination of gentle liquid castile soap, natural oil, raw organic honey, and food grade essential oil. I play around with different combinations of oils but the basic ratio remains the same. Doctors and beauty specialists always warned me against putting any oil on my oily/combination skin, but it’s more balanced than ever. 

So, if you hold a ripe avocado in your hand and wonder what if I put this on my face? trust your intuition. The same foods that make you beautiful from the inside out might just nourish you from outside in as well.  While it’s not possible to completely eliminate chemical body burden, I know from my own experiences that small, everyday actions lead to big change. In this case, the change could be as small as shrinking your beauty bills, or as great as improving your health. If enough of us act, we can send a message to manufacturers to stop producing dangerous products, and maybe even save the environment too. 

Homemade DIY Honey Face Cleanser with Essential Oils


¼ cup organic virgin olive oil  

⅓ cup organic raw honey

⅓ cup liquid castile soap

10 drops or more food grade rose or lavender essential oil


  1. Combine all ingredients in a glass container, cover with a non-reactive lid, and shake vigorously until the mixture is emulsified.  (Note: For a creamy consistency (as pictured above), mix all ingredients except essential oil with a blender or food processor, and transfer to a nonreactive container.  Carefully add essential oil, and mix a final time by hand.)
  2. Store in a glass bottle in a cool, dry place away from direct light.

Notes: Essential oils should not come into contact with plastic or other reactive surfaces.  Also, when combined with oil and castile soap, raw honey can have a slightly off fragrance. This is totally normal. If this is the case add a little more essential oil.  For extra acne-fighting power, try this recipe.