A cup of buttermilk. Half an avocado. Two tablespoons of honey. A dash of olive oil.

This might sound like a recipe for something you’d whip up in the kitchen (something that might not taste all that great, to be sure). But ingredients like these might actually have a better use in your bathroom during your morning or evening skin care routine. That’s because they’re all excellent natural moisturizers that get the body’s largest organ smooth and glowing without the excess chemicals or high price tags found in many commercial products.

So the next time you’re looking to banish dry skin, you might want to head to the supermarket instead of the drugstore — armed with this handy guide to five of the most effective natural moisturizers, of course.

1. Buttermilk

“Skin like buttermilk” isn’t a line from a corny Elizabethan poem; it’s a compliment you might actually get by bathing your skin in the stuff.
That’s because buttermilk contains lactic acid, one of the hyrdoxy acids. If you’ve spent any time looking for a skin-improving lotion, you’ve no doubt come across alpha-hydroxy and beta-hyrdoxy acids on the ingredients lists. These compounds act as exfoliants on the skin, breaking apart and removing dry, dead skin cells so fresher, younger, moister ones can come to the fore.

But you needn’t soak in a bath of sour milk like Cleopatra used to do to see the benefits. All you need to do is wet a face cloth in cold buttermilk (regular milk will do also) and lay it on a dry or irritated patch of skin for about five minutes. Rinse gently, so some of lactic acid stays behind, and voila — relief from your refrigerator.

2. Butter

Shea butter, used as a moisturizer since ancient times, is produced from the nuts inside the fruit of the shea tree, found only in Africa. It can take one tree 15 to 30 years to develop mature enough fruit from which to harvest quality shea nuts. Fortunately, to experience its benefits you don’t have to wait nearly as long, as your skin will feel moisturized the moment you apply it.

Shea butter is rich in vitamin A, which functions similarly to the natural fats found in the skin’s upper layers. The vitamin not only helps alleviate dry skin, but can ease eczema, dermatitis, sunburn and insect bites. It also has high levels of skin-friendly vitamin F, which contains fatty acids that can aid normal cell growth and keep skin young looking.

When shopping for shea butter, it’s important to look for a product that is no more than 18 months old, as the longer the moisturizer sits on the shelf, the less of a healing compound known as cinnamic acid (a cinnamon cousin) it will contain. It’s also a good idea to look for varieties that are produced without the use of a dangerous chemical known as hexane in the extraction process. And be sure to seek out preparations that are 100 percent shea butter without any fillers.

3. Olive Oil

It can lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, lessen heart attack risk and fight several types of cancer. Studies have shown that it fights bone loss, lessens inflammation, keeps belly fat at bay and helps diabetics regulate their blood sugar. But the benefits of the liquid gold known as olive oil don’t stop inside the body — it can work wonders outside as well, by helping to moisturize dry skin.

The ancient Greeks used to take baths in the stuff, but you can see benefits by simply dabbing a bit on dry skin patches (or you can add a little to a warm bath if you have a thing for ancient Greeks).

Olive oil contains a compound found naturally in our skin known as linoleic acid. This lipid creates a water barrier that prevents skin from losing moisture. Interestingly, linoleic acid can’t be manufactured by the body and must come from foods.

Studies have shown that olive oil is not only an effective moisturizer, but that it also can alleviate the symptoms of skin conditions like rosacea, psoriasis, dermatitis and eczema. It can even help reduce inflammation and soothe and heal burns. Most promising of all is that thanks to the high level of antioxidants it contains, olive oil has been shown to greatly reduce tumor frequency from UVB rays.

4. Avocados

The next time you’re whipping up a batch of guacamole for a party, be sure to keep some pureed avocados on the side. Then, when you serve your dish people will not only compliment your star cooking ability, they might just notice your skin, too.

The oil found in avocados acts as an emollient, which means that it helps lubricate the spaces between corneocytes, the flattened cells that form the very outer layer of our skin. It also has superb transepidermal penetration capacity, which is a fancy way of saying that your skin likes to drink it up.

Avocados are also high in fats and vitamins A, D and E, the later of which helps the skin retain moisture and helps reduce wrinkles. That’s the science of the fruit. For its practical beauty use, all you really need to do is apply some mashed avocado to a troubled area for 10 to 15 minutes and then rinse. Just be sure to keep what you wash away separate from the dip and chips!

5. Honey

Sweetening your tea with honey and a little dripped on your hand? You might just want to leave it there.

Aside from being delicious to eat, honey has some pretty appetizing benefits for your skin. It’s a natural humectant, which means that it has the ability to draw water molecules from the air toward your skin, helping to keep it moisture-rich. Honey also has antiseptic, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that make it a viable option for helping with wound healing, which might explain why a prescription for it was found on a piece of clay dating from 2000 B.C.

To get the moisturizing benefits of the syrupy stuff, dissolve two tablespoons of honey in an equal amount of water and then add six more tablespoons of water. Apply to the skin, wait 10 minutes and then rinse. It’s a sweet solution for dry skin.

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Image credit: becomegorgeous.com

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