Do old-fashioned beauty remedies work?

You’ll probably have been urged to try some old-fashioned beauty tips by your grandmother – bathing in milk, a sugar skin scrub for instance. And some of the greatest starlets in history have used these simple methods.

We have delved into these beauty tricks, to see if they have stood the test of time and can be adapted into our daily skin care regimes…

1. ‘Aloe’ clear skin

Aloe vera juice

If you have irritated, dry or damaged skin, it has to be soothed first. Essential oils are your best friends – packed with vitamins, amino acids and antioxidants, they can not only smooth fine lines but also heal blemishes and irritation at the same time.

But which oils to choose? Aloe Vera, often called a ‘miracle plant’, has been used in herbal medicine for over 2,000 years. Egyptians called aloe the ‘plant of immortality’, and depicted aloe in wall paintings. It is thought that Egyptian queens Nefertiti and Cleopatra used aloe vera as part of their regular beauty regimes.

Nutritionist Cassandra Barns says, “Aloe Vera is mainly known for its healing properties, as it kills certain bacteria and reduces inflammation. It is also a great antioxidant, which means it protects our skin from free-radical damage. Tea tree oil destroys bacteria as nothing else does – it penetrates the blockage between your skin and glands, it clears clogged pores and dries out stubborn blackheads. Lemon essential oil can help to rejuvenate tired-looking skin and brighten complexion.”

If you are not a big fan of oily textures, go for serums. Cassandra recommends What Skin Needs Hydrating Facial Serum (, £17.99), which is made from natural plant-based ingredients including passion fruit seed oil, aloe vera extract and calming and anti-bacterial essential oils. It also contains Australian indigenous plant extract plantolin, which may help to manage skin conditions by reducing inflammation and oxidative damage.

2. Bathe like Cleopatra

Woman at spa centre

Cleopatra, the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, was renowned throughout history for her stunning beauty. It is thought that she bathed daily in milk for radiant skin. However, she didn’t bathe in cow’s milk… donkeys instead provided the milk for her legendary baths! It is not unheard of today for people to use milk as a cleansing lotion. “If you have sensitive skin that is aggravated by the likes of a traditional foamy cleanser you could try whole milk as your daily cleanser,” explains Cassandra. “Milk is gentle, yet can be effective in removing excess oil and makeup.”

If you want to recreate Cleopatra’s milk bath for a lavish soak you could add a couple of cups to warm water, to help soften your skin. “The lactic acid in milk can also help to brighten and exfoliate the skin,” says Cassandra.

3. Your hands reveal all

Beautiful woman hands are on a towel

Before science exposed that your hands were an indicator of your age, Marie Antoinette, Archduchess of Austria, believed that the hands were one of the first signs to show ageing, so she was known to wear gloves every night that were lined with wax, rose water and sweet almond oil to soften her hands.

Today the shop shelves are stocked high with different moisturisers and serums to help our skin stay supple and smooth. Many of us still select products with sweet almond oil, as we now know this is rich in Vitamin E, monounsaturated fatty acids, proteins, potassium and zinc, besides a number of other minerals and vitamins, which explains why it can be so good for our skin. Try Janjira’s Therapy Hand Cream (, £14) which is a non-greasy formula and provides long-lasting hydration.

4. Slough away dead skin with sugar

Beauty portrait of a young woman with clean healthy skin

Sugar has been in our cupboards for years, and you don’t always need a fancy facial scrub to get rid of dry skin. Rumour has it that Katharine Hepburn, leading lady in Hollywood for more than 60 years, believed using sugar would help make her skin look refreshed and revitalised, so would make a homemade sugar scrub.

“Sugar can work as a great way to get rid of unwanted skin cells and helps to keep things moist and hydrated naturally,” says Cassandra. “You can try combining two thirds of organic sugar and one third coconut oil and gently rub into your face, then rinse with warm water. It helps your skin feel refreshed and revitalised.”

Want to prevent cellulite? Try body brushing with your sugar scrub. “Overall it should take between three and seven minutes to brush the entire body and the important point is that you are always brushing towards your heart,” explains Dr Marilyn Glenville, nutritionist and author of The Natural Health Bible for Women.

However, sugar may be great as an exfoliator, but remember if your diet is packed full of this ingredient then you may have to wave goodbye to smooth skin!

Shona Wilkinson, nutritionist at, says, “High levels of sugar in the blood can increase the rate of a process called glycation. This occurs when sugar molecules bind to proteins or fats, making them stiff and inflexible. One of the proteins affected is collagen, and this can result in loss of elasticity of the skin, encouraging the formation of wrinkles.”

5. Soothing honey

Young woman with honey on back in spa salon. Closeup

The Egyptians used honey regularly because it was believed to make the skin silky smooth and today many of our cosmetics contain the ingredient, as this a natural cleanser which helps to keep skin blemish free. Poppea, wife of the Roman Emperor Nero, is thought to have used honey as a lotion for her face. “When warmed and smoothed over the skin, honey helps to attract dirt away from the pores,” explains Cassandra. “Honey also has natural antiseptic properties, which make it an ideal cleansing agent.”

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