Skin is our vital first line of defense against bacteria, viruses, and pathogens in general. It is also what we present to the world, and common skin problems are often unsightly—although just as often not as unsightly as we think—and uncomfortable. They are rarely serious, and home remedies for common skin conditions can help resolve the issue leaving us more confident and more comfortable.

In the Secret Food Cures excerpt below Joan and Lydia Wilen discuss remedies for common skin conditions that can be found right in your cupboard.


Skin is the largest organ of the human body. An average sized adult has about 17 square feet of skin. Thick or thin, it weighs about five pounds.

Five pounds of skin covering 17 square feet of body surface…that’s a lot of room for eruptions, cuts, sores, grazes, scrapes, scratches and itches.

Someone named Anonymous once said, “Dermatology is the best specialty. The patient rarely dies—and never gets well.”

We hope these treatments will prove Mr. Anonymous wrong about that last point.


When dirt and oil plug up your skin’s pores, you can get acne (whiteheads and blackheads). If bacteria gets trapped, then the skin gets red and inflamed—and you get pimples.

Washing your skin regularly with a gentle soap and warm water is the best way to prevent acne break-outs. But for a quick zit zapper, try one of the following solutions.

Acne Antidotes

These remedies may not produce dramatic results overnight. Select one and stay with it for at least two weeks. If there’s no improvement by then, try another remedy

• Combine four ounces of grated horseradish with a pint of 90-proof alcohol. Add a pinch of grated nutmeg and a chopped up bitter orange peel (available at health food stores). With sterilized cotton, dab some of this solution on each pimple every morning and every evening.

• This South American remedy was given to us by Las Vegas–based herbalist Angela Harris, who has used it to clear up the faces of many.

Wash with mild soap and hot water. Then apply a thin layer of extra-virgin, cold pressed olive oil. Do not wash it off. Let the skin completely absorb the olive oil. (Angela emphasized the importance of using “extra virgin olive oil.”)

Do this three times a day. Angela’s experience has been that the skin clears up within a week. For maintenance, wash and oil once a day.

• Once a day, take 1 ⁄3 cup uncooked oats and, in a blender, pulverize them into a powder. Then add water—a little less than 1 ⁄3 cup—so that it becomes the consistency of paste. Apply the paste to the pimples. Leave this soothing and healing mush on until it dries up and starts crumbling off. Wash it all off with tepid water.

NOTE: Always wash your face with tepid water. Hot water can cause the breaking of capillaries (small veins), as can cold water.

• Using a juice extractor, juice one cucumber. With a pastry brush, apply the cucumber juice to the trouble spots. Leave it on for at least 15 minutes, then wash off with tepid water. Do this daily.

• Once a day, boil 1 ⁄3 cup of buttermilk. While it’s hot, add enough honey to give it a thick, creamy consistency. With a pastry brush, brush the cooled mixture on the acne. Leave it on for at least 15 minutes. Wash off with tepid water.

• This is an industrial-strength acne remedy taken internally. Before breakfast—or as you eat breakfast—on the first day, start with two teaspoons of brewer’s yeast, one tablespoon of lecithin granules and one tablespoon of cold-pressed safflower oil, all mixed in one glass of pure apple juice.

On the second day, add another teaspoon of brewer’s yeast and another teaspoon of lecithin granules. Each day, add another teaspoon of brewer’s yeast and lecithin granules until you’re taking two tablespoons (six teaspoons) of brewer’s yeast and almost the same amount of lecithin, along with the one tablespoon of safflower oil, all mixed in one glass of apple juice.

As this detoxifies your system and rids you of acne, it should give you added energy and shiny hair.

NOTE: It is advisable to do this process only with medical supervision—and if you can stay near a bathroom.

• Mix the juice of two garlic cloves with an equal amount of vinegar and dab it on the pimples every evening. The condition may clear up in a couple of weeks.

• Simmer one sliced medium onion in 1 ⁄2 cup of honey until the onion is soft. Then mash the mixture into a smooth paste. Make sure it’s cool before applying it to blemishes. Leave it on at least one hour, then rinse off with warm water. Repeat the procedure every evening until you can say, “Look Ma, no pimples!”

• Eat brown rice regularly. It contains amino acids that are good for skin blemishes.

• About four hours before bedtime, steep one cup of mashed strawberries in two cups (one pint) of distilled white vinegar. Let it steep until you’re ready for bed. Then strain the pulp and seeds. Massage the remaining liquid on your face and have a good night’s sleep.

It’s not as messy as it sounds. The liquid dries on your face before you touch the pillow. In the morning, wash off the mix with cool water. This is an excellent cleanser and astringent for blemished skin.

Acne Scars

• To help remove acne scars, combine one teaspoon of powdered nutmeg with one teaspoon of honey and apply it to the scarred area. After 20 minutes, wash it off with cool water.

Do this twice a week, and hopefully within a couple of months you will see an improvement.


• Before going to bed, rub lemon juice over the blackheads. Wait until morning to wash off the juice with cool water. Repeat this procedure several evenings in a row, and you’ll see a big improvement in the skin.

Dead Skin and Enlarged Pores

• A friend of ours uses Miracle Whip salad dressing to remove dead skin cells and to tighten her pores. She puts it on her face and leaves it there for about 20 minutes. Then she washes it off with warm water, followed by cold water.

Our friend claims that no other mayonnaise works as well as Miracle Whip. Maybe that’s where the “Miracle” comes in.

• Papaya contains the enzyme papain, which is said to do wonderful things for the complexion. Wash your face and neck. Remove the meat of the papaya (it makes a delicious lunch) and rub the inside of the papaya skin on your skin. It will dry, forming a see-through mask. After 15 minutes, wash it off with warm water.

Along with removing dead skin and tightening the pores, it may make some light freckles disappear.

• To help refine pores, put 1 ⁄3 cup of almonds into a blender and pulverize them into a powder. Add enough water to the powder to give it the consistency of paste. Rub the mixture gently across the enlarged pores from your nose outward and upward. Leave it on your face for a half-hour, then rinse it off with tepid water.

As a final rinse, mix 1 ⁄4 cup of cool water with 1 ⁄4 cup of apple cider vinegar and splash it on to tighten the pores.

For best results, treat your skin to this almond rub on a regular basis.

Extra-Large Pores

• We’re talking really big pores here. Every night for one week, or as long as one container of buttermilk lasts, wash your face, then soak a wad of absorbent cotton in buttermilk and dab it all over your face. After 20 minutes, smile. It’s a very weird sensation. Wash the dried buttermilk off with cool water.

NOTE: The smile is optional.

Wounds and Sores

Sores that are open and/or infected are best treated by a medical professional. Keep the wound clean and consult a doctor as soon as possible.

CAUTION: If a wound is bleeding profusely, apply direct pressure, preferably with a sterile dressing, and seek medical attention immediately. If a sore doesn’t start to heal within a few days, see a doctor.

If a bleeding wound or sore is NOT severe, the following remedies may help. But be aware that there is a risk of infection when applying raw and/or natural substances to an open sore or wound. If an infection persists or a sore does not heal, consult a health professional.

That’s Gotta Sting!

• Lemon is an effective disinfectant and also stops a cut from bleeding. Squeeze some juice on the cut and get ready for the sting.

• Sprinkle on some cayenne pepper or black pepper to stop the flow of blood from a cut within seconds. Put it directly on the cut. Yes, it will sting.

Don’t Smoke It

• A clump of wet tobacco will stop the bleeding. So will wet cigarette paper.

• Cobwebs on an open wound can stop the bleeding instantly. In fact, they are so good at clotting a wound that they’ve been used for years on cows right after they’ve been dehorned.

However, all kinds of bacteria carried by the cobwebs might infect the open wound. Use cobwebs only when there is absolutely nothing else to use—like the next time you get a gash in a haunted house.

• The crushed leaves of a geranium plant applied to the cut act as a styptic pencil and help stop the bleeding.

Weeping Sores

• Place a piece of papaya pulp on a weeping sore. Keep it in place with a sterile bandage. Change the dressing every two to three hours until the sore clears up.

• Dab on lavender oil with a cotton swab or cotton ball throughout the day. It should help heal the sore and also help you feel more relaxed.

• Apply a poultice of either raw, grated carrots or cooked, mashed carrots to stop the throbbing and draw out the infection.

• A honey poultice is disinfecting and healng. Use raw, unprocessed honey.

Sores and Lesions

• Some nonmalignant sores need help healing. Put pure, undiluted Concord grape juice on a sterile cotton ball or gauze pad and apply it to the sore, binding it in place with a sterile bandage.

Do not wash the sore. Just keep the grape juice on it, changing the dressing at least once in the morning and once at night. Be patient.

WARNING: Diabetics should see a health professional to receive antibiotic treatment for any infected sores that do not heal.


Skin boils usually begin as a red, tender area from an infection deep in the skin. Boils can get large, firm and hard as they fill with pus— which may need to be drained surgically.

CAUTION: If pain gets progressively worse, or if you see a red streak in the boil, get professional medical attention. Don’t wait!

If your boil hasn’t started to simmer, try these remedies for relief.

• Slowly heat one cup of milk. Just as slowly, add three teaspoons of salt as the milk gets close to boiling. Once the salt has been added, remove the milk from the heat and add flour to thicken the mixture and make a poultice. Apply it to the boil. The heat of the poultice will help bring it to a head but be careful that it’s not too hot.

• Gently peel off the skin of a hard-boiled egg. Wet that delicate membrane and place it on the boil. It should draw out pus and relieve the inflammation.

• Apply several fresh slices of pumpkin to the boil. Replace the slices frequently until the boil comes to a head.

• A poultice of cooked, minced garlic or raw, chopped garlic applied to the boil will draw out the infection.

• Heat a lemon in the oven, then slice it in half and place the inside part of one half on the boil. Secure it in place for about an hour.

Fig-get About Boils

• “And Isaiah said, ‘Take a lump of figs.’ And they took and laid it on the boil, and he recovered.”—2 Kings 20:7.

Roast a fresh fig. Cut it in half and lay the mushy inner part on the boil. Secure it in place for a couple of hours. Then warm the other half of the roasted fig and replace the first half with it. And thou shalt recover when the boil runneth over.

• Mix one tablespoon of honey with one tablespoon of cod-liver oil (Norwegian emulsified cod-liver oil is non smelly) and apply it to the boil. Bind it with a sterile bandage. Change the dressing every eight hours.

• To draw out the waste material painlessly and quickly, add a little water to about one teaspoon of fenugreek powder, making it the consistency of paste. Put it on the boil and cover it with a sterile bandage. Change the dressing twice a day.

Glop It On

• This Irish remedy requires four slices of bread and a cup of milk. Boil the bread and milk together until it’s one big, gloppy mush.

As soon as the mush is cool enough to handle, slop a glop on the boil and cover with a sterile bandage. When the glop gets cold, replace it with another warm glop. Keep redressing the boil until you’ve used up all four slices of bread. By then, the boil should have opened.

When the Boil Breaks…

• The boil is at the brink of breaking when it turns red and the pain increases. When it finally does break, pus will be expelled, leaving a big hole in the skin. But almost magically, the pain will disappear.

Boil one cup of water and add two tablespoons of lemon juice. Let it cool. Clean and disinfect the area thoroughly with the lemon water. Cover with a sterile bandage.

For the next few days, two or three times a day, remove the bandage and apply a warm, wet compress, leaving it on for 15 minutes at a time. Re-dress the area with a fresh sterile bandage.

Dry Elbows and Knees

• Take the skin from half an avocado and rub the inside of it against the rough areas of your elbows and/or knees. Keep rubbing for a few minutes. Don’t clean off the area until bedtime.

• Rest your elbows in grapefruit halves to get rid of alligator skin. Make yourself as comfortable as possible and keep your elbows in the citrus fruit for at least a half-hour.

• Make a paste by combining salt and lemon juice. Rub this abrasive mixture on rough and tough areas such as elbows, feet and knees. Wash the paste off with cool water.


Freckles tend to run in families, but you can also get them if you’ve spent a lot of time in the sun. Of course, if you get a whole lot of freckles very close together, you’ll have a nice suntan and won’t have to bother with all this stuff.

• If you’re determined to do away with your freckles, bottle your own freckle remover. Get four medium-sized dandelion leaves (either pick them yourself, or buy them at the greengrocer), rinse them thoroughly and tear them into small pieces. Combine the leaves with five tablespoons of castor oil in an enamel or glass pan.

Over low heat, let the mixture simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and let it steep for three hours. Strain the mixture into a bottle. (Don’t forget to label the bottle.)

Massage several drops of the oil on the freckled area and leave it on overnight. In the morning, wash your skin with tepid water. Do this daily for at least a week and watch the spots disappear.

Potato water can help fade summer freckles. Dip a washcloth in it, wring it out and apply it to the freckles. Leave it on for 10 minutes daily.

• Apply lemon juice, juice of parsley or juice of watercress.

• Combine six tablespoons of buttermilk with one teaspoon of grated horseradish. Since this is a mild skin bleach, coat the skin with a light oil before applying the mixture. Leave it on for 20 minutes, then wash it off with warm water. Follow up with a skin moisturizer on the bleached area.

• If you ever wake up in the morning, look in the mirror and see freckles you never had before, try washing the mirror.

Cuts and Scrapes

• The first thing to do when you get a scratch, small cut or graze is to rinse it with water. Put honey on the opening and let its healing enzymes go to work.

• Put the inside of a banana peel directly on the wound and secure it in place with a bandage. Change the peel every three to four hours. We’ve seen remarkable and rapid results with banana peels. It might be a good idea to carry bananas when you go camping.

Paper Cuts

• Clean the cut with the juice of a lemon. Then, to ease the pain, wet the cut finger and dip it into powdered cloves. Since cloves act as a mild anesthetic, the pain should be gone in a matter of seconds.


• According to Las Vegas–based herbalist Angela Harris, you can fade scars by applying a light film of extra-virgin, cold-pressed olive oil every day. Be consistent and be patient. It won’t happen overnight.


If you get a tiny piece of wood, metal or glass under your skin, it can really hurt. Remove it carefully to prevent infection. Keep in mind that wood swells when it’s wet, so most of these suggestions work best on other types of splinters.

• Boil water, then carefully fill a widemouthed bottle to within half an inch of the top. Next, place the splintered part of the finger over the top of the bottle and lightly press down. The pressing should allow the heat to draw out the splinter.

• If the splintered finger is very sore, tape a slice of raw onion around the area and leave it on overnight. The swelling and the splinter should be gone by morning.

• Make a paste of oatmeal, banana and a little water, and apply it to the splintered area. Alternate this with salad oil compresses and, by the end of the day, you should be able to squeeze out the splinter.

• Make a poultice from the grated heart of a cabbage. Apply it to the splinter and in an hour or two, it should draw the sliver out.

• For real tough splinters, sprinkle salt on the splintered area, then put half a cherry tomato on it. Bind the tomato on the salted skin with a bandage and a plastic covering to keep from messing up the bedsheets.

Oh, we forgot to mention, you’re supposed to sleep with the tomato overnight. The next morning, the splinter should come right out.

Stretch Marks

The skin is very elastic, but it doesn’t always recover properly from stretching—such as from pregnancy or weight gain/loss.

• After a shower or bath, gently massage sesame oil—about a tablespoon—all over your stretch-marked areas. Eventually, the marks may disappear.


It took years to get the folds in your face, and it will take time and persistence to unfold. We know a man who has so many wrinkles in his forehead, he has to screw his hat on. That’s a lot of wrinkles!

He can start to smooth them by relaxing more, by staying out of the sun, by not smoking (smokers have far more wrinkles than nonsmokers) and by trying one of the following remedies

• Before bedtime, take extra-virgin, coldpressed olive oil and massage the lined areas of your neck and face. Start in the center of your neck and, using an upward and outward motion, get the oil into those dry areas. Work your way up to and include your forehead. Let the oil stay on overnight.

In the morning, wash with tepid, then cool, water. You may want to add a few drops of your favorite herbal essence to the olive oil, then pretend it costs $60 a bottle.

• This is an internal approach to wrinkles. No, it doesn’t mean you’ll have unlined insides, it means that the nutritional value of brewer’s yeast may make a difference in overcoming the external signs of time.

Start with one teaspoon a day of brewer’s yeast in a pure fruit juice, and gradually work your way up to two tablespoons—one teaspoon at a time.

Some people get a gassy feeling from brewer’s yeast. We were told that that means the body really needs it, and the feeling will eventually go away when the body requirements for the nutrients are met. Huh? We’re not sure what it all means, but we do know that brewer’s yeast contains lots of health giving properties, and it may help dewrinkle the face. Seems to us it’s worth trying.

• The most popular wrinkle eraser we found requires one teaspoon of honey and two tablespoons of heavy whipping cream. Mix them together vigorously. Dip your fingertips in the mixture and, with a gentle massaging action, apply it to the wrinkles, folds, lines, creases, crinkles—whatever.

Leave it on for at least a half-hour—the longer the better. You’ll feel it tighten on your face as it becomes a mask. When you’re ready, splash it off with tepid water. By making this a daily ritual, you may become wrinkle-free.

Eye Wrinkles

• For those of you who haven’t had an eye tuck, applying castor oil on the delicate area around the eyes every night may prevent the need for cosmetic surgery.

Wrinkle Prevention

• To reduce the tendency to wrinkle, mash a ripe banana and add a few drops of peanut oil. Apply it to your face and neck (remember, upward and outward), and leave it on for at least a half-hour. Wash it off with tepid water. If you do this daily—or even every other day— it should make your skin softer and less likely to get lined.

• If you eat oatmeal for breakfast, have we got a remedy for you! Separate some of the cooked oatmeal. Add a bit of vegetable oil—enough to make it spreadable—and massage it into your face and neck. Leave this on for a half-hour, then wash it off with tepid water. If you want to be wrinkle-proof, you must repeat the procedure on a regular, daily basis.

• Buttermilk is a good wrinkle-preventing facial. Keep it on for about 20 minutes, then splash it off with warm water and pat dry.

Au Revoir, Wrinkles!

• This is supposedly the secret formula of a renowned French beauty—combine together and boil one cup of milk, two teaspoons of lemon juice and one tablespoon of brandy. While the mixture is warm, paint it on the face and neck with a pastry brush. When it is thoroughly dry, wash it off with warm water and pat dry.

• The best way to prevent wrinkled skin is to avoid excessive sun exposure and always apply sunscreen before going outside.

Lip Line Prevention

• The way to prevent those little crinkly lines around the mouth is by exercising the jaw muscle. Luckily, the jaw muscle can work the longest of all the body’s muscles without getting tired. So whistle, sing and talk.

Tongue twisters are like aerobics for the mouth, especially ones with “m,” “b” and “p” sounds. Here are a couple to start with…

◆  Pitter-patter, pitter-patter, rather than patter-pitter, patter-pitter.

◆  Mother made neither brother mutter to father.

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