Staying healthy, wealthy and wise doesn’t have to mutually exclusive – these clever DIY life hacks will save your pennies and make life distinctly better with minimal stress. So if you have an outbreak of pimples, bad breath or frizzy hair to contend with, you should think twice before heading to the pharmacy or supermarket. The answer to your problem might already be in your cupboards. It’s amazing what you can do with everyday items, a little bit of ingenuity and imagination…
What it does: Moisturises skin and sorts out fungal feet
How it works: Mix one teaspoon of honey with a mashed banana and apply as a face mask. Leave it on for 15 minutes before washing off with warm water. Honey’s hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs and retains moisture to leave your skin supple, while the banana contains potassium which helps pump up skin cells.
And rub ½ tsp honey into dry or itchy skin on the feet to prevent and cure athlete’s foot and other fungal infections. In the presence of air and heat from the rubbing, honey produces low levels of hydrogen peroxide which destroys the fungi responsible for the condition.
What it does: Freshens your breath
How it works: Components in green tea disable the cell membranes of the plaque bacteria also responsible for bad breath. Bad breath is caused by the same bacteria that cause dental decay, so your teeth will thank you as much as your other half.
As well as killing the bacteria, green tea contains odour-neutralising compounds called catechins – a bit like acting as an antiperspirant and a deodorant for body skin odour. For maximum effect, soak two green teabags in warm water for five minutes, then swish it around in your mouth for 30 seconds.
What it does: Reduces eye bags
How it works: Contains an anti-inflammatory called phenylephrine, which constricts the blood vessels to make them shrink. Although the manufacturer doesn’t recommend this use, make-up artists swear that a tiny smear of ointment under each eye can temporarily reduce eye bags. Use with caution, taking care not to get any near your actual eyes.
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Bicarbonate of soda
What it does: Whitens your teeth
How it works: Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, a naturally occurring mineral that is a great cleaner. Simply sprinkle a teaspoon on your toothbrush and clean teeth as usual. The gentle abrasive action will polish your teeth, removing dirt and stains, giving you fresh breath, too.
What it does: Dries out spots
How it works: Models have known for years that if a nasty, red pimple appears on their face the day before a shoot, the best cure is to zap it with a blob of toothpaste. Toothpaste contains an anti-bacterial agent to kill plaque, so the theory is it may kill the bacteria responsible for spots. But be careful if you have sensitive skin – it can cause irritation.
Newcastle Brown Ale
What it does: Shines and de-frizzes hair
How it works: The malt and hops in beer are packed with protein, which coats the hair, adds volume and soothes damaged cuticles. Beer also contains vitamin B, which helps condition hair, while the natural sugars create shine. Shampoo and rinse hair as usual, then pour a bottle over it. Work through and rinse with lukewarm water.
What it does: Emergency skin cleanser
How it works: Fans apply a layer as you would a normal cleanser, massage it in and then rinse thoroughly. The vegetable oils and egg yolk are supposed to soften skin, while the lemon juice has astringent properties to clean and tighten pores.
Course Ground Black Pepper
What it does: Relieves sore throats and speeds up the healing process
How it works: Piperine, the essential oil released when you grind up peppercorns, has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties – so gargle an infusion of freshly ground black pepper and water to soothe your pipes. And adding ground pepper to small cuts helps blood platelets coagulate for faster healing at the same time as killing any lingering bacteria, often reducing scarring.
What it does: Beats indigestion and ulcers
How it works: When Italian researchers gave 30 people with indigestion chilli peppers before eating, they experienced a 60% reduction in symptoms within five weeks. They suggest a component of chillies called capsaicin blocks the signals from neurotransmitters in the stomach telling the brain it’s in discomfort.
And according to the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, the capsaicin in red chilli peppers blocks acid production and improves blood flow in stomach tissue, which helps prevent and heal ulcers. Gastric ulcers are three times less common in countries where large numbers of chillies are eaten, such as the Indian subcontinent and Mexico.
Fizzy mineral water
What it does: Relieves constipation
How it works: Researchers at Federico II University in Naples found 80% of people with constipation were cured after drinking fizzy water for two weeks. It’s down to a combination of the added minerals in the water and bubbles stimulating the nerves connected to the digestive system, they say.
And upping your intake of H2O can also reduce fluid retention and bloating, according to Dr Wendy Doyle of the British Dietetic Association. “The most important thing to combat dehydration, bloating and constipation is to drink plenty of water, and some people find fizzy water more palatable, which is fine,” she says.
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What it does: Removes green from dyed blonde hair
How it works: It corrects highlights gone green from swimming pools.
Apparently, hair turns green due to oxidation chemicals in the pool and the tomato sauce acts as an antioxidant restoring the normal hair colour. Advocates apply ketchup all over the hair and massage it in, leave it for 20 minutes and then wash it out thoroughly.
What it does: Beats headaches
How it works: Tension headaches occur when blood vessels in the brain dilate – coffee is a vasoconstrictor which causes the blood vessels to shrink back, eliminating pain.
In one Chicago study, coffee alone was found to be faster at killing pain than ibuprofen alone but the effect only lasted 90 minutes – best results came from combining the two which gave quick relief for up to four hours. It’s particularly good to deal with migraines just as you feel them looming, Migraine Action says – drink a cup or two of strong black to stop it setting in.
What it does: Cures cold sores
How it works: According to US researchers in Ohio, the resveratrol found in red wine stops the herpes simplex cold sore virus replicating. This combined with the drying effect of the alcohol in the wine triggers cold sores to vanish as fast as they appeared. Put a little wine in a shallow dish, cover and leave overnight, then dab on the congealed wine with a cotton bud, leave for 5 minutes and wash off.
Spanish scientists discovered a drop of red can prevent actual colds too – experts at five universities found that people who drank more than two glasses of red wine a day had 44% fewer colds than those who didn’t. Red wine is an antioxidant, and it could possibly help dampen cold symptoms in much the same way that vitamin C does.
What it does: Nuke verrucas
How it works: Taping the inside of the peel from an overripe banana to a verruca speeds the healing process because of the anti-viral properties in the sticky substance inside the peel.
Simply cut out a small 2x2cm square from an overripe banana skin, tape it firmly on and leave overnight. Repeat for 2-3 weeks until the verucca has gone. A study in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery found this method to be as effective as any over-the- counter treatment. Keep the area around the verucca clean and dry, and see a professional podiatrist if the verucca lingers for more than two months.