Waste Not, Want Not (Part 2): Skin Deep Beauty with Food Scraps

Article by Dr. Sarah Lantz

Wait! Before you chuck out those coffee grounds, nutshells, squishy strawberries and papaya, leftover yoghurt, used teabags… consider the abundance of skin-loving nutrients still contained within these ingredients that are far too potent and precious to simply rot away in landfill. This is your chance to repurpose this food waste into seriously good skincare – one person’s trash is another’s treasure!

Fruit and Vegetable Scraps

Avocados – are delicious and a lot of water is used to grow them, so they are a food source that we cannot afford to waste, even a little bit. Chock full of essential fatty acids, avocado can do miracles for the skin and hair. Once you’ve eaten the soft creamy flesh, rub the shell of the avocado on your elbows – it’s instantly moisturising. A bit of leftover flesh makes for a swift face mask, or massage it through your hair 20 minutes before showering for nourishment and shine.

Overripe fruit – squishy, pulpy fruit that you think is past the smoothie, puree, spread-it-on-a rice-cracker stage, can be mashed into super potent face masks. Think bananas, mangos, strawberries, cucumbers, avocado, and enzyme-rich papaya. Blend just as they are, or add a spoon of yogurt or honey and a sprinkle of oats, then apply to your face before rinsing it off with lukewarm water.

Oranges & Lemons after squeezing the juice out of a lemon, simply place your nails and cuticles inside and rub gently for a few minutes The lemon strengthens and brightens them. Lemon waste can also be used as a cleanser and toner as it brightens almost anything and its high acidity content kills germs. Similarly, orange peel is revitalising, softens the skin and fights acne. The peels can also be dried and ground for a body scrub.

Cucumber – with high water and mineral content, cucumber intensely revitalises the skin. Cucumbers also have anti-inflammatory properties. Use sliced cucumbers on eyelids to assist with tiredness, dark circles and puffiness.

Dairy products 

Getting close to the expiry date, milk, yoghurt and coconut milk are great for a relaxing foot bath, while nourishing and moisturising the skin. Yoghurt’s calming properties can also be used for sunburn and facemasks.

Coffee Grounds

Coffee grounds are such a common food waste that are perfect for an effective and natural body exfoliant. Coffee is jam-packed with antioxidant-rich caffeine which is thought to help boost blood flow. In fact, antioxidant levels only get higher once the coffee has been brewed. A good coffee body scrub removes old skin cells, softening the skin, and fighting against ingrown hair, cellulite and varicose veins. For a quick body scrub, dry out old coffee grounds (a sunny windowsill is usually fine), add a scoop of salt or sugar, a tablespoon of coconut oil (or other leftover oils) and combine for a potent, super-charged body scrub. Not a coffee drinker? Use chai spice granules instead.

Tea Leaves

The benefits of tea don’t stop with the brew alone. Cool, moistened, used tea bags soothe sore, tired, puffy eyes – similar to cucumbers. They can be used as a skin toner and some teas such as chamomile and linden have a calming and relaxing effect. Green tea contains antioxidants and is known to brighten the skin. Massage a used and cooled tea bag on sunburn to help soothe the skin and reduce pain. Rub moist tea bags on stings, bites, and cuts to reduce the healing time by drawing out toxins as well as reducing pain and swelling.

In Japan, dried, used tea leaves are eloquently referred to as chagra, which is thoroughly dried, used tea which is made into aromatic sachets to be used in bath soaks or around the house – closets, fridges, bathrooms, garbage cans – to absorb unwanted smells and in turn, emit the pleasant smell of the tea. Chagra can also be combined with other good smelling and medicinal herbs and placed near your pillow to promote good sleep. Remember, moist tea bags can be kept for one day at room temperature, up to a week if refrigerated, and nearly indefinitely when dried properly.

NB: Japan is immersed in the concept of Mottainai (pronounced moat-tie-nigh).

Mottainai is best translated as ‘What a waste’ and conveys a regret for something being wasted or not used to its fullest extent. The concept of Mottainai weaves itself through every part of the Japanese culture, tea not excluded.


That liquid-gold, lip-smacking, term of endearment, sticky, antiseptic, antioxidant, head-to-toe home-remedy is a true marvel and great for dry, chapped skin. Make sure you use the leftovers in the jar by melting them down with a bit of warm water. Apply just as it is or mix with other ingredients to create scrubs, moisturisers, masks, and soaks.


Leftover, uncooked oats are ideal for facial masks and exfoliants, even for the most sensitive of skin. Mix oats with water to form a paste and apply on the face or combine with any of the food wastes discussed above – squishy fruit, yoghurt, honey. You can also throw oats into a bath. Simply put a handful into an old sock or pair of tights, and place into the water for a creamy, soothing soak.

Love this article? You can also learn more about practical and delicious uses for food scraps here.

Dr Sarah Lantz (PhD)
Buchi Brew Co. & Sacred Women’s Way

Learn more about Sarah here.

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