This is the main ingredient group to explore in the making of truly sustainable skincare products in your kitchen. In Asia, food and beauty products are often interchangeable, and roughly half the ingredients in most dishes are used in a traditional beauty regimen. The reason why we should use food for our skincare products is obviously for safety because food ingredients are far more regulated than cosmetic ingredients. In addition, they are biodegradable and both our bodies and the Earth know how to process them.

Grains, Beans and Seeds

Grains, beans, and seeds make great exfoliants, face washes, masks, and can be used as fillers or thickeners. They are usually easily sourced in grocery shops too. The following are found to be effective when applied topically:

Almond (Prunus dulcis)

Both the Indian and the Chinese traditions recognise the mild bleaching effects of almond meal  In the United States, almond meal is widely used as an exfoliant.


These are the seeds of the tree Bixa orellana, commonly called the lipstick tree, and are used to colour food as well as cosmetics. They are also known to reduce the signs of wrinkles and blemishes as well as to tighten the pores when topically applied. They have a bright chilli orange colour and are used traditionally in Vietnamese noodle soup, Bun Bo, without making it spicy.

Azuki (Phaseolus angularis) Packed with vitamins and minerals, azuki beans are a traditional Japanese beauty ingredient. The ‘seed coat extract is a humectant, skin conditioning, and skin protecting’.
Grains Azelaic acid, a component of grains such as wheat, rye, and barley, is beneficial when applied to the skin. It can have desirable results on heavily pigmented melanocytes. It is also recommended for acne treatment as it kills the bacteria which infect pores and cause development of acne.
Lecithin granules This derives from soybeans and egg yolk and plays an important role in strengthening the skin’s outer structure. Lecithin is a powerful humectant which prevents the skin from becoming dry and vulnerable. It is also a softening agent and a natural antioxidant. It absorbs quickly with no feeling of grease and heaviness afterwards. In this respect, it functions similarly to hyaluronic acid, glycerine, and ceramides. It acts as a natural emulsifier, thickener, stabiliser, and preservative.
Oats (Avena sativa) The whole dried plant can be made into decoction and used as a face wash to heal certain skin conditions. It also has anti-itch, antifungal, and antigenotoxic properties. Oatmeal (coarsely ground oat kernels) is used for atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, and sun protection. It moisturises and is effective for sterilisation and acne eruptions as it makes for a gentle daily exfoliating cleanser. It may cause irritation for those individuals sensitive to gluten.
Rice In cosmetics, rice serves as a natural source of ceramides, which is an excellent moisturiser and helps condition dry skin.Rice oil contains vitamins, minerals, and tocopherols,which are recognised as antioxidants.
Rice Bran (Komenuka) One of the best-kept Japanese beauty secrets, rice bran is rich in vitamins B and E as well as fatty acids that help promote healthy skin. The powdered rice bran makes an effective exfoliant and softening and moisturising agent while rice bran water has been used in traditional baths for centuries.
Soybean (Glycine Soja) Soybean extracts neutralise free radicals, stimulate collagen production, increase skin moisture, and reduce hyper-pigmentation. Soybean is also used as a skin whitener and softener. One study shows soy isoflavones work to fight oxidation in the skin. Although not known how, it also appears to boost hyaluronic acid production, as well as reduce pigment production and block transfer of pigment between cells.
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