Every abuela has one: that wild concoction she whips up from ingredients in her kitchen and swears by every time you have a pimple, dry skin, unruly hair — you name it. As kids, most of us rolled our eyes and went along with it, but we’ve done a little digging, and it turns out maybe Grandma wasn’t so crazy after all. Many of those beauty recipes actually work! Warning: do try these 11 practices at home for smooth skin and silky hair — or get these beauty buys that are also grandma-approved.
1. Using mayonnaise as a deep conditioner for healthy hair.
According to hairstylist Nathaniel Hawkins, this old-school method works because of the fat to protein ratio. “The oil softens the hair, making it shinier — and the protein in the eggs will make strands stronger.” He recommends applying the treatment to dry hair, and leaving it on as a mask for 15-20 minutes. Shampoo twice, and condition afterwards. But, Hawkins notes, this treatment works best for hair that isn’t fine or limp.
2. Dabbing nails in olive oil for a healthier look.
Nail expert Stephanie Stone debunked the myth (common in Dominican culture) that rubbing garlic on nails will make them strong (according to studies, it has no benefit). But, she says, applying olive oil (a popular DIY beauty ingredient in Puerto Rico) on nails and cuticles throughout the day is a great way to improve their health. “Keeping your hands and nails moisturized is key, especially if you’re trying to repair damaged nail beds. I’d also recommend applying it lightly throughout the day instead of a full on soak. But consistency is key!”
3. Coconut oil as a body moisturizer.
“This one 100% works,” says dermatologist (and Sofia Vergara’s derm!) Dendy Engelman, M.D., of coconut oil for soft skin, a popular technique in many Latin American countries. “Coconut oil is mostly made up of saturated fats and medium-chain fatty acids, which help repair the skin barrier, trap water to hydrate skin, and also reduce inflammation. And recent studies show it’s also a great treatment for eczema.”
4. Adding honey to hair conditioner for softer tresses.
A custom common in Caribbean Latin America, honey is a natural moisturizer, which Hawkins says does work to help rehydrate your locks. And using unprocessed honey will give you an extra bonus: it’s full of enzymes that will help create a healthy scalp and prevent dandruff.
5. Agua maravilla to fight blemishes.
Also known as witch hazel, this is common in many Latino families, especially from Puerto Rican and Dominican backgrounds. Engelman says it works because the mixture contains anti-inflammatory, astringent, and antibacterial properties. Engelman also recommends Dickinson’s Original Witch Hazel Refreshingly Clean Towelettes ($6) to control blemishes and calm bug bites.
6. Washing hair with Coca-Cola for shine.
This is a long-time favorite technique among not just Latino families, but celebrities like Suki Waterhouse. Hairstylist Nunzio Saviano gives this traditional trick the thumbs up: “The acidity closes the hair cuticle, which makes it look healthy and shiny. But be careful: the sugar can leave your hair sticky, so you might need to rinse it out quickly. Apple cider vinegar is an alternative that might not be as messy!”
7. Beach sand as a skin exfoliant.
“Sand is essentially finely granulated rocks, so it’s perfect to remove excess dry skin cells,” Engelman says. “But because it’s so abrasive, I’d only recommend you use it to exfoliate feet. It might be too harsh for other parts of your body.”
8. Manzanilla grisi shampoo to lighten hair.
Saviano says that this traditionally Mexican and South American product — which contains Flor de Manzanilla and claims to both wash and lighten hair — does work, but he would use it sparingly. “This will maintain your tone and even lighten it at times, but if you use it too much, your color might become dull or even fade.”
9. Grape skin paste for glowing skin.
Grapes are a gold mine, says Engelman. “They’ll have a brightening effect over time because they contain vitamins B6, C, and A, and minerals like potassium, magnesium, selenium, and flavonoids, which act as antioxidants and remove toxins from the skin.”
10. Sugar and lemon juice as an antiaging exfoliant.
According to Engelman, the sugar crystals act as an exfoliator, sloughing away dead skin, while the lemon juice helps peel away dead skin cells because of their content of alpha hydroxy acid (which is found in many antiaging treatments). Exfoliating is important, Engelman says, “because as we age, our skin doesn’t shed as effectively. Plus, getting rid of dead cells helps your moisturizers penetrate better.”
11. Avocado for healthy cuticles.
“Actually, rubbing avocado oil on cuticles is more effective than actual avocado,” says Stone. But good news for avocado lovers: “Avocados in a healthy, balanced diet will help you see overall improvement in your hair, skin, and nails, too.” Bring on the guacamole!