Juicy and refreshing citrus fruits have been enjoyed for centuries for their delicious flavor and impressive health benefits. Ancient Romans wrote of their health benefits; British soldiers used them to combat scurvy; and pioneer women treated insect bites with their juices. Citrus is a rich natural source of vitamin C, which is essential for healthy bodies, skin and hair. Citrus fruits also contain B vitamins and inositol—both necessary for healthy skin and hair.
These bright-colored fruits are easy to find year-round at your local market, and in warmer climates a citrus tree is a welcome addition to any yard. When enjoying fresh fruits, be sure to save the valuable peels. These can be dried and used as a mild face and body rub, leaving you with clean, soft skin.
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Citrus for Skin
Citrus is a popular cosmetic ingredient not only for its high vitamin content and useful acids, but also for its fresh, uplifting scent. Citric acid kills bacteria on the skin, leaving it fresh and clean. It helps soften rough, dry skin and can be useful in treating calluses, dandruff, chapped hands and other skin conditions. Fresh citrus scent is also popular in aromatherapy as it is energizing and uplifting. You only need to catch a whiff of a fresh orange or lemon to know the powerful effects and its revitalizing properties. Citric acid is used as a natural preservative in bath and beauty products, keeping them safe and free of harmful bacteria.
Drying Citrus Peels
Orange, lemon, lime and grapefruit peels can all be saved for future use. First, remove the colored part of the peel with a zester or a sharp knife. Then choose a method to dry the peels. Lay the peels on a rack and air-dry them in a dry spot like your kitchen counter. Or spread the peels out on a glass or ceramic plate and cook for five to six minutes in the microwave on the lowest heat setting, checking every one to two minutes. Try drying peels in a traditional oven on low heat (150 degrees) for several hours, or even overnight. (There also are food dehydrators that are designed to dry fruits and vegetables. Follow manufacturer’s instructions.) Once peels are dry, store in a clean container with a tight-fitting lid in a cool, dry spot. To use, grind dried peels (until they resemble coarse flour) in a food processor or coffee grinder.
5 Simple Citrus Beauty Tricks
Age Spots and Freckles: Use the acidic juice from a fresh lemon to safely fade and remove dark patches from your skin. Rub lemon juice on the spot with a cotton ball twice daily, and in six to eight weeks you should see a difference.
Rough Elbows: To soften rough skin on the ends of your elbows, simply cut a lemon in half and sit with your elbows propped in each half for five to 10 minutes, then rinse and moisturize your skin well. Fresh lemon slices also work well to soften other spots on your feet and knees.
Dandruff Relief: After shampooing, rinse your scalp with a cup of water with a couple tablespoons of lemon, lime or grapefruit juice added. The acidic juice will help soften and remove dead skin from your scalp, leaving it clean and dandruff-free. Rinse well with water and repeat the treatment if needed in a day or two.
Dry, Chapped Hands: Red, rough hands can be soothed with lemon juice. Use a generous amount of fresh lemon juice and massage into your hands. Rinse well, then massage a rich natural oil such as olive or coconut into them.
Citrus Bath: For an energizing and relaxing bath, float fresh citrus slices in your bath water. Citrus fruits are full of vitamins and natural acids that will give you clean and healthy skin. The fresh uplifting scent will give your body, mind and spirit an instant energy boost.
Janice Cox is the author of Natural Beauty at Home (Henry Holt, 2002).