I Made My Own Makeup Out of Beets and Charcoal
Easy DIY makeup with the added benefit of smelling like Christmas.
All photos by Amanda Hjernø.
A version of this article originally appeared on Broadly Denmark.
There's a misconception that living a spartan lifestyle also means living a boring one. But I wanted to try riding the minimalist wave without sacrificing any fun or flair, so I decided to try to concoct my own makeup. From my perspective, no matter what it's made of, a red lip is always a surefire way to make life a bit more festive.
It’s not just the comfort of waltzing into the kitchen instead of fighting crowds at Sephora that makes DIY makeup alluring. There’s also something sexy about the Egtved Girl vibe (clearly the sexiest figure in Scandinavian history—aside from Viggo Mortensen). Could mashed berries on my lips make me feel like I'm gussied up and ready to seduce the chieftain’s son?
I should note that I don’t usually wear a lot of makeup. No big political statement behind that— I’m just kind of bad at putting it on. Plus I’m impatient and lazy, and I’m certain to smudge it at some point during the day. But still, I wanted to see if the makeup world’s equivalent of the paleo diet could suit my messy aesthetic.
There are many fancier variations of mix-at-home makeup that involve investing in aloe vera gel, rhassoul clay, activated charcoal, and other ingredients, none of which you necessarily already have in your kitchen. But I was pleased to find these two lovely women on YouTube who’ve managed to make things work with coconut oil, spices, and beets.
After watching their video tutorials, I raided my cupboard for cornstarch and colorful spices, after which I hit up the grocery store for beets, frozen berries, and charcoal. At last, I was ready to mix up some gorgeous makeup that had the benefit of also making me smell a bit like Christmas.
If you, like me, have watched a ridiculous amount of makeup tutorials online, you’ll know that you always—ALWAYS—start with a base, which in this case is a powder consisting of cornstarch, cinnamon, turmeric, and cocoa powder. There was supposed to be paprika in it too, but I only had the smoked kind, and I thought that’d be a little harsh. In trying to match my skin tone, I was afraid of either ending up looking like someone with the flu. Plus, the woman in the video elegantly mixes her spices in a small bowl, while my cornstarch exploded all over my hands as soon as I opened the package. But I managed to get the spices mixed, and added a little extra turmeric.
My fresh “powder” emitted lots of dust as I spread it on my face, but it did smell pleasantly of cinnamon. At this point, I didn't see much of a difference in my appearance, but the cornstarch might have gotten rid of some of the shine from my greasy office worker forehead.
I filled in my eyebrows with cocoa powder. Real cocoa powder, not Nesquik—and spread a bit of coconut oil on top, hoping that it will act as glue and keep the powder from sprinkling into my eyes.
If I was the type of person who had ground matcha or beet powder in my kitchen, I could’ve done a nice red and green eyeshadow palette, but I continued with my simple earth tones of turmeric and cocoa. At this point, someone should say what everyone’s thinking: these colors look like different shades of excrement. Especially when you mix them together.
I smeared a little cornstarch on my wrist to see how it compared to my skin tone. There’s a reason that yellow isn’t an especially popular eye shadow color, but let’s put that aside for a moment, and instead I'll call this shade “jaundice with a dash of nicotine.” I decided to stick to the yellowish vibe, but if you’re feeling extra goth, you could also just rub coal around your eyes.
I mixed coconut oil with crushed charcoal and dipped an old mascara brush in it. I’m supposed to be using activated charcoal, but this is a budget version, and there’s a far greater likelihood of finding grilling supplies in my kitchen than activated charcoal. (Luckily, grilling season isn’t over at the grocery store.) I also read up a bit on the uses of coal to make sure that applying to my face won’t kill me.
If I thought the cornstarch was a bit messy, it’s nothing compared to the mess of coconut oil and charcoal that’s now coating my fingers. As I crumble the coal by crushing two pieces against each other, a coworker asked me worriedly, asking, “Are you planning on rubbing that on your face?” Yes, that’s exactly what I planned to do. Black as Batman’s cape. Black as coal, actually.
First I attempted to apply eyeliner with a small brush, but quickly give up. There just isn’t any color coming off the brush, not even after I pretty much directly rubbed the brush on a piece of coal. Maybe the cheap alternative is a bit too cheap after all.
After the eyeliner failed me, I was all the more surprised when the mascara actually worked. It’s a bit clumpy, but I hadn’t expected much more from the black porridge in front of me. The lashes didn't end up outrageously pronounced; it’s more like “eighth-grader wearing mascara for the first time because all the other girls are.” But hey, that look isn’t without its merits.
I’ve been looking forward to this one, because beets are an everyday food and it looks really easy to do. You just take a beet, cut a slice, press a sponge against it, and dab your cheeks with the sponge. Slice, sponge, dab, done. At this point, my cheeks have gotten quite red, and I started thinking about using the beet on my eyelids and lips as well. Maybe even my whole face. With the cornstarch it could have made a really nice sunset color scheme.
“Looking pretty 80s over there,” my coworker chuckles later. Maybe I got a little over-enthusiastic about these beets and their magical qualities.
I had a nice frozen berry mix from the supermarket and tried defrosting the berries in some warm water and coconut oil. The mixture seemed to separate a bit when I mix the oil in with the berries, but nevertheless I placed the whole concoction, which mostly resembles the contents of a menstrual cup, into the fridge so that it can set.
After it’s congealed, there’s not a whole lot of color in it, but I tried dipping the lip brush directly into the berries and let it dry on my lips. During my first attempt, I accidentally licked it off—and it tasted pretty tart. I dabbed my lips with a beet, then let it sit for a bit before brushing berry juice onto my lip again. The berry-and-oil mix started to melt and took on a yellowish tone.
The final result
“You don’t look that crazy” and “I’m impressed you don’t look worse” were the reactions I got from my well-meaning coworkers. My face glowed with cornstarch and beets, but at what cost? I got coal under my nails, cornstarch on all of my clothes, and the kitchen was covered in a thick layer of coconut oil. It was actually pretty fun mixing it all together, just like when I was little and would make “perfume” out of water and dandelions. But just like the “perfume,” this DIY makeup is pretty ineffective, despite being fun. You can definitely see that I got some color on my face, but you can also tell that it’s not chemical-laden, easily applicable makeup, but spices, coal, and vegetables.
I’m not fooling anyone, and if I asked my friends, “Can you tell I’m wearing makeup made from food and household substances?” I’m pretty sure they’d reply, “Yes, you stingy, sanctimonious weirdo, of course we can.” The good thing about DIY makeup, though, is that it’s nearly impossible to put too much on.