For my 425th birthday last month, my mother (961 years old and proud of it; she had me young!) gave me a Certified Reconditioned Vitamix. I’ve asked for a Certified Reconditioned Vitamix for no fewer than 150 of those birthdays, and finally my wish came true. For years, I’ve used a blender that I bought at a small appliance store that also sells off-brand American Girl Dolls and gold-plated jewelry underneath the Williamsburg Bridge.
If you’re in the market for a prestige blender, a Certified Reconditioned Vitamix is far cheaper than a new one, but just as powerful. Plus, it comes haunted by the ghost of the previous owner, which is good company when you realize you no longer have any friends or lovers remaining, only a blender.
Sure, I like to blend up high-calorie peanut butter smoothies and Gowanus Canal-colored green juices in there and call them “fortifying elixirs,” but I’ve found that the real joy of the Certified Reconditioned Vitamix is creating DIY beauty mixtures as dictated by strangers on the internet. You don’t need a Certified Reconditioned Vitamix to attempt these creamy blended masks and scrubs — putting a bunch of knives between your teeth and slicing and dicing manually will work — but it’ll sure speed up the process. Here are some of my faves:
This is a hot tip I gleaned from the glossy pages of my favorite lifestyle magazine: the How to Make Homemade Non-Dairy Nut Milks tab of the Vitamix website. It suggests turning the “leftover pulp from homemade almond milk” into “a gentle face scrub.”
To enjoy the benefits of a nourishing almond milk pulp mask, I first had to hire someone to make me homemade almond milk. I texted my super and he said, “Please stop abusing the privilege of having this phone number.” Having no luck there, I called 911 to see if any civil servants might be able to assist. The 911 operator took down my name, address and social security number, then suggested I call an au pair or TaskRabbit. Then, I remembered that this entire time I’ve had an unpaid intern who I explicitly hired to make nut milks for me! I knocked on Aubrey’s office door (my bathroom), and demanded she get to blending.
In the end, it took Aubrey literally 45 seconds to make me almond milk. I had the foresight to soak the almonds overnight; their soggy husks truly sickened me. She dumped the wet nuts into the blender and added three cups of water. Then she strained it in a colander, because I don’t own a “fine mesh sieve” as called for.
So there I was, confronted with a colander of pulp and a bare face. I applied the scrub naked, standing in the bathtub because I have a small bathroom sink and didn’t want to make a mess. I made a mess anyway, and also clogged my drain, which had only just recovered from the onion bathing incident of August 2016. The almond husks certainly exfoliated, but were too abrasive for my skin, and I now have a bit of a scab on the bridge of my nose. I also called 911 for help with this, and they told me that the police were coming right away. To arrest me, though.
This is a recipe that I Young Frankenstein-ed into existence (RIP, Gene Wilder), mashing together a few high-protein face masks meant to adhere to your face and remove nasal blackheads. Most recipes called for plain gelatin, but I already had strawberry Jell-O on hand from my 425th birthday party, at which I intended to make Jell-O shots but realized too late I owned no disposable shot glasses. Instead, I just made a bowl of Absolut Mango-flavored Jell-O. It was a hit; literally just kidding.
I decided to put a little egg white, milk, Jell-O and my useless, leftover collagen in the Vitamix, blend for a few seconds at a slow, steady pulse, and apply to my face. This was one of the worst ideas I’ve ever had, and this is coming from a person who graduated with a women’s studies degree. The Jell-O immediately thickened in the blender. I panicked, thinking I’d destroyed the only thing I’d ever loved, and took to the internet for advice. Basically, everyone was declaring doomsday. I guess putting Jell-O in a blender is a cardinal sin. Who knew? I do now!
With a little elbow grease (consisting of jojoba oil, argan oil and a bit of Kiehl’s Creme de Corps — What? I have sensitive elbows!), I was able to clean the hardened Jell-O out of the Vitamix and start over, this time with a disposable piece of Tupperware and a spoon. This worked fine, I guess, but at that point I had wasted two hours on the recipe and didn’t really care anymore. I still have blackheads, obviously, and would actively warn against this mask. Just buy a pore strip (I like these); it’ll be cheaper in the long run.
I was starting to worry that, in pursuit of DIY skin care, I’d actively ruined my face and might require a skin graft to get the old one back. I’m the Dowager Princess of Overdoing It, but even I was like, okay, take a break, move on to a different body part. I chose my hair, because it’s mostly fine and I never have issues with it, so I thought it could be cool to ruin a whole new facet of my being.
I’d been researching strawberry hair masks, mostly because I had gone out of town for three days and had a pound of rotting strawberries in my refrigerator. I assumed that they had some sort of fortifying power. I found this recipe on the aptly named “Makeup and Beauty Dot Com” that recommended five to six strawberries plus yogurt, coconut oil and a whole egg. I got to work.
Unfortunately, I didn’t read all the directions. There’s an IMPORTANT NOTE one paragraph in that says, “IMPORTANT NOTE: This mask is very time consuming as the rinsing process is a bit lengthy because the strawberries are like bananas and those who have used bananas for their hair know how tedious it is to remove the banana residue from the hair, it is the same with strawberries. So use this mask when you are relaxed and free and have a lot of time to spend on your hair.”
Yeeps! I put this mask on my head about nine hours before I had my first day of orientation for grad school. The website delineates nine clear steps, including conditioning, then shampooing, then conditioning again afterward. My hair looked the same (or worse) than before, and I couldn’t help but notice a rotted fruit-and-curdled yogurt scent about me. I wore my hair in a tight topknot to orientation, and I looked amazing.
With three strikes behind me, I really needed a win. It was time for the go-to recipe that every beauty junkie loses their shit over: tooth soap. What is tooth soap? Great question. I don’t know because this was in my mouth for about ~10 seconds before my gag reflex kicked in. I do know it has literal soap in it.
I adapted this recipe from a 2010 post on a Blogger site called Homestead Wannabes. The post seemed legit because it garnered 185 comments, which is 184 more comments than I’ve ever gotten on any bit of longform journalism I’ve been paid to research and write as my sole income and livelihood. I also chose this recipe because I already had Dr. Bronner’s peppermint castile soap on hand, which the recipe called for. I did have to buy Xylitol, which has a scary Deep Space Nine name and sounds more chemical than anything in Crest, but if I’ve learned one thing on this long-trodden path of being a part-time beauty blogger, it’s to trust the Homestead Wannabes.
I decided to make my tooth soap in a baby-sized food processor from college instead of the blender to avoid another disaster of Jell-O mask proportions. I combined Xylitol, castile soap, coconut oil and “20 to 30 drops” of clove oil because the Homestead Wannabes said it was good for the prevention of gum disease and I did absolutely no more research than the bare minimum required of me.
The Homestead Wannabes told me to “blend until frothy.” My tooth soap became too frothy, dare I say it. Then I was told to funnel the frothy tooth soap into a clean, empty hand soap container. Like, no. I scooped my frothy tooth soap into a Ziploc bag, cut a hole in the corner and piped frothy tooth soap onto my toothbrush.
Disaster. I had to throw the toothbrush out, which is probably for the best because I’ve been using the same one since January. This is the only net positive to come from the entire blender beauty canon.
Claire Carusillo is a freelance and fiction writer in New York. She writes a weekly beauty newsletter offering off-label product usage advice.
Feature collage by Lily Ross.