We’ve all heard the statistic about the skin being the body’s largest organ, but opinions about how to care for its extensive surface area range from “leave it alone” to “use all the products!”. I’ve decided to throw my own two cents into the ring and share my sweet, step-by-step DIY skincare regime that happens to fall neatly in the middle of these two approaches – a handful of homemade products and practices that will help your skin look great, naturally.

Before we get started, I feel as though it’s necessary to state that I’m most definitely not a dermatologist, and if you have specific skin issues that may make it challenging to discontinue use of your current products and/or start using new ones, then it’s probably best to consult with your doctor before embarking on this adventure. For those with fairly normal skin, let’s get experimenting!

DIY skincare to the rescue

First things first, we need a clean slate to work with – we need to clean our skin somehow. About five years ago I stopped using any sort of body wash or facial cleanser and I haven’t looked back since. I don’t miss that tight feeling I used to get after washing my face or stepping out of the shower, and I’ve noticed that my skin is way less dry and itchy, too. In the shower, I use natural bar soap for armpits, feet, and around my lady business. For my face, I simply use a hot washcloth to gently steam and then scrub my face. Avoiding detergent-based soaps, cleansers and washes can prevent your skin from having all its wonderful natural oils stripped and then having to produce it excessively as a means of replacement.

Next, we exfoliate! This is more of a weekly thing than a daily regime, but I like to do it on a regular basis to slough off dead skin, and keep skin looking and feeling soft and dewy. For my body I usually whip up an easy DIY scrub by mixing together an exfoliant and a liquid – usually some mixture of the following:

  • Exfoliants: White sugar, brown sugar, coffee grounds, salt
  • Liquids: Olive oil, coconut oil, honey, water, lemon juice
  1. Add a few tablespoons of the exfoliant first, then slowly add the liquid until it forms a loose paste.
  2. Use your fingertips to gently apply to your body and scrub softly, paying particular attention to knees, elbows, and any other rough spots.


Let’s face it

For my face, I like to use something a little finer, and my go-to for years had been a mixture of baking soda and water. Same as above, add about a tablespoon of baking soda in a little bowl and add water until it forms a loose paste, then apply with the fingertips and massage in small, circular motions, avoiding the tender skin around the eyes. This face scrub is approximately 99% cheaper than anything you’ll find in a store and there’s no plastic bottle to throw out afterward, either. It’s an unbelievable way to reveal perfect, glowy skin – just don’t scrub too hard! Let the baking soda do the work.

Tone, not alone

Next, a toner. This is an optional step, but a good one if you tend to have oily skin. I used this initially, but over the years, my transition from mid-twenties skin to early-thirties skin means it now leans toward the dry side and I don’t find that I really need it. If you do, the recipe is easy-peasy. Just mix equal parts of organic apple cider vinegar (ACV) with water, and apply to the face with a cotton ball or – even better, a reusable cloth pad. No need to rinse, the ACV dries odorless.

Ready, set, moisturize

Finally, we moisturize! For my body, I love to use unrefined coconut oil for an after-shower full body massage, it’s a great way to keep moisture in the skin and leaves it feeling soft and smooth. Simply apply pea-sized amounts of coconut oil to the skin with your fingertips and massage it in until it’s completely absorbed. Coconut oil is solid at room temperature but it will liquify as soon as it hits your warm skin. I typically use around 1-2 Tbsp for my whole body.

Those in humid climates may find that this is enough, but if you’re in an arid climate like I am, whipping up this luxe DIY body lotion is fantastic for dry skin.

  • 3 tbsp grated beeswax
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup sterile water (boiled and cooled is how I do mine)
  1. Place olive oil into a double boiler over low-medium heat and add the grated beeswax.
  2. When it has melted into the olive oil, remove from heat.
  3. Place water into a blender and turn it on to medium speed.
  4. Then, slooooowly add the olive oil/beeswax mixture. At first it will look like a huge clumpy mess, but adding the oil slowly will allow it and the water to emulsify into a rich cream.
  5. Add a few drops of essential oil if you like your lotion scented, and store in a sterile glass jar.

And, if you’re a makeup-wearer, here’s a bonus tip. Use a few dabs of unrefined coconut oil to remove eye makeup in a snap. Just massage a tiny amount onto your eyelids and eyelashes, and use a warm, wet cloth to wipe it off. It’s a really easy, gentle way to remove eye makeup while being really gentle on that sensitive skin around the eyes.

And there you have it! With a handful of simple products you probably already have in your pantry, you can create a host of easy, natural DIY skincare recipes that will have your skin glowing in no time. No plastic, no unpronounceable chemicals, and virtually no cost.

DIY hygiene

As an added bonus, we’ve whipped up several other DIY hygiene recipes which you may also be interested in including DIY body wash, DIY dry shampoo, DIY body lotion, DIY conditioner, DIY facewash, DIY shave cream, DIY aftershave, DIY toothpaste and DIY deodorant. Go ahead, give them a try today!

10 Muscle Building Foods to Add to Your Diet for Faster Gains

Continuing on my theme about the critical importance of nutrition within the whole fitness/training process. In my Thursday column I talked about healthy snacks. A big thanks to all of you who sent in those great snack recipe ideas.

I posted some of the best on my site www.jameshaskell.com . So please take a look and tell me what they taste like. As they all look so good!

In today’s column, we are going to take a wider look at the whole subject with some interesting food ideas and eating tips.

The reason most people struggle to build muscle isn’t through lack of effort in the gym. With so much fitness information out there these days, most guys and girls can engineer a decent enough training programme. The hard part is eating enough and enough of the right foods, to trigger muscle growth.

Science tells us that in order to build muscle, we have to be in a caloric surplus. But when you factor in a full day’s worth of activity, this can end up being a lot more food than you think.

One day of eating big won’t cut it, either. In order to build muscle we need to maintain our caloric surplus for weeks, months, as long as we want to keep growing. To do this, we need to achieve the following two things:

Eat high calorie foods. They’ll make it much easier to achieve your caloric goals than plain old chicken and rice. But before you dive head first into a pizza box, remember that these have to be good calories – or you’ll just end up looking like a marshmallow.

Eliminate food boredom. There’s only so long that you can force feed yourself meals that you don’t enjoy. If you’re in this for the long term, we need to eliminate the food boredom so you can hit your calorie goals day in, day out. Most importantly, you’ll have fun doing so too.

With the above in mind, here are 10 foods to add to your diet to help you build (and keep building) some serious muscle.

1) Whole Eggs

Eggs are the ultimate muscle building food – they’re cheap, versatile, and packed with calories and protein. They’re also high in cholesterol, which, contrary to popular belief, is actually extremely beneficial for your performance goals. This is because cholesterol is a precursor to testosterone, one of the major hormones responsible for building muscle.

Eggs and fish


Eggs are also extremely rich in selenium, which helps maintain a healthy heart and joints, along with iodine, which is essential for healthy thyroid function. They’re great for breakfast, as a portable snack when hardboiled, or used as an easy way to bump up the caloric value of your other meals throughout the day. After all, who doesn’t love topping their steak with a couple of fried eggs?

2) Almond butter

In fact, any nut butter will do. There aren’t many easier (or more delicious) ways to bump up your calorie intake than with a couple of teaspoons of nut butter each day.

The beauty of nut butters is that they contain all the benefits of whole nuts – protein, healthy fat, fibre, minerals – but in a much more convenient form. Let’s face it; it’s a lot easier to eat a tablespoon of almond butter than it is to eat a handful of raw almonds. Spread it, cook with it, or even eat it straight from the jar. We’re not judging you, we promise.

3) Steak

A good steak is a little pricier than most other protein sources, but the muscle building rewards make it more than worth the investment. Offering uch more than just protein, steak is loaded with iron and zinc, along with the amino acid L-Carnitine, which helps the body utilise testosterone to build muscle.

Don’t be afraid to choose a fattier cut either. Providing it’s grass fed, it will be packed with CLA, a potent fatty acid that helps to build muscle and slash body fat.

4) Coconut

Including coconut in your diet is one of the most efficient ways to bump up your calorie intake from a high quality, nutrient dense source.

It was only a few years ago that we were being advised to avoid saturated fats, but we now know just how beneficial they can be to boosting both health and performance. This holds especially true for lauric acid, a saturated fatty acid found in coconuts that is easily metabolised by the body for energy rather than being stored as fat.

coconut oil and fresh coconuts on old wooden table


One great way to use coconut is for cooking rice – instead of boiling it in water, use a can of coconut milk instead. Not only will it make it creamier and more delicious, it will also add an extra 400 calories to your meal without the need for any extra chewing!

5) White potatoes

Recent health trends have seen many people switch their regular spuds for the more coveted sweet potato, but is this really necessary? Whilst there’s certainly no denying the many health benefits of sweet potatoes, white potatoes are also an excellent addition to your diet – for one, they’re higher in iron, magnesium and potassium than their sweeter cousin.

White potatoes were a favourite of all the old school bodybuilders trying to gain size, and for good reason. They’re delicious and one of the best carbohydrate sources on the planet. Don’t be afraid to enjoy your fair share of spuds if you’re serious about building slabs of muscle.

6) White jasmine rice

The best time to take in high GI carbohydrates like white jasmine rice is after a workout, when the insulin spike can help accelerate the rate at which amino acids are shuttled into your muscle cells. Jasmine rice is delicious and incredibly easy to digest, making it the perfect mass building post workout carb source.

7) Sardines

Sardines are high in calories, but are also an excellent source of many important nutrients; including omega 3, to improve joint health and recovery, and vitamin D, to improve energy levels and boost the immune system. They’re also one of the few good non-dairy sources of calcium, which is great news for those that struggle with lactose. Sardines are cheap and surprisingly delicious – try them on a jacket potato for a delicious post workout meal.

Sandwich with sardines, sprats with parsley and dill


8) Whole chickens

Be honest – do you really enjoy eating boneless, skinless chicken breasts every day? Even the most perfectly cooked chicken breast just can’t compete with the satisfaction of tucking into a juicy, skin on, roasted whole chicken.

Not only are whole chickens tastier – they’re also better value, with the price of a whole free range chicken roughly the same as just two breasts. In other words, you’re getting the drumsticks, thighs, skin, and other tasty bits free of charge! The fattier meat and skin also provide a healthy serving of extra calories, too.

Top tip: Buy a large whole chicken, and portion it up for meals throughout the next few days. You’ll get loads for your money and save time, too!

9) Avocados

Is there anything that doesn’t taste better with a side of avocado? Not only will these delicious green fruits make the rest of your meals more enjoyable, they’ll also add a hefty serving of healthy fats and calories to every meal that you use them in. Mash four or five at a time with a little lime juice, garlic, salt and pepper to make an easy guacamole, store in the fridge, then add a big dollop to your meals as you go through the week. We bet you can’t make it to Wednesday before it’s all gone!



10) Hemp Seeds

This one may surprise you, but there’s a good reason why hemp is quickly becoming a favourite amongst bodybuilders across the globe. These tiny titans of nutrition are packed with essential recovery minerals iron and magnesium, and also boast a hefty 40% protein content! The best thing about hemp seeds is that they’re just so easy to use – sprinkle them on top of salads, soups, roasted veggies or grilled meat for a delicious, nutty flavoured topping.

The protein found in hemp seeds is a ‘globular’ protein, considered the most bioavailable to the human body. That means more of the amino acids in hemp get to work where you need them most – in the muscles!

Remember: muscle is broken down in the gym and built in the kitchen. Now get cooking!