class notes: top five

Five Kitchen Items to Improve Your Skin (And Hair)

Kasia Cummings, BS ’97 Founder, Buffalo Gal Organics

Conceptual illustration of at-home holistic medicinal chemistry.

Illustration: Betsy Everitt

Interview by Rebecca Rudell


“Chemistry was the hardest subject I’ve ever taken, but it was fascinating,” says Kasia Cummings, founder and self-proclaimed “chief mix master” of Buffalo Gal Organics, a 100-percent plant-based, organic and ethically sourced skin care line.

Holistic entrepreneur wasn’t in Cummings’ original life plan. After graduating with a degree in medicinal chemistry, she worked as a chemist for a small R&D firm in Buffalo before leaving the field to work in retail, managing different divisions at Wegmans Food Markets.

Then, in 2009, her youngest daughter developed a recurring rash on her hands from her school’s hand sanitizer. With her training in chemistry, Cummings realized she could to do something about it, so she researched ingredients, ordered what she needed online and formulated a lotion that cured her child’s skin ailment.

Family and friends started clamoring for the lotion, spurring Cummings to do further research on the chemicals used in mass-market products and to develop more wholesome alternatives. “It became a mission for me to create products that were healthier for everyone,” she says.

In 2010 she founded Buffalo Gal Organics, which today produces more than 200 creams, cleansers, cosmetics and perfumes, using ingredients with colorful names like white willow bark and blue tansy. Cummings left Wegmans four years later to devote herself full time to her company, which sells its products online as well as through a recently established storefront in Williamsville, a suburb of Buffalo.

Since most of us don’t have marula oil or blue-green algae in our cupboards, we asked Cummings for some common kitchen ingredients to pamper our skin and leave the toxic chemicals behind. Bonus: Most of these work on hair too.

Five kitchen items to improve your skin (and hair):

1. Honey
Throw it in a blender with yogurt and bananas for a soothing mask. For acne-prone skin, swap bananas with pineapple.

2. Apple cider vinegar
Dilute with water or witch hazel and add a few drops of essential oil— I suggest lavender for puffy skin—to make an amazing toner. Or use it to clean your hair and get the gunky, built-up product out.

3. Coconut oil
Use as a hair conditioner or to soften skin. Just don’t apply it to your face, as it’s heavy and may clog pores.

4. Baking soda
Sprinkle into a warm bath. Baking soda helps detoxify and soothe your skin as you soak. (NOTE: If you’re pregnant, or have diabetes or high blood pressure, talk to your doctor before trying this tip.)

5. Olive oil
Another moisturizer for hair and skin that’s rich in antioxidants and vitamins, and free of chemicals. If you grow lavender in your garden, add some crushed-up buds to create your own essential oil.