04 February 2015

Review: Natural Beauty

With endless options for quality beauty products available in stores, why would anyone go to the trouble of making their own? Actually, there are a lot of good reasons. Making your own ensures your products contain only natural, high-quality ingredients, with no fillers, artificial colours, or preservatives (and once you've set yourself up with the basics, individual recipes are actually far cheaper than anything you can buy). With homemade preparations, you can also be sure to avoid animal testing (I keep finding out about companies that claim to be cruelty free, but are happy to use the loophole of letting other companies test for them. Not okay). Lastly, making your own is just fun. So, when DK offered me a chance to review their book Natural Beauty, I jumped at the chance to get crafty.

First, the good.  The book is beautiful, with tons of excellent photos, and packed full of information. Did you know your skin changes according to a daily, as well as monthly, cycle? Or how to read the label on a store-bought product? Or the difference between "rose otto" and "rose absolute"? With Natural Beauty you'll learn all that and more. I especially liked the Directory of Ingredients, with its in-depth coverage of individual flowers, fruits, oils and more (my only complaint: I have no idea how this section is organized--it doesn't seem to be by common name or Latin name. I guess you just have to search page by page to find what you're looking for). There are also sections on caring for your skin and hair by type, tips on eating well for specific beauty goals (like clear skin), info on DIY spa treatments, and somewhat incongruously, an entire chapter on how to wear makeup. While I thought it was fun that the book tells you how to recreate makeup looks based on the elements (earth, air, water, fire, wood, and metal), I don't think makeup and "natural beauty" exactly go hand in hand. Some people might like it, though, and there's some solid information here on how to apply makeup correctly. At the end of the book there are also charts comparing vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and superfoods. And there are plenty of recipes, for just about every beauty product you can imagine.

Unfortunately, I found the recipes to be a bit of a let down. I was disappointed by the number of them that were listed as being suited to "all" skin types. After the great information on the different skin types and their specific needs, I had been hoping for more customized recipes (or at least more suggestions on how to customize them). As someone with both dry and extremely sensitive skin, I can tell you that products labelled as good for "all" skin types really aren't. And one of the few recipes included that was actually for sensitive skin contained chamomile, which I'm allergic to. Not a promising start.

The first recipe I tried was the Coconut Shaving Balm. I did substitute a few ingredients, choosing to go with what supplies I had on hand: Instead of shea butter I used jojoba oil; I replaced carnauba wax with beeswax; and rather than buy pricey chamomile essential oil (which I'm allergic to anyway) for the single drop the recipe called for, I decided to use benzoin essential oil, which I already had and has a preservative effect. While the instructions were clear and the Balm was easy to make (I don't think even a total newbie would find this a challenge), it didn't work out for me. I don't know if the problem was due to my substitutions or a fault with the quantities in the recipe, but my Balm never set (it solidified when refrigerated but turned liquid again at room temperature). It smelled nice, though, and worked as it was supposed to--moisturizing my skin and resulting in a nice smooth shave. And while it didn't look like a lot, it turned out to be more than enough for my legs, with plenty left over for future uses. The downside is that it clogged my razor with oil and hair that then wouldn't rinse out (which was as pleasant as it sounds) and made the whole process take much longer than it should have. Since I don't know anyone who wants to spend even more time shaving, I think this would maybe be better used afterwards instead, as a moisturizer.

Next, I made the Dry Shampoo. This time I didn't make any substitutions. The instructions were incredibly easy to follow and the shampoo came together quickly (and smelled great, thanks to the peppermint essential oil). It was also easy to use, although I'm not sure you save that much time over just washing your hair the usual way, and the results were only okay. My hair looked cleaner but I wouldn't go so far as to say clean. The greyish cast it left on my hair no matter how much I brushed it made my hair look dusty and weird. Eventually the grey mostly went away, but I still wouldn't want to leave the house after using this, which kind of defeats the purpose. It did last for a long time though--maybe longer than regular shampoo. I think it would be useful for touch ups in between shampoos, or for lazy days at home. There's also a version for dark hair that uses cocoa powder.

I had the most success with the Honey and Oat Scrub. Like the other recipes, it was easy to make and smelled lovely (essential oils pretty much always smell fantastic). The scrub was on the sticky side, which made it somewhat tricky to use (it might work better as body scrub rather than on the face).  It also left my skin feeling dry, but that was remedied with a generous application of lotion, Despite these issues, the scrub left my skin feeling soft and smooth and gave it a glow that lasted longer than other scrubs I've tried. I'll definitely be making this one again.

Natural Beauty is an excellent resource for anyone interested in making their own all-natural beauty products. The recipes may take some experimenting to find the ones that work best for you--I suggest you try a few, don't be afraid to make changes to suit your needs, be flexible in your expectations, and--most importantly--have fun with it.

Want more information about Natural Beauty or other books to inspire you to start something new? Click here.

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