Why worry about "Beauty"? Skip Introduction
The most cursory study of our species shows that concern with our looks, and ways of enhancing our appearance, are as old as recorded time. Whether you paint your face and body with ochre, stretch your bottom lip over a plate, have tattoos and body piercings, wear a bra, or refuse to go out in public without foundation, lipstick and eye make-up, you are simply displaying a fundamental human concern. We express our cultural identity as well as, either subtly or overtly, our individuality, through the way we look.
So although our focus may be sustainability, we are only human if we are also concerned about our looks.
Our concern with the environment means we have to work and operate within the populist culture of the 'First World' while living the change we are working to bring about. And that culture judges by appearances.
Good posture, a pleasant expression, cleanliness, neatness, positive energy, and graceful movement are the most important factors when it comes to making a favourable impression. These are the result of habits cultivated because you value yourself, mind, body, and spirit.
Meditation, Yoga, Tai Chi, Circle Dancing, and singing or chanting are all wonderful natural beauty aids.
The natural look is now completely acceptable, even though not the height of fashion, so many of us now prefer to use no make-up, concentrating on our overall well-being for a glowing natural look.
But for just as many, the use of cosmetics and/or skin care preparations is one of the ways in which we tell ourselves we are, in the words of the advertisements, "worth it".
Those who choose to use make-up can now select from several ranges of ethically manufactured products. As well as lifting the spirits and enhancing the appearance, make-up can be protective. For those who live and/or work in urban pollution, a foundation can protect the face from the worst of the dirt. (If this is your lot, you will also need to wash your hair and your body much more frequently than those more fortunate. And spare a thought for those in drought-stricken country areas, where the dust gets into the very pores, and water is like liquid gold.) Lipstick and foundation often both contain a sunscreen, while eye make-up can help to keep dust out of the eyes.
Important! However natural a substance may be, someone somewhere will be allergic to it.
Please take the same precautions as you would with manufactured products before proceeding with any of these suggestions: i.e. rub a little of the material on the inside of your forearm. Leave for 24 hours, and if there is a reaction, however mild, try something else.
Another note, added May 2008:
I have stopped using any soap, detergent, or moisturisers, even the eco-friendly ones, as they all contain coconut oil, palm oil, or palm kernel oil, or their derivatives. The production of these natural oils is rapidly destroying vast areas of rainforest and wildlife habitat, including that of the Orang-Utan. I find that rainwater and mild friction with a rough washcloth, or loofah, cleans the skin more than adequately. I now wash my hair in a mild solution of Bicarb.soda, then rinse with diluted lemon juice. Pure locally-produced olive oil, used sparingly, makes an excellent moisturiser and conditioner.
Yet another set of biological & chemical hazards now need to be avoided - GM crops (e.g.soy) and products containing nano-particles - sigh!
If possible, use only rainwater on your face, & an oat- meal bag, not soap. (Quick oatmeal bag - cut a section without holes or ladders from old clean tights. Knot one end. Fill loosely with porridge oats, & knot the other end. Keep in the fridge when not in use, discard when it starts to go sour - usually about a week.)
TONING - is a furphy! Toners were invented by the beauty industry simply to make more money!
But if you still don't feel right without one, try splashing your face with really cold water to make the pores temporarily contract. If you add a little lemon juice or vinegar, this will also restore the acid balance of the skin after using soap or detergent.
FACE-MASKS - how much good they really do is hard to say. But they can be fun, and make you feel pampered and luxurious.
Crushed strawberries make a good stimulating mask, or try honey for some real oomph.(Stay indoors when using these treatments! and if you have ants in the house, don't lay on the floor)
Use egg-yolk on a dry skin, find a friend whose skin is oily so you can whip the white to a stiff froth & give her a tightening mask. If you have a combination skin, the egg is ideal - use the yolk - lightly beaten - on the dry areas, & the whipped white on the oily panel. Avocado pulp lubricates dry skins, & oatmeal mixed to a paste with water tightens oily skins dramatically - allow to dry before removing with warm water.
All face masks should be kept away from the thin skin around the eyes. Take the phone off the hook, put on an old robe, and relax for 20 minutes under your chosen mask.
A used tea-bag, or a slice of cucumber, on each closed eye completes the treatment.
'SKIN FOOD' - the only effective skin food is a healthy diet, with lots of fruit and vegetables, the good oils, sufficient protein, and enough, but not too much, liquid.
But if you want to put something on your face, plain yoghourt is a good choice - use full cream for dry skin, low fat for oily.
A rich all-purpose cream is made by using a mayonnaise recipe. Leave out the salt, pepper, & mustard, use olive oil, lemon juice not vinegar, & honey instead of sugar. Use for face, hands, body, & as a hair conditioner - rinse out with warm water, not hot! Keep the jar in the ‘fridge & ladle it out with a clean spoon rather than dipping your fingers into the jar. (This is essential hygiene with any cosmetic.) Allow any of these treatments to remain on the face or hair for about 20 mins, then remove all excess.
For rich lubrication around the eyes, pat in a few drops of castor oil. It can also be used to thicken & define lashes & brows. Use it also as a cuticle softener, & at night on the throat, hands & feet.
For all-over skin softness, apply a very light film of oil (olive or grape-seed is best) after your bath or shower. It will lock in the moisture, something that only oil can do. Wear a bath-robe for a short while before dressing, to absorb any excess oil before you dress. Ordinary 'moisturisers' including natural ones containing honey, actually withdraw moisture from your skin when the air is dry.
But the best way to keep your skin in good condition is to leave it to nature. Do all you can to preserve the skin's natural oils and flora - the good bacteria which keep the undesirable kind, and fungus infections under control. Do this by washing or showering only when necessary, without using soap or detergents, and maintaining the normal slightly acid balance of the skin. If you can wash in rainwater so much the better. Mains or bore water is usually alkaline, so always add lemon juice or vinegar to your last rinse if possible. A spray bottle containing acidified water is a good way of doing this.
has been dealt with in Leaflet Three of the series ‘Fresh as a Daisy’.
An underarm deodorant (not anti-perspirant) can be made by stirring bicarb.soda into thin soap jelly until it is like a cream. Or simply apply a few drops of an anti-bacterial essential oil, such as lavender, rosemary, tea-tree, or pine, to damp underarms.
Talcum powder is also excellent, and can applied as often as necessary. Don't waft it around, just shake a little into your hand and apply firmly to the skin under the arms, in the groin, and between the toes. It absorbs moisture, and dehydrates the bacteria which decompose natural secretions and cause odour.
Clothes which fit loosely under the arms allow ventilation & reduce perspiration.
Plain soap is less likely to irritate the skin than the perfumed kind, but avoid using soap whenever you can. A vigorous rub with a rough flannel or loofah should be sufficient to remove stale sweat & dead skin cells - it’s also healthier for your skin, improving circulation, and leaving the natural oils and flora of the skin intact.
Try skin brushing, too, on dry skin, with a brush sold for the purpose.
Relaxing baths may be prepared by placing a thin cloth bag (more old tights?)of your favourite herbs under the hot tap while it is running, & squeezing the bag well before removing from the water. Or make a bath tea by filling a dark glass jar or bottle with herbs or rose-petals and rainwater, leaving it in the sun for a few hours before straining into your bath. But don't soak too long, or scrub the softened skin. It's better to wash, Japanese style, before you step into the bath. Spray with rainwater containing a little lemon juice, to restore that acid balance, before patting your skin dry.
Pure flower oils make inexpensive & readily available perfumes, but use them sparingly. It takes a lot of plant matter to make a little oil.
Make large sachets of fragrant flowers & herbs, & keep them among your underclothes. Change them frequently, the fragrance is soon absorbed by the fabric. Or buy soaps perfumed with natural oils, & keep amongst your clothes.
Pomanders are fairly expensive to make, but a bowl of pot-pourri, or just fresh fragrant leaves & flowers, placed in the bottom of your wardrobe is just as effective. (The fresh material releases it's essential oils while drying - this doesn't work so well with sachets, as the fresh material may stain fabric)
A few drops of lemon juice or vinegar smoothed into the hands will take away the ‘tight’ feeling that develops when they have been in water or in contact with the soil. This treatment will also harden nails which have become soft through immersion. And you won’t need to use so much hand cream afterwards.
Sugar will clean dirt-ingrained hands - wet them first, then use it like soap powder.
For thick grease, remove excess with old paper or rag, then work a few drops of oil of eucalyptus into the hands before washing with soap & water. This works with ball-pen stains, and oil-based paints, too.
If you didn't manage to wash off that water-based acrylic paint before it dried, try rubbing dry hands hard with a little vinegar or lemon juice.
Most home-made hand creams leave a sticky or oily residue, so if your hands are constantly in & out of water, or get a lot of rough treatment, one of the commercially available natural creams is probably the best choice. But wearing gloves suitable for your various tasks, & the use of a mild acid, as suggested above, will reduce the need both for hand-washing & for hand-cream.
Keep some old gloves to wear overnight, when you want to give your hands & nails a real treat with a rich natural lubricant, such as mayonnaise or castor oil.
Looking after your feet is really important. Sore and aching feet show in your facial expression, and make your body tense.
Choose suitable and comfortable footwear for each activity.
Never buy it without wearing the socks or pantihose you intend to wear with it.
If you walk or cycle to work, have a pair of work shoes to change into. If possible, don't wear the same pair of shoes two days running - air the spare pairs thoroughly on their "day off". And air your feet as often as you can, better still, go barefoot - at least once or twice a day.
Never wear socks or pantihose more than once without washing them, and make sure they are large enough. Stretch fabrics can confine your toes and cause misshapen feet if they fit too snugly. Give your toes just as much room in them as you do in your shoes.
Keep toenails short and cut square, to avoid ingrowing toenails.
Wash your feet thoroughly at least once a day - just standing in the shower is not effective. They need a good stimulating rub with a face-washer or loofah. Finish with a lemon or vinegar rub, and dry them really well.
Efficient and long-lasting tools are available from good pharmacies which will deal with hard skin.
The best protection from the sun is to stay indoors in the middle of the day, & in the shade as much as possible at other times.But don't forget that we need some sunshine. Try to expose your body to the sun for about 10 - 20 minutes daily, preferably early in the morning.
At all other times wear adequate clothing & a shady hat, or use one of the new SPF27+ sunshades - they come in collapsible styles to fit neatly in your bag, & are umbrellas as well. To date, all sunscreens contain some form of chemical, although some are available in an organic base.
However, it is not wise to leave bare skin unprotected, so until more natural alternatives are available, you may wish to use a standard 15+ or greater protection on exposed skin. Don’t forget the back of your neck, the backs of your hands, & your feet.
If you do get slightly burned, cool the skin as soon as possible with cold water - NOT ice. If it stings, cold tea, or vinegar & water (50/50) are soothing. Apply by wringing out a cloth in the liquid & laying it on the reddened skin. Or chuck a lettuce (one which is going to seed is fine) in the blender & apply the resulting pulp.
For more serious burning, reduce the skin temperature as fast as you can, by applying cloths wrung out of tepid water, or immersing yourself in a tepid bath, & taking a couple of aspirin if you are able to without upsetting your stomach or triggering your asthma.
Medical attention should be sought for severe sunburn.
The best beauty treatments are those shared with a friend or partner. (Men need pampering too!)
You can brush one another's hair really thoroughly, or help one another with washing &/or colouring & conditioning.
Simple massage techniques are easy to learn & are really relaxing.
Sharing a bath uses less water, and you can get your back really well scrubbed! And with help, that thin layer of oil will be really thin & all over you, not just where you can reach!
Note:In researching & answering questions about earthwise living, Margaret offers information, opinion, & personal experience, but no quick fixes! Readers should evaluate these offerings in the context of their own situations; they are suggestions, *not* recommendations. Any responsibility for their implementation rests *solely* with the reader.
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