Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Get your own copy

I know; how rude of me, right? I sound like such a Scrooge. What happened to my holiday spirit?

Well, I still had it during Thanksgiving, as I remembered to be grateful for the book I received and the opportunity to review it. However, my selfishness took over, and I decided to keep this gift for myself.

As part of "The Green Beauty Guide" virtual book tour, I've been blessed with a complimentary copy of this jam-packed guide to greening your beauty routine. It is overflowing with so much useful information that instead of passing it along to a friend, I opted to save it as a reference for cleaning out my not-so-green products, selecting safer versions and even whipping up natural beauty recipes in my own kitchen.

Lucky for me, I discovered that many of my favorite products were one-, two- or three-leaf approved by author, Julie Gabriel. In addition to explaining what to and not to look for in a truly green beauty treatment, she also recommends more than a few of her faves using this ranking system.

For instance, my Desert Essence Thoroughly Clean Face Wash with Organic Tea Tree Oil and Awapuhi received a modest one-leaf, while my John Masters Organic Zinc & Sage Shampoo with Conditioner got top honors with three leaves.

But she doesn't stop at your face and hair. She gives options from head to toe, with a chapter devoted to each and every step in your beauty routine. There's a section on cleansers, toners, home facials and scrubs; moisturizers, eye treatments and zit zappers; sun protection; body care, including baths, sugar waxing, cellulite solutions, manicures and pedicures; hair care; baby care; mineral makeup and natural fragrances.

Each chapter addresses the reasons why you may or may not want to include a particular step (such as "Do You Really Need a Toner?" and "How Many Moisturizers Do We Need?"), an explanation of how the particular product works and a brief review of what ingredients should be avoided (the first few chapters are devoted to why it is so important to chose green beauty products, what makes the majority of offerings so toxic and how to "Become an Ingredient Expert"/"Do-It-Yourself Green Beauty"). Then, she lists some green-worthy options in each category.

The best part is what follows. She gives multiple recipes for homemade formulas of just about every beauty treatment imaginable. Ms. Gabriel definitely isn't stingy either, as she gives up her simplified take on "Klosterqu Melissen Geise" unisex cologne (first made by Carmelite monks in Paris in 1611, it is also known as Eau de Carmes) and her modernized version of an ancient perfume referred to as "Queen of Hungary Water." She even teaches you how to wax with items from your kitchen and get a safe faux glow with a walnut-hued concoction, while keeping your skin as soft as a baby bum (she's got recipes for taking care of that, too).

Many of the recipes involve purchasing essential oils, which can be costly. I recommend picking and choosing a few basic ones first, before dropping a wad of dough on all of them listed in the book. You can always add more as you get more comfortable with your creations. I even eliminated some of the oils in the recipes to keep from being overwhelmed.

But don't fret just yet. Many of the ingredients can be found in your kitchen, like the water, oats and onion in the "Kinky Oatmeal Mask" I mentioned in my last post. I just wish all of the recipes were vegan, although many of the nonvegan ones can be altered to suit your needs. For example, I found that some of the milk baths can be reproduced using coconut milk.

Speaking of baths, the bath salts, scrubs and body oils would make great gifts this time of year, along with this book. You can even make these "Green Feet Fizzies" (and you thought it was another cupcake; I added dried mint leaves to mine) for the whole family quite economically, which are comparable to Lush Bath Bombs, minus the preservatives and synthetic perfumes (it looks as though they "green-washed" me - another term for the book - with their cute lack of packaging and grocery-style displays; they weren't as natural as I thought).

The end of the book has a very valuable tool, worth more than the book's $16.95 price tag. There is a listing of the "100 toxic cosmetic ingredients you don't want in your beauty products." I used this to weed out some of the bad guys in my bathroom and have taken it on more than one shopping excursion to prevent buyer's remorse.

Now you can see why I can't part with my copy. You'll just have to pick up one of your own. I'm anxious to hear your reviews, too :-)

In the meantime, the author was nice enough to participate in the following Q&A. Read further to see if she's answered any of your questions. Thanks Julie!

Which beauty products are the ones you can't live without?

It’s a completely vegan selection: Dr. Bronner’s liquid and bar soaps in Baby Mild and Tea Tree Oil; chamomile and sandalwood steam distillates from Mountain Rose Herbs that I buy every month despite custom charges (I am in the UK) and my husband’s protests (he’s an avid greenie, but he wants me to buy local, and I cannot find organic sandalwood local. Hmm. May need to reconsider my priorities.

For moisturizing, the only store-bought product I own is Skin Food by Weleda; the rest that I use is homemade. Right now it’s a moisturizer I made of green tea, wheat germ oil, organic olive oil, organic grape seed oil, hyaluronic acid, palmitoyl pentapeptide, and green tea catechins. It’s completely green but it’s very scientific. And it keeps my skin youthful and acne-free.

What carrier lotion, cleanser, etc. do you use?

I make my own base cream to play with various active ingredients such as peptides, idebenone, gold, silver, GABA. I am really brave because I work from home, and if something gives me breakouts, my daughter will be the only person to know. My husband is very fond of my complexion, so I always wear shimmery makeup by the time he’s back from work.

My base cream consists of olive and wheat germ oil in the base of emulsifying wax and green tea infusion. If anything happens, green tea will soothe my skin until I take the offending ingredient off. So far, nothing happened but I keep green tea as a skin insurance.

Back to cleansers. I use my own Petite Marie Organics cleanser which has a natural non-detergent base of Castille soap and decyl glucoside. I enrich it for my own use with green tea, sweet fenner, chamomile, calendula, and my family loves it. In fact, my daughter refused to let us shampoo her hair with any soap or shampoo until we tried this cleanser. From now on, I use it to remove makeup, my husband shaves with it, and we bathe our 20-month-old petite Marie in it. I don’t use any animal-derived ingredients in any of my products.

Where do you buy most of your ingredients for making homemade beauty products? Is there a site where they can be bought online?

I buy ingredients from and I also buy ingredients from small family manufacturers around the world. I usually find them on eBay. It's very ethical since you don't waste money on dealers.

How would someone modify your nonvegan recipes? For instance, do you have any substitutions for the ones that call for powdered milk, eggs, etc.?

Emulsifying wax is even better than beeswax, and it’s completely unscented. You can replace eggs with thickening products such as guar gum, acacia gum, or organically produced xanthan gum. Soy, almond and oats milk are wonderful replacements for cow's milk in recipes, and you may even find condensed versions that work really well for masks and cleansers.

Can you provide a raw vegan beauty recipe for my readers?

Not one but three:

For oily, acne prone skin nothing works better than onion puree. Make the puree in a food processor and apply at least weekly. You can also process onions with raw oats and garlic for maximum impact against acne.

For dry skin, mash one banana with six strawberries. Apply all over your face, including eye area. Strawberries will exfoliate while banana will supply minerals and vitamins.

For darks spots, apply raw potato puree anywhere you’d like to lighten things up a little bit - including eye areas! If there’s no time to make raw potato puree, apply raw potato wedges under your eyes to lighten undereye circles.