As a self-confessed beauty junkie, I have to admit to a certain degree of scepticism where DIY lotions and potions are concerned. For a start, there are plenty of organic and natural brands out there, providing us all with products that really work and are toxin free – all without the hassle of actually having to make them. For another, many of the recipes in the shelf-full of beauty cook books I’ve leafed through include hard-to-find ingredients such as frankincense or rhassoul mud powder. You won’t find those in Holland and Barrett. What’s more, many concoctions are harder to make than a Heston Blumenthal creation, while more still promise the earth but just don’t work. Not that author Star Khechara would agree with me. With over 14 years experience of making her own beauty products, whipping up a pot of face cream has become second nature, and it’s all 100 per cent natural and packaging free.
Dispensing with the need for any sort of extra cellophane and cardboard packaging is undoubtedly the big environmental pro of making your own beauty goods. You will need a jar or a Tupperware container but that’s all. ‘By making your own 100 per cent Earth-friendly beauty potions you can lovingly care for yourself and this wonderful planet at the same time,’ says Star – sentiments with which most of us can wholly agree, if, of course, we have the time to make them. She’s got some good recipes too, with the Fairy Face Scrub proving particularly effective. I also loved the Butter Bar – a silky, moisturising blend of shea, coco and mango butters topped up with a little rosemary essential oil. It wasn’t beyond my abilities as a chef and the resulting bar really did what I needed it to. Less impressive was the ‘It’s the Nuts’ shampoo made from a scummy looking blend of powdered soap nuts and floral water. It smelt OK thanks to the lovely rosewater I used but the soap nuts did a wretched job of cleaning my hair. Even dry shampoos get a better result than this mixture did, so I doubt I’ll be trading in my Pureology anytime soon.
And that in a nutshell, is the problem with DIY beauty products. Like trying to live without power, relying totally on homemade beauty products is like rewinding the clock by 100 years. There’s a reason why people moved on from make-your-own and it isn’t just time constraints. Like mainstream chemical-reliant brands, organic and natural beauty companies have huge research and development teams constantly working on getting the blends right, maximising the usefulness of botanicals and looking into what new uses the world’s thousands of plants might have. A butter bar like the one I made is a wonderful moisturiser but does little else. That’s fine on the body where that’s all you’re really after but it’s not on the face. Such a bar does nothing to help reduce wrinkles, nothing to ameliorate acne and other skin conditions, and because natural butters are quite heavy, can also overload the skin. Homemade products simply don’t deliver when it’s serious skincare you’re after and its not ethical to ask people to rely on them in the face of confidence-draining skin problems. Not in my opinion anyway. Star, however, thinks differently, offering nostrums about beauty being ‘only skin deep’ and how being beautiful inside is better than ‘having a fancy covering.’ Nice try Star, but if those platitudes really change anything in our looks-obsessed society, I’ll eat my pot of Natura Bissé.
In many ways, it’s a real pity that earnest platitudes and dodgy deodorant recipes made it into the final edit, because much of what Star has to offer is genuinely useful. Her recap of the big beauty baddies and tips on what to eat for healthy skin are brilliant and would be handy for just about anyone. Her assessment of the different beauty certification schemes is excellent and hugely interesting. She’s obviously a genuine enthusiast, missing out only the cash-saving potential of DIY or even grow-your-own beauty products. And of course, there are some super – and effective – recipes in the mix. Her chapter on baby products is especially good and packed with the sort of products you would have no qualms about using on Junior. And yet, it just isn’t enough.
While I’m happy to swap my organic body cream for a homemade version, there’s absolutely no way I’d want to rely on soap nut shampoo or flower water deodorant – they simply don’t work and are thus a total waste of time and money. More annoyingly, many of the recipes rely on the hard to find, and you'd need an apothecary's worth of essential oils to make everything. But really, it all comes down to finding (or making) products that actually work - and many of these don't. Quite frankly, I don’t care how green DIY-ing my moisturiser is – if it doesn’t do what it's supposed to or leaves me with a face full spots, then I’m never going to stick to it especially when there are fabulous eco-brands such as Pai and Tata Harper around making products that do a wonderful job. Interesting though The Holistic Beauty Book undoubtedly is, it’s not a failsafe go-to for all things eco beauty. Body cream and the odd bath bomb, yes. For everything else, I’d rather stick to the tried and tested even if it means spending a little more.
The Holistic Beauty Book by Star Khechara (£12.95, Green Books) is available from Amazon
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