Natural, Shmatural

I have bemoaned the naturalistic fallacy plaguing cosmetics consumers in several previous posts (with regards to falsely assuming natural products to be safe, as well as the needless bashing of petroleum-derived ingredients). In a similar vein, I wanted to draw attention to a spectacular piece by The Beauty Brains about concerns of greenwashing, inefficacy, and market exploitation in purportedly “natural” products. You can listen to their show, read a brief overview, and download an MP3 by following this link.


Not Your Grandma’s Beauty Routine…Except It Is Your Grandma’s Beauty Routine

This post is inspired by the book Health and Beauty Hints, published by Cupples & Leon in New York in 1910. The how-to hair and skincare guide for Gibson Girls can be viewed in full here.

My takeaway is this: the days before modern, science-based skincare were dark, indeed. Apparently, our forebears thought a double chin could be massaged out of existence, as “[rubbing] vigorously [will] wear away the fat by friction.” Additionally, children’s hair should not be allowed to grow too long because it could “draw nourishment away” from the body.

Moreover, ingredients  have come a long way since 1910. I’d prefer a vitamin C serum over a face full of spermaceti any day.

That said, they got some things right. The book advises moisturizing with a cream partially composed of sweet almond oil, which contains linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid and general skin-nurturing superstar). It also reminds women that hair, skin and hands are subject to drying conditions in winter and thus deserve a little moisturizing TLC during colder months.

The bottom line: Health and Beauty Hints deserves at least a quick parsing, if only for the fantastic photography and wacky pseudo-science.