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.
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.