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If you’re a fan of JustLuxe beauty articles you’ll know we have an unhealthy obsession with luxury skincare. We can’t help that $500 for a bottle of anti-aging cream sounds like a bargain, especially if it’s keeping those wrinkles at bay, so when the idea of DIY, natural beauty products came across our desks, we couldn’t help but scoff. But sitting down to really dig into the science behind these yogurt-honey-blueberry concoctions, gave us second thoughts about what we’re really putting on our face. Are those bottled skincare products doing more harm than good? What’s really getting absorbed by our skin? And can natural ingredients really rival those of our favorite products?
In light of Earth Day (and pure cat-like curiosity) we spoke with Alexis Wolfer, editor at The Beauty Bean, author of The Recipe for Radiance and certified holistic health coach for some answers about natural skincare. Giving us a little insight on how to make your routine organic, more eco-friendly and what makes true beauty, Wolfer offers up ideas and arguments that suddenly made us think twice about our bathroom cabinet—we’re switching up the clothes in our closets for more natural, environment friendly options—could we do the same with our skincare?
With an editorial background, Wolfer worked at several publications during school, finding her passion in beauty and healthy living. “I had all these jobs and internships throughout college and graduate school at women's magazines in the fashion and beauty world which I love just so profoundly,” she explained. “And my last job while I was in graduate school was I was at Lucky Magazine. And it's while I was there doing both human rights work and being in fashion editorial that I realized it wasn't necessary for women's magazines to make them feel badly about themselves in order to sell them things; I thought there was a better way to do this.”
Establishing The Beauty Bean in January 2010, she started the site as a way to give women the information and recipes needed to take control of their own beauty and create skincare that is tailored to their specific needs. Named one of the Top 10 Women’s Lifestyle Sites by Forbes, she curates daily content on food, fitness, beauty and the mind to empower women to become their most beautiful selves. Her new book, The Recipe for Radiance (which comes out today), is a how-to guide to help with a number of skin issues. “It's really more of a beauty bible for the woman who's looking for the all-natural, easy, effective, time saving solution in her kitchen,” Wolfer explains.
Making the switch from trusted beauty products to DIY, honey cleansers might be a big leap for some, but Wolfer saw it as a way of taking control of her beauty. “I was seeing all these things come across my desk as a beauty editor that we're like ‘now it has blueberries!’ or ‘now it has acai!’ What if we go into our kitchens and start doing this all naturally and ourselves?” she asks. “I was so careful about the ingredients that I was putting in my body, but I was significantly less concerned about what I was putting on it until that moment.” As she built The Beauty Bean she realized from the feedback she was receiving that natural, organic beauty was bigger than she had imagined. “I had access to a lot of celebrities and every time I was talking to them I would always ask what their favorite DIY beauty tip was,” she explains, “And it really started out of curiosity, but I was always so surprised by how many women who have access to the latest and greatest in every skincare innovation and really, the unlimited funds to be able to indulge in them, were sticking to coconut oil and a Greek yogurt face mask.”
So why isn’t everyone ditching the biochem ingredients for all-natural, organic beauty? Well aside from having a terrible shelf life, it seems we’ve come to expect quite a bit from our traditional products. “The reason why real blueberries aren’t showing up in real skincare products is blueberries are only good on a shelf for a handful of days,” Wolfer explains. “And so by the time it gets put into a beauty product it’s so processed that you’re not getting the same benefit.” Even the care we take on storing our beauty products has some effect on what manufactures can and cannot put into our products. “We keep them in our hot and steamy bathrooms. The chemistry behind our beauty products really needs to be spot on in order for stuff to stay good for a long period of time, which is wonderful when we’re talking about the confidence of having something in your bathroom cabinet that you can grab on the go,” she says. “But when it comes to really getting the most effective ingredients in your skincare, the stuff that you find in your kitchen is often stronger, more powerful, better, cheaper, easier.” Which leaves us wondering—what exactly are they putting in there to preserve the product for that long, and do we want that seeping into our face? We’ll just say the idea of natural fresh ingredients is starting to make a lot more sense.
Having tried traditional products, DIY beauty and skincare recipes for many years, Wolfer let us in on some of her favorite ingredients. “The three things that I always find myself going back to are full fat Greek yogurt—it makes an amazing base for any mask, it has lactic acid which helps break down dead skin cells and reduce inflammation, it has probiotics which helps the bacteria on the surface of your skin and prevent breakouts, and it has healthy fats which moisturize without causing you to breakout,” she explains. “I also find myself often going to raw honey, which is a creamy consistency and it's not as sticky as processed honey—it’s antibacterial and antimicrobial—it is actually the only natural food in the world that never goes bad,” she adds excitedly. “But because of its antibacterial properties it's really, really wonderful for helping to heal any sort of a cut or a scrape, for any sort of acne, but it’s also a humectant which means it helps to bring moisture deeper down into your cells layers so it’s really great for dry skin. Also I find myself often working with sweet potatoes or pumpkins because of their vitamin A content.”
With her almost ridiculous encyclopedic knowledge of foods, benefits, uses and nutrients it’s hard to not instantly want to run out to Whole Foods and go on an organic produce shopping spree. But for some of us (myself included), giving up your SK-II and La Mer is easier said than done. Besides is there anything quite as luxurious as smoothing on your favorite face cream? Wolfer thinks there might be. “I love the age-reversing wine mask—first of all I think it’s really fun to put red wine on your face,” she laughs. “I think it feels really indulgent; you need such a tiny little bit so it's not like it's going to take away from your bottle of wine, but the resveratrol in the red wine is such a powerful antioxidant, but it's not stable enough to put in beauty products.”
To help get your Earth Day started right—and hopefully keep you on track the rest of the year—Wolfer has a few suggestions for making an easy transition. “Some of the easiest ways to green your beauty routine, if you will,” she laughs. “I really love to use organic, cold-pressed, extra virgin coconut oil to remove my makeup, so not only is it a one stop shop for anyone who’s super lazy, but you don’t need any water—it will emulsify all of your makeup, even the most stubborn of waterproof eye makeup.” We gave it a try—not wanting to run too far too fast—and surprisingly it does works pretty well. It cleans makeup quickly without some of the tugging and pulling that can occur with traditional cleansers. “Coconut oil is really rich in folic acid which helps to gently exfoliate your skin,” she adds. “It’s going to help get rid of any clogged skin cells that are clogging your pores, but it’s also antibacterial and antimicrobial so it’s going to prevent breakouts.”
While all of this natural-DIY-organic beauty is meant to improve your skin and well-being, Wolfer confesses it’s not the true purpose of all her endeavors. “I hope that women realize that all women are beautiful and that these recipes are not about making you pretty. That this is a just fun and glamorous and exciting thing to be able to boost what you've already got,” she explains. “I also want women to know that they've got the power and they've got the control.” Sounds pretty great to us. We might have abandonment issues if we break up with our entire skincare line, but a little mixing and matching, or using natural, organic foods to supplement our favorite products is our new resolution—besides all that “natural beauty” everyone’s dying for in the summer? We’re pretty sure we just found out how to get it.