The Green Beauty Guide
by Julie Gabriel
I've worked in the beauty industry for nearly six years, and I'm currently with a company that considers itself quite 'green.' So I was extremely curious to see how Julie Gabriel's The Green Beauty Guide would mesh with my own experience and corporate training. I requested and received an ARC of the book, but unfortunately the 'uncorrected readers copy' is incomplete. I believe only the first half of the book was included, since my copy has nine chapters but the table of contents lists sixteen, and Gabriel makes several references to topics that aren't actually covered in the pages I read.
I do agree with Gabriel's basic premise that we should do what we can to reduce the chemicals and fillers in our skincare by buying products that contain as many natural and fresh ingredients as possible. If you've never really thought about the skincare industry, her chapters on the skin and how different natural ingredients can make a difference make a pretty compelling argument. It's also quite revealing; she talks about deceptive practices like "greenwashing" in which a company will put a few drops of some special ingredient in their products so they can claim it on the label...but there's such a tiny amount that it makes no difference to your skin. Step by step, The Green Beauty Guide outlines the best ways to care for you face, hair, and body with recipes that you can make at home and products you can buy at the store. I loved that she included such a wide variety of recipes – and reminds readers that even if you buy a face cream at a store it can be 'customized' further at home – even if some of the recommended ingredients raised an eyebrow. Mayonnaise as a moisturizer? EW.
I was surprised that the company I work for is not mentioned in her 'recommended' list. At first I thought that this might be because the company is too small (although with over 100 stores in North America 'small' isn't quite the right word) but she includes stores like Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, so I don't think that's why it wasn't included. As I continued to read the book, I found myself wishing more and more that she had addressed “big” companies that sell in malls, like Bath & Body Works, The Body Shop, Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics, and Bare Escentuals. Those are the stores people see and associate with cosmetics, so it would be really useful to see how “green” they are (or aren't!) But as far as I can see, Gabriel doesn't tackle stand-alone stores; most of the items she selects you can buy at department or drug stores.
Julie Gabriel is also extremely down on parabens, something that I've always been (personally) skeptical of. Parabens are a group of chemicals used as preservatives in skincare, foods, and pharmaceuticals. They have been linked to cancer in a few studies, but the results of these studies are widely debated. Organizations such as the American Cancer Society have disputed the studies' findings, and claim that there is no strong link between cancer and parabens. Personally, I think that if you're going to get cancer, it probably isn't going to come from the soap you run over your body and rinse off seconds later. But as Gabriel shows, she is something of a fanatic when it comes to 'natural' ingredients:
As I was writing this chapter, I could not help but feel a tiny bit smug. Perhaps I am not a very bad mom, I thought. I do not use fragrances at home. I am feeding my baby organic food and homemade purees; she drinks her organic formula from glass bottles and sleeps on organic cotton sheets. Her mattress is pure wool. There is no chance she would be exposed to such a horrible substance as benzyl alcohol. Yeah, right. Just as I finished writing this chapter, something clicked inside my head. I went to our nursery and picked up the pack of baby wipes we were using at that moment. These award-winning wipes contained benzyl alcohol as the third ingredient, right after water and glycerin...needless to say, we abandoned all wipes made by this brand.
-The Green Beauty Guide
I think to the average person, this is a little obsessive. However, if you are truly aiming to be organic and natural The Green Beauty Guide will help you get there; in the process you will streamline your skincare regime and have a lot of fun making beauty products for yourself. It will also be quite revealing to those who have never stopped to contemplate the ingredients in their favorite lotion or face before. But I don't think Gabriel brings anything particularly new to the discussion, so if you're already familiar with the topic, this isn't something you need.