There are all sorts of reasons to shy away from conventional beauty products. Maybe you’re nervous about scary-sounding ingredients like formaldehyde and butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA). Maybe your stomach churns at the sight of beagles and rabbits being blinded and tortured in the name of cosmetic testing. Or maybe you just don’t want to support an industry that profits off sexist standards and societally constructed insecurities to the tune of $265 billion per year. (Please, if you love makeup, wear all the makeup! Just don’t do it for patriarchy, you know?)
If any of the above applies to you, don’t worry—Sunny Subramanian has your back. The pioneering vegan beauty blogger and pink-haired Portlander launched Vegan Beauty Review back in 2007, racking up page views with posts like “The Ultimate Vegan Lipstick Guide” and “Cruelty-Free Beauty Brands at Sephora.” Ten years later, her debut book, The Compassionate Chick’s Guide to Beauty, landed on shelves last month.
They say never to judge a book by its cover, but to be honest, the first time I glimpsed Subramanian’s new tome, my gut reaction was that it was definitely not for me. The hyper-girlish cover displays the title and subtitle—125 Recipes for Vegan, Gluten-Free, Cruelty-Free Makeup, Skin & Hair Products!—on a pink backdrop dotted with darker pink hearts, accompanied by photos of pink powders and fluffy (pink!) makeup brushes. I, in contrast, have worn “makeup” (a layer of ancient mascara and a messy smear of lipstick) exactly once this year. Subramanian outlines a seven- to nine-step skin care regimen, insisting that “you must do these things in this order!” My routine is a bit simpler: wash face with soap in the shower sometimes.
Nevertheless, even those of us who don’t identify as chicks and have no idea how to use toner—seriously, wtf is toner?—can find plenty to appreciate in Subramanian’s new book. The hefty beauty tome includes plenty of basic, straightforward recipes for bathroom staples like toothpaste, shampoo, and deodorant. And if you’re excited by the idea of matcha green goddess facial masks and “sparklepuss” glitter gel, you’ll be pleased to learn that they’re incredibly simple to make at home. To be honest, I haven’t tried any of the recipes myself yet, so I can’t tell you that the potent anti-aging rose serum would really make me look 16 again. (Admittedly, folks already think I’m 16.) But I can tell you that no bunnies will be killed in the making of your antioxidant blueberry delight smoothie facial mask. And maybe that’s enough.
The following excerpts are courtesy of The Compassionate Chick’s Guide to DIY Beauty by Sunny Submaranian & Chrystle Fiedler © 2016 www.robertrose.ca Reprinted with publisher permission. Available where books are sold.
Black Forest Chocolate Cake Facial Mask
This recipe is made with such yummy ingredients, like cocoa powder and luscious ripe cherries, that you’ll need serious willpower not to bake up a vegan cake to match. Oh, what the heck, why not make both? As Oscar Wilde wrote, “The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.”
Best for: All skin types
Top Tip: Cherry juice is useful for lightening skin and clearing up dark spots. Cherries contain the antioxidant vitamins A and C, plus the minerals potassium, zinc, iron, copper and manganese. The fruit and juice are anti-inflammatory, moisturizing and healing for damaged skin.
Superstar ingredient: Cocoa powder is antioxidant-rich, so it helps neutralize harmful free radicals and repair skin cells.
- 3 large ripe cherries, pitted
- 1 tbsp kaolin clay
- 1 tbsp almond milk
- 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- In blender, purée cherries, clay, almond milk and cocoa powder until smooth. Spoon into a small bowl.
- Using fingers, spread mask all over damp cleansed facial skin. Let stand on skin for 10 minutes.
- Rinse face with warm water and pat dry with a towel. Follow with your favorite toner and moisturizer.
- Cover and store any leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Keep-It-Dry Deodorant Paste
Tired of searching for a pure, chemical-free deodorant that doesn’t cost a fortune? Yeah, me, too. Here’s a mega-simple DIY deodorant that focuses on safe, effective ingredients. No muss, no fuss, no stink!
Best for: Normal, Combination, Oily/acne-prone, Dry and Mature skin
Top Tip: Tea tree, lavender and lemongrass essential oils are all powerful odor fighters. Add a few drops and you’ll be smelling sweet!
Superstar ingredient: Coconut oil is a terrific emollient. It was also popular for cooking in the United States and Canada until the 1970s, when corn and soy oil companies ramped up their propaganda against it. They claimed that its high saturated fat content made it dangerous to consume, but today, we know that coconut oil is more complex than that. The saturated fat in coconut oil consists primarily of medium-chain fatty acids, which aren’t as easily stored as fat by the body.
- Small glass jar with lid
- 3 tbsp arrowroot powder or cornstarch
- 1 tbsp baking soda or kaolin clay
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 5 drops essential oil(s) of your choice
- In a small bowl, whisk arrowroot powder with baking soda until well combined. Set aside.
- Place coconut oil in a small heatproof glass bowl. Microwave on High, stirring every 5 seconds, until melted and completely smooth. (The total time will depend on the strength of your microwave.)
- Whisk coconut oil into arrowroot mixture along with essential oil(s) until a paste forms. Pour into jar.
- Using fingers, rub a small amount of paste over underarm skin until absorbed.
- Store at room temperature for up to 1 year.