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The Take Charge Beauty Book

August 21, 2010

The Take Charge Beauty Book
by Aubrey Hampton and Susan Hussey
Organica Press, 2000
ISBN: 0939157098

Aubrey Hampton is the founder and president of Aubrey Organics, a manufacturer of “100% natural hair, skin, and body care” products. Susan Hussey, now deceased, was his wife and the vice-president of marketing for the company.

According to the description on the Aubrey Organics website, The Take Charge Beauty Book promises to give you thirty of Aubrey Hampton’s “exclusive cosmetic preparations — from facial cleansers and wrinkle-reducing moisturizers, to shampoos and conditioners, to natural baby products — recipes you can make at home using ingredients from any health food store or grocery store.”

I was disappointed with this book. Here are some of the reasons:

  • It gave the impression of being a rushed job. Unlike Aubrey’s first book, in which I didn’t see more than a couple of typos, this one was littered with them. Some of the material was repetitive and could’ve been left out. Little effort went into the layout, which looks like a standard word processor document. The quality of the photos is poor, the photos looking like they were prepared on a low-end, 1990s ink jet or laser printer.
  • With the exception of the recipes section, the book was mostly cobbled together from material already published in Aubrey’s previous books. If you own Aubrey’s first book, Natural Organic Hair and Skin Care, you’ll find little that is new here.
  • These are hardly what I’d call kitchen recipes, if by “kitchen recipe” is meant something which can be easily put together in a kitchen from commonly available ingredients. Several of the ingredients called for in these recipes aren’t ones that you’ll be likely to find at your local grocery store or pharmacy. For example, how many people have ingredients like biotin, vegetable glycerin, liquid vitamin C, collagen liquid protein, 150 proof grain alcohol, liquid Castile soap, PABA capsules, or cayenne pepper oil readily on hand? I don’t think I could find even half of those ingredients at health food stores, and I have several in my city. If you want to make these recipes, expect to do some mail-ordering.
  • Even more annoying is that some of the recipes call for an Aubrey Organics product as one of the primary ingredients. So don’t expect to be able to make Formula #18 for a “Rosa Mosqueta Super Protein Shampoo” if you can’t find or aren’t willing to pay for a product called Aubrey Organics Seasoap, or Formula #20 for a “Blue Green Algae Hair Rescue Shampoo” if you can’t locate Aubrey Organics Herbal Liquid Body Soap.
  • Many recipes use an “essential fatty acid cream base” in which the primary ingredient is tofu. This is a turn off for me, since I avoid soy products as religiously as vegans do animal products. I would never put tofu into my body, so why would I want it on my body?
  • I didn’t learn anything about making cosmetics from these recipes. There is no explanation as to what each ingredient in a recipe does or why it was chosen. For example, what function does the tofu serve? Is it there as an emulsifier? Not knowing these things makes it difficult to modify the recipes or substitute ingredients.
  • Why do several of the recipes call for GSE (grapefruit seed extract) as a preservative but then warn you to refrigerate your creation when it’s not being used? If GSE is an effective preservative, why can’t you store the shampoos you made according to these recipes alongside your store-bought ones in the shower? If GSE is not an effective preservative, then why call for it at all?
  • The book contains too much self-promotion. The first 4 pages are endorsements for the book. Pp.1-3 provide biographies of the authors; then on p.261, in case the reader has forgotten these two VIPs’ life stories and needs a reminder, there’s another pair of biographies. On p.225, Aubrey Organics is placed on a list of the top 10 best cosmetic manufacturers — humility isn’t the authors’ strong suit, apparently! And to make sure we don’t forget, another biography of Aubrey Hampton is provided on that page. On p.118, in the chapter on ingredients, we find another plug for the Aubrey Organics Seasoap product mentioned above. On pp.213-214, there are endorsements for Aubrey Organics products from a Dr. C. Leigh Broadhurst. I could go on, but I think you get the picture.
  • On p.218, the authors tell you to avoid cosmetics containing silica at all costs. Then on p.226, they praise a product called Un-Petroleum Jelly which contains silica, and on p.231 they praise the company Weleda for using “naturally occurring minerals such as chalk, clay, and silica” in their products. So which is it? Is silica to be avoided or not?
  • Why is using products containing lanolin discouraged on pp.217-218? Lanolin is natural and, in my experience, one of the most effective skin care ingredients around. It is thought by many to be allergenic, but this reputation is undeserved. I’d wager that there are more people who are allergic to the essential oils of chamomile or lavender often used in beauty products than there are who are allergic to lanolin. Some raise the specter of residual pesticides being in lanolin, but, aside from the fact that lanolin refiners have gone to great pains in the past 20 years to bring residual pesticides in their product down to negligible levels, this issue could just as easily apply to many plant-derived products. How do we know the vegetable oils we’re putting on our skin don’t contain pesticide residues and chemicals left over from the extraction process? We don’t. So why single out lanolin for a problem that likely affects every plant extract that isn’t issued from organic farming? As the book says, it’s possible to buy lanolin that is free of pesticides. It’s also possible to buy “hypoallergenic” versions that even those who are normally allergic to lanolin can safely use. The book should’ve stuck to recommending you pay attention to the quality of what you buy rather than discouraging the use of lanolin altogether. (On a side note, check out this description for a lanolin-free nipple gel for nursing mothers. In an attempt to scare nursing women away from using lanolin-based products, it says that lanolin is “100% cholesterol”, as though that were a bad thing, while it conveniently avoids mentioning that mother’s milk contains a large amount of cholesterol. And it’s simply not true that refined lanolin combined in a lotion with other ingredients is “dark, greasy, and malodorous.” It’s interesting how the worst of the fear mongering concerning lanolin is coming from manufacturers of lanolin-free products.)
  • The nutritional advice in this book is not the worst I’ve read (I use the WAPF guidelines as my standard), except that it promotes the vegan myth that soy is a safe, harmless substitute for animal protein. This myth has been thoroughly debunked in Kaayla T. Daniel’s The Whole Soy Story.

    At some point the neo-hippie granola types are going to have to come to terms with the fact that eating plant foods like soy is not what’s best for the environment and that veganism is not a natural (let alone healthy) lifestyle. They’re going to have to decide which is more important to them, protecting the environment or avoiding animal products at all costs, since these goals are, ultimately, mutually exclusive. There is no logical basis for claiming that plant products are more “natural” than animal products or are safer or healthier for humans and the environment, or for claiming that “animal rights” activism has anything whatsoever to do with protecting the environment.

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