At-home beauty, independence, and empowerment

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Adopting a more natural approach to beauty can create a closer relationship with your body and social and environmental issues.

by Fernanda Franco Cannalonga cover Leah Reena translated by Pronoia Tradutória

The notion of beauty, the consumption of cosmetics and even the self-confidence of women in Brazil are all still heavily influenced by celebrities and bloggers. Beauty (or lack of it) is defined by the products used by women who aim to conform to a standard that does not correspond to reality for the majority of people. Those promoted by media, who appear so legitimate, are often the result of a massive industry effort to establish specific dreams and desires, with the sole aim of encouraging consumerism.

Under such circumstances, some women have decided to take a more natural approach to beauty, replacing an entire shelf of cosmetics with products made at home, often using ingredients from their own kitchen. In addition, many people now prefer to buy from small craft brands rather than big companies, due to a lack of confidence in the traditional market. Vegetable oils, flower extracts and plants are just some of the options.

Cécile Dormeau
Cécile Dormeau

This new attitude provides independence, a more sensitive relationship with your own body, and greater alignment with social and environmental issues. Lowsumer behavior involves making your own cosmetics, rethinking consumption, reducing waste, recovering forgotten knowledge, making conscious choices, and not allowing the media to stop you from accepting your own beauty.

Independent choices

It is in hair care that women are most often empowered by natural beauty. The perpetuation of common beliefs that worship “straight, blonde hair” has been rejected by women who are choosing to accept their natural hair and are now treating it with natural products.

Propaganda de 1920
Advertisement from 1920

Methods for permanently changing hair texture began to appear in the early twentieth century. At first, the aim was to make hair more wavey, and then straightening techniques were introduced in 1959. Sixty years later, saying no to these procedures is a sign of freedom and self-acceptance.

Those involved in the movement to free women from hair straighteners all have similar stories, which usually begin before the age of ten, with feelings of inadequacy at school. These women feel like they are hostages to tiresome straightening routines, with no choice but to regularly repeat the treatment. Reversing the process is not easy either. A transition period is needed for the curly or coily identity to reappear, during which the hair grows out and the chemically treated part is cut off. The idea is to start over from scratch. This new journey can be completely free of toxic chemical ingredients. The No Poo method involves washing your hair without shampoo. Baking soda and vinegar migrate from the kitchen to the bathroom, where they assume a new role.

Paola Saliby
Paola Saliby

Illustrator Paola Saliby knows all about hair and acceptance. Having been diagnosed with androgenetic alopecia (also known as pattern hair loss), and despite undergoing hormonal treatment, Paola chose to shave her head. She created a blog, Bald Hair Day, to support women going through the same journey and to raise awareness of the condition.

“When I decided to shave my head, I stopped fighting against my body’s natural state. Shaving my head was liberating, and not only because it is more practical – it also allows me to see other important things in myself that were previously hidden. This has been reflected in the way I see other people with less judgment and more empathy.”

Today, instead of taking medicines, she prefers to take care of her diet. She has also replaced beauty products such as shampoo, soap and creams with vegan or organic options. “I would like to start making my own cosmetics, but not with the aim of curing my baldness.”

It is not only people who have undergone radical changes that experiment with independent personal care. Questioning the cosmetics industry is a feminist attitude. By boycotting brands that insist on specific aesthetic standards, women are telling the industry that they do not feel represented by the assertions of the marketing sector.

If it is not possible to make everything at home, choosing to buy from small brands can also provide independence to other people. Distributing wealth among real people, rather than big companies that belong to large corporations, helps to reduce social inequality.

The fewer links in the production chain, the fairer the distribution tends to be.

Conscious pathways

Learning to make something that you always believed you had to buy is a big step away from the expectations of the market. Avoiding excess is healthy and protects the wisdom of previous generations or cultures that value nature. According to Denise Bernuzzi de Santana, author of História da Beleza no Brasil (“History of Beauty in Brazil”), beauty routines used basic household items in the past:

“To improve the appearance of the face, homemade recipes varied from pastes made of cucumber, strawberries and lettuce, to the use of ‘fake rice powders.’ Freckles could be treated by washing the face with water that had been used to clean the rice.”

Linha D.I.Y. da S.W.Basics, produzida em Nova Iorque.
S.W. Basics D.I.Y. line, produced in New York.

Adina Grigore wrote a book Skin Cleanse, about the troubles that inspired her to create her own natural beauty brand, S.W.Basics. The products use no more than five ingredients, all of which can be found in most kitchens. The brand recently launched a D.I.Y. line, so that customers can have the same experience as Adina in testing pure ingredients and recipes on their own skin.

Investing in sustainably sourced raw materials of the highest quality does not necessarily lead to higher prices. A currency exchange occurs, where you pay for quality and not for the brand, the packaging or the celebrity marketing the product. The vicious cycle of searching for the latest products on pharmacy shelves ceases to exist. Knowledge is acquired by experimenting at a calm and natural pace. Time is put to better use, with a pleasurable activity that results in a range of benefits.

Linha para gestantes da brasileira Souvie. Parte dos insumos é produzida em uma fazenda própria no interior de São Paulo. Trabalham com a premissa da transparência e o site indica a região e país de origem de cada componente.
Line for pregnant women by Brazilian Souvie: some of the ingredients are produced on her own farm in São Paulo, and the website provides the country and region of origin for every ingredient.
Existe luxo na beleza natural: a linha de maquiagens orgânicas certificada Kjaer Weis possui todas as embalagens com sistema de refil (inclusive rímel e batom).
There is luxury in natural beauty: organic makeup line by Kjaer Weis includes a refill system for all products (including mascara and lipstick).

Refusing to participate in the consumerist cycle promoted by beauty brands is also a sustainable attitude. The fewer products manufactured, the less environmental impact and less waste created. In one innocent shower, countless synthetic substances are washed down the drain. One example is plastic microspheres, the small beads used in soaps, toothpastes, and exfoliating scrubs. They are too small to be caught by sewage treatment systems and end up in the ocean. There, they are swallowed by marine animals – along with other pieces of plastic – causing irreversible damage.

O esfoliante da Frank Body utiliza apenas café e óleos vegetais, evitando o uso de microesferas plásticas.
Frank Body’s exfoliating scrub uses coffee and vegetable oils only, avoiding the use of plastic microspheres.

An achievable beauty routine

Anyone seeking to make this change will go through a learning period, during which they will start to understand their options and learn to make better choices. Obtaining relevant information from food packaging is a challenge, but cosmetics packaging is even more difficult. In the frustrating search for transparency, you will have to learn to read labels, understand certifications, and interpret strange names such as sodium laureth sulfate or methylparaben, on products whose ingredients are mostly synthetic. At this stage, it is best to look for names and ingredients that look like things we can find in nature (such as flower extracts or vegetable oils), as well as concise ingredient lists and organic or natural certifications.

The idea of only selecting healthy products for personal use is not exactly new. In 1999, Greenpeace released a guide called “Cosmetox,” which classified beauty and hygiene products according to the toxic substances they contained. A similar resource can be found on the website of non-governmental organization Environmental Working Group, where you can look up cosmetic formulas and ingredients.

Libby VanderPloeg
Libby VanderPloeg

Just like the conventional beautification industry, natural beauty involves food, cosmetics, health, and physical activity. To feel good, you must take care of yourself inside and out: eat fresh food, drink lots of water, and exercise your body and mind.

There are no set rules to natural beauty and no 100% clear answers. We need to create our own criteria and follow them at all times. Possibilities include products not tested on animals, vegan recipes, or completely natural formulas.

These are individual choices, but they are part of a larger movement that prioritizes health and well-being, changing the meaning of vanity and understanding that our choices have an impact on society and the environment.

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Aesthetically incorrect

A feminist who sees herself as ugly, despite understanding that beauty standards are a form of oppression, still thinks she is trapped by it. She does not want to show the world that she is actually beautiful, she just wants this to be irrelevant in her life.

The Illusionists

Documentary about the impossible marketing of beauty around the world. The film's mission is to start a “body image revolution.” Not yet available in Brazil.

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Project developed by the author of this article, for those who want to make more conscious, healthier and/or more animal-friendly beauty choices and are still unsure where to start.

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