We’re in the age of highstreet Botox, lunchtime fillers and no-downtime lasers, yet demand for all-natural beauty treatments hasn’t declined as a result. On the contrary, it’s never been higher.
Model Miranda Kerr recently revealed that she performs a weekly at-home green tea steam bath facial to cleanse her pores.
Victoria Beckham is said to be a fan of the Japanese Geisha facial, so-called because it was first used in 17th-century Japan by geishas. The active ingredient is uguisu no fun – which means ‘nightingale droppings’. Yes, really.
Elsewhere, Gwyneth Paltrow and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley are fans of ‘Skin Whisperer’ Amanda Lacey, whose technique incorporates facial massage and essential oils.
In many ways, the trend for organic beauty products and rituals is an offshoot of the Eat Clean movement: women are realising that the lotions and potions they apply to their bodies are as important as the foods they put into their mouths.
They’re also realising that the healing power of human touch can hold its own against the intensity of an acid peel or laser treatment.
Celebrity facialists like the aforementioned Amanda Lacey, along with Vaishaly and Anastasia Achilleos are as much known for the delicious-smelling organic oils they create as they are for their “healing” and “magic” hands.
Closer to home, the Dublin-based masseuse and facialist Ruth Doyle of Mellow (mellow.ie) has a similar reputation within the Irish beauty industry.
The former model and international tennis player, whose clients include Rihanna and Christian Bale, has long advocated a predominately natural, hands-on approach.
Ruth studied Greek Civilisation in UCD. “That sparked my interest in natural spas,” she explains. “It inspired me to work from the Greek work homeostasis, meaning everything in stability. And when the mind, body and spirit is in unison, people radiate energy.”
Ruth uses essential oils based on seasonality, coupled with steaming and facial acupressure. “People contract their facial muscles when they’re stressed or carrying heavy groceries,” she explains. “I help bring the muscles back to a natural resting position.
“My ethos is a little bit of science, a lot of nature and an abundance of common sense,” she adds. “We are organic beings so an organic approach will always reign supreme.”
Eastern beauty rituals are also gaining popularity. Hazel Branagan, the founder of The Samadhi Centre in Rathgar, Dublin, has noticed an increased demand for the authentic Ayurvedic beauty treatments that they offer.
Ayurveda, which originated in India, is one of the world’s oldest medical systems. It is focused on restoring balance through massage and using ingredients that are specific to the client’s body type or dosha.
“I think people are realising that it isn’t all about looking good. It’s about feeling good from the inside and letting beauty shine through,” says Hazel. “In Ayurveda this is called ojas – which is when you see someone looking radiant and beautiful with a glow from within.
“True joy, happiness and beauty can be achieved when we take the time to be ourselves, to discover who we are,” she adds.
Hazel has been practising yoga for more than 15 years and was always interested in its philosophy. “After finishing a degree in Electronic Engineering, I went traveling and was drawn to India,” she explains.
“On my first trip there I discovered Ayurveda – yoga’s sister science. I returned to India a couple of years later in 2004 and studied Ayurvedic therapies and well-being in Jaipur, Rajasthan.
“It all made perfect sense. It’s about living in harmony with the laws of nature and I wanted to share it so others could also find a natural balance and a sense of self.”
Deirdre McGrath of Deva Healing Arts in the Dublin Holistic Centre is another firm believer in the inside-out philosophy. She uses a number of different therapies including Maya Abdominal Therapy and Japanese Facial Acupressure when working with clients.
She says the holistic approach is particularly effective when treating clients with adult acne.
“I get people who work really hard and then after work they’re in the gym on the treadmill – so their lifestyle is increasing levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and that has a knock-on effect on other hormones and their skin.”
Deirdre’s acne-banishing routine includes Maya Abdominal Therapy – “it helps to improve gut function” – and facial exercises that clients do in between treatments. “This really helps to firm up the muscles and give a plumper look back to the skin.”
This linchpin is the Japanese Facial Acupressure. “It doesn’t only have a local effect because you’re working on the Meridian system. Clients tend to notice an increase in vitality and a general spring in their step along with better skin quality.”
Dorothy Shaw (41) is a client of Deirdre’s. She has been suffering with hormonal breakouts for the past 25 years.
“I first contacted Deirdre because I was suffering from stress and anxiety and my GP wanted to put me on medication which was the last thing I wanted to do,” she explains.
“As soon as I got in touch with Deirdre she put my mind at ease and we discussed this and a number of other issues I had been having, not least of all my problematic skin.”
Dorothy says she had tried everything from facials and expensive beauty products to strict dairy-free and wheat-free diets, none of which had any lasting effect.
Deirdre took a different tack. “She included a combination of energy medicine and Japanese holistic facial massage to help with my overall well-being, in particular to combat the stress and anxiety I had been suffering from and also to help improve my skin,” explains Dorothy.
The results were dramatic. “From the very first treatment I felt like a different person. My husband described the difference in me like night and day,” she says.
“I came home feeling really and truly relaxed and happy for the first time in a long time. The stress and anxiety lifted almost instantly and within days my skin was glowing, something I never thought would happen after all the years of trying to improve it.”
Adult acne sufferers often use chemical treatments like benzoyl peroxide, AHAs including lactic acid and glycolic acid and retinoids. Indeed, AHAs and retinoids have become common parlance in the beauty world as they are also praised for their anti-ageing properties.
Can all-natural beauty products compete with these chemical heavyweights? Colleen Harte, the founder of Lucy Annabella Organics, thinks so.
“I respect the medical approach to skincare and appreciate that it can be favoured by so many youth-seeking beauty queens but, as always, I turn to the more natural solution for my antioxidants and hydration,” she says.
“Fortunately, when it comes to seeking our natural vitamin A (retinoids are a synthetic form of Vitamin A), there are many options.
“Rosehip seed oil is an excellent source of trans-retinoic acid without the potential irritation that prescription retinoic acid might cause,” she explains. “And antioxidant-packed Rosemary Extract is another rich source of vitamin A and C.”
Ruth also believes in the potency of natural beauty products; however, she is open to some technological intervention too. “I’m right in the middle,” she says, “but I advocate a judicious and cautious approach.”
“I do believe in some of the laser treatments that increase collagen production, but they haven’t been around that long so not enough is known about side-effects. I would also be concerned about the delicate gum and eye areas.”
Her advice is to make sure you feel good on the inside before you start trying to correct things on the outside.
“I’ve seen a lot of ladies that have had extensive Botox or surgeries who haven’t handled the inner struggles. Their lifestyle hasn’t changed but for the financial burden of extensive treatments.”
There is a misconception that women either choose the organic or “manmade” approach. Actually, all-natural beauty rituals and non-surgical aesthetic procedures can complement one another – and some women like to have a few cards up their sleeve.
Gwyneth Paltrow, for example, recommends the Chinese alternative therapy known as cupping and the laser treatment Thermage in the same breath.
However, when it comes to treating the mind, body and spirit as one, it’s fairly safe to conclude that needles, lasers and scalpels just don’t cut it.
Deirdre McGrath of Deva Healing Arts recommends: “Sit in a comfortable position (you can be watching TV or chatting) and place the palm of your right hand (with fingers facing down towards your feet) on the right lower leg, holding gently along the back and inside of the calf. Hold the left calf in the same way with your left palm. Just gently hold the calves this way for up to 20 minutes and repeat daily for two weeks.
This works because you are bringing extra energy to the spleen meridian which in most people is depleted by stress and poor diet. Side effects include better hormonal balance and metabolism and feeling more relaxed and happy in general.