Alicia Keys recently made headlines when she stepped out for the 2016 BET Awards sans makeup. Mila Kunis, on the other hand, surprised fans when she was featured on the cover of Glamour magazine this year, showing off glowing, makeup-free skin. "I don't wear makeup," she confessed to the publication. "I don't wash my hair every day. It's not something that I associate with myself."
Many women have seen these as little victories, and it's obvious why. In a world obsessed with perfecting makeup routines, we seemed to have gotten to a point where women can make headlines for doing literally nothing.
"With information at our fingertips, the new generation has access to an unlimited amount of information on the worldwide web," says Tehzeeb Huda, a UAE-based makeup blogger, when asked about the rise of the trend. "The future is going green, and it is only natural that our beauty choices go in this direction too."
As the demand for heavy makeup started to decline, going au naturel seems to be an increasingly popular choice. But makeup-lovers need not fret - it is not about foregoing makeup altogether, but opting for natural, and sometimes, environment-friendly treatments instead. Tehzeeb, for example, has always been a fan of brands such as L'Occitane, Neal's Yard Remedies, Adonica Kube, Izil Beauty and Lush, which create more organic products, and it seems like other consumers are following suit.
"Millennial men and women are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of using all-natural products on their skin," explains Anita Baker, director of Lush MENA. "There are now more choices than ever before, and people are more aware of the effects of some industries on the planet. With more choices, consumers demand more, and rightly so. Sensitised consumers are realising that products made from chemicals can have a long-term environmental impact. Moreover, natural products are purer and kinder to the skin, and seldom cause breakouts or allergic reactions in comparison to those full of preservatives."
While some prefer choosing organic products, there are others who have taken matters into their own hands by creating their own homemade treatments from scratch. UAE-based Mamta Nihalani, for example, is a self-confessed fan of the natural beauty movement, and regularly makes her own scrubs and facepacks using fresh ingredients. "With so many harsh chemicals out there today, I feel like going back to nature will help us all," she says. "The results of using homemade treatments are almost always the same, and yet people buy things off the shelves that are much more expensive than the natural stuff they can get so much more easier. It's simple and much more beneficial."
Previously in the hospitality sector, Mamta took a break from work after the birth of her son, and it was then that she started to experiment with homemade remedies. "My mother and her eight sisters are very much into natural beauty products - they used to take peels off oranges and rub it across their faces. So my siblings and I have actually grown up learning about natural recipes that have been passed on for generations! My grandmother used to make them, and prior to that, her mother, and so on and so forth."
With a passion a for creating handmade products, Mamta took to learning more about the benefits of going natural, even spending her nights reading up on the effects of certain ingredients on certain skin conditions. Today, she draws inspiration from her family recipes, while modifying them to add a new-age dimension.
"The remedies I've learnt from my family are based on Ayurveda, and I love aromatherapy, so I've combined the two to make my own thing," she explains. "For example, I love the smell of lavender, so I've made a lavender scrub with leaves I've actually picked up from Provence. Luckily I get to travel to all these different places. I always check which ingredients are best there and end up picking them up and making stuff when I get home."
Mamta's products are such a big hit with her friends and family that she now has other people asking her for advice. And it's not just women who are interested.
"Men are grooming themselves more than women nowadays, and they are actually taking an active interest in home remedies," says Mamta. "I've had men ask me how they can make beard oil - it's a big thing at the moment, because everyone wants to grow a beard and they want a natural treatment to maintain it. Hair oil is another thing that men want to learn more about. However, men don't want flowery scents - they prefer more deep, woody notes. And, most importantly, they want treatments that are beneficial and nourishing."
The fact that so many people are opting for natural treatments begs the question - why do we use products on the shelves at all? The answer is pretty simple, though. It's all about the shelf life. Mamta acknowledges that natural products do not remain for a long period of time - sugar scrubs can be kept for three months, and only if they are stored in cool places. Facemasks can last up to a year, but must be refrigerated.
"They have shorter shelf lives than chemical products because they don't have any preservatives in them," Mamta explains. "But even then, artificial products shouldn't be kept for a long time either. It's just that people aren't educated about it."
Bigger brands also face the problem with shorter shelf life, and brands such as Lush have tackled the issue by encouraging consumers to purchase responsibly. Not only is that more environment-friendly, but it ensures there's no unnecessary waste. "We run our cosmetics company like a bakery - with batches made by hand in small quantities," explains Anita. "Using fresh products means using them when their ingredients are at their most potent and effective. We do not want to pump products up with chemicals and preserve them for years, only to sit in a warehouse until shops are ready to re-stock. By asking our consumers to only buy what they need and use it fresh, we also cut down on waste."
Another reason some consumers may choose products off the shelves is because they believe they are more fast-acting and effective. Tehzeeb, for instance, loves organic beauty products, and even makes her own beauty masks which can be found on her blog (www.thetezzyfiles.com), but when it comes to makeup, prefers standard brands.
"Somehow, organic cosmetics fail to be as intense in colour and lasting power. Perhaps I still need to explore more organic cosmetic brands," she muses. "Organic beauty products may take longer to show a marked difference. There are also some very effective anti-ageing products that are not organic, and these cannot be dismissed. That being said, I believe there is a marked difference between organic and standard skincare. I have normal to dry skin and found organic creams to be more nourishing than regular concoctions. I also love the scent of natural ingredients as opposed to synthetically scented potions."
Tehzeeb advises other consumers to stay clear of products that contain any form of parabans and avoid bleaches and fairness products. She also suggests using high-quality ingredients over lower-priced alternatives - whether they are organic or not. "Your skin will thank you for it later," she quips.
Mamta expresses similar thoughts. "In our modern world, it is crucial that we take care of our bodies. Sometimes, people forget about everything other than their face, but it's important to ensure that the skin on the rest of your body is also being exfoliated, moisturised and hydrated, as this will pay off in the long run. Applying oil to your hair is also really important, especially in this part of the world where the sun can cause serious damage. Luckily, people are getting increasingly healthier and appreciating more environment-friendly, natural treatments. And I do think it's the way forward."
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