Natural Beauty Recipes: 35 Step-by-step Projects for Homemade Beauty, by Karen Gilbert
CICO Books, 1800653085, 145 pages, January 2024

This year during my annual holiday shopping at Lush, I decided in 2024 I want to learn how to create my own beauty and skin care products, most especially massage bars. Just a few days after that, I saw the newly released Natural Beauty Recipes: 35 Step-by-step Projects for Homemade Beauty by Karen Gilbert, which I soon discovered is the perfect book to support my new year initiative! This beautifully crafted book has all the information I need to get started, and after reading it, I feel confident and excited about my first projects I’ve planned out.

Gilbert is an expert in the field of natural skincare and fragrance, creating award-winning formulas for Neal Yard Remedies. She currently runs artisan perfumery workshops both locally in the UK and online and has previously published Perfume: The Art and Craft of Fragrance, teaching readers how to train their noses and layer scents to create body products and home fragrance sprays.

Before delving into the projects in Natural Beauty Recipes, Gilbert gives an overview about beauty and skincare overall, sharing the different skin types and a three-step skincare routine to follow and the “do” and “don’ts” of diet necessary to maintain a good complexion. She writes, “You would be surprised how many people with skin problems do not even think about changing their lifestyle, and try to fix them with cosmetic products instead.”1

With this in mind, Gilbert turns towards setting readers up with all they need to know about creating their own recipes, starting with the equipment required, ingredients, preservatives and antioxidants, and information on shelf life. I really enjoyed reading this section because often when I look at the back of a bottle, I have no idea what the ingredients are or why they are necessary, but now I understand better how different parts of the recipe work together.

And, oh my, all the things these ingredients can create is incredible! The recipes are divided into three different chapters, focusing on the face, body, and, finally, bath and shower. For every recipe, Gilbert neatly lists the ingredients and equipment required and provides a full description about the recipe, explaining why the ingredients are used, expected shelf-life, and other alternatives to ingredients or things that can be removed/added, depending upon one’s intended outcome.

She also includes a textbox on how to use the recipe, which, depending on the recipe, makes suggestions such as how long to leave on one’s face, how to prepare the skin for application (cleaning face, dampening skin, etc), or amounts to use (ex. 2 cups of bath salt). Gilbert wants you to have the best outcomes, and it’s clear she’s giving you every little detail to ensure you know not only how your product is created but its most efficient use too.

But do you want to know the absolute best part of this book? The pictures of every step! It is so incredibly helpful to be able to see pictures of each step to make sure I’m doing things correctly. Alongside the photographs, are Gilbert’s step-by-step instructions, which are thorough and fully convey what to expect/what is happening at each increment in the process. There’s also always a picture of the final product too, so you know what you’re making from the get-go.

Other very nifty and useful parts of this book are the glossary and resource section. The glossary defines terms used–the words I’m grateful to now understand when reading product labels! For instance, cocamidopropyl betaine is defined as follows:

“A mild surfactant derived from coconut oil. It is often used to make the product foam more and to improve the viscosity (thickness) in shampoo or shower gel formulations.”2

Then the resource section has lists of virtual workshops and tutorials, further reading (websites and books), website for a lye calculator, and what I find to be most valuable, lists of ingredient suppliers for both the UK and USA. I’m so grateful for Gilbert including these resources because finding reputable ingredients was on the forefront of my mind as I am preparing to start creating my own natural beauty recipes.

Here’s a list of the recipes that I’m most excited to try, which showcase the range of projects Gilbert teaches readers in this book: Rose & red clay cleanser, Lavender & witch hazel skin freshener, Rosehip treatment balm, Argan eye mask, lip balms, Vetiver & vanilla body cream, Shea butter & lemongrass hand softener, Pumice & peppermint foot scrub, Geranium & orange massage bars, Dead Sea detox bathing salts, Skin-softening milk bath, Herbal bath bags, and most of all, Mint-choc bath melts! I can already envision feeling luxurious, fresh, and radiant in 2024 when using these products. (I’ll just have to get my husband to share the excitement, as I have no doubt these ingredients add up quickly in cost! 😀)

All in all, Natural Beauty Recipes is a marvelous resource for those interested in getting started with making their own products. Gilbert gives readers her all; her expertise in fragrance and natural beauty shine through. Whether you’re a novice like me, beginning from step one, or someone who has some experience under their belt, Gilbert’s carefully curated set of recipes is such to delight the senses. I’m really looking forward to doing my first batch of a few of these as soon as my ingredients come in the mail. Until then, I’ll just keep doing my research and referring to this beautiful book for inspiration.