The Pure + Simple Concept: a different definition of beauty
Beauty in the Modern Age: High Expectations
In this competitive modern age, we have high expectations. Not only do we demand top performance from our products, services and technologies, but we also demand this of ourselves. Most of us strive to be the best in our jobs, our relationships, as parents, as children, as partners, as hosts, as managers and as members of our communities. Naturally, our attitude toward how we look is just as uncompromising.
In placing these expectations on ourselves, we sometimes forget what beauty really is and how best to embody it.
In my seven years as an esthetician, I have seen two very different sides to the promotion of beauty. One emphasizes traits like glowing skin, shiny hair, bright eyes and strong bodies, which can only come from balanced good health inside and out, making us innately magnetic and disarming.
Unfortunately, the other side of beauty is promoted as something very different from health – as a straighter, smaller nose, bigger breasts, poutier lips and taut skin. It is a rigid definition which supports the idea that beauty can be attained synthetically, through fake nails, fake hair, fake tans and fake eyelashes. This preference for external perfection over wellbeing also leads to the usage of dangerous procedures which damage, rather than enhance our health, and especially our skin.
It was this dichotomy that led my mother, Jean Eng, and I to start Pure + Simple Inc., a chain of holistic spas along with our own line of natural skincare and mineral make-up. Pure + Simple’s mandate was to offer alternatives to conventional products and treatments for a more healthy attainment of beauty. These alternatives were not only in the form of chemical-free skincare, but also as skin consultations which took inside-outside beauty into account. After a few years of operation, I decided to further strengthen my understanding of the connection between health and beauty by becoming an Ayurvedic practitioner.
Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old East Indian Science of Health and Medicine which teaches that healing (and, therefore, beauty) stems from a balanced lifestyle supported by knowledge. It is based on the concept that our bodies are composed of three different energies – Pitta, heat energy; Kapha, water and earth energy; Vata, air and space energy. It is not the breakdown of our physical systems that causes sickness, but an excess or deficiency of a specific energy that imbalances and compromises our total selves.
One principle that runs consistently through all Eastern medicine is the idea that we must participate in our own well-being instead of hoping for someone, or something else, to save us. Whether it is a drug, a surgical procedure or the expertise of a practitioner, many of us expect external intervention to heal us, placing little thought on how we, ourselves, can contribute. This viewpoint also applies to beauty. Ayurveda promotes a more proactive approach, placing the emphasis on prevention instead of on short-term solutions that merely suppress our symptoms. Many of us suffer from acne, rosacea and eczema, hyper-pigmentation and premature aging, which may seem like ugly nuisances; but in fact, they are early-warning signs of potentially more serious problems. If we treat these imperfections as a spur to change, we will not only gain beautiful skin but better health and greater vitality.
In particular, Ayurveda relies on daily care to deal with symptoms we deem unsightly by addressing their underlying cause. By contrast, current Western culture often encourages us to neglect this responsibility with its inherent respect for ourselves, opting instead for acute, drastic treatments in pursuit of false ideals. These unloving procedures, intended to reduce fine lines, to tone or even reconstruct features, are often counterproductive since they tax our bodies, our minds, our emotions and our immune systems. To be truly beautiful, it is important that we see this quality as something we want to develop, not as something external we want to obtain by artificial means.
The repercussions from treating our skin with severity can be long-lasting. The skin is an intimate and delicate organ with its own internal system. While many people think of it as just what they see, it is composed of three layers of tissue, each with its own sub-layers. Together they encapsulate a network of capillaries and sweat glands bound by tightly woven fibers of collagen and elastin. Understanding how complex and fragile our skin is can help us to make more informed choices.
I have an expanding clientele made up of people who did not initially have this understanding and who made rash decisions with the help of medical professionals. Many have induced adult skin conditions which are a direct result of having treated teenage acne with harsh peels, medications and drying agents prescribed by dermatologists or other doctors. These band-aid solutions typically produced short-term results accompanied by long-term damage such as skin sensitivity, dehydration and mental stress.
I, too, was someone who did this to my skin. I suffered from acne for more than ten years, for which I desperately searched for a solution, spending endless amounts of money and energy on my stubbornly blemished face. I religiously tried dry ice, glycolic peels and salicylic acid, making my skin red and creating scars (that I still have today). When this seemed insufficient, I took antibiotics, which not only made me feel ill, but which dried out my skin and internal organs.
I often compare this struggle to a war. I was fighting acne by peeling, drying and extracting as if it were an outside enemy and not a part of me. It was only when I started to treat myself with natural skincare that I began to see a difference. Though I had not really believed such a simple solution would be effective, I had exhausted most other avenues and was willing to try anything.
At first, I achieved only the lessening of my skin’s redness, but in time my whole face began to look moister and healthier. While I still had blemishes, they looked calmer and less aggravated. This motivated me to shift from using “oil-free” and “purifying” products to natural, nourishing ones that targeted sensitivity and dehydration. That was when my skin became more balanced and I began to break out less. At that point, I became inspired to take initiative with my internal health by doing a series of detoxes and diet shifts, later offering the results of my findings to others.
All this is why I love natural beauty care. Not only did I clear up my skin and increase my self-confidence, but I learned how to treat myself gently and to love myself. Now, along with more attractive skin, I have a new perspective on myself and on how both the mind and the internal body affect the skin. I only wish I had received better guidance and learned these things earlier!
Knowledge is beauty
The reason many of us make mistakes when choosing our health and beautycare is that we are driven by fear: fear we are not attractive, fear people do not like us, fear we cannot achieve our goals. According to Ayurveda, fear not only affects the function of our kidneys but it also prevents us from moving forward positively. Today, very critical events are occurring in our world and in the environment requiring us to act. We need to feel empowered and that can only come from knowledge because knowledge is power.
When I was growing up, my mother always said: “Kristen, people can steal your things, whether it is a car, a watch or even your husband, but they can’t take away what’s in your mind – knowledge and wisdom are your most important investment.”
But, acquiring knowledge about how to treat the skin can be very difficult. There is so much information to wade through on cosmetics and skincare products, while a large amount of it is conflicting. Despite all this clutter from the promotion of various lotions and potions – across the counter, at the spa, in the drugstore and on the Internet – we often are not told what we really need to know, such as which products contain caustic or even toxic ingredients.
Petroleum (a petrochemical often used as a product base) does not fully absorb into the skin, leaving it undernourished and clogging pores. This causes acne, blackheads and allergic reactions. Sodium laurel sulfate (SLS, used in detergents) is a stripping agent that dehydrates the skin and imbalances its acid mantle, aggravating sensitivity and preventing it from healing properly. Both products can also cause internal damage when absorbed into our bodies through our skin.
While there are other ingredients to avoid, these two are the most common. Conversely, pure ingredients, which feed and heal our skin, are increasingly accessible as the market itself becomes more aware.
When my mother and I first launched Pure + Simple a decade ago, natural skincare was not in vogue. We had to do a lot of educating, and many of our clients were initially skeptical; however, as more of them saw tangible results in their own complexions and told others, the demand for natural beauty flourished.
Avoiding harmful ingredients and choosing healthy ones is only part of the solution. At Pure + Simple we believe in coupling this with a balanced lifestyle. Through this book, I want to help others care for themselves in a way that allows them to feel beautiful and vibrant, with glowing skin as a result. I hope that by encouraging a healthy approach to self-image we can reexamine our outlooks, emphasizing the positive, so that we can make effective changes in our lives and in the world.
I base these hopes on the fact that many clients have already told me that Pure + Simple has changed their lives. I am honored and (encouraged) to hear this because it is my intention to go beyond merely promoting wonderful creams and teach the proven knowledge and intuition of Ayurveda. By listening to our bodies, then choosing appropriate actions, we can increasingly look and feel our best. Nothing is more attractive than a self-empowered person who is healthy in mind, body and spirit
Beauty in Moderation
We at Pure + Simple are modernists with a practical, realistic outlook. While we promote natural skincare, we keep in mind differing goals and challenges. When our clients resort to chemical medications or invasive surgeries, we use our knowledge to help them to compensate for side-effects and unforeseen consequences in the best way possible because we believe that being judgmental or uncompromising is also unhealthy.
Everything on this earth can be a poison or a cure, depending on what and who we are treating. For example, in contrast to popular Western belief, Eastern medicine teaches that some of us need the stimulation of smoking (Kaphas) and the heaviness of starchy carbohydrates (Vatas), while others cannot take the over-stimulation of regular cardio exercise (Pittas and Vatas). Balance is everything.
This philosophy is extended to how we view beauty treatments. While many purists insist that basic facials and good creams are enough to heal any ailment, we believe that some aggressive, yet non-invasive procedures, if done conscientiously, can be extremely beneficial for the skin. This is especially true for those looking for anti-aging results.
Modern procedures like IPL (intense pulsed light), LED (light emitting diode) and Sea-salt Microdermabrasion can eliminate pigmented spots and the visible effects of broken capillaries, as well as minimizing fine lines. Skincare and massage alone cannot yield the results of these more stimulating treatments.
But proper selection and customization of these services are what will be truly effective. Sifting through the array of different skincare treatments and products can be made much simpler by choosing those that are specific to our Ayurvedic constitution. It is this pairing of new technology with ancient methodology that shapes Pure + Simple’s approach.
Beauty in Simplicity
A friend of mine who is a computer programmer once told me, “Compared to the human body, computers are easy. They simply code 0 and 1 in different patterns, whereas our bodies have so many complex systems!” I was surprised because I am so often frustrated by my computer. He made me realize how often we see technology as sophisticated while taking for granted our own amazing capacities. When I was studying at the Ayurvedic Institute in New Mexico, Dr. Vasant Lad told our class that the more he learned about the way our bodies worked, the more he believed in God, because who else could create such a perfect and intricate system?
Our bodies are worlds within worlds! Each is a holistic system containing seven interconnected subordinate systems: circulatory, nervous, endocrine, muscular, lymphatic, digestive and skeletal. It is this complexity that makes knowing what is healthy so difficult. Add the fact that each of us is a unique individual so that no one solution can be good for everyone. That is why I always tell my clients they are the experts when it comes to themselves. They have been with themselves 24 hours a day for their whole lives. My job is to listen while providing additional knowledge and support.
I found my own search for health and beauty very exasperating because different experts touted different studies and opinions about what was good and bad. I came to the point where I felt I could not eat anything or follow any advice without feeling I was second-guessing myself. Simply sustaining myself had become overwhelming.
By writing this book, I hope that my own hard-won research will be used as a tool and as a resource to help others find solace in holistic and natural ways. Along with normal skincare and maintenance, I will tell you about the three basic principles I found that I could apply to everything, from the search for beauty to emotional exploration – moving, purging and nourishing. For those of us who are reformed skin-abusers, I will also discuss how to repair damage that has already occurred, along with the best ways to internally and externally treat ailments like acne, sensitivity, rosacea, eczema, hyper-pigmentation and signs of aging (tissue degeneration). This book is also a compilation of knowledge that we at Pure + Simple wish to pass on to those of you who, at present, are just browsing, in hopes that you, too, will be inspired to embrace the Ayurvedic process of beautification.
Many of my clients came to Pure + Simple much like beauty refugees searching for a positive and healthy way to look and feel good. We offer a more nurturing option: skincare which is gentle and nourishing, using pure ingredients, along with the knowledge that fosters positive choices. This is the approach we have employed for the past decade, and is what we are known for.