Beauty Confidential!

Tomoka Nguyan is a woman on a mission and it’s a big one. Her vision is nothing less than convert people to using home made all-natural skin care and to stop them buying it from Big Cosmetic.

Or, at very least, know what truly does enhance a woman’s beauty without damaging their health while pouring money down the drain. In other words what is real and authentic.

What she proposes may take a while, but in her view we need a fraction of the face care we think we do or, more to the point, have been persuaded that we do. “As things are these products are harmful both to ourselves and our environment” she maintains. “They come with packaging that is wasteful and non-degradable. What they do is essentially unregulated, all too often contain toxic chemical ingredients, are over-marketed, over-priced relying on hype and dubious scientific evidence” she concludes.

In case you should think that Tomoka (pictured above) is a fanciful dreamer, think again. A beautiful and stylish woman, wife and mother of two, born in Japan, she is a succesful business woman who has been in the vanguard of the spa and beauty movement in Asia since arriving in Bali in the early 1990s.

She not only means what she says but has been plotting the way to achieve this vision for seven years now and, as the first salvo, has written a book to show us how it can be done.

As well as motivating us to make our own products (it includes skin care products for men) she sees the movement becoming a social enterprise whereby women in marginalised parts of the world can produce product which they can sell online.

“It’s a big task, yes - but making our own things for ourselves, to suit ourselves, brings very tangible benefits along with some powerful intangible ones”. She likens it to home cooking. “Most of us know the healthiest option is to cook at home because we know exactly how we like our food, we know exactly what ingredients we are using and can adjust the taste to suit our health and inclination ”, she says.

“When we can’t be bothered to cook for ourselves, what do we do? We don’t go to MacDonalds or to Maxim’s. We find a restaurant we like where the food is healthy and tasty. Why should it be any different with cosmetics?”

Fair point. Intrigued by the possibilites and impressed by the level of committment, plus hands-on managerial experience combined with in-depth knowledge of the industry, I ask whether this level of committment would be forthcoming in sufficient numbers for it to work?

“Why not? People buy far more product than they actually need. Two to three products properly compounded is ample for most people and once the initial purchase of equipment is made two or three hours of work stored properly provides a six month supply.”

That, and given the big savings made by doing it yourself, which Tomoka puts at 80 percent, make it hard to see why indeed it should not catch on?

The beauty business is archetypal, it addresses something fundamental in all of us and... central to that is the face we show the world. However we paint or adorn ourselves nothing trumps beautiful skin and the most beautiful skin of all is a healthy skin.

If you are at all intrigued by the possibilities that Tomoka’s vision opens up you need to read the book she’s written. It’s called “Beauty Confidential”, subtitled “Build Happiness, Health and Beauty with Homemade Skincare Products and Home Spa”.

The word ‘Confidential’ used in the book’s title is apt. Despite frequent reports of toxic chemicals widely used in most commercial producs, unlike the food we eat, we tend to give an easy pass when it comes to cosmetics. Yes, we are aware to a degree that parabens and phthalates, employed as bulking and penetrating agents, are commonly used throughjout the industry but we don’t really take aboard the extent to which parabens are implicated in breast cancer and phthalates known to disrupt the hormonal system, leading to learning diabilities, cognitive and birth defects, cancers and infertility.

But that’s just scraping the surface of the problem.

Less well known is the fact that the beauty industry is under no obligation to list all the chemicals in their formulations. And that is scary... when you know that the average woman uses up to 12 personal care items daily, that each product contains an average of 14 chemicals amounting to over 100 chemicals applied to the body every single day, of which you know nothing at all and which are combined with other ingredients specifically included to penetrate deep into the body.

Just think birth control, nicotine and growth hormone patches to get a perspective on that.

Cosmetics contain some 10,500 different chemicals for one reason or another, 89 percent of which have never been tested to see if they are safe to use with such frequency and duration.

Given that the beauty care industry was worth US$460 billion in 2014 and expected to top $615 billion by 2020 and, according to the UK’s Daily Mail, the average woman will spend $164,000 on cosmetics in her lifetime, and bearing in mind the lack of any regulatory oversight, as there is with food, is it any wonder manufacturers want to keep us in the dark and prepared to to do whatever it takes to grab market share?

The profit margins are huge, costs of content and manufacture are very low, as little as 2% of cost. What you pay for is the hype and the packaging.

If I have dwelt upon the need Tomoka articulates so persuasively in making the change from commercial to do-it-yourself 100 percent personalised and all-natural cosmetics that is because the reasons she cites are compelling. The book is in no way a strident polemic and this aspect is in fact only a small, albeit important part, of what actually comes across as a very loving and supportive work.

Tomoka not only comes from a place of deep conviction and knowledge but walks the talk. She has not just trod the path herself but tells us step-by-step how we can do it too, if we want to.

The book goes on to explain clearly the benefits of formulating your own products over ready-made ones and tells you exactly how to do it. It is in short, a manifesto and a call-to-action combined with easy-to-follow guide to some 150 science-backed all-natural formulations covering the areas of make-up removal, cleansing creams, facials and washes, moisturising toners, creams, masks and facials, sun protection, deodorants, make-ups and hair care with numerous individual variations to cover certain conditions and ageing.

About Tomoka

Anyone reading this book will quickly understand that the person who could write it possesses special qualities. Born in the Japanese countryside in a very traditional Japanese small town Tomoka’s greatest influence was her unusually gifted and free-thinking grandmother, to whom she dedicates her book. As she grew up she longed to explore the world and went to the United Kingdom to learn English. There she enrolled in the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS), part of the University of London, where she majored in Southeast Asian studies. She went on to complete further post-graduate research in Sumatra, Vietnam and other parts of Indonesia.

In 1997 she arrived in Bali, which is where this story really began, finding a job with one of the first international spas there. Inspired by the abundance of Balinese remedies and modalities, she rode the spa-tsunami of that era and was soon overseeing no less than 15 spas around Southeast Asia. In her career she has managed spas and wellness centres for Thalasso and Mandara Spa, before undertaking various senior managerial roles with GHM hotel management. She went on to direct the ESPA in The Peninsula Bangkok and the brand’s flagship at Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore, and is currently VP for Legian Hotel Management. Her advice as an independent consultant is much in demand throughout the industry regionally.

In 2004 Tomoka married ex-colleague Nam Nguyan, who was executive chef for GHM. They now live in Singapore with two daughters aged 10 and 11. Nam has just opened his first NamNam Noodle bar in Bali, which already has 6 outlets in Singapore and 4 in Jakarta.

Beauty Confidential by Tomoka Y. Nguyan

For further information on Tomoka’s work or to obtain a copy of the book, contact:

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Price: US$24