Your Life daily: Follow Catherine's natural route to beauty.
BEER for shampoo, and honey and salt as a wrinkle buster - it's not exactly the beauty regime you'd associate with Welsh-born Hollywood A-lister, Catherine Zeta Jones. Yet she's admitted to employing a few homegrown skincare secrets which owe more to her larder than an exclusive make-up bag or cosmetics counter. And she's not alone - there's a growing interest in natural beauty products, the likes of which you can whip up in your kitchen. KAREN HAMBRIDGE reports.
FOR thousands of years women used whatever was at hand from the natural world to care for their skin and make themselves look beautiful.
Then we got civilised and beauty care became a science, with additives and chemicals and super ingredients concocted in a lab with names ten syllables long.
Traditional formulas fell out of favour as we looked to the brave new world to rid us of our wrinkles, add lustre to our locks and give our skin a youthful glow.
Attitudes though have started to change. Women in their droves are turning to old time favourites.
Coventry woman, Carol Ash is one. And she's certainly a fine advert for taking the natural approach - at 47 with two grown-up daughters and a granddaughter her youthful appearance belies her age.
It was because of her eldest daughter, Angie that she became interested in natural beauty and skincare almost five years ago. Angie was a student living in Nottingham when she was diagnosed with cancer.
Thankfully Angie beat the disease and is a teacher in Bristol these days but it was her resolve to abandon chemicals and additives that prompted a sea change in Carol's ideas too.
Carol, who lives in Coundon with husband, David, a drama teacher, said: "Angie had just got her degree from Nottingham University and was about to start teacher training when she was diagnosed.
"She had a year off for treatment and during this time she decided she would cut out all chemicals from her diet and from the products she used.
"She was buying soap and skincare from the internet and it was quite expensive so I thought I would have a bash at making soap myself."
After buying a recipe book Carol started cooking up bars in her kitchen using oils like sunflower, coconut and olive pomace from shops along Foleshill Road and caustic soda from B&Q.
There were a few teething troubles but she marvelled at how quickly she picked up the technique and how easy it was.
Admittedly it took some elbow grease to prepare the mixtures, as Carol explained: "You mix the oil with the caustic soda and water but you have to get them both at the right temperature or they will separate during the mixing.
"Then you have to stir for an hour or an hour and a half, which is pretty tough on the arms. In the end I bought a blender - it turned out to be massive, like a pneumatic drill, but it was very effective.
"The process is all quite simple too, anyone can make their own soap using just the equipment they have in their kitchen and it's relatively cheap."
So taken was Carol that she dropped her usual beauty regime in favour of the soaps which doubled as shampoo and conditioner and she started to make other beauty essentials.
At one point she ran the concern as a business, Wildbare, based at the Coventry Canal Basin, with a workshop, but the economic downturn has meant she's scaled things back.
She still creates products for herself and for family and friends - she jokes 'everyone knows what they are going to get at Christmas' - and she has stock if anyone wants to buy direct from her. There are soaps, shampoo bars, body scrubs, facial oils and lip balms to choose from. Ingredients include lemon peel oil, lavender oil, goat milk, cocoa butter, beeswax and tumeric.
Carol is certainly a convert to the natural, handmade cause.
"I can't say whether cutting out the chemicals helped Angie, but I don't think it could have hindered. There's no proof either way that all these substances are harmful but personally I don't think it can be good for your body bombarding it with a chemical cocktail every day."
Shemakes her own highly effective cold cream, which doubles as a night balm, and her favourite soap features redbush tea - she loves the fragrance and its speckled nature from the tea leaves.
The soaps don't feel the same as conventional bars and each has its own properties and style, some are creamy, some hard, some more lathery than others.
"The bars have a lot more oil in them so they are not as drying or astringent on your skin.
"And when you use the bars as shampoo it feels very different too. I wash it through my hair twice but I don't need to use conditioner and I haven't for two years.
"It is a bit of a leap of faith because the products do feel so different but they do work, well they do for me."
Carol also prefers to buy natural household cleaners too.
"I use a lot of distilled white vinegar as it kills germs and it's great as a fabric conditioner for woollies," she revealed.
""If you just use the vinegar there's a slight smell of vinegar to begin with but this evaporates really quickly leaving your woollies all soft."
For more information visit www.wildbarenaturals.com
JB280109soap-03 KITCHEN CREATIONS ... Carol Ash in her kitchen making shampoo (left) and (main picture) A-lister Catherine Zeta Jones who's a big fan of natural products.; JB280109soap-01 DIY COSMETICS ... Carol Ash, who makes her own natural beauty products.