Imelda Burke, author of The Nature of Beauty.
Imelda Burke is a New Zealand-born, London-based natural beauty expert whose new book “The Nature of Beauty” is a must-have tome for anyone interested in natural beauty products. She’s compiled her extensive knowledge and many conversations with those in her industry since she started being interested in natural beauty 17 years ago. Imelda opened her own boutique – Content Beauty & Wellbeing in Central London in 2008.
The book is comprehensive and easy to understand with lots of ideas and information for those just starting out experimenting with natural beauty products or those with more knowledge. We caught up with Imelda to find out more about her book, what her best beauty advice is and what products she couldn’t live without.
How did your book come about and what made you decide to do it?
I was approached by the Commissioning Editor Laura Higginson at Ebury Press a couple of years ago about the idea of putting Content and what we are about into words – and an extension of what we have always had on our blog.
At the time there did seem to be a lack of beauty books that focused on a more natural ethos. One of my favourite books ‘No More Dirty Looks’ had been published in 2010 but not a lot since that combines a look at the industry with tips and brand recommendations.
Over the years I have personally answered tens of thousands of questions from customers and beauty editors about natural skincare and I thought it would be great to have all the research and experience in one easy to read place – as a starting point for people wanting to make the switch. It’s really the book I wished was around when I first started reading labels.
I’ve had the pleasure of learning so much from our customers and brand founders that it is in essence is a collection of all the best experience from around the world of natural beauty.
What has the response to the book been like both from your Content customers and your wider audience?
I’ve been really excited about the comments. People that have bought the Kindle version have gone on to purchase the hardcover as they have found it so useful.
Others keep it in their bathrooms to spot check ingredients and create there own rituals.
Our customers have been great at gifting it and recommending it to convert their friends and family to natural.
You’ve been researching and studying natural beauty for years but since there weren’t and still aren’t many books like yours around where did you source information and knowledge from initially?
I really had to hunt out information actually. I spent A LOT of time looking up ingredients in medical databases as I was studying Naturopathy and taking biomedicine papers at the time. The Environmental Working Group and Soil Association are useful resources also.
You discuss the different types of beauty products and natural beauty products as well as their ingredients in your book, what’s your advice for people trying to decipher the labels on their products?
Don’t overcomplicate matters!
People often come into the store or email us confused and frustrated. First start with the list of ingredients I avoid in the book and as you educate yourself and become more familiar with ingredients you can add to the list. There is an extended list of what we don’t stock available here too which people often use.
To begin with I would look for independent certification stamps too such as the Soil Association and NaTrue.
What’s your current beauty routine?
– Cleanse with a warm muslin cloth or once a week use a manual exfoliant
– A toner containing Hyaluronic Acid to avoid dehydration throughout the day
– A brightening serum to protect against pigmentation formation
– Sheer tint with SPF30
– Oil based cleanser to remove makeup
– A second purifying cleanser – I always double cleanser at night
– Brightening Essence (a cross between a toner and a very light fluid moisturiser)
– Anti-ageing and repair serum
– Eye Cream
Once a week mask depending on my skin – detox, hydrating etc.
Which beauty products can’t you live without?
– Kypris Concentrated Cleanser
– Tata Harper Brightening Essence
– Rms Beauty Oil
– De Mamiel Exhale Daily Hydrating SPF30
– Pai Comfrey and Calendula Calming Body Cream
What’s currently in your makeup bag?
– Vapour Atmosphere Luminous Foundation
– Rms Beauty Magnetic Cream Eyeshadow
– Tata Harper Be Adored Lip Treatment
– W3ll People Bio Extreme Mascara
– Ilia Jump Lipstick
– Rms Beauty Living Luminizer
– Colorisi Eye Pencil
There are lots of ideas and advice in your book but if you had to narrow it down what’s the best natural beauty advice you’ve ever been given?
Go to sleep, would be the best advice I’ve been given – they don’t call it beauty sleep for no reason!
My favourite advice to give though is to learn to read a label. All information of the front of a label should be viewed as advertising copy – the only information you need is in the ingredients label. This of course depends on the labeling laws in the country you reside though. I have picked up products in NZ that have listed two ingredients – when clearly there have been a lot more in the formulation.
With so many natural beauty brands out there what’s your advice on trying out new brands? Also, how do you go about choosing which brands to stock at Content?
It takes a bit of research to find the product/brand that is for you – often we have stuck with the same brand our mothers used or one we discovered in our teens.
As a starting guide I would scan the brands and recommendations in the skin type guide in ‘The Nature of Beauty’ – these have been complied from years of customer feedback so are a good place to start. It will often come down to personal preference though – some people like lotions, others rich creams.
You can also use the ‘Love This, Try This’ Guide in the back of the book – with this I matched some popular mainstream products with a natural brand equivalent – these are a good stating point too.
For the store we omit many ingredients and then look to brands who are authentic – meaning they aren’t just going to a lab and buying a formulation off the shelf. There has to be a founder with passion and a genuine interest in creating a brand for the greater good – both of our skin and the environment. I’m not interested in copycat brands or those following a trend for the sake of it.
Having been raised in New Zealand and lived in the UK for many years do you think Kiwis and Brits have different approaches to natural beauty?
Yes – I think NZers have been lucky to have great natural brands readily available at pharmacy level since I can remember – this is relatively new in the UK.
We also have a generally more holistic approach to health and skin health also and a slightly more relaxed approach to beauty, although elements of higher maintenance are creeping in with blow dry bars etc.
Consumers have become a lot more conscious of natural products and ethical products in the past few years, what is the area of natural beauty you think people most need to be educated about?
Switching their hair products and dyes more specifically.
As you mentioned in your book healthy skin comes from a healthy diet and lifestyle, what’s your favourite go-to food to pick up your skin?
Cold-Pressed Organic green juice or a superfood green supplement like Pure Synergy.
What are you most excited about in the natural beauty world at the moment?
The public’s increased awareness of ingredients and how this is pressuring multi-national brands to reformulate.