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Versatile Silk:
Natural Fibers in Clothing and Now Beauty Products


Natural beauty products have an allure that chemicals can’t reproduce. There’s something exciting about using a moisturizer that has plant extracts and beeswax and things that grew outside in the sun. Maybe it goes along with the romantic ideal of natural beauty—a fresh glow, perfect skin that never needs exfoliating or makeup, wide, bright eyes, soft hair.

Why We Like Natural Beauty Products

When we buy products that have natural ingredients, we’re also buying the history that goes along with them. For centuries, people have used aloe vera, herbal salves, rosewater and kaolin to beautify themselves. You can still buy kohl and henna, two cosmetics favored by Egyptian royals. There’s a definite emotional appeal to using the same makeup Cleopatra used!

Using Silk in Fashion Goes Back Centuries

Another ancient ingredient that’s just finding its place in twenty-first century cosmetics is silk. We’re all aware of what silk can do as a clothing fabric, and its history stretches back thousands of years and across continents. Silk was traded on the spice routes, in some cultures its use was limited to the very rich and noble born, not only because of its costliness, but by law. In World Wars One and Two, silk production was relegated to the war effort, and women painted lines up the backs of their legs to mimic the look of the seamed silk stockings they could no longer buy. The silk that had been used for dresses, parasols and unmentionables went to make parachutes.

Silk Is Much Easier to Care for Today

These days, silk production has modernized to the point that this once dry-clean-only fabric can now be made colorfast and washable. I love silk bedding in the winter, because it’s light, but very warm because of its tight weave. (Silk pillow cases were once prescribed to keep salon-sprayed, sixties hairdos intact. I love my white silk pillowcases because they feel cool on my face, and they make my hair softer and easy to brush.)

But the recent revolution in silk is in cosmetics.

Silk in Hair Care Products

Silk protein ingredients are added to shampoos and moisturizers, adding strength and softness to the structure of hair and skin. Filaments that once took soldiers from flaming planes safely to the ground now smooth skin in lotions, powders and foundations. All this from a strange little worm that refuses to eat anything but mulberry leaves...



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