Backyard beauty

April 8, 2019


On an autumn morning at East End Beach in New Plymouth on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island, Hayley Benseman set up a basic table and set about making simple skincare products with ingredients abundant in the area.

Behind her, the ocean lapped at the shore; small waves landing on pristine sand. Children played in the background, frolicking in the water. Adults walked their dogs along the grassy banks, coffee in hand. The air smelt like the sea and the faint aroma of coffee.

And so Hayley began a simple yet confronting task. She made two body exfoliators - one with sand she collected from the beach behind her; the other with coffee grounds. “Our lives are so complicated now; people are busy, they’re bombarded with marketing, often they’re stressed about money or work,” Hayley says.

“People are time-poor and over the last few generations we’ve lost this basic connection with the natural world and what it has to offer, and somewhere along the way, we’ve lost the knowledge and ability to understand and use what nature provides. So often, we don’t know where our food comes from, not to mention what it’s made with. We don’t know what’s in the products we use everyday in our homes.

“I truly believe we need to slow down and start to look around us. If we can start to regain an understanding of the value and power of what exists around us, we are one step closer to creating a better future for our children, and for their children.”

Not far from Hayley’s table on the beach, calendula grows in the gardens of her mother’s home, and those of many of the neighbours. Kawakawa grows in the wild, and lemon balm thrives - all ingredients Hayley harnesses the power of in her natural skincare range.

On this autumn morning though, it’s about sand and coffee. Hayley explains the value of natural exfoliants, and the chemical makeup of commercial alternatives. “Coffee, something many of us consume daily, leaves behind a ‘waste’ product in the form of grounds. In fact, coffee grounds are anything but a waste product. Not only are they great for the compost heap, used correctly, they’re a really effective exfoliant for the body.”

As she’s talking, Hayley is expertly mixing a bowl of coffee grounds with coconut oil. Together, they form a rich paste. “This is something you can’t really buy in a shop because the consistency of the product changes but it’s essentially free to make,” she says. “It’s suitable for the whole body and the fine but slightly coarse coffee grounds make the ideal exfoliator.”

The next product she makes is one she dubs ‘East End Beach Sand Scrub’. It’s made with sand she collected from the beach behind her. “Sand is another powerful natural exfoliant,” she says. “But it does need to be sanitised before it’s used.

“To sanitise sand, you simply pour it into a bowl and pour boiling water over it, then drain the water off. Pour the drained sand into a baking dish and put into an oven at around 180 degrees for approximately half an hour or until the sand turns a lighter colour and is completely dry.”

As children play on the beach behind her, Hayley whips up a batch of sand scrub, mixing together a handful of sanitised sand with sweet almond oil and sunflower oil. “These oils can be substituted for other liquid oils; whatever you have in your cupboard. Olive oil works well with a sand scrub,” she says.

“This morning was about showing people that beauty products don’t need to be made in a lab. They don’t need exotic or synthetic ingredients to work well. It’s about showing people how simple it is to actually just use what’s around them, abundant and free.”




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