Book Review: Beauty: Pure + Simple

Author: Kristen Ma
Publisher: McArthur & Company
Publish Date: 2010

It can be hard to find a good esthetician, let alone one who truly understands what bodies – and individual clients – need. But Kristen Ma, co-owner of Toronto holistic spa chain Pure + Simple, does understand. In her latest book Beauty: Pure + Simple – A Holistic Guide to Natural Beauty, Ma proves herself to be an honest practitioner whose rich knowledge of beauty and the body are founded in the ancient Indian philosophy of Ayurveda. Neither Ma nor this book is interested in a quick treatment fix that will zap a symptom. Much like a homeopath, she is interested in understanding and treating the root of the problem.

Her commitment lies in providing the body with what it needs to heal, instead of the typical modern-day approach that tackles symptoms rather than causes. Ma isn’t into drying and stripping the skin to treat ailments, but rather massaging and oiling. She stays away from harsh chemical treatments and instead promotes hydrating – an unusual but successful approach for a 21st Century esthetician.

Although this book is based on principles largely unfamiliar to the modern Western world, Ma projects her sound knowledge in a manner that is neither intimidating nor all-intrusive. Several times throughout the chapters she states her belief in natural products and treatments, but openly recognizes that each individual must choose the methods they are most comfortable with. It can be off-putting to have a regimen dictated, so Ma does just the opposite. Reading this book is like sitting with a friend over coffee in a warm café. She discloses all these great little secrets you’ve never heard, and yet they are so logical you wonder why no one else has let you in on them before. Ma gets up close and personal with her readers, creating a comforting relationship through the pages of her book.

The intimidation faced when an expert imposes their beliefs with the expectation you follow is devoid from Ma’s character. Rather, her concern and valued understanding of skin is welcoming, and in a way, reassuring. She helps you to understand that whatever ailment your skin is currently suffering from is not relentless and can be helped. Ma provides you with the tools and knowledge to take your healing into your own hands. “…I feel that my usefulness relies on my ability to educate my clients,” she writes in the section Beauty Ailments 911. “I prefer to teach them how to use easy, yet effective skin care practices to promote a more simple view of beauty. Sharing knowledge with my clients of how to identify and treat their own ailments empowers them, and that is truly a good business.”

A huge bonus of this book is that Ma remembers where she’s been and how far she’s come. Once a long-time sufferer of acne herself, she is able to refer back to the mistakes she made while on the journey to heal her problem skin, and what finally worked for her. Like many of us, she too has spent lots of cash on standard dermatological treatments, which further stripped and damaged her skin. This personal understanding makes Ma’s quest for her clients to attain clear and healthy skin through a holistic approach that much more legitimate. She is not someone who always ruled her life by Ayurvedic and holistic practices, but rather through her own life’s experiences and glorious hits and misses, did she come to truly appreciate the art and science of holistic healing.

This book can be read cover-to-cover or used as a reference guide. Its logical categorization and classification of skin ailments, treatments and reasoning make it easy to progress though, or to locate what it is you are interested in. Keep it on the coffee table, by your bed or even in the washroom to use a guide for your nightly skin regimen.

Follow Ma at For more information on Pure + Simple, visit

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