Making your own skincare products can be a fun and empowering journey.
That being said, the world of DIY skincare can be overwhelming, misleading and sometimes harmful.
One of the main functions of the skin is to protect our internal environment, so the last thing we want to do is make that job more difficult by stripping away at it's protective barrier with irritating potions- natural or not.
Take exfoliation for example; this process is said to reveal youthful skin by getting rid of dead skin cells.
When exaggerated, exfoliating actually forces vulnerable skin cells to the surface where they don't belong.
'Dead' skin cells help to protect the skin from varying forms of imbalance.
Without them, disharmony in the form of rashes, pimples, oiliness and dehydration is inevitable.
The same goes for all skincare products really.
Overuse can only ever lead to imbalance.
This is often why people explore DIY/natural skincare in the first place.
But let's not fall for the idea that something is safe and gentle just because it's 'natural'.
When you REALLY think about it...isn't everything natural? The resources have to come from somewhere.
So instead of 'natural vs unnatural', let's focus our time on exploring what is supportive, and what is invasive.
When we consistently apply aggressive products to our skin, or gentle products incorrectly, we increase the risk of infection, inflammation and all sorts of health issues.
Let's go over the basics.
Avoid doing more harm than good and ensure you have a fun, creative and safe experience when exploring DIY skincare.
Anhydrous Ingredients: Oils, butters, waxes, clays and dried plant material- anything without water- are referred to as anhydrous ingredients.
Think balms, powders, oils and so on.
Without water (or other aqueous substances such as aloe, rosewater etc.), there is little to no risk of the product growing bacteria and mold so long as it is made hygienically and stored correctly.
When it comes to DIY, anhydrous recipes are the safest option (unless you're preparing a blend to be applied straight away e.g. a face mask).
Aqueous Ingredients: When we use water in a recipe (e.g. to make a moisturising cream) there is a high risk of contamination caused by water borne bacteria after a few hours/days depending on climate/conditions.
This should not come as a surprise- we know this from the time spent in our own kitchen making and storing meals.
A basic cream is made with water, oil and an emulsifier- which is an ingredient used to bind substances that wouldn't usually mix.
If a recipe contains aqueous ingredients and is not designed to be used straight away (e.g. stored for later use) a preservative should be added or it will be unstable.
*There are some exceptions here, but let's keep it simple for now.
If you don't want to use preservatives and emulsifiers, consider creating a balm or body butter instead of a cream.
The pH scale ranges from 0 (acidic), to 7 (neutral) and through to 14 (alkaline).
Our skin is on the acidic end of this range, around 4.7-5.5.
As a general guide, it is ideal to apply products that are close to the skins pH, because when it becomes too acidic or too alkaline, all sorts of imbalances can occur.
There is a lot to say on the fascinating topic, but for this post we'll keep it short and sweet.
You may have seen me talk about using fruit on the skin on my Instagram page.
I love using fresh fruit for DIY skincare treatments, but that doesn't mean I'll use just any fruit.
For example, citrus fruits are, unsurprisingly, very acidic and while good for you when consumed in other ways, should never be applied straight to the skin.
Mango, banana and papaya on the other hand, are all closer to the skins pH and are therefore less likely to disrupt balance and more likely to provide nourishment.
Another popular DIY example is bicarb soda, which is something to use with caution as it is very alkaline.
Yes, you can blend it with more acidic ingredients to change the pH value of the final mixture, but I personally don't see the point when there are so many other wonderful, gentle and effective ingredients out there- so why apply something to my face that I regularly use for household cleaning?
Tips for preparing safe DIY recipes...
- Use high quality ingredients - Clean/disinfect your equipment (bowls, spatulas, spoons) right before you use them
- If you are making anhydrous products, ensure your equipment is completely dry - Label and date your products - Check the used by date on all ingredients before using - Avoid touching products that will be stored with your fingers, use clean spatulas/spoons instead
- Make use of your incredible human senses- if something doesn't look, smell or feel quite right, put it in the compost
- If a DIY recipe seems too harsh, it probably is (please don't rub lemon on your face!)
- Before applying your DIY blends, do a patch test first by applying a small amount (no larger than a coin) to your neck and see how your skin responds
In my experience, the best way to promote healthy skin is with a minimalist routine using gentle, high quality botanicals, combined with holistic health and wellbeing practices.
Making complex products is not for me, at least not at this point in time as I am very content with the simple alternatives.
I hope this information has been helpful, thank you for reading and take care :)