Homemade skincare – getting your DIY apron on and whipping up a Shea butter rub can be a whole load of fun. That’s probably just the side effect though and I’d take a guess that your key driver for home-making skincare is to really KNOW what it is you’re slathering into your skin.
There is nothing more transparent than melting down some Shea butter with some beautiful Almond oil to make up a whipped balm. (that is once you’ve gotten over Shea’s love to crystallise (if you’ve ever tried it and after a day or 2 gotten hard bits, this is what that is!) *finger waggle at Shea*).
It feels good to know you’re giving your skin the same kinda consciousness that you’d give your diet ‘eh.
Today I wanted to share with you 10 truths about creating homemade skincare, from someone who’s done it themselves…
1. To Create Homemade Skincare You Need Time
… potentially a luxurious dose of it *winks*. When you home-make skincare, the simplest and quickest formulations you can make are facial oils (once you are savvy about the ingredients), everything else will need ‘finessing’ aka ‘playing with’ until you tweak it just right. It’s like making the decision between popping into the kitchen to make baked beans on toast or a full roast *winks*.
They are both pretty darn tasty (serial baked bean lover speaking) but one is realistically more ’rounded’ than the other.
It’s the same with skincare. Say you want to make a body butter…
- First up you need to be pretty savvy about how you melt and cool the butters. If you’ve done this before then you’ll know that you can quickly get a really grainy butter if certain butters *cough* looking at you Shea, aren’t melted for long enough, or are cooled too slowly.
- Secondly, you’ll need to get your ratio between butters and oils and maybe even waxes just right (real fine line here). It makes the difference between something you can’t get outta the pot, to something that melts the minute you get ‘British summer time’ type temperatures *winks*.
- Then you might even get onto whether you want to add some water based materials (they will help the butter sink in & hydrate skin more rounded-ly). This will take you down the road of which preservatives you need to use (because anything with water, can grow bacteria).
The key here is ‘t-t-t-time’… you’ll probably find you also spend a lot of it just ‘mocking’ up formulations on paper and planning out your next trials.
2. You Need to Tell the Pinterest Wins From the Pinterest Sins
I love Pinterest (do you? Let’s be friends *smiles*). When you’re Pinteresting for make your own skincare or if it’s even the reason you started in the first place, you need to get some Pinterest filtering goggles my friend.
From recipes that use water (but no preservative), which is a big no-no if you really want to look after your skin in a more ‘conscious’ way. To recipes that use Vitamin C tablets, but don’t take account of the formulation pH range (too low and your skin will be irritated and burned, too high and it just won’t work). To recipes that might turn out like bread because your using kitchen oats instead of cosmetic ones *winks*.
For a more fleshy look at some Pinterest make your own skincare recipes gone wrong, head to, ‘5 Pinterest DIY Skincare Hacks That Could Hurt Your Skin’.
My Advice: You will have some formulation disasters, science is an art and beauty is also in the eye of the beholder. Trust me, I’ve made my own fair share! Make sure you’re not making a big one by not using preservatives, using antioxidants as preservatives, or disregarding pH and then you are free to stumble around finding your own kinda ‘skincare art’.
Just getting started? DIY lip balm is a great place to start – download this free, all-natural lip balm recipe by clicking through, below. Oh and for more advice visit this post, ‘How to Make Lip Balm that’s Natural, Gentle and Kind to Your Lips…”
3. Homemade Skincare Will Cost You More at First…
One driver for ‘make your own skincare’ is to go easy on the pennies in your pocket. While you can pick up some 1-ingredient wonders at the supermarket (coconut oil, almond oil, olive oil), if you want to really ‘make’ your own skincare (and enjoy some more exotic ingredients) you will need to invest.
Homemade skincare will cost you more in the short term, but save you more in the long run. #MarathonMan
4. You’ll Learn More Science Than You Did at School
…and you’ll actually enjoy it! I credit one of the reasons I went into science as a career being because of my secondary school teacher. He was ‘cool’, not bad looking (read good-looking) and knew how to make things relatable to a bunch of teenagers. Not an easy job ‘eh!
Science isn’t hard, it’s just you usually need to relate to something to understand it. It’s tough trying to remember something if you’re never going to use it. It’d be like trying to memorise someone else’s shopping list… just for fun!
Skincare makes science crazily relatable. I mean we all have skin ‘eh and it all pretty much functions the same way. When you create homemade skincare you’ll learn about antioxidants, skin vitamins, different fatty acids, pH, crystallization, wetting agents, emulsion stability… and you are going to actually enjoy it!
Can I Help? After I quit my corporate career job, I somehow became a serial entrepreneur (it sometimes feels like magpie syndrome). I now do literally everything from expert writing to cosmetic skincare consulting to offering my own skincare range. I’ve been through the whole process of developing products in the corporate world and now also again but working through every tiny detail myself. If you are in need of an hours question time for some formulation guidance or something a little fleshier then drop me a line here.
5. All Ingredients Have Weird Names
This is the language of INCI. See every skincare ingredient likes to channel James Bond as their celebrity role model. But unlike James Bond they actually have cover names *smiles*. This is what makes reading the ingredients list of skincare products a challenge.
If you used Olive oil in a food product, you get to call it Olive oil on the ingredients list. Simples.
If you used Olive oil in a cleansing product, you’d have to call it Olea Europaea Fruit oil on the ingredients list.
Sounds weird, but it’s actually just Olive oil. Somehow knowing that makes skincare ingredients lists much LESS intimidating. A homemade skincare side-skill.
6. The Black & White Line Between Natural & ‘Man-Made’ Will Become Blurry
In the beginning you’re probably going to start out making your own natural skincare using only completely natural ingredients. Things like Shea butter, Almond oil, Argan Oil… because they are ‘clean, raw and healthy’, right (?) and synthetic chemicals (or ‘women-made’ nature identicals) are bad? Well that black and white line between natural and ‘women-made’ ingredients is likely to get blurry and maybe for one of these reasons…
- You’ll begin to use Vitamin E oil and you’ll find that there’s natural versions (some of which are more potent than others) and there’s also ‘women made’ versions. You’ll see they have different benefits and you might actually need to use both.
- You’ll stumble over sustainability challenges. Some natural ingredients put the environment at risk (think palm oil) and so ‘women-made’ identical alternatives can be more green.
- You might want to use a natural like Comfrey, you’ll research it and you’ll find out that the natural product is contaminated with a toxin that is bad for your health, but you can use a ‘women-made’ alternative that is nature identical and doesn’t contain the toxin.
My Experience: For me this was the whole driver behind quitting my corporate job to develop an ‘ingredient conscious (but openly not 100% natural) skincare range. When you first go about creating homemade skincare you might start looking at the formulations you buy already, you’ll find a lot of ‘women-made’ skincare with a few natural ingredients, but it’s tough to find a ‘natural base’ with a few carefully selected ‘women-made’ ingredients.
7. You’ll Start to Figure Out That Some Ingredients That Sound Weird Aren’t Bad
Kinda like when you peek at the ‘care’ tags on plants I mean what the heck is a ‘Maclura pomifera’ anyhows? Well I would have told you it’s an apple tree before I saw that on the label *winks*.
Some ingredients that will never be front of pack superstars, are your biggest skincare superstars.
Case & point… Bisabolol.
Bisabolol is a lovely skincare ingredient that soothes irritated, itchy, dry, sensitive inflamed skin. Great for everything from acne to spots to sunburn to sensitive skin. You’ve likely never heard of this ingredient until you start really delving into making your own skincare.
(Honestly don’t worry that you’ve not heard about these ingredients, you can’t know about them until you find them *smiles*).
Bisabolol has a weird name and you’ve not stumbled over it before… or so you think. You’ll then realise that Bisabolol is actually the active ingredient in German Chamomile and that Chamomile is actually a huge mix of lots of different types of ingredients that also have very weird names.
8. Most Materials Have Safety Data That Looks Scary
When you make your own skincare, every individual Ingredient you buy, by law comes with paperwork. Paperwork that tells you it’s identity, its quality and everything you need to know to use it safely. It’s like having a passport (… plus a manual to how the opposite sex thinks *winks*).
These will look scary. They will tell you to ‘wash your hands’ as a safety measure after your skin has come into contact with Aloe Vera (yes really!), they will tell you to wear goggle and gloves when handling Rosehip oil and if you inhale to, ‘remove to fresh air and seek medical advice’.
If you work in a corporate environment and have contact with a ‘health & safety’ team then you my friend, already know why these phrases are on the ingredient documentation!
9. Homemade Skincare Is Messy But You Need to be Clean
So you might not need to wear gloves to protect your skin from the devils of Rosehip oil *winks*, but when you’re making your own skincare you will want to wear them to be clean and contamination free. Especially if you are going to gift them to family and friends (or even like me, plan to develop your own skincare range).
Making skincare is messy. Melting, mixing, pouring, emulsifying. Cream, oil, balm will get everywhere. That’s why you need to make sure everything is spotless before you start and your whole process is contamination free.
In the manufacturing world, this is called ‘good manufacturing practise’ or GMP for short.
The thing to remember is everything can look clean, but you can’t see bacteria until there’s a whole colony!
10. You Will End Up Making 10 Bazillion Versions of The Same Thing…
This is when you realise that skincare is a science and an art. You and someone else can make exactly the same recipe and it will turn out completely differently. It doesn’t just depend on the formulation, it depends on the quality of the ingredients, how you process them and crazy things like whether it rained that day (e.g. humidity).
Homemade skincare is like doing a 3 (or 10) point turn. You’re not quite sure the exact direction each turn is going to take you in, but you know that you are heading in the right direction.
…and that’s ok because it’s fun and every time you do tweak your formulation, you learn something new!
My Experience: I literally have boxes and boxes FULL of old skincare formulations I’ve made. I’ve had lots that I’ve poured straight down the drain, some more that I’ve kept to learn about their stability and a special few that made it into my capsule skincare range. Trust me, none of your formulations will be a waste of your time.
Tell me, have you ever followed a ‘make your own skincare’ recipe from Pinterest? Do you already create your own homemade skincare?
Cheryl Woodman is a scientist & award winning skincare formulator who’s more friend next door than bow tie wearing professor. As creator of Honesty For Your Skin her aim is to help you care for your skin in the best ways possible. She’s founder of the natural & fragrance free skincare brand Honesty while also hosting 1 to 1 skincare coaching to help you get your best skin yet. Find out more here.