If you’ve been looking for the perfect all-natural, organic shampoo, moisturizer or anti-aging serum, Natural Beauty Alchemy (The Countryman Press, 2015), by Fifi M. Maacaron, is for you. Over 100 recipes for all-natural beauty products are included, using simple ingredients like yogurt, coconut oil, oats and tea, and suitable for both beginners and experienced DIY beauty enthusiasts. The following excerpt is from Chapter 4, “Making Your Own Skin Care Products.”
You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Natural Beauty Alchemy.
With a growing demand for more natural products that are kind to both skin and body, that are effective and affordable, and whose use is clear and comprehensible, many people have found their needs met, at least partially, by homemade products.
Whether it is “just for the fun of it,” to save money, or to have full control and knowledge of what goes in and what stays out, making your own skin care products remains a skillful art that translates an uncompromised passion for beauty. No matter the motive, the methodology is the same. This hobby-like science will answer multiple beauty needs with customized formulas that are effective, safe, and enjoyable.
While beginners might want to follow formulas exactly as they are presented, growing talent and practice can fuel creativity. It is important, however, to respect proportions and the whole structure of the formula.
A few basic things are essential before starting to make your own skin care products, and they are explained in the following sections.
Start with a clean and well-lit work surface. Your kitchen island or a part of your countertop should do. Clear a little space for your ingredients in one of your kitchen cabinets or in your basement, where it is cooler.
Ventilation is important, especially when using essential oils, as long as the circulating air is clean. Working under a hood, when available, is a valid choice, because a hood has a unidirectional airflow, meaning that it sucks away the vapors without bringing in unwelcome particles.
The utensils you need will vary somewhat with each formula. Most formulas require basic equipment, but some may call for a longer list of tools, many of which you probably already have: medium-size glass bowls, porcelain mugs, a stainless steel whisk, cheesecloth, a stick blender, a digital or kitchen scale, several pans and a stove, a spatula, small jars with lids, spray or pump bottles (recycled), rubbing alcohol (for sanitizing and disinfecting tools), lint-free towel or gauze, dropper, measuring cups and spoons, and a kitchen thermometer. A cheese grater might serve as a beeswax shaver, especially if you opt for beeswax bars rather than small pellets. It is always recommended to separate the tools you use for cooking from the ones you will be working with, to avoid cross contamination and odor transfer. Because of its lack of inertia, plastic is not the best material for making cosmetics; glass and stainless steel are better choices whenever available, especially when ingredients will be heated.
Be sure to check the formula before starting in order to have your needed utensils cleaned and ready to use.
It is very important to work with sanitized utensils on a sanitized work surface and maintain proper hygiene from start to finish. This will protect the product from microbial contamination and help extend its shelf life, even with few or no preservatives.
Cleaning your work surface is crucial, as is cleaning your utensils, jars, and containers. Contamination might compromise your finished product and increase chances of quick spoilage. Begin cleaning with soap and water; then finish with rubbing alcohol and a lint-free towel. Allow time for the alcohol to evaporate completely before starting. Glass and stainless-steel utensils and containers can be sanitized in the dishwasher; wipe them with rubbing alcohol afterward for complete disinfection.
Most of these formulas call for readily available and affordable ingredients, many of which you might already have as standard grocery items. Otherwise, find the missing ingredients at your local grocery store, making sure to check the international foods section. Vitamin stores may carry a large selection of ingredients you could use, such as vegetable oils, essential oils, and soaps. Or you could place a small order online.
Try to make sure that they are natural, organic, and vegetable-derived, and try to validate the usage technique and recommended ratio in a formula. Most retailers have good customer support and reply to inquiries in a timely manner. Ask about the origin, the source, the purity, the extraction method, and any other question that you need an answer to.
It is always better to buy food-grade ingredients when available, because they are superior in quality to cosmetic-grade. This is especially true for oils, such as avocado, grape seed, almond, hazelnut, and olive oil. Extra virgin and cold-pressed oils are preferred, since their properties and benefits are not altered by heat and chemical processes. Needless to say, organic is preferred over conventional, because it does not carry pesticides.
Begin by buying a few of the oils that are most suitable for your skin type and expand later on. Thicker oils, such as olive and avocado oil, are recommended for dry and mature skin. Mature skin will also benefit from oils such as evening primrose, wheat germ, and pomegranate seed oil. Lighter oils, often referred to as dry oils, are more suitable for acne-prone and combination skin: Try jojoba or almond oil. Hazelnut oil is an astringent oil and is therefore a good choice for oily skin.
Glycerin is a long-known humectant (hygroscopic substance). It is widely used in the pharmaceutical industry and in cosmetics. This water-loving ingredient will help keep your skin moisturized and softened. Make sure you purchase vegetable glycerin.
Shea butter and beeswax are called for in cream and balm formulations.
Water is a common ingredient in almost all formulas. Purified or distilled water remains the best, because it does not carry chelating agents that might interact with other ingredients within the formula.
All formulas call for natural ingredients. Most of them are vegan friendly. Beeswax, honey, eggs, and dairy products are among the non-vegan ingredients included in some formulas.
One of the advantages of making your own cosmetics is the privilege of using them fresh, when nutrients are still intact and at their highest concentration; also, the preparation of small batches that will be used up in little time simplifies storage issues. Many formulas, especially those for facial masks, are for products to be used right away, and storing them simply does not apply. Others are anhydrous, and that lack of water protects them from spoilage. Storage is then simplified to avoiding direct light and heat. Creams and lotions, however, are prone to spoilage, and once your cream is made, you will need to pour it into a wisely chosen container and keep it in a spot that will maximize its shelf life. This is very easy when you keep in mind the following guidelines:
• For containers, glass is best. Also, the smaller the opening, the better. Two-ounce glass jars are an excellent choice. Try to get as close to the quantity you are making as possible. A smaller opening means less contact with the outside, which means less oxygen contact and a cleaner product for a longer time. Plastic containers sold in stores are convenient and lightweight, but plastic tends to release chemicals into the product. Tip: Washing your hands before reaching for your cream helps prevent germs from entering the product through your fingertips.
• Where to store your product? Less light and less heat mean longer shelf life. Go for amber glass when available. Closed cabinets are better than exposed shelves. Keep your products away from warm spots such as light bulbs, showers, and hot tubs.
• Refrigeration: How can you tell whether your product needs it? If you have used ingredients that needed refrigeration, such as milk or eggs, then your product should be refrigerated. Overall, by slowing down chemical reactions, refrigeration will extend the life of the product, whatever the formula. Most creams, lotions, and toners will store very well in a cool, shaded place—your medicine cabinet, for instance.
• Adding natural preservatives is also beneficial in protecting your products from spoilage. This can be done by adding the antioxidant vitamin E or a concoction of naturally derived preservatives, such as grape seed extract or rosemary oil extract.
• Use your senses: If you notice that your beauty product has changed in color, texture, or smell, it is no longer good to use. If it has separated, grown mold, or lost its initial scent, most likely it is time to make a new one. Think of your formula as food for your skin; if you wouldn’t eat it, don’t rub it on.
• 8 ounces = 1 cup
• 4 ounces = 1/2 cup
• 2 ounces = 1/4 cup
• 1 tablespoon = 3 teaspoons
• 2 tablespoons = 1/8 cup
• 4 tablespoons = 1/4 cup
• 2 tablespoons = 1 fluid ounce
• 1 teaspoon = 5 ml
• 1 tablespoon = 15 ml
• 1 pinch = 1/8 teaspoon or less
• 20 drops = 1 ml
• 10 drops = 0.5 ml
• 1 fluid ounce = 29.573 ml (30 ml)
• 1 cup = 236.6 ml (240 ml)
• 100 ml = 3.38 fluid ounces
• 1 gram = 0.0353 ounce
• 7 grams = 1/4 ounce
• 113.4 grams = 4 ounces
• 454 grams = 1 pound
Reprinted with permission from Natural Beauty Alchemy: Make Your Own Organic Cleansers, Creams, Serums, Shampoos, Balms, and More by Fifi M. Maacaron and published by The Countryman Press, 2015. Buy this book from our store: Natural Beauty Alchemy.
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