Clean beauty is going mainstream. As with the clean eating trend, people are questioning the conventional skincare lotions and potions they’ve been applying to their body for decades and asking themselves if there’s a way of being healthier in their beauty choices. DIY beauty is huge – if you browse Pinterest or Instagram, you’ll be inundated with homemade recipes for your favourite beauty products. However, one survey found that almost 1/4 of women suffered a skin reaction after taking skincare advice from the internet.
DIY beauty is learning how to whisk up fresh batches of single-use natural skincare and haircare at home, using flowers, leaves, herbs, seeds and berries. It’s an empowering way of bringing clean beauty into your life. But how can you make sure that your DIY beauty formulations are safe? To help you get started, I’ve summarised the 5 rules of safe DIY beauty to help keep you and your potions safe.
Unpreserved beauty products have a short shelf life
Any unpreserved water or plant-based DIY recipe does not have a shelf life of more than 2 days. This includes recipes made with flower waters, teas, herbal infusions and aloe vera gel. It’s absolutely fine to make beauty products without preservatives, as long as they either don’t contain water or you keep them in the fridge and discard them after a couple of days. Make sure you do not keep water or plant-based DIY beauty products any longer than that, as they will attract microbial growth and no one wants to rub fungus on their face!
Keep your unpreserved DIY beauty products in the fridge
The lotions and creams you buy in the shops are preserved and can be stored safely at room temperature. The lotions you make at home without preservatives need to be kept fresh and cool, much like your fresh food.
However, storing lotions in the fridge might affect their stability, so you might see that they start to split or sediment. Use your fresh beauty products quickly and then whisk up another batch to keep yourself and your formulations safe.
Be careful with essential oils
If you love essential oils, then you’ll no doubt have seen hundreds if not thousands of DIY aromatherapy skincare recipes online. Essential oils are amazing ingredients, which contain many hundreds of potent chemical compounds found in plants.
Use essential oils wisely and never use them neat on the skin as they can cause sensitisation and irritation when used in their undiluted form. Always dilute them in a carrier such as a vegetable oil. Examples include almond oil or sunflower oil.
If you find a DIY beauty recipe that uses high percentages of essential oils, make sure you research those oils to find out if they’re safe on the skin. Be aware that certain essential oils can cause photosensitivity, where they make your skin more sensitive to damage from the sun.
Don’t make DIY sun protection
DIY beauty recipes should never be used for suncare. Unfortunately you can’t achieve a good evenly distributed verifiable Sun Protection Factor (SPF) with a DIY recipe. Ingredients such as zinc oxide have a tendency of clumping which means that you might make a lotion that contains little to no measurable SPF.
It is also important to understand that plant oils and essential oils also do not provide a sufficient SPF. You can seriously damage your skin and your health by making and using DIY sunscreen.
Making your own sunscreen is complicated, challenging and expensive. In some parts of the world, skincare products which contain a SPF are viewed as pharmaceuticals. And even in those parts of the world where they are viewed as cosmetics, they still require rigorous and expensive lab and consumer testing.
Be careful if you have a compromised immune system
It is tempting to whip up a batch of DIY cream or lotion for friends and family who might be suffering with health problems, or for your friend who’s just had a new baby. DIY beauty products make fantastic gifts and are gladly received by people who want to embrace clean beauty.
Just make sure you are careful with anyone who’s pregnant or has a compromised immune system. In this case it’s best to avoid gifting any water-based DIY beauty products. I recommend you stick instead to oils, butters and balms which don’t run the risk of attracting dangerous microbial contamination.
If you follow these five rules of safe DIY beauty, then you will find great satisfaction in making and using your own clean, green beauty products at home. And who knows? If you take your recipes one step further, you might even be able to start your own organic skincare business to sell your wonderful formulations.
– Lorraine Dallmeier
Lorraine Dallmeier is the director of Formula Botanica, an accredited organic cosmetic science and formulation school – and the author of cbco’s first expert column! You can find more of her writing here, or follow her over @herbblurb.
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