Keeping up with your skin care regimen is not cheap. There’s the esthetician appointments, dermatologist co-pay, products for daily use, prescriptions, makeup… ugh. It costs to be cute. So when you come across some Pinterest post that could possibly save you some big bucks, you jump at the chance to take skin care into your own hands. DIY skin care, while extremely cost effective, can often times turn out to be not worth the risk. For starters, most of us are not chemists and have a very rudimentary understanding of mixing chemical ingredients. Many of the DIY skin care recipes found online appear simplified and similar to a baking recipe but unfortunately, it’s just not that simple. These recipes for DIY skin care also have an extremely short shelf life, especially if they are not being kept refrigerated.
I’ll detail everything you need to know about DIY skin care in this post. Don’t worry, this isn’t one of those scary posts designed to discourage you from creating your own skin care products. I just want you to create them safely. The most important things to understand if you’re going to make your own skin care products in your kitchen is: chemistry and pH.
What’s Good? Safe DIY Skin Care Products (and recipes!)
The safest skin care products to DIY are anhydrous products (think body butters) and soaps. Skin care products that don’t contain water (or don’t come into contact with water) will be your least problematic to produce at home. Why is this? Bacteria, fungi, yeast, and mold have a harder time existing in anhydrous environments. Soaps are generally safe to make at home because they have such a high alkaline pH. Bacteria et. al. usually can’t grow in those environments either. Anhydrous products and soaps generally have a shelf life up to one year if stored properly in a cool, dry place. These DIY skin care products generally do not need a preservative (but you can add if you desire). This means that these products do not generally pose risks for contamination.
Facial mists and toners are mainly okay to DIY as long as you keep them refrigerated and discard use (or make a new batch) within two weeks time. Which brings me to…
The Bad Side of DIY Skin Care Products
Basically any skin care product that contains water (serums, cleansers, gels, etc.) or will come into contact with water (body scrubs, bath bombs, face masks, etc.) will also become contaminated. That is, unless, the products are made with a proper preservative. When you DIY any of the aforementioned products, the shelf life is extremely short. At best, your DIY skin care products can be kept for up to two weeks when stored in a proper container and kept refrigerated. Jars are particularly hard to keep contamination-free as there is lots of room for airborne contaminants to settle. And even the cleanest person might have contamination issues in their kitchen that they are unaware of.
You can limit the possibility for contamination by always using distilled water and adding preservatives to your DIY skin care products. Preservatives, to the untrained/budding cosmetic chemist or average DIYer, may seem scary at first but they are actually quite safe to use. If you are considering going the DIY route because you have concerns about the environment or you’re going green, you’re in luck! There are tons of eco-certified preservatives. Some of the oldest preservatives used are glycerin and ethanol (yep, like Everclear). You’d need to include 70% glycerin or at least 25% ethanol in your formula to fully preserve your product. The down side to using that much glycerin in your product is that it feels gross on the skin. See a full list of preservatives here. I strongly advise you read the information provided in that link carefully to be sure you understand preservatives and how they will work within your DIY skin care products. Preservatives are incredibly hard to get wrong and, just like most skin care products, need to be thoroughly tested to ensure efficacy.
When you make your own skin care products for yourself, you can probably forego a strong preservative since you can make as small of a batch as necessary as often as you’d like. However, if you plan on selling your own DIY concoctions to the general public, you absolutely must follow Good Manufacturing Practices and include preservatives in all of your products. If you love supporting small businesses and prefer to purchase handmade skin care products from Etsy sellers or your friends, ask questions. Ironically, the FDA does not regulate cosmetics so, really, we’re all taking a gamble here. Be safe! That reminds me…
Things Can Get Ugly
What works for one random Pinterest user can wreak havoc on your skin. When seeking out formulas to try in your own DIY skin care products, try to work from trusted cosmetics chemists instead. Due to the nature of intellectual property in the beauty world, it may be hard to find exact duplicates of some of your favorite high-end and pricey products. However, you can find help from professional cosmetic chemists online at Chemists Corner (they have great forums) or wholesaler MakingCosmetics.
If you find you love being a cosmetic chemist and are thinking about going legit, TEST your products thoroughly. Even though most cosmetics are not regulated by the FDA, they still go through stability testing. These testing phases can last anywhere from 90 days to 18 months.
Also, word to the wise: your kitchen is going to be an absolute mess when you’re done making your products. Try a facial mist or clay mask recipe for starters (from experience, they leave the less amount of mess). Tell me how you did in the comments below.