When you are beginning to learn about the world of DIY skincare, it can feel quite overwhelming. While all hobbies can have a steep learning curve, making cosmetics can have a slightly steeper curve than others as it involves bits and pieces from a broad range of skills. If you are experienced in mathematics, chemistry, cooking, cleaning, and general creating, you’ll do great! For everyone else though, there is a lot to learn. In this post we will cover some basic points to know before you get started.
You don’t need to be a whiz at everything, but it can help to have some basic guidelines to follow. Here are my must know skincare rules for any beginner.
DIY Skincare Beginners Guide
- Don’t use kitchen ingredients (for the most part) – You can use some food ingredients (i.e. oils and sugar); but kitchen items such as fresh produce, flavouring oils, colouring, most spices, and anything that needs to be refrigerated or expires in under 6 months, should not be put in your products. You know, unless it is something like a face mask that you are going to use that day and then bin.
- Emulsifiers are your new best friend – Water based ingredients such as aloe vera, and oil based ingredients like butters, waxes, and oils, require an emulsifier to combine. Think of it like mayonnaise or a good salad dressing that you don’t need to shake.
- Use preservatives when needed – Anything made that contains a water based ingredient such as rose water or aloe vera gel requires a broad spectrum preservative (read here to find out more about preservatives). Even if your water based ingredients individually contain their own preservatives, you are still required to add an additional preservative, as the ingredients own preservative may not be at high enough quantities to preserve your final product. Note that Vitamin E and essential oils are not preservatives.
- Anhydrous products don’t need preservatives – Anhydrous products are those that contain no water based ingredients. This can include balms, most scrubs, facial oils, and whipped body butters. The only time these do need a preservative is if they might come into contact with water through typical use. For example, I always add a preservative into my scrubs, as I tend to use them in the shower and open them in hot steamy bathrooms.
- You can’t modify commercial products – Store brought products are carefully formulated so that they have the optimum amount of preservative and are shelf stable. By modifying a store bought product, you are throwing off this carefully constructed system. As a result, your product could be unsafe and unstable. The only time this is acceptable is if you are palm mixing for single time use.
- Follow the recommended usage rate – As you begin making products, you will notice that ingredients have a minimum and maximum recommended usage rate. It may be tempting to go below the minimum recommended usage rate to safe money, but this is not a good idea as the minimum recommended usage rate marks the point that the ingredient becomes ineffective. Staying above this rate is especially important for preservatives. The maximum rate is the maximum amount you can use before it becomes unsafe. For many ingredients such as fragrance oils and essential oils, exceeding the maximum rate can result in a rash, chemical burn, or something similar. So while you may be able to smell your product from miles away, it’s not something you could safely use. Moral of the story – read the labels, stick to them. Point of interest is a wonderful source for recommended usage rates.
- Some ingredients can react – Certain ingredients shouldn’t be used together as they can cancel each other out or react in strange and maybe not so great ways. Ingredients can also react to external substances, i.e. citrus essential oils are phototoxic, so avoid tanning or direct sun contact after applying a citrus product. This isn’t something you will have to worry about right away, but just keep it in mind.
- Follow the formulas – In the beginning, follow some basic formulas. This will teach you the basics of how it all works, allow you to develop a preference for specific ingredients and textures, and give you a taster into what you can make. Once you’ve got that down you can start with the modifying.
So there we go! Now you know the basics, you are essentially prepared to rule the world. Or at least a small portion of it. By following these rules, you can trust that you will be making safe and effective products.
I hope you enjoyed my DIY skincare beginners guide. Next up in this series will be some suggestions on beginner project ideas, followed in a week or so with a beginners shopping list (because skincare will make you broke ;))!