How to Make Your Own Cosmetics

by Tammy Strobel on July 26, 2010

The following guest post is by my amazing sister in-law, Tina Smith. I asked Tina to write this post a few months ago and I’m really excited to share it with you. The content rocks and it’s very timely, especially since The Story of Cosmetics was just released.

In addition, Tina writes humorous stories about personal and emotional self-discovery at her blog: Smashed Picket Fences. Enjoy!

A few years ago something changed. I started really paying attention to what I was using on my body. Through research I found that pretty much every product I was using was unsafe. I called some of the question hot-lines on the backs of the bottles they assured me that these chemicals where in safe amounts, but it felt funny the way they answered, like they were trying to convince me too much or ward off a possible lawsuit. I just wanted to know the truth. I wanted to be sure that what I was using was safe for my family and me. I finally came to the conclusion that the only way I could be sure was if I made it myself.

Recently, The Story of Cosmetics came out with a great video about the shadiness of the cosmetic industry. If you haven’t seen the video yet I highly recommend it. I think the video dispenses the appropriate amount of fear mongering necessary for my blog post.

I was scared at first. After all I didn’t have a lab and hundreds of chemicals to mix and what if what I mixed together was as equally unsafe? What if I break out? I’m a psychologist, not a chemist. I overcame my fears by talking with others who had made their own products and I found lots of recipes online that used ingredients that were everyday items, nothing fancy or unrecognizable. I felt confident I could replace one dangerous cosmetic in our house with a homemade concoction. I discovered that making cosmetics was extremely easy. I was never the top of my class in chemistry in school, but I understand the simple reactions taking place to create safe and inexpensive personal care products in my own kitchen.

If you are in doubt about your own skills in this area I have a simple three-question test that will identify if you have the ability to make your own cosmetics:

1. Can you boil water?

2. Do you cook your own food?

3. Do you want safe, inexpensive alternatives to the personal products you use every day?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions then congratulations!! You have what it takes to get started. Even when I was convinced it was easy I still was unsure, so I started small. One of the easiest recipes is for lip balm. Once you see how easy and cheap it is to make a high quality lip balm you will cry over all the years you spent buying the unsafe plastic-encased version in the store.

How to Make Lip Balm

You’ll need a few ingredients:

  • Beeswax
  • Grapeseed oil (or almond oil, or olive oil, etc)

Melt equal parts beeswax and oil of your choice in a small pan over the stove. Use a small amount (maybe a few tablespoons) of wax and oil. When the mixture is completely melted, pour it into a small glass or tin container. You can optionally add vitamin E at this last step (just after pulling it from the heat). Vitamin E is a natural preservative and excellent for the skin. Let the mixture cool to room temperature and then it is ready to use.

I use a small baby food jar that I have sterilized to store the lip balm. You can also check out reusable and recyclable tin containers at Mountain Rose Herbs.

If you get brave and want to experiment you can customize your lip balm to your preferences. If you like harder lip balm then you can add a bit more wax, if you like your lip balm softer you can add a bit more oil. It is perfectly safe to keep re-melting the lip balm mixture until you get the consistency you like, just be sure that if you want to add vitamin E you do that after you have removed the mixture from the heat for the last time.

Commercial lip balms usually are made with petroleum and other carcinogens. “Natural” lip balm can be very expensive; the above recipe is a great alternative without having to skimp for quality.

How to Make Lotion

After lots of failed attempts to make lotion I finally found this extremely easy fail-proof recipe. Kendra describes step by step how to make lotion and I don’t want to reinvent the wheel trying to explain it in my own words.

I usually use lemon essential oil for the anti-viral properties. I have also substituted my favorite tea instead of water for a lighter scent if you or someone you are making the lotion for is sensitive to scents or essential oils. I know that lotion can seem a bit intimidating; it was for me as well. I thought it would be beneficial if someone new to homemade cosmetics could actually see the process.

So I made a short how to video:

Sonoma Gardens also has a great homemade deodorant recipe to try as well.

Remember to have fun and even if you don’t succeed in the first attempt it doesn’t mean that you are not good at making your own cosmetics. It is really a trial and error activity, but once you figure it out you will reap the financial, health, and environmental rewards for years to come.

1 Jessica July 26, 2010

Love it! I will definitely repost this at love&trash.

We also interviewed the “No Dirty Looks” authors today: http://loveandtrash.com/2010/07/no-more-dirty-looks/

2 Tina Smith July 26, 2010

Thank you! Also checked out the book on your website and cant wait to check it out!

3 Tammy July 26, 2010

@Jess – awesome! I’m so excited about that book. Looks fantastic. :)

4 Karen P-V July 26, 2010

Greetings Tina and Tammy – I have always lamented having to buy lip balm in plastic tubes or containers, so I very much appreciate both of you sharing the knowledge on how to make your own.

Two of my cosmetics I have replaced with baking soda: tooth paste and deodorant. For brushing my teeth, I sprinkle less than an eighth of a teaspoon on my dampened tooth brush. Also, I’ve found that one application of baking soda to my armpits works for one day, even during summertime temperatures, and I perspire greatly! I sprinkle some baking soda on the held-together fingers of one hand (about 1/2 teaspoon), rub both sets of fingers together, and apply to the armpits. The website that recommended this (sorry, can’t remember the name) mentioned that some folks might find the baking soda irritating. So far I have not experienced any problems.

5 Tina Smith July 26, 2010

I am all in favor of simple cosmetics. The less ingredients the better – and if I can find it in my cupboard already on hand then even better. I buy baking soda in bulk because I use it as an air freshener (instead of the chemical ones you find in stores). I have cloth diapers and I find that baking soda does a great job absorbing the smell :) I also clean with it (and vinegar) that pretty much has eliminated me going down that aisle in the store all together. AND I am a notorious clean/germ freak. People are surprised when they see I don’t use chemicals when I clean. I’ll have to try the baking soda deodorant trick. I use natural deodorant that doesn’t really do the job – so thanks for the tip!

6 Jessica July 26, 2010

I heard the same thing about baking soda deodorant, from Beth Terry (Fake Plastic Fish). She says it works great.

7 funksteena July 29, 2010

I tried the baking soda and corn starch after I read about it on Fake Plastic Fish. I love it. I had a horrible reaction to aluminum salt a few years back and had to find an alternative. I’d been using Tom’s of Maine, but wasn’t happy with that. And some of the so-called natural stuff out there was sneaky and used aluminum salt anyway. I hate label reading. Making my own reduces label reading time and it’s so easy it’s ridicyaluss.

8 miss minimalist July 26, 2010

Thank you so much for posting this! I’m trying to develop a more minimalist beauty routine, and using natural ingredients is a key part of that process.

I never realized making your own lip balm was so easy; can you recommend a natural way to add a tint?

9 Tina Smith July 26, 2010

I love the lip balm…and I used to be an addict in my teenage years. This lip balm I make myself I found I don’t have to keep reapplying. As far as tint:

Some people have said to try beet juice or other colored juices for tint (beet juice will give a nice red). But adding liquids to balms usually doesn’t work very well (since the wax is a lipid the water based ingredients don’t bond well and mix). I have also read people using paprika which makes more sense…not sure how well they will mix in with the rest of the recipe, but I have people who swear by it. Also the more natural and plant based things you add to your lip balm the shorter it will last. Vitamin E will help preserve it a bit, but if you are adding beet juice, make a small amount to be sure you use it all in a few months. The original recipe can last anywhere from 6 to 9 months and stay fresh, so adding a juice to that might lower than expiration date.

Also flavor can be added (after removing from heat): peppermint extract, vanilla extract, almond extract, I have also added honey before too…and remember to add in very small amounts. For lip balm, if you can eat it then it is usually safe to add for an experiment.

side note: If you have allergies or a cold peppermint extract helps with congestion.

10 Dawn Michelle July 27, 2010

I love making my own tinted lip balms by adding ingredients like cinnamon, hibiscus petal powder, beet root powder, cacao powder, and annatto seed powder to create beautiful colors. I have a recipe that includes shea butter, aloe vera, and honey for extra moisturizing properties. Making your own beauty product can be so much fun and save you tons of money. You’re able to tweak your recipes and learn what really work for you. Minimalist beauty gives you time, money, and space to focus on more exciting and creative endeavors in life.

11 Tina Smith July 27, 2010

Thanks Dawn! I have been wanting to do cinnamon with my lip balm for a while to tint it a bit, but haven’t gotten around to it. Glad to know it works! I am excited to try some of the things you have mentioned above.

12 Lynn Fang July 26, 2010

I rarely wear makeup nowadays, and only try to buy the least toxic ones available, but that doesn’t come close to homemade! I switched to handmade, plant-based, or homemade personal care and home cleaning products. Vinegar + baking soda covers my kitchen, bathroom, and laundry. Handmade bar soaps and organic whipped shea butter cover my personal care needs. Thanks for spreading the word, Tina!

13 Tina Smith July 26, 2010

Hey Lynn!

I also don’t wear make up anymore either. Or if I do it is for a very very special occasion (like I am in a wedding…and it has to be very special to get me to break down to wear make-up for it!). I have really sensitive skin so I usually break out after I put it on, even the most natural stuff. I use a lot of homemade stuff now too (all my cleaning supplies are homemade too!). I get my soap handmade from the farmers market, but hope someday to try my hand at making my own. Thanks for reading!

14 Michelle July 26, 2010

This is amazing. I’ve just started learning about what’s in beauty products recently and am totally creeped out. I’ve stopped wearing pretty much all makeup in the past month or so, so this post couldn’t have come at a better time. Thanks so much for sharing this!

15 Tammy July 26, 2010

@Michelle – Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. :) I stopped wearing make-up about a year ago and love it. Like Tina, I have really sensitive skin. So even when I wore make-up and tried to look cute, it never worked out. I always ended up with a lot of breakouts. ):

16 Tina Smith July 26, 2010

Giving up make-up is hard. FYI I have used the lip balm as a clear mascara too. I curl my eye lashes with a eye lash curler and then apply the balm with my fingers. Just be sure that the balm is clean (that you haven’t been dipping unwashed hands into it :). It will give your lashes a nice wet and darker look ;)

17 Mike July 26, 2010

One of the things I’ve started to do is make a pre-shave oil. A little research on the Internet brought up that most commercial pre-shave oils can be approximated by mixing one part olive oil to two parts castor oil with some essential oils added in. It does wonders when I’m shaving, and it’s so much cheaper than paying a lot of money for it at a drug store or somewhere like Nordstroms.

18 Tina Smith July 27, 2010

That is an awesome recipe! And the olive oil is something that people would have on hand. I will have to give it a try next time I shave (hoping it works the same for shaving legs?). I usually don’t use shaving creams when I shave, but my skin is really dry so I had been putting on the homemade lotion before and after shaving and that works well too.

19 Living Large in Our Little House July 27, 2010

This is a great post with good tips. I especially like the lip balm recipe! I just had a guest post on my blog yesterday about eliminating chemicals, so it is something a lot of people are thinking about. Thanks for passing along the word, Tammy and Tina!

20 Tina Smith July 27, 2010

A lot of people I know are very aware of it too. They would love to be chemical free (especially with kids around). The biggest problem is with the economy so bad lots of people don’t have the money to buy some of the “safer” products or are afraid to try something new. Trying things like this and starting small are good ways to start. Most people aren’t attached to the lip balm/chap stick they use or lotions. And when it costs pennies to make each batch then people are more willing to switch.

21 Melissa Gorzelanczyk July 28, 2010

Thanks Tina and Tammy! I will definitely try these recipes… xoxo

22 Vickie July 28, 2010

Hi ladies, great info and it seems more and more of us are looking for natural ways to maintain or adapt our beauty routines. One thing I would mention, and I don’t know if this is just a precaution they teach us in Europe, is that it’s not advisable to heat water in the microwave. We’re told that it sometimes causes the water to explode as it comes out of the microwave… don’t want any nasty accidents now! Maybe you could use warm water from the tap or a mix of boiled and cold water instead??

23 Tina Smith July 30, 2010

Thanks Vickie,

It is really important to be careful around objects that have just been heated out of the microwave (or oven/stove). You can do this recipe by boiling water the old fashioned way as well. I just used the microwave for speed purposes in the video. Thanks again for your warning!

Tina

24 Shannon August 8, 2010

Hi Tina –

I don’t have a microwave (unless I make this at the office!) and am wondering about the heat level of the wax. I know you put it in the micro with the oil for one minute… is that to a “boil”? And as you’ve noted above, is one minute in the micro for water to boiling? Thanks for the help!
Shannon

25 Tina Smith August 9, 2010

Hi Shannon,

Glad you asked that question!

You can make both recipes on your stove top. For the lip balm, Place the wax and oil together in a small saucepan. Then just keep it on low to med heat until the wax has melted.

For the lotion: boil the water in a sauce pan and set aside. Then melt the emulsifying wax and oil together in a separate saucepan (do not boil the wax and the oil, it only needs to be hot enough to melt the wax). The water should still be steaming hot, but not scorching hot. I think just the right temp. It might take some playing around, but hopefully that will do for you.

26 Monica at In Wanderment August 7, 2010

I just wrote a blog post about this topic, too. It seems to be everywhere on the web right now. As hard as it can be to find a variety in ready-made natural products, it seems that it’s still the way to go. And making your own sounds like the best idea.

Find info about what’s in your cosmetics here: http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/search.php
Learn more here: safecosmetics.org/index
My post: inwanderment.com/?p=177

27 Meral August 9, 2010

Have you ever perused the book “Natural Beauty at Home, : More Than 250 Easy to Use Recipes for Body,Bath, and Hair ” by Janice Cox? It’s a great resource.

28 Tina Smith August 9, 2010

I have looked at a few books on the homemade bath body and hair products, I might have seen it. I usually like to get ideas from books on what products to replace with homemade products. I will have to take a second look at that book.

Tina

29 Hanna August 9, 2010

Hi!

I wanted to share the ultimate natural moisturizer on the planet with all of you. This stuff is incredible for preventing wrinkles, protecting skin from the elements (sun, to a point), helping things heal and I have also found it to be the only foolproof diaper rash prevention for my babies. It is simple, natural shea butter. I got hooked when I bought some raw shea butter from Africans who were selling African things at a festival. They just took it out of this big gourd and put it into plastic containers. It is quite simply miraculous stuff. Nowadays, I buy it online for around $10 A POUND with shipping! It lasts for a long time.

It really is a butter, so you have to work it in your hands to get it soft enough to apply. In the winter, when it’s cold, I zap it for a moment in the microwave to soften. I have also very gently heated it (you don’t want to overheat, or you kill the vitamins and good stuff inside) and added essential oils such as lavender, rosemary or cedar.

I used to spend a lot on anti-wrinkle creams, many of which contain a little bit of shea butter. I never buy them now! I just have my “tub” of shea butter. It causes no reactions, so you can even apply it near your eyes (not to be done if you use essential oils, of course).

Nowadays, I look for really pure stuff online. It should have a nutty smell and it should be brownish, not white (that indicates processing). Yellow means that palm oil was added, which is a very healthy oil – they add it to make it more spreadable. You can actually find fair trade shea butter, which is great, because you are supporting women in one of the poorest parts of Africa – West Africa. Shea butter is “women’s work” only, so you help the people who need it the most.

The best part for me, a busy mom, is that it is just ready to use, if you don’t want to add essential oils or anything like that. Speaking of being a mom, my children never ever have had diaper rashes (could be the cotton diapers, too!). I slather it onto my babies – all over – after their bath and they have gorgeous skin – no rashes, no eczema, in fact, I used it to successfully cure my baby’s cradle cap (basically a fungal eczema on the scalp).

Safe, non-toxic, super healthy, just super.

Hanna

30 Tina Smith August 9, 2010

Hanna,

Thanks for the shea butter tips! I have been looking into using shea butter into some things I make, so this is a great source of info. Also being a fellow cloth diaper mom, I am always looking for new rash prevention ideas. I have used some homemade diaper creams that are safe for cloth diapers, but it sounds like the shea butter is also cheap and very healthy to use!

Tina

31 Sophie August 9, 2010

The caution about boiling water in the microwave is a good caution but it’s actually pretty rare as long as your cup is large enough and if you take good precautions. Why? It’s actually a process called “superheating”.

Chemically/physically speaking, as liquids boil, molecules move faster and farther, eventually breaking the surface and escaping as vapor. Considering atmospheric pressure “weighing down” on the surface of a liquid, this is a pretty cool feat that we often take for granted =) ! However, when a liquid is undisturbed and is heated past its boiling point, the gas sometimes does not break the surface tension. Pressure builds up *below* the surface. Thus, as soon as you break the surface (i.e. stick a spoon into a superheated cup of water), it will “explode” and the liquid will violently release its pressure.

Now, why did I say this probably won’t happen in a microwave as long as you have a sufficient cup? 1) Most people don’t heat a cup of water long enough for the pressure to build up and the heat is often not high enough anyways (I think a study once quoted 6+ minutes for a cup of water to superheat in a microwave). 2) Larger surface areas mean less chance of superheating. Smaller circumferences (think: test tubes) have higher surface tension and so are much much easier to superheat than a large mug of water. I’ve superheated many a test tubes in a sand bath before but never a big mug of water in a microwave.

Now, if you’ve got no other options than to microwave but you’re worried about superheating, don’t worry!! Do what chemists do! Plop a wooden stick into the liquid and boil away ;) The wooden stick has air bubbles in it that break up surface tension and will prevent superheating. Good luck and stay safe!

32 Tina Smith August 9, 2010

Sophie,

I had heard it was rare to super heat, but I didn’t know all the science behind it – thanks for the info!

Tina

33 Carla August 10, 2010

I just found the link to this site! I am bookmarking it as soon as I finish leaving a comment.

I would like to share the best baby wipes ever made with no chemicals or soap. I learned how to make this after my daughter had contracted the super rash of rashes while still in the hospital after birth. You take homemade distilled water (you can use store bought but why?) -water boiled for 6+ minutes with the lid on and add 1 tsp. iodized salt not sea salt per cup of water. That is it! You can use wash clothes/cloth diapers or less than lovely paper towels to dip in this solution. My kids never had a diaper rash if I used this for baby wipes. Salt is a natural antimicrobiological agent. Learned this from a wound specialist who saved my kids hide literally! ( I use this also when they get colds to wipe their noses because the salt soothes the skin–NO burning!!!)

34 Laureta August 10, 2010

Totally awesome tips. I have bookmarked this page and will forward the link to as many people as possible. Thanks for the info – I can’t wait to wash my hair with baking soda tonight!
=^.^=

35 misha August 11, 2010

Thank you for this straightforward getting started guide! i would love to try the lip balm recipe to start, and was wondering how to include sun protection? Even in lip balm, an SPF of at least 15 is needed to protect against skin cancer year round.
Thanks!

36 Tina Smith August 16, 2010

You might have to research SPF to get your answers. I have never used one in my lip balm. I have read a few things on olive oil offering some protection from the sun…but not sure if it is reliable. You can google some “natural sun protection” and see what you find. Sorry I cant be much help for that.

37 shannon August 5, 2011

Yes and Yes, I can do both of those things! Like you I also had a personal revelation that made me rethink what I was putting all over my face and body. And hey, if I can make a lot of extra, maybe I can sell it to my friends!

38 www.SaraAshouri.net September 10, 2011

Such great tips… great and easy to follow

Previous post:

Next post: