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:
- 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.
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.