We haven’t posted one of these in a while—and this is a goodie! Here’s why: I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve spent a very pretty penny on whipped shea butter in my day, especially for the ones that smell like vanilla and/or citrus. I’ve also given this as a luxurious gift to friends, and they always love it (boys too). But not once did I think of whipping my own, and scenting it with my favorite essential oils. This is a genius plan for the holidays, and also a great gift if you have any friends who are expecting (though in that case, we suggest going scent-free or just using a bit of vanilla).
Aw, thanks Aileen, and keep spreading the word! It feels like people are starting to catch on. :) Now, who’s gonna whip up some shea?[Note: We still have plenty of great recipes in our inbox, but we want more! Don't forget to send yours.]
If you had told me two years ago that I’d be making my own deodorant, I’d have thought you were crazy.
“I’m just not that crunchy, and I certainly don’t have the time,” I would have said, probably accompanied by an eye-roll and further snarky comments. But it turns out it’s fun to mix up potions. It suits both the scientist and the witch in me.
Like most of us, I’m sure, I’m crazy busy. I have a full-time job, plus another half a job, a kid, and a really immature husband (so it’s like having two kids). What ultimately motivated me to try DIY was my skin: I’m so sensitive that even clean products don’t always fit my needs. That’s why I want to encourage others to try DIY, especially those of you who think you’d never do it. Because it doesn’t have to be either/or: I will always love to use brand-name products, but there are a few things I regularly make for myself, too.
Remember that when it comes to DIY, it’s whatever you want it to be. You could make something really luxurious or something very simple and inexpensive. DIY can meet very specific needs, and is likely to be cheaper, especially in the long term. Your DIY will also make sweet gifts.
With that said, here are some pointers that may help you get started…
1. Keep it clean. Use your NMDL radar when researching DIY, because not all the people talking about it are into clean ingredients.
2. Use the right materials for mixing. Try Pyrex to heat/mix in, and wooden or silicone utensils. I’ve often seen the advice to avoid metal for DIY, and I find it easy to believe some ingredients could react with the metal. I break the rule a little with occasional use of an immersion mixer, and I measure dry ingredients in metal.
3. Don’t microwave. If you have to heat you ingredients, do so gently, double-boiler style, and avoid microwaving. You want to preserve the healing qualities of your ingredients. Also, if you overheat, it will change the consistency of your final product.
4. Recycle. Save pretty glass containers from your other products for storage, or you can buy these fairly cheaply. I have found some BPA-free plastics that I use for certain things.
5. Work with your own budget. DIY is as expensive or inexpensive as you want it to be. You can choose fancy or common carrier oils and butters, high end or modestly priced essential oils, etc.
6. Start small. Begin with something simple to convince yourself you can do it. Get some bulk sea salt and a few essential oils you like, and mix up bath salts. Or melt your favorite butter (like shea or cocoa) with a lighter oil (try a 3:1 ratio), and add EOs (or not) to make a great body butter that will do wonders for your hands and feet.
7. Copy your favorites. When you are ready for something more advanced and experimental, use the ingredients list of your favorite products as a jumping off point.
8. Find a good shop. Look for a local brick and mortar to buy ingredients and packaging. Or try these:
Mountain Rose Herbs, for everything—EOs, butters, oils, packaging—and it’s all super clean.
Elements Bath and Body, for ingredients and packaging. They aren’t all clean, so use discretion. I mention them for their awesome BPA-free twist up tubes I use for deodorant.
Skin Actives, for active ingredients. I buy individual actives from them, but the ready-mades are not clean.
American Weigh, for a scale to weigh your actives. I have the AMW-70 Precision Pocket Scale.
I love the recipes readers have been posting (you can find them here, or by doing your own a DIY search on our site). Have you been inspired yet? If you have, what helped you get started?
Meet Amy: Her skin is dry and she’s on a budget, so she developed this awesome-sounding recipe that both hydrates and scents the skin with citrusy goodness. Sounds delish. She also breaks down the whole emulsifier thing, which I know I’ve wondered about. Thanks Amy!
—Current hometown: Boulder, CO
—Product name that I made up: Happy Hydration
—Ingredients list: shea butter, jojoba oil, coconut oil, emulsifying wax*, distilled water, bergamot essential oil, sweet orange essential oil, vitamin E oil
—How I made It:
- Combine 5g shea butter, 10g jojoa oil, 5g coconut oil, and 5g emulsifying wax in one heat proof container
- Add 70g of distilled water to a separate heat proof container
- Create a double boiler by placing both containers in a low amount of just boiling water on medium heat (I put all of my ingredients in two glass pyrex measuring cups, then placed in pot of boiling water)
- Once the ingredients heat up to around 150 degrees, continue to let them sit in the double boiler for about 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, take them out, pour the distilled water into the mixture of oils, and immediately blend with an immersion blender for about 30 seconds (I’ve also used a regular blender and food processor and all work pretty well)
- Let the liquid lotion cool until it reaches about 120 degrees (5-10 minutes), then add in any essential oils. Blend for another 30 seconds or so.
- Pour into a clean and dry container. Once the lotion reaches room temperature (30ish minutes) it’s okay to put the lid on. Adding a lid any sooner can cause condensation to form in the container, equaling breeding grounds for some nasty mold.
How it smelled, felt, worked…
Nice light, creamy texture and happy citrus scent! Absorbs well into the skin.
Why I will or won’t do this again…
I’ve been experimenting with making my own lotions for about 6 months now and this is my favorite recipe so far. I have incredibly sensitive skin and a tight budget, and I feel like this lotion is perfect for both. I’m also a fan of using only oil as a moisturizer, but sometimes I just crave a creamy body butter or lotion to rub into my skin instead. I live at a high altitude, super dry climate and this recipe is versatile enough that I can make it extra heavy (using more shea or cocoa butters) for the dry winter months, or lighter (liquid-at-room-temperature-oils instead of butters) during the summer. It’s also multi-functioning – my boyfriend likes to use my lighter versions as a facial moisturizer and it gives him awesome glowy skin.
*I’m still slightly indecisive about this ingredient. To make lotion, it seems there needs to be some kind emulsifier to bind the oil and water together. At first I was resistant to using the wax, but when I discussed it with someone at the local apothecary where I buy all of my other ingredients, they explained that 1. although it’s processed, it is vegetable based, safe, and junk-free, it’s just no longer in it’s purest form; 2. I’m using a very small amount of it in my recipe and compared to any lotion I would buy, 5g of emulsifying wax is harmless; and 3. everything else in this store is as clean as it comes, organic, fair trade, etc. and I totally trust these people.
So for the time being, to get my lotion fix when just oils aren’t satisfying, I’m going to continue to throw in some emulsifying wax. Any thoughts? Have you guys looked into emulsifying wax?
Also, off the subject of my DIY submission but still awesomely DIY related…I had a nasty cut on my finger last night and in a pinch mixed some raw honey and vitamin E oil together, gooped it on my finger and put a band aid over it for the night. This morning the cut was more or less healed! No more nasty neosporin for me.
We present to you the gift that is Emma, whose routine is brilliant and stylish. Of course it is: she’s from Athens, Greece, and is clearly a clean, continental dream. Did you know you can use crushed strawberries to whiten you teeth? Apparently so! Read on:
Current weather: Sunny and dry, around 20 Celcius
Hair: Thin and naturally wavy, double processed with blonde highlights and dye to cover the grays. The waves have lost their vitality a couple of years ago (maternity hormones?), they are thinning, dried and parched. Curls now are really limp unless I revive them with a curling iron. Overall, my nightmare…
Skin: Normal to dry, very few wrinkles around the eyes when I squint. Clear with very few cystic acne outbreaks on the chin around my period sometimes. Overall I am blessed with nice skin, sometimes lacking glow – which is what I value most, since I think it makes us look fresher and younger!
In the shower…
I have stopped using soap all over my body, just on the armpits and legs. I use soap that I order from Aleppo, Syria that is all natural and contains only olive oil, laurel oil and sea salt. That’s what I use on my toddler son too and it never dries out our skin. I wash my hair with Faith in Nature Aloe Vera shampoo, followed by the Pomegranate and Rooibos conditioner. Sometimes I do a final rinse with unfiltered organic ACV and water. I leave it on for a few minutes and then rinse it out again—I can’t tolerate the vinegar smell too much. Once a week I dry brush my whole body before I get in the shower. I also try to do a weekly pure organic coconut oil hair mask—this seems to have helped restore moisture to my locks. I rub it all over my hair, put it in a low braid and then put a shower cap that I keep in place with a few pins. I then sleep on it and wash my hair in the morning.
In the shower I sometimes do a DIY sugar scrub, mixing brown sugar with vegetable glycerine or olive/jojoba/sweet almond oil.
Outside the shower…
After the shower I pat my skin dry and then put on a DIY moisturizing oil containing jojoba, argan and sweet almond oil, with a few drops of neroli and lavender essential oils. I have keratosis pilaris on some areas so I rub some pure shea butter (which is the only thing that helps). I also make a DIY whipped shea butter moisturizer that I put on at night during the cold months, and then sleep on it with cotton pajamas. It gets the skin really soft!
I wrap my hair in an old t-shirt to dry, which I found keeps the waves smoother and fights frizz. I pass a wide-toothed comb and then rub some argan oil on the ends. Sometimes I’ll spray some not so clean Bumble and Bumble Thickening spray to give some volume, but I also want to try a home made sea salt spray. I dry them using a diffuser, or if I don’t’ have the time, I’ll just quickly dry them, and put them up in a tight high ponytail, twirling the remaining hair in a bun and securing it tightly. In a few hours when I let the ponytail down, my hair is wavy and smooth. If I wash my hair at night, I put it in a low tight braid and sleep on it – in the morning I have new curls!
I have stopped using soap or cleansers for my face, and make my own using natural ingredients. My favourite’s (that I alternate according to what I feel my skin needs most) just pure oils that I rub in and then rinse with a washcloth, oat flour with ACV/water, raw honey or baby milk powder mixed with some water to make a paste. Sometimes I grind some almonds or rice with a few drops of oil if I want something with more “buffing” properties. I bought the Clarisonic but after reading many controversial reviews from experts that it relaxes face muscles, I’m a bit reluctant to use it again. So it just sits there and I’ll sometimes use it to scrub the remaining oat/honey from the cleansing.
At least once I week I do a green clay mask (I mix it with ACV or milk and add a few drops of lavender essential oil). It really clears up everything and I found I don’t need to use any scrubs as I did before. All the blackheads, impurities and dullness come right off. I try to spread it up to my collarbones to get some of that goodness on my neck, which seems so neglected! I recently also started using rhassoul clay from Morocco, which is packed with minerals and supposedly better than plain old bentonite (green clay). On the rare nights I have a lot of makeup on, I use Bioderma Crealine Lotion before my cleansers. It is very popular here in Europe and all the make up artists use it. You put it on with a cotton ball, it’s like water and it rinses out everything without leaving any residue. I found that the less abrasive and more respectful I am of my skin (after using chemical peels, Retin A, harsh scrubs) the better it looks.
Then I do a few warm water compresses with a washcloth and spray a DIY hydrosol. I make hydrosols myself with rose petals or lavender or rosemary leaves. Sounds complicated but it’s really easy! While the skin is still damp from the hydrosol, I put on a few drops of my DIY face serum, which I make with a mix of carrier oils and essential oils. I found that argan oil and rosehip seed oil and super moisturizing and make my skin glow. I also add geranium, helichryssum and frankinsence essential oils. In the winter my skin needs some more moisture, so I slab some Weleda Skin Food or Korres Wild Rose moisturizing cream. I confess that I don’t wear sunscreen all year, even though I live in a country with 300 days of sunshine/year! I only wear it in the summer and I use Avene Tres Haute Protection with 50SPF or La Roche Posay Anthelios lotion. It’s not easy to find a nice, clean sunscreen here in Europe that does not leave your face looking white like a kabuki character. When I have time, I make my own whipped shea and cocoa butter cream. It is especially great to rub generously on my feet before I put on any socks. Shea butter is what dancers use to help them heal their over-worked toes and it really takes all the dryness and roughness out.
It might sound complicated to do all these DIY beauty things, but it actually is easy. I just keep all the ingredients in used glass jars, along with some spatulas and small cups and mix on the spot as needed. It’s fun, natural and cheap! For the face oils and creams I make a batch to last me 2 months, which takes me 30mins to make, so it’s not a big hassle.
I use Soapwalla deodorant, although recently it seems that it stopped working and I’m getting nervous with the summer approaching. It’s weird because in the beginning it worked like magic—is it my idea or has this happened to anyone else? When it’s a hot day and I know I’ll be active, I use my old Neutrogena, but I’m not happy about it and desperately looking for a reliable clean deodorant. I tried Tom’s but I still felt stinky.
I brush my teeth with Korres toothpaste using the Sonicare toothbrush (same company that makes Clarisonic). I can’t recommend that thing enough. It works like magic! When you’re done you feel like you just came back from a dentist deep clean. Sometimes I’ll make a baking soda and water paste if I want some whitening action, or rub some mashed strawberries on my teeth. Strawberries contain malic acid, which when combined with baking soda, act as an stringent and a buffing agent.
Due to the intense sunlight and endless summers sunbathing (can I turn back time?) I have a major hyper pigmentation problem on my face. I think the argan and rosehip seed oils will help in time, but I am trying to find a more potent natural recipe without resorting to hydroquinone. I might try a spot laser treatment and then maintain the results with religious sunscreen application all year round!
If I have a cystic acne pimple brewing, I dab a bit of raw honey before bed and then cut the sticky part of a band aid in half and place two layers on the pimple. Something about the anti-inflammatory qualities of the honey with the pressure from the band aid I guess makes it look better the next morning!
I don’t do much for makeup, I like a fresh look. I have very sparse eyebrows and the one thing that makes my face more framed and put-together is filling them in with some eye shadow from the Body Shop special eyebrow kit. Don’t underestimate the power of eyebrows to make your face look more balanced. I only recently found out about that tip and it literally changed the way I look, judging from pictures – without looking made up or unnatural.
Then I use MAC eyeliner rubbed and smudged on the bottom lashes in Olive and some Guerlain Bronzing powder or Korres blush. I curl my lashes with the Shu Uemura curler and when I go out at night put on Blinc mascara (it’s great, goes on like tubes and does not smudge even if you cry!). If I feel I need some more coverage, I use Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer and in the summer the Body Shop gel bronzer for a hint of shimmer. On my lips I use Hurraw in Vanilla Bean or Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmers. I have thin lips and don’t like them colored. If I look especially tired I put on the YSL Touche Eclat under eye concealer, but I feel it draws more attention to the problem. It’s hard finding good clean makeup products in Europe, but since I don’t put too much on, it’s not that bad for me.
After a couple of years obsessed with weekly manicures, I go all natural, with very short clean nails, and just rub Egyptian Magic cream every night on my cuticles. I even keep a jar on my desk and rub some in during the day. I have super dry cuticles that look dry and white after one day if I don’t cut them. Now I have stopped cutting them completely (you must resist the temptation, but it’s the only way they will stop growing) and this cream is the only thing that makes them soft and invisible. I just push them back with a wooden stick with some wet cotton or argan oil once in a while.
Comments on the deodorant question? Maybe if we answer, she will grace us with another amazing food-as-beauty-product tip we never would have guessed!
Favorite star or icon from the past: Lauren Bacall (via)
If you’ve read the book (and if you haven’t: tsk! tsk!) you know that we did our share of experimenting with DIY makeup.
It takes a committed kind of girl to make her face from scratch—a girl both of us admire, but that neither of us naturally is. (And click the link at the bottom for some recipes we wrote for ReadyMade magazine!)
So instead of pretending, we boiled our DIY makeup section down to simple ingredients that translate into great makeup. I’d venture to say that the two most successful were beet juice as a lip and cheek stain (truly amazing) and activated charcoal as an eyeliner.
What’s activated charcoal, you ask? It’s the stuff they used to give people for food poisoning that you can buy OTC for tummy aches—it’s also the stuff in your Brita filter. Given my sensitive stomach, I always keep these capsules (pictured above) around the house, and one fine day decided to open one up. What I found inside was the purest, darkest, most perfect black powder. Hello smokey eye.
Now, is this substance the most perfect clean eyeliner? Arguable. The texture is a little rough and I’ve heard that it can dry-slash-irritate the skin—which would make sense because its tremendously porous. I never had any problems with it myself but I’d be very careful not to get it in my eyes either—a rule that applies to most things. Eyes don’t tend to like foreign substances so much, clean or not. The results are lovely though, and it sure beats some of the toxic potions out there, not to mention the eye charcoal out of India that I so adore (but that used to be contaminated with lead and still makes me nervous). Just look at Kathryn (left), one of our readers who tried it on her eyes. Rarr!
Have you ever attempted making your own makeup? Did you try our suggestions in the book, or are you the girl who cooks up magic potions in her kitchen? (Total badass moves.) Either way, we’d love to add some recipes to our repertoire or hear about your experience in the comments. We’re smelling a challenge coming on…