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DIY Beauty

The idea of concocting your own skincare -products might bring to mind a bunch of teenage girls monkeying around with oats and avocados at a slumber party. But DIY skincare isn’t just for kids anymore, nor is it just for women, especially now that health-savvy consumers are beginning to understand that what we put on our bodies affects our health as much as what we put in them.

“It’s estimated that about 60 percent of what we put on our bodies is absorbed into our bloodstream,” says New York City–based integrative physician Frank Lipman, MD. “Those ingredients are taking a toll. So, just as we recommend avoiding chemicals in your food, we also recommend avoiding them in your skincare.”

If your kitchen is already stocked with organic oils, herbs, and other healthy ingredients, you probably have everything you need to give DIY skincare a try. And you may discover that homemade products are not only a healthier alternative to those chemical- and preservative-doused brands dominating the bodycare market, but they’re more cost-effective and fun, too.

Mix up some bath salts or a facial mask in the kitchen. Package your favorite formulas in handsome jars and give them as gifts. You might be amazed at what you’re able to produce yourself — as well as how effective some common household ingredients can be.

“When you find out a little dollop of coconut oil tames flyaways, soothes dry skin, and triples as lip balm, it wakes you up to what you’ve got in your kitchen,” says Elizabeth Dehn, creator of the Beauty Bets blog and cofounder of the skincare line Elizabeth Dehn for One Love Organics. “You don’t need to go spend a bunch of money to get the benefits of natural ingredients.”

It might take only 15 minutes to prep a homemade face serum that costs less than $10, while factory-made products of questionable quality can run $50 to $200.

Time and money aren’t all you save. There’s also your skin, which might be prone to reacting to every new miracle product you’re tempted to try — even the cleaner plant-based ones.

“Just because something is nontoxic and natural doesn’t mean it’s right for your skin,” cautions Nicolle Mackinnon, who works as an editor with the nontoxic beauty sites NoMoreDirtyLooks.com and EcoDivaBeauty.com. Because plant-based products can be potent and skin needs are individual, no product is guaranteed to deliver the same results to everyone.

Still, when you experiment at home with DIY formulas and something doesn’t perform the way you’d hoped — or worse, triggers a breakout — it’s much less painful than if you’d dropped $50 to learn that an ingredient doesn’t agree with you.

Sensitive skin has motivated a number of women to create natural skincare lines, and many of them started formulating products in their own kitchens.

“I was experiencing all sorts of skin ailments — redness, itchiness, and extreme sensitivity — and decided to quite literally take matters into my own hands,” says Adina Grigore, founder of Brooklyn-based S.W. Basics and author of Skin Cleanse: The Simple, All-Natural Program for Clear, Calm, Happy Skin. 

“As a holistic health coach, I knew the ingredients for a healthy body, but wasn’t necessarily using them for skincare,” she says. “I ditched the synthetic chemicals and the preservatives and started applying things like olive oil and fine-grain sea salt to my skin. It worked!”

If you’re used to expensive products, Grigore’s approach might sound a little dull, but she emphasizes how powerful simple products can be. Fresh ingredients contain live enzymes and other bioactive compounds that are often lost during processing; these make a big difference to your skin. Single-ingredient treatments like coconut oil are “the most lush and potent beauty treatments out there,” she says.

And the pleasure of self-care is really what making your own products is all about. “I am a huge proponent of women, in particular, taking care of themselves — from meditation to salt baths,” says Dehn. “It’s important on all levels — not just cosmetic, but mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.”

And who among us — woman or man — couldn’t use a little more TLC from time to time? These DIY products can provide some of that extra care, and require almost nothing in exchange.

DIY Skincare Recipes

Most of the ingredients in these recipes can be found in the bulk section at a natural grocery store, and the more specialized items can be found online at sites like Mountain Rose Herbs. Because DIY formulas don’t contain preservatives, it’s best to use most of them within a month or less.

Cypress Firming Facial Oil

Face serums that address wrinkles and fine lines are among the most expensive products on the market. This one will not only save you money; it will save your skin.

Cypress Firming Facial OilPhotography by Andrea D'Agosto, Illustrations and styling by Alicia Buszczak
  • 2 tbs. rosehip-seed oil
  • 2 tbs. sweet-almond oil (for oily skin, use 2 tsp. jojoba oil instead)
  • 3 drops organic cypress essential oil
  • 3 drops organic geranium essential oil
  • 1 drop organic frankincense essential oil

Directions

  1. Pour ingredients into a 2-ounce dark glass bottle with eyedropper cap.
  2. Shake to mix. Use within one month.

To use: Shake the bottle to mix. After cleansing, while your skin is still damp, massage one or two drops onto your face and neck. Apply in the morning or before bed.

Ingredient Benefits

  1. Rosehip-seed oil is rich in vitamin C, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and retinoic acid, which brightens and tightens skin.
  2. Sweet-almond oil can help reduce dark circles under the eyes when used daily.
  3. Jojoba oil is structurally and chemically similar to your skin’s natural sebum, so it won’t clog pores, and it helps skin balance its own oil production.
  4. Cypress essential oil is a powerful firming agent that strengthens blood capillaries; it’s also antibacterial, anti-infectious, and antimicrobial.
  5. Geranium essential oil helps even out skin tone.
  6. Frankincense balances skin pH. (When skin is too alkaline, it’s more prone to wrinkles and fine lines.)

Source: Nicolle Mackinnon, editor at the nontoxic-beauty websites NoMoreDirtyLooks.com and EcoDivaBeauty.com

Three-in-One Yogurt Facial

Your skin has its own microbiome, and this single-ingredient yogurt facial helps sustain it. Here are three ways to use plain, full-fat yogurt as skincare.

Three-in-One Yogurt Facial

  1. Cleanser: Massage 1/2 teaspoon of plain, full-fat yogurt on your face for a minute or two and rinse off.
  2. Mask: Apply a thick coating of yogurt on your face and leave it for about 15 minutes, then rinse. (If your skin is especially parched, mash up some sardines and add them to the mask to supply your skin with a boost of omega-3 fats.)
  3. Night treatment: Apply a thin film of yogurt to your face (no thicker than a regular layer of moisturizer) and wear it to bed. Rinse in the morning.

Ingredient Benefits

  • Yogurt contains lactic acid, which acts as a gentle exfoliant, helping to dissolve dead skin cells and brighten the complexion.

Source: Marie Veronique Nadeau, founder of Marie Veronique Advanced skincare, www.marieveronique.com  

Beet Red Lip Gloss

Classic red lipstick can contain lead, which is not so pretty. This nontoxic lip treatment provides plenty of color.

Beet Red Lip Gloss

  • 1/4 cup beeswax
  • 1/4 cup castor oil
  • 2 tbs. sesame oil
  • Beet juice (juice a beet with a juicer, or blend a chopped raw beet with a little water and strain out the juice)

Directions

  1. Melt beeswax, remove from heat, and add oils.
  2. Add as much beet juice as desired for color, and mix well.
  3. Store in a small jar or tin.

Ingredient Benefits

  1. Beeswax is moisturizing, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial.
  2. Castor oil promotes production of collagen and elastin.
  3. Sesame oil contains antioxidants and reduces fine lines.
  4. Beet juice provides a long-lasting magenta color and is rich in nitrates and antioxidants.

Source: Janet Nudelman of the Breast Cancer Fund’s Campaign for Safe Cosmetics 

Chocolate Facial Mask

This decadent hydrating mask looks like a dessert and feeds your skin with plenty of antioxidants.

Chocolate Facial Mask

  • 1/3 cup cocoa
  • 3 tbs. heavy cream
  • 2 tsp. cottage cheese
  • 1/4 cup raw honey
  • 3 tsp. oatmeal powder (process rolled oats in a food processor for 60 seconds to make your own oatmeal powder)

Directions

  1. Mix all ingredients together and smooth onto your face.
  2. Relax for 10 minutes and then rinse off with warm water.

Ingredient Benefits

  • Cocoa is rich in antioxidants, which help reduce sun damage.
  • Heavy cream moisturizes and softens skin.
  • Cottage cheese is a mild exfoliant.
  • Raw honey is moisturizing and antibacterial.
  • Oatmeal powder helps soothe dry skin and flakiness.

Source: Janet Nudelman of the Breast Cancer Fund’s Campaign for Safe Cosmetics 

Breakout-Busting Soda Paste

This extremely gentle paste is ideal for acne-prone skin. Use it as a cleanser or a blemish treatment. The recipe makes more than a dozen applications, and it can be stored for a few months.

Breakout Busting Soda Paste

  • 1 tbs. baking soda
  • 1 tbs. sweet-almond oil

Directions

  1. Combine ingredients in a small jar and stir to make a paste. (Don’t fear the oil; it will soothe skin, not congest it.)
  2. Gently apply a small amount to the face with small, circular motions and rinse. To reduce redness and inflammation during a breakout, apply to blemishes and leave on overnight.
  3. Rinse in the morning.

Ingredient Benefits

  • Baking soda is a mild exfoliant; it also helps limit the bacteria that cause breakouts.
  • Sweet-almond oil balances the drying effect of baking soda and helps control bacteria in oily pores.

Source: Adina Grigore, founder of S.W. Basics and author of Skin Cleanse

Simple DIY Detox Bath

This bath is ideal for spring detoxes, or for helping loosen congestion from respiratory illnesses.

Simple DIY Detox Bath

  • 3 pints of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide
  • 2 oz. ground ginger

Directions

  1. Run a hot bath.
  2. Add hydrogen peroxide and ginger.
  3. Soak for about 30 minutes. (Remember to keep yourself hydrated when taking a long, hot bath.)

Ingredient Benefits

  1. Hydrogen peroxide is antibacterial and antiviral.
  2. Ginger is naturally anti-inflammatory, increases blood circulation, and helps promote elimination of toxins through sweat.

Source: Linda Grant of Healing Hands Wellness Group

Herbal Spa Wrap

This formula helps amplify the soothing effects of a warm compress used for sore or tweaked postworkout muscles.

Herbal Spa Wrap

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup grapefruit juice
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme

Directions

  • Combine ingredients and massage into skin on targeted areas of the body (arms, legs, back), then wrap with a towel.
  • Lay a heating pad over each treatment area for five minutes at a time.

Ingredient Benefits

  1. Olive oil moisturizes skin.
  2. Grapefruit juice promotes skin elasticity and is high in vitamins A and C.
  3. Thyme is antiseptic and antifungal, and can help boost mood.

Source: Janet Nudelman of the Breast Cancer Fund’s Campaign for Safe Cosmetics 

Vanilla Macadamia-Oil Body Scrub

This energizing scrub will help exfoliate and moisturize skin during dry winter months.

Vanilla Macadamia-Oil Body Scrub

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup macadamia oil (1/2 cup olive oil is also good)
  • 1/4 cup sweet-almond oil
  • 2 tbs. raw honey
  • 1 tbs. vanilla extract (if you prefer to customize the scent, use three to five drops of your favorite essential oil)

Directions

  1. Gently mix all ingredients together in a 4-ounce sterilized dark glass jar.
  2. Cover and store in a cool, dark location for up to two weeks.
  3. To apply, start with about a tablespoon of the scrub and rub in small circles, beginning from hands or feet and working toward the chest and heart area. Leave on as a body mask for five minutes, then rinse clean. (Be careful in the shower — the macadamia oil can make the floor slick.)

Ingredient Benefits

  1. Brown sugar stimulates circulation and promotes lymphatic-system drainage.
  2. Macadamia oil moisturizes and firms skin while discouraging wrinkle and stretch-mark formation.
  3. Sweet-almond oil contains vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps fight free radicals.
  4. Raw honey is moisturizing and antibacterial.

Source: Nicolle Mackinnon, editor at the nontoxic-beauty websites NoMoreDirtyLooks.com and EcoDivaBeauty.com

One-Ingredient Treatments

  • Coconut oil makes an excellent all-purpose body moisturizer, removes eye makeup, and is great for cleansing the face.
  • Use moist, cold chamomile tea bags or cold cucumber slices to treat puffy eyes.
  • Mash and apply avocado to hair or face for a rich moisturizing mask.
  • Use apple-cider vinegar as a hair rinse for shine; it also helps cleanse hair of accumulated products and can help diminish dandruff.
  • Apply raw honey to your face for a hydrating mask.

Feed Your Face: A DIY-Skincare Shopping List

  • Raw honey
  • Lemons
  • Cucumbers
  • Coconut oil
  • Olive oil
  • Sweet-almond oil
  • Sesame oil
  • Baking soda
  • Raw apple-cider vinegar
  • Plain full-fat yogurt with live cultures
  • Ground ginger
  • Chamomile or peppermint tea bags

Play It Safe

Many people are motivated to make their own cosmetics because of the sorry state of regulations for personal-care products in the United States.

“Sadly, nobody is minding the health and beauty aisle,” says Janet Nudelman, cofounder and director of the Breast Cancer Fund’s Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. “Cosmetics are one of the least regulated consumer products on the market today. Under the current system, an industry-funded and self-policing body, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) panel, reviews cosmetic ingredients for safety. CIR has evaluated less than 20 percent of the 12,500 ingredients used in cosmetics.”

And there’s more. “Under the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, the FDA can’t require safety assessments, and can’t even require product recalls,” Nudelman says.

The European Union opts for regulations that favor proven safety over proven harm, which is friendlier to consumer health. “The United States bans or restricts only 11 ingredients for use in cosmetics, while the EU has restrictions on more than 1,300 ingredients,” says Nicolle Mackinnon, who works with the nontoxic beauty sites NoMoreDirtyLooks.com and EcoDivaBeauty.com.

“We’re a little behind the times, given that the average woman uses 12 personal-care products a day — which contain an average total of 168 potentially toxic ingredients.” (For more on the risks of conventional skincare, see “Beauty Beware“.)

Photography by: Andrea D'Agosto, Illustrations and styling by Alicia Buszczak

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