I tend to approach health and food trends with an open-minded skepticism. Sure, I’ll try oil pulling or short-term juicing since it’s pretty obvious it won’t kill me, and I even did a stretch of “clean eating” that nixed all the dairy, gluten, caffeine, and alcohol from my life for 30 days. But I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist, so I try not to do anything too weird without a good reason and a decent amount of research. I don’t want to live in a world without butter and avocados and coconut oil, but I can stick to moderation and food that doesn’t come in a box for the most part.

For all that care, however, what I hadn’t done is put much thought into what touched my skin. I’m no cover girl, but still it seems kind of silly to put so much thought into what goes into my mouth and then turn around and smear things on my body without reading the labels. And as with food, once you start reading labels things get questionable pretty quickly.

So without being a zealot about it, I’ve started playing around with cosmetic alternatives that, even if I wouldn’t literally eat them, are a little closer to the ground. To be clear, this doesn’t necessarily make them a good idea, and I would strongly caution every reader to use your own common sense when experimenting. For example, most of the DIY deodorant recipes I’ve come across have a significant level of baking soda in them which painfully irritates my skin. Just because you make something in your kitchen does not mean that it’s a safe(r) alternative to commercial products.

Rainbow Henna

Dying my hair with my usual drugstore box of color seemed ill advised if I was getting serious about chemicals on my skin, so I tried out this henna which I found at Whole Foods. Mountain Rose Herbs also sells henna in a variety of tones.

DIY deoderant

I’m still looking for the recipe that works for me. This (going even lighter on the soda, but not omitting it completely which removes effectiveness, I found) is the last one I tried. Closer, but not quite.

DIY cosmetics

Most of the products I’ve tried take only a few minutes to assemble and package and, once you’ve stocked a few key ingredients, are fairly cheap to make. Mix arrowroot and white kaolin clay with a bit of cocoa to make a respectable face powder, mix it with a bit of activated charcoal and you get an attractive smokey eyeshadow. Cracking out a small army of lip glosses tinted with alkanet (way better than beet powder!) was child’s play; my attempt to mix activated charcoal into a similar base to get a decent eyeliner was slightly less successful, but definitely educational!

Of all the products I’ve attempted, however, none has felt as sophisticated as the moisturizer I made from a recipe designed by Rosemary Gladstar. For those in the crowd who have made mayonnaise, this project was a similar level of difficulty. The key to successful emulsion seems to be patience. Make sure your oils have cooled to room temperature! (I took this another step and set my glass measuring cup of waters in a bowl of hot water to warm it up some while I waited.) Result: beautiful cream right out of the gate! While this moisturizer does seem to take a few extra seconds to absorb fully into the skin than commercial products, when used sparingly on the face and generously elsewhere, it leaves my skin feeling satiny and in no way greasy. My destroyed winter hands are especially happy.

Do you have any DIY cosmetic tips or tricks to pass my way? Anything you’d like to learn to DIY at home?

Blending moisturizer

Rosemary’s Perfect Cream
The original recipe as found in Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health offers various substitution options, so do check that if you want more ideas. This is the breakdown I followed.

2/3 cup distilled water, room temperature
1/3 cup aloe vera gel
2 drops lavender essential oil

1/4 apricot oil (w/vitamin E added)
1/2 cup sweet almond oil
1/6 cup coconut oil
1/6 cup cocoa butter
.8 ounces grated beeswax

Combine the water, aloe, and essential oil in a glass measuring cup. Set aside.

Measure the oils, cocoa butter, and beeswax into a double boiler (I suspend a metal bowl over a small sauce pan filled with about an inch of boiling water) and heat gently until melted. Transfer melted liquid to your blender’s carafe and allow to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally to gauge progress. (As I mentioned above, I also took the chill off my winter room temperature waters by setting the glass measuring cup in a bowl of hot water. I’m not sure this was strictly necessary, but it didn’t seem like it would hurt my chances for success.)

When oils have reached the desired temperature, secure lid and turn on blender at highest setting. Add the water/aloe mixture through the top access hole in a slow and steady stream. When 3/4 of the water has been added, monitor the cream in the blender. At a certain point, it will thicken and pull above the blades, no longer accepting more liquid. Stir by hand to make sure all oils and water are incorporated evenly and transfer to storage jars.

Cream will thicken as it sets. Store covered in a cool location.

UPDATE: Even only using the cream with clean hands post-shower, eventually my cream did spoil before it was completely used up. Making smaller batches and sharing with friends helps, but I found that there is a shelf life to observe here.