Learning to make your own skincare - where to start!

Learning how to make your own natural skincare is one of the most rewarding and empowering skills you can master.

Why should we learn this skill?

We truly believe that making your own skincare is a useful skill to have just like cooking. The skin is after all the largest organ, so it deserves fresh, healthy and nourishing ingredients.

One of the major problems with today’s skincare products is that they are highly toxic. Most skincare products today contain very harsh ingredients. These ingredients like BPA, synthetic fragrances, parabens, phthalates, and other unnatural, toxic substances are linked to everything from chronic disease to skin irritation.

So, being able to master this skill gives you better control and knowledge of what you are feeding your skin!

Being able to whip up your own fluffy body butter, or blend your own botanical toner, or mix together your own organic serum will see you start to turn your back on store-bought formulations. In fact, you may never again buy a cleanser, once you know how much fun and easy it is to make your own natural skin care products from scratch!

But there’s also a good chance that you’re worried about following many of the DIY instructions that you can find online when you’re learning how to make natural skin care products. (This was my reason to learn skincare formulation professionally)

After all, you don’t want to create unsafe, unstable (or potentially unsellable) skincare formulations based on a recipe you’ve found on the internet; instead you want to formulate professional organic skincare that actually works.

What do I need to get started?

We always recommend starting simple, researching into each ingredient, remembering the purpose of the product (you don’t want to use expensive essential oils in a shower gel as they get rinsed off) and at every step making mental notes of how the ingredients smell, feel and mix into your formulation. Being in the moment when formulating is a good practice of mindfulness!   

Step 1. Choose your Ingredients

Important things to look at in ingredients is their solubility, aroma, colour, skin compatibility and sustainability. We encourage new learners to approach skincare formulation as an art as well as a science – taking inspiration from anywhere: colours, flavours, countries, music, nature, words, emotions and seasons. Choose a few ingredients that really appeal to you, research them and then start simple.

Also, and this is very important, please don’t ever buy very expensive ingredients when you first start to make natural skincare products. You will likely experience plenty of formulation disasters, so it’s best to start as simple as you can.

Step 2. Make Natural Skincare Products

Now that you have a rough idea of the types of ingredients you want to work with, it’s time to decide which natural skincare product you’re going to make. The world is your oyster: you can choose to make butters, balms, lotions, serums, gels, masks, scrubs, oils, cleansers, creams, toners, moisturisers.

Start Simple and Anhydrous

If you’re new to making natural skincare products, we always recommend starting simple and safe. The best way to do this is by making anhydrous skincare formulations, which don’t contain any water, so won’t need any preservation. Examples of anhydrous formulations are body butters, face oils, balm cleansers, lip balms or powdered masks.

Keep reading for a free recipe for body-butter!

The reason we encourage you to start anhydrous is because oil-based formulations aren’t breeding grounds for microbes and don’t need to be preserved. They do however require an antioxidant such as Vitamin E or Rosemary CO2 extract, which will slow down the process of your oils and butters going rancid.

Initially, your balms might be grainy, your emulsions might split, your essential oils might not blend with your toners and your cleansers might not foam, but practise makes perfect and before you know it, you’ll have a gorgeous thin lotion to use for yourself or to give to friends & family. Practise makes Perfect, as the saying goes!

Step 3. Learn about Natural Preservation

When you decide to make natural skin care products, you need to have a plan for making safe formulations and that means deciding whether or not you want to use preservatives.

The choice is simple: you either make only anhydrous formulations, which don’t need a preservative, or you make natural skin care products that contain water, which will need a preservative if you want them to have a shelf life of longer than a week. You should also consider how you will preserve products that will have water introduced to them, such as an oil-based salt scrub that you might keep in the shower.

We could point you towards thousands of unsafe recipes online, which ask you to blend together water-based ingredients without a preservative, which could go moldy and encourage microbial growth within a matter of days. You simply do not want to be rubbing microbes all over your face, which is why it’s so important to get the safety right.

And let’s not forget that the risk of using preservatives is significantly lower than that of using unpreserved water-based cosmetics.

Our Natural Preservation Checklist:

The best way to choose a natural preservative is:

• Check that your natural preservative has broad-spectrum activity against bacteria, fungus and yeast. Does it need to be paired with another preservative to fully protect your formulation? You don’t want to use a preservative that only works against one type of microorganism and lets another type proliferate in your lotion.

• Make sure that your natural preservative is compatible with your formulation. Does it have the right solubility? Does it have the right pH range? These are all trickier components of making natural skincare products, but an online formulation course such as Formula Botanica’s Diploma in Organic Skincare Formulation can help explain many of these concepts in detail.

• How long a shelf life does it give your natural skincare product? If you intend to keep your lotion for over a year but your preservative only works for 3-6 months, you may need to consider changing your choice.

• How easy is it to work with this natural preservative? Does it require boosters or need to be dissolved at a certain temperature? Try to make your life as simple as possible when choosing the right preservative.

Step 4. Set up your Workspace

Even if you’re making formulations for your own use, you want to make sure that you have a sanitised and clean workspace, so you can prevent contamination from occurring. After all, you don’t want to order lots of beautiful botanical ingredients, spend ages learning how to create your own serum and then contaminate it with the kitchen dishcloth!

In other words, if you want to make natural skin care products at home, you’ll need to set up a workspace, which really shouldn’t be your kitchen unless you can properly sanitise your entire workspace and keep it clean each time you formulate.

The most important points to remember are:

Implement Good Hygiene

Keep your working area clean, tidy, well ventilated and free of food, drink, smoke and any illnesses or infections. Check, clean and maintain the equipment you use before and after every time you make natural skin care products. And always wash your hands!

Safety First

Be safe in how you handle skincare ingredients, equipment and products in your workspace. Although natural skincare products will contain ingredients that are generally very safe on the skin, you may occasionally be working with ingredients that could cause sensitisation if they were applied neatly, such as many essential oils. Make sure you always use proper personal protective equipment such as aprons and gloves, which are inexpensive and easy to buy on Amazon.

Good Storage

Maintain good storage for your ingredients, as well as your finished natural skincare products. Store your ingredients in the fridge or in a cool, dark space (follow the storage conditions set by your supplier). Keep your finished formulations stored in a sealed and safe environment away from direct heat and light and labeled properly.

Happy formulating!

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