There are so many tips, pointers, and tricks of the trade that can be extremely helpful when starting to delve into the world of making your own skin care products. While I'm very excited about writing about many of the tips and tricks I've discovered over the past many years, I'm going to focus on one simple aspect today. And that is this, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. This goes for many things. If a headline reads "make your own soap in 15 min!" it's a very good assumption that you are not actually going to be "making" anything, but most likely morphing something someone else made into another form. Like the ever popular "liquid soap" where you simply grate up bar soap and dissolve it in water. I hope I don't need to tell you that this results in a very stringy, goopy, downright nasty form of liquid soap, that leaves most people wishing they just had their bar of soap (and their hour of life) back. So don't be fooled. If you really want quality, natural homemade skin care products, you are going to have to put in the elbow grease to make it happen. It takes research, work, experimentation, and most of all MISTAKES! Don't be afraid to make a few (or quite a few) because it may take a few batches for you to get the hang of that "easy" recipe. If a recipe clams to be "easy lotion" and then only has coconut oil as the ingredient in it, (while you may like coconut oil rubbed on your skin) it will probably feel like just that... oil rubbed on your skin. Don't expect great things with no elbow grease.
It's also the same with container shopping. You may go online and find the perfect lotion jar to fill with your latest batch of body butter, and they are in gorgeous colors and at half the price you can find them anywhere else! Then once you get all the way through the checkout, you realize you have to buy 20,000 of them and the shipping from China is double what your actual order would be anyway! Now I am all for getting super deals, and while sometimes you can find a once in a lifetime deal on containers or ingredients, more likely that not, if the going rate for something is $2.00, there is a good reason no one else is selling it for .25 cents. Used is where the deals usually come in, but sadly "used" is not something that fits into natural skin care very well.
The other side of my "too good to be true" coin has to do less with how to, and more with ingredients. Be wary of companies who claim greatness from their ingredients. Or mark their products up two, three, or four times what other companies do claiming that their products are so superior that the mark up is worth it. No I'm not discounting all expensive ingredients, and some natural ingredients are just expensive, and there is no way to get around it. For example, pure rose oil is about $1,000.00 (yes thats a THOUSAND) an oz. But that is an exception, not the rule. The thing you have to always keep in mind, is there are few, if any regulations put on most natural ingredients, and supplements. Organic, is one of the few "absolute" standards in the natural world. The FDA has approved (and thus regulated) very few truly "natural" substances. Thus many of the claims and "standards" claimed by natural companies are self titles given. Again, I'm a HUGE proponent of natural products, and like to purchase and use high quality ingredients in my skin care lines, but I feel I would be doing a mis service not to offer a word of warning on this. Titles such as "100% pure", "All Natural", "Therapeutic Grade", "Better than Organic", and other such labels should be a warning. Not a warning that the product is inferior, just that it is very likely claims are being made and prices are being jacked up based on those claims, which would be fine if there were some sort of regulations, inspections, and accountability to verify the claims being made. While grand sounding, these titles have little to no meaning except to raise expectations and prices. Yes, there are definitions that go along with these titles, but no organization that monitors companies claiming these titles. According to the FDA, any natural products, such as oils and butters can claim to be "100% pure" if there is 5% of the ingredient in the product. Not very comforting huh? So how DO you go about deciding what ingredients to use and from what companies? Here are a few pointers I like to recommend to people who ask me.
First, look for "labels" that DO mean something and ARE regulated. Here are a few titles to look for: Certified Organic, Cold Pressed, Un-refined, First Distill (on essential oils), and Extra Virgin (for olive oil). The second thing is to look for companies that are honest about the corners they cut. Let's face it, all companies cut corners in one way or another. Whether it's about packaging, or dilution, or whatever it is, any major company is always looking to save money for themselves and the customers. What is important to look for is honesty. If an essential oil company will tell you which oils are first, second, third or "whole" distilled, and when working with the crazy expensive oils will tell you when they are diluted and in what, that is a good sign. If a company can be honest, and say that their rose oil is diluted with jojoba oil, then you can have the peace of mind that they are being honest with you and this oil is still all natural (not diluted with chemicals like many companies do to cut costs), and something you would want to put on your skin. It is very reasonable for companies to dilute oils that are hundreds or thousands of dollars per oz. to make them accessible to common folks like us. If a company can tell you that the reason their oil is cheaper is because it is diluted in a plant oil, is the second distill, or the third press, then you can decide if you are ok with a little less quality for a lower price. If a company does not differentiate between un-refined, refined, and ultra refined shea butter, but just tells you that theirs is the greatest and the best, it makes you wonder what they are trying to hide and which grade you are actually getting. It would seem that going with the company that claims everything is the greatest and the best and the most pure would be the best choice right? But the problem is everything can't be the best and the greatest and the purest. And when a company admits to no flaws, no diluting, but only gives out information on why their products are so much better than all the others on the market, that is a red flag. Proceed with caution. I'm not saying their products will be bad (although they very well could be) but that there might be a much higher price tag attached without any real added benefits to you.
And if a company is being honest about little things when they don't have to (because the FDA says 5% can be claimed as "pure") then it is a good sign of faith that they will be honest about other stuff too.
And there are times to cut corners and not use the super high quality products in skin care. For example, when making soap, using the top of the line ingredients and oils is not nearly as important as when making lotions or balms. The reason being of course that you are rinsing the soap right off your skin. You of course don't want harmful ingredients, but using a second distill peppermint oil for a soap, just for the scent and the warm tingly affect is perfectly reasonable, whereas for a balm where you are using the peppermint for muscle relief, you might want to use a low pressure first distilled oil so that more of the healing properties will be present.
So to sum it all up, don't be enamored with a company just because they claim to be the greatest and the best, but at the same time don't throw them out just because their prices are higher, there could be reasons for that.
And just because a company tells you they dilute an oil in another oil, or press something twice don't think they are cutting corners and offering you inferior products across the line. They may just be honest where other companies hide these details because they can.
So back to my original statement, both in the making, and in the ingredients themselves, if it sounds too good to be true... it probably is. Very few (if any) skin care products will take you 5 minutes to make, and very few oils or butters will take away all your wrinkles or age spots, or erase all scars.
But with that being said, the wonderful world of natural products is fantastic and wonderful! I hope you are excited and ready to jump into making your own natural skin care products! (even if it does take you more than 5 min. :-)