As the recent news regarding the safety of commercial sunscreen hit the global news outlets yesterday, I did some research into it and as a skin care formulator and product safety advocate I found that there are numerous risks in making your own DIY sunscreens. I experimented with it last summer. It seems simple enough to do, but there are other risks involved in the process. I spoke with my peers at the School of Natural Skincare and The Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetics Guild and they all unilaterally stated do not make DIY sunscreens. There are tons of recipes on the web, but here is what you need to know about the risks of DIY sunscreens and how to buy commercial mineral-based sunscreens.
The study in question Effect of Sunscreen Application Under Maximal Use Conditions on Plasma Concentration of Sunscreen Active Ingredients A Randomized Clinical Trial shows that many chemicals contained in sunscreens penetrate the skin and enter the bloodstream very quickly. You might wonder how the FDA could approve such chemicals. Initially, sunscreens were developed to be used for short periods of time on vacation or at the beach and not meant for daily use. The problem is that many of the chemicals even when used short term enter the blood stream and can be hormonal disrupters and can cause other health issues
These are the ingredients to avoid in commercial sunscreens:
It is not all bad news though, there are plenty of commercial mineral-based sunscreens that are safe for your whole family. I reviewed the ingredients for the sunscreens listed below and they do not contain the aforementioned dangerous chemicals. They can be bought on Amazon, Whole Foods or any type of organic market.
But What About DIY Sunscreen?
Now you may be tempted to make your own DIY sunscreen. There are some natural ingredients that have are purported to have a natural SPF. DIY sunscreens might help to prevent sunburn, but they do not have the ingredients that block UV rays and reduce skin cancer risks and they are not waterproof.
Sunscreens have physical and chemical UV filters, unfortunately, many of those chemical UV filters are on the list above. Those can be avoided by using sunscreen with natural mineral UV filters like Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide. To simplify, chemical UV filters penetrate the skin to protect it from UV rays, while mineral UV filters sit on top of the skin and reflect UV rays away from it.
While Zinc Oxide is commercially available, it is hard to work with and clumps together making its coverage uneven so UV rays can still penetrate the skin leading to skin cancer risks. To properly blend, a sunscreen formulation with zinc oxide you would need professional cosmetic equipment like a homogenizer, which can cost upwards of $1,000 or more because a normal stick blender won't suffice. That said, the information that is passed around about the SPF of carrier oils is not conclusive enough to warrant them to be effective sunscreens.
Read DIY sunscreen: why you should NOT make your own sunscreen by the School of Natural Skincare for a more in depth analysis on how sunscreens work and why they do not recommend making your own DIY sunscreen.
All sunscreens have to be rigorously lab tested due to FDA regulations in order to determine SPF. This is quite cost prohibitive costing upwards of $5,000 or more.
My advice is to avoid products with the list of dangerous chemicals above and to use natural mineral based sunscreen instead of attempting to make you own DIY sunscreen.
I have been a little quiet lately, but that is because I am up to a lot of exciting new endeavors. First and foremost, I bought a house and am settling and moving on November 5th. I am super excited to have a larger facility to make my products, have small workshops, and facilitate client consultations.
Here are some other exciting things to note for November and December 2018:
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Do you know what the average shelf life of a water-based product with essential oils is before it starts "going bad?" Even if you refrigerate it? THREE DAYS! That is, if you do not use a preservative! I started using Benzylalcohol-DHA which Making Cosmetics describes as "a broad-spectrum preservative blend consisting of benzylalcohol (aromatic alcohol) (87%), dehydroacetic acid (8%) & water (5%) and is an effective alternative to parabens. It is soluble in water, alcohols & glycols." This is the natural preservative that I chose to use in all of my water-based products. That includes things like hydrosols, aloe vera, and other water-based extracts.
I knew you needed to use preservatives in hydrous products, but I didn't know how fast things start to degrade without it and how prone they become to microbial growth. You can also add antioxidants like Vitamin E Oil and Rosemary Antioxidant (which is a plant extract and not an essential oil) to properly ensure your products shelf life, but they do not act as preservatives on their own. I used to make my own foaming hand soap with a simple recipe using distilled water, castile soap, and essential oils -- without any preservatives. Guess what, that all natural soap I made would be floating with microbial growth in a matter of days!
There are preservative calculators that can assist you in figuring out the correct weight to add to your finished products. I like the one from HumbleBee & Me, but you need to keep in mind that it is basing the weight in grams, which is the standard unit of measurement for making topical cosmetic applications. There are also conversion tools available to figure out the total weight in grams if you are using ounces. One ounce roughly equals 28.3495 grams. Most kitchen or lab scales can be adjusted to switch from ounces to grams as well.
There are many FDA regulations in place when it comes to legally selling hydrous products -- those being products that contain any type of water-based ingredient. I started using Sagescript Institute, LLC in Colorado to test my products. Sagescript states, "The FDA does not require any microbiology testing but it is a responsible thing to do to protect your formula and your customer. The FDA does say that a cosmetic should not be adulterated which is interpreted as meaning it should not contain harmful bacteria or fungus." All this means is that if you are making and selling products, you are liable for them. Pro tip: It is also a good idea to get yourself some business and personal liability insurance. The Indie Business Network and The Handcrafter's Soap and Cosmetics Guild offer discounts as a membership benefit.
Each product will cost between $28 and $32 for microbial testing. You package and label your samples and mail them to the lab, they test them, and then send you the report. The whole process can take about 2-3 weeks. It is recommended that even if you are using the same base ingredients, but make a slight variation to the coloring, essential oils, or fragrance oils that you should also have those products tested too -- even though they will most likely yield the same results as the base products that were originally tested.
Preservatives exist for a reason and the natural ones will conform to your personal or philosophical standards that you may adhere to in your product creation process. There are numerous natural preservatives available on the market in the US, UK, and Europe. When in doubt, if it has any water or water-based products in it, use a preservative!
This summer I have been working on my Natural Skincare Formulation Diploma program through the School of Natural Skincare in the UK. It has been an amazing experience in learning more about all the other components of high end botanical skincare products. I already had a solid foundation in my understanding of essential oils for skincare through my aromatherapy certifications, and the additional education has been very enlightening.
Natural skincare provided my formal entrance into the world of aromatherapy. I started making basic skincare products two years ago--which is hard to believe--and really love crafting natural products using essential oils. I have expanded my original practice which was just a day cream, night cream, and undereye roller to include so many wonderful products, which I am working on putting up on my online store.
Suffice it to say, moving to all natural facial and skincare products has really changed my life. Take care of your skin, folks!
On the left, here I am at age 41 without makeup before incorporating natural skincare products into my life, and on the right, here I am at age 43, with no makeup after two years of using natural skincare products. I can't get over how bad my eyes used to look - puffy, red, dark circle, lines and whatnot. At some point last year, I even tried Botox, which didn't really make any noticeable difference. I wish I had photos in the same lighting situation, but I moved last year, so that changed and I also got a new phone.
My current facial care regimen includes:
I'm currently working on a facial/body beauty balm for glowing skin. I don't think that I would use it daily or maybe I would use it combined with the Ultra Restorative Body Lotion.
I love working with natural skincare products and it is one of my primary passions. I cannot stress the importance enough of taking care of your skin, especially with the changes that come with aging. I used to be a "I just wash my face with water" girl and never moisturized... and as you can see in the photos above, what a difference it has made!
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It's no secret that I really love making my own beauty and skincare products. I've made a lot of sugar scrubs and decided to branch out into sea salt scrubs. I did some research about making scrubs using Himalayan Sea Salt, which you can find at Whole Foods or Amazon. I used Peppermint and Grapefruit in this recipe, but you can experiment with other essential oils combinations that are good for the skin.
Salt scrubs like this can help to detox, reduce cellulite, and nourish the skin. This recipe also uses sweet almond oil which will help moisturize the skin. You can also use other carrier oils like coconut oil. The castile soap will cleanse the skin. Himalayan Sea Salt in particular, is rich is minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron.
Grapefruit essential oil stimulates the lymphatic system and reduces excess water weight. Please be mindful of two things: grapefruit is a photosensitive oil, so if you have sensitive skin it can react to sunlight, but in the case of the scrub you will be washing it from your face so there shouldn't be any issues. If you are on medications, ingesting grapefruit in any form can cause your medications to absorb superfast which can cause problems. I take extended release Adderall so I wouldn't want it to absorb too fast.
Peppermint oil energizes you and also is beneficial for the skin by aiding in the balance of oil production, which is great for me since my skin tends to be oily by nature. If your skin is dry or sensitive you can use oils that are complimentary to your skin type.
The Himalayan Sea Salt Scrub can be used all over your body or in targeted areas.
Many thanks to all who attended my first Essential Oils Make & Take Workshop focusing on DIY skincare products. I've provided links to the recipes below.
I get asked a lot of questions about what to use for dark circles and lines under and around the eyes. I made a serum over the fall that has worked really well for me. I put it on at night usually after using my night cream first.
I've previously tried numerous eye creams and concealers and nothing worked for me and I was wasting a lot of money. That's when I decided to try out using essential oils with Vitamin E and Sweet Almond Oil. I spent a lot of time complaining about how bad my under eyes looked until I realized that I hadn't complained about it in quite some time.
At the beginning of my journey, I took a selfie as a reference point in October. Apologies for the inconsistent lighting, but I wasn't wearing makeup in the images below. In March, I decided to take an updated selfie with no makeup and was truly surprised by how different my under eyes looked and then took another reference shot last week for comparison. Mind you, I am almost 42 years old, so I am counting this as a win!
Benefits of Essential Oils on the Skin:
Who doesn't love getting a facial from time to time? Did you know that you can do them at home with all-natural ingredients and essential oils? I didn't either, but I did some research and found a combination of several recipes that work great for doing an at home DIY facial. From start to finish, it will take about an hour to do. Enjoy!
Make sure that you face is washed using a gentle scrub. I like using a sugar scrub, you can use any combination of gentle essential oils for your skin type with the scrub. You will probably want to pull your hair back with a headband so that you don't get stuff in it too.
Then proceed to using a pumpkin enzyme peel to remove dead skin and unclog the pores. The consistency of the pumpkin puree, milk and honey should be thick enough to spread evenly over your skin. Let the peel sit on the face for 15 minutes and then drape a hot/warm washcloth over your face and hold it there so that the enzymes and steam will open your pores.
Use a deep pore cleansing clay mask that cleanses the pores and removes any impurities from skin.
Let the mask set for 15 minutes, but don't let it get crumbly on your face. You may need to adjust the balance of the apple cider vinegar and bentonite clay. Please note that the container and utensils used need to be non-metal because otherwise it will interact with the clay. After 15 minutes, hold the cloth over your face so that the steam will open the pores
A Honey Hydrating Mask after a clay mask allows for the moisturizing properties to better penetrate the skin, since all the impurities have been removed. Allow mask to dry on face for 15 minutes and then rinse it off with cool water.
After using a hydrating mask seal it in with a moisturizer. Use your normal moisturizer and massage it on your face by moving the hands up, never down. You never want to pull at the skin either. Even if you really want to, ignore the urge to squeeze or pop any blemishes.
Owner, Restorative Aromatics and NAHA Certified Aromatherapist Level One. This blog focuses on aromatherapy education and other essential oil related topics.