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.
Restorative Aromatics: Perfuming 101: Creating fragrance blends for perfumes and skincare products.
Time: Dec 2, 2018 7:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
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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!
Check out my store for more natural skincare and aromatherapy products
I wanted to share the facial cream recipe that I made because it is just that awesome. I am working on my aromatherapist certification and this was a practice recipe. It yields about 12 oz, so it makes A LOT. It is by far my favorite facial cream that I have ever made.
I noticed that since I am getting older that the skin on my neck was starting to feel rough and was feeling loose. But, never fear - There, in fact, is an oil for that! I did some research and made a neck firming serum, which I have been using for about a month now. I've noticed that in that time, my skin is starting to feel smoother and firmer.
Here is the recipe:
Geranium oil can help eliminate the appearance of scars and dark spots on the skin. It can also prevent the skin from sagging too or can be used to firm the skin over time. I use it in a few different DIY body care. It has a strong perfumey scent, but in this case mixes well with Cypress and Frankincense.
Frankincense oil promotes cellular health and is essential for the skin as it also helps to reduce the appearance of lines, wrinkles, scars and stretch marks. Overall Frankincense is great for calming and soothing the skin and is very gentle. I pretty much use it in all of my skin care products for these reasons.
Sweet Almond Oil is perfect for any skin type especially if you have sensitive skin, acne, eczema, dry, irritated, or oily skin; Almond Oil provides a plethora of hydrating benefits without agitating sensitive skin. Not only is it a perfect moisturizer, but Almond Oil also helps to restore the skins natural protective barrier. It moisturizes your skin and is versatile, so it works in many beauty recipes. It is high in vitamins A and E which nourishes your skin. Do not use sweet almond oil if you have a nut allergy. Sweet Almond Oil has a comedogenic rating of 2*.
*Comedogenic ratings as it pertains to carrier oils and essential oils is a determination of whether or not certain oils with a rating of 0-5 will cause your skin to breakout because of clogged pores.
I've been on vacation in Seattle and wanted to give the low down on what essential oils and rollers that I brought with me for the journey. I didn't have to worry too much about sunscreen and sunburn remedies since we were doing anything involving too much time out in the sun.
Since I live on the east coast and there is a three hour time difference (and I suffer from insomnia) packing sleep related oils is crucial. I made a mega sleep roller, which helped relax me during the 6 hour flight and helped keep my sleep schedule mostly normal all things considered. I also brought most of my sleep and relaxtion oils to diffuse at night. I brought the Orb USB diffuser since it is smaller than the Dewdrop diffuser.
I packed the following oils and DIY products:
My daily essential oil routines sometimes change, but I thought that I would go over how I use them on a daily basis.
In the morning, I apply my moisturizer and then do my makeup and get ready for work.
Once I get to work, I use various combinations of essential oils in my diffuser.
I wear different scents mixed with a carrier oil in a roller bottle. My emotional state has been in flux most centered on grief and sadness and some feelings of anxiety. These particular oils provide an uplifting aroma and help get me through the work day.
I have a couple other rollers I keep in my purse for emergency use in case I feel some head tension coming on or need an energy and focus boost to get over and through the late afternoon wall.
I tend to take baths and showers in the evening because I find them relaxing. I use my own DIY foaming body wash, sugar scrubs, and relaxing bath oils. Occasionally, I will switch out my sugar scrub for clay masks or Himalayan Salt Scrubs. I also use my own homemade bath bombs, which reminds me that I need to make another batch soon.
My night time routine is pretty intense. After I take a bath or shower, I apply moisturizer and an under eye serum for dark circles on my face. I also use a belly firming cream on my abdomen and stretch mark cream on my hips, lower abdomen, and thighs.
I am currently on a sleep restriction regime to help with insomnia and find myself puttering around my office/studio doing things until midnight so I usually have my diffuser going with various combinations and have been digging a mixture of mint oils with citrus ones.
Once I am ready for sleep, I diffuse oils that help to promote relaxation and sleep. I use a Sleepy foot rub. Then its lights out for me
The term Comedogenic as it pertains to carrier oils and essential oils is a determination of whether or not certain oils with a rating of 0-5 will cause your skin to breakout because of clogged pores. My skin is pretty resilient and I use Coconut Oil and Shea Butter in most of my skincare recipes. Essential oils on their own are non-comedogenic, but in most cases you will be using them with some sort of carrier oil. The types of commonly used carrier oils have comedogenic ratings from 0-5 based upon how likely they are to clog pores and cause breakouts.
Here is a breakdown of the ratings:
Here is a list of the most commonly used carrier oils and their comedogenic ratings:
If you end up with clogged pores and breakouts you can always use a deep pore cleansing mask on occasion and/or sugar scrubs or salt scrubs. The sugar and salt scrubs that I use contain a small amount of coconut oil, which helps prevent the sugar and salt from irritating my skin. The coconut oil can be replaced with Argan Oil or Fractionated Coconut Oil too. I alternate using them throughout the week.
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.
Owner, Restorative Aromatics and NAHA Certified Aromatherapist Level One. This blog focuses on aromatherapy education and other essential oil related topics.