• Homemade

DIY sun cream and other cosmetics

Making your own cosmetics, it seems as though everyone is at it. The internet is swarming with DIY recipes and websites with complete instructions on how to make creams and shampoos. Het Parool asked me for my thoughts on this subject. Can it do any harm to make your own cream, lip balm or scrub?

How did this trend begin?

In my opinion making cosmetics yourself is not something new. I think it is just that people have become more critical over the last few years about what they use. That is why there is especially a demand for everything to be ‘natural’.
Another thought behind the idea of making your own products is that ‘a lot of nonsense is being sold’ in the cosmetics branch. I can endorse those thoughts in part. My own blog and scientific search for good ingredients ultimately exists because of this. And so I can tell you that I, myself, question whether you are better off with ‘green’ home made recipes.

The right chemistry

Making a good cosmetic product is literally all about getting the right chemistry. You cannot just throw all seemingly fine ingredients together. Does the formulation make a stable mixture? And is your end product then still effective? Won’t the various substances react with each other and produce new unwanted chemicals? How does the product behave under different conditions? For instance, if it is warm or likewise cold or cooling down?

If you are going to be using different phases, such as dry and liquid substances, then you may need emulsifiers. And if you want to make a product, such as cream that will last longer, then you will need preservatives. Because what you don’t want is to be spreading bacteria onto your skin as well.

There are websites, by the way, supplying complete recipes. Including instructions and videos showing you step by step how to go about it. You can then purchase all the required ingredients from the supplier. Then the question is how ‘self-made’ it still is.

Be careful with ‘pure nature’ on your skin

It is, of course, nice to experiment with some oils and a mortar and pestle. It is quite simple to make a lip balm or mask yourself. I sometimes do that too. Those of you who follow my blog may well at some point have seen such a ‘skin-garden-and-kitchen recipe’. With ingredients such as papaya or avocado. Do be careful though with recipes using natural products. Not everything which is (or seems) ‘green’ is automatically good and safe for your skin. There are a number of natural substances which can cause irritating reactions.

Ingredients which are best to avoid in your (home-made) products are, for instance, essential oils, such as bergamot, citronella, peppermint and lavender oil. These botanic raw materials are not so much dangerous but can cause irritation. And as I have explained before, chronic irritation of the skin actually causes ageing.

Oat is a good example of a natural product with a proven effect on the skin. Just like honey and coconut oil. You can make a great face mask with these three ingredients. Do apply straightaway then and don’t keep it for later in the week…

Making your own sun cream: don’t do it!

What I do have big reservations about, however, is making your own sun cream. There are already very many DIY’s for this on Pinterest and all sorts of beauty blogs. People usually use a natural oil as the base, a soft butter or something from aloe vera, and then zinc oxide (such as the salve used for babies bottoms) as a sun filter. That really isn’t a good idea. I even think it is dangerous!

Although these ingredients do have some protecting and/or antioxidant effect on the skin, you don’t know how high the eventual SPF will be in such types of home mixture. There are, for instance, factors which affect the degree of protection. The size of the sun filter particles you have used, the degree of clumping, how spreadable it is and much more.
But I have also come across other sun cream recipes on websites and beauty blogs where I ask myself if all of the substances mix well together. And did you know that there is also a long list of ingredients which are phototoxic; they therefore react in light and can cause irritable skin reactions?

Believe me, developing a sun cream product with stable sun filters is still a complex and expensive process. That cannot just be replicated in the kitchen.

Kind regards,

Research Physician Cosmetic Dermatology

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