There are compelling reasons to make your own skin care products. Evidence continues to mount that skincare products are brimming with unsafe ingredients. Even many reputable "natural" brands found in health food stores targeted at infants and adults may harbor harmful ingredients linked to cancer, reproductive toxicity, allergies, neurotoxicity and fertility problems.
Toxic chemicals are used to make the product smell and feel good, to create a good appearance, to extend the shelf-life, and to create a desired texture or consistency – but at what cost? In the case of sunscreen, the chemicals are added to supposedly keep us safe from sun damage, but do they really work and are they safe?
All of these chemicals below are commonly found in commercial skincare products, including those marketed for infants and/or labelled “organic” or “natural”.
Phthalates are industrial chemicals used in plastics as well as skincare products. Studies have should that they can reduce fertility, and inhibit normal sexual development by blocking the action of key hormones. A recent research study by Dr. Sheela Sathyanarayana of the University of Washington found seven or more phthalates in the urine of eighty-one percent of children under 2.5 years. Reported in the Journal of Pediatrics, the study noted that the use of infant skincare products was associated with increased concentrations.
These are a related group of chemicals used to prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi in many products. Studies have shown a link between these chemicals and breast tumours.
These agents may be indicated on the ingredient label as polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyethylene, polyoxyethylene, oxynol, myreth, oleth, laureth, ceteareth, the prefix "PEG" or "eth" in ingredient listings. The chemicals are considered carcinogenic (a substance capable of causing cancer) as well as a potential neurotoxin (a substance capable of damaging the brain and nervous system). Scarily, these ingredients are found in many leading “natural” skin care products.
These agents can be toxic to the respiratory system, cause allergies and negatively affect the immune system. If listed, they can be found on ingredient labels as methylchloroisothiazolinone, methylisothiazolinone and other ingredients containing "chloro" or "methyl."
Research has shown these agents to impact on the brain`s neural circuitry, potentially affecting mental development.
The good news is you have choices, including buying products from highly ethical companies known to avoid these toxins. If you go that route, ensure you do your research and don't assume that products labelled “organic” or “natural” or “free of petra-chemicals and parabens” means they are safe.
Your other choice? Making your own skincare products for the whole family. That way you know for sure what is in them and, once you have the necessary components and some experience, you will find that it saves you money and takes up very little time. You can also tweak the formulations for your own particular needs and skin-type. It's like preparing food from scratch. You can avoid ingredients, such as preservatives, that you or your family members are allergic to, and choose the best ingredients in terms of quality, purity and sustainability. You can also use things from the fridge, kitchen cupboard or garden and you can also choose the aroma. Best of all, you can have fun experimenting.
One of the worst culprits for using damaging chemicals is sunscreen, but it is considered an essential product in Australia. However, according to a study by Skin Deep, sunscreen products are not offering the protection from the sun they claim and have dangerous ingredients. In fact many experts now argue that commercial sunscreen products (including “natural” ones) are more dangerous that the sun itself. Recent research has shown that there is an increased number of children in recent years who are Vitamin D (an essential vitamin for good health) deficient due to parents overzealous efforts to keep sun off their skin.
A more sensible approach, according to many skincare experts, is to expose our bare skin to early morning or late afternoon sun every day for short periods. Burning our skin is not healthy, so if we know we are going to be outside for long periods then we can use our own natural sunscreen (see below), cover-up, and use shade.
Recipe for sunscreen:
Add the beeswax, butter and oil into a double boiler - a glass bowl sitting on top of a pot with boiling water turned to a low simmer. Once the oils are melted, remove the bowl and add the zinc oxide powder. Mix with a regular hand mixer or a stick blender. Make sure you thoroughly blend in the zinc oxide so there are no clumps, and to whip the oils just a bit. Once it is smooth, pour into glass mason jars.
Buy a bag of cornmeal. Take a tablespoon of that and a tablespoon of olive oil and one drop of lavender. Exfoliate your face. Then use a hot flannel to wipe it off.
Buy a normal jar of sea salt. If it's a bit coarse then grind it down. Add any kind of oil, a drop of lavender and a drop of rose oil. Beforehand dry-skin brush the body, brushing towards the heart.
Get hold of some good-quality coconut oil. Add one drop of jasmine and rose oil (for mature skin) to a tablespoon of the coconut oil. You only need a small dab for the entire face.
Use olive oil. Rub it into your face with your hands, over your eye make-up. Then soak a flannel in warm water, add a few drops of lavender oil and just wipe it off twice for a deeper cleanse.
A gentle exfoliating mask to be made fresh and used at once. Strawberries are packed full of antioxidants and cream contains lactic acid, a natural skin brightener. Mix 20g of organic ground oats, three large ripe organic strawberries, 5ml or 1tbsp of organic light cream (or soya cream) and one drop of organic geranium essential oil. Apply to damp skin and leave for five minutes.
Oatmeal clears clogged pores. An anti-inflammatory, onions help heal acne scars. For approximately 8 applications, mix 1 ounce. purified mineral water, 3 tablespoons. plain organic oatmeal and 1 medium onion, peeled. Boil water and pour over oatmeal, letting steep for five minutes. Finely grind onion in a food processor, making a smooth puree. Add to the oatmeal while still warm. If the mask is not thick enough, add some honey or green clay until the mask is thick enough to sit comfortably on your face.
The solution will stay fresh for one week in the refrigerator.
Combine oils (squeeze vitamin E oil out of capsule after puncturing) and beeswax in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat on medium power, checking every 15 to 20 seconds until completely melted. Add boiling water a bit at a time, using a wire whisk to blend carefully. Keep adding and mixing until your desired thickness is achieved. May use less or more water depending on personal preferences, just keep in mind that it will thicken as it cools.
Set aside to cool and then pour into bottles. Vitamin E is a natural preservative that will help maintain shelf life.
Variations: add a few drops of your favourite essential oil to leave your skin with a light fragrance.
Make a herb infusion by pouring boiling water over herbs. Let steep in covered container from 1 to 8 hours. Strain in fine sieve or through cloth. Reheat infusion water; dissolve grated soap in hot water. Melt oil of choice into hot liquid. You may choose to use a mixer or blender to incorporate the soap and oil into the water. Cool. Blend in essential oils. Use additional water if necessary. Store in lidded container, shake well before using.
Blend ingredients well. Shake before using.
What you put on your baby and toddler’s skin is especially important as their developing bodies are uniquely vulnerable, but also because their hands and feet often end up in their mouths. They literally eat the products you put on them!
Herbs, natural oils and some simple pantry staples can create effective and exquisite formulas that pamper and soothe your baby. Try these recipes for quick and easy better baby lotions and potions.
Milk is a soothing, moisturizing bath additive that gently cleanses the skin. (If your child is allergic to cow’s milk, use goat’s milk as a substitute.)
Combine ingredients and stir. Sprinkle a small amount in a warm bath. Chamomile and lavender essential oils are naturally calming.
Combine all ingredients well – an easy method is to place all ingredients in a plastic sandwich bag, seal it shut and combine the ingredients by kneading the bag with your hands. Pour the powder into a recycled shaker jar or powder tin. Arrowroot powder can be found at health food stores – it gently helps soothe and dry damp areas, while the powdered lavender and chamomile are soothing, healing and help prevent bacterial growth. Helpful hint: grind chamomile and lavender into a fine powder using a clean coffee grinder, food processor or blender.
Vegetable oils are far more nourishing, soothing and moisturizing than mineral oils. This makes an excellent after-bath or anytime moisturizer, and also works well to gently loosen and heal cradle cap or eczema. This oil also makes a wonderfully soothing natural massage oil.
Cut open or pierce the vitamin E capsules, and squeeze the vitamin E oil into the base oil. Stir or shake the oils until they are combined. Place in a recycled squeeze bottle and use as needed in the bath, as a lotion or massage oil. Vitamin E is a natural antioxidant and has many healing properties. It’s an excellent moisturizer, wound healer and is extremely soothing to dry, chapped or irritated skin.
Cradle cap isn’t pretty, but it won’t hurt your baby. You can help coax the flakes away by rubbing a small amount of herbal baby oil onto your baby’s scalp. Leave the oil on your baby’s scalp for about 15 minutes, then gently comb out the loose flakes with a soft baby brush.
Whirl oats in a blender or food processor until they are reduced to powder. Sprinkle powder into the bath and swirl. You will be amazed at the softness of the water and of your baby’s skin.
Cut roll in half and remove centre cardboard. In container, mix liquid ingredients, and place half of roll in container, cut side down. Place on lid, seal tightly and tip upside down. To use, pull out from centre.
Our skin is the biggest organ in our body. Not only can it be affected by what we put on it but it is also an agent of absorption, simply meaning that what we put on the outside of our body quickly finds it's way inside, and into our bloodstream. With this knowledge (and a little bit of effort) we can avoid using chemically-laden products on our family member’s precious skin and enjoy the health benefits.