DIY skincare products and how to preserve them

So you want to make DIY skincare products.

If so, you have lots of company. The main question here is how to preserve them. This is even more important if you are thinking about making skincare products using natural ingredients and botanicals. Even DIYers should have a basic knowledge of how to preserve their products if they want them to remain safe and effective over time.

Why Is Preservation Important?

  • The ingredients themselves may have been contaminated by the supplier during extraction or transport.
  • You might inadvertently contaminate the product depending on where and how you create it (airborne particles, non-sterile utensils or containers, etc.)
  • The product may be improperly stored (high heat, improper container, exposure to sunlight, etc.)
  • The product may contain ingredients that require preservation like botanicals, clays and hydrosols, and there is none (more on this below
  • The product may have the right pH level for optimal growth (e.g. between 3 and 8)
  • Which Contaminants Do Preservatives Work On?

    There are three main contaminants – bacteria, yeast, and mold. The most common contaminants are:

    • Staph aureus – bacterium
    • E. coli – bacterium
    • Pseudomonas Euruginosa – bacterium
    • Candida albicans (yeast)
    • Aspergillus niger (mold)

    These organisms have the potential to cause serious problems – even more so if you are making DIY cosmetics which go near the eyes. Regardless of where they go, who wants to spread these little guys on the skin?!

    While there are some chemical compounds that protect against all three – like bleach – these are not candidates for skincare products. What usually happens is that manufacturers use a combination of preservatives that, when combined, effectively prevent bacteria, yeast and mold from growing in a formulation. Basically, wherever you have water, you have the potential to have one or more of these contaminants in your finished product. These organisms love water. Therefore, oil-in-water or water-in-oil emulsions MUST be preserved. Even if your product is refrigerated, the shelf life will be relatively short. You could get around this by using small containers (1 oz or smaller). However, if your product was already contaminated due to the situations mentioned above, these organisms can multiply in a relatively short period of time. Keep in mind that our skin hosts bacteria, so every time you dip your finger into the product, you are introducing contaminants. Why not be on the safe side?

    Which Preservatives Are Effective Against Bacteria, Yeast, and Mold?

    This requires that you do a little homework. There are many alternatives available to DIY crafters, and it’s important to review the details of each and to know the amounts that must be used. You may be asking if essential oils can be used as preservatives. The short answer is “No”. Essential oils are very potent plant extracts, and as such are difficult to standardize. They can also cause irritation in higher quantities, which you would probably need in order for them to work as preservatives. Thus, an essential oil combination that is effective against all three contaminants may be too overwhelming to be used in a skincare formulation. You will find a list of common preservatives in a link in the References.

    How To Prevent Contamination With DIY Skincare Products

    • Make your product oil-based or anhydrous – without water. Organisms cannot grow in an oil-based medium. The balms are all-purpose, super-moisturizing formulas containing antioxidants like Vitamin E and Rosemary oil, but no synthetic preservatives. Check out our body balms
    • Don’t introduce water into your product – whether it is oil-based or not. With oil-based products, once you introduce water, if they are not preserved, then organisms will grow. This is especially true for products like sugar scrubs. Although many are oil-based, if you use them in the shower and get water into them, they have become
    • Use tubes or airless containers for your products. This is becoming more popular among major skincare retailers for their water-based products, and for good reason. Products in tubes and airless containers are not exposed to dirty fingers or outside contamination. This allows them to last longer with less rancidity.
    • Adjust the pH of your product. One of the reasons why bar and liquid soap do not need preservatives is that their pH is generally 10 or above – not a friendly growth environment. The same goes for a pH below 4. It’s important to know what pH your final product is so that you can choose the right broad-spectrum preservative.
    • Use high-sugar, high-salt or glycerin in your products. Most bacteria and yeast need water to grow, and sugar and salt draw water out of product it’s in. Glycerin works similarly, but must be in too high a concentration (70%) to provide a pleasant feel. However, its moisturizing properties make it a popular ingredient in skincare products.

    Making your own skincare products can be instructional and fun. If done properly and with the right preservatives, you can craft something that you can be proud of, while ensuring safety. So whatever the reason for DIY skincare – whether it’s to avoid problematic chemicals like parabens, formaldehyde releasing preservatives, or fragrance, make sure that you do your homework and use techniques that will keep your product contaminant-free.

    Making Skincare website article on preservatives and resources
    Scientific American article on salt and sugar preservation
    Natural News article on parabens

    If you find yourself wondering if you should add a toner to your skincare routine, know that the answer to your question is not a direct “yes” or “no”. Although toners have been typically for oily skin types that need an extra cleansing boost, many of them are now packed with extra skincare benefits, like hydrating and soothing properties. Different toners have different benefits and these benefits depends on your skin type and the type of toner that you use.

    Dr. Alicia Zalka, a Yale-affiliated dermatologists states that “toners are not necessary, but they can be a great adjunct to a skincare regimen for those that need help with oily skin or markedly plugged pores.Toner is something I consider a second step of the cleansing process. The benefit is that, when used correctly, it can help remove excess oils and dead skin cells that may lurk on the face after washing. To some extent a toner can help other skin applications penetrate more rapidly.”  

    What do toners do?

    A toner’s purpose is to do a complete cleanse of the skin and refine pores. Toners remove dust, pollution and impurities that can still linger on the skin after washing with a cleanser. Toners were originally designed to help restore skin’s pH balance, which is slightly acidic (5.5-6.5). Old styles of cleansing (cleansers like soap bars) disrupted that balance, leaving skin more vulnerable to bacteria and other microorganisms. The disruption to skin pH can lead to inflammation, dryness and over time, accelerated aging. If you wash your face with a balanced, organic cleanser, your skin might not need the pH-balancing properties of toners.

    Should I forget about toner?

    If you have oily skin, a toner might be a beneficial addition to your skincare routine. Many toners targeted at reducing oil and clogged pores. If you have normal, dry or combination skin, the right toner will have ingredients that create a number of benefits, giving you a quick and refreshing lift that helps repair, restore, and renew your skin. For all these reasons and more, it is recommended you make toning the second step in your skincare routine after cleansing.

    Natural DIY Toners

    The good news is you can make your own natural toner at home. The following are ingredients on how to make your own toner best suited for your skin type and concerns.

    A green-tea toner is a great option if you have normal skin. First make one cup of green tea. Then add half a teaspoon of honey and mix well. Let the mixture cool. Once cool, add three drops of jasmine essential oil to the mixture. Pour into an airtight bottle and store in a cool place.

    If you have normal to oily skin the following toners are more efficient. To make an apple-cider vinegar toner add one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to an airtight container and mix in 200 milliliters of mineral water. Store in a cool place.

    For a Mint Toner, boil 6 cups of water and add a couple of mint leaves to the water while it is still hot. Allow the solution to cool and then saturate the pad with the solution and wipe your face with it after cleansing.

    An Aloe Vera Toner can be made by slicing an aloe vera. Scoop out the gel and dilute 2 tablespoons of the gel with 1 cup of cool water. Apply the solution onto your face using a cotton pad after cleansing. This solution can also be used to sooth sunburns and rashes.

    Make a Cucumber Toner by taking 2/3rds of a fresh cucumber and chopping it up into small piece. Pour a cup of water into a pan and add the chopped piece of cucumber. Heat the pan for about 8 minutes or until the water starts to boil. Blend the cucumber and the water. Let cool and then filter the solution out using a sieve. Apply to clean face using a cotton pad.

    Ingredients To Avoid

    When it comes to choosing a toner that’s right for you, there are some ingredients you want to avoid. Do not use a toner that has alcohol, menthol, witch hazel or fragrance in it. These four ingredients are not good for your skin. If you do choose to add a toner to your skincare routine and you choose your toner carefully, you’ll have a product that will do the following: complete cleansing, minimize the appearance of large pores, hydrate, help with oily skin and protect.

    Why exfoliate blog post by WEBA Natural Products

    Many consumers, both men and women, have probably asked themselves “why exfoliate?” After all, it’s an additional step in one’s skincare routine, so it’s important to know why it can be beneficial for the skin (when done properly).

    What does “exfoliate” mean? Broadly stated, it involves rubbing a granular substance on the skin to help remove dead cells from the skin. There are many ways to do this: 1) using a loofah or washcloth; 2) using an exfoliating soap or scrub; 3) using a brush; 4) using a chemical (AHA or BHA) peel or other treatment. Exfoliation can be useful as we get older, when our body’s ability to slough off dead skin diminishes. In order to prevent buildup that can lead to skin dullness and clogged pores, exfoliating is a useful addition to a skincare regimen. It need not be done every day to be effective.

    There are pluses and minuses to using the above-mentioned methods to remove dead skin cells. Loofahs are difficult to keep clean, for example, and must be disinfected regularly. They should not be shared. Washcloths should be tossed in the washer regularly, as well, but they are easier to keep clean. Exfoliating soaps are easy to use and often contain natural exfoliants like sea salt, sand, clay, oatmeal, etc. Fortunately, the US banned the use of plastic beads in skincare products recently. There are many more earth-friendly alternatives that one can look for in their products, like jojoba beads, walnut shells, or the items mentioned previously.

    Sugar scrubs (like our Body Smoother sold here) are gentler than salt scrubs and help to draw moisture into the skin. Body brushes can also be used for “dry brushing” which can improve circulation overall. Choose the product that best suits your type of skin and your lifestyle.

    Perhaps the harshest products for sensitive skin are the chemical peels and other Alpha hydroxy or Beta hydroxy acid treatments on the market. Designed to speed cell turnover, they are often administered in a dermatologist’s office. However, many milder DIY treatments are available. It’s important to follow instructions and not over-indulge in these treatments, as they can still cause irritation. They also make the skin more sensitive to the sun, so a good sunscreen is a must. Treatments containing salicylic acid (a Beta hydroxy acid) can also penetrate skin and help with conditions ranging from acne to keratosis pilaris (those annoying bumps on the backs of the arms, etc.)

    If you decide to exfoliate regularly, it’s a good idea to start slowly – say, two to three times a week before bedtime. If you notice any sign of irritation, cut back or try a gentler exfoliating product. Moisturize immediately following exfoliation to soothe and lock in moisture. Use a barrier sunscreen when going outdoors to prevent sun damage. And if you notice any unusual changes in your skin that don’t disappear, see a doctor. If you follow these steps, chances are you will be rewarded with smoother, clearer, and younger-looking skin.

    References:3 Ways Sugar is Good for Your Skin by the Huffington Post
    What’s really lurking on your loofah article