A long time ago, I wrote about trying out a few more organic, DIY and natural options for some standard beauty and personal care products. Later, I shared a few things I’d been making, like lotion and lip gloss.
I’m bringing up this topic again because I think it’s really easy, in blogging, to write about something you think is a great solution or a great ‘find’ but never follow up about how it’s working over time. I can’t say how many times I’ve read a blog post on ‘how to make your own…’ which concludes with, ‘I’ve been using this for a week now and it’s great!’ But the real question, to me, is whether a year later you’ll still be using it, or whether it turned out to be skin-irritating, too much trouble, too expensive, or ineffective.
So here are three DIY beauty products that I have actually used for the long haul. I’ll also mention a few that I tried and abandoned! In terms of definition, what I mean by DIY is that I bought raw ingredients and made something with them, rather than buying a product marketed for a specific use.
The oil cleansing method
I mentioned this in my first post on the topic. Oil cleansing is a method of washing your face, first massaging in a bit of oil, then steaming it off with a cloth soaked in hot water. It’s supposed to be gentler on skin than using something foaming or soapy, and it removes makeup and unblocks pores.
I use sweet almond oil, which I ordered in a 500 ml bottle online. I decant it into a brown glass dropper bottle to keep in the bathroom. Initially I tried all sorts of oil blends, because the common wisdom seems to recommend this – but in fact I didn’t find that blending the oils made any improvement, and this single oil alone works fine.
This has been my evening cleansing method of choice for over a year now. Although at times I reverted to another cleanser, I’ve kept returning to oil cleansing. It feels nice to do, it removes makeup effectively without needing another step (I could never be bothered with that), it’s inexpensive, and it seems to fulfil the goal of getting my skin clean.
I think the biggest downside to oil cleansing, which is also sometimes called ‘hot cloth cleansing’, is that the hot cloth is vital – so if you haven’t got a cloth or don’t have hot water for some reason, you might end up with oil all over your face and no way to get it off. (Happened to me.) My solution is simply to use bar soap to wash the oil off in such emergencies. But most of the time, at home, a cloth and hot water are no problem to find.
Making my own lip balm was an early DIY project, and dead easy. It’s also forgiving because if the texture goes really wrong – if it’s too hard or too soft – you can always re-melt it and add more oil or wax to adjust it.
I made my first lip balm in a reused container, but eventually I bought some little screw-top pots online, filled a few, and have been using them ever since. It’s cheap and easy! My formula is some combination of oils, shea butter, and beeswax. Honestly, I guess I don’t go through lip balm very fast (though I use it every day), because I’m still using the same stuff I made about a year ago. As long as it doesn’t get water in it, it should last a while.
This is probably the one thing I wish I had discovered years ago. If you have problem skin, do try a clay mask. You can buy them in squeeze tubes, ready to use, which is what I did initially just to try. I went through a couple of containers of a sea silt mask from the Boots Botanics range. However, once I’d decided that this was worth keeping up with, I ordered some dry clay online so I could prepare my own.
You can get different types of clay in different colours, but mine is green. It’s like a powder, and when you mix it with water it forms, yes, a clay consistency which you slather on your face and leave to dry for 10-20 minutes. This is typically all I do, using a small spoon and a little ramekin to mix in, but you can get fancy and add things like yogurt, honey, turmeric and the like. I enjoy that about using the dry clay; it’s one item but can be prepared in different ways if you feel adventurous, or used straightforwardly if you aren’t. Because it’s dry, it won’t spoil and doesn’t have any preservatives, and I think it’s more economical in the long run.
DIY skincare (or personal care) I don’t bother with
Supposedly apple cider vinegar makes a great toner when diluted with water. Yeah, I tried it, but I really always feel toners are a waste of time. I can’t be bothered buying little cotton rounds only to throw them away every day, nor do I ever perceive any permanent difference to my skin beyond the immediate cooling sensation. And this toner smells like vinegar, so unless that’s a groovy scent to you, you don’t even get to enjoy a pleasant aroma. I keep the vinegar for my salad.
Oil as conditioner is another internet DIY natural favourite… I think my verdict on this might be that it could work if you have coarse or curly hair. Ideally you would use just a little bit of oil (a skincare oil, not kitchen cooking oil) massaged through the ends of your hair while damp. I really wanted this to work, especially if I could have my oil in a brown glass bottle and scented with orange oil. It could double as a body moisturiser too. Doesn’t this sound so lovely and simple and ancient, like running through the fields of nature clothed in white linen while your hair streams out, gloriously nourished?! But I could never make it work. Conditioner, it turns out, not only moisturises but helps with static, and whenever I stop using it my hair develops a static frizz that no amount of oil can tame. It will just be oily and still staticky.