DIY: Moisturizer and Shampoo

In my quest to rid our everyday cosmetics of the Dirty Dozen, I made a request via Facebook to see where I might get a reference guide for making my own cosmetics. Luckily, herbal maven Angie Oriana Jenkins gave me my first resource, A Consumer's Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients, which I immediately ordered online. As I quickly discovered, a basic resource is key because of the sheer volume of information in cyberspace. 

There was no shortage of e-recipes. I found step-by-step instructions on how to make moisturizers, lip balms, shampoos, facial masks, and the easiest of them all, hair conditioners. There were even recipes for getting rid of lice. Just a word of advice. Once you decide on a recipe, make sure that you are familiar with the measurement units the recipe calls for. I chose one with measurements in ounces and was continually reaching for my pencil to figure out what that would be in grams.

Deciding on a recipe was not difficult, but coming up with all the ingredients required two trips to Tau, a large health food store here in Montreal. This was an eye-opening experience. Did you know it is possible to buy a large bar of beeswax and a bottle of avocado oil? I spent about $75 for all the ingredients, and I know that this sounds expensive, but the high-end commercial moisturizer I usually buy, which does not disclose all of its ingredients, retails for about $60. If we end up using the shampoo and moisturizer over the winter months then the experiment will be well worth the money. Besides, these two experiments were FUN!

The moisturizer

1. Combine one cup of almond oil and 1/2 cup of beeswax in a small pot and stir with a wooden spoon until melted.
2. Using a wire whisk, beat the liquid while it cools.
3. Add a few drops of essential oils (lavender and ylang ylang) and the contents of three vitamin E capsules.
4. Pour mixture into sterilized jars.

From this combination, I ended up with a small mason jar and a half of moisturizer, and our house was impregnated with the sweet smell of beeswax. Saturday being bath night, I tried the moisturizer on my kiddies' legs. It took about an hour for the moisturizer to be absorbed, but there was no sticky residue after that. My husband's reaction, which is very important: the moisturizer smelled "okay." Some more food for thought, beeswax was hard to get off the whisk, wooden spoon and pot. It's important to use an old rag to wipe down the pot immediately after use before the wax sets. Then throw the rags out because they can catch fire in the dryer if you try to clean them. Also keep in mind that this product can clog your drain.

NB, The consistency of the above mixture is more of a balm or salve. Angie Jenkins told me that moisturizers are usually water based with a creamier texture and call for a lot more ingredients.

Rosemary/Sage Shampoo

8 oz of liquid Castile soap. (Castile soap is made from 100% olive oil.)
1/2 oz of rosemary (stimulates hair follicles and is known to prevent premature balding.)
1/2 oz of sage (acts as an anti-oxidant and conserving agent.)
a few drops of lavender oil (helps to control itchy scalp.)
*Optional 1/2 oz of nettles (stimulates hair growth and blood circulation.)

1. Mix the herbs in a mason jar and add the lavender, then seal tightly.
2. Boil two cups of water.
3. Add three tablespoons of the herbal mixture to the boiling water and let it stand for 30 to 45 minutes.
4. Strain the herbs off the water into a clean bowl.
5. Take two 8oz shampoo bottles, add 2 oz of the herbal water to each and then add 4 oz of Castile liquid soap to each bottle.
6. Shake both bottles well.
7. Voila! You now have two bottles of Rosemary/Sage herbal shampoo!

I washed both my kids' hair with this, and I was pleased with my daughter's reaction, "Mom, it smells so good!" Success on one end. There was a little bit of lather without the evil sodium laureth sulfate (Dirty Dozen number 11). My husband said that it smelled "okay" and that he would try it. My kids' hair looked just as it usually did after washing. I guess we'll still have to reassess this at a later date to see how this shampoo performs in the long run, but so far, so good. Just a note to readers. I had a lot of leftover herbs and herbal water from this recipe.

Fast forward to one month later to see the results of these experiments.

I enjoyed these two experiments, and I was pleased with the results. However, I still feel overwhelmed by all the information I found on herbs and their properties, and if I'm being completely honest, the sweet smell of beeswax in the kitchen the next morning made me feel slightly sick to my stomach. Good ventilation is important.

Another point: I've been off sick with pneumonia for two weeks, but our everyday lives of raising two kids and working full time are pretty busy. Therefore, in my heart of hearts, I find myself looking for convenience.

We can all read labels to avoid the Dirty Dozen in our cosmetics, but maybe we should defer to an expert for things such as cosmetics. When we pay for a product, we are paying for overhead, ingredients, labour, etc, and while I have no issue with companies making profits, I do object to their profit-making taking precedent over our well-being.

In my research, I came across many lines of homemade beauty products. However, I met herbalist Angie Oriana Jenkins who has worked extensively in the health foods industry and who is a go-to person for all things roses, which includes giving classes at Acadia University on the subject. I have gone through her line of products and her list of ingredients, and I have found her prices reasonable given her expertise and the actual cost of ingredients.

Angie's line, Sister Lotus, is a great place to start if you want to avoid the Dirty Dozen and capitalize on her experience. Besides, isn't it nicer to buy something from an individual rather than a huge corporation?

We also owe a big thanks to the David Suzuki Foundation for bringing the Dirty Dozen to our attention.

Related posts:
Cosmetics: the Dirty Dozen
Dirty Dozen in my Personal Care Products
The Mile End Buzz around Beekeeping



Billie | April 22, 2011 at 1:37 PM

Hi! I loved the look of the almond shower gel and just discovered the moisturizer link. I remember hearing about this recipe once from a friend. She said she found that the recommended amount of beeswax was far too much and caused the moisturizer to come out more like lip balm. She started using a quarter of what they call for in the recipe and it was perfect. I wonder how it would be to add the lemon or grapefruit essential oils... if this would help give it a shelf life.

Heather | April 22, 2011 at 1:44 PM

Hey Billie! I used this balm all winter and it was good. According to what I learned from a woman that makes an entire line of natural cosmetics, moisturizers and shampoo are the trickiest recipes and require a lot of experimentation. The moisturizer was pretty good, but after a month of the shampoo our hair looked like straw. But I will persevere...

Heather | April 22, 2011 at 1:48 PM

Sorry, I forgot the question about lemon. Beeswax is a great preservative, and you wouldn't need the lemon unless you wanted to add it. H

Billie | April 23, 2011 at 12:26 PM

Hmm! I really want to get off my duff and try the moisturizer at the very least. I keep looking at the ingredients of my various creams and wonder about all the junk that my body takes in through my skin. I didn't know beeswax acts as a preservative. Makes sense. Bees... Those girls are good at every thing.

Link to Dr Alexandria Schnee Knee Doctor | January 13, 2014 at 1:55 AM

I've heard excellent things about almond oil when it comes to natural hair. Great post!

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