Are homemade beauty products safe? Six secrets to making sure they are.

Are homemade beauty products safe? Six secrets to making sure they are.

I really never thought I’d be writing so many posts about homemade beauty products. I mean, I had a hard enough time learning how to make my own food from scratch. Who knew “from scratch” cosmetics were in my future.

Of course, my desire for safer cosmetics and products in my home has fueled this new hobby of mine. I feel good knowing that I’m avoiding things that have been linked to cancer, infertility, and other icky stuff. But it made me wonder: Are homemade beauty products really safe?

commercial vs. homemade beauty broducts

In terms of the ingredients, I’d choose my recipes over store bought stuff any day. According to the EWG, only 11 percent of cosmetic ingredients have been tested for safety by the cosmetic industry. Does that scare anyone else?

But it’s important to keep in mind that some of the very ingredients we are trying to avoid in our homemade beauty products are the very things that could put our innocent cosmetics in a danger zone. Without the chemical preservatives that are found in store-bought beauty items, our homemade beauty products are at risk for growing bacteria.

But that doesn’t mean you need to stop making your homemade beauty products!

You just need to be smart about it.

Here are six important tips to help you keep things safe.

1. Avoid contamination

Minimize contamination potential by choosing your packaging carefully. Dispensing bottles are better than open mouth jars. If using old containers, be sure to sterilize and dry completely before reusing. Avoid touching products like lip balm with your fingers. Try instead using a cotton swab or a hands-free container (like this).

2. Avoid light

Direct sunlight and UV rays, oxygen, heat, moisture and bacteria from your fingers can all be detrimental to your products. Keep your products in dark containers or in dark cabinets to avoid light.

Learn the 6 secrets to keeping your homemade beauty products SAFE. A must read for anyone interested in diy all natural care products.

3. Consider the shelf life of your product.

If you are using a recipe that has food in it (like the avocado butter mask above), just stick to a single batch. Don’t make anymore than what you can use at a single time. Some homemade beauty products with food in them can last a week if stored in the fridge. Non-food products will vary based on the ingredients, but all homemade beauty products will not last as long as their commercial counterparts. For some products the shelf life may be as little as two weeks unless you store it in your fridge or add a natural preservative.

4. If something smells funny, don’t use it!

This is the kind of advice your mom would give, but it’s true. If something seems fishy (or smells fishy), just let it go.

Learn the 6 secrets to keeping your homemade beauty products SAFE. A must read for anyone interested in diy all natural care products.

5. Keep water away from your homemade beauty products.

Bacteria loves a wet environment. Use clean dry hands when putting on lotion, lip balm, or other products that require hand application. For things like homemade body spray, use distilled water and mix in a clean environment. An addition of a natural preservative or refrigerator storage is recommended.

6. Use natural preservatives to extend the shelf life of your homemade beauty products:

Here are some considerations to help your beauty products last longer:

Antioxidants:

Antioxidants are natural preservatives that reduces the rate of oxidation (which is what makes oils go rancid). You can add antioxidants directly to your oils to help keep them fresh, or you can add the antioxidant to the oil phase of your recipe. Antioxidants are perfect for formulas that contain fragile oils like avocado, sweet almond, or evening primrose. Lip balms, lotion bars, creams, lotions, scrubs and any other product containing oils can benefit from the addition of an antioxidant.

When to use and what to consider:

  • Vitamin E (like this) contains gamma tocopherols. This is a natural antioxidant. T-50 Vitamin E Oil contain larger amounts than regular Vitamin E oils.
  • Rosemary Oil Extract (like this) is another natural antioxidant. It should be used at a ratio rate of .15 to .5 % of the overall formula.

Anti-Microbials:

Anti-Microbials help destroy unwanted bacteria and can extend the shelf life of your homemade beauty products. Here are some natural anti-microbials:

  • Coconut Oil: Coconut oil contains antimicrobial lipids, lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid which have antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties. This is why it’s such a common ingredient in many homemade beauty products.
  • Grapefruit Seed Extract (like this): Often used as a preservative in skin care products. Use at a ration of .5 – 1% ratio of formula.
  • Some essential oils including: caraway, cinnamon, clove, cumin, eucalyptus, lavendar, lemon, rose, rosemary, sage, sandalwood, tea tree, and thyme. Although a lot is determined by the quality of the oils you are using and the amount. Since many homemade beauty products only use a small amount of essential oils, I do not recommend relying on them for preservation. It’s safer to make smaller batches and use quickly.  (Learn how to get my favorite essential oils at wholesale prices here.)

Learn the 6 secrets to keeping your homemade beauty products SAFE. A must read for anyone interested in diy all natural care products.

So is it even worth it to make homemade beauty products?

Yes!

Keep in mind that your homemade products are still a healthier alternative to commercial products, as long as you are smart about how you use and store them. For me, the ultimate goal is not to replace every old commercial product with a new one. It’s about simplifying my life so that all I need is a few essentials. I can make room in my fridge, work in small batches, or be sure to add some natural preservatives to keep them safe.

Did I leave anything out? Share your thoughts, questions, or experiences on homemade beauty product safety in the comments.

NOTE: Due to an never-ending cesspool of spam, I have made the tough decision to close comments 14 days after the original posting of all posts. If you have a burning question or are looking for support in your journey to healthy living, please join the Thank Your Body Friends facebook page here.


STANDARD FTC DISCLOSURE: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Please note, I only ever endorse products that are in alignment with Thank Your Body's ideals and I believe would be of value to my readers. You may read my full disclosure statements here.

About the author

Hi! I'm and I’m passionate about healthy living: feeling nourished, having energy, getting good sleep, and feeling strong. I believe healthy living does not have to be complicated or stressful. I’m a Registered Somatic Movement Therapist (RSMT) and a Certified Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analyst (CLMA). I’m also an avid researcher and love to read about nutrition, the body, and toxic-free living. Learn more.

View all articles by Robin Konie

46 comments

  1. Nicole

    Thanks for the tips! I am just starting to make my own beauty products and I am always concerned about contamination & shelf life. I am pinning this for future reference :)

  2. Ewa "Mom Photographer"

    Great post! It been two year since I bought my last body lotion, body wash, deodorant… This year I switched to homemade toothpaste and yesterday (finally) I made my own shampoo witch I LOVE!!!

  3. Denise

    i always no matter what put vit e oil if there is not another option awesome stuff! i really like grapeseed oil as well for the base of my salves etc… alot of natural great stuff out there!! thanks for the reminder! :)

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  5. Amanda @Natural Living Mamma

    Great post! It is always good to have a reminder that although natural products are wonderful, they do not last as long as their chemical filled counterparts. I found leaving things like my oatmeal face scrub dry and only taking a little at a time into the shower with me that it lasts longer. If you add the water and let it set it molds pretty quickly. My OCM solution lasts a long time though, which is nice.

    Thanks for sharing on natural living monday! Your post was featured! I am excited to see what you have to share this week. Natural Living Monday is live! I would love it if you would come share your latest natural, green, real whole food, sustainability, homesteading and peaceful parenting posts! http://www.naturallivingmamma.com/2012/11/11/natural-living-monday-10/

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  10. renee solano-szuba

    thank you sooo much for posting this. i didnt check the date of this post or the date of the post on how to make your homemade mascara(which i read first). i got concerned about the mascara because it had aloe vera in it and no preservative in it. i make my own soaps and lotion bars and other bath goodies. i always tell my clients that my lotion bars have no preserv. in them so do not get them wet and if they start to smell funny throw them out. yes it would be better if i put them in stick form(:}).
    i love your site and have just recently found it through herbsandoilsworld.com. i am a nationally cetified massage therapist. your site has caught my interest on many levels, from my massage therapist, homemade soap self to just wanting better health for me my family and my clients. thank you thank you so much xo, renee


    1. Post author
      robin

      Thanks, Renee! I really appreciate your kind words.

      You can definitely add some vitamin E to the mascara to help preserve it. Coconut oil is also good for keeping things fresher longer… but as you said, they won’t stand up to commercial products. :)

  11. marie

    I’m looking for my products to last at least 3 months. are rosemary extract and vitamin e enough? please help.

  12. Janet

    Do you have recommendations for where to get empty containers? Also, what are you feelings on the type of container, i.e. plastic vs glass vs metal? I’ve heard that one of the problems with plastic containers is that they trigger estrogen effects from the chemicals that leach out of the plastic (and not just from BPA).


    1. Post author
      robin

      I avoid plastic when possible, although sometimes it’s hard to find the right container in anything but plastic. I love using small 4 oz. mason jars (like these http://amzn.to/11gfrrP) for things like deodorant, sugar scrubs, etc. I can usually find things at both my health food store and online. (Amazon is my friend.) :)

  13. Ryn

    Thanks for the post! I’m just now starting to make some things on my own. The first recipe I want to try is a healing salve. The website I got the recipe on says that it lasts 6 months to a year, but there are no preservatives in the recipe expect for coconut oil. (Recipe calls for coconut oil, olive oil, honey, beeswax, essential oils, dried herbs). I’m considering adding some Vitamin E oil like this post suggests. I notice some of the others say 1% of the formula (which part of the formula? the entire formula or just the oil part?). Should I use that same ratio for Vitamin E oil? (And do you happen to know if Vitamin E capsules would work, just puncturing them and draining the oil out?)
    Sorry for so many questions!


    1. Post author
      Robin Konie

      Yes, you can use capsules in that way. And 1% is probably a good starting point. In recipes that don’t use a lot of water you’re probably okay without vitamin E if you want, but adding it won’t hurt and could prevent any “going bad” issues. :)

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    1. Post author
      Robin Konie

      I can try to work on that… the only problem is that a lot of it depends on the freshness of ingredients, room temperature, etc. In all honesty I’ve had zero issues with my products going bad. And I always give everything a quick sniff before using it to make sure it doesn’t smell iffy. Common sense does go a long way with this. :)

  18. Malisa

    I mainly make bath and spa products, started as gifts for family and friends who then put the bug in my ear that I should be selling them. Bath oils, scrubs, shampoos,soaps etc.. and most of these have a pretty long contaminate free shelf life. I have just started to branch out to lotions, salves,lip balm at the such. I plan on using fresh herbs from my pesticide free herb garden and buying the other things and having them ship overnight to lessen the degradation from temperature changes by having them sit around in some post office or shipping depot for days. I also have a dedicated room and refrigerator for all of my products so I hope that it will keep the contamination down for a bit. I was also told that adding a few drops of tincture of benzoin will help with bacteria and other nasties without changing the smells or colors much. What are your opinions on it?

  19. Cina

    I took a Homemade Body Produkt class yesterday, and the teacher left out a few ‘key’ ingredients. Reading your post was exactly what I needed to feel confident continuing this at home. Short, sweet and straight to the point. You just gained a new subscriber

  20. Amanda

    Really great suggestions for keeping your products fresh and preservative free longer. I was reading the comments and for the lady that was planning to sell/ ship certain things without a preservative-they do sell microbial test kits if you wanted to do a trial and see how your products faired in certain conditions-thought it might be helpful. :)

  21. Tama Stull

    So glad to see this article! It’s a huge bummer to lose a batch of diy product when a one extra step could have saved it. Something I learned the hard way is that coconut oil will go rancid rather quickly when exposed to sunlight. It took the longest time to figure out why my jar in the bath kept getting smelly. Then I noticed one day that the sun came thru our tiny window at just the right angle mid-day to hit that jar. When I moved it to another spot the problem was solved. Now I know to keep all of my products with coconut oil in the cabinet or in dark glass containers to extend their shelf life!

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