Today I’m really excited to share an exclusive interview with Lise Andersen, the brains behind the LisaLise Blog. She’s been DIY-ing since way before it was cool, and her blog is a fantastic resource for learning about new ingredients and techniques, and it’s one of my favourite sources of inspiration. Today we’re chatting about DIYing decades ago, favourite projects, tips for beginners, and more—let’s dive in!
How did you get into making skincare products? What about it really grabbed you?
About the middle of last century (when I was a wide-eyed hippie teen), I happened across a paperback book about making your own cosmetics in a used book store. The process of being able to create something useful from a few simple ingredients fascinated me, so I bought it. My first project was lip balm. I thought the scent of the beeswax was wonderful, and my balms were a success. That book has haunted me for ages – it got lost during a move and I haven’t been able to recall the title or author. It would be a kick to see it again one day.
What role does cosmetics-making play in your life today? How much time do you devote to it?
It has gradually come to replace my day job (graphic designer and branding) and is now a full time gig. To be honest, cosmetics-making has my attention about every waking hour. My husband will gladly attest to this (and probably roll his eyes as well).
Even after all these years, I am still fascinated by the possibilities. I’m a pretty devout ‘greenie’ (looking first to plants and nature for ingredients), so a lot of time is spent researching and testing materials and ingredients.
When I’m not researching, I create custom cosmetics products and develop formulas for others, so my plate seems to be pretty full. I still get excited about every new enquiry – whether it’s a custom formulation or a custom product.
I guess it’s fair to say I absolutely love what I do.
What was the general social attitude towards DIY when you first got into it? What were the resources like?
Funny, I described this briefly did a recent blog post.
Resources were ridiculously scarce and my new interest placed me squarely in the ‘total-freak’ category – even my back-to-nature-love-the-planet friends thought making cosmetics was not ‘roots’ enough. Happily, times have since changed!
What are your favourite challenges when it comes to creating a custom cosmetics product?
Attempting to achieve the impossible, and then nailing it. I will quite literally loose sleep while working on this type of formula, but am as thrilled as my clients when I hear the product not only meets, but exceeds their expectations.
These are often specific-needs products and can be exceptionally challenging.
Here are a couple of examples:
What are your favourite things to make?
Cleansers, balms, emulsions of all kinds, elixirs, color make-up: pressed powders, foundation, lipstick, tinctures, tonics, glycerites, infusions, anything with clay, shower gels, toners, deodorants, hair products, ok, sorry, I think I like everything I make!
What are your current ingredient obsessions?
Raw plant materials in synergy with other raw plant materials. It’s pure magic when you get the combination just right. Also: clays, plant oils, plant butters, every hydrosol/hydrolate I can get my hands on (these have been my obsession forever).
What advice would you give to new DIYers?
Rule number 1: Get a dedicated notebook for your cosmetics work and keep copious notes when you are working, thinking, conceptualizing, and formulating. Write down EVERYTHING – especially when you experience failures! You learn SO much more from failures than successes – it’s the best education you can give yourself.
Rule Number 2: Allow yourself to have fun with it – even the failures!
I’ve been keeping notes forever and refer to them regularly. Here’s a picture of a few of them.
What are some of your favourite resources for learning new techniques and getting inspired?
Oh gosh that’s hard to pinpoint. Being entirely self-taught, I pretty much have my antennae out in all directions at any given time. A comment from a reader on my blog can kick-start a research session that grows into a year-long project. An article may inspire me to try a different process or try using a staple ingredient in a different way. I seem to be surrounded by inspirational input that can set off a series of tests, experiments and research sessions at any given moment. Even reading my own (ever-growing) to-do list is inspirational. You see what I mean about ‘every waking hour’?
Can you talk a bit about natural vs. synthetic? How do you decide what you are ok with using?
I have a self-inflicted rule of using ‘predominately plant-based’ ingredients for my own formulas and products – not because petroleum-based ingredients are bad, dangerous, or health-hazardous, but because I personally prefer plant-based.
There are of course a few exceptions: lanolin and beeswax are such effective and fabulous ingredients that I would be hard pressed to do without them.
The natural vs synthetic discussion has gotten completely out of hand over the last decade or so. I cringe when I see opinions served up as ‘information’ about the evils of petroleum-based ingredients. It’s not only an unfair and gross generalization, but a sad reflection of the amount of misinformation that continues to circulate.
Natural doesn’t necessarily mean safe. Some of the most toxic ingredients come from plants (check out the dangers of hogweed). Likewise, some of the most innocuous ingredients are entirely synthetic. Such is carbomer.
Categorizing individual cosmetic ingredients as ‘dangerous’ or ‘safe’ can be incredibly misleading. There are simply too many factors that need to be taken into consideration before you can determine whether or not a single ingredient is ‘acceptable’ or ‘unacceptable’: dosage, application, the synergy with the other ingredients in the formula – all these things should be factored in.
Sorry for the speech! I may be an old, plant-loving hippie, but am also a hard-core science buff.
What does your workspace look like?
Here’s a pic. At the moment, I am living in a small temporary abode, so my present workspace is a kitchen counter, table and a few mobile bits and pieces that are brought out and put away each time I need to work. Half of my stockroom is packed away in boxes (that are accessible, but arduous to reach). It’s not ideal, but I’m dealing.
What are you working on right now? What are your goals for the coming year?
Right now I am developing custom formulas for a few clients. I am also working on my next book – about herbal tinctures, infusions, extracts and glycerites specifically for topical use. (Still working on that title!). I hope to be finished with the book in Spring of this year. After that, I have a few more publications planned.
Any parting thoughts?
Yes! Congratulations and well done on your lovely book, Marie! I have thoroughly enjoyed reading Make it Up and am quite honored to be mentioned under Further Reading. Thank you kindly!
All photos courtesy of Lise Andersen.