What’s the point of DIY if you’re using all these chemicals?

I love to create, but I especially love to create products that are safe, effective, and enjoyable to use.

This question is like asking “what’s the point in baking and cooking if you’re going to make chocolate chip cookies?”, as if the entire point of cooking your own food is to only make health food, and that one might as well give up if they aren’t exclusively making kale salads and muesli. There is joy in creation, and that is reason enough (also, homemade chocolate chip cookies are delicious!).

When I first started making things I started with more “natural”, Pinterest-approved ingredients. Things like cold processed soap, coconut oil, baking soda, and apple cider vinegar. I was really excited to be making things like deodorant, shampoo, and body scrubs, but over time I had to admit that those things just… don’t work that well. The pH of cold processed soap and baking soda are both far too high for skin and hair. Coconut oil is really oily and greasy, and clogs pores for many—there are other oils that are better suited to many jobs than coconut oil. Apple cider vinegar smells pretty bad and none of those magical properties I read about ever surfaced.

I’ve written more about my shift from “all natural” to what some people call “natural-plus” here and here; please give those posts a read. There’s plenty of room to still include natural ingredients in products—extracts, plant derived oils, hydrosols, and more can often make up the bulk of our products. The function typically comes from more processed ingredients, though those ingredients are still usually derived from natural sources like coconut.

If you want to make things more “natural” or “crunchy”, please be careful with the recipes you select. Many are impossible to preserve, lack critical ingredients like emulsifiers, contain excessive levels of essential oils, or completely disregard the physiology of skin and hair. Just because something is “natural” doesn’t mean it is biologically appropriate for your body. You absolutely can hurt yourself with “natural” DIYs. If something claims to be a cure-all, end-all, all-natural, wonder product, walk away.

A sub-question I get is typically in the vein of “why are you using all the toxic chemicals the companies do?”. The basis of this question assumes that the vast majority of products available for purchase are manufactured with toxic chemicals. While it’s true that many of the ingredients in your skin care products would make terrible snacks, this doesn’t mean they are dangerous when used properly. Remember: the dose makes the poison, and even water can be lethal in large enough amounts, or if used improperly (inhaling water = bad). Toxicity depends on dose. When researching ingredient safety, discussion of the usage and dosage is essential. If the source you are consulting is stating something is dangerous with no dosage or usage information, that is not a good source. If the source you are consulting states that something is uniformly good or evil, it is not a good source (also, the EWG is awful: source, source, source, source). If you’re wondering about safe usage amounts, please refer to supplier data sheets. The Cosmetics Info Database is also a good place to look up ingredients and learn more.

I’ve written more about research red flags & vetting sources here. In short, the world of store bought skin care is not positively riddled with horrific things that are definitely going to kill you, and anybody who is trying to scare you is typically looking to profit from your fear.

Posted in: Ingredients