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Jan 24, 2013 03:08PM

DIY beauty: Whip up some cosmetics right in your own kitchen

By Leslie Klipsch
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Todd Welvaert
Hand salve made from coconut and almond oils is easy to make and nourishes the skin.
More photos from this shoot
Sure, sea salt has found its way into my bathtub on occasion, and it's true I've borrowed a bit of apple cider vinegar from the kitchen counter for my nighttime beauty regimen without giving it too much thought. Yes, I even have used my stand mixer to make body lotion with oils generally reserved for cooking at a high heat. But it wasn't until I found myself schlepping a carton of Greek yogurt, a bowl of fresh squeezed lemon juice, and a dash of olive oil from my kitchen to my upstairs bathroom that I questioned such behavior as perhaps a bit peculiar. Or is it?

It all started simply enough. Several years ago, as I became more informed about the problematic ingredients used to make cosmetics, I began my at-home alchemy with a bit of olive oil. For years I shelled out $4.28/ounce for eye make-up remover every couple of months. After examining the label, I realized I was paying for something the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database rated as "moderately hazardous." Rather than upgrading to an organic remover that might cost even more, I researched do-it-yourself recipes and found that olive oil (approximately 50 cents/ounce) works just as well.

Obviously, this saved money. But it also gave me peace of mind. Part of the issue is that America's skincare industry is largely self-regulated. Though more products promise to be "natural," there is no standard as to what that means. And even when problematic ingredients are identified, such as the recent focus on parabens (a common and inexpensive preservative used in cosmetics that some studies show plays a role in developing different types of cancers), the price tags for alternatives are high and the fine print difficult to wade through. In a nutshell, I am a wary consumer with a pocketbook that sometimes puts a wrinkle in my paraben-free preferences.

Before long, I followed my initial make-up remover success by adding jojoba oil to my beauty routine. It costs about $2 an ounce, and massaged into the skin and then removed with a warm washcloth, it acts as both a cleanser and moisturizer for my typically dry skin. (Someone prone to oily skin may prefer an oatmeal-honey cleanser.) Want to exfoliate? Simply use honey or lemon juice and sugar. With a little online research and trial and error, I found countless other cost-saving, all-natural ideas — and accumulated a repertoire of recipes for skincare products that range from lip balm to bath salts to deodorant.

Of course, researching, gathering materials, and then cooking up concoctions takes time, and I've found that some things are worth a premium price. I've read that you can brush your teeth with baking soda, yet I splurge on Tom's Toothpaste. And though I've learned it's possible, I have yet to make any of my own makeup (such as lip balm tinted with beet juice or bronzer made with cocoa powder). However, with the money I save by making a few of my own all-natural skincare supplies, I feel freer to splurge on other products like cosmetics that promise pure, nontoxic ingredients.

These days, apple cider vinegar sees a lot more action in my medicine cabinet than it does in my kitchen cupboard. Forget about dressing a salad, with little effort on my part it removes residue, detangles my hair and makes it shine. (Combine equal parts apple cider vinegar and water; massage into hair.) It also makes a great toner that balances the skin's natural pH-level. (Combine one part apple cider to two parts water; dab onto skin with a cotton ball.) A 16-ounce bottle costs less than $5 and will last all year.

In experimenting with lotions and salves, I have learned that different essential oils can be added for their different properties. Pure essential oils are natural compounds found in seeds, bark, stems, flowers and other parts of plants. Not only do they have a natural aroma, each has its own set of benefits. Peppermint oil smooths and softens; patchouli and sandalwood aid dry skin; lavender is said to have antiseptic and antibacterial properties; while rose, geranium and chamomile all nourish aging skin. A surprising variety of essential oils exist and you can find many of them at health food stores, some craft stores and online.

I have just begun to scratch the surface, though the effort I put forth in cooking up the items I currently use is all I can muster for now. I desire all-natural skincare products for my family of five, but I also want to be able to spend time with them and to feed, clothe and travel with them. Perhaps I want to eat my cake and have it, too — and while I'm at it, I'll probably try to turn it into a sweet, inexpensive and paraben-free facial mask.

Leslie Klipsch is a frequent Radish contributor. Read more of her work at leslieklipsch.com.

Handmade Hand Salve
1/3 cup sweet almond oil
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons grated beeswax
30-35 drops essential oil

Combine oils over medium heat until melted. Remove from heat and stir in beeswax until melted. Stir in essential oil (I prefer peppermint). Pour into glass container(s) to cool completely. A little goes a long way. Makes one cup.
Recipe source: thehappyhousewife.com

DIY Deodorant
1/4 cup coconut oil
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder or cornstarch
4 teaspoons baking soda
20-25 drops essential oil

Melt coconut oil in a small, microwave-safe bowl. With a whisk, combine starch and soda. Stir in oil and transfer to glass container.
Recipe source: fortheloveoffoodblog.com

Handmade Body Lotion
1 cup organic coconut oil
1 teaspoon Vitamin E oil
A few drops essential oil

Whip the coconut oil in your stand mixer at high speed until its consistency is light and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Add vitamin E and essential oils (I prefer lavender), mixing until combined. Store in a glass container. Makes 1 cup.
Recipe source: blog.radiantlifecatalog.com

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