Making homemade cosmetics: green, cheap and healthy

Published by Marie Daffe on

December 15th, 2016

I started to make my own cosmetics five years ago. At first, I was seduced by the playful aspect of the exercise. I thought it could be a nice thing to try as I’ve always been a DIY person. Being able to choose what to put in your cream, what fragance,… was very cool indeed . However, I soon realized that this was not the only advantage to the process. I hadn’t yet committed to zero-waste at the time but I was already concerned about toxic substances found in cosmetics. Making my own meant I could avoid them. So no more phtalate, parabens and other microbeads

For a while, I tried a lot of different recipes – sometimes complicated ones – before I finally understood that the simplest was the best. Why choose complicated mixtures when you can make a cream out of your kitchen pantry? This is actually another very important point: homemade cosmetics are much cheaper than supermarket products! It may cost a bit more at first to gather the ingredients, but it lasts for so long that it pays itself back quickly and then you start making savings.

Finally, when I committed to the zero-waste cause about a year ago, all of this made perfect sense. I buy all my ingredients – preferably organic – in paper or glass packaging and I always reuse the same containers to stock the cosmetics. It consequently helps me to avoid a lot of waste. Most of the ingredients can be found in supermarkets (vegetable oils, baking soda,…) Asian stores offer a larger choice of oils, in glass bottles most of the time. Essential oils can be bought at ‘Down to Earth’ or other specialty stores.


Credit: Marie Daffe

!!! About essential oils !!!

  1. Read the label carefully. Some essential oils may be contraindicated under certain circumstances.
  2. Citrus essential oils are photosensitizing. Never put them on your skin before being exposed to the sun.
  3. Never use them in a heated preparation. They lose all their properties, including fragrance. Add them at the very end.

Here are the recipes of my everyday cosmetics

  • Moisturizing cream: choose a vegetable oil. Here you will find information on the different properties of each oil and a guide to choose one according to your skin type. Melt in a bain-marie a teaspoon of beeswax in three tablespoons of vegetable oil. Add five drops of essential oil and that’s all!

I’m used to beeswax in the form of flakes, but the only one I found here in Dublin was a stick at ‘Down to Earth’. It must be a bit more complicated to dose, so know that a teaspoon equals 5 grams. I have dry skin so I use apricot oil. I love the smell! Essential oil are not obligatory. I use grapefruit oil, again for the fragrance.

  • Face lotion: simplest thing ever. Mix lemon juice and rose water in equal quantities in a bottle, shake and it’s ready! Even better if your store it in the fridge.
  • Deodorant: equally simple. Mix 15 grams of baking soda with 45 grams of coconut oil, then add ten drops of the essential oil of your choice. Baking soda can be irritating for some people. You can replace it by corn starch of white clay but I personally find that the result is less efficient.
  • Toothpaste: same recipe. Here again, same warning about baking soda. Choose the finest you can find or use corn starch. For fresh breath, opt for essential oil of peppermint.
  • Makeup remover: it’s always a mix between a vegetable oil and an hydrolat in equal quantities. I use sweet almond or castor oil with rose water.
  • Hair oil (perfect for curly hair): mix
    • 1 tablespoon of broccoli oil
    • 2 tablespoons of aloe vera’s gel
    • 2 tablespoons of avocado oil
    • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
    • 2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil

    Use only few drops at once if you don’t want to look greasy. It lasts for long: the bottle on the picture is still my first one and I made it more than six months ago. So don’t hesitate to reduce the quantities if you wish so.

  • Shampoo: a bit more technical, but barely. Melt 42 grams of sodium coco-sulfate with 6 grams of water in a bain-marie. When it’s well melted, add 4 grams of shea butter and 6 grams of coconut oil. Pour the mixture into a silicone mold and allow to dry at least 24 hours. This recipe is so economical! I made the shampoo on the picture at the beginning of August and I’m barely halfway there.

My homemade cream with apricot oil. Credit: Marie Daffe

I used to make my own soap but I stopped for several reasons. The base I used for it was not as green as I thought it was and actually did not work so well. I also realized that making my soap produced more waste than buying it in bulk as I do now. The packaging of the ingredients were indeed all plastic.

One of the advantages of the homemade cosmetics is their absence of preservatives. But it also means that you have to take some precautions to preserve them. Store them in the fridge in warm weather. A clue does not deceive: if you see that your cosmetics based on coconut oil begin to melt, it means that they must be refrigerated. Coconut oil is indeed in solid form below 25°C, but not above. In any case, always check the colour, the texture and the smell of your cosmetics. If something changes, don’t use them.

A word about washable and reusable cleansing cotton and bamboo toothbrushes: they are a very simple step towards zero-waste life. The first ones are in organic cotton and I got them a little over a year ago now. They are used exactly like their disposable equivalent, except that they end up going in the washing machine and not in the bin. The second, bamboo toothbrush, is entirely compostable. It could divert a huge amount of waste from the landfill knowing that one person uses 3-4 toothbrushes per year. Both of these items can be purchased online. Just be careful not to choose them wrapped in plastic (nonsense!) or coming from the other side of the world.

It’s possible to make much more cosmetics than what I presented here. You can even do your own makeup. The Internet is full of recipes. Keep in mind to choose the simplest ones and to always make only small quantities as there’s no preservative.

Featured image: My own toiletries. Everything is homemade, except the soap. Credit: Marie Daffe

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Marie Daffe

Marie is a contributor to Green News. She has a Master's Degree in Journalism from the Université catholique de Louvain (UCL), Belgium.