Monday, September 7, 2009

Homemade cosmetics. Part 1. Introduction to organic ingredients and various skin care routines.

7 Septamber 2009.

Hi there! It's me Svetlana again.

Have you ever calculated how much you personally spend per month (per year) on buying makeup? Let’s do math. I am not going to invent anything. I will visit my 23 year old daughter’s friend in her house and with her permission, inspect her makeup bags and bathroom shelves and count how much their current contents roughly cost. Mind, my daughter’s friend is not a spender. She recently graduated from college and makes just enough money to keep ends together. With her Soviet background she is rather stingy and very prudent in her spending. With that introduction, let’s examine her makeup case and do calculations. Let’s see if we can save her some hard-earned bucks without compromising (actually with improving) the quality of the products she puts daily on her beautiful face.

OK, here we go.

Nivea visage hydrating toner, no alcohol $5

Sephora oily skin toner $10

Sephora oily skin cleanser $12

Nivea men facial scrub $6

Clinique Facial moisturizer 3oz $20

Yves Rocher hand cream 8oz $4 on sale

Body scrub 12oz $4

Foot scrub 3oz $5

Basic Body moisturizer 16oz $6

Yves Rocher facial mask 3oz $6 on sale

Another facial mask 3oz $5.50

Anti-shine facial concoction from Sephora (free as a bonus product)

Total: $83.50

You may say it’s not that expensive. Well, I must admit it’s true. However, I am very picky when it comes to the skin care, and want to be as organic as possible, while still getting excellent end results. So I am going to inspect the ingredients in all her cosmetics and see what stuff they put in those creams and body scrubs. First that strikes me is an overabundance of synthetic chemicals. Reading the list of the ingredients made me feel I was back in my high school chemistry class. Does your face really need the chemical attack? Why do we need to put on our skin the ingredients that are completely alien for the human body, and have no proven long term safety record?

One may say: OK, the solution is easy. Let’s buy the most expensive cosmetic products to avoid the potentially harmful cheap ingredients. Not that easy. Let’s talk honestly: when was the last time you did your “homework” studying the quality to price ratio of the cosmetic products available on market, including over-the-counter cosmetics? Of course, we all know that more expensive does not always mean better, but in the world of cosmetic industry this may be especially true, even though we have hard time believing it. Have you ever spent time learning to read labels and to study the ingredients in each cosmetic product you buy and to choose the ones with simple, solid, and safe ingredients? If the answer is no, don’t worry: you are not alone. It took me sometime to find Paula Begoun’s books from her famous series “Don’t go to the cosmetic counter without me” and to learn that the most expensive cosmetic concoctions may be, actually, the harshest on the skin. Paula studied thousands of products, including all their ingredients, and came up with giving each product a smiley face :-))), a neutral face :-I, or a sad face :-(, depending on how many unnecessary chemicals and potential skin irritants they contained, and how gentle or harsh they were on the skin. She also assigned each product from one to four $ signs, where $ would mean the cheapest stuff, and $$$$ mean the most expensive products. So I was utterly surprised to see many-many beauty products from very reputable companies having $$$$ :-((( signs next to them.

Did you visit a beauty salon within the last six months and had a facial, massage, manicure, and pedicure? Let’s say a big occasion was coming up, like your friend’s wedding, and you just HAD to look perfect from head to toe. Do you still remember the pain you had when you paid $250 of your hardly earned money for the day of pampering? Of course, the skillful hands of a beautician did wonders and made you wanted this treat more often, and the experience was worth every penny spent, but you find it hardly feasible to pay for another spa treatment any time soon instead of getting back-to-school supplies for your kids, and the dream of the luxurious face masks and skin rubs remains only a dream.

The conclusion I have made for myself was simple: my mom and grandmother were right on the money when they taught me to put the same things in my mouth and on my skin. There is nothing more pleasurable than having a million bucks result of the smoothest skin from a penny-worth facial mask using avocado leftovers of your dinner salad, or getting complimented on a flawless face complexion knowing you only applied half a teaspoon of sour cream this morning.

Both my mother and my grandmother were avid movie lovers. After the World War II, when the Soviet people were recovering from the losses, when poverty was rampant, but the hopes were high, people of the Soviet Union cured their pains in movie theaters. Hugely popular during that time, movies, both foreign and domestic, became a sort of a universal remedy, providing affordable entertainment, giving hopes and aspirations, fueling ambitions and dreams. There were many beloved movie stars of the Soviet post-war era, and I remember many of them from the old movies I used to watch with my parents. Several of the Soviet actresses were so famous and so adored; they were lifted in the rank of almost superheroes. These drop-dead gorgeous ladies, many of whom worked in the movie and theater industry for decades never had any plastic surgeries or cosmetic enhancements. They just put a lot of everyday work into their looks, relying mostly on home made cosmetics and natural remedies, as well as regular exercises (including face exercises) and portion control.

These are some recipes and suggestions from famous movie stars of the Soviet era that my mother used all her life.

Face mask. One egg yolk, ½ tea spoon honey, 5 drops of olive oil. Mix well and apply to face and neck for 20 min. Rinse off. One can do this mask every other day.

Face mask for reducing pores. One egg yolk, ½ tea spoon honey, several drops of fresh lemon juice. Mix well and apply to face for 15 min. Feel the skin tighten a little? Rinse off.

Dairy products as face masks. While making morning coffee or a breakfast, apply some sour cream or kefir on the skin of face and neck for about 15 min. Kefir reduces the appearance of pores. Rinse in the shower. Use milk to wash your face, and the skin will look terrific. Can also use mineral water.

Contrast compresses for a double chin. Wet a face cloth in very warm water, ring excess of water, and quickly apply to the chin. Hold for 1-2 min. Alternate with very cold compress (hold only several seconds). Change compresses 5-6 times, alternating hot and cold. This will improve the blood circulation and tone the skin, reducing the double chin appearance.

Did I say enough to persuade you that home made cosmetics is worth every second of our time? If so, let’s get started. I promise: once you start making your own organic skin products, you will be so happy with the end results and the cost, you may never go back to the cosmetic counter. If you are still doubtful, let’s try to make at least one or two products together, and if you are not happy or still prefer the commercial poisons, then you are not ready yet for the idea of cheap and effective beauty.

One more comment I would like to make before we get started. I truly believe that the 3 most important things a woman can do for her skin to prevent agings and wrinkles are: to use sunscreen and avoid sunburns, to cleanse the face/neck and remove all traces of makeup before bedtime, and to avoid smoking, including a second-hand smoke.

You don't need to buy special equipment, such as laboratory equipment or other expensive materials. All you need are simple kitchen utensils like measuring spoons and cups, a blender or handmixer, and some glass containers for mixing. To store the final products, plastic containers or used commercial cosmetics containers are sufficient. Something like this would be perfect for storage in the fridge.

The ingredients we will be using:




Coffee grounds

Cacao powder




Baking soda



Essential oils



Sour cream




Lemon juice

No expensive ingredients are needed. Small amounts will take you far in homemade cosmetics. Store perishable products in the fridge. Use old jars from commercial products (clean them well) to keep your own products. Don’t keep it to yourself. Teach your family, friends, coworkers. Make products for them for free or for a low price. Who knows, maybe you can even start your own business doing just that. Always use fresh ingredients.

Before we get started, I would like to give you a word of caution. Not every ORGANIC ingredient is safe for the skin. Many fruits, vegetables, and berries are natural skin irritants and should not be used. What may be good for your friend may not be good for you.

We know that commercial preservatives irritate skin and may cause allergic reactions. That may be true especially for a person with very sensitive skin, or skin prone to breakouts. But the truth is that preservatives actually make commercial cosmetics safe as they kill or inhibit bacteria, mold, and viruses. This is a tradeoff for putting strange chemicals on your skin. When we make our own products for later use, we have to pay special attention to use only clean dishes, to freeze or refrigerate the leftovers, thawing them only when you are going to use them, and to keep your cosmetics away from the raw meat in the freezer. Otherwise the homemade cosmetics may get contaminated and cause skin irritation. The best solution that I adopted from my mom is to make very small amount of a product and use it right away, or to refrigerate the leftovers and to use them over the next one-to-two days, the latest. Actually, the greatest thing about many organic marks that you may use a small piece of fruit, just mashing it with a fork, and apply on your face, or mix tiny amounts of yogurt and honey straight from a container for another fabulous impromptu mask. No storage involved. Of course, in case of body scrubs, lotions, toners, creams, etc., you will need to either refrigerate and use it within the next couple of days, or freeze it in small plastic bags (each for one use) to thaw the product just before the next use. The majority of natural ingredients, including fruits and vegetables, can be frozen and thawed safely, without losing their beneficial properties.

Be careful with lemons. Lemons have high acidity (pH 2) attributable to the presence of citric acid. If used with caution, lemons can be very beneficial for the skin. The lemon acid tightens up the enlarged and clogged pores, cleanse the oily and unclean skin. Lemon also has lightening properties so lemon juice is often used to lighten freckles and dark spots. If used undiluted, sometimes lemon juice can cause skin irritation and even mild chemical burns. Dilute lemon juice with small amount of water before applying to your face.

The same is true about any citruses, as well as strawberries and grapes. They are not as acidic as lemons, of course, but in some cases of sensitive skin, may cause skin irritation. In rare cases of extremely sensitive skin, even cucumbers can cause skin irritation due to the presence of Alpha Hydroxy Acids, even though traditionally cucumber masks have soothing properties. To make a long story short, if you are making a new facial mask, using a fruit or a vegetable never used before, apply it for fifteen to twenty minutes over the wrist. If you see even mild skin redness/irritation, it’s not a good idea to use this ingredient for a facial mask.

Dairy products (yogurt, sour cream, milk, buttermilk, kefir) as well as oats and oils, should be safe for all skin types.

Before getting started you will need to identify your skin type (normal, oily, combination, or dry). Again, what is good for dry skin may not be suitable for oily and vice versa.

1. Oily Skin

Skin may look oily, sallow, and coarse; it has large pores and tends to have pimples, blackheads and whiteheads. The texture of skin is thick; the touch is often sticky. It is usually youthful-looking due to the presence of oil on the skin. Besides that, within hours of cleansing the oiliness will reappear and makeup is usually absorbed quickly. Often, individuals with this skin type have a propensity to develop acne in their teen and middle years.

2. Dry Skin
This skin type has a transparent looking and fine texture. It may lack natural oils, may look rather flaky with small pores, blackheads and blemishes. It feels particularly dry after cleansing and may have whiteheads around the eyes and dry patches. Without sufficient moisture, this skin type can simply become chapped. It’s more likely to become wrinkly than other types.

3. Combination Skin
This type can be characterized as oily on the T-zone (forehead, nose and chin) and the rest of the face, cheeks and around the eye, is dry. However, to restore both areas to balance, they need a separate cleansing routine.

4. Normal skin
If this is your skin type you are very lucky, because less than 20% of women have this skin type. It is the "healthy" type of skin. It’s smooth, soft, and supple; not too dry, not too oily, characterized by few blemishes, and has a nice glow. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that you don’t have to take care of it.

The first step just before choosing a skin care routine that will make you look beauty is knowing you skin type. Therefore, I want to give you simple tips how to know what type of skin you have exactly:

1. Cleanse your face, and wait for an hour, without applying any skin care product to it.

2. After that, take a tissue and wipe each of the following areas of your face: your forehead, nose, chin, and cheeks.

If oil appears on the tissue, then you have oily skin. But, if skin particles can be seen on your skin, or remain on the tissue, then you have dry skin. Other than that, If you see oil in some areas (T-zone: forehead, nose and chin), and none in others, then naturally you have combination skin. And, if you don’t find oily residue or flake is left on the skin, you have normal skin. I just realized I kept using the term "T zone" taking for granted that people knew what it is. Apologies. Just in case you are not familiar with the term, this is where the "T zone" is:

There are certain steps in skin care routine, which we have to follow. Many steps are needed for any type of skin, and the exceptions are listed in parenthesis.

Daily routine:

-makeup removal,

-skin cleansing,

-toning (except dry skin),

-applying a pH balancer for specific skin type, and finally

-moisturizing (except oily skin!).

Biweekly or weekly routine:

-makeup removal,

-cleansing including exfoliation (scrubbing) ,

- toning (except dry skin),

-applying a mask for your specific skin type,

-rinsing the mask off,

-applying a pH balancer for specific skin type,

-applying a nourishing moisturizer (with the exception of oily skin when you only use a moisturizer around fragile eye area).

As you can see, exfoliation (scrubbing) and masks should be done only once or twice a week. You can do them on alternative days if your skin is sensitive, or on the same day. I usually do my extensive facial care routine on Saturdays.

Monthly routine. Add a monthly home facial, including a deep pore cleansing.

Recommended reading:

Paula Begoun “Don’t go to the cosmetic counter without me”

Recommended web sides to visit: (by skin type) (by skin type) (oily skin) (dry skin) (body scrub) (body scrubs) (facial toners) (toners) (toners) (skin care recipes—great site) (hair) (hair care) (hair) (home spa) (home spa) (silky hands) (soft hands) (hands)

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