If you have never made your own cosmetics before, this article is for you.
Here’s how to get started; information package for beginners
When starting to make own homemade cosmetics, many cosmetics concepts, ingredients, and accessories may sound strange and even never heard before. In the beginning, you can easily make unnecessary purchases. That is why I made lists for you of what you should get first in order to get started. I will also tell you where to get necessary supplies and where you can get more information about making homemade cosmetics.
Start your first cosmetic experiments with inexpensive ingredients and simple formulas
When you would like to start making cosmetics for the first time, make only a small amount of product at a time, for example 30 grams. Use only cheap ingredients during the trial period. If you want to try making an emulsion for the very first time, use boiled water for the water phase. Also, buy cheap sunflower oil from the store or use a similar oil that you happen to have at home (but not coconut oil, it behaves differently in emulsions). However, you must also use an emulsifier when training emulsions. Save your expensive oils and vegetable butters for the moment when you already feel that you know the technique. When experimenting, everything doesn’t always go perfectly. If the experiment was not successful, you do not feel too annoyed.
What raw materials do I need?
As you have probably already noticed, there are almost too many raw materials for making cosmetics available. It is difficult for a beginner to understand which ones are necessary. At the very beginning, you don’t need many ingredients. It is worthwhile to keep the raw material stock small and only purchase small quantities. Raw materials should only be purchased in small quantities at a time, as most of them get spoiled easily. The exception is clays, which can be stored for years if they are stored in a dry and cool place and no impurities have contaminated the product.
When purchasing ingredients, you should always start by considering carefully your needs. What kind of cosmetics do you want to make? If you want to make only water-free creams, you don’t need water-soluble ingredients at all. You can also leave out preservatives, because you don’t need them in anhydrous products. When you want to expand your hobby to making emulsions, you need to expand your selection of raw materials to also include water-soluble products and various preservatives suitable for the products.
In the list below, I have listed the ingredients intended for water-free products separately and the ingredients intended for emulsions and face lotions separately. This way you can better understand which products are worth purchasing.
Ingredients suitable for anhydrous products
A good vegetable oil is the basis of most cosmetic products. As a base oil, I recommend oils that are neutral in colour, almost odourless and inexpensive. A good base oil should also be relatively easy to obtain. My favourite oils are sunflower oil, safflower oil, rice bran oil and filtered grape seed oil. You can purchase two different base oils. You should research the oils suitable for cosmetics in more detail and at your leisure, because later you will want to expand your oil selection. You should get 500 mg – 1000 mg of base oil. Ask the seller for an oil that still has plenty of shelf life left. Always store all your oils in the refrigerator, as they get spoiled easily.
You can add more antioxidants and special fatty acids to anhydrous products by using special oils. You should only buy 10 millilitres of special oils at a time. It is not worth buying more than two different qualities of special oils. Such oils are used in products only in very small quantities. In addition, most of the special oils get spoiled very easily. Always store all special oils in the refrigerator and close the bottle carefully.
There are thousands of different antioxidant-rich vegetable oils. Studying them is really fun and exciting and an important part of the hobby. You can later expand your selection of special oils and get oils that are just right for your skin. Just to mention some good special oils, rosehip oil, argan oil, sea buckthorn oil, blackcurrant seed oil, pomegranate seed oil, cactus fig oil and camellia oil are excellent special oils.
You need vegetable butter for waterless creams, lip balms and whipped body lotions and for some other products. Not all vegetable butters are the same. Some of them are softer and some are harder. You should get both types. A soft, very commonly used vegetable butter is, for example, shea butter. There are purified and unrefined shea butters. Not everyone likes the smell of unrefined shea butter (I do). Another soft vegetable butter is mango butter. Sometimes you also need a harder vegetable butter like cocoa butter.
Vegetable butter does not spoil in the same way as oils. You can store them at room temperature, protected from light. You should only buy 100-500 gr of vegetable butter at a time. Usually, vegetable butter is used in the production of body butter.
Cosmetic waxes are necessary when you want firmness in products. Lip balm does not stay in the stick without waxes. The most popular and widely available wax is beeswax. Beeswax can be stored for years at room temperature, protected from light. Just buy 50-100 gr of beeswax at once.
Anhydrous balms and creams do not need a preservative, but they do need vitamin E. Vitamin E protects fats from rancidify. Buy vitamin E in a 30 ml bottle.
Essential oils are fat soluble. They can be used in products containing oils, vegetable butters, waxes, and other lipids. They are suitable for both water-free creams and emulsions. If you use essential oils in facial lotions, you need a solvent.
Essential oils are relatively pricey. I recommend only buying 3-4 essential oils at a time, say a citrus scent, a floral scent and a woody or earthy scent. Essential oils can last for a couple of years if they are stored correctly, in a cool place and protected from light and oxygen. Personally, I prefer to store essential oils in the refrigerator. Keeping them in a fridge is not absolutely necessary, however. Invest in good quality essential oils. Preferably get organic quality oils from a reputable supplier.
Clays are suitable for masks. Clay is a very well-preserved material that you can stock for many years. There are many different types of clay. The mildest clay is kaolin, which is very light in colour. French green clay is stronger and more effective. You do not need much clay in your products. That’s why 100 grams of each clay quality is enough for a long time.
Ingredients suitable for water-based products
For water-based products such as toners, emulsion creams, washing products and various gels, you need all the above-mentioned vegetable oils as well as vegetable butters and waxes. In addition, you need many other ingredients for the water phase.
You can use distilled water in toners and lotions as part of the water phase. Get at least one litre of distilled water. You can get it under the name of battery water from car accessories departments.
Hydrolats are vegetable waters, by-products of the process of distilling essential oils. Hydrolats are particularly effective in toners and in the aqueous phase of emulsion creams. There are dozens of different types of hydrolats. I recommend first choosing, for example, a mild chamomile hydrolat and a fragrant rose hydrolat. As a product containing water, hydrolats do not last very long, maybe max 6 months. That’s why it’s not a good idea to stock them in large quantities. 200 ml of both hydrolats is perfectly sufficient. Always store your hydrolat in the refrigerator.
Glycerol or glycerine is needed as an active ingredient in water-based products. Glycerol is a humectant that takes care of the moisture balance of the skin. It is also convenient to mix xanthan gum with glycerol. Glycerol should not be used very much because it makes the products sticky. Buy max 100 ml glycerol at a time. Glycerol survives very well, even for years. Store the bottle at room temperature away from light.
Emulsifiers are needed when you want to combine water-soluble and oil-soluble ingredients in the same product. The best known, easiest and generally available emulsifier is Olivem 1000. If you like to make a lot of emulsions, get 50-100 grams of it. Olivem 1000 is not a perishable ingredient. You can store it at room temperature, protected from light.
Thickener and gel former
The easiest and commonly available thickener for creams and gels is xanthan gum. You can even get xanthan gum at the grocery store. It does not get spoiled easily. You need it in very small amounts, 30-50 grams is enough for a long time.
Surfactant, the washing ingredient
If you like to make shower shampoo, you need a gentle surfactant. Coco glucoside is a multipurpose and gentle surfactant that you can use in shampoo and shower soap.
Products containing water and water-based ingredients need a preservative. Only a few natural cosmetics preservatives are easily available. The best-known cosmetic preservative sold in Finland is Geogard 221. It works in a wide pH range. If you make a lot of emulsions and lotions, I recommend getting 30 ml of Geogard 221 preservative. The product can be stored at room temperature.
There is an incredible amount of active ingredients. I’m not going to recommend a single one of them because they are so individual. You just must research which one might suit your own skin. Never buy large amounts of active ingredients at once. Get one and try it for a while. The active ingredients include herbs, herbal oils, lipids, vitamins and plant extracts. Some of them are completely synthetic. Many of them are also really expensive.
If you want to start with a very easy and inexpensive cosmetic active ingredient, I recommend green tea. You can make tea from an ordinary tea bag. By the same principle, you can use chamomile in your products. In the summertime, you can collect natural herbs such as Lady’s mantle, raspberry leaves, etc. and make a decoction of them for cosmetics.
Supplies needed to make cosmetics
Making cosmetics at home does not require many things. You don’t need expensive equipment or special tools. However, there are some tools that are absolutely must to get started.
Everything in cosmetics should definitely be weighed, including water and hydrosols. This is how to succeed most likely. In the beginning, I also used only decilitres to make cosmetics for a long time. Now I have converted all measurements to grams. The use of grams only requires a precision scale. Your scale should be so accurate that you can measure the products in grams, with two decimal places. Such scales cost nowadays about 50 euros/dollars.
When making emulsions, a thermometer is essential. It is also needed in the production of water-free creams. You can’t survive without a thermometer. My own thermometer is a handy infrared thermometer. Nowadays, you can get them very cheaply from many different stores.
pH strips are necessary when you want to prepare toners and emulsions. There are also pH meters. However, using them is not very simple. pH meters need to be calibrated often. They are delicate devices that may appear wrong if not properly maintained. pH strips do not have these problems. They are accurate enough to measure your lotions and toners.
- A water bath/boiler that you can make, for example, from a large pan
- Heat-resistant containers, the size of which is 10ml- 500ml. I have glass laboratory vessels, but you can use other vessels as well. Steel utensils are very good too.
- Mixers, I have glass rods, but other tools for mixing will also work
- Mini whisks
- Packages such as glass jars, cans, plastic bottles, plastic jars, lip balm sticks, etc. depending on the products you make. The packages don’t get spoiled, but there’s no point in getting too many of them. They take up space and maybe you want to try another package next time.
- Disinfectant for disinfecting jars and tools, for example 70% alcohol