When you start making your own skincare, trying out some DIY recipes or even develop your own product, you will first have to decide what type of product you like to make. Is it a balm or a cream, a lotion or a serum, a toner or a spray? Oil-based or water-based? Once you decide what you want to make, the next question is what the product is used for? Is the product for cleansing, moisturising, anti-aging, makeup removing, etc.?
When you have a plan of what the product is and whether it is designed for yourself or others, the ultimate most important is the ingredients. Always remember INGREDIENTS ARE THE PRODUCT.
Researching ingredients is one of the most important skills for skincare or hair care DIY enthusiasts or formulators. All cosmetic products are required to be labeled with INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) ingredient labeling. The INCI (the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) is the internationally recognised and utilised system for ingredients used in cosmetics.
So the first thing you need to start with is knowing the INCI of your ingredients. To find the INCI of an ingredient, you can start with using the European Commission’s CosIng database. You can also search for almost every cosmetic ingredient in the world using ULprospector, biggest source of datasheets. CosmeticsInfo is also a great place to learn about the general uses of cosmetic ingredients.
It is important to measure your ingredients using a digital scale weight. Finding a good scale is essential in this case. You will need 2 types of scale – one for large amounts and one for small amounts as accurate to 0.01g.
Good inexpensive scales:
For large amount 0.1g – Smart Weigh Digital Pro Pocket Scale with Back-Lit LCD Display, Silver
For Small Amount 0.01g – Smart Weigh SWS100 Elite Pocket Sized Digital Scale, Black
If you have the budget and want the scales to last longer:
For large amount 0.1g – iBalance i700 Table Top Precision Digital Scale
For Small Amount 0.01g – Jennings JSR-200
Measurements in volume tend to be inconsistent and inaccurate, volume of liquid ingredients varies according to their density, and one cup of one type of oil may weigh differently from a cup of different oil due to specific gravity differences. It is also important to record all your formulas as percentage, and this allows you to scale according to batch size and know how much the ingredients in an appropriate amount.
Formulas should add up to 100%. Our popular formulation calculator can be used to convert from percentages to weight easily. It also gives you warning alert if any of the category ingredients are out of recommended range to make sure the ratios between the ingredients are as desired.
Keeping a notebook start to record all your formulation is important. You should always write down your formula and keep a record so you can refer back if you want to reproduce another batch.
It is entirely your choice to go for an electronic version, i.e. simple word or table document or the most traditional way is to go for a paper notebook. A word of caution, If you decide to have an electronic notebook, make sure you set up an automatic back-up of your electronic data to avoid any painful experience of losing all your formula if your computer or hard disk crushed!
Your formulation notebook or diary should include: –
– Formula with percentages, converted to grams/oz for your batch size
– Different stages/phases
– Ingredient categories / ingredient functions
– Date of formulation
– Formulation procedure
– pH measurements
– Notes on the finished product: visual appearance (colour, texture), scent (woody, floral, spicy, stinky, etc.), skin feel (immediately, after a couple of hours, after a couple of days/weeks), changes you notice over a period of time, etc.
– Write down any failures, what could have gone wrongs, ideas on what you can do differently next time
PRESERVATIVES ARE TO PROTECT YOU from bacteria, fungus, and yeast. Without a preservative, you run the risk of introducing all sorts of nasty infections to your body. In short, preservatives are a MUST for water-containing products because they are prone to contamination as water provides the ideal conditions for bacterial and fungal growth. Anhydrous products (contains no water) are prone to oxidation and usually require an antioxidant, i.e. Vitamin E.
Formulations contain water, clay, honey, and fruits, are most likely to spoil very quickly and thus require a strong preservative system to ensure their stability and safety over their desired shelf life. Applying 1-2% preservative (even a chemical one) helps to prevent contamination, using a preservative is a necessity. A preservative system should be broad spectrum, meaning that it should protect your formula from the microbial growth of both gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria, yeast and mould. The big pro for synthetic preservatives is their broad-spectrum effectiveness at very low concentrations, stable and do not have the heavy smells and textures that many natural preservatives do. Natural preservatives are easy to find but always follow manufacturers’ and suppliers’ usage instructions to ensure your preservative is active and working as expected in your product. For more on preservatives for cosmetics, you can also see the blog here.
The pH scale ranges from 1 (most acidic) to 14 (most alkaline), with 7 considered the neutral ground. Any products that contain water will need to check on the pH (yes, you need preservatives!). Most microorganisms have approximately a neutral pH optimum (pH 6-7.5). Yeasts can grow in a more acid environment compared to bacteria. Moulds can develop over a wide pH range but prefer only slightly acidic conditions.
The skin’s normal range is between 4.0 to 6.5, with 5.5 being the most optimum, so our skin is slightly acidic by nature. As such, ideally making products that have a pH around 4.5 – 5.5, works well with the skin’s pH, at the same time suppressing microbial growth. Because you need preservatives for any products contain water, formulation’s pH which is off even by only half a grade, some of the preservatives may be deactivated. So it is important to check with the supplier of the choice of your preservatives the optimal pH.
Because of using natural ingredients, the properties of the plant-based ingredients can vary so the ingredients might not have the desired effect on the skin if the overall pH of the product is in the wrong range. Compared to mainstream synthetic ingredients, most natural ingredients are more susceptible to pH change. So, measuring the pH of a product must not be missed out for your homemade skincare. It is not just crucial for the safety of a product, pH also impacts the look and feel, colour and scents of the product.
You do not need a high tech pH meter to measure the pH of your products. At the start, you can use pH strips, which are readily available and affordable. Using pH meter will achieve a much accurate pH compared to pH strips.
Good Manufacturing Practice, known as GMP, is about ensuring the production of your skincare that is safe to use. It is a system of the “best practices” to prevent contamination of the products you make. This includes the cleaning and disinfecting the equipment, containers, working space, store and preserve your products hygienically and safely.
– Wash hands while preparing products and/or use gloves
– Make sure work area is clean
– Wash your beakers and spatulas with hot soapy water
– Clean the floor and wipe the counter with dishwashing soap.
How To Disinfect Your Containers & Lab Instruments
1. DO NOT use the same pots, spoons, measuring cups, etc. as those you prepare food
2. Remove remaining residue with spatulas, paper towel and/or disinfecting wipes. Clean the containers, instruments, and jars with soapy water.
3. Boil glass jars and lids (heat safe jars/lids only) in a large pot making sure they are covered by water for 10 minutes use tongs when removing. Pre-heat oven around 280 F (140 C) so that the oven is warm, not hot. Line up jars on the baking sheet. Place heat safe jars/lids in the oven for 5-10 minutes
If your containers and utensils are not heat resistant, you can use bleach or white distilled vinegar.
Option 1: A mild bleach/water solution (1 teaspoon of bleach to 1 gallon of water), let the bleach solution stand for 5-15 minutes. Rinse until all bleach odour is gone and air dry.
Option 2: Straight white distilled vinegar; let it stand for about 10 minutes. Rinse and air dry. Alternatively, start by cleaning the bottle with soap and water. Then spray the bottle with vinegar. Allow spray to sit for 3-10 minutes, then wipe.
Option 3: Disinfect with alcohol is also quite effective and let dry
– Isopropol alcohol 70%
– Vodka (around 40%), which is a good substitute if you Isopropol alcohol 70%.
Once dry, use or store in zip lock bags for later use
The beauty of DIY or formulate your skincare not just that you can create beautiful, safe and natural cosmetics, but also having much fun trying to perfect your skills, coming up with cosmetics that are creative and effective. It takes time and dedication to put in hard work into research and profound experimenting. Do not give up and always adopt the “Keep It Silly Simple” (KISS) principle as more ingredients do not mean it does more good than keep to just a few fantastic ingredients.