I call this section "cosmetics science" because it's where I learn about the science behind cosmetics and skincare products, and make my experiments. Here I will document my explorations in the theory and practice of making (mostly) natural products with simple ingredients.
There are many types of products that I aspire to make and experiment with, including:
- Whatever else that looks interesting
As I wormed my way through recipes and ingredient descriptions, I found that it is indeed science in action, because every ingredient has different properties, and by combining them I would end up with different textures and functions and smells, and so on. That in turn spiked my interest in the chemistry behind it.
While giving the middle finger to the beauty industry which profits out of telling women that they're not good enough, I'm also empowering myself with the knowledge of what's good for me and what's not. Also, the spirit of experimentation is alive in this one - while I'm a researcher, the type of research that I do is usually not the type that requires a lab, so this is very exciting for me!
The other thing is that, I'm really not very good at using the skincare products that I buy from the pharmacist. I get a tub of something, use it for a week, and promptly forget about it until years later when I come across it again and then it nags at my conscience along with the other tubs and bottles that I've accumulated. I've since stopped buying any skincare products apart from cleansers which you need to use to shower and wash your face.
And so, I think that it's good to make my own when I need them, and use them up as quickly as I can because of the limited shelf-life if you don't put much preservatives. I'm still trying to learn more about preservatives and how to use them effectively and minimally(because if you don't entirely, they tend to grow mould and spawn bacteria, especially in our Malaysian weather).
Click on the other tabs to check out resources that I have accumulated over time, and I'll try to post recipes and experiments on my blog when I can.
Before going on a buying spree I did some research on what I would possibly need for my home lab, and where to get them. I found an online shop (Beauty360degrees.com) for such supplies in Malaysia. While it doesn't stock as widely as I would like it to, at least I could buy certain things that I had never seen in pharmacies or other brick and mortar shops.
After browsing through many recipes and guides I narrowed down the list of items that I thought I would need, and then narrowed it down some more, since the price tag of my cart was starting to look pretty hefty - and placed my order with trepidation, since it was quite an amount of money to pay for an online retailer that I had not bought from before. Fortunately the goods arrived intact on the next day (or the day after the next, I forget) and I proceeded quite smoothly to my experiment phase.
To know what to get required me to understand some basic procedures of how to go about making your own products. First I determined what I would do - I would start with making moisturisers and masks, which seemed to be easy enough, and later on I might move on to soaps, which required other equipments that I would not get yet. Here are some of the raw materials that I have:
- To measure things: beakers (150ml, 400ml), alcohol thermometer
- To heat things up: heat-resistant glass container for double boiling (350ml)
- To stir/scoop things up: egg beater, silicon spatula
- Containers/bottles: 100ml spray bottles, 100ml pump bottles, 100ml flip cap bottles, recycled glass containers.
Where to get raw materials
- Beauty360degrees.com - I've bought from them a few times. Quick service and delivery. The supplies list is quite extensive for a beginner, though I intend to find more suppliers for ingredients that they do not carry.
- YKLPersonalCare.com - Wider range of chemicals at cheap prices, compared to the chemicals that Beauty360degrees.com also stocks. Case in point: Polysorbate 20 (a solubilizer) is sold in Beauty360degrees for RM23/100g, while YKL sells the same amount for RM7. See here for more info. I've bought from them, delivery was prompt but the packaging of the goods were quite poorly done, so you really do get what you pay for.
- NaturalWellBeing.com.my - I haven't bought from them yet but they seem to stock quite some stuff as well.
- Organic shops - You can find many organic oils and foodstuff (honey, oats, etc.) which can also be used in both the kitchen and in the home lab.
- Chinese traditional medicine/herbal shops - herbs have been used for millennia in the Chinese tradition, and continues to be popular nowadays. I like looking at the shelves of herbs and their functionalities and mapping out the Chinese names to the English names. Who knows, I might take a closer look at Chinese herbal remedies later on.
- Plant your own - I'm still working on my edible/functional garden, and that in itself is challenging, since I didn't quite grow up planting things and everything's still quite new to me. Nevertheless, I think it's the most rewarding way of getting your ingredients.
DIY guides and information online are a dime a dozen, but often aren't very well-researched. Here is a list of some websites and posts that I like, that seem to know what they are doing, instead of just putting together Pinterest-worthy pictures and echoing whatever they read from the Internet. I'll be updating this section whenever I have anything new.
- Humble Bee and Me - Hundreds of recipes, updates very regularly, has a very engaging way of writing - her blog is just a treasure trove of information.
- Point of Interest - Also very regularly updated, the blogger inspired me to take a closer look at the chemistry behind the products, as she's a bit of a chemist herself and her sidebar is equally, if not more, impressive than the Humble Bee and Me blog. The sidebar is particularly worth checking out, and I am working through the ingredients one by one to understand their properties and usage.
- Soap Queen - Also lots of recipes and tutorials. It's owned by a popular ingredients supplier but you could source out the ingredients yourself and just implement the recipes.
- The Beauty Brains - where "Real scientists answer real questions". They have podcasts as well. Splendid stuff!
- Grow your own drugs series from the BBC, hosted by James Wong - This series is what got me interested in the whole business of growing and DIY-ing your own natural remedies. While James talks about a lot of different remedies, not only bath and body products, I decided to focus on that because it's fun to make and useful for everyday usage, not only when you're sick.
- Khan Academy - Register an account and start learning organic chemistry. It's a brilliant resource to slowly learn the building blocks.
Although "chemicals" are vilified by a lot of bloggers who try to keep "natural" - I think that there's a difference in knowing why something is bad for you, and being afraid because you don't understand what's behind the long chain of letters that chemical names typically have. Also, what constitute as chemicals and what as natural? Some people argue that some so-called chemicals are derived from natural products anyway. Others say that the industry often paints things as "natural" as a form of greenwashing and that there's no real definition to the term. At the end of the day, it boils down to two words: "it depends".
All I'm saying is that it's important to keep an open mind, because it's not true that what's natural is always good for you (note, for instance, that some essential oils are actually considered hazardous). While I'm trying to use more natural products than not, this stems from my consideration that I'd like to use things that are minimally processed, and that should not harm the environment. If they yield results and you know what's exactly in your concoction, why not?
Hence, it's very important to educate oneself, about the proper proportions to use, the pH level of your skin and hair, the properties of natural/chemical ingredients, and so on. Why certain things react a certain way, and what are myths and what are not. That implies a lot of time investment, and sifting through a lot of noise before you come to some actual good stuff. But that's part of the fun, and part of the learning - remember that you can't believe everything that you read! Claims should be substantiated, and even so, exercise good reason and common sense. When in doubt, read more!
- A price comparison that I did for Beauty360Degrees.com, YKLPersonalCare.com and NaturalWellBeing.com. I was amazed that the prices varied quite wildly in some cases, for no apparent reason. I did observe that YKLPersonalCare supplies chemicals at better prices than the other two. As a result of this comparison I was able to get the cheapest products from each supplier, and I hope that it will benefit you too.