DIY Beauty : Friend or Foe?
issue seven : folklore & fairytales
It seems the DIY beauty trend is in full swing. It is not only old wives and traditional healers that are making their beauty products at home in their kitchen anymore! It seems just about everyone and anyone who can get their hands on a few “chemical-free” ingredients are now masters of their home-made beauty dreams.
While on the one hand, I think this is a wonderful thing, I do take issue with it too. Not so much the fact that men and women are using edible ingredients for their skin concerns - which of course the green beauty army has been touting for years, but rather because the men and women now sharing these old wives’ tales are sharing them on social media platforms to their thousands, sometimes millions of followers, and without a real understanding for what they are doing or saying and therefore being incredibly negligent with their incredible power.
The “Chemical-Free” Folklore
Ahh, this little acorn of non-factual wisdom. I see this getting thrown around a lot. “100% chemical free recipe!” (I see this not only in DIY recipes but also in branded finished products - which I truly believe is grossly negligible on behalf of untainted brands - but that is another story for another time.) That is total poppycock. I know many of you who are reading this will already know that, however, there are millions of people out there that are quite simply blind to this information. For my dear, sweet Goldilocks (insert any fairytale character name your heart desires) - there is no such thing as “chemical-free” when referring to ingredients, for even the purest water is a chemical.
Of course, I understand the intention behind the phrase chemical-free beauty, however, I think it is of paramount importance that we consider the facts in this instance, and not the folklore. The mixing and blending of chemicals to form a safe, stable formulation that is effective and that will last, is not child’s play. It is indeed a science - one that cosmetic scientists study for years to master. The big, bad wolf in this story are the synthetic chemicals magically made from the by-products of petroleum.
So let us go forth with this new knowledge that will allow you to distinguish the fact from the fiction. A chemical is not an evil witch or warlock, it is an essential element in your beloved skincare, however, it is the synthetic chemicals (and natural allergens - more about this later in this tale) that you need to Hansel and Gretel your way away from. Capice (ka-peesh)?
Every fairy tale princess that ever lived was a natural beauty, as are every single one of you reading this. In the context of natural and organic beauty in the realm of UNTAINTED, there are perhaps more layers to this story to consider. For those who don’t know the difference, natural refers to ingredients sourced from nature (but are not necessarily present in their raw, natural state in our cosmetic products because they need to be processed in a lab to be deemed safe for use on the skin), while organic refers to how those ingredients were farmed, which means that some of the natural chemicals will never receive the class of organic. Water, for instance, is the most obvious example, as water cannot be farmed or grown under organic conditions. Mica and mineral pigments are others that will only ever belong to the Kingdom of natural.
However, in the context of DIY beauty, natural takes on yet another incarnation. Ingredients plucked directly from the mythical tree (okay, okay… more realistically bought from a store) with no interference from any hands. Where the plants and fruit filled retain their life-force and provide our skin and hair with nourishment. These magical ingredients filled to the brim with complex natural chemicals that leave our skin looking fairy tale worthy.
Consider the mighty avocado. Brimming with nourishing fats and oils and can be scoped from is shell and lathered on the face is a perfect example of natural beauty, and a regular feature in DIY. But is it sustainable and environmentally sound? If that avocado has been flown around the world to mashed up and consumed for your beautification ritual just because it’s natural. Hmmm, it’s starting to sound like our quest for beauty can be likened to that of Cinderella’s wicked stepmother… We, as untainted beauty lovers, have a duty of care to more than just our own preening, but to the longevity of our beautiful planet.
a cautionary tale
While DIY skincare is one thing, DIY makeup is another whole other shit-show. While doing researching for this article, I tripped and fell down a rabbit hole that leads into the alarming world of DIY makeup. The scariest part of all is that in today’s world, the virtual “storytellers” could be likened to the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Okay, perhaps that is a little harsh, but what I am trying to say here is that You-tubers, Instagrammers and Beauty Influencers have a vast following and the alluring multi-colours of beauty are bewitching to beauty-lovers and penny pinchers the world over. Too many of them portray dangerous ideas without any safety warnings about their DIY recipes (that is true for skincare and beauty hack ideas too).
In our recent beauty editorial, Old Wives’ Tales, I have used turmeric and yoghurt to create a mask because of its believed inflammatory and skin calming properties, but you will see that I have not taken the concoction right up under the eye as recommended by a number of beauty influencers as a remedy to cure dark circles. Why, you ask? Well, it’s simple. You know how we all know not to take moisturiser right up under the eye as the skin around the eye is far more delicate? The same applies for DIY beauty concoctions that require unapproved use of natural chemicals. While turmeric may be a legendary cure-all when ingested, the chemical compound Curcumin, that gives turmeric is vivid yellow colour, it is a volatile compound, that when used in high enough does can cause irritation, and in excessive cases, toxicity leading to death. While the Daily Mail is certainly not my usual point of reference, this article is worth mentioning because the Dr’s who have been quoted here make a lot of (common) sense.
Even more alarmingly, I came across a DIY recipe for natural eyeshadow that includes powdered turmeric AND Allspice to create your favourite neutral shades. WebMD advises the potential side effects as: “When applied directly to the skin, allspice can cause allergic skin reactions in sensitive people.” Don’t even get me started on those that are advising you to melt wax crayons and use them as makeup because they are worried about lead in lipstick! Let me just break it down for you very quickly: wax crayons are made from paraffin wax (erm, made from crude oil) and pigments - many of which are not approved as safe to use around the mouth, nose or eye area. Not to mention that some colours contain more lead than in any commercial lipstick, as well as cadmium and even asbestos.
there are a number a pigments (natural or sytnethic that are not considered safe near certain parts of the face and are only certified for certain uses).
Another thing I see a lot of are beauty hacks - albiet with the best intentions of being eco-conscious, but with little regard for the wearer’s safety. These hacks include, but are in no way limited too, DIY setting spray and makeup remover wipes. Both of these contain water but without any preservatives. I know preservatives are still a big, scary word for many, but in reality, our cosmetic formulations - especially those containing water - require preservation to stay safe so we can use them on our face and bodies. None of the tutorials I came across (with the exception of Clean Beauty Co) provided the viewer with any safety warning, storage advice or product longevity.
Safe Passage to DIY land
I’m not hear to destroy your hopes and dreams for a dreamy DIY beauty routine, I am simply shedding light on some very dangerous practices that are trending (I have only just scratched the surface of it too), just as any good fairytale does. Really good fairytales also provide hidden clues to solutions - if even only metaphorically. For the sake of making things very clear, I will arm you with three clear wisdoms to ensure your DIY beauty ritual is safe:
1. Research the safety of the ingredients you plan to use for certain parts of your face and delicate areas before just blindly following a Pied Piper.
DIY Beauty: the risks can outweigh the cost, but only if you follow blindly without doing your own research and practicing your formulating with safety in mind.
2. Remember that you are combing natural chemical compounds together, and as any formulator knows, chemicals react with other other chemicals, so do a patch test first to ensure your skin likes the combination.
3. Don’t use art supplies on your face and body. I know we refer to the face as canvas…but please, take that with a pinch of salt.
And… so, you too can live happily ever after…
here is some additional suggested expert advice for good measure: