Before you get your hands dirty: some things you should know

[Qui trovate la versione italiana di questo articolo]

If you think you will find here some easy peasy recipes to make wonderful DIY cosmetics just by opening your fridge, you’re in the wrong place.

Before making real cosmetic products, you should be aware of the fact that what you are dealing with is chemistry. This means that (a) you should know the matter, and (b) it can be dangerous, if you don’t.

This does not mean that you should have a Master and a PhD in chemistry or pharmacy. Most of us chemists don’t study cosmetic chemistry at the university and even if so, we don’t learn how to make cosmetics at home and with the reagents that we can find online. Everyone can learn on books, blogs, and forums, but it’s fundamental to have a rough idea of the theory that is behind the formulation of a cream and the chemistry of the components we’re going to use.

Why do I make cosmetics at home

If you plan to follow some of my recipes, I have to tell you something about my personal view of making cosmetics. Some people make cosmetics with the aim of reproducing or even overcome the formulations of commercial products. Therefore, after thorough study, they make very advanced formulations with thousands of complicated ingredients. I admire those who do it, but this is not my personal objective.

If I wanted to become a professional formulator, I could have. I’m a pharmaceutical chemist and I have a PhD in pharmaceutical formulation: I could have looked for a job in the cosmetic industry.

But when I formulate at home, my objective is to make a cosmetic product of which I know the composition and that allows me to reduce my waste of resources. This means that I would like to have as less reagents as possible, that allow me to make as many products as possible. I try to avoid formulations that contain that super cool thickener that yes, it’s super cool and yields a cream with a supersonic performance, but it requires 5 more ingredients just to make the formulation work.

I also try to use “green” ingredients as much as I can.

The result is that my formulations are pretty basic. With other ingredients their performance could be enhanced, but right now that’s just not my goal. Of course, I am careful that the formulations are always working and most importantly, that they are safe to use. All the formulations you find here have been tested by me and by my partner (in some cases even by friends and family) for weeks or months before they can appear on the blog.

The importance of the source

Whether you are a chemist or you have zero knowledge about chemistry and cosmetic chemistry, it is fundamental that you learn from reliable source of information.

As general guideline, never trust blogs and websites that make it “too easy”. Never trust whatever you see on Pinterest. Cosmetic science is chemistry: you won’t make a cream out of guacamole, and you won’t make a dish soap out of lemon peel.

When I started to make cosmetics at home, years ago, I relied on my own studies at the university and on a few Italian forums and blogs. After my PhD, my idea of “looking for reliable information” changed a lot, and I realised that the Italian websites dealing with homemade cosmetics were all disciples of the same and only point of view, with nobody taking information or inspiration from outside our nation.

On the contrary, as researcher I learned that international exchange of knowledge is fundamental and that chemistry (as well as all the other sciences) belong to everyone and should be shared among everyone who is interested. Therefore, I started to read and learn how do the others formulate cosmetics at home, if they did at all. I found out that they do and they do it pretty well.

So, my final advice about sources is: check the information on more than one source and don’t stick to the one given by “the one and only”. Don’t even stick to the information you find here in my blog: consider it in the same way you would consider all the other sources, check facts and information before you take it as a truth. And if you find mistakes or something that doesn’t convince you, please contact me!

The updated list of useful links for DIY cosmetics is here.


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