Visit any health and wellness blog today and I guarantee that you’ll run across at least 1 DIY post. We are now the Pinterest generation, where there are thousands of pretty graphics with every DIY, tip, trick or hack you can think of. People are more and more empowered to take on projects and challenge themselves to recreate their favorite things.
Love it or not, there’s something lovely about mixing up your own recipes. I’ve been mixing since I was about 13 years old. I’ve always had at least shoulder length natural hair and when I hit puberty, I guess I decided that I wanted to take control of my hair. This led to many frizzy and crazy hair days, but it still felt satisfying to know that I was using my own products.
I don’t think the DIY phenomenon is going anywhere-especially when it comes to skin and hair care. Honestly, I don’t want it go anywhere because it’s fun! It’s so thrilling to try a recipe and have it actually work! It’s why I started making and selling my own products. Despite the fun of it all, making your own products can be intimidating. There are millions of recipes and a million different combinations of those recipes. It's hard to know where and how to start. So, I want to share my tips on the 5 things you must-have in order to succeed with any DIY recipe for your skin or hair:
1. Correct Measuring Tools
You know how you’re always envious of big mama, who can make crazy delicious recipes without ever measuring a thing? Yea, this is not that situation. making your own hair and body products is very similar to baking. because you may be introducing heat and some recipes include mixing water-based and oil-based ingredients as well as wet vs. dry ingredients, precision is key. of course if you’re simply mixing oils for your recipe, you have a little more leeway, but i’m talking about those more serious recipes where you have to do a bit of mixing and manipulating. just like baking is chemistry, mixing homemade skin and hair products is the same.
The simplest advice is to measure wet ingredients by volume and dry ingredients by weight. Measure wet ingredients using measuring cups, and use a scale for dry ingredients. For semi-solid ingredients like coconut oil that melt in higher temperatures, I like to weigh it in a solid state. Many recipes will call for measuring spoons, and I tend to stay away from those. It’s best to measure your ingredients by percentage. For example, instead of using a recipe that calls for 2 cups coconut oil, 1 cup shea butter and 1 cup beeswax, you should measure your ingredients using percentages (50% coconut oil, 25% shea butter and 25% beeswax), and then translate that into the right metric.
Doing this ensures that you have a more consistent product each time you mix your product. The best example I can give is with flour. When you’re baking a cake, some days, you make be a little overzealous and really pack the flour into your measuring cup. Other days, you may just pour the flour in, not pat down anything and throw what you have in the mixing bowl. I can guarantee you that your zealous batch will have way more flour than the lazy batch. Save yourself the trouble and wasted ingredients, and use measuring cups for wet ingredients and a scale for dry ingredients.
Serious Eats has a great guide for measuring wet and dry ingredients here.
2. Quality Ingredients
This one is my pet peeve. You don’t know how many times I’ve been on online forums to see people complaining about how a product didn’t work. When you start to dig deeper into people’s complaints, you often find that the quality of the product they’re dismissing sucks or barely includes the real ingredients it claims to have. Perfect scenario: check out the Queen Helene Jojoba Hot Oil Treatment listed on Amazon (pic below). Now, the word “jojoba” is placed prominently on the packaging to convince us all that it will provide the great benefits of Jojoba oil. However, if you look at the ingredients, Jojoba is hardly a prominent ingredient: “Water, Propylene Glycol, PPG-12-PEG65 Lanolin Oil, Jojoba Extract, Panthenol, Keratin Amino Acids, Polyquaternium-10, Cetrimonium Chloride, Disodium EDTA, Diazolidinyl Urea, Caramel, Fragrance.” The first time the product doesn’t condition properly or doesn’t soften hair like it promises, people are ready to jump on Jojoba for not working. Why blame poor Jojoba, when it’s barely represented in the ingredient list? For all of that effort, why not just buy some pure Jojoba oil?
The reason why you’re mixing your own ingredients is because you take pride in your appearance and you want to maximize the benefits of raw natural ingredients. To make that happen, you will need quality ingredients. Go for unfiltered, cold-pressed, and organic oils when possible.
Check out these great sites for quality ingredients:
3. Reliable Tools
There are certain tools that you should invest in for your DIY arsenal. You must have a good scale. You definitely need a blender if you want to make hair/skin creams or butters. A double boiler is essential when melting ingredients. Don’t forget mixing spoons. Having a blender saves your arm and saves time, if you need to whip something up. You can use an immersion blender like this one here or a regular hand mixer.
Having a double boiler is also key when melting ingredients. Similar to melting chocolate, you don’t want to overheat your ingredients and you want them to melt slowly. Melting with indirect heat gives you more assurance that you will not overheat anything. Many recipes online suggest using a mason jar in a regular pot as a makeshift double boiler. I DO NOT recommend this only because there have been many times that my mason jar cracked and all my oils were wasted! Now, I use a stainless steel bowl and place it on top of a boiling pot of water. This works wonders for me and I don’t have to worry about any glass breaks.
The quality of your tools is just as important as the quality of your materials. If you have a bummy scale, then the proportion of your ingredients will be off, throwing off your recipe. If you’re serious about living the DIY life, be sure to buy these things before you really dive in.
There have been times that I’ve been so excited that I actually made a recipe that worked, but I had nothing to store it in. I’ve had to run around pouring my finished product into random empty bottles and jars. That is not cool and frankly, not sanitary either. To avoid mishaps like that, be clear on how much product you’re making and find a container that will work for you. You should think seriously about the material that will work best for your recipe. There are certain questions you should ask yourself that will determine the best fit:
- Will the finished product be in liquid or solid form? Will this form change in different environments?
- Does the product contain ingredients that need to be kept away from light?
- Is the product hands-free?
- What type of top will I need?
- Does the product need to be refrigerated?
- Will the container/product be exposed to water?
The answers to these questions will largely guide what containers you decide to use. If you use an aluminum tin, it may rust when exposed to water. If the container is made of glass, you may not want to use in the bathroom where there’s a risk of breaking. If you made a conditioner without a preservative, you may want to use a pump instead of a twist top to keep water out of your product and prevent mold and bacteria growth. There are many options for containers out there but you can start with the two links below:
5. An Open Mind
This last must-have costs you absolutely nothing. At this point, I’m a DIY pro, so I know what I’m talking about here. You will screw up many batches. You will go to bed with hopes of a perfect twist-out using your new hair cream, and will wake up the next day with a frizzy mess. You will spill products all over your bathroom sink. You will curse when you’ve wasted your expensive organic argan oil on a failed batch. You will try and fail, and try and fail again. There are so many variables when it comes to making skin and hair products. Things you may not consider like humidity, scale calibration, and ingredient quality can have huge impacts on the success of your batches. The key is to keep trying. Every recipe is not going to be the perfect one. It doesn’t mean that the recipe may not be a keeper, it just means you have to make it work for you.
Remember why you decided to DIY in the first place? You wanted to make an awesome product with your own special touch. If you’re taking someone else’s recipe, that means you will HAVE to tweak it and alter it until it really does work for you. Don’t fret, you will find the perfect fit eventually. And soon after you'll be able to rejoice when you’re finally able to enter the Hall of Fame of DIYers.
Did I miss anything? What else do you think you need for a successful DIY product?
- October 19, 2015
- Tiffany A