How To Make Your Own Homemade Herbal Cosmetics - History and Basics
We American women were and still are a spoiled lot. We took a lot for granted, concepts like that we had a birthright to buy certain everyday beauty items, often cheaply, but mostly not. Our sense of entitlement included such indulgences.
Didn't like the color of your lipstick? No problem. Toss it out and buy a new one. If your co-worker was wearing a hot new eyeshadow color and you wanted it too? Run to the department store cosmetic counter on your lunch hour, and presto -- you could have the same -- all for a very modest amount, or at least it seemed so in the moment.
Well, in case some of you haven't looked around lately, the price of beauty has gone up -- dramatically. Here is an industry that we have contributed over $10 billion a year to, and it thanks us by increasing the price. Certainly, the manufacturers know that,on average, we spend over in many cases, approximately $3,000 a year for our waxes, concealers, mascaras, creams, hair, lotions and potions, nails and the like.
The high price of our vanity, when extended over our life times is staggering in it's implications. How many women end up being poor in their so-called golden years? Maybe it's time we asked ourselves if perhaps we made some frivolous choices along the way, and that a series of them might be found in our makeup cases or left behind on the floor of the nearest beauty shop?
Taking that line of thought a step further, what would it mean if each woman had $288,000 in the bank upon retirement? Since that's the amount the average American woman spends in a lifetime trying to look her best, it is certainly worthy of some deep thought.
What's In Your Mascara?
I'm not by any stretch of the imagination, advocating that not looking your best, or thinking that being as beautiful one can be, is not something we all as women, shouldn't desire and strive for.
To a certain extent, I've always been a girly girl and I think it's one of the best parts about being a woman. Moreover, if you look good, you feel good emotionally and that's important. Right or wrong, the world judges you (especially when you are younger), based on your physical appearance.
My journey in putting cosmetics and personal beauty products in proper context in life, came from a non-financial look-see. I wanted to know exactly what was in the cosmetics that I wore. Like many women, I sometimes had allergies to certain products.
In that search, it started dawning on me that reading the ingredients list on personal products was a lot like reading the ingredients list on our ever popular "convenient" food products. If you can't pronounce them, or don't know what they are, maybe they shouldn't be slathered on your body so quickly. That also led me to concerns about freshness and purity of those same products.
Not only are today's commercially sold beauty products often expensive (thanks to advertising, packaging, distribution and testing) -- but they also have increased problems with the uses of their chemical preservatives, synthetic perfumes, and artificial colorings.
It's natural that The new trend in cosmetics is to go all-natural, and there is a market rush to create natural herbal cosmetics. There is also a market rush to re-capture your hard earned cosmetic and beauty product dollars.
The History of Cosmetics
Like with a lot of things, no one can claim the prize for "being the first" except the Chinese, who were known to be using lotions since their recorded history. They were also painting their nails (as a symbol of class) since before 3000 B.C.
Still, when I think of makeup in the context of history, I look back to more than seven thousand years ago where somewhere along the Nile River, Egyptians painted their dead to make them look more presentable in the next life. Beyond that, Egyptians also used these same beauty preparations for religious rituals and ceremonies.
While some may say that they were vain, my thoughts are more along the line of knowing what a hot and windy desert environment can do to your skin. I grew up partially in the American deserts, and it is a harsh and hostile place for skin. Egyptians were no dummies, if you had oils and creams it lessens the sun's damage to your skin.
They weren't the only ancient ones who felt that way about personal beautification. Even Greek Hippocrates saw the value in taking care of one's self. The Romans took it even further, when Citro, a Roman author wrote four separate books on cosmetics, complete with 1 A.D. recipes.
By the time of the Renaissance, women and men both were handing down for generations their private recipes for soaps, creams, herbal water, shampoos, soaps, and the like. By the time man and woman stepped into the nineteenth century, mass production allowed everyday women so many choice. It wasn't long before, there was and still continues, to be a perception that beauty products, are almost a downright necessity.
That leads to two questions: How can a smart woman not put herself into the poorhouse, and still be beautiful? How can a beautiful and smart woman know the products she uses are safe and natural?
A Simple Answer -- Make Homemade Herbal Cosmetics
Making Your Own Homemade Herbal Cosmetics and Beauty Products
Making your own homemade herbal cosmetics and beauty products could be compared to a process, like shifting your mindset to becoming a vegetarian or vegan, or going green, or taking the plunge to only eat organic. It's something you study upon, decide what's right for you, and perhaps grow into gradually.
There are great advantages in making your own herbal beauty products:
- You can be sure of the contents of the products you use
- You decide what ingredients suit your needs
- You control freshness and purity
- You can save a lot of money by making your own
Before You Begin - Useful and Necessary Equipment
Before going into the recipes and the secrets behind making your own homemade herbal cosmetics, like with any recipe, it is important to gather your utensils and other useful equipment.
Many of these items are already found in your kitchen. Some of the ones you might want to have on hand are:
- A notebook or 3x5 cards for recording your recipes and alterations to them
- An assortment of small plastic funnels
- Distilled water (several gallons)
- Enamel double boiler
- Food scale
- Glass bottles and jars with airtight lids (be sure that you have sterilized them in a boiling water bath, in the same manner that you would if canning fruits or vegetables)
- Glass measuring cups
- Indelible marker or computer generated sticky labels
- Juicer (juice extractor)
- Pestle and mortar (wooden, glass, marble, or stone)
- Pyrex type glassware (suitable for submerging in or sitting upon pans of boiling water)
- Measuring spoons
- Mixers (both hand and electric)
- Rubber gloves
- Sieve (nylon or cheesecloth)
- Wooden spoons
Note: Do not use aluminum, copper, non-stick pans, or non-enameled pans or equipment for anything heated.
Before You Begin - Some Herbal Basics (and new vocabulary)
There are four different methods of basic herbal cosmetic and beauty product prepa ration. Sooner or later, you'll be using one or more, if not all of them. For now, it's just important to be familiar with the terminology and ha ve an idea of the general methodology, for example:
- Decocting -- To extract the essence or active ingredient from a substance by boiling it. What the word specifically applies to is the more fibrous parts of herbs (bark, roots, stems, and seeds). The general methodology is cutting up about 1 cubic inch or 1 oz. and boiling it in distilled water for about a 1/2 hour. After which, you reduce the liquids down, cool, stain, bottle, store in the refrigerator until use in herbal cosmetic recipes.
- Infusing -- To soak tea or herbs in liquid to extract the flavor or another property, or be soaked in this way. The basic methodology is to put a little over a handful of fresh herbs into your double boiler, to which you add 2 1/2 cups of boiling distilled water. You then cover it with a lid to allow evaporation, reduce the heat, and steep for a half hour.After which, you reduce the liquids down, cool, stain, bottle, store in the refrigerator until use in herbal cosmetic recipes.
- Macerating -- To soften something by soaking it in liquid. The proper methodology is to place fresh crushed or mashed herbs in a sterile canning jar and cover them with vegetable oil, cider vinegar, or pure alcohol and seal the jar. After which, you simply shake the jar each day for two weeks. Then, you strain and top the contents with fresh crushed herbs each day until the liquid smells very herbal. At the end of the two weeks, you again strain and seal.
- Pulverizing -- To crush or grind something into a powder or dust, or be crushed or ground into a powder or dust.This is one of my favorite methods because it is quick and easy. Methodology can be done by a variety of methods like: Grinding, bruising, mashing via pestle and mortar. You can even throw it all into a blender and make use of the seeds.
Before You Begin - Optional Nonherbal Ingredients
Not all of the ingredients for making your own herbal cosmetics and beauty products will come from your herbal garden. Some you may want to buy:
- Alcohol (Ethyl alcohol is best, while Isopropyl alcohol aka rubbing alcohol, is less desirable due to it's medical odor). Vodka is a close substitute, or at least an interesting one.
- Calamine lotion
- Castile soap
- Cocoa butter
- Clay (Kaolin)
- Distilled white vinegar
- Essential oils
- Petroleum jelly
- Zinc oxide
Before You Begin - Some Skin Type Considerations
By now, most of us know that our skin is a reflection of our overall health and the environments we live in. Like a fine piece of furniture, it too needs to be kept moist, clean, and be protected from harsh environments.
If you don't take care of you skin, you might find the reflection in your mirror showing a woman you don't want to know.
To properly take care of your skin, you need to be aware of the type(s) of skin you are caring for. It's an accepted standard that skin is either:
- Normal (rarest of all) - requires simple care
- Dry - A hazard of aging and harsh environments - requires gentle care and mild cleansers
- Oily - Requires it's own special care
- Or of combination type (most common) - Requires a more complicated care for all areas
If You'd Like to Know More!
- Cosmetics in Ancient Egypt
- Gallery: Bottles, Jars & Cosmetics Display
Photos of how our bottles, jars and containers can be used with your products.
- Hypoallergenic Makeup
What is considered hypoallergenic makeup and is it really allergy-free? What cosmetic ingredients cause allergies and how to avoid them?
- The History of Cosmetics
Find out where it all began
Before You Begin - Some Allergen Considerations
If there was ever a case for making your own herbal cosmetics, allergy problems makes it's point, sometimes quite dramatically. Here is an area of abuse throughout the cosmetic and beauty product industry to which we are all subjected to. It's all about the truth in labeling and the laws surround them.
At your local cosmetic counter, drug store, or makeup wholesaler, you'll see the word "Hypoallergenic" applied to certain lines of cosmetics. Now the Latin prefix "hypo" means less than normal and "hypo" on a cosmetic label is not the "friend" you might think it is.
All it really means is that this product "might cause less" allergies to users. There are no safeguards or laws applied to the term, you only have the manufacturers word for it. Some responsible companies test their products, most do not.
A makeup product claimed to be hypoallergenic implies that it is less likely to cause allergic reactions. There are no Federal rules that control the use of the term, so there is no assurance to consumers that the product is really what it says it is. Since there are no standards legally, there literally is no such thing as hypoallergenic. So the use of the word, hypoallergenic is nothing more than an advertising gimmick.
It goes hand-in-hand with the words:
- Allergy tested
- Dermatologist tested
- Safe for sensitive skin
- Sensitivity tested
How can you protect yourself if you are buying cosmetics? Be aware that if you have sensitive skin, the following ingredients are known to cause problems with some individuals:
- Almond oil
- Bay leaves
- Cocoa butter
- Digalloy trioleate
- Essential oils (some can cause allergies)
- Formaldehyde resin
- Metallic compounds
- Methyldibromo glutaronitrile
- PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid)
Finally, remember that just because your are using "natural" herbs, doesn't mean that you also might find some ingredients that cause you allergies. When it doubt, it is best to test for a reaction by on your inner arm under a gauze area, leaving for 24 hours, to see what type of reaction it causes.