Remember when I said I was going to do a post on skin, making your own skin products, and why that’s a good idea? Let’s get into that a little. I mean, I have PLENTY of other things I should be doing right now, but to hell with all that- being responsible is for next week.
Just to make sure we’re setting off on the right footing: while I love granola as much as the next hippie, I didn’t get into this because I’m against using modern medicine to take care of my skin. Skin is the largest organ of the body and while we tend to take it for granted, it’s actually pretty important— this isn’t just a vanity thing. I grew up with a pretty nasty case of eczema, which had me thinking about this kind of thing pretty early in my life. My folks didn’t have eczema, so they were figuring it out, which sucked a little. We didn’t have much money, so we were mostly listening to a GP who, in retrospect, didn’t really know what he was talking about.
In his defense, he was a very nice man and I’m certain he gave out the advice of his day, but it was terrible advice that horrifies/ amuses modern dermatologists and was better suited to a case of contact dermatitis than my actual problem. While I love my friend Keri very much, Keri lotion is actual garbage that should go directly from shelves to the bin, and Dove soap is the worst. The WORST*, friends. Better, sure, than other soaps in the grocery store, but you know what’s best for any sort of skin- but especially any skin that’s at all damaged? REAL, ACTUAL SOAP, made with lye. Don’t get too caught up in that, though: we’ll get into the details.
(*Agreed: there is also Ivory or Irish Spring but I am neither scrubbing out bloodstains nor trying to age my skin 15 years in a quarter, so we’re going to pretend that those just don’t exist.)
I learned about oil cleansing in my twenties from (of course) the internet. I’d been using topical & oral steroids to manage my eczema for most of my life at that point, and that worked moderately well, although it wasn’t until I acquired good health insurance and got in with a dermatologist that things really improved. As I’ve found in other areas of my health, lifestyle changes made the biggest differences of all: stress reduction, hydration, lukewarm showers (advice I’d also gotten from the GP), and- very importantly!- eliminating all mineral oil products and harsh soaps from my regimen. No Dove, no Keri lotions or oils, no Tide laundry detergent, no fabric softeners, no commercially scented products, and nothing with sodium laureth sulfate (SLS). (I know this is a controversial ingredient. I won’t be getting into that, and I actually don’t have any opinions on the debate. I just know it has a tendency to make my skin unhappy.)
There are products without harsher detergents like SLS. There are a few things that draw me away from those: first, I’m cheap, and it doesn’t cost much to make these- far less than buying a product, and they’re so much nicer, too. They smell better, feel better, last longer- the whole shebang. I started my adult life broke- broke– broke, and you don’t forget that kind of hungry. So cheap- or “frugal”, as Sam likes to say- that’s good. Plus I just plain like making things, obviously.
Outside of that, though, I love the simplicity of these products, especially when I’m the one making them. I regularly put things on and into my body that are pretty complicated, chemically speaking. I don’t think that’s necessarily a terrible thing- it can be, but it can also be fine. It’s all situational. I’m okay with what I’m putting into my body, but I don’t want to add much else to the mix— especially not now that I’ve got my MS cocktail going on.
I prefer using straightforward things on my skin so that in this area of my health I know exactly which ingredients are being used. We apply the same idea when we prepare meals- made- from- scratch dishes, both for our health and due to Sam’s food issues. It’s really helpful in that if I have any problems, I can quickly figure out precisely which component is causing it- it’ll almost certainly be whichever is newest. Knowledge is power, y’all. If I’m using a commercial product, there’ll be a list of ingredients on the back and that is helpful, but I won’t have any idea how old a product actually is, exactly how much of each ingredient is in a product, or, maybe, what some of those ingredients actually are. (I know, JFGI, and I do, but- why?)
There are things I still get off the shelf; I’ve used dermatologist- grade sunscreen since my early twenties and I can’t make that (nor am I ever going to try), and I use that spray-bottle rosewater/ glycerin that you see in every grocery as a toner. Oh, and I love love love Bar-Maids– their Face Pudding is my favorite winter night cream. (I know, but THAT IS THE PRODUCT NAME.) Does that even count, though? It’s handmade, so I’m not counting it. My daily routine, though, that’s all very simple: hand- blended facial oils to cleanse, moisturize, and spot- treat; I’m using a handmade cleansing conditioner and a hair oil I love, too. I know- so much oil, right? And yet I am remarkably not greasy at all.
We’ve graduated to making our own salves, lotions, and hand & body bars, and soap is on the docket, too- I’ve learned, but I keep picking up locally made bars instead of making a supply for the house. I like variety! I learned how to make more luxurious items, too, like bath melts & bombs when I returned from the UK and found that LUSH hadn’t made it across the Atlantic yet. (It arrived about a year later, thank glob.)
The end result of all of this is that I haven’t needed oral steroids for my eczema in at least a decade, possibly longer, and my use of topical steroids has decreased dramatically; I hardly use them at all. I can’t remember the last time I opened the one tube I have, actually, and the prescription that I have is far weaker than it used to be.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with medication. There’s nothing inherently wrong with chemicals! If my eczema were to jump into a full- body flare like it did in basic training (I do not react well to Texas in the August) I would absolutely head over to my dermatologist for a prednisone scrip and it would work like a charm. All medications come with side effects, though, so whenever I can cut down, that’s really great.
There are recipes out there for everybody; I don’t want anyone to leave this post thinking this is only suitable for a single condition or skin type! I know folks with oily skin, rosacea, acne, sensitive skin, average skin, etc, who make their own products for reasons similar as well as wildly differing from mine. For those who asked, though, this is why I do it- a combination of enjoyment, simplicity, and cost. Oh, yeah, and laziness. I really can’t be bothered to run out and get a separate makeup remover, but there is no makeup that oils can’t get through. There’s also no running out to the store because I ran out of face wash or body lotion— I just mix those at home out of our groceries. Granted, our groceries don’t always look like some folks’— I think I probably buy more castor oil, grape seed oil, cocoa butter, and shea butter than most— but it’s still not that weird, and we smell pretty awesome.
Okay- there’s the spiel, loosely. Let me know if there’s anything else you want to know? I’ll be working on a new salve next week and posting the results on the blog once it’s finished— I’ve been kicking my own teeth in doing upper body work lately, and I wanted a deeply warming salve, so I’m working with cayenne & capsaicin extract this week. Here’s hoping I remember to wear gloves (for once) and don’t wreck the house. I have reservations about dealing with warmed- up capsaicin, friends. Tear gas sucks. We will see how this goes.