I Switched To A Homemade Beauty Regimen — & Here's What Happened

Photographed by Tory Rust.
There are two types of beauty people in the world: those who swear by the all-natural, no preservatives, no chemicals, no bad-stuff-whatsoever life — and those who don't even bother to glance at the ingredient list. Until a couple of months ago, I fell into the latter camp. If it worked, I didn't care what the hell was in it. Then, I started doing research for a story about the best and worst ingredients for your hair type (and read my colleague's story about best and worst ingredients for your skin type) and quickly changed my tune. There's some scary (and hard-to-pronounce) stuff out there, folks.

Now, I've obviously never been one to shame the chemical users (probably because I used to be one of them). But I did start to wonder what would happen if I tried my hand at making my very own skin and hair care (it's all the rage, after all) — with ingredients I can actually spell.

I'll be honest: From researching which ingredients worked for what, to sourcing them (why does Whole Foods need to carry 500 different coconut oils?), to scouring the internet for recipes, it was overwhelming AF. Luckily, I had DIY guru Adina George of S.W. Basics, who recently launched a line of single-ingredient products, and natural-hair blogger Whitney White (a.k.a. Naptural85) to hold my hand.

The first bit of advice George gave me was: Don't complicate things. "I think the biggest reason people decide to not do something like this is because they think it's going to be such a huge endeavor — almost akin to making your own food for a month instead of going out or ordering in. But it doesn't have to be like that, especially if you don't get caught up in making super-sophisticated recipes every day."

Another thing I learned quickly was to lower my aesthetic expectations for my homemade beauty creations. "It’s not always beautiful, it doesn’t always even smell magical, but you can throw some pretty ugly shit in a bathtub and it’ll feel amazing," George says. "So be patient, and don’t think that you’re going to come out with something that looks like your typical L'Oréal cream.”

With these tidbits in mind, I ventured boldly into DIY territory. One disclaimer: I didn't overhaul my entire beauty routine, nor did I test out all of the recipes at once (I wanted to be able to clearly pinpoint what worked and didn't). Ahead, my favorite (and least favorite) recipes from my homegrown beauty experiment.
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
Face Cleanser

1 tsp honey
1 tbsp coconut oil

1. In a bowl, mix the two ingredients together.
2. Rub on face.
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
I've used coconut oil as a makeup remover before. It's not my favorite, but it gets the job done — especially when I'm running low on my go-to. As one of my coworkers wrote, honey is also an effective cleanser. It has antimicrobial qualities, and it cleans your face and fights acne without stripping your skin of natural oils. Put the two together and they're an unstoppable cleansing team.

While messy, the cleanser left my face feeling baby-soft, well-moisturized, and completely free of stubborn eye makeup. Just keep in mind that it will leave a greasy residue behind, so you might want to follow it up with toner on a cotton round. Which brings me to...
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Photographed by Tory Rust.

1 bag of chamomile tea

1. Soak a bag of chamomile tea in a cup of hot water for 15-20 minutes, or until it's cooled down.
2. Take a cotton pad, soak it in the tea, and wipe it on the skin.
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
This was definitely the easiest thing to DIY — there's no measuring or mixing involved — so it already ranks high on my list. I typically rely on toners to remove any excess grime or makeup that my cleanser didn't catch, and this did a pretty decent job.

Of course, it didn't completely transform my skin — to be fair, most toners won't — but it did leave it squeaky-clean, and the chamomile was as gentle and calming as it gets.

An alternative toner option? Mixing apple-cider vinegar with water. When using anything on the stronger side, like ACV or lemon juice, George recommends diluting every one part of the ingredient with four parts water.
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
Acne Treatment

2 tbsp aloe vera gel
1 tbsp baking soda

1. Remove the aloe vera leaf from the stem, slice it open, and scoop out the gel.
2. Mix the gel with the baking soda until it forms a paste.
3. Dab it onto any blemishes and leave overnight.
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
If I've learned anything about aloe vera gel over the course of this project, it's this: It's not easy to remove, it sticks to every surface, and it smells pretty rancid. But it's also magical at treating burns and healing acne scars, so I powered through.

Note: Because the spot treatment dries quickly, make sure you apply it right after mixing it. I left mine on overnight and, though my pimple had noticeably deflated, the stuff rubbed off on my pillow by morning. I recommend leaving it on for a couple of hours and washing it off before bed.
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
Face Mask

3 tbsp honey
2 tbsp oat flour

1. Mix the concoction together.
2. Apply it evenly across your face, let it sit for 15 minutes, and wash it off.
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
One thing most people fail to mention about making your own beauty products is that you're inevitably going to end up making too much and a lot will go to waste. A good measuring tip from George: One to two tablespoons of a product typically yields one to two uses.

With this mask, things got messy. The oats and honey dripped down my neck and into my mouth while I waited for it to dry; luckily, it tasted pretty good. Aside from the mess and slight difficulty I had washing it off, I'd give this concoction a solid A. The oat flour helped to exfoliate my face while the honey kept it moisturized, and I was left glowing.
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
Body Scrub

2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sugar

1. Mix the two ingredients together.
2. Scrub across your body, let sit, and wash off.

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Photographed by Tory Rust.
I love body scrubs, but for me, they usually end up being too abrasive or not abrasive enough. I wanted to find a happy medium, and making the product myself made that possible. Want to go rougher? Add more sugar. Ready to soften up? Pour in the olive oil.

I scrubbed the mixture all over my body, let it sit for a bit, and then rinsed off. If the oily residue bothers you, finish with a body wash — or just use it as an excuse to skip lotion after.

Pro tip: George reminds us that it's always important to tailor your homemade products to your particular skin needs. "If you have super-dry skin, you don't need to stay away from sea salt or exfoliants or masks, but you're not someone who should be exfoliating twice a day, every day. You should be focusing more on the oils and butters and things that are going to moisturize your skin," she says. "Alternately, if you're super-oily...then you should be using a toner, exfoliating, etc."
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
Body Moisturizer

Coconut oil or aloe vera

1. Take it straight from the jar — or scoop out the aloe from the plant — and slather it on.
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
Coconut oil is a serious multitasker and moisturizes like no other. I prefer to use it in the winter since it's on the heavier side, but it'll leave you with a glistening sheen no matter the season.

The aloe vera, on the other hand, wasn't my favorite as a lotion alternative (a little too sticky) — but it did work wonders at soothing my post-beach skin.
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
Hair Mask

2 tbsp honey
6 dollops mayonnaise
2 eggs

1. Mix the ingredients.
2. After cleansing your hair, apply the mask section-by-section in the shower.
3. Put on a shower cap and let the mixture sit for 30 minutes, then wash it out.
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
I was most excited about DIY'ing my hair products. My hair can be a bit finicky, and gets dry easily, so I decided to keep things simple and try out a good ol' at-home deep-conditioner.

White recommends getting familiar with your hair's particular likes and dislikes. "Research the ingredients first to make sure they're safe to use topically. Not everything that is consumable is safe for your hair," she says.

The recipe I tried is one White recommends for reviving tired, lifeless curls — right up my alley. Masking is one thing I make sure to incorporate into my weekly wash routine religiously, but I was afraid all the mixing and measuring would extend an already long wash day into the wee hours of the night. Luckily, I was wrong. The mask is beyond easy to make, but again...messy.

The results were worth drenching my towel in egg, mayo, and honey, though. After I thoroughly washed out the mix (emphasis on thoroughly), my curls were resurrected: They looked noticeably shinier and springier.
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
Curl Refresher

3 tbsp water
1 tbsp rosewater
2 tbsp aloe vera juice
2 drops lavender oil

1. Add the ingredients to a spray bottle and shake vigorously.
2. Spray on next-day curls for a quick pick-me-up.
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
I've been on the hunt for a good next-day curl-refresher product since I went natural. My hair does this annoying thing in the middle of the night where it becomes matted to my head, and the only thing that remedies the situation is a spritz of water mixed with conditioner.

The DIY product was awesome: It didn't make my hair feel tacky or parched, like I expected it to, and it smelled like a sweet garden. Best of all, a little goes a long way. This alternative requires about half the number of spritzes I typically do.

This is the only product for which I used an essential oil of any kind. I chose to forgo using any in my DIY skin care, heeding George's advice. "Aside from being super-potent and a little bit intense if you don't know how to use them, essential oils slightly complicate DIY'ing because what you're trying to do...is give your skin a break, but essential oils are like medicine. So that...isn't quite as much of a break as using olive oil," she says.

The Verdict:
Am I an official DIY convert? I wouldn't go that far. I definitely get the appeal of making your own products at home — not only do you know exactly what you're putting on your body, but it saves you a ton of money in the long run.

I do plan to incorporate some of the recipes into my lifestyle (see: the honey-and-oatmeal face mask, sugar-and-olive oil body scrub, hair mask, and curl refresher), and this project certainly made me more aware of what I'm putting on my skin and hair. But from here on out, the only concocting I'll be doing in the kitchen is food-related. I'll leave the rest to the pros.
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Photographed by Tory Rust.
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