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Holistic Skin Care - How to make your own personalized skin products

by Sue Mann(more info)

listed in skincare, originally published in issue 52 - May 2000

Making your own products gives you the freedom to tailor the ingredients to your specific needs and tastes; it also allows you to avoid the use of petro-chemical by-products such as liquid paraffin and mineral oils.

Down in the basement of the Friends Meeting House in the heart of rainy, windlashed Manchester there was a low murmur of conversation which was to become a buzz, and the gentle movement of bodies would soon become a hive of activity. The participants had gathered for a course on creating skin products from basic ingredients. This is one way to ensure you know what is in the products you put on your body. It is an enjoyable and economical alternative to making mistakes at the expense of both your skin and your purse. Making your own products gives you the freedom to tailor the ingredients to your specific needs and tastes; it also allows you to avoid the use of petro-chemical by-products such as liquid paraffin and mineral oils.

Having used various base creams and lotions which I had purchased from reputable essential oil suppliers, and then having added appropriate essential oils to suit my clients problem, I wanted to take the process a step further. I felt it would benefit my clients if I learnt how to produce these products from the basic ingredients. In this way, I would have total control and so could eliminate anything to which they were allergic or sensitive, adding instead ingredients which would be beneficial.

I found a suitable course and thus, with a group of like minded people, set off on a journey of discovery led by a delightful Norwegian gentleman, Kolbjörn Borseth. With his wealth of experience in using complementary medicine in hospitals for patients with skin problems, we had a very able and knowledgeable guide. There are many skin conditions which herbal and aromatherapy treatments can benefit, as well as their use in general skin care and hygiene. Since taking part in this, and other courses, lead by Mr Borseth I have made many 'personal prescriptions' for individual clients with the majority of them being successful.


A Simple Moisturiser can be made for general use as follows

Ingredients – to make 100ml
Fat Stage – 6ml Almond Oil, 3ml Thistle Oil, 2gm Shea Butter, 2gm Cetylalcohol (from palm oil), and 2.5gm VE Emulsifier (glyceryl stearate, mono and diglycerides of vegetable fatty acids).
Water Stage – 4gm MF Emulsifier (sodium stearoyl lactylate, produced from lactic acid and vegetable based stearic acid), 76ml Spring Water, 4ml Glycerine.
Third Stage – 0.5ml Vitamin E, 8-10 drops Paraben (a preservative – esters of p-hydroxyl-benzoic acid) – at 40°C
25°C add 20 drops Essential Oil.



1 Heat the Fat Stage in a double boiler until all the ingredients have melted and the temperature has risen to 75-80°C.
2 Heat the Water Stage in a saucepan to the same temperature, 75-80°C.
3 Add the Fat Stage to the Water Stage pouring slowly in a thin, steady stream while beating the mixture all the time.
4 Keep the Cream mixture warm (keep water in the bottom pan of the double boiler hot) and beat for a further 5-10 minutes. Make sure to reach the bottom to ensure you do not introduce air into the cream and use a spatula to scrape the sides.
5 Allow the Cream to cool, stirring all the time (make sure you touch the bottom of the pan). You can speed this part up by immersing the pan in a large pan of cold water.
6 Starting at 40°C certain active ingredients are added. Add the thicker ones first i.e. Vitamin E then the Paraben.
7 Continue stirring until the mixture has cooled to 25°C, then thoroughly mix in the Essential Oils of your choice.
8 Pour into Jars and label carefully.

Suggestions for essential oils: blend 15 drops Lavender, 5 drops Geranium; but the choice is yours and your clients. NB do not use photosensitising oils if the area with cream on is to be exposed to sunlight or UV lamps/beds.

The above recipe for a simple moisturiser can be adapted in a variety of ways by the addition of some ingredients and the omission of others. For example, herbal infusions can be used instead of, or as a proportion of, the still spring water, and hydrolats (Payne 1999) or tinctures can be used to enhance the water element of the recipe. Tinctures should be added at the end when the temperature will not damage their properties, but the amount of herbal infusion/spring water used at the water stage must be reduced. Use of preservative is important when using herbal infusion, and the more herbs used the more preservative is recommended.

Infused oils such as Calendula can be added at the fat stage in place of, or as a proportion of, some of the other vegetable oils. Essential oils should be added at the end of the process when the cream is at 25° and the choice of volatile oils will depend on what the cream is to be used for; therefore be guided by their therapeutic properties. Provided the proportions of a recipe are unchanged, the ingredients can be tailored to the needs of your clients or yourself.

Some herbs which could be used for eczema or psoriasis Achemilla xanthochlora:
Betula spp
Chamaemelum nobile
Daucus carota
Galium aparine L.
Glycyrrhiza glabra L
Mahonia aquifolium
Matricaria recutita
Phytolacca decandra
Stellaria media
Symphytum officinale L.
Viola odorata L
Viola tricolor L.

Do not make more than you can use, and test for any reaction by doing a skin test before use. Store your products in a safe place away from children, and label appropriately with their contents, date made and an apt name. It is extremely useful to keep a recipe book and write down exactly what you do and use; often the best products are the ones you forget to write down! I also find it very useful to make a note of how much the recipe produced, and notes on its consistency, texture etc. and how I would improve it if/when I used it again.

Once you have tried making your own skin care products the only limit is your imagination! It is possible to make a huge range of holistic skin care products. Personally I have made lip balms, roll-on headache gels, cooling foot gels, moisturizing liquid soap, shampoo, conditioner, face gel and masks, peeling masks, shower gels, make-up remover, various creams e.g. for muscles, arthritis, eczema, psoriasis, ointments for use on cracked and sore hands and heels, sun screens, lotions e.g. after-sun, heat rash and many other wonderfully exciting things.

We need to include all the ways we can care for our skin including a healthy diet, omitting any known allergens, drinking plenty of pure water, avoiding junk food, getting plenty of fresh air, relaxation and avoiding or dealing sensibly with stress. If not we will only be addressing part of answer by using holistic skin care products.

It is very important that care is taken with hygiene, that measurements are accurate, care is taken with temperature control when stirring the cream, and that general safety is exercised when using hot water, heat and volatile essential oils.

It is great fun making your own skin care products and considerably better for your skin. I have found it positively addictive.

Adding between 10% and 20% of Aloe Gel, to 100ml, will make the cream light and fluffy
Aloe Gel to make 100ml
Heat 89ml spring water to blood temperature.
Add 1g (or 2ml) Xanthan Gum and beat vigorously. Touch the bottom of the pan to avoid introducing air.
Add 10ml Aloe Vera concentrate and 4 drops Paraben.
If the Gel is to be used alone, essential oils can be added. If it is to be added to a cream base which already contains essential oils, do not add more.

Volatile (essential) oils for skin care could include
Chamomile, Jasmine, Neroli, Rose – dry, sensitive skin.
Lavender, Tea-tree, Bergamot (photosensitizing), Geranium, Rosemary – acne.
Cedarwood, Cypress, Geranium, Grapefruit, Sandalwood – oily skin
Neroli, Frankincense – wrinkles
Sandalwood, Frankincense, Carrot-seed, Patchouli – ageing skin
German Chamomile, Lavender – itching
Benzoin, Calendula, Lavender, Myrrh – cracked skin

References – by no means comprehensive

Davis P. Aromatherapy an A-Z. New revised enlarged and illustrated edition. CW Daniel Co. Ltd., Saffron Walden. 1999.
Grieve M. A Modern Herbal. Tiger Books International PLC. Twickenham. 1973.
Mills SY. The Essential Book of Herbal Medicine. Penguin, London. 1991.
Payne B. Hydrolats for Therapeutic Use. Positive Health 44: 19-21. 1999.
Starý F. The Natural Guide to Medicinal Herbs and Plants. Tiger Books International PLC. Twickenham. 1998.
Succar Dr Maher. Mahonia aquifolium – The new herbal treatment for psoriasis and eczema. Positive Health 37: 21-22. 1999.

Further Information

Products, starter packs and recipes can be purchased from Aromantic, 3 Heathneuk, Findhorn, Moray, IV36 3YY. Tel. 01309 692000.


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About Sue Mann

Sue Mann, after training as a nurse, worked mainly with the elderly. In the early 90s she gained her massage and aromatherapy diploma at Hygeia School of Holistic Therapy, becoming self-employed as an aromatherapist in 1996. It was a visiting GP who gave Sue her first opportunity to practise in a private capacity after seeing the benefits enjoyed by nursing home residents. Sue now works for Tameside & Glossop NHS Trust Complementary Therapy Bank, and has recently commenced a pilot scheme giving On-Site Massage to staff for Stockport Health Authority as well as working at her private practice in central Stockport. She is currently a part time student at Liverpool John Moores University on the Aromatic Medicine Course. Sue is a member of the International Society of Professional Aromatherapists. Tel. 0161-456 7238.

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