I’ve been meaning to publish this article/recipe for many years! Today a gentleman (thanks Bill) emailed me with the following enquiry:

I will begin an experiment to create natural skin creams for my personal and family use for a variety of reasons. Mainly because we all have sensitive skin types and need to avoid the harsh chemicals the corporates add to their products.. However, I do want to add different essential oils as fragrance to entice my girls to actually start using my home-made products.

It brings me great joy to see people getting into making their own body care products. Even more so when men ask me about this, because, in my experience, males tend to me more ignorant of these issues. When it’s a man doing this for the health and well-being of his family… well, what can I say… my heart goes out to them.

Instructions for DIY natural skin cream / oil

NOTE: All product (brand and purchasing) related aspects of this article are mostly relevant to North America. If you live elsewhere, the information may have some value, in terms of what to look for in your own country.

First, let’s take a look at important information on your likely ingredients in a DIY natural face oil blend.

Essential Oils

The main point with essential oils is to ensure they genuinely are “essential oils”. “Essential” oils have no solvents, no added chemicals, no added fragrances, and no carrier oils in them. They are typically extracted through steam distillation (or some other method of solvent free distillation such as “dry distillation” or “vacuum distillation”). Some oils are extracted using CO2 (carbon dioxide), and a few (typically only citrus oils) are mechanically pressed (“cold-pressed”).

You do not want to use “absolutes” or “fragrance” oils. The oil should be labelled as a “therapeutic grade“. Note: In most countries there are no laws restricting what this term actually means, just as outside Italy most countries have no law on what “Extra virgin” really means. But if the company is using this term it’s a good start for further investigation. Ideally they should be certified organic or wild-crafted.

Some brands I like in the USA are:

  • Plant Therapy Essential Oils
  • Eden Botanicals
  • Mountain Rose Herbs
  • Now Foods Essential Oils (for lower cost options)

The full range of Now Foods essential oils on Amazon.com are here (http://amzn.to/1ER8WgY) and for their 100% organic options only, here (http://amzn.to/1ER92oQ)

Essential Oil Safety

Whilst pure essential oils are relative safe, in a diluted form, they are powerful and not without potential issues.

Some oils are prone to cause skin sensitivity (trigger an kind of allergy reaction) in some people. This is especially true for essential oils rich in aldehydes (e.g., citronellal, citral) and phenols (e.g., cinnamic aldehyde, eugenol). This can take time to develop (over multiple exposures), and the issue increases the older these oils get. It is more likely with old oils and blends that have non-essential oils in them as a carrier (sweet almond oil, etc.). Here are some tables with useful information on the oils to watch out for:

Dermal Irritants (Table 1)[1]Information sourced from https://www.naha.org/explore-aromatherapy/safety/
Essential OilLatin Name
BayPimento racemosa
Cinnamon bark or leafCinnamomum zeylanicum*
Clove budSyzygium aromaticum
CitronellaCymbopogon nardus
CuminCuminum cyminum
LemongrassCymbopogon citratus
Lemon verbenaLippia citriodora
OreganoOriganum vulgare
TagetesTagetes minuta
Thyme ct. thymolThymus vulgaris

*bark is more irritating than leaf

Dermal sensitization[2]Information sourced from https://www.naha.org/explore-aromatherapy/safety/

Dermal sensitization is a type of allergic reaction. It occurs on first exposure to a substance, but on this occasion, the noticeable effect on the skin will be slight or absent. However, subsequent exposure to the same material, or to a similar one with which there is cross-sensitization, produces a severe inflammatory reaction brought about by cells of the immune system (T-lymphocytes). The reaction will be represented on the skin as blotchy or redness, which may be painful to some individuals.

The problem with dermal sensitization is that once it occurs with a specific essential oil the individual is most likely going to be sensitive to it for many years and perhaps for the remainder of his/her life. The best way to prevent sensitization is to avoid known dermal sensitizers and avoid applying the same essential oils every day for lengthy periods of time. Sensitization is, to an extent, unpredictable, as some individuals will be sensitive to a potential allergen and some will not.

According to Burfield (2004), the following oils listed in Table 2 are considered to be dermal sensitizers and are not recommended for use in aromatherapy massage.

Dermal Sensitizers (Table 2)
Essential OilLatin Name
CassiaCinnamomum cassia
Cinnamon barkCinnamomum zeylanicum
Peru balsamMyroxylon pereirae
Verbena absoluteLippia citriodora
Tea absoluteCamellia sinensis
Turpentine oilPinus spp.
BackhousiaBackhousia citriodora
InulaInula graveolens
Oxidized oils from Pinaceae family (e.g., Pinus and Cupressus species) and Rutaceae family (e.g., citrus oils)

This is another potential issue with some essential oils. When in highly diluted form, it’s unlikely to ever occur. It is, however, worth knowing about and paying attention to. Some essential oils can cause the skin to become more sensitive to UV (from the sun, or potentially from UV lamps). For instance, they may cause skin discolouration with exposure to the sun. The main oils in this category are:

Photo-sensitisers (Table 3)[3]Information sourced from https://www.naha.org/explore-aromatherapy/safety/
Essential OilLatin Name
Angelica rootAngelica archangelica
BergamotCitrus bergamia
CuminCuminum cyminum
Distilled or expressed grapefruit (low risk)Citrus paradisi
Expressed lemonCitrus limon
Expressed limeCitrus medica
Orange, bitter (expressed)Citrus aurantium
RueRuta graveolens

For a more detailed overview of essential oil safety I recommend referring to the highly informative Safety Information page on the (US) National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy site.

Essential Oil Storage

It is best to store your essential oils in the refrigerator, away from heat and light. If you plan to store them for a really long period (over 6 months) storing them a freezer will keep them in very good condition. It’s a good practice to only mix with a carrier oil(s) an amount that is likely to be used up within 2 months (assuming the mixture is not refrigerated). If you are refrigerating your blend, storage for six months or more may be perfectly okay. Keep in mind that some carrier oils will go solid in under refrigeration (coconut oil).

All the above-mentioned sensitivity issues are highly unlikely to occur using using essential oils in a blend that only has a small amount of (fresh) essential oils as a scent. If, however, someone has already developed dermal sensitivity to a particular essential oil, even a dilute amount may trigger a reaction. I have this issue with a number of essential oils and it is rather unpleasant. It all started during exposure to old and poorly stored essential oils that were in what was likely an old carrier oil, from a massage therapist who didn’t take due precaution with her oils. I mention this, because if you receive massage, it is important to ask the therapist about their oils. Sound them out and see if they display an understanding of keeping their oils fresh, etc..

There are also some useful charts on this page at everythingessential.me

Excellent Skin Care Oils (skin foods)

Here’s a list of oils known to have excellent properties for protecting and nourishing the skin. These should all be cold-pressed, unrefined, and ideally certified organic.

Liquid Oils

Solid and semi-solid oils

My Skin Care Oil Recipe(?)

To be honest, I don’t go by a specific recipe. As I make it up differently each time. I will, however, share some guidelines I find work well for me.

The first consideration is whether you want the end-product to be a liquid or semi-solid (or even like a “butter” at room temperature). I make mine as a liquid oil, so what follows is based on that. This way I can apply if with a dropped.

I would use predominantly rosehip seed oil and sea buckthorn seed oil as the base, say 30% of each. Add to this some red raspberry seed oil, say another 20%. The remaining 20% could be made up of hemp seed oil, argan oil (go easy on that one, as it can make the final product sticker/thicker to absorb), and some melted coconut oil and cacao butter oil. You might also like to add in some natural vitamin E oil.

For essential oils, frankincense oil is great for the skin. As is lavender. Geranium is also very nice, as is pure essential rose oil.

Footnotes & References

Footnotes & References
1, 2, 3Information sourced from https://www.naha.org/explore-aromatherapy/safety/