Seriously? I’m an addict. I have an entire room (that has long since spilled over into my kitchen, living room, my sectional sofa only can sit one person these days, I’ve lost my kitchen table…) dedicated to ingredients and I may not be the best person to ask this question to. Because of course I am going to get all questiony on you. I mean how could I not? Questions are so much fun!
While a lot of DIY bloggers out there will tell you that you probably have all the tools and ingredients you need to begin your DIY journey in your kitchen cupboards, I tend to disagree, slightly. And agree with them too. I love to bake and cook, always have. So I already had measuring spoons, measuring cups in both glass and stainless steel, a large selection of bowls, various sized spoons, immersion blenders, food processors, various pots and pans, coffee grinders, scales and all of it. So yes! I had all the equipment needed to begin on my DIY adventure. Now, take Sonia on the other hand. She is not a baker, or a cook and because of her Chinese family, only has things to make Chinese food in the house; a wok, some bamboo version of a spatula, some odd bowls and lots of Chinese serving dishes. See what I mean? She does have this nifty rice cooker thing that I am eyeing and trying to figure out how to use it to make stuff with it. It’s in the kitchen. It must be used to make something!
If you live in China and want me to share some Taobao links with you (Taobao is the most amazing online shopping website in the world! It is brilliant and amazing- but it is all in Chinese. And don’t bother asking for help from Baopolis or other “helpers” they have no idea about this DIY stuff and Google Translator gives you some of the funniest translations ever!) just let me know! For those of you who don’t live in China, check out places like Wholesale Supplies Plus (International), New Directions Aromatics (Canada+America), From Natural With Love (America), Brambleberry (America), Windy Point (Canada), Naturally Balmy (UK/EU) to name a few. No, I don’t receive any kick backs from these companies.
So let’s begin with some questions?
Question 1: What do you plan on making?
If you plan on making soap, your needs will greatly differ from someone who is just planning on making some creams and lotions. Then if you travel into the realm of toners and sprays, your needs are also going to differ from soaping, but not so much from lotions and creams. Bath bombs? And, if you are going into surfactants, gels, hand washes, soap jellies and such… well you get my point. So, think long and hard about what you plan on making as the supplies and ingredients you will need are different. And then you have to think of, if you are making soap, which kind of soap? HP? MP?? CP? CPoP?
Question 2: What ingredients are you allergic or sensitive to?
This will play a very large role in what kind of ingredients you are looking at. If you are allergic to almonds for example, can you use sweet almond oil? If you are allergic to bees, does that mean no beeswax? Propolis? Honey? Pollen? Venom? And then there are people allergic to nuts; what about cocoa butter? palm oil? almond oil? coconuts? but does that include coconut derived products too? And then wheat allergies… And if you are allergic or sensitive to these ingredients, you need to figure out a substitution to them. Which can be lots of fun too!
Question 3: What ingredients do you not want to use?
When I first began making my own products, I was dead set against preservatives, emulsifiers and and anything that was questionably chemically. These days, I am more into what works, so naturally plus (a combination of naturally sourced ingredients paired with preservatives, cosmeceuticals, and other chemically sounding stuff) is what I use! I still prefer not to use palm oil as I like orangutans, but I do use some palm derived products and do occasionally have no choice but to use palm oil in some recipes. When this situation happens in that I have to use palm oil or palm derived ingredients, I buy mine from a shop that imports them from abroad. And I make sure that the shop they buy from uses sustainable palm ingredients. But, this is China and there is a higher chance that they just smile and nod saying, “yes! This imported from good company! Look we have certificate!” It is a worrying thought, but one factor that needs to be addressed. There are many wholesale suppliers out there and each want to make a buck. For the vegan/vegetarians amongst you, how strict are you? There are your animal by-products like lard, tallow (best ingredients for soaping and antiaging I tell you! And they are just going to be thrown out it truly seems like a waste, why not use them), a fair few vitamins and ingredients (here’s looking at you collagen!) that are made from various parts of animals.
Then, if you don’t want to use sciency/manufactured/made in a lab sounding products like: cetyl alcohol (yeah, not an alcohol. It’s used to help soften and condition skin and it is lovely!) or say tocopheryl acetate (in everyday terminology: Vitamin E), it would be a good idea to learn what the words you are reading are first before you decide to nix them. Otherwise you are going to be missing out on some fantastic ingredients that you really should be using like Vitamin E and soaps.
Question 4: How patient are you?
If you want to almost instantly use the products you make, then I’d suggest staying clear of soaps as they generally take about four weeks to six months (and some even longer) before they are good to use. Unless you decide to make mp soap. Most other things, you are just looking at cool-down times.
Question 5: How much do you want to spend?
In my professional opinion, DIY skin care is a deep black abyss that you will never be able to climb out of. But that is me. And this is my addiction/hobby/happy place. For others it is a different story. If you are looking to perfect a recipe over time, your costs will be much different than if you are just puttering. You will also discover, that you don’t know your skin as much as you like to think you do at this moment. As you try out new oils and ingredients, and all their various combinations, your skin will have many different things to say. And all of this takes time and lots of moolah as not many places will let you try 10mL here or there. Which I think is a great shame!
Question 6: Do you live by yourself or with spouse+kids+roommate?
This one might seem not that important, however; I’ve heard horror stories of other family members going into the Soap/DIY Room and using soaping ingredients to make dinner and people getting sick. All the ingredients are safe if used properly, but what about little kids who get into everything? Do you want a tub of lye sitting around? Or colourants that your kids will want to play with? Or worse, eat? This is also something to ponder before you begin.
Question 7: If I already have some equipment you suggest, can I just use that?
But of course! If you are just making things for you and your family, and you clean your equipment very carefully in between uses, there should be no problems. However; if you decide to begin making for other people, you really do need to get your hobby it’s own set of equipment and tools.
There are so many more questions to ask, and at the end of the day, the only person who can make the choice is you. Please get into this hobby with your eyes open, that there are costs involved and it does have the potential to take over your life (it’s like I am looking in a mirror right now). And it is addicting. Someone posts a new recipe the very first thing in your mind will be, I’ve 45 minutes before I have to leave for work. Can I make this before I go? Then someone goes and posts about a new ingredient that you don’t have, you’re not even out of bed yet, you’re already ordering it. When apartment searching, I have to look at making sure I can have a dedicated room for supplies and what not. Many of my DIY friends started out with just a shelf in their pantry but within a few weeks, that shelf grew into the whole pantry. Then the dinning room table. Then the dinning room itself. Then the basement. And most of my friends eyes glaze over as I start talking about the differences in silk or why I like wheat germ oil over apricot oil. And don’t even get me started on mango butter vs cetyl alcohol at 1.8% in recipes.
So now that some questions have been asked and answered, do you have any others?
The next big Question Blog Post will be about equipment needed to start you on your journey. But before I go any further, I am going to tell you the three most important and valuable pieces of equipment you will ever own on your DIY adventure. For as a teacher, I know repetition helps with the learning process.
The most important thing in your DIY arsenal is a notebook.
Like most people, I began DIY’ing and never wrote things down. And then I got an iPad and began taking screen shots and taking notes on everything and I filled up my iCloud storage space. Then I got into using a notebook to write things down. And I’ve found that a notebook helps to keep better records of your work. And how you did things. I found that with the iPad it was always stop everything, turn on the iPad, enter your password, type it in. But with a notebook, it is quick and easy and if you get oil on it, it’s not going to complain! Or drop it on the floor. Or use it as a coffee cup holder.
You make a product, write it down, take accurate notes on how much of one ingredient you added. Take notes for the date you made something, how it turned out, what you noticed, then take notes after a week or so of use. A month. Two months. How long did the product last in the container you put it in? Did it grow mold? How can you tweak your product to make it better? What did you like? Or didn’t like?
The most important thing in your DIY room should be your notebook. There is a reason why every single one of us who DIY all suggest the same thing. Write it down. And there is a reason why anyone who DIYs always goes back to old fashioned writing it down. Because it works.
The second most important thing when it comes to DIY is your scale. It does need to be digital. Digital is a lot more accurate than say a Weight Watchers scale. If you are just making soap, your scale needs to be accurate to 1g. If you are making lotions, a scale accurate to .1g is great. If you are making makeup, a digital scale to .01g is needed. When I make lotions, body butters, creams and toners, I use both the .01g and the .1g scales for accuracy. This way I can precisely recreate my recipe over and over again.
You’ll find most recipes will be given in percentages on Scrub Me Down- Happy Skin or in grams. It allows you the reader to scale up or down your recipe.
This might sound strange, but yes a camera. Take pictures and enjoy them! If you catch the DIY bug, you’ll be thrilled to have your original works forever on a screen. You can show your friends and family this is what I did on the weekend! It is great to see how you progress over time and the best way to really see it? Is by photos. And, you can take videos to show off various steps in your product making!
The most important thing to remember about this craft, this hobby, is to have fun!
Who am I kidding? The most important thing to remember?
Clean up is a bitch.