The DIY Lotion Project and The Case for Natural Cosmetics

Coconut oil. Almond oil. Beeswax. Shea butter. Essential oils.

That’s what you need to make some silky smooth body lotion.

homemade lotion

I’ve become a bit obsessive about the stuff I put in and on my body, so I thought I’d take advantage of DIY month and try my hand at making homemade beauty products.

To help, I invited my dear friend Victoria Toda over for a little lotion making session. She’s an amazing makeup artist and the co-founder of Prim Botanicals, a brand new all natural skincare line, and she walked me through the basics of skincare, essential oils, and why we should pay more attention to the stuff we slather and lather onto our bodies.

I learned that the vast majority of the commercial beauty (and household) products we use every day contain ingredients that just might be doing us more harm than good. The cosmetics industry is, for the most part, self regulated. The FDA doesn’t step in to review personal care products for consumer safety before they’re marketed. It can’t recall them either. Right now, the FDA bans just 11 ingredients for use in the cosmetics industry, compared with the 1300+ personal product ingredients banned by the European Union due to health concerns including cancer, birth defects, asthma, infertility, ADD and learning disabilities. Yikes.

We’re basically at the mercy of cosmetics companies, and without getting into the weeds, I’ve listed out a few of the common culprits among today’s popular beauty products that are made from a number of toxic chemicals, irritants, synthetic substances, and heavy metals that are all part of a formula for making affordable, great looking/smelling/feeling products, while maintaining texture and preventing the growth of any bacteria and mold.

They include:

  • Phthalates
  • Parabens
  • Carrageenan
  • Synthetic dyes
  • Artificial fragrances
  • Formaldehydes
  • Sunscreen chemicals

[fruitful_alert type=”alert-success”]Click here for a more detailed list and description of personal care ingredients to avoid.[/fruitful_alert]

In small doses, they’re harmless, but when you factor in multiple daily use over dozens of years, you could very well develop health issues related to the toxic chemicals in your body.

That’s because our skin is the body’s largest organ, our protective covering. And while it’s our first line of defense against the outside world, it is by no means a barrier. Our skin absorbs the cold, sunlight, dust, viruses, germs, toxins and chemicals that it’s exposed to.

The DIY Lotion Project

In an effort to go all natural, Victoria and I spent a morning whipping up some body lotion.

We placed the mixed ingredients in a bowl, covered it, and set the bowl in a saucepan filled with several inches of water over medium heat until the ingredients melted together.


We allowed half of the mixture to cool and harden on its own, adding a few drops of lavender oil for fragrance.

We whipped the other half in my trusty Blendtec, this time adding magnesium oil and tea tree oil, for a lighter and fluffier texture.


Next I made an oil cleansing facial oil, and wanted to make toothpaste and deodorant too, but frankly, I didn’t feel like spending money on things like Arrowroot powder or Liquid Castille soap.

The fact is – making my own lotions and potions isn’t my thing. I’d rather be sewing.

So, while I won’t be coming out with my own line of personal beauty products any time soon, I do have a few tips and resources for you to think about:

1. Read the ingredient labels, so that you know exactly what’s in your products.

2. Refer to apps like Many of these synthetic chemicals are skin irritants, skin penetrators, endocrine disrupters and are carcinogenic. ThinkDirty (I use it at the store to scan barcodes of beauty products) or Skin Deep by the Environmental Working Group, which has the largest database of toxic ingredients in personal care products.

3. Buy non toxic brands

  • For general makeup and skincare products: They offer safe and functional skincare, body care, makeup and kids products with over 1500 banned ingredients. They’re super transparent about their ingredients and formulas, and I’m personally a fan of their hydrating creams.
  • For makeup, IliaWhat started as a collection of lip conditioners has turned into a full suite of organic cosmetics.
  • For skin & body care, Weleda and Dr. Bronnerboth have an assortment of products ethically made with  natural, organic ingredients.
  • For kids, baby and home, Honest Company: Founded by Jessica Alba, Honest sells safe, non-toxic diapers as well as a variety of beauty and home products.
  • For sunscreen, BadgerBalm: They have lots of natural products, but they’re known for their sunscreens.
  • For hair products, Acure Organics: I personally use their shampoos and conditioners.
  • And, of course, the all natural plant based oils from Prim Botanicals are all so fabulous, even for sensitive skin.

And if you do fancy making your own beauty products, I recommend starting with the natural beauty tutorials from Wellness Mama, or this roundup from one of my favorite modern living sites, Brit & Co.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, here are the ingredients for the Neutrogena body lotion I have sitting on my shelf:

Water, Sesame Seed Oil (Sesamum Indicum), Isopropyl Myristate, Glycerin, Cetearyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG 100 Stearate, PEG/PPG 18/18 Dimethicone, Tetrasodium EDTA, Acrylates/C10 30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Magnesium Aluminum Silicate, Xanthan Gum, Triethanolamine, Methylparaben, Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, Diazolidinyl Urea, BHT, Fragrance



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