Top Tips for Safer Homemade Cosmetics

Making your own makeup sounds foolproof, doesn’t it? You’re doing it yourself, maybe even with ingredients from your own kitchen. What could go awrong? We’ll pause briefly here for you to mull that over before we interrupt with, “So many things!” Recipes for DIY beauty products are bubbling all over the internet, and they seem easy, fun, and so delicious they might double for dessert. But just because something is called “natural” doesn’t mean you should put it on your face. Use these top tips for safer homemade cosmetics so you can have confidence in the beauty you create.

Google Your Heart Out

Before you add any ingredient to your DIY formula, check it out. Adjectives like “pure,” “natural,” and “organic” have no legal standard and could mean anything. On the other hand, just because an ingredient has a suspiciously long and artificial-sounding name doesn’t mean it’s harmful. If you don’t do your homework, no one will do it for you. The beauty industry isn’t regulated, and not much is tested. Be sure that your research is specific to your purpose. Mayonnaise is yummy on your sandwich, but as a face mask, it’s an acne magnet.

Question the Source

Let’s say it together: Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t mean it’s true. You might find an irresistible recipe for an eye shadow made with colorful sidewalk chalk. It was probably created by a toddler who can type. Blogs may pass along recipes in good faith, or promote ingredients without knowing the updated research for them. Google a little more.

Keep It Clean

We’ve all gotten used to sanitizing our hands, but safely making cosmetics requires a little bit more. Your laboratory is wherever you work, but it should be up to the same standards. To prevent contamination, Good Manufacturing Practice lays out a routine for cleaning and disinfecting equipment, working surfaces, containers, and yourself. When in doubt, wear surgical gloves.

Keep It Simple

Start your DIY career one ingredient at a time, until you’re confident you know enough about your skin’s reactions and allergies to add more. Most homemade beauty products just need a few supplies at the core. You can save a ton by making your own lip gloss with two ingredients: Versagel and castor oil. Many experts recommend getting the hang of a product with an all-in-one kit.

Don’t Make Too Much

There’s no expiration date for a DIY beauty product unless you give it one—and if you do, make sure it’s labeled. It’s safer to whip up cosmetics as you need them, for freshness and safety. It also gives you a chance to keep perfecting your creations as you go. Make sure you don’t use too much of one ingredient, either. Some essential oils, for instance, can be harmful beyond the recommended usage on skin.

Give It the Smell Test

Why not? The nose knows.

Avoid These Ingredients

Innocent, all-natural ingredients can be healthy—to eat, that is. When we start putting them in our cosmetics, things get tricky. To err on the safe side, avoid recipes with these ingredients:

Lemon Juice

It’s often used as a whitener, but its pH is so acidic that it can damage skin, or make it more sensitive in the sun.

Egg Whites

If you can’t eat raw eggs in cookie dough, you shouldn’t put them on your skin, either. It can contain salmonella bacteria, which is not good.

Cinnamon Powder

While it may be effective in many products, it can irritate skin around the eyes.


It’s a great homegrown blemish treatment, but alters the pH of skin, making it drier and itchy.

Baking Soda

It’s touted in homemade masks as an exfoliant, but baking soda is alkaline. That can lead to bacteria, which can lead to skin infections.


If it’s in your recipe, use the product quickly. Bacteria can proliferate rapidly in this sweet spot.


It can speed the aging process, depleting the skin of the substances it needs, and worsening oily skin. Drinking alcohol is bad for beauty, too.


When it comes to makeup, this is the No. 1 substance to avoid. For amateur chemists, water in a recipe makes it potentially dangerous. Anything with water can spoil quickly, creating a breeding ground for bacteria and fungus. The more water, the more likely the product is contaminated. This category includes ingredients that are made up of a lot of water, like aloe vera. If you want to experiment with water-based formulas, research the best preservatives to keep them safe.

Use a Preservative

As long as your formula is anhydrous--without water--you should be safe. But if you experiment with more complicated concoctions, you should research preservatives, or your ingredient list might inadvertently expand to include bacteria, yeast, and mold. Among your options:


Natural antioxidants are preservatives that keep oil-based cosmetics fresh, especially fragile oils like avocado and sweet almond. Vitamin E and rosemary oil extract are great additions to lotions, scrubs, balms, and more.


You can destroy bacteria and give your products a longer shelf-life with natural ingredients such as coconut oil and grapefruit extract.

Choose the Right Packaging

There are lots of ideas about creative, adorable packaging, but not that many mentions of the best containers for safety and stability. In general, dispensing bottles and air-tight containers are safer than open-mouth jars. If possible, use dark containers and keep them in dark cabinets, because direct sunlight and UV rays can harm your formula. It’s also important to avoid touching your product with your fingers, which can transfer heat, moisture, and bacteria. There’s less chance of contamination if DIY cosmetics have a dedicated applicator, or even a fresh Q-tip. Pumps, sprays, wands, droppers, spatulas—they’re all better than your fingers.

Educating yourself about homemade makeup shouldn’t discourage you from trying it. Why let expensive luxury brands have all the fun, or tell us how to look beautiful? Keep in mind the top tips for safer homemade cosmetics, and get started creating your own vision. No Prob-Llama can help with ideas, kits, packaging, and all the DIY lip gloss supplies you’ll need for shiny, healthy products.

Safer Homemade Cosmetics