Living Self Sufficiently is a monthly column dedicated to re-connecting people with a more natural and self-sufficient lifestyle.
My obsession with self-sufficiency began in late 2017 when I decided to make a range of skincare products for family and friends for Christmas. Little did I know that once I dipped my toes into the fascinating world of DIY, I would be hooked.
I've gone from being someone who did not really question where her products came from, what was in them and how they were made, to someone who questions almost everything she needs with “how can I make this at home?” Since beginning my self-sufficiency journey three years ago, I have learned to create moisturisers, scrubs, facial oil blends, serums, masks, lip balms, conditioners and—one of my proudest accomplishments yet—a two-in-one concealer and foundation. While I will be showing you how to create every one of these products and more through this self-sufficiency series, this article is about hydrating those skin cells with a natural DIY moisturiser.
When I began researching how to create a natural moisturiser, I came across a ton of recipes that just didn’t feel right to me. Bloggers out there were adding ingredients like coconut cream to their recipes and then using their creations for months. They said “just store it in the fridge” but let’s get real here, coconut cream does not last longer than a week. Using products that have the potential to become bacterial party hosts is not okay, no matter how natural they are.
After devouring what felt like hundreds of suspicious recipes across the internet, the outlook was looking dismal and I was ready to give up. But then, as with all things that miraculously appear just as you're about to throw in the towel, I stumbled upon the wonderful world of Tracy Ariza from Oh The Things We'll Make. Spain-based Ariza has a background in science and was a dentist before she committed herself to a life of DIY blogging. She is a breath of fresh air in a world of empty, bacteria-ridden promises. I learned a lot from her about how to do skincare right and how to make quality products that last. She even helped me find ingredients in New Zealand as alternatives to the ones she uses in Spain. She gave me the confidence I required to make products that were natural and safe to use.
Storage: gorgeous glass bottles from Arthur Holmes
I store everything I create in beautiful glass bottles from Arthur Holmes, a family business that began back in 1910. It was my sister that got me into this company. She used to make the tastiest chocolate sauces and gift them in glass jars that she got from their online shop. If you're based in New Zealand, Arthur Holmes has everything you need (storage-wise) to get started on your self-sufficiency journey.
Sterilisation: not just for the clean freaks
No matter what you're making, your storage containers need to be sterilised. Don't skip this part. Wide-mouthed jars can be sterilised using rubbing alcohol and a paper towel. Bottles can be washed in a dishwasher or with soap and water and then air-dried. To ensure the inside of a bottle dries properly, simply roll up a paper towel, stick it inside the bottle and let it sit in there overnight. The next day, you'll find that the paper towel has absorbed all the water. Jars and bottles need to be bone dry when you fill them. Regular old water is not your friend when it comes to skincare.
Ingredients: good enough to eat
Most of the ingredients I use come from Pure Nature—a company that’s based in West Auckland, New Zealand. Pure Nature stocks quite a diverse range of natural, high-quality raw materials, sourced from every corner of the globe. Products can either be bought online or you can visit their cute shop in Henderson, Auckland. If you're not from New Zealand, don't worry; at the end of this recipe, I've listed shops just like Pure Nature that can be found in various parts of the world.
To preserve or not to preserve: that is the question
I use tested preservatives in all the natural, water-based products that I create. I am aware that there are recipes floating around the internet that use natural preservatives like T-50 vitamin E oil, rosemary oil extract, grapefruit seed extract and so forth, but I do not believe these are sufficient in providing us with the protection we need in a skincare product. The moment we introduce water to anything it becomes prone to bacteria and I would rather not risk it on my skin. I also prefer products that last more than a few days—creating a moisturiser takes effort and I’d like to be able to enjoy the fruits of my labour for as long as I can. In this recipe, I have opted for an eco-certified preservative which gives a shelf life of up to eight months.
Emulsification: the key to a successful moisturiser
Emulsification is the process by which two ingredients that do not mix easily come together, such as oil and water (what you will be using to create your moisturiser). An emulsifier is used in the emulsification process to bring the ingredients together and ensure the end product is stable and does not separate. The key to successful emulsification is to ensure your oils and waters are approximately the same temperature when you mix them together. I'll go into the details when I'm taking you through the method but I'm making note of it now to let you know that it's important.
Recipe Background: how to make a natural moisturiser at home
In this recipe, I use cacay oil as my base oil because it is well known for its anti-ageing properties, plus it works. I'm not a massive believer in “the hype” but I have found that cacay oil has reduced the frown lines that I recently began developing. While on the subject of hype, I want to be very honest with you—if you expect a natural moisturiser to be your fountain of youth, prepare to be disappointed. However, if you're after a product that will get the job done when it comes to moisturisation and support your skin's health with earthy nutrients, then this recipe is for you.
Feel free to use any base oil you like for this recipe—there are many great plant oils to choose from. Some of my favourites are jojoba, sweet almond, açaí and tamanu. It pays to do a little research into the best oils for your skin or better yet, test them all, the way I have over the years!
A little about cacay oil and its properties
Cacay oil comes from kahai nuts, which grow on cacay trees that can be found all over South America. It is an incredibly sustainable oil; every part of the cacay nut can be used with almost zero waste. The nut can be eaten whole, ground into flour, used as a cooking or beauty oil, or even supplemented as a nutrient-rich milk product.
Cacay oil is rich in:
Vitamin A/retinol—helps stimulate collagen production. As we age, the rate at which our body produces collagen is significantly reduced so having a little extra support is always welcome.
Vitamin E—an antioxidant that can help fight the damage caused by free radicals in our environment.
Vitamin F/linoleic acid—an emollient and antioxidant rich in omega-6 fatty acids (the stuff that made argan oil famous). Interestingly, cacay oil contains 50 percent more linoleic acid than argan oil.
Let's create: cacay oil moisturiser recipe
Glass beakers (various sizes)
1 double boiler or 1 heat-proof glass bowl
2 stove top pots (if using a heat-proof bowl instead of a double boiler)
High precision digital scale (to weigh your ingredients)
Safety goggles (mostly to look the part of a scientist—add a white coat for next level cosplay!)
Whisk (electric and handheld)
Funnel set (to help pour into your bottles)
100ml glass bottle for storage (I used bottles with pumps as they are more hygienic)
Isopropyl alcohol for sterilisation
55 g distilled water
10 g aloe vera juice
20 g cacay oil
10 g organic jojoba oil
5 g emulsifying wax (Polawax GP 200)
0.7 g Microcare DB
3–5 drops lactic acid (this is to get the pH right)
- Ensure all utensils are sterilised properly before using. Refer to my sterilisation method for this.
- Weigh out water-based ingredients (distilled water and aloe vera juice) in a glass beaker.
- Heat the water-based ingredients in a pot to 70º–75ºC (160º–170ºF).
- While water-based ingredients are heating, weigh out oil-based ingredients and emulsifying wax.
- Heat oils on a double boiler to 70º–75ºC (160º–170ºF) (same temperature as your water). As your oils heat you will notice the emulsifying wax melting. Once melted, give the mixture a stir.
- Once both your oils and water are at approximately the same temperature, remove from heat and add the water mixture to the oil mixture, whisking as you go. Keep whisking until the mixture is well emulsified. Once the mixture begins to cool, it will become thicker. At this point, I usually swap my manual whisk to my electric whisk so it's a little easier on my hands. You have to keep whisking until the mixture is a nice, thick, creamy consistency.
- You can test your pH once your mixture is cooled a little. You want to get the pH level to between 4–5 (not only is this the best pH for your skin, but it's also the pH required for your preservative to work well). To lower the pH, add a few drops of lactic acid.
- Once the mixture has cooled down and is around 45°C (110°F), you can add in your preservative. Please note that preservatives always need to be added to a recipe's cooldown phase because adding to a hot mixture will damage the preservative and make it less likely to work.
- Once your mixture has cooled down to room temperature, you can pour it into your bottle. I use a funnel to help with this and a skewer to push the moisturiser through the funnel.
- Enjoy the joy of having created your own natural skincare product. If you have any questions about this recipe or would like to know about ingredient alternatives in your country, I'd be happy to help.
US and Canada
www.honestskincare.co.nz (they ship to New Zealand, Australia, United States, United Kingdom and Canada)
www.akomaskincare.co.uk (cooperative that supports the farming communities of Ghana)