I remember vividly the day it dawned on me.
As I was paging through a magazine, I came across an advertisement for a birth control patch. Confusion filled me. How could medicine placed on the skin work internally? At this time, I had no idea what “transdermal” meant (Definition: relating to or denoting the application of a medicine or drug through the skin, typically by using an adhesive patch, so that it is absorbed slowly into the body).
As I read more fine print on the ad, realization crept through me. Wait. What? Anything I put ON my skin can be absorbed into my bloodstream?
How could I not have known this? Why I had I never considered this?
I grabbed a bottle of lotion nearby and attempted to read the ingredients list off the back. A few words were familiar, but most of the ingredients were indecipherable.
What exactly WAS I putting in my bloodstream?
It was time to investigate.
In my searches, I stumbled upon an incredibly helpful website called EWG Skin Deep (Environmental Working Group). This website has done the legwork of examining ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products, and rates them according to their safety. I spent many hours poring over the site and taking notes on products.
I learned that our skin is our largest body organ and what we put on that organ DOES effect the rest of our body.
I also found some startling facts on the EWG Skin Deep site such as:
- “Most people use cosmetics and other personal care items without a second thought, believing that the government oversees their safety. Not so. No health studies or pre-market testing are required for these products.”
- “The FDA does no systematic reviews of safety, instead authorizing the cosmetics industry to self-police ingredient safety through its Cosmetics Ingredient Review panel.”
- “Cosmetic ingredients do not remain on the surface of the skin. They are designed to penetrate, and they do.”
- “Personal care products are manufactured with 10,500 unique chemical ingredients, some of which are known or suspected carcinogens, toxic to the reproductive system or known to disrupt the endocrine system. Though some companies make products that are safe to eat, others choose to use dangerous ingredients like coal tar and formaldehyde, both human carcinogens, and lead acetate, a developmental toxin.”
Call me silly. Call me optimistic. Call me stupid, naive, trusting and gullible. For some reason, I had lived my whole life up to this point thinking that “the powers that be” were always looking out for me, making sure to keep me safe.
It was a rude wake-up call. NOBODY was looking out for the health of me and my family. It was up to me to become the guardian of the home, to recognize and avoid hazards to our health.
But where to begin? I went upstairs to the closet in the bathroom and pulled out all the bottles of shampoo, lotions, body wash, nail polish, perfume, hair products, cosmetics… piles upon piles. Reading the ingredients made me sink deeper and deeper into despair. I had paid good money for all these products that were doing our bodies no favors, and were even possibly causing us great harm.
Looking at the piles surrounding me, I knew that there was no way I could replace everything immediately, even if I COULD find acceptable substitutes.
So, in the spirit of Kitchen Stewardship, I decided I would once again embrace the concept of Baby Steps.
Baby Steps to Safer Choices
I made a deal with myself. We would continue using the products (figuring a few more months or years of using them wouldn’t make a big difference), and when the product ran out, I would find a replacement product using the EWG Skin Deep website as my guide. We started this process about 5-6 years ago, and there are still a few products I’m trying to work out – slow and steady!
It’s been said, “If it’s not safe to eat, then it’s not safe to put on your skin.” We’ve loosely been using this as our guide.
Of all the personal care products, I found cosmetics to be the most difficult category to replace. It seemed as if all the “safer” cosmetics were also incredibly expensive, usually 3-4 times the cost of the drug store cosmetics I was used to buying. Since we operate on a tight household budget, I had two options: Stop wearing so much makeup or start making my own.
I chose both.
At this point in my life, I was an at-home parent, so makeup was not a necessity most of the time. When I was working outside the home full-time, I had a full makeup regimen, including concealer, foundation, loose powder, blush, bronzer, highlighter, eyeshadow (3 shades!), eyeliner, brow liner, mascara, lipstick, lip gloss… the whole works!
Makeup was fun for me (as an artist, I love the act of “painting” a face), but after finding out how toxic it was to my health, it wasn’t so fun anymore. I gradually began to cut back on the products I used. I even *gasp!* went without makeup many days of the week (this coming from a person who previously would not be caught dead in public without makeup!).
A funny thing happened. My skin began to clear up. My face looked brighter. I didn’t need to wear makeup anymore to cover the blemishes (that perhaps were caused by the makeup in the first place?!?). I began to feel beautiful and comfortable in my own skin. It was invigorating.
But there were still occasions where I wanted to look a little more polished and put together. A book I was reading at the time, called Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too by Beth Terry, mentioned in passing using cornstarch as a face powder to reduce shine when the author was going to appear on a TV segment. Bea Johnson, author of the inspiring book and website Zero Waste Home told how she used cocoa powder as bronzer/blush and eye shadow.
Here was the motivation I needed! I began playing around in the kitchen and came up with a loose face powder that worked just as well as my old loose powder… and happened to be completely edible as well!
Two Ingredient Recipe… Sort Of…
To make this face powder, you only need two ingredients:
However, since everyone with a slightly different skin tone, you may find it helpful to raid your spice rack/cupboard and find some additions there! I usually DO make the face powder with JUST cocoa powder and arrowroot powder, but that might not work perfectly for you. Here are some spices you may find useful to add in small quantities (start with just a pinch) to help you achieve the desired skin tone color:
- Ground paprika (reddish tone)
- Ground cinnamon (warm brown tone)
- Ground turmeric (yellowish tone)
- Beetroot Powder (pinkish tone)
In the summer, I will sometimes add a bit of clay powder for extra shine control. Personally, I find the clay a bit too drying to add in the winter time, but it might be great for you!
Blending and Applying the Powder
- Find a small 4 oz mason jar or similar sized container.
- Start by adding 2-3 tbsp of cornstarch or arrowroot powder to the jar.
- Gradually add cocoa powder, a 1/2 tsp at a time, until you have reached the desired color.
- If the powder doesn’t match, try adding spices or clay powders to correct the tone (warm, cool, pink, yellow, red, etc.)
- To apply, dip a large makeup brush in the jar, shake or tap off the excess powder, and apply the powder with the brush in circular motions.
Tips and Tricks
- Remember, this is a loose powder. It is meant to even out minor variations in the skin tone, reduce shine and give a “polished” appearance. It will not cover major blemishes or correct major variations in skin tone like a concealer or foundation does.
- As with any cosmetic, be sure to test it on a small patch of skin and wait 24 hours to observe if there is any irritation or allergic reaction.
- As an added bonus, you will smell like chocolate all day! Ok, maybe that’s actually not a great thing… you can blame your chocolate cravings on me! 😉
- I’ve been using this face powder for well over 2 years now. Each batch lasts me about 6 months (I use it about 3-4 times a week, not every day).
- I have not done a cost analysis, but I’m guessing each batch costs between .50 cents and a dollar.
- If you try making the powder and discover it simply doesn’t work for you, there is little to no waste of time, money or materials. It takes less than three minutes to make the powder. The container is reusable. All the ingredients can be used for other purposes. What have you got to lose?
I’ve considered attempting to create a pressed powder, by adding a few drops of oil to the face powder and pressing it into a pan. I wonder if anyone else has tried that?
Currently, I’m experimenting with making my own blush, using cocoa powder, beetroot powder, and paprika. The dry powder doesn’t give me the intensity of color I desire, so I’m wondering if mixing the dry ingredients with a touch of oil to make a “stain” or cream would work.
I’ve also discovered that cocoa powder does indeed make a lovely warm brown eye shadow.
It’s been fun experimenting with making my own cosmetics, especially when the experiments are inexpensive and don’t require me to purchase single-use ingredients. I love the fact that all the ingredients are multipurpose! If my trials fail, I’m not stuck with a cupboard of items that I will never use again.
Makeup is fun again now that I know I can make safe, edible cosmetics that will not harm me!