10 golden rules for making your own products
There are so many benefits to making care and household products yourself: you save money, while ending up with beautiful natural products that are good for you and the environment. But there’s a lot to learn when you start out! With time, DIY becomes quite easy, you just need to pay careful attention to the trickier steps and get to know your ingredients and key techniques. If you take the time to learn and understand the basics when you start out, you’ll set yourself up for success and you’ll be free to experiment later. So today, we’re here to help you take your first steps on your journey into the great homemade with our ten golden rules for DIY!
1. Protect yourself with the right gear
Some indispensable ingredients in care products can be dangerous in their pure state. Such ingredients may be irritants, corrosive, hazardous if inhaled, or toxic. While the final product is perfectly safe, you must take precautions while preparing it, including wearing the right protective gear and handling your ingredients with caution. Some general good practices include working in a well-ventilated room (under your oven hood is a great solution) and always wearing gloves (nitrile gloves are best), long sleeves, full-length pants, and closed-toed shoes. Depending on your recipe, safety glasses or a dust mask may also be required. We indicate the personal protective gear you need in our blog recipes. Be sure to read them through before you begin!
2. Clean and disinfect your equipment and workspace
The importance of a clean workspace and equipment cannot be underestimated. A clean environment helps you avoid contaminants, so it’s crucial to the conservation time of your homemade products. Disinfect all your work surfaces before you start (and clean them up after), as well as your equipment and containers. It’s almost impossible to kill all the microorganisms present in your surroundings using the means you have in your home (as compared to a lab), but there is a lot you can do! In this article, we explain how to disinfect your equipment and containers as best you can, so your wonderful creations will last a long as possible..
3. Use the right tools, and use them only for your DIY projects
It can be tempting to use the kitchen equipment that you already have at home to make your own care or household products, but we strongly discourage it. While cooking and DIY cosmetics have a lot in common—making mayonnaise is a little like making a face cream—it’s good to keep in mind that you often need to handle corrosive, caustic, or even toxic ingredients to make your own care products or household cleaners. You need the right tools to make your process sanitary—and safe for you. Using your kitchen equipment can cause damage to your work surfaces or kitchen equipment. Avoid the risk and get the tools you need! At COCOÉCO, we offer high quality tools at reasonable prices, but it can be expensive to buy everything you’ll need when you’re starting out. Keep in mind that you can often pick up stainless steel bowls or used immersion blenders at second hand shops—this lets you try out DIY for a bit, and invest in better tools later.
4. Research ingredients so that you can develop recipes that are right for you
One of the many advantages of making your own care products or household products is that you can tailor them so that they meet your specific needs. Of course, that involves doing a bit of research on the ingredients you’re thinking of using, to familiarize yourself with their benefits and properties. We’re always providing useful information about ingredients on Facebook and Instagram, and our blog recipes list the properties of each ingredient. We’re here to help you create recipes that are specifically designed for your needs, whether you have dry hair, kinky hair, problem skin or sensitive skin, or are intolerant of scents or other compounds.
5. Use reliable recipes, and stick to them at first
Our blog is an excellent tool! It’s a treasure trove of recipes for every skill level and every need. All are developed by professionals—our experienced R&D team—so you know you can trust the final product. While it can be so tempting to modify the recipe based on the ingredients you already have on hand, we recommend that you proceed with caution. The first time you try a recipe, stick to the ingredients and quantities we provide for best results. Keep in mind that the “Good to know!” section of each of our recipes contains guidance on which ingredients you can modify without altering the quality or stability of the final product, while adapting it to your specific needs. If you want to take things a step further, we also offer DIY workshops. Our workshops are designed to help you progress, by providing you with the basic science behind the process and hands-on practical experience. Plus, you get to take your creations home! While for the moment, our workshops are offered in French only, we’re happy to help with translation.
6. Test out your recipe by making a small sample before scaling up
We do everything possible to provide high quality, safe ingredients and detailed recipes. However, some people may be sensitive to or intolerant of specific ingredients—even 100% natural ones! To make sure the recipe is right for you, we recommend making a smaller quantity to test it out first. Divide your recipe by two or three to create a sample size, then try it out while monitoring your skin for any possible reactions. This way, you’ll save time, energy, and not waste your ingredients or resources, while also avoiding a larger scale reaction. We recommend always doing a skin test: apply the product to a small area of your skin, once per day, for three days. Check to make sure your skin does not react.
7. Essential oils are wonderful but must be used with caution.
Essential oils are great ingredients for homemade care products. Not only do they impart their scent, but they also offer a number of unique properties. However, you have to take care when adding them to a recipe. Some essential oils are dermocaustic or photosensitizing, which means they can irritate your skin or make it sensitive to sun exposure, respectively. Research the essential oils you want to use before adding them to a cosmetic product. We have a full article that lists all of the dermocaustic and photosensitizing essential oils we sell and how to safely include them in a variety of recipes.
8. Opt for aromatic essences when making your first candles
Making your own candles is fun and easy. But you do need a little knowledge and practice to avoid pitfalls. If you’re just getting started candle making, we recommend opting for aromatic essences over essential oils. Aromatic essences are easier to work with because you don’t have to worry about temperature and what we call “flash points.” To learn more about the subject, check out our article on how to scent your homemade candles.
9. Learn about conservation techniques so your DIY products last
There are a few guiding principles to keep in mind to extend the shelf life of your homemade products. First off, be sure to use good sanitary practices throughout the whole process of making it! It’s also important to choose a suitable container that will protect your product from air, moisture, and light. For example, an amber jar will protect your cream better than a clear one. Then there’s the matter of preservatives: aqueous phases generally require an antifungal (i.e., grapefruit seed extract) and an antibacterial agent (i.e., willow bark extract), while oil phases require an antioxidant (i.e., vitamin E). Last but not least, where you store your creations also has an impact! Temperature, moisture, and light are the three main factors here. While guidelines differ for different products, keeping your products at room temperature in a dry, dark place is generally a good idea.
10. Waste not, want not
Making your own products is environmentally friendly—and often budget-friendly too. It’s a great way to reuse what you already have at hand. You can combine many of the same ingredients to make a variety of products and can reuse our containers over and over. We like to convert them into decorative objects such as vases or container candles! As you’ve no doubt noticed by now, making your own products is a whole way of life—and one that helps you consume more responsibly.
Bonus! Let patience and perseverance be your guiding words
Making your own products takes a lot of patience. Whether you’re following a recipe or when you’re ready to develop your own, each step takes time and may require some tweaking before your product turns out perfect. Being organized will help you achieve the products of your dreams. We recommend taking notes throughout—about your steps, tests, adjustments—in a notebook so that you can track your progress and use this information as a reference for future projects. It will take some time, but as they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Don’t give up!
All that said, the most important rule of all is to have fun. We hope you enjoy the process of exploring and creating!