Skin care safety: Homemade products can be helpful, but you must be careful

Skin care safety: Homemade products can be helpful, but you must be careful

August 5th, 2014 by Karen Nazor Hill in Life Entertainment

Michelle Neubel, owner of Michelle's Herbal Products in Dayton, Tenn., holds a container of her whipped shea butter emollient.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.


Oatmeal/yogurt cleanser

You can make a gentle cleanser using oatmeal and yogurt. Oatmeal contains soothing ingredients that leave your face smooth, while yogurt removes dirt and oil. Mix 1/2 cup of ground oatmeal into enough plain yogurt to form a paste. Massage the paste into your skin, concentrating on each area of your face for at least 30 seconds to ensure proper cleansing. Rinse thoroughly with water.

Aloe moisturizer

Aloe is a natural moisturizer that keeps your skin hydrated and soothes irritation, leaving an even, glowing complexion. Use aloe right from the plant to moisturize your face. Snap off tip of an aloe leaf, and mix the gel from the leaf with a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil.

After applying the aloe and oil mix, massage face lightly to distribute the moisturizer and stimulate circulation in the skin. Do not rinse off the moisturizer.



Here are some tips from dermatologists and skin-care experts:

• Don't overdo it. The main issue isn't necessarily what's in the products, it's that people use too many. The bottom-line basics are a face wash, a moisturizer and a tretinoin-based acne product.

• Give it time. Many people don't use a product long enough. Unless it's causing you problems like irritation, don't give up on any product until you've used it at least six weeks.

• Watch what you eat. Many skin issues start from within. Eat more vegetables, avoid fried foods and limit the amount of animal products you eat because they're harder for the body to eliminate.

• Know your sunscreen. It's an essential component of skin care, but if you're having reactions to what you're using, try something with titanium or zinc oxide.

• Know yourself. Be mindful of your allergies and what ingredients are already affecting your body. For example, if you're intolerant of gluten, it shouldn't be in your skin-care products.

Source: McClatchy-Tribune News Service


The Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, run by the Environmental Working Group, rates thousands of products on their potential irritants and what problems they could cause. It's available at or as a mobile app.

Do-it-yourselfers may want to think twice about concocting their own natural products for skin care or cosmetic purposes because the results may be more pain than gain, says aesthetician Darin Wright.

"When using homemade remedies, it is important to consider the pH of what you're applying to avoid hazards," says Wright, owner of Elea Blake Cosmetics and Color Studio in downtown Chattanooga.

The pH scale measures whether a substance is acidic, alkaline or neutral.

"Anything too acidic will burn," she says, a category that includes vinegar, lemons, limes and other citrus fruit. "Anything too alkaline, such as baking soda, can irritate the skin."

Once the skin's acid mantel -- its protective layer -- becomes irritated, it becomes more susceptible to further damage, Wright says.

"Think about it. Baking soda is used to scrub your sink," she says. "So, as much as I love a good home remedy, I try to keep it simple such as gently blended oatmeal with water for a gentle face scrub or mask, but even that has been known to cause dermatitis."

Making homemade skin care products should be done with care, the expert says. For instance, the use of vinegar for skin care, especially when used as a deodorant -- a common usage -- can have a reverse effect, New York dermatologist Dr. Doris Day said in an interview with

"It's killing the yeast and certain bacteria, but then you smell like vinegar," she says. "Adding essential oil will help, but won't eliminate the strong vinegar odor."

Egg whites, a "natural" ingredient that some folks use to tighten their skin, can also be dangerous, Day says.

"You have to be careful with the egg-white mask because egg whites sometimes have salmonella and, if you end up ingesting it by accident, you can actually get salmonella," she says.

Michelle Neubel, owner of Michelle's Herbal Products in Dayton, Tenn., says an increasing number of homemade artisans are taking the necessary steps to study the science of formulating skin care products from home.

"They realize the necessity to becoming properly informed," says Neubel.

Making skin-care/hair products is a true science, but it's derived for centuries from the home and through generational folk-lore recipes, she says.

"On the flip side, if one is not conscientious about how they formulate or study, they are lacking," Neubel says.

It's imperative that those who make skin or hair care products thoroughly understand the interaction of how certain oils, butters and herbs relate to the body's systems, Neubel says.

Having a good, basic knowledge of how the skin and the body work, how chemical elements are easily absorbed through the skin and studying herbs and aromatics (resins, herbs, essentials oils, carrier oils) and their interactions with the body is key in making safe skin- and hair-care products, Neubel says.

Citrus essential oils, for example, can be harmful, she says, because the chemical constituents within them can makes one (temporarily) hypersensitive to light.

Neubel, who sometimes sells her products at the Chattanooga Market, makes herbal hair tonic, herbal shampoo/cleanser, whipped shea butter, facial and body oils, among other products. She has certifications from the American College of Healthcare Sciences (an accredited online holistic health education program based in Portland, Ore.), and completed aesthetic certification at Chattanooga State Community College.

Wright says that, through trial and error, she has discovered that she is not a chemist.

Michelle Neubel says that the number of artisans taking the necessary steps to study the science of formulating skin care products is increasing.

Michelle Neubel says that the number of artisans...

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

"Nine out of 10 times, I ended up being disappointed by my homemade mixes and blends -- olive oil hair treatments that took days to remove, leaving my hair in matted, dirty looking and odoriferous strands, and baking soda blemish relief that left my face dry and irritated; (and) using vinegar as an exfoliant leaving my skin red and welted."

Shelley Black, a judicial assistant in Hamilton County Courts, says she started her "Smelley Shelley's Homemade Bath & Body Products" business about six years ago after doing extensive research on essential oils, fragrances and skin products.

"I have always been a fan of different fragrances and beauty products, so as a hobby, I started making my own products," Black says. "My best research is making products and using it myself and getting feedback from friends and family that I have made products for."

Though she loves using essential oils in her products, she says using too much can irritate the skin.

"I make a lemongrass and lavender eczema body wash that is very helpful for people with this skin condition but, if I use too much essential oils in this product, it can actually make this skin condition worse," she says.

A couple of her favorite products that produce positive results are virgin coconut oil and rose hip seed oil. She uses the coconut oil in body scrubs, lip shines, and lotions.

"Coconut oil melts very quickly when exposed to heat, even body heat. For someone who doesn't necessarily want to make their own skin products, virgin coconut oil can be used straight out of the jar as an awesome face and body moisturizer," Black says.

"It helps heal eczema and dry skin conditions. You can use coconut oil to sooth dry hands, shave your legs, deep condition your hair and many more things. I often use it straight out of the jar as a night moisturizer for my face."

Rose hip seed oil "is a 'miracle' type skin product," she says. "I have read that dermatologists have found that rose hip seed oil is excellent for your hair and body. Like coconut oil, I sometimes use rose hip seed oil as a night-time moisturizer."

Contact Karen Nazor Hill at or 423-757-6396.