Solid Cosmetics and Learning Chemistry

For quite a few years I have been into solid cosmetics, exploring different brands of solid soaps, shampoos, conditioners, toothpastes, deodorants and other products. I already wrote some advice for creating a sustainable travel kit and a bit about why going solid is good. But now I will share some different experiences and ideas.

Firstly, as much as I want to support the idea of small businesses and handmade products, I won’t buy them if they are not good quality. By good quality I mean ethical, sustainable and zero waste, natural and organic (as much as it is possible), as well as doing what they are supposed to and feeling/smelling nice.

Secondly, handmade does not always equal high quality. It is very important to read the list of ingredients, and ask questions if you don’t know what something is or what qualities it has. Go for organic ingredients if you can, it means that less harm was caused to the planet by producing it and it will have less impact when it’s used.

One more thing is the packaging. If it is possible I always go for packaging free products! Maybe it doesn’t look so fancy and attractive, but it is better to invest in high quality ingredients than pretty packaging which in the end will be waste. Of course, a reusable box or tin is great, but how many of them do you really need?

While living in Mexico we have tried so many different products and different brands, and the best thing about many of them is that most of the ingredients are local! Even, when they are, some of the base ingredients are still expensive, so if you find ‘natural organic’ cosmetics for a super low price, check it out more closely before buying.

Cherry handmade soap

You could just make some…

Probably everyone could have a go and make soaps, shampoos and other products at home quite easily. There are hundreds of videos on YouTube telling you how to, but in my opinion it is important to actually gain some valuable knowledge about different ingredients, the processes, quantities and some of the maths and chemistry behind it.

This wish to learn more about solid, and in general natural, homemade cosmetics led me to a decision to attend some workshops. And now I believe it was a good investment. 

It was not so easy as the courses were in Spanish, but I could the chance to improve my language skills as well. Knowing enough basic words and also elementary chemistry and maths this went pretty well. 

Before the workshop I didn’t even know that soaps are mainly made from oils! It seems kind of weird that greasy products make us clean! Oils are not simple things, each one is so different in their structure and properties, but there are some simple mathematical formulas to make sure you use the right amounts. By understanding the chemical reactions you know how each of the ingredient will react when added in different proportions to one another. 

To know the properties of the oils, herbs, waxes, and butters is very important for creating good quality products. For me personally it was really useful and important to have the practice together with the theoretical part and experiencing the processes.

The great thing that all of the products we made we could take home with us and try them out when they are ready to use. That is something that varies a lot, some of the products were ready after 2-24 hours but some of the soaps need to wait for 3-6 months, they need to be matured like a great quality cheese.

My handmade products can’t sit around for 5 years, because they simple lack preservatives and the ingredients used are totally natural. Solid lip balm, conditioner, different soaps, and shampoos for sure won’t go bad for a long time, but to get the best results they should be used within a couple of years. The mosquito repellent within two years, creams, gels within a year.

I learnt a lot of things, including that the easiest way to use natural cosmetics is to go solid as much as possible, because these products last the longest and don’t any added preservatives to keep them from spoiling. I also discovered that I like to make my own cosmetics! It is fun and I don’t need to worry about any allergies. Most of ingredients you can eat, if it’s fine to be inside then, surely it is healthy for the outside use as well! I gained so much knowledge about herbs and plants, and also how to use them. It’s nice to know, and to have the choice of, exactly what goes into the products you use.

Right now we are enjoying our own handmade cosmetics and creating zero waste! There is no plastic or paper packaging! Also, right now we have less items in our bathroom, because shampoo, deodorant, soaps, toothpaste are for both of us, completely gender neutral. A few days ago we started to enjoy our own charcoal soap, and unlike some of the commercial ones we tried, the one we made is not creating mess all over the bathroom! At the same time I can take a shower and create ideas about how to use the skills and knowledge we have in the future!

Charcoal solid soap

but you don’t need to…

So, while with a little bit of information and some basic household equipment everybody can make their own cosmetics, and it can be fun, for sure there is no need for each of us to do it. There are so many different brands, great small business doing a fantastic job at creating exciting and sustainable products to choose from. We just need to read behind the labels to choose the truly environment and human friendly ones! 

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