I Made My Own Skin Care Products for a Week. This Is What Happened.

Updated: Mar. 16, 2017

Can natural products really stand up to lab-perfected ingredients? I put it to the test.


I’m all for trying to stick with “ingredients you can pronounce” in food. When it comes to skincare though, I’ve always been a bit more skeptical. After all, chemists dedicate their lives to testing and reformulating products designed for that perfect, ahem, natural radiance. Throwing that all out the window for essential oils and apple cider vinegar seemed a bit hippie-dippy.

Still, a nagging part of my mind always loved the idea of going back to the basics with beauty. When I got a copy of Hello Glow by Stephanie Gerber, I figured I should finally give it a try. I promised to nix my usual face regime for a week and use only homemade products instead.

Get-Glowvia amazon.comFor reference, my complexion type is acne-prone combination skin (lucky, I know). My typical routine is to wash my face twice a day—using either a benzoyl peroxide, sensitive skin, or exfoliating cleanser, depending on which problem seems worst that day—followed by a moisturizer and acne treatment. Leaving those on the shelf, I whipped up a homemade cleanser, toner, and moisturizer.

My biggest problem area is oiliness, so I took the suggestion in Hello Glow to use a Foaming Honey Cleanser, Balancing Rosemary-Thyme Toner, and Brightening Geranium Moisturizer (recipes below).

As I was gathering my ingredients, my friend spotted the bottle of castile soap for the face wash sitting on my dresser. She seemed excited, telling me she’d used it as an eco-friendly way to get face wash, shampoo, and household cleaner from the same product. But then she let it slip that she’d stopped using it on her face because when she didn’t dilute it enough, it left her skin dry. Gulp. I could see visions of cracked, parched skin in my future. But I’d committed.

At night, I’d start by taking my makeup off with jojoba oil, which effectively took off every trace of eye makeup. Until about a year ago, I avidly used baby oil as a makeup remover. Jojoba oil felt like the same idea, but it didn’t leave me digging at clumps of stubborn mascara the way baby oil sometimes would.

Despite the recipe’s name, the lather from the Foaming Honey Cleanser surprised me. I assumed “natural” would mean “not as effective as anything made in a lab,” but I felt like I was getting a deep clean from the liquidy formula. Studies show honey can help seal in moisture, but it also made my skin smell yummy (literally). Here’s why honey is just as great for your hair.

Typically I don’t use toner, but the Balancing Rosemary-Thyme Toner promised its herbs and tea-tree oil would fight zits. New York grocery stores are strangely devoid of dried rosemary, so I had to wing it a bit and use thyme only. But one Leeds Metropolitan University study found that thyme extract was even better at killing bacteria than benzoyl peroxide, so I figured I was in safe hands. I was a little afraid the toner would leave me smelling like apple cider vinegar, but the scent wasn’t too strong.

I finished up with the Brightening Geranium Moisturizer. I’m all too aware of the importance of moisturizer for any skin type—even oily—but I was still a little wary to rub this mix of straight-up oils onto my grease-prone skin. It definitely left a bit of a shine on my face, but it seemed more glowy than greasy.

On my first day with these recipes, I leaned my face on my hands while at my desk, only to realize my skin felt noticeably soft. That smoothness stuck around the entire week. The area under my eyes was a lot softer when putting on makeup, and my usual flaky winter skin looked hydrated and fresh. So much for my fears about drying castile soap.

The third night of my experiment, a small pimple appeared on my face, and I braced myself for a major breakout. But despite going cold turkey on the heavy-duty acne medication, my skin actually stayed pretty clear.

The day after my week of homemade skin care, a few angry-looking zits did pop up, sending me running back to my regular routine. But now, a several days back in my old ways, I’m reminded of the flaky skin I keep getting from harsh products. At least until my current ones run out and the weather gets less rough, I’ll be sticking with my homemade skin care.

I-Used-Only-Homemade-SkincareDPRM/ShutterstockFoaming Honey Cleanser


  • 1/3 cup (120 g) honey
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) castile soap (I used Cove unscented)
  • 3 tablespoons distilled water
  • 1 teaspoon avocado oil (I used Eden’s Garden)
  • 2 to 3 drops essential oil (I used tea tree from Eden’s Garden)
  1. Measure and combine the honey, liquid castile soap, and distilled water in a large measuring cup. Stir gently—try to avoid making too many bubbles!—until the honey is all dissolved and combined.
  2. Stir in the avocado oil and use a pipette to add your preferred essential oil. With a funnel, transfer the mixture to a bottle with a handy pump dispenser.
  3. To use, first swirl the bottle gently until you’ve recombined the ingredients. Then pump a small amount of the mixture into your hand, add a little water from the tap, and massage onto your face and neck. Rinse with warm water to wash away those suds (and dirt).

Balancing Rosemary-Thyme Toner


  • 1 cup (240 mL) distilled water
  • 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons apple-cider vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon tea tree oil
  1. Start by measuring the distilled water and bringing it to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat.
  2. Add the dried rosemary and thyme, and steep uncovered for 20 minutes.
  3. Filter out the herbs with a fine-mesh strainer. Transfer the liquid to the bottle using a funnel.
  4. Add the apple cider vinegar and the tea-tree oil. Give the bottle a good shake to mix the ingredients.
  5. To use, first apply a bit to your neck to check for sensitivity. Apply to your whole face with a cotton pad after washing your face in the morning and evening.

Brightening Geranium Moisturizer


  • 2 tablespoons jojoba oil (I used NOW Foods for all in this recipe)
  • 2 tablespoons grape-seed oil
  • 18 drops geranium essential oil
  • 8 drops sandalwood essential oil
  • 2 drops lemon essential oil
  1. Using a measuring spoon and funnel, pour the jojoba and grape-seed oils into a dark glass bottle.
  2. Add the geranium, sandalwood, and lemon essential oils drop by drop with a pipette. Replace the cap and shake to combine the oils.
  3. To use, dispense 6 to 8 drops of oil into your hands and rub them together to activate the oils. Press your hands on either side of your face, then apply by pressing onto your face, neck, and chest.

To find more natural beauty recipes like these, pick up a copy of Hello Glow by Stephanie Gerber.