A good DIY facial mask is one of my most popular “do you have a good recipe for a ______?” requests. For a long time I wondered why. Masks aren’t typically part of a daily skincare regimen. I used to respond with “why do you want to make a mask? Why not a cleanser or toner?” The most typical response to that was something along the lines of “Oh I could never make something like that. Masks look simple.” And that’s true–you can make a good DIY mask out of just about anything you have in your kitchen, pantry, or garden. You might just need to add a few little extras like clay or seaweed powder, but even those are optional.
Simplicity is definitely one of the draws of the DIY facial mask.
The more I thought about it though, the more I realized that the reason people love masks so much goes beyond simplicity.
Daily skincare regimens typically consist of cleanser, toner, moisturizer, and sunscreen. They are most often rushed upon waking in the morning, and performed sleepily at night. They are seen as more of a necessity to keep skin in check, rather than something that’s actually pleasurable.
The facial mask is different. There’s nothing rushed about it, since it needs to sit on the surface of the skin for a period of time before being removed. You can’t just slather it on and then run out the door because well, it’s usually green, gray, brown, or opaque white. You apply the mask at a specific time of a skincare regimen–after the cleansing, toning and maybe exfoliating, and before the moisturizer–so there it does require more of a ritual than a typical daily routine. You’ve got to plan for it.
The facial mask moves skincare past the daily regimen and into a self-care ritual.
That’s why people ask for it–it’s a subtle request for more self-care and pampering in their lives. Not everyone can indulge in a spa treatment or other typical pampering excursion on a regular basis, but we all need and deserve pampering. A DIY facial mask is the perfect way to give yourself a treat, an opportunity to slow down for a bit and enjoy some nourishment, and enjoy the lovely glow that follows.
My favorite way to make a truly nourishing DIY facial mask is to start with a freshly blended green or fruit smoothie or juice, and add clay.
Here’s one of my favorite DIY smoothie facial mask recipes:
2 cups baby spinach (rich in A vitamins and essential fatty acids)
1 cup diced pineapple (contains bromelain–an enzyme that promotes gentle exfoliation)
1 kiwi (Rich in Vitamins C and E)
1 avocado (Naturally moisturizing with healthy fats, and rich with carotenoid antioxidants)
Juice from half a lemon (Vitamin C, citric acid)
1 cup of spring or filtered water (hydrating, also may contain minerals depending on the source)
1 tablespoon of mineral-rich Bentonite, Rhassoul, French green, or white kaolin clay (or a combination of clays–but use the kaolin if you have drier, or more sensitive skin)
Click HERE to read more about different clays and muds.
Add all ingredients into a high speed blender, except the clay. Set aside 2 tablespoons of smoothie in a small prep bowl, and pour the rest into a glass or mason jar.
Add your clay to the smoothie in the prep bowl, little by little, until you get an opaque, paste-like consistency.
Apply it to the entire face and neck, avoiding the eye area and lips
Leave it on for 15 minutes, and drink the remaining juice or smoothie while it sets
Remove gently with a soft cloth and warm water.
Tone, and apply moisturizer
I hope you try this smoothie facial mask recipe yourself!
Please leave a comment below and let me know how it goes.
Here’s a picture of me in my own DIY facial mask. I’d love to see yours! Post it on Instagram and tag me @rachaelpontillo 🙂
If you liked this recipe, click HERE for a similar one.
Also, if you want to learn how to up your mask (and other skincare product) making skills, check out my online course, Create Your Skincare!
I began receiving stone medicine when I was a child–although I had no idea that’s what was happening. Rocks, minerals, gems, crystals, stones…these gifts from Mother Earth became my earliest more-than-just-a-hobby passion back when I was about 10 years old. We had a geology unit in my 5th grade science class, and my teacher laid out stone specimens on our desks and we got to walk around and examine them, and I just fell in love. I loved them all–igneous, metamorphic, sedimentary rocks…fossils, amber, petrified wood…they all became my “friends,” and I remember spending afternoons at a local rock shop just oohing and aahing over their stones, and saving up my allowance to add pieces to my growing collection.
My childhood home had a glass display cabinet built into the wall at the base of the staircase, so whenever I’d come downstairs first thing in the morning, my stones would greet me, and that made me happy. Whenever I felt sad, sick, or stressed, I’d instinctively peer into one or just hold it, and I’d feel better. To this day, I still have many of those stones I started collecting during that 5th grade science unit.
My Lemurian quartz crystal made into a beautiful pendant by my cousin.
Much later on, when I was pregnant with my older daughter, I took a gemology course as my “pregnancy” project. I’ll admit it–I kind of got addicted to Jewelry Television, and started buying parcels of loose gems. I made jewelry out of some, but still have trays of them that I haven’t identified yet, though I bought all the equipment necessary to do so.
What can I say? When I go into a hobby, I go all in. Anyone who’s seen my rock collection, polymer clay collection, yarn stash, or apothecary cabinet will attest to that. But rocks were my first love, and to this day, they’re one my greatest, and I find ways to incorporate them into my daily life, whether it’s sleeping with them under my pillow, using gemstone elixirs in my skincare products, or just surrounding myself with them so I can see them when I work.
Stones are powerful healers.
Stone medicine may seem unfamiliar to you, but it’s as old as the Earth, and as Sarah Thomas, my guest on today’s podcast interview will tell you, its wisdom even predates the Earth. And just like other ancient healing modalities like Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, and herbalism have seen a strong resurgence here in the western hemisphere, stone medicine has also grown in popularity. We find stones incorporated in spiritual healing circles, sold in health food stores right alongside the organic produce and homeopathic remedies, and in the past year we’ve seen a huge increase in the presence of stones in spas.
Some of the more holistically minded product lines have introduced products and protocols utilizing gemstones and stone elixirs, and I’ve even seen main stage lectures about stones and skincare at spa conferences. Jade rollers and gua sha are particularly popular, as well as water pitchers with gemstones in the glass.
I even teach how to make and utilize gemstone elixirs in the bonus module of my online course, Create Your Skincare–that’s how strongly I feel about it!
How does stone medicine work on the skin?
The adaptogenic ocean jasper I got from Sarah at the conference
I initially believed that gemstones and gemstone elixirs work on the energetic levels of the body, rather than the physical, similar to how plants do. However when I last attended the Midatlantic Women’s Herbal Conference, I attended a stone medicine seminar with Sarah Thomas, where I learned how they can also affect one’s health physically.
In fact, Sarah taught that one stone in particular, ocean jasper, is known to have adaptogenic properties on the body, meaning it helps it adapt to stress more effectively, similar to how an herb like ashwagandha or holy basil would work. That intrigued me, and to be honest, Sarah’s whole class kind of blew my mind.
As you’ll notice in our interview, Sarah teaches from a very spiritual place, as well as from science (we actually talked about some elements on the periodic chart), and I probably said the words “fascinating” and “mind-blowing” too many times. I think you’ll agree!
Learn about stone medicine from Sarah Thomas below:
Click HERE to subscribe to my podcast and download the audio of this interview, FREE.
The fluorite I purchased immediately after Sarah’s class
What did I tell you? Mind blown, right? My two favorite parts of the interview were:
Sarah’s metaphor of a desperate leprechaun holding vacuums to describe how fluorite helps protect you from other people’s energy at 12:50 (which I was excited to then compare to free radicals at 15:05), and…
Sarah’s very simple clear skin apache tears elixir remedy, which she describes at 16:30.
Apache tears obsidian, cleared and ready to be made into a skin-clearing elixir.
There are many other “gems” (yeah I just did that) in the whole interview, including how to find the best stones for you, how to know how to use them, how to clear them before use, and more. I’d love to know what your favorite part was. Tell me in the comments below!
About Sarah Thomas:
Sarah Thomas, BS, MAc., LAc., Dipl. Ac. is a licensed acupuncturist and owns Clarity Acupuncture in Asheville, North Carolina. She earned her Masters in Acupuncture from Maryland University of Integrative Health.
Sarah studies extensively with Jeffrey C. Yuen and other master healers and has been steeped in stone and crystal medicine, clinically and academically, for several years. She developed North Carolina’s first Studies in Mineral Healing Program at Appalachia School of Holistic Herbalism, teaches yearly national earth and herbal conferences, certifies “stonalists” in a yearly intensives, and leads rockhounding trips for the public into the ancient Blue Ridge Mountains. Her Tao is to assist in the dissemination of the vast knowledge and uncharted potentials of healing with stones.
One of the greatest challenges when you want to make your own all natural skincare products is finding the right top quality DIY skincare ingredients, that have been ethically and sustainably sourced, in small sizes, with as little research as possible. Don’t get me wrong–there are plenty of natural skincare ingredient “one stop shops” online with high quality natural ingredients, but I know from experience that when a brand new handmade skincare enthusiast goes to one of these sites, one of two things happens (and please let me know if this has happened to you in the comments below!):
Complete and utter overwhelm at the amount of herbs, carrier oils, hydrosols, clays, essential oils, extracts, and so on. You start reading the descriptions, and select a few…then you keep looking and within a few minutes your eyes begin to glaze over. They.all.start.looking.the.same. You panic, close your window, and that’s the end of it. Out of sight, out of mind.
You’re like a kid in a candy shop. You get excited by all the gorgeous descriptions of how magical each ingredient is (because natural ingredients truly are magical), enraptured by exotic oils and butters that you can’t pronounce but that have been THE beauty secret of X Indigenous Tribe in the remote forests of Y Country, and you must have it. And the herbs and essential oils…how can you possibly narrow them down? All of the sudden there’s hundreds of dollars of ingredients in your cart. You buy them, and find that there’s no way you can go through all those before they spoil. And you also likely have to hire a closet organizer to create space to display all these ingredients that you’ll never use.
The struggle is real, my friend.
In my course, Create Your Skincare, one of the most important components is that I teach my students how to choose the right ingredients for their unique skin (you can get a preview of that in my 2-part e-book system HERE) and then guide them on where to purchase top quality ingredients. But I’m often asked if I know of anyone who sells kits of DIY skincare ingredients in sizes large enough to experiment with, but small enough that they won’t go to waste. Up until now, the answer has been not really.
The main reason is because ingredient selection is a very individual thing, and different people will need different ingredients. But the problem is also that most places that sell organic, non-GMO, sustainably and ethically sourced ingredients sell in quantities that are too much for someone who isn’t sure if they’re the right ingredients for them quite yet. And let’s be honest–top quality, certified ingredients like these aren’t cheap–with skincare ingredients, you do get what you pay for in terms of quality in most cases.
Well, experimenting with DIY skincare ingredients just got easier.
The herbs in the jars are my own and don’t come with the kit 🙂
I was SO excited when I was contacted by my new friends at Oleum Vera–a new DIY skincare ingredient kit company that curates kits of small experiment-friendly, top quality, plant-based DIY skincare ingredients and reusable glass bottles, plus a booklet of recipes for inspiration.
I really love this concept, because not only do they provide you with ingredients, bottles, and recipes–but they’ve already done the work to find top quality organic, non-GMO, and sustainably-sourced ingredients. Their kits are all certified USDA Organic, and also by ECOCERT, and retail for $74.95. And for that price, you get a LOT of ingredients to work with. They also ship internationally which is awesome.
What’s in Oleum Vera’s DIY Organic Face Moisturizing Kit
The DIY Organic Face Moisturizing Kit they sent me came with a variety of oils that I would consider to be “performance oils” because they are so antioxidant rich–and are normally quite expensive. I got pomegranate seed, tamanu, jojoba, Vitamin E, and marula oils in addition to glycerine, and lavender, tea tree, geranium, and frankincense essential oils (those are the 4 most common essential oils I happen to use).
The kit also came with a little funnel, and a spray bottle and two serum bottles with droppers that are glass on the inside. All the bottles–the ones for the ingredients themselves, as well as the ones intended to package the products you make, are reusable and can be easily cleaned out and sanitized between uses.
A little note about the packaging–since the bottles are opaque, you will have to measure out your ingredients in a glass beaker to be sure you know how much you’re using. Also, though the bottles come with stoppers, I’d love to see orifice reducers (funny name, yes, but that’s what they do!) on the essential oil bottles to make them easier to pour. They way they are now, if measuring drops (which the recipes do call for), you’ll have to use a separate dropper.
One of Oleum Vera’s DIY toner recipes.
The kit says it comes with enough ingredients to make 3 toners and 3 oil serums, but I will point out that the toner recipes do require the purchase of additional ingredients such as lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, green tea, with hazel, honey, and vodka. The ingredients from the kit that are used in the toner recipes are the glycerine and Vitamin E.
Though the vodka may help with natural preservation, any of these toner recipes would need to be kept in the refrigerator and used within one week; as is the case with any product containing water and perishable ingredients unless a broad spectrum preservative is used (I teach you to do that safely and naturally in my online course Create Your Skincare, by the way). So to clarify, for the toners, there is enough glycerine and Vitamin E to make three, but you’ll need to hit up your health food or grocery store (and the liquor store) for the rest of the ingredients.
I personally made a toner with green tea, cucumber hydrosol, glycerine, Vitamin E, and my own rose tincture (made with organic vodka, organic red rose petals, and the sun).
The serums are much more straightforward, because to make an oil serum, you really only need carrier oils. The essential oils are a great addition (though I don’t recommend using them in an eye serum), and the Vitamin E is an excellent addition because its antioxidant properties help to prevent rancidity and maintain the integrity of the phytochemical constituents of each ingredient. There’s easily enough product in the kit to make three different serums–and honestly you could also use these as cleansing oils as well.
All of the serum recipes that come in the booklet are ones I’d recommend. I personally made a serum for my 12 year old daughter with the jojoba oil, marula oil, Vitamin E, and tea tree, and geranium essential oils.
Overall I think the Oleum Vera kits are a great idea, and I was very pleased with the quality. I look forward to watching this concept grow, as I think it’s a very user-friendly and affordable way to get top quality DIY skincare ingredients into the hands of many, and spread the joy of boutique skincare goodness to all!
Want to learn more about how to get started making skincare in a free mini e-course?
Click HERE to sign up for Boutique Skincare Basics.
For more information about Oleum Vera, and to get your own kit, click HERE.
Alright, you’ve created the perfect skincare product. You’ve mastered the emulsion, you’ve gotten the right level of moisture, you’ve even figured out the exact ingredients make that your skin glow like it’s never glowed before. You’re almost done! Now, for the perfect natural fragrance.
Most people prefer to use skincare that has a lovely fragrance. A bad scent can be a dealbreaker, even when you otherwise love the product! Fragrance is also a deeply subjective matter. A fragrance that one person loves can totally repel another person. I once made a skincare product for a client that I thought smelled fine, but when she tried it she had a different experience. She emailed me that she loved the product itself but asked (very kindly) if I could remake it for her so it didn’t smell like boiled hot dogs. Eeeewww! Of course, I obliged.
This is one of the things I love most about making your own skincare though—not only can you choose the best ingredients for your unique skin, you can truly create your own signature natural fragrance. Even if you’re not making your own skincare, you can still make an essential oil blend and wear it in place of perfume.
Why you should avoid ‘fragrance’
When companies list ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum’ as an ingredient in their product—whether it’s a perfume, a face wash, or a lotion — they don’t have to tell you what’s actually in it. That’s because fragrance is considered proprietary information. That one ‘ingredient’ could contain dozens of different chemicals—but they don’t have to tell you what’s actually in it. Not all of those undisclosed ingredients are going to be harmful, but how will you know if they’re not listed? The truth is that a fragrance–even a natural fragrance–can be made of hundreds of undisclosed (often synthetic) individual ingredients.
In 2010, the Center for Safe Cosmetics set out to unveil the perfume industry’s mysterious fragrances. They did a chemical analysis of 17 different perfumes and found a total of 38 chemicals not listed on the ingredient labels. Some of these preservatives and other additives were considered generally safe… But others were skin irritants and worse, others were chemicals that have the potential to interfere with normal hormonal function. Yikes!
Even if you’re not worried about chemicals being a part of your daily scent routine, there are other reasons to opt for essential oils instead.
Essential oils are extracted from plants with a high quantity of volatile oils, which have special properties that benefit the plant (i.e., pest resistance) and often times benefit us when we use them as well. Many of these benefits—whether it’s lifting the mood, helping you be more energetic, or even acting as an aphrodisiac—can be enjoyed simply by smelling the essential oil. This, in essence, is aromatherapy.
Essential oils: where to start
So you want to create your own essential oil-based natural fragrance blend, and there are dozens upon dozens to choose from. Where do you start?
Here are what I see as the main ways to choose your essential oils:
Start with one essential oil you love and build on it using scents that complement it.
Decide on the aromatherapy you want to experience, such as calming, energizing, clarifying, or even the unleashing of your inner child, and let this guide you towards the right essential oils to use.
Once you have one or two oils in mind, you’ll want to build a cohesive, complementary blend.
How to create a well-rounded essential oil blend
Creating an essential oil blend follows the same basic principles as the creation of any perfume. You want top notes, middle notes, and base notes in order to create a well-rounded blend. Here’s what all of those things mean: One of my favorite natural perfumers, Mandy Aftel, recommends building your fragrance from the bottom up, starting with your base notes.
Top Notes – This is what you’re likely to smell first, thus creating the initial impression of the scent. These scents evaporate in 5-30 minutes, typically come from flowers and leaves, and often have aromatherapy that’s energizing or uplifting. These should make up about 10-30% of the blend.
Examples: basil, neroli, peppermint, and grapefruit.
Middle Notes – Once the top notes evaporate, the middle notes surface, typically lasting for a few hours. These full-bodied notes represent the heart of the fragrance and should comprise about 30-60% of the blend.
Examples: chamomile, rosemary, cardamom, and lavender.
Base Notes – Base notes provide the final impression, evaporating slowly and lingering for a day or more. These scents tend to be grounding, helping to promote relaxation and counteract nervousness and anxiety. These scents should represent about 15-30% of the blend.
Examples: Peru balsam, frankincense, sandalwood, and vetiver.
In her book, Essence and Alchemy, Mandy recommends building your fragrance from the bottom up, starting with your base notes.
Putting your natural fragrance blend together
How much essential oil you put in your product will obviously depend on the volume of your product to begin with. One important thing is to add little by little so you don’t end up with too much scent. No matter how good it smells, if there’s too much in there you will not want to be putting that stuff on your face—essential oils are extremely powerful, and can cause irritant skin reactions like sensitization and even burns when used overzealously! Go little by little in order to get it just right.
In my online course, Create Your Skincare, our aromatherapy instructor, Anna Doxie and I recommend no higher than 2% concentration of essential oils in most facial skincare products. We also advise against using essential oils in products intended for the eye area, since the skin there is more sensitive.
A few of my favorite natural fragrance blends
I have SO many favorite essential oils and blends, as I’ve been making my own products, blends, and perfumes for quite some time now. Some of my favorite go-to blends are:
Bulgarian rose, frankincense, lavender, and carrot seed essential oils
Rosemary and ylang ylang essential oil (one of the members of my Handmade Skincare Enthusiasts group on Facebook actually recommended this one—it seemed like an odd pairing but it really works! I especially like this one for natural deodorant. Get my recipe HERE).
Benzoin, rose, jasmine, and lime (easy on the lime, though!)
I have many more—and of course when I select essential oils to use in skincare products, I consider the benefits of their chemical constituents as I consider their fragrances.
I’d love to know—what are your favorite natural fragrances?
Please share with me in the comments below.
Also—if you want to learn more about how to create and customize your own range of all natural boutique skincare products (naturally fragranced with essential oils only–nothing synthetic), check out my course, Create Your Skincare.
One of my favorite aspects of my work is getting interviewed (and interviewing) by really cool people who I consider to be rock stars and pioneers in the holistic and integrative skincare movement. I recently had the opportunity to be a guest on the wonderful Dr. Trevor Cates’ podcast, The Spa Dr.™. I got to spend time in person with Dr. Cates at a health conference we both attended this past summer, and I can tell you she’s not only brilliant, but also a truly heart-centered healthcare professional who’s passionate about advancing an integrative approach to healthy skin. I and my other co-founders of the Nutritional Aesthetics™ Alliance are honored to have her as a member of our Advisory Board.
In this episode of The Spa Dr.™, Dr. Cates and I talked a LOT about DIY skincare treatments, topical ingredients, and how whether an ingredient–like jojoba or coconut oil–works for a person or not has more to do with the person’s unique chemistry rather than whether the ingredient is supposed to be for their particular skin “type” or not. We also talked a lot about hyperpigmentation, and some of the issues surrounding conventional treatments like hydroquinone, and I give some natural alternatives. I also shared some of my favorite kitchen remedies for puffy eyes, as well as my go-to toner recipe.
Read the full post HERE, and watch the video below:
The Nutritional Aesthetics™ Alliance just kicked off its new membership program with a bang! We had a live NAA Pumpkin Party Open House webcast where we talked about all the skin-health benefits pumpkin and other fabulous fall ingredients, and did fun giveaways (a lucky winner won free enrollment to my course Create Your Skincare for The Holidays). I also got to show off a little with a video demonstration of the Autumn Antioxidant Oil Serum I created for the NAA’s Flawless Fall Skin Guide (make sure you download that HERE if you haven’t already–the recipe for the serum is in that guide!).
I wanted to share the video with you here, because this product is so easy to make and does a wonderful job delivering nourishing vitamins A, C, and E as well as minerals to the skin. It also helps fortify the skin’s lipid barrier and seal in moisture with essential fatty acids which is so important as the weather gets cooler and the air gets drier.
Learn to Make The NAA’s Autumn Antioxidant Oil Serum: