‘”I make about 80% of my own facial masques, toners, exfoliators, and cleansers and have been doing so for five years. I use organic ingredients where possible, and everything I use is fresh and 100% natural. I deeply enjoy the process and have perfected several recipes and see good results, but at times I can’t help but wonder if my masques are as effective as spa masks. For instance, I am not sure if there are organic extracts and other ingredients considered professional strength that only proprietors can purchase that make their products more effective — meaning more concentrated as compared to kitchen beauty products. I’d appreciate some insight in this area, as well as tips for making potent products in small batches at home (Of course, using fresh ingredients are key, and organic is ideal.).”
Thanks for the great question! Awesome that you craft your own skin care!
Spas use a wide range of ingredients: the type of ingredients depends on the spa. In some spas, you will find only all natural food based or simple ingredients, such as oatmeal, honey, seaweed, clays, and fruit. Many spas use the more concentrated natural herbal ingredients like herbal tinctures and essential oils. Other spas use natural but lab altered ingredients, such as standardized green tea extract (in which green tea’s polyphenols (catechins) and caffeine levels have been adjusted in a lab, so they are at certain concentrations). Some places use other kinds of lab actives that are naturally derived (which may range from natural to synthetic, or somewhere in between) or totally synthetic, including oat beta glucan, hyaluronic acid, vitamin C, peptides, and retinol. A lot of spas use a combination of all of these different kinds of ingredients. There are also spas that use a specific skin care line exclusively.
Lab standardized natural extracts and other lab actives are not necessarily more effective or better than basic natural ingredients. In my experience with helping others create skin care routines with food based ingredients or natural products (all natural brands and also mostly natural lines made with lab actives), I have found that many people’s skin have responded well to using completely natural, simple ingredients (food based and natural herbal ingredients like carrier oils, essential oils, hydrosols, and tinctures, etc). Some people’s skin like the lab actives better though (whether they are the more natural or the synthetic kind). So when you are selecting ingredients for your skin, you have to look at a number of factors: skin type, issues, conditions, ingredient properties, and your skin’s own response to ingredients. What works for you, may not work for someone else, and vice versa.
Many people argue that the lab standardized natural extracts and lab actives are more effective than ‘kitchen beauty’ ingredients and other natural ingredients, because the lab actives are much more concentrated, they have been standardized (to have the ‘correct’ amount of a specific active in it), or they have been ‘proven’ by science to work. But there are many scientific studies on natural (non-lab altered) ingredients too (though admittedly there are way less cosmetic plant and natural studies than lab active studies. Many natural ingredients haven’t been studied well in regards to skin care, but there are several that have been!). A lot of natural ingredients have been used effectively for hundreds to thousands of years, so while they may not have been scientifically studied as extensively as lab actives, it doesn’t mean they don’t work!
I personally prefer using all natural ingredients and I hardly ever use lab actives (even if they are ‘natural’) for many reasons: mostly because natural ingredients work for my skin, my customers’ skin, and many of the people I have helped. I am in my 30s and have been using all natural ingredients for over 11 years: I have no fine lines, and I have very few skin issues. That said, even though I am an all natural formulator, I am not afraid to recommend someone certain lab actives, if that is what their skin needs and if their skin responds better to them. So if your all natural and organic creations are working for you, and they are addressing your current skin issues and conditions, then keep making and using them!
However, if you wanted to use more potent plant ingredients then I suggest making products with herbal ingredients like tinctures, glycerites, herb infused oils, infusions, decoctions, hydrosols, herb infused vinegars, essential oils, absolutes, co2 extracts, oleoresins, and cold pressed/unrefined or expeller pressed/unrefined carrier oils (which have more antioxidants and vitamins than solvent extracted or highly refined carrier oils). These are natural concentrated actives (some are more concentrated than others though). But food based ingredients are rich in nutrients, and pretty potent in my opinion too! I use many basic natural or ‘kitchen beauty’ ingredients whenever my skin needs a little extra nourishment. Many natural skin care and holistic estheticians recommend using food based and potent plant ingredients too.
Plants used in skin care are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, nutrients, or plant phytochemicals (which ones, depends on the plant and extraction method). Different extractions yield different natural chemical compositions, so chamomile infusion and chamomile essential oil will have some similar properties, actives, and uses, and they will also have some different ones too. Some studies have suggested that organic ingredients are higher in nutrients. You can make many of the above potent plant ingredients and purchase the rest. Just thought I should mention many of the standardized lab actives and others lab actives can be purchased online (though some of them are only available to businesses, several DIY ingredient vendors carry many of them at the retail level).