alright, alright… let’s make a hyaluronic acid serum

hi crunchies! let’s keep this to the point 🙂  i’ve never posted a DIY hyaluronic acid serum before, so here i am.

for this DIY, you will need something that blends on your behalf for the hyaluronic acid powder, a water-soluble preservative, and patience. this might cost more upfront in bulk ingredients than it would to purchase, but you can make multiple bottles and i think it’s fun to play and mix. it’s also fun to learn, as it can further help you read labels and understand what you’re actually paying for.

since we’re only making 2 ounces, let’s use a sturdy, more powerful milk frother. it won’t “froth” water, so it’s fine. since i’m sure other formulators will read this and scream in horror, please note i’m aware that a high-powered immersion blender is the best option, but we’re only working with 60 mL of liquid, so i provided a realistic option to a $350 hand blender.

hyaluronic acid serums will only ever have a 0.1% to 2% concentration of hyaluronic acid, because it swells in water and turns into a gel. you can’t add more, or it won’t dissolve. the low concentration doesn’t mean it’s not an active ingredient, but i do think the aqueous base it’s dissolved in is important. let’s opt for a skin-supporting hydrosol instead of plain water.

the molecular weight of hyaluronic acid is also important. we want HIGH molecular weight (HMW-HA). here’s an article i like for explaining things in an easy-to-understand and no-frills format.

as always, NO links provided are affiliates nor do i benefit in any way. they’re there to help guide you to trusted sources only.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 ounces favorite hydrosol
    • i had cucumber at the time, but rose or tulsi would be lovely; choose based on what your skin needs
  • 1/8 teaspoon hyaluronic acid powder
  • plant-based colorant, if desired
    • i’m a huge fan of cold-infusing butterfly pea flowers to give a beautiful indigo shade to the final product. it is rich in the antioxidant anthocyanin, briefly mentioned here. many companies are starting to include butterfly pea flowers in their formulations… 😉
  • water-soluble preservative
    • this is non-negotiable. i wrote about this topic here.
    • i really enjoy aspen bark extract because it’s a natural BHA, but it’s very expensive. many companies formulate with this one instead.

HOW TO:

  1. add your water-soluble preservative to your hydrosol base and stir well, ensuring it’s completely dissolved
  2. add your plant-based colorant, if any. if using butterfly pea flowers, this will be like making a room temperature ‘tea’ and then straining the flowers back out
  3. completely submerge your frother and SLOWLY sprinkle in the HA as little at a time as you can. it will gel up.
  4. bottle in air-tight container. a pump or dropper bottle might be good options.

STORAGE: store in cool, dry area away from direct sunlight. toss after 3 to 6 months, always monitoring for changes in smell, appearance, or texture. 

USE: use daily before creams, oils, and butters.

XO, ALEXRAYE

herbal-infused body oil

hi crunchies! i hope you have a wonderful weekend ahead.

today let’s blend up 8 ounces of a silky, soothing, fast-absorbing body oil that contains skin-supporting herbs.

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before you order or bring out your ingredients, please note this will require an herbal solar infusion lasting 6 weeks. if you don’t have that kind of patience, this isn’t the DIY for you. i do have other body oil blends you can check out, though. just use the search bar 🙂 i promise the wait is oh-so-worth-it!

the base oil i suggest for this herbal body oil blend is marula. it’s pricey, and nearly any carrier of your choice will do. just be mindful of its oxidative stability. for example, argan oil and hempseed oil would unfortunately be poor choices for herbal infusions, whereas jojoba oil would be a good one.

ok, so why marula?

marula oil is very high in oleic acid* (~76%), deeply moisturizing, super fast-absorbing, and is one of the only oils that remains stable when exposed to light for extended periods of time. that will come in handy when we infuse our herbs in sunlight.

if you use another carrier oil, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it – please keep doing what you know and enjoy. after all, mixing up other people’s DIYs is more than half the fun!

for our skin-supporting herbs, we’ll be blending in calendula and chickweed, as both are soothing and anti-inflammatory. aka, perfect for cooler weather when you may get a little dry and itchy.

i’ve also chosen these 2 herbs because their constituents are fat-soluble. solubility is incredibly important in herbalism. if someone working with plants does not understand solubility, the end product could be ineffective. for example, an oil infused with horsetail will never help your skin and hair, because silica needs to be extracted in vinegar. as another example, marshmallow root is fantastic, but since the constituents you want for skin and hair are mucilaginous, it can only be extracted into hydrous bases. does that make sense? i wrote more on it before here.

INGREDIENTS:

other:

  • 16 ounce mason jar for steeping
  • cheesecloth or nut milk bag (what i prefer) to strain oil
  • 8 ounce pump bottle to store oil when finished

HOW TO:

the typical ratio of herbal infusions is 1 part dried herb to 10 parts oil. in this case, due to small batch amount, we will use 2 tablespoons dried herbs** to 8 ounces oil. remember the herbs will swell as they steep, so you want to avoid overfilling the jar with dried herbs.

in your sterilized mason jar, add your 2 tbs of dried herbs, and top with 8 ounces carrier oil. gently tap to release air bubbles and make sure the herbs are completely covered in oil to reduce risk of mold growth.

sit in sun for 6 weeks, very gently “stirring” the jar every day.

strain after 6 weeks. bottle in airtight, UV-protecting bottle.

enjoy all over body, particularly on dampened skin.

happy blending!

XO, ALEXRAYE

*=not suitable for the face for most people
**= must be dried, not fresh, to avoid mold growth in oil infusion

relaxing body balm

hi crunchies!

tonight let’s go over a super simple but effective DIY for a silky, relaxing, nighttime body balm.

this recipe only includes 3 ingredients and does not require heat. and guys – IT SMELLS SO GOOD. it’s a complex yet light floral scent, but does not linger long on the skin.

swoon-worthy. you need this waiting for you on your bedside table.

as this is anhydrous, feel free to store it at room temperature in an air-tight container. use 30 minutes to right before your bed time (on feet and body), and let the wonderful aroma help you unwind from the day.  i also love this because you wake up with silky smooth skin and feet!

please note the links provided are for your benefit only. they are not affiliate links nor do i benefit in any way – the companies are unaware of this post 🙂

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 ounces monoi de tahiti oil
    • this is coconut oil with macerated gardenias, so do not apply to face
    • the source linked is the only one i can find that properly macerates the gardenias. please let me know if you find another!
  • 2 mL cape chamomile (or german chamomile)
    • prized and touted as the rare and ultimate relaxant EO, as reflected in the steeper price
    • not related to german chamomile; not a suitable substitute, but you could try lavender EO
  • 4 dropper fulls of this magnesium oil
    • magnesium can help promote deeper sleep and muscle relaxation. however, check out a post i did here on the science of it.

HOW TO:

  • blend monoi de tahiti oil, chamomile EO, and magnesium until well incorporated in a small bowl
  • transfer to UV-blocking, airtight container
  • store at room temperature
  • use before bed

sweetdreams. xo, alexraye

Monoi Butter | Organic Monoi de Tahiti Body Butter - Nature in Bottle

diy hydrogel peel off face mask

i’m currently obsessed with making hydrogels. i also love the 100% pure hydrogel face masks. here’s a DIY for that.

note the ingredients you mix in will be whatever you want to target your own skin needs. i’m a big fruit acid fan, so my mask will be tailored to a gentle peel and hydration.

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the gelling agent we’ll use is agar agar. before i went vegan i used gelatin, but honestly agar agar is better. it doesn’t smell, it doesn’t hurt when you peel it off, and it holds water better to more deeply hydrate the skin.

what i love most about this mask is the clean-up: you just peel off and go!

ingredients:

  • 6 ounces water
  • 1 teaspoon agar agar powder
  • optional – powders, oils, tea leaves, flower petals, spices, etc (max 1 tablespoon total)

for my face mask, i’m going to add in green papaya powder and hibiscus flowers. both have natural aha/bha in them and work wonders in making the skin look smoother, glowy, hydrated, and less clogged.

dav

how to:

  1. boil water WITH agar agar (and tea leaves/flowers) for about 5 minutes, or until fully dissolved. you can quickly strain out leaves and flowers now before it cools into a gel
    – please note you cannot cold process agar agar powder. it won’t dissolve.
  2. mix in any oils, spices, or powders now
  3. allow it cool slightly, and apply a thick layer evenly on your face and neck. it will cool into a gel that’s easily peeled off. any spots that are thinner will kind of hurt to peel off because they won’t be as “gel”-like
  4. let your mask sit as long as you like. my face tends to suck all the water out of the mask in about 40 minutes, so that’s what i do.
  5. enjoy your soft, smooth skin!

>> what ingredients will you mix in?

XO, ALEXRAYE

diy formulation educational series – facial botanical serum

welcome back! today we’re formulating another diy face oil.

as always, NONE of the links provided are affiliates. i do not benefit in any way, i’m just trying to point you to reputable suppliers that i personally use if you want to try to DIY these.

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ingredient list from inspiration product:

grape seed oil, hazelnut seed oil, bergamot peel oil, avocado oil, marigold extract, rose absolute, carrot seed oil, evening primrose oil, rosehip seed oil, lemon peel, lavender flower, alfalfa leaf, nettle leaf, dandelion leaf, frankincense oil, neroli flower oil, rosemary leaf extract, sea buckthorn fruit oil, turmeric root oil, cypress leaf oil, jasmine flower, tamanu oil.

notes:

firstly, please check with your local herbalist if the herbs and essential oils used in this formula are appropriate for use by you. i will have my certification soon and can start helping, but until then, ask a locally certified herbalist, pretty please.

right off the bat i can tell you this oil blend is not suitable for blemish-prone skin, despite how it’s marketed. hazelnut and avocado are too high oleic acid.

as for formulation, the original company discloses they do start with many whole plant materials, so let’s assume that’s true and all their extracts were oil-infused for 4 to 6 weeks. additionally, the herbalist rule of thumb is 1 ounce dried herbs per 10 ounces carrier oil, so making only 1 ounce will be tricky. we’ll use more than this though, to make it more potent… about 25% dried herbs and 75% carrier oil. the formulation will also be in %s, so that will help you scale.

another note on formulation – finding the “1% line” for recreating formulations was relatively easy, because bergamot EO is near the top. it’s phototoxic so we won’t be adding it, but it served its purpose for our dupe, so let’s be thankful for that reason. we also know that sea buckthorn fruit oil needs to be used at 1% or less because it can stain light skin. i have purchased and used the original formula, and based on the color i saw with my own two eyes, i’m guessing it’s used at less than 0.5%*, not 1%.  *-i say less than 0.5% because it’s below all the EOs, where the total EOs would be 1% or less.

if we work backwards and assign our EOs 0.2% contributions to keep us under 1%, we have 97% of our formula left for the 3 carrier oils. rose absolute is extremely potent, and considering there are no real distinct rose notes in the final (real) product, the % contribution is likely very, very low.

lastly, because we’re infusing the grapeseed oil, we will assume at least 75% of the remaining 97% is grapeseed, and evenly split the other two.

adjustments:

eliminate phototoxic EOs. use jasmine flower extract, as just “jasmine flower” is listed, which is not correct because there is no remaining whole plant material in the product. use turmeric root CO2, as “turmeric root oil” does not exist. assume frankincense oil is a CO2. infuse plant materials in grapeseed oil.

diy formula:

pro tip – you can purchase sample sizes of many ingredients from eden botanicals… spending $2 or $3 when it’s all you need is much better than shelling out for the 5 or 30 mL sizes.

 

what do you think?

XO, ALEXRAYE

advice on starting your “green” life: reboot

the landscape has changed so much over the last 5 years, and you can buy pretty much any “green” beauty product you want nearly anywhere. when i started this blog in 2012, that definitely was not case; hence why i DIY’ed everything.

now, the “green” beauty world is FULL of options. it’s really easy to get overwhelmed! i remember when i first started and how i felt like an electronic hoarder of ingredient safety information and peer-reviewed research. i soaked up everything i could.

but now, with so many different opinions on “natural” alternatives, where do you begin? how do you begin?

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be an educated consumer

there are SO many “green” options out there that you’ll need to sift through countless offerings to find what works for you. research the available options, research ingredients, research companies, research product reviews, etc. don’t ever stop learning! being an educated consumer is my top priority in anything i share with you all.
when in doubt, reach out!

take baby steps (or don’t)

just because you’re switching over doesn’t mean you have to throw everything away and start completely from scratch (although you most certainly can). don’t overwhelm yourself! if you get too overwhelmed, it’ll be ‘easier’ to become more unmotivated to stick with the transition. you’re putting yourself through a lifestyle change. give it time! try to have patience. start with the basics. save money by not buying everything all at once.  give yourself time to learn as much as you can about each category of options before you switch.
my suggestion? start by switching out your shampoo/conditioner, then toothpaste, then deodorant. if you wear makeup, that’s an easy switch nowadays! i’d leave skincare last, as it’s the most intricate and expensive.

find a “green” community

you’re making a complete lifestyle change and there are like-minded people out there doing the same. we all have frustrations, we all have those “aha!” moments when things work beautifully, and we all have questions! don’t ever ever ever hesitate to reach out. this whole “green” community is full of people that have “been there, done that” and it’s a tremendous source of wisdom. learn from others and help others! i think supporting each other in this journey is so important! what other group of strangers will talk openly about their armpits with you just to save you from stinking?

this includes finding bloggers and instagram accounts to stay “in the know” and keep connected to the community.

stay open-minded

you’ll more than likely come across concepts and uses for things you’ve never heard of before. for example, water-only washing and brushing your teeth with charcoal. you just gotta keep an open mind and keep in mind that just because one thing doesn’t work for you, doesn’t mean that nothing will work for you. for example on hair care, some people love co-washing, some love clay, and some love 100% pure’s line. it just takes time and patience.

don’t be afraid to DIY

don’t be afraid to mix things up or experiment. i really think that’s the fun side of venturing into “green” self-care. it’s like you get to play mad scientist. you’ll know exactly what’s in your products. you’ll be able to tailor everything to meet your specific needs (and those of loved ones). and lastly, you’ll probably save money.
my suggestion: oil cleansers, facial serums, and hair oils are great starter DIYs, that also ensure you learn the fatty acid composition of different oils and how they interact with your skin. knowing this will allow you to filter out products that won’t work for you, solely based on reading an ingredient label. it’s really empowering! this blog is also full of DIY ideas. poke around!

be proud

be proud of yourself. seriously. you’re putting yourself through a complete lifestyle change and you’re going against the socially acceptable norm. how many people do you think have the drive to completely change the only ways they’ve ever known how to care for their bodies after 20/30/40/50 years? YOU, my friend… YOU. so pat yourself on the back, and pamper yourself with a coconut oil scrub foot massage and a papaya face mask. you deserve it.

sending love,

XO, ALEXRAYE

DIY hydrating serum (bye, hyaluronic acid)

this is a serum that’s worthy of not just your face, but your body and hair, too. it’s oil-free, so you can layer it into your existing routine, or use it alone. because it’s extremely lightweight, i think it’d be great for warmer weather when you don’t want to feel like a greasy mess.

great for all skin and hair types, easy enough to make, and powerful hydration…. let’s go!

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you could say this is a dupe of sorts, as there are a growing number of green beauty companies selling tremella mushroom water as an expensive serum. i’ll let you in on a secret – it’s an easy DIY.

but why the seemingly increased interest in this fungus? well, it’s not new. us westerners are just late to the scene. tremella mushroom (tremella fuciformis) has been in use in china for YEARS. it’s used in TCM, cooking, and beauty products.

there’s quite a few research articles on it, stemming from medicinal uses , like inflammation-related diseases, to external uses like skin healing  and melanin-inhibiting properties.

i’ve read a lot of articles indicating it was used in the tang dynasty by princess yang guifei (719-756!) to keep her skin radiant. that lady knew what was up.

it’s touted as a potent antioxidant and a deep hydrator. research shows it’s a nice hyaluronic acid replacement with better moisture retention (move over, hyaluronic acid!), as the particles are smaller and the mushroom can hold 500 times its weight in water. super cool! it’s also naturally high in vitamin d.

the coolest part for us DIYers is when it’s hydrated, it naturally forms a gel-like consistency. that makes it perfect as a standalone product, or to incorporate into other DIYs.  let your creative juices flow!

now back to DIYing this whole body serum!

INGREDIENTS

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  • water or plant root decoction
    • water is necessary to hydrate the mushroom properly, hence why DIY is better than “buy” in this case. i would advise against a hydrosol for this, because you will be boiling it for over 20 minutes
    • check below for recipe variants, where you can opt to use a plant root decoction instead of plain water. super neat!
  • tremella mushroom
    • i used the powder because i had it leftover from this face mask recipe. you can feel micro little jelly shroom pieces when you rub it on but it goes away. if you can find the whole dried mushroom, it would make for a smoother gel serum. make sure the whole dried mushroom is not bleached.
  • aspen bark extract
    • preservative – absolutely necessary. no exceptions.
  • optional – water-soluble plant-based colorant
    • i used butterfly pea flowers for a pastel indigo
    • check below for ideas in the “variants” section
  • optional – 0.5% or less concentration of essential oils that are skin-safe
    • please check contraindications with your local herbalist, aromatherapist, and healthcare professional

TOOLS

  • sauce pan
  • measuring spoons
  • spoon for stirring
  • small glass jar for mixing
  • airtight glass jar for storage (i use these – not affiliate)
    • you might need a funnel

 

HOW TO

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this recipe ended up making about 5 ounces for me, so i used a 3.3 ounce pump bottle, and stored the excess in a jar. i’ll use that part up first.

  1. in a sauce pan on the lowest heat your stove top can go, intermittently stir 22 tablespoons of water (aka 1 cup + 6 tbs), and 1 tbs of tremella powder for 25 to 30 minutes, depending on how quickly yours gels up and the excess water simmers away
    • if you’re using the whole mushroom, boil the mushroom itself for 30 to 45 minutes in 3 to 4 cups of water. it should become gel-like and concentrated. carefully (it’s hot) squeeze out the extra juices from the mushroom and toss (or keep to eat)
  2. once cooled, pour the serum into a small glass jar for mixing
  3. add 1/2 tablespoon aspen bark extract powder and make sure it’s evenly blended
  4. add your colorants and EOs, if any

done! bottle her up!

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STORAGE

  • store in an airtight container in a cool, dark place
  • toss after 3 months or if the smell takes a turn

USE

  • spot test first for any skin reactions
  • you can use this daily before any creams or oils
  • suitable for all skin and hair types

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and as with all of my DIYs, you can of course customize this recipe to be your own! see some ideas below –

VARIANTS

  • instead of using plain water, try making a decoction with a plant root your skin loves
    • since it’s being boiled for so long, roots are more suitable than leaves
    • ex: marshmallow root, peony root, burdock root
    • as always, please check with your local herbalist and healthcare professional for contraindications when using herbs
  • water soluble, plant-based colorant ideas
    • hibiscus tea for shades of pink
    • butterfly pea flowers for shades of indigo
    • turmeric for yellows
    • matcha for greens

 

>> what do you think?? share your experiences with this mushroom below!

XO, ALEXRAYE

“our oil blend is hydrating” and other misleading marketing claims

hi loves! as you know, i think being an educated consumer is really important. expecting the companies you support with your money to be honest should be the baseline.

today i’m here with a few commonly used, misleading marketing claims.

===

“this oil blend is hydrating”

my usual thought when i read a claim like this is the company probably doesn’t understand formulation nor skin.

oils moisturize, and only water/hydrosols hydrate. there is no oil blend on earth that will hydrate your skin 😉

side note – if your skin is dry, it might need water, too, not just oil. try spritzing liberally with a hydrosol and then lock it in with your favorite oil blend. this goes for your whole body, not just your face. this is also my favorite chapped lips trick!

“suitable for all skin types”

check the ingredients. this is very rarely true, but advertised nearly everywhere.

commonly used oils and butters that are high in oleic acid, like olive oil, avocado oil, sunflower oil, and shea butter, can rarely be used by those with blemish/acne-prone skin. this is because blemish-prone skin is typically low in linoleic acid (not to be confused with linolenic) and has excess oleic acid. unfortunately, the high oleic acid component will only further cause congestion. that being said, oils high in oleic acid can be great for those with mature skin.

another aspect to consider is an oil or butter’s comedogenic rating, or how likely it is to clog pores, on a scale of 0 to 5. good news is these ratings are very easy to google. for example, marula oil is often advertised as suitable for all skin types, but it is actually just as pore clogging as coconut oil, and can rarely be used on the face without creating congestion.

this also branches into products that contain essential oils and/or colorants, even if they are “natural.” some people’s skin just simply doesn’t jive with these additives. it’s all about knowing your skin and how it reacts to certain things.

“soap bars are good face cleansers”

soap bars, especially charcoal ones, seem to be pretty popular in the green beauty skincare scene. it doesn’t matter if your skin is oily or acne-prone – soap really shouldn’t be used on your face ever. the pH of soap bars is too alkaline, and can disrupt your acid mantle and cause irritation over time.

cream cleansers, gel-to-milk cleansers, cleansing balms, and cleansing oils without surfactants (all should contain an emulsifier or emulsifier blend) are gentle on the face and properly cleanse, without risking irritation.

“activate the product by rubbing between your fingers/in your palm” – or – “warm the product up before applying”

this just simply isn’t necessary or true. it doesn’t make the product any more efficacious and you’re not “activating” anything. it may feel like a nice ritualistic step, but you’re wasting the product you spent money on.

any i missed? what misleading beauty product claims have you seen?

XO, ALEXRAYE

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