from product to DIY skin and hair care

Three and a half years ago I started dabbling in DIY solutions. My gateway DIYs were household cleaners: dish-washing liquid, dishwasher detergent, laundry detergent, furniture polish, oven cleaners, and even cultured enzymes for cleaners. While I still make household cleaners, it was the oils and butters for DIY skin and hair care potions that hooked me. I clean, treat, and moisturize everything —from the hair on my head to the soles of my feet, from the rough elbow and heel callouses to the delicate eyelid folds— with things I make.

That’s the DIY thrill. “I made it!”

With what?

Vinegar, sugar, salt, honey, beeswax, baking soda, butters, and oils.

But why?

When I tell people about my journey the responses are mixed.DIY skin and hair care

  • Wow!
  • You’re an overachiever.
  • I’ve been thinking about trying that!
  • How do you find the time?
  • Interesting!
  • Why on earth would you do that?

My answers are equally mixed and often vague. Although I’ve tackled some specific needs, I didn’t start down this DIY road because of specific needs. My DIY journey is more of a meandering response to my “How can I . . . ?” curiosity. How can I . . .

  • . . . live a little greener and remove toxins from our home? I’ll turn orange peels and pulp into cleaners!
  • . . . save money? I’ll make my own eye cream!
  • . . . go hard core with my three Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle)? I’ll wash those jars and fill them with DIY foot cream!

DIY is doable

Contrary to what you might think, going DIY for skin and hair care doesn’t take that much time. Once you’re in the groove, it takes less time to make your own than it does to go to the store. And in case you suspect otherwise, I’m not an overachiever. In fact, I’m lazy. In just about every endeavor, including work, my efforts are to find the most expedient way to get from A to Z. Honestly, I’m wont to question why I can’t just stop at M or N. What is the merit of going all the way to Z?

So if you’re poised to dismiss dabbling into DIY because it would take too much time and effort, you’re a little bit right but mostly wrong. The learning curve of the first dabblings might feel daunting, but two batches in, you’ll whip up a batch of face wash and eye cream with one hand, while you toss vegetables in a wok with the other. That’s an exaggeration, but I insist: DIY is doable.

The struggles of the learning curve aren’t all bad. My missteps and flops were rarely absolute failures. Often, I found my way to the perfect potion after a misstep or a flop. I credit one flop with shielding me from two to six weeks of transition misery when I went poo-less.

Poo-Less, my real Do-It-Your-Own-Way adventure

I first heard about discontinuing shampoo when one of my daughters went poo-less. She experienced the oily and itchy scalp as it made the adjustment from being stripped of its natural oils and overproducing sebum, to being left to its own devices.

DIY skin and hair care

I had this taken on the day my hair was 12 months shampoo-free, and a full week without being rinsed.

I dove head-first into the poo-less movement last year, bracing myself for the crown misery. Tight for time and effort, I didn’t do much research. I tried one of the first methods I came across and oiled my hair with a mostly carrier and essential oil solution, rinsed well (very well), then went to church.

I’m a wash-n-go girl, so, on my way to church, I drove with the windows down to help dry my hair, shook my head as I left the car, and entered. After the service, I noticed our minister staring dumbfounded at my head. My reflection when I returned to my car revealed why. My hair felt soft and dry but looked oiled and heavy! Oops!

For the next couple of weeks, I continued to oil my head, but I followed up with generous amounts of baking soda and vinegar. This, I think, is what saved me from the misery of the transition. After a couple of weeks, I had time to do more research and settle into a routine that suited me.

The takeaway from this experience: when you substitute over-the-counter products with DIY methods, allow yourself space and time to experiment (and fail!) so that you find what works for you.

DIY changed me

The changes range from the condition of my skin and hair, to how I stock my pantry, to my shopping list, and to my mindset when it comes to skin and hair care.

I take my skin texture for granted now and forget that, even in my supple 20s, I had bouts of chaffing and chronically dry, flaky skin. That’s the old me. The new DIY me no longer has:

  • Dry skin
  • Rough elbows
  • Cracked heels
  • Foot fungus

And my head? I no longer suffer from:

  • Itchy scalp
  • Oily hair

I haven’t shampooed my hair in over 14 months, and it has never felt better. My scalp never itches, and my hair never gets oily. In fact (and don’t judge, I was experimenting!), I have gone more than two weeks without even rinsing my hair. Still not itchy, not oily.

The changes in the texture, comfort, and health of my skin and hair are so pronounced that today, if I’m stuck somewhere without my DIYs, I will shun over-the-counter skin and hair products and make my way to the kitchen instead.

The most significant change is possibly my shopping list. I no longer buy:

diy dry skin cream

My first DIY potion: easy eye cream

  • Eye cream
  • Face wash
  • Body lotion
  • Foot cream
  • Face cream
  • Makeup remover
  • Shampoo
  • Hand cream
  • Body scrubs
  • Medicated creams for bites, rashes, and other skin irritations

These things have been usurped by essential and carrier oils, Shea butter, beeswax, and vegetable glycerin. Some of the oils are pricey, but even if I use only the most expensive essential oils, I still spend less money on skin care than if I were buying over-the-counter eye and face cream and body lotions. Add to that, the ones I make work as well and often better. So why would I buy over-the-counter?

Getting Started with DIY Skin and Hair Care

DIY skin and hair care

I use my mixer for whipping body creams more than for whipping up cakes.

Skin care

Figuring out how and from where to dive into DIY can be intimidating. Last year, I posted three pieces on getting started with skin care.

  • The first piece (DIY Skin Care Part 1: Oily Pantry) explains how to stock your pantry so that you always have what you need at hand.
  • The second (DIY Skin Care Part 2: Oily Starters) provides some basic recipes for you to get started. I prefer calling these processes because if you understand the basic process, you can experiment with it, tweaking the ingredients and the ratios to make it just right for you.
  • The third (DIY Skin Care Part 3: Oily Personals) is a list of essential and carrier oils, organized by skin and hair conditions, problems, and so on. This will help you personalize the creams, lotions, and unguents you concoct.

Hair care

Many blogs and websites offer DIY advice for hair care.

If you’re considering going poo-less, you can begin exploring ideas online.

But more importantly you’ll need to allow yourself opportunities to experiment and find the right method for your hair. Of the various poo-less approaches, the one that works for me is condition and rinse once or twice a week, and about once a month, rinse with a baking soda solution followed by vinegar before conditioning. For a while, I was using no conditioner, just soda and vinegar, but my hair needs a little moisture and conditioning. I’m experimenting with DIY conditioners but haven’t nailed it yet. When I do, I’ll share the process.


One of the unexpected emotions I experienced on this DIY journey is the joy of freedom.

  • I’m free of the toxins that enter homes and bodies through over-the-counter cleaning and beauty products.
  • I’m free to design my products with the scents and textures I want, targeting the conditions and problems I have.
  • I’m free from the advertising mind games. Even the best packaging and slogans can’t lure me to purchase that age-defying unguent.

Knowing how to make things for myself is one of the most liberating feelings I’ve experienced, and one of the best reasons to at least dabble in DIY, even if you’re not willing to dive in deep yet.

Wishing you fun and fulfilling DIY skin and hair care adventures, whether they’re little dabblings or a lifetime journey!

© Copyright Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2017

Diapers and Dandelions: Mindful Balance

Should I pick it or leave it for the bees?

Should I pick it for me or leave it for the bees?

Last year I was beside myself when I found this dandelion lotion bar recipe.

I had begun my journey making DIY organic cleaners and beauty products a few months earlier, and this recipe was “Wow! Weeds to wonderful!” I loved everything about it.

The walks with the dogs were redefined. We were on a mission to collect dandelions. Unfortunately, I discovered the recipe late in the summer and soon learned that dandelions are more prolific in spring than in summer here. Through my efforts to find the weed, I became familiar with which households eliminated it and which ones simply mowed the lawn. I timed walks along some routes because I knew which tree had a dandelion growing under it.

I had a tray for drying the flowers, a jar for infusing them, and all the ingredients for the recipe. My first batch was small due to dandelion scarcity, and I fumbled the canning lid method, but I was thrilled with my lotion bars.

When we finally broke through our five or six days of Louisiana winter, I made sure to have pockets when I went for walks. Dandelions popped up everywhere before spring had even sprung on the calendar. DIY excitement!

Then it happened. The very first week I began harvesting weeds for wonder, a post: “Don’t pick the dandelions! They’re the bee’s first food in the spring.”

Whaaat?! I had become a bee enemy? I was trying to do a good thing.

I recovered from the sunken heart quickly. I don’t pick all of the dandelions and I provide a smorgasbord of bee sustenance throughout the year in my little yard. Nevertheless, I became more cautious about my harvest.

Bottom line: I am more aware of the impact of my actions. Isn’t that an important key to finding balance? Awareness.

When my children were babies, I used cloth diapers. For some reason this topic came up in a class I was teaching. One of my students mumbled something about bad and wasting water and Clorox. I may have reacted a bit. What did this 18 year old know about diapers. baby poop, and aquifers? Granted, I lived in Austin at the time, and water shortages were an issue, but really? Using cloth diapers worse than using disposable diapers?

In the end, my student gave me pause. Awareness.

I often live in the gray —in the middle, open-to-argument— because I strive be aware of both sides of a topic. Painfully at times when matters are personal, between friends. Happily when that awareness informs me in ways that bring measure to choices I make.

The things we do, even the good things, always have multiple impacts, and some are less felicitous than others. If we are aware and act with care, we can have dandelions for our skin without starving the bees, and we can use cloth diapers without drying up the aquifers.

Copyright © 2015 by Pennie Nichols, All Rights Reserved.