Lotions and Potions Discussion

Being allergic to scent can make things really tricky. Our world is so steeped in fragrance that most people are nose blind, they think that ‘unscented’ doesn’t have perfume in it. (It usually does). Trying to find shampoo, lip balm, moisturizer, etc. that I can tolerate is almost impossible. There are a growing number of ‘fragrance free’ options- but they all have essential oils, or sodium laurel sulphate, or cranberry extract, or camomile, or, or…. 

A few years ago (when I could still go to a salon), my stylist used a new product on me. It was long before I became this sensitive, and my hairstylist knew I reacted to some stuff, but she always used the same products, so we rarely had an issue. As I moved from the sink to the chair, my head began to get warm. “Um, what conditioner did you use?” “Oh, yes! It’s a fantastic new one…” My head is getting hotter and hotter at this stage. ” What he hell is in it?” It was screaming at me by now, I think my voice might have matched. I didn’t wait for an answer, I did the full on crazy lady run across the salon shouting “Get it off!! Wash it FAST!!” It was a good thing that there was a sink open, I don’t want to think how much worse it could have gotten. As it was, it actually caused blisters. Turns out this lovely new stuff was argan oil. It’s strongly cross reactive with peanuts. Sigh.

I thought I’d try making my own body care products. I quickly learned that not a single recipe out there works for me as is. There are lots of recipes (formulas?) online, but there is always something I couldn’t either source or tolerate. So I started to learn about it. I learned that creating emulsions (water and oil, like a face cream) and saponification were more work and experimenting than I wanted to undertake. As I am created these recipes, I’ve been using some self-imposed guidelines. I’m aiming for:

  • Easy, with minimal work. I don’t have a lot of ‘vertical and functioning’ hours in a day, energy is precious.
  • All of my recipes are designed so that you can choose your ingredients based on the properties of that ingredient, which should make it much easier to find ingredients that you can tolerate.
  • I’ve sorted out ratios (by weight or volume, depending on the product.), so you can choose how much to make.
  • Multipurpose. They have to have a lot of bang for your buck.
  • No preservatives. (NB- if you’re planning on selling them- even at the school fundraiser- in Canada they have to have preservative in it.)
  • The things I make will last as long as their component ingredients. (another good reason to avoid oil and water emulsions; most require preservatives)
  • Optional add-ins. Vitamin E, glycerine and a few other ingredients can help achieve the right product,  such as making ‘sticky’ lip gloss (which I hate but my daughter loves). You can add mica powders and essential oils to most of them.
  • Relatively common ingredients. I try to buy organic, food-grade products when I can, but cost can be a big factor.


  • I highly recommend that you comparison shop. You can often get much better, less expensive ingredients that way. Most ingredients can be bought from grocery stores, healthfood/vitamin shops, online cosmetic suppliers and local cosmetics retailers. If it’s sold from a cosmetic counter or in a healthfood store, it is very likely over priced. I can buy 15 ml (a tablespoon) of shea butter at ‘L’Occitaine en Provence’,  or half a kilo (about a pound) of excellent quality, organic shea butter online for the same cost.
  • This isn’t baking. These recipes aren’t difficult or finicky. (That’s why I don’t do emulsions-I’m sure I could get them to cooperate eventually, but I don’t have energy or desire to learn it). Ideally, the recipes are things that can handle a fair amount of experimentation without making an ugly mess.

When I was a child, there was a girl on our street who was the same age as me. We were the “youngest”- by a few years, so we naturally played together often. One of the things we did was to make ‘concoctions’. We’d get a dixie cup, put toothpaste, mouthwash, soap, cream, etc into them and pretend we were in a lab. I still love experimenting with things. As with baking, recipes work best when you understand why each ingredient is there. That way, if it isn’t quite what you want, you know what to do to fix it.

So, without further ado, click here for my recipe for Absorbent Powder.


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