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How to create a skin serum to suit your needs and wishes and avoid failure

The first thing to do is ask yourself what your aspirations/desires/hopes are for the serum you wish to design. Anti-age? Tightening? Comfort? Nutrition?

Then come the restrictions imposed by reality.

What ingredients can do what you wish your serum to do? Are they available? Are they safe? This depends on where you live. The USA is a great country for DIY: you can get almost anything worth having in your skin care. You can start with Skin Actives.

Then there are the laws of nature.  The first law in DIY skincare is this: ignore the physical and chemical properties of an ingredient at your peril.

Why? The solubility of a chemical is determined by its structure, and you will not be able to “push” it beyond its solubility in the base serum you are using. A chemical couldn’t care less about what your aspirations are for your magical serum. It only cares about its chemical structure, which will determine which molecules is willing to interact with and which will send it down as a precipitate, never to be soluble again. Or, simply, it will float separated from the other layer as members of opposite political parties.

For example, try adding argan oil to a hyaluronic acid solution. To solubilize hyaluronic acid you must use water, and lipids (argan oil is a mix of lipids) are defined by their insolubility in water!

You may think you can push a chemical to dissolve in an unfriendly solvent but, maybe, warming up the mix. This may help but then, as the mix cools down, there goes the chemical, and you just lost money and time trying to attempt the impossible. Plus, you may have also damaged the substance you were trying to dissolve.

How can you find out what’s soluble in what? Chemical tables usually give information on three solvents: water, alcohol, and acetone. They will not tell you whether active A will dissolve in a serum containing soluble collagen and hyaluronic acid. But the solvent is water, so solubility in water will be a good indicator of how your active will dissolve in the water-based serum.

If you look at the serum you are trying to imitate/improve on, it will tell you clearly waht’s the solvent, you will find it in the first place of the ingredient list.

Please remember the following:

1) More is not always better (nor possible). Once you reach the limit of solubility, you will lose the rest of your solute to the bottom of the bottle.

2) Proteins don’t like pH extremes (unless we are discussing enzymes that work in your stomach)

3) Make sure the product you wish to imitate is worth imitating and safe

4) Don’t try to make a “have everything and the sink” product. Separate actives by solubility and compatibility.

5) Start with an easy serum; this way, you will avoid disappointment

6) Serums without preservatives shouldn’t be used in the refrigerator after three or four days. Just pretend you made a rich soup. Will you want to eat it after four days? Only if you have a high tolerance for microbes growing in your soup; invisible to the eye doesn’t mean they are not there.

7) Start your DIY project with a simple, ready-made base serum or cream. They already contain some preservatives and will be safe unless you add too much. I named our first base cream “Canvas” because I thought our DIY customers could paint their own works of art using it.


Have fun!