SANTA ANA, Calif. — Brooke Ristow stirs and stirs before dabbing her finger in a mixing bowl filled with what looks like thick frosting.
She isn’t going for a taste, but rather to smear a dollop on her 2-year-old daughter’s fair nose.
Wearing an apron in her Costa Mesa, Calif., kitchen, Ristow has whipped up a batch of 30 SPF sunscreen. Unlike the long ingredient list on a typical bottle of sunscreen, she used only shea butter, organic coconut oil and zinc oxide powder.
The do-it-yourself trend isn’t just for making necktie curtains or furniture from reclaimed wood. A number of health and hygiene products can be made at home for those seeking simpler products without potentially toxic chemicals.
“I don’t have some secret recipe or ingredient,” said Ristow, 33, a teacher turned stay-at-home mom. “If more people are using something natural, I think it’s better.”
Ristow also makes her own deodorant, something she never needed to wear until her hormones changed after giving birth to her first daughter five years ago.
As a new mother, she wanted to avoid chemicals, so she experimented with various natural brands that don’t contain aluminum, such as Tom’s of Maine.
“Tom’s doesn’t work on me and I smell like a hippie,” Ristow said.
So she began playing with different homemade recipes. She mixed together a concoction made of baking soda, arrowroot (starch) and coconut oil. She found a cute Mason jar at a garage sale and gave it to a friend for her birthday last year.
“I said, ‘This a really weird present, but I think you will like it,’” Ristow said.
The friend shared the homemade deodorant with her husband, who works in construction. He took some samples to work and made the first sale for Ristow. She has since launched her own business on website Etsy, selling deodorant and sunscreen online through smell-swell.com.
Christy Funk, owner of Belly Sprout, a natural-living store for mothers in Fullerton and Santa Ana, teaches a holistic natural remedies class.
“I’ve definitely seen this flood of DIY,” Funk said. “Beauty products are always fun. It’s like a perfume or a good cookie or chocolate — it can be luxurious. You become your own little chemist.”
Funk said making health or hygiene products comes out of greater experimentation with cooking and an emphasis on organic ingredients.
“It’s just an extension in the kitchen because we’ve seen such a food craze,” she said. “The culture that we live in now, especially in Southern California, is that people want to make things. If they can make a body butter with a couple of ingredients and you’ve got this luxurious salve for the body, it costs less, plus you know exactly what’s going into it.”
Kelly Coyne of Los Angeles co-wrote “Making It: Radical Home-Ec for a Post-Consumer World” with her husband. She has taken a DIY approach from head to toe.
Coyne makes her own shampoo soap and then uses vinegar as a finishing hair rinse. She makes lotion and lip balm. She creates healing salves for bug bites and bruises.
“Once you start doing a few things for yourself, you think ‘Why can’t I do that for myself?’” Coyne said. “You start expanding your skill set.”
Coyne said she couldn’t find chemical-free products, so she started making them.
“You eat your lip balm,” she said. “Your skin is the biggest organ in your body. I just don’t know what the chemicals are doing in my body. I don’t know what they’re doing in the environment or in the water supply. I don’t know how they’re manufactured. I don’t know anything about them at all.”
Coyne said making soap is more of an art because of working with lye, but she makes a year’s worth at a time. Her only failure has been an attempt to make red lipstick.
“It’s as time-consuming as you want to make it,” Coyne said. “Once you have the stuff on hand and know what you’re doing, it takes five minutes to make lip balm or lotion.”