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Raw Cosmetics: Is it Possible?

What is Raw?

First, we need to agree on what “raw” means. What are the main characteristics of fruits, vegetables and greens that come directly from a garden or orchard with absolutely no processing? They are whole raw foods and the only ones I eat. We know what “raw” means, but what about “whole”? It means the water is intact. By this definition, oils are not whole raw foods even if they are cold pressed.

Whole Raw and Shelf Life

To make cosmetics “whole raw” and for it to have any shelf life is impossible. Consider … for a beauty product to be truly whole and raw, it would have to be made fresh in your kitchen and used up nearly immediately. If something contains water, it decays. A formula put into a jar can't be “raw” because it’s not a whole food product. If a cosmetic product has water in it, then it must contain a preservative.

Oil Based Cosmetics

Finding my own way through the maze of ingredient and label options throughout the last several years has been an education. Can you make cosmetics without any preservatives? Yes. But you will have to use only oils and exclude water and as a result the final products will feel very oily. One method is the centuries-old base for homemade cosmetics — cocoa butter — instead of water. It is mixed at a temperature below 40°C (104° F). The ingredients (cold-pressed cocoa butter and essential oils) are individually stable with a long shelf-life that extends that of the final product.

Such products will need more time to absorb compared to the moisturizers that contain water and you cannot use them before leaving the house or going to bed. For me it limits their applications.

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I do not label my products as “raw.” Reason: They are not raw. So, I do not consume oils internally, but I do use them in my cosmetics. And I get them certified organic whenever possible.

Your skin does need some oil, but it needs water much more. In cosmetics, “moisturizer” is a cream that hydrates the skin. Oil repels water, so oils work best after a hot bath or after applying a towel soaked in hot water to your face. Your pores are then open and contain water. The oil keeps the water inside your pores and in your skin by acting as a barrier.

If You Have Water You Must Have a Preservative

A traditional moisturizer contains about 80% water. And if you have water, you must have a preservative. When it comes to preservatives in cosmetic products, they are required to be what is called 'full spectrum' meaning they have to pass a microbiology analysis and be effective against bacteria, yeast and mold all at the same time. Since there is no one single substance that can do that, two have to be used in tandem to meet the requirements. For example, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate is not sufficient to work on its own.

If it's a traditional moisturizer never believe a claim that it's "raw."  One would definitely need to go above 117F to melt the stearyl alcohol and stearic acid.


If you want products that are immaculately raw and certified organic and can moisturize your skin, then you’ll have to make them. There are many wonderful foods that you can use such as freshly mashed avocado, aloe vera leaf, and honey.

To be “raw” cosmetically, I would have to make all my own cosmetics myself at home, and I’m simply not willing or able to do that. That being said, I do find that, after so many years on a pure and clean raw food diet, I am highly sensitive and react strongly to even a minute amount of chemicals. On the other hand, I use my own products, especially the facial cream, lavishly, and I have never had a bad reaction. I am perfectly comfortable using and recommending these products. I am 100% raw, but I don't claim to be, in this modern world, 100% “natural.” I live in a climate-controlled house, I drive a car, and I wear clothes.

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Decide Where You Draw the Line

You will also have to decide where to draw your line when it comes to cosmetic or beauty products. Have I compromised with my cosmetics? Yes. But my compromises have given me great results. The author Shakaya Leone writes in her new book Naked Beauty:

“Tonya Zavasta is a raw food and beauty expert who has inspired thousands of women, including myself. I have met Tonya in person and can honestly say she has the most beautiful skin I have ever seen.”

I never received such compliments when I was in my twenties, but in my 50s, and now when I'm 60 … I get them all the time. I’ve taken great pains to formulate skin and hair products that I believe are the best on the market, products that fits my criteria and my needs perfectly. It’s my sincere wish they will meet your highest standards as well.