Making your own hand and body cream is not difficult. Just be sure you can work for 30 minutes or so with no interruptions — no dogs, no children, no phone. Most of the ingredients below are available from The Chemistry Store or Bulk Apothecary and even Amazon for small quantities. Quantities needed for a both a single 4-ounce jar and a large batch of nine 4-ounce jars are given below.
Be very sure that the essential oils you choose are actually pure essential oils such as lavender, tea tree, lemongrass, etc. Don’t ever use a fragrance oil, such as “peach” or “pomegranate,” as these are toxic. Also never use a citrus oil, such as lemon, orange, or bergamot, as these can cause spotting of the skin when exposed to sunlight.
Remember that all equipment must be impeccably clean, washed in very hot water or microwaved when possible.
As you use your cream, do not stick your finger down in it and do not stir it. Just wipe a clean finger across the surface to scoop some up. You don’t want to introduce bacteria into the jar.
A note on carrier oils: Almond oil is available in many grocery stores near the olive oil. Some other “gourmet” oils may also be available there. DO NOT use an oil that could be a GMO, such as corn, soy or cotton seed. Sunflower and safflower oil are fine. Olive oil works, but has it’s own fragrance.
Making a 4-Ounce Jar of Hand Cream
You will need:
• Small heat-proof bowl that will sit over a small pot like a double boiler. A 2-cup Pyrex bowl is good.
• Small pot full of tap water
• A small silicone spatula to stir with (consider the size of the bowl when choosing)
• A container for your cream, just over 4 ounces, impeccably clean
• An accurate scale that measures fractions of ounces
• A little hand-held mixer if you’re making large batches
Ingredients for a 4-ounce Jar:
• 1/4 ounce beeswax
• 1/4 ounce emulsifying wax (vegetable)
• 2 ounces sweet almond oil
• 1/2 ounce Emu Oil or shea butter (optional)
• 1-1/2 ounces distilled water
• A few drops of the essential oil of your choice. Good choices are lavender, ylang-ylang, patchouli, lemongrass and tea tree.
1. Measure all the ingredients very carefully with a scale. Liquid measure and weight are not the same, so use a scale. The easiest way is to put the bowl on the scale, make note of the weight (or press the ON if you have a TARE feature).
2. Add the beeswax, emulsifying wax and the almond oil.
3. Bring tap water to a boil in the pot, not so deep as to overflow when you set the bowl over it. Put the bowl over the hot water and allow the water to simmer until the wax is melted. Don’t stir; the wax will stick to the spatula and harden. It’s best to just watch as the wax slowly melts. Don’t walk away while the wax is melting; you don’t want it to overheat.
4. When it is melted, remove the bowl from the pot, and let it begin to cool a bit.
5. Add the optional emu oil or shea butter and begin to stir, keeping the spatula in the wax mixture.
6. Very slowly, stirring constantly, pour in the water. Don‘t dump it, just pour in a small, steady stream. Keep stirring, scraping the sides of the bowl; do not stop for anything, until the mixture thickens and turns nearly white.
7. Now you can stir in drops of your favorite essential oil. When the cream is about the consistency of mayonnaise, turn it into a container and cover.
Making Large Batches of Hand Cream
A jar of homemade pure hand cream is a very nice gift! This makes 36 ounces of hand cream, or nine 4-ounce jars.
Large-Batch Ingredients for Nine 4-Ounce Jars:
• 16 ounces almond oil
• 2 ounces beeswax
• 2-1/2 ounces emulsifying wax
• 12 ounces distilled water
• 1 ounce, possibly more, essential oil of choice.
1. To make a large batch, the only change in procedure I make is to melt the waxes in just half the almond oil; when melted, add the rest of the almond and it’s cool enough to begin stirring.
2. Because I make a large batch frequently, I do use a dedicated cheap hand mixer and I do melt the wax in oil in a pot directly on the burner. I’m careful. My hand cream-making equipment is all dedicated; the pot, bowl, mixer, spatulas, jars and ingredients are kept in a separate storage tub.
3. Some pretty, double-wall cosmetic jars are available at several websites, including The Chemistry Store. Pinetree Seeds offers a small quantity of jars. Uline has inexpensive utility jars.
Bonus Recipe: Beeswax Ointment Hand Saver
Working in the garden is hard on hands and some of us just can’t work with gloves on all the time. To prevent damage and heal those sore splits and scratches, I make up small tubs of this beeswax ointment.
This beeswax-based hand saver makes the hands pretty much waterproof, so apply it before starting work and again after washing up, apply lightly. Be sure to get some under the nails and around cuticles. Just a dab will do.
• 2 ounces pure, natural beeswax
• 4 ounces almond oil (or olive oil)
• 1/2 ounce shea butter or emu oil if you have it
• Few drops of tea tree essential oil (antibiotic)
• Few drops of lavender essential oil (healing)
1. The same as the basic hand cream above: Put the oil and the wax into a bowl over simmering water and heat until the wax is melted.
2. Remove from the heat and stir the mixture until it begins to thicken a bit. (There’s no water in an ointment).
3. Add your essential oils and then continue to stir until the ointment is thick. Pack into an impeccably clean jar.
4. You could store this mix in a plastic tub of some kind. If using a repurposed container, wash it thoroughly in hot soapy water, then pour in just a little alcohol, close, and shake, then drain until thoroughly dry.
Prevent Hand Damage in the Garden
Years ago, planting strawberries in February, my hands were so cold! The plants were laid in flats of water to hydrate the roots, so my hands were in water and then soil. Here’s what I did:
I put on a pair of tight cotton work gloves to keep my hands warm and then pulled on nitrile surgical gloves over the cotton to keep them dry. Even with the cotton underneath, the surgical gloves allowed enough dexterity to get the job done right.
Wendy Akin is a happy to share her years of traditional skills knowledge. Over the years, she’s earned many state fair ribbons for pickles, relishes, preserves and special condiments, and even a few for breads. Read all of Wendy’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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