This time of year my hands are especially prone to becoming rough and dry – constantly in the dirt planting, weeding and digging. I rub them daily with lotion, to restore lost moisture and smooth any roughness (this and this have been my all time favorites for years).
Last week I finally decided to try my hand at making my own lotion with herbs we grow here in our gardens… Let’s just say, it is a little bit ridiculous how excited I am at the outcome. I don’t know why, but I didn’t think I would achieve such an amazing final product. It’s pretty much everything I could hope for in a nourishing cream – save for a super minor tweak here and there. I’m psyched. Totally!
I did some research to get a sense of the process. I started with, “A Complete Book of Herbs – A practical guide to growing and using herbs,” by Lesley Bremness. I also found a few online resources. I knew I wanted to use lavender, and we have an abundance of the notoriously skin-supportive calendula blooming right now. I have also been learning about the healing properties of elder flowers, which are blooming right now, so they felt like a natural addition as well.
With a general feel for the ratio differences between salves and lotions, a sense for what I wanted as my outcome, the help of this site for the process and quantities, and then with what I had on hand, my recipe ended up something like this:
Approximately 1/2 cup of a mixture of calendula flower petals, elderflower and dried lavender
then fill to 3/4 cup with olive oil
.4 ounce beeswax
1/2 ounce witch hazel
3 1/2 ounces calendula infused water
15 drops lavender essential oil
(ounces are by weight)
A little bit about the herbs I chose:
Calendula – Reduces inflammation and soothes the skin. It’s a wonderful herb for the general care of skin irritations of all kinds. “Calendula has been used for centuries to heal wounds and skin irritations. Calendula has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, astringent, antifungal, antiviral, and immunostimulant properties making it useful for disinfecting and treating minor wounds, conjunctivitis, cuts, scrapes, chapped or chafed skin, bruises, burns, athlete’s foot, acne, yeast infections, bee stings, diaper rashes, and other minor irritations and infections of the skin.” (mountain rose herbs – http://mountainroseblog.com/healing-calendula/).
Elderflower – Soothes dry skin and has anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. It is a supportive tonic for all skin types, particularly mature skin. Reputed to soften skin and smooth wrinkles, fade freckles and soothe sunburn.
Lavender – Has antiseptic, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties and is soothing and stimulating. It’s a healing and gentle cleanser and tonic for all skin types. Aroma-therapeutic as well, it acts as an uplifting nerve tonic.
I measured a generous 1/2 cup of calendula petals, dried lavender flowers and elder flowers (separated from the stems), and then covered this combination with organic olive oil until I had a total quantity of about 3/4 cup.
I poured the mixture into a double boiler, covered it, and slowly warmed it, letting it set at a very low heat for about 3 hours.
I weighed out nearly 1/2 ounce of beeswax
and made an infusion of calendula petals and purified water.
When the oil and herbs were steeped to my satisfaction, I strained them into a jar,
squeezing any excess oil out with clean hands.
The oil infusion was then placed back in a warm pot of water and gently heated with the beeswax, until the beeswax was fully incorporated.
Once incorporated, I set the jar on the counter to cool to room temperature, blending periodically with an immersion blender. Then I measured out my witch hazel, calendula infusion and essential oil.
All the ingredients were gradually blended until I reached my desired consistency.
The final step of blending was the most exciting, as the whole mixture gradually transformed into something beautiful and creamy.
The cream is smooth and silky, and not too heavy or oily – particularly when applied to freshly washed skin. Steven is appreciating it as well, for dry elbows and knees, and areas that have been exposed to a lot of sun recently.
Next time I will try different, more deliberately chosen oils, and will explore some other herbs with properties specific to my skin and it’s particular needs at the time. My skin is loving this combination though, and my hands haven’t felt so soft in quite some time!