Creature comforts are important, and one of my favorites is a silky pot of body cream. Having it soothes my skin, envelops my senses, and makes me feel rich and pampered. In this article I will address the role the skin plays in our health, and provide you with a body cream recipe that is medicinal as well as decadent. I call it Healing Hands Cream, for it puts the power to heal in your hands.
I have become more aware of my skin in the last 5 years. Age, stress, weather and life circumstances have been hard on it. And I’m rather lazy about caring for it, which doesn’t help. But there is a hook that keeps me mostly engaged. And that is when my skin feels good, so do I.
My rekindled affinity for skin products recently inspired me to retool an old skin cream recipe. In this article, it is fashioned to be flexible, allowing the maker to choose different herb teas, essential and infused oils specific to their skins needs. It is fairly simple to make, and whips up silky smooth with a scent that is divine. But before we talk about the recipe, let’s talk about skin and the job it’s faced with.
The skin is our largest organ. It takes 14-18 square feet of it to cover our adult bodies and holds down a job as measurably large, if not larger. It is an organ that is the first physical part of us to meet our world, and is in charge of body regulation from the inside out. Some of its important duties are:
• as an organ of elimination, keeping in balance how our body deals with waste products.
• acts as a sensory organ, informing our internal workings of changes in our environment and pain.
• it synthesizes vitamin D, excretes oil, salt and water via sweat to regulate temperature and help detoxify our body.
• can often be a voice for organ and endocrine system dysfunction by displaying rashes, acne, pigment discoloration, eczema, etc…
• and, as if those responsibilities weren’t enough, it protects our internal world from many hazards, baring infection, ultraviolet rays, and toxins.
The condition of our skin and it’s health are affected greatly by our life experiences and choices, such as how and where we live, what we eat, hormones, age and disease. It takes working from the inside out to fully support the skin when deficiency arises.
But working from the outside in is just as important. Medicines can absorb through the skin into the bloodstream, traveling to internal destinations to heal and help maintain balance while also relieving topical irritation.
Basic Cream Recipe
I’ve addressed salve making in articles, but never creams. In part because they are a bit more involved. But with the few simple tricks I will give you here, yours should turn out beautifully. The recipe is written to make about 11 oz. of cream.
What follows is: an ingredients and tools list, instructions for making the basic cream, and options for plants used based on symptom pictures.
• 2 oz solid fat – shea butter
• 3 oz infused oil (calendula or comfrey), or almond oil
• 2 oz. jojoba- as a natural preservative
• 3 oz distilled water –may also use rose water, or an herbal tea
• 1/8 teaspoon of boric acid (optional, see notes)
• ½ teaspoon of plain goat yogurt (optional, see notes)
• 1 oz. beeswax
• 10 drops essential oil if desired
Jojoba oil acts as a natural preservative and is actually a wax distilled from a bean. It has an oily consistency. Add 15-20% jojoba oil to a recipe for this effect.
Boric acid can be found as Borax in the laundry section at the co-op. It is a salt compound found in dry salt lake beds, in food and soil. It contains boron, oxygen and hydrogen. It is anti-septic and makes for a whiter cream. You may choose not to use it.
The plain goat yogurt aids emulsification of fat and water. I like it because it is the most natural way to get this to occur. If you need to avoid dairy, one could also use soya lecithin or simply rely on the agitation and beeswax for this job.
Other supplies you will need: a kitchen scale, a double boiler, stainless steel tablespoon and large bowl (if not using a blender), small glass containers to pour the salve into once complete, a mixer or blender, and labels.
I use a stainless steel measuring cup in a saucepan with water for a double boiler when preparing small batches. To mix I use a mixer instead of a blender. I find it easier to clean.
Jars and containers for creams come in glass or plastic, and an array of sizes. I make them in 2 or 4 ounce sizes, but smaller ones are nice as well for they are portable. They may be purchased locally at Community Pharmacy.
Instruction for making
1. Weigh you shea butter and beeswax on the scale, and add it to the oil mix you have measured in your double boiler.
2. Melt the shea butter, beeswax into the oil on low heat. Use a stainless steel spoon to stir until blended. Remove from heat.
3. Warm the water or herb tea without boiling with the boric acid or soya lecithin. If using boric acid be sure it totally dissolves. Warming the water helps it emulsify better with the hot fat and wax mixture you have.
4. Put water into a mixing bowl or blender and agitate with an electric mixer or turn blender on. If you didn’t use soya lecithin now is the time to add the goat yogurt. As the water spins, slowly pour the oil mixture in. Mix until emulsified.
5. Add in the essential oils at the end. Mix slightly and then put cream into containers. Allow it to cool before attaching the lid.
If you would like a thinner cream, add less beeswax. I, personally, have found this to be a perfect consistency for our climate.
Label and date each jar and make note of any changes you made to the recipe and the plants you used. Watch for mold at around 3 months-this may occur with natural products. With the jojoba oil, though, I have found this cream stores very well. Remember, if it smells and looks fine, then it is.
Formulas for Creams
As promised, here are my recommendations based on symptom picture for skin. I’m avoiding anything too detoxifying or pushy here. This cream is to nurture.
Remember, if you are making a tea or marshmallow root infusion, make it strong enough to have effect. For herb tea, use 1 tablespoon steeped in 3 oz. hot water for 10 minutes. To make the marshmallow root decoction takes a bit longer. Place 1 tablespoon of the root in 3 oz of water and let it sit overnight. Be sure when you press out your tea/decoction you still have 3 oz., and add a little more water if needed.
Tight dry skin: Tea: marshmallow root, plantain leaf; Infused oil: Calendula or comfrey; Essential oils: vetiver, frankincense
Burning and itching skin: Tea: marshmallow root or plantain leaf; Infused oil: calendula; Essential oils: lavender, vetiver
Dry and Red Skin: Tea: chamomile tea, or marshmallow root decoction; Essential oils: vetiver, geranium or rose
Aging skin: Tea: rose water; Infused oil: comfrey: Essential oils: rose, frankincense, vetiver
Oily Skin: Tea: rosemary; Essential oils: lemongrass, juniper, add lavender for balance
Damp Skin w/ lack of tonicity: Tea: sage; Essential oils: sage and lavender
Making your own skin cream has many benefits. For one, you know what you are putting on/in your body. Most lotions sold in stores have ingredients I wouldn’t want on my skin, and that includes some sold as natural. Secondly, you have a skin care plan that is tailored to your specific needs, making for a more effective use of time and resources. And thirdly, you save money! It costs tons less to make this 11 oz. of cream then to purchase something natural that you would want to use.
Our skin is the wearable organ. It ensures our survival. So be sure to show it how much we appreciate it by thinking good thoughts about it, putting healthy things in your body, and making or applying skin care products that are natural and nurturing.