Saturday, May 25, 2013

For the Fellas......

This may seem like a horrible sexist generalization but I find it a lot easier to give DIY gifts to my female friends and family members than to the men in my life.  I don't know any gal who doesn't appreciate a hand knit scarf, a lightly scented moisturizing lotion, or a tin of home made lip balm.  I find men a bit trickier but no less deserving of my DIY love so I was thrilled when I found a blog post from Mountain Rose Herbs on Herbal Gifts for Dad.  While no one around here has much need for the Fancy Man 'Stache Wax,  I thought my sweetie might be interested in an upgrade from plain old shaving soap.  With his May birthday it seemed a perfect time to try my hand at making shaving cream which turned out to be dead simple.

I used apricot kernel oil, aloe vera gel, shea butter, white clay, baking soda, unscented Castile soap, and a few drops of cedarwood and bay essential oils for a pleasant, manly scent.  It took maybe 5 minutes to melt the shea butter with the oil, another minute or two to mix in the remaining ingredients, and a couple of minutes of with the stick blender to whip everything into a lovely, fluffy, mousse-like texture.   After the first use he tells me it makes for a fantastic shave and he loves it-not bad for 10 minutes work!
The Mountain Rose blog post also included a recipe for aftershave.  I made a batch of Bay Rum aftershave last year which included a lot of rum, bay essential oil, and not a whole lot else and I thought he might be interested in a change so I threw this new recipe together last night as well:  witch hazel, aloe vera gel, orange peel, a cinnamon stick, crushed allspice, a few cloves, an ounce of rum, and a few drops of bay rum essential oil.  This will take 4 weeks before it matures and I can strain it into a bottle so no verdict as yet but I can't resist opening the jar for a sniff every now and again.  In addition to its lovely scent, the orange peel, witch hazel, and aloe should all provide beneficial antibacterial and skin-soothing elements and I expect it to make a nice final product.

Father's Day isn't that far off but you still have plenty of time to throw together a lovingly crafted DIY shaving set for the man in your life should you feel so inspired.  And if you are (or know) a razor-using woman I'm sure the shaving cream would be a treat for the legs as well--no need to be exclusionary!
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Sunday, May 19, 2013

Basic Salve...and variations

 There are so many benefits to learning to make your own body care products.  You can save boatloads of money.  Although the initial investment in ingredients may seem scary, most will last you for many, many batches of products.  You can have fun with basic science.  You will learn exactly which ingredients do what and can have all kinds of fun experimenting and coming up with custom blends to meet your exact specifications. You will know exactly what is going on (or in) your body--no more mystery chemicals with potentially troublesome side effects.  And, if you're like me, there's that little "I did it!" thrill which is priceless as far as I'm concerned.

Basic salves couldn't be easier and once you have the process down you can make lotion bars, lip balms, deodorants, and more.  The basic formula is 1 part oil/1 part butter/1 part beeswax.  Depending on my end product I might use olive, coconut, or apricot kernel oil along with shea or cocoa butter.  Vitamin E oil is both nourishing for the skin and a good preservative so I always add a bit to just about everything I make. You can certainly use some of the more exotic oils like argan, avocado, macadamia nut, rose hip seed, or jojoba but these are quite expensive.  Including a small amount in your total is an affordable way to add a little luxury.  Once you start adding essential oils (and you should, both for their healing properties and their delicious aromas) your basic moisturizing salve technically becomes a balm.  

A family member asked me to attempt to duplicate a product she loves from a small local producer who appears to have gone out of business. I looked at the ingredient list and saw the following:  Calendula infused olive oil, beeswax, shea butter, Vitamin E oil and essential oils of rosemary, tea tree, lavender, and peppermint. I filled a jar with dried calendula blossoms, topped them with olive oil, and put the jar in water in a double boiler over very low heat for a few hours to infuse the oil with the anti-inflammatory and skin healing properties of calendula.  After straining it a few times to remove all traces of solid matter, I added one ounce to a glass canning jar along with an ounce of shea butter and and ounce of beeswax pellets. I used my kitchen scale for accurate measuring, resetting to zero after I added each ingredient.   Two notes here:  use a designated jar for melting beeswax--you'll never get it clean again so you may as well hand it over for the cause.  And, if at all possible, buy natural beeswax in pellet or pastille form.  Yes, you can use blocks, but then you have to grate the wax.  It takes forever and it makes a mess and you then need a dedicated grater.  Pellets are no more expensive than blocks of beeswax and are so much easier to work with--I highly recommend them.

Put your jar of wax/oils in a pan of simmering water and stir until everything is liquid.  Again, due to the tenacity of beeswax, I use bamboo skewers for mixing and stirring.  They are cheap and can go in the compost when you are done--one less thing to try and clean.    Once everything is melted, remove from the heat and pour into the container of your choice, and add vitamin e oil and essential oils.   Quickly and gently stir to blend (use that bamboo skewer or a toothpick) and then leave to cool completely.  Once the salve is semi solid you can carefully transfer it to the refrigerator to cool completely if you are in a hurry. 

For this particular balm, I used 2 drops of rosemary essential oil and 10 drops each of tea tree, lavender, and peppermint.  If you are interested in exploring essential oils further, please take a look at this simple Essential Oil Guide I wrote for one of my classes.  

I purchased my containers at The Portland Homestead Supply Co.

For printable directions for making a basic salve/balm, click here.  

Please let me know in the comments if you make this salve and how it turns out for you.  Once you see how easy it is, I hope you'll make lots!
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