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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