This recipe is a slight detour from food into the territory of homemade skin care. I’m a big believer in avoiding preservatives wherever possible and generally try to buy natural and/or organic in both food and toiletries. So when my friend Diane from Naturally Green Pets gave me some pure beeswax and emulsifying wax (thanks, Diane!), I was very excited to try my hand at making homemade face and body cream.
Diane also gave me a recipe, which she originally found in James Wong’s book, Grow Your Own Drugs: A Year with James Wong. The process itself is actually quite simple, with the trick being to get your hands on good quality waxes to start with. When beeswax is refined (and often bleached), many of the incredible healing properties that come from the propolis it contains are destroyed. So if you know any beekeepers or see a honey stall at a market, ask them if they’re prepared to sell you some of the raw wax.
Emulsifying wax is also quite hard to come by these days. You might find it and beeswax at a good health shop but your best bet is probably online – just do a search for a supplier near you.
If you’d like to scent your cream, pure essential oils (not diluted ones intended for burners) like lavender, rosemary or rose geranium work well. They also help to preserve the cream naturally, as well as adding all the healing properties of the essential oil. Lavender in particular is brilliant – it’s a powerful antiseptic and speeds healing of wounds, burns and insect bites, as well as helping to calm anxiety, reduce depression, relieve headaches and help you sleep. Is that a miracle plant or what?!
Alternatively, instead of using essential oil, you can infuse some water with fresh herbs by simply pouring hot water over them and leaving the mixture to stand for as long as possible. Fresh lavender, rosemary, rose geranium, calendula or rose petals (pesticide-free, please) all give a lovely and very subtle scent. Pour the mixture through muslin or cheesecloth to filter out the greenery just before you use the infused water.
You can also choose what base oil to use e.g. coconut oil, olive oil or grapeseed oil. I used coconut oil as it has amazing healing properties in its own right. Other ingredients you can add to make the cream even richer, especially if your skin is particularly dry, are pure shea butter, vitamin E or calendula oil.
If you like your cream very rich and thick, use 1 cup of water. If you like it a bit more runny, use 1½ cups (especially if you’re using shea butter too, which thickens the cream further). It also depends on the quality of emulsifying wax and beeswax you are using, so experiment to get the texture you like with the ingredients you are using.
I made my first batch of this cream about 6 months ago and my skin loves it! A batch with the quantities below makes about 300 – 350ml, depending on what you add, and it easily kept for the two months it took me to use it up. Be sure to store it in a very clean jar up front though, preferably glass. I find it handy to decant a few spoons at a time into smaller plastic jars to keep in the bathroom, in my handbag, etc.
Give it a try, and I’m pretty sure you’ll never want to buy your cream from a shop again!
- 2t beeswax, chopped up
- 5t emulsifying wax
- 2T coconut oil, olive oil or grapeseed oil
- 1c warm water (infused if you like)
- 10 drops pure essential oil (optional ) – I used 5 of lavender and 5 of rose geranium
- 1t shea butter, vitamin E and/or calendula oil (optional)
If you’re going to infuse the water, you’ll need to do that first. Boil the water, then pour it over whatever you’re infusing with e.g. fresh lavender, rose geranium, rose petals, rosemary, calendula, etc (make sure these are pesticide free). Leave it to stand while you start melting the wax. Just before using it, pour it through a very fine sieve or some muslin to separate out the flowers or herbs.
Place the beeswax, emulsifying wax and base oil of your choice in a heat-proof bowl and set it over a double boiler or in a sieve over a pot of simmering water. If you’re using shea butter, add it now so it can melt in too.
Let it all melt together, stirring occasionally. When I made this first batch, I didn’t chop up the beeswax so it took ages. The smaller you chop it, the quicker it will melt – it can take up to 30 minutes though.
When everything is completely melted, mix it all well together.
Now add just a tablespoon of the warm water and whisk well, then the next tablespoon or so, and whisk again.
The mixture will start changing colour, and becoming more opaque. It may go through a stage where it looks curdled, like this – don’t panic, just keep slowly adding water and whisking.
Eventually it will turn white as it emulsifies completely. Continue adding the water very slowly, whisking all the time, until it’s all used up. Depending on the ingredients you’re using, the cream may already be quite thick by this stage, in which case you might want to add a bit more water. If it’s still a bit runny, don’t worry, as it does thicken up when it cools.
Take the bowl off the heat and whisk in the essential oils and other optional additions, if you’re using them.
Then give it all a good stir with a spoon so it’s nice and smooth.
Bottle the cream in a very clean jar – it should last two to three months if you store it well. Decant a few spoons at a time into smaller tubs for easy use.
© Alexandra Lawrence and Inspired Nourishment, 2015