Fragrant body cream

Fragrant body cream

Fragrant body cream

I’ve made variations on this many times before, always searching for the ideal cream, and this is my favourite to date.  It is light enough for a rich face cream, but nourishing and luxurious.  This version seems to be absorbed very quickly and leaves no residue on the skin.  When I rubbed it in (straight from the mixing jar!), it was all gone within a few seconds.  A tiny amount goes a very long way.  I shall use this daily.

This time I made it using a hand held stick blender rather than a coffee frother, which seems to be producing rather frothy creams… not entirely surprising.  The blender, on the other hand, works well, as long as I keep it on low, or low-to-medium as the cream thickens.  I could have added more rose absolute, but I don’t like my creams too fragrant. Adapt for any other fragrance, maybe lavender, frankincense or rosemary, instead of rose.  Here is the recipe:

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Making creams

I’ve been making creams again – a very light Rose face cream with Jojoba oil and Safflower oil;  and a Rose body cream, slightly heavier with Rose Hip oil and Shea Butter, to go with it.  I use an established recipe, the same one every time, just changing the aqueous content occasionally although I do usually use a Rose infusion.  Lavender is also delightful.

What foxes me is that every single time I make a cream, it turns out differently.  They are all lovely, and all have roughly the same weight and absorbency as the previous time, but they are decidedly different.  This time the ‘heavier’ cream turned out more mousse-like and the face cream more like a lotion.  How the former could be more aerated than usual, and the latter less, I don’t know.  The kitchen is the same temperature, give or take a degree or two, and I have done exactly the same things as before, used exactly the same ingredients, same batches, same method, same timing.  Bizarre.  Good thing I am not selling them.  Maybe I’m not drinking enough wine to help the process along 😉

Hand cream recipe

Despite all the previous talk about aqua-free hand moisturisers, my daughter asked for some more traditional hand cream – here it is in the making.

Oil phase:  10g cocoa butter, 5g shea butter, 10g almond oil, 6g emulsifier (I use olivem 2000).

Water phase:  60g rose water or lavender water (just make an infusion from dried rose or lavender petals using bottled spring water);  I used orange blossom water, 5g glycerin.

Cooling phase:  20 drops vitamin E, 20 drops preservative, 20 drops essential oils for frangrancing.  I used tangerine and sandalwood.

Heat both the oil and water phases in separate bain maries to 75 – 80 degrees celsius.  Keep the oil phase on the low heat and add the water phase stirring with a metal spoon for two minutes.  Turn off the heat but leave the glass bowl in the pan of water.  Change to a coffee frother and froth for a further five minutes, then take the bowl out of the pan and allow to cool in its own time, not in a pan of cold water, as is often recommended for other emulsifiers.  Keep frothing until the frother froths no more – too thick, and allow to cool completely.  Then add the cooling phase ingredients.  Spoon into sterilised jars.  Makes nearly but no more than 100g.

This is what it looks like after the frother has gone on strike with exhaustion:

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Recipes for solid moisturisers – update

The third version of moisturiser in a bar, for which the recipe is below, seems to have worked best in terms of no stickiness and led me to the following adaptation:  as it was still a little hard (will I ever be satisfied? Not whilst I’m having such fun) I decided to melt the whole thing down and add another 5g or safflower oil.  This has worked beautifully.  So far it goes on easily, holds together as a bar and is absorbed into the skin without leaving either greasy or waxy film!

I shall be developing other recipes in the search for the holy bar moisturiser grail, and maybe, since I so nearly made lip balm inadvertently, I’ll have a go and some of those too.

The bars I made with the first two recipes are doing very good service as balm for cracked heels 🙂

Moisturising bars – recipes

Moisturising bars – like massage bars – are easy to make in myriad variations.  Here are some of the recipes I have tried in the last couple of days, given the restraints and aims mentioned in the previous post below:

The first trial went like this: 15g Jojoba wax, 10g cocoa butter – fairly solid at room temperature but melts on contact with skin –  25g safflower oil melted together in a Bain Marie (actually one heatproof glass jar containing the oils sitting in a pan of boiling water) took a few minutes to melt, and then I added 10 drops of rose essential oil.  The whole lot went into two paper fairy cake cups.  This turned out to be far too soft – might have been nice for a lip salve, but wouldn’t hold it’s own as a hand ‘cream’ bar.  So I tipped the two ‘fairy cakes’ back into the glass jar, added 15g beeswax, and melted the whole thing down again.  This time the consistency was good – but waxy and a little shiny on the hands.  Exactly what I did not want.  Shall use it as heel balm.  The scent is absolutely delicious though!

The second trial went as follows:  20g beeswax, 5g cocoa butter, 5g shea butter, 11g safflower oil (should have been 10!) and after it came out of the bain marie 5 drops of tangerine essential oil.  Now this one feels better on the hands, but still waxy.  Is absorbed by the skin more quickly and doesn’t feel as sticky.  The scent is not as pronounced as the rose, and in fact it smells of rather tangeriny beeswax.  Better, but still not good enough.

The third trial contained 15g beeswax, 5g cocoa butter and 10g safflower oil. No Shea butter this time.  After it came off the heat I added 5 drops of lavender essential oil.  Now this one is absorbed even more quickly and leaves less of a waxy feeling, but it is very hard.  I may have taken the ‘hard bar’ requirement a little too far.  I have considered putting the Shea butter back in.  Hmm.  Shall try that next time.  I’ll let you know.

Moisturisers without water

We were at an outdoor market last week and came across a skincare product stall with a very nice chap purveying hand made ‘natural’ hand moisturising bars without a water content.  We bought one, of course.  They contain a mixture of beeswax, coconut butter and sustainable palm oil, with essential oils as fragrancers.  These bars are interesting beasties, as they have considerable advantages and some crucial drawbacks.

Firstly, in their favour, they do not (well, hardly ever) go off.  Really.  It’s the aqueous content in creams and lotions that can get mouldy and foosty, requiring the use of preservatives if they are not to be used within a month or so, or kept in the fridge.  This is fantastic from a sales point of view as it means they can be made in large batches, sometimes months in advance of shows or fairs, and have a very long shelf life.  It also means that these products can be bought as Christmas or Birthday presents long before the great day.  And a bar is very appealing in its format.  I like the idea – just tip it out of its tin, no lids or squelch!

Furthermore, this means that, from a “What am I putting on my skin?” point of view, there are NO preservatives in it.  I would much rather not have to use these, but I have to use a preservative in face and body cream, when I am giving it as a gift and cannot be sure that it will a) be used immediately or b) be kept in the fridge.  There are several on the market, some less unpleasant than others, and there is a healthy debate ongoing about which ones are preferable.  One I have come across, which seems extremely effective in its killing of all live things, is called ‘Microkill’!  This is not the experimental visual arts and music group, it’s a substance that kills anything live in the product to which it is added, and presumably therefore, also in my skin when I apply it. Good against Gram positive and Gram negative bacteria, as well as yeasts and moulds but not sure I want that on my skin…

Having said all that, how does the moisturising bar feel on my skin?  Well, on the one hand it’s really nice to have a solid bar to rub into my hands, much like a bar of soap.  But, frankly, it’s not quite as good as one of my own creams, mainly because of the limitations imposed on it by its being solid.

The advantages of not having to make hand moisturiser solid are many, and they fall into the camp of having a light, readily absorbed product.  Basically, most of the oils and butters used in a solid bar, not to mention the waxes, leave a film on the skin which takes ages to soak in, if at all.  When I am making a cream, however thick, I have more ingredients at my disposal.  Firstly, I can use a ‘runny’ oil such as safflower which is absorbed very readily by the skin, leaving no greasy film.  I can add a little beeswax – lovely – but not in such large quantities as are required to make a solid bar at room temperature.  Too much beeswax leaves, not surprisingly, quite a waxy feeling on the hands.  Equally, I can use coconut butter (stays solid at room temperature) for its enriching properties, but, again, not so much that it leaves my hands greasy.  Some properties (constituents) of herbs are extracted in water, so I can take advantage of those in my cream if I am not worried about using aqueous ingredients that can go off.

I am going to experiment with solid bars, though – I really appreciate the way they are kept in a tin and (probably) won’t leak into my bag.  But they need to be less… waxy.

Spirulina soap

This weekend saw the exciting, momentous creation of truly green soap!  Deeply green in colour, from the addition of wonderful spirulina powder, fragranced with patchouli essential oil.

It cured overnight so we were able to test it for colour leaking – does the green come off on our hands… ? No!  All perfectly safe.  We also made a batch of lavender with lavender essential oil and dried lavender flowers, with extra on top – so pretty!  Here it is on its baking rack under the spirulina, drying.  We shall leave it for 4 weeks or more for it to really harden.  It cured as well overnight (which means that the lye / caustic soda is now incorporated chemically so it is not caustic any more, and therefore safe to use), which means we could test it – and the lavender bits on top are a bit annoying when they come off, but it is sooo pretty!

Facial toner with cider vinegar update

I used it (see previous post) this morning and, yes, an hour later I still smell slightly of vinegar.  My beloved held her nose to kiss me goodbye as I dropped her off to listen to the incomparable Will Pickvance at St. Giles’ Cathedral on the Royal Mile.  Shall try it again with much less vinegar.  Will is playing at our “We’ve got married” party at the end of this month.  So exciting 🙂

Herbology birthday party

Yesterday saw a wonderful birthday party for birthday herbology girl Karoline! Five eager herbal beavers invaded her kitchen with a motley collection of infused oils, thistle, jojoba, olive, almond, vitamin E and essential oils, as well as gum arabic, powdered sea buckthorn, raisins, ground almonds, oats, brown rice powder, rice papers, cinnamon, beeswax, emulsifying wax, rose water, liquorice, slippery elm powder, dried rose petals, dried lavender, and dried calendula flowers, and bags of lovely glass jars for creams, oinkments, lotions and potions.

Barbara arrived with a wonderful basic recipe (classified) for face cream which turned out to be remarkably simple to make, and turned out beautifully smooth and not in the least ‘claggy’ or oily.  Her sample featured frankincense essential oil but we made it with rose water and no EOs at all.  Her masterpiece was to use a hand held milk frother, usually employed by would-be home barristas.  Instead of whisking like mad with a hand whisk and dropping the aqueous (watery) part in to the oily part drop by drop, Barbara just combined the two, both at a similar, fairly hot temperature, stirring with a metal spoon, then whisked for about five minutes with the milk frother.  Amazing results!  Shall try at home – first procure a milk frother – and let you know whether it works for me.

We also made raw fruit and cereal bars, incredibly simply, by weighing out and blitzing raisins, ground almonds, oats, brown rice flour, honey, and – this was the second masterpiece of the day – ground Sea Buckthorn powder, which Karoline ordered online from Finland!  The flavour of Sea Buckthorn is incredibly fruity and made the whole mixture deliciously tangy, when combined and rolled into a bar shape and wrapped in rice paper.

Joolz and Helen made throat lozenges out of gum arabic, slippery elm powder (not enormous amounts!) liquorice and cinnamon, using honey for the binding element.  They certainly did taste like cough sweets or throat lozenges.  Joolz made some beautiful pyramidal shapes which collapsed into little blobs (or ‘rabbit droppings’) after ten minutes. These have to dry for a couple of weeks to harden.

We used the calendula infused oil (calendula grown, harvested and dried by Karoline, then used to infuse the oil on a sunny windowsill for a couple of weeks) for calendula oinkment with EOs – I used lavender, such a favourite.

At the end of the afternoon we made a facial toner from a dried rose petal and elderflower infusion (just a pot of tea infused for ten minutes), with a very small amount of organic cider vinegar – enough, however to produce howls of hysterical laughter from Joolz and Helen when they smelled it!  The cider vinegar makes the rose infusion go pink instead of brown, so very pretty 🙂  After half an hour or so, the vinegary fragrance had already given way to the rose and elderflower, but the hysteria remained, and we had to finish with a bottle of wine (ingested) and call it a very happy day.