Natural Soapmaking (once Soap Naturally) Natural Skin Care Handbooks
Basic Skin Care Recipes

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Making your own skin balms, salves and ointments

Skin balms, salves and ointments are easy-to-make semi-solid blends of beeswax (or some vegetable wax) with one or more liquid oils. The distinction between these applications simply depends on their cosmetic or therapeutic properties.

In a wide sense, skin balms are general purpose cosmetic applications, designed to soften and nourish the skin. Typically made from oils that have superior emollient, soothing and nourishing properties, they are ideal for hands, feet and elbows, and to soothe extra dry, chapped skin.

Being anhydrous (waterless), these applications are absorbed slowlier than creams, and offer therefore the best choice for those skin, muscular and joint conditions that benefit from long, slow massage. Simple skin balms, made from healing oils (such as avocado, virgin coconut, corn, sweet almond, apricot kernel, rice bran, and mango or shea butter) are a great way to restore suppleness and softness to tired feet, hands that suffer from contact with irritating substances, chapped elbows or rough knees. The mechanical action of massage and the friction of the massaging hands on the skin generate extra heat, which contributes to opening the pores and making the skin more receptive to absorbe into its deepest layers the active principles contained in the wax-and-oil blend. For this reason, skin balms are typically used as bases for healing salves and therapeutical ointments and pomades.

When healing herbs are infused in one of the base oils, the nourishing and warming action is combined with the benefits of the chosen herbs reaching the deepest layers of the skin. It is important to keep in mind that, since possible skin problems would be magnified by these "deep reaching" preparations, synthetic fragrances and herbs that might cause skin irritation should always be avoided when preparing salves and ointments.

A simpler alternative to infusing herbs is adding, at the end of the process and just before pouring the base balm into storage containers, a few drops of one or more essential oils, chosen depending on skin type and desired effects.

Preparing a skin balm base

The ingredients in a skin balm are basically two: one or more liquid oils, and some beeswax or vegetable wax (such as macadamia wax). Skin balms, salves, ointments and pomades are relatively soft and easy to spread, and require 4 to 7 parts of liquid oil(s) for each part of beeswax.

  • Measure out the ingredients by weight into your chosen melting pot.
  • Place this container into the double boiler, half-filled with water, and heat until the beeswax is melted.
  • Remove from the heat and let cool for several hours.
  • Once the balm is set, check its consistency and "feel". If the balm is too hard or feels "waxy", add an extra part of liquid oil, and remelt it in the double boiler.
  • Repeat the previous step until your balm reaches the desired consistency. Remember to take notes, which will guide you when you wish to replicate the same recipe.
  • When the desired consistency has been reached, melt down the balm once more if you would like to add any essential oils or Vitamin E.
  • If essential oils or Vitamin E are used, mix well before pouring into individual storage containers.

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Editors & maintainers:
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Marina Tadiello, Patrizia Garzena
[ Soap book authors: Soap Naturally - Ingredients, methods and recipes for natural handmade soap]
[ Soap book authors: The Natural Soapmaking Handbook; The Natural Soapmaking Cookbook ]

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This page was last updated on 5th March 2006

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