Friday, 15 October 2010

Make your own moisturiser ~ good bye to shop-bought lotions forever!

The best moisturiser I've ever come across turned out to be a great surprise: it's a simple one I can make myself!  It's a combination of vegetable oils and a little beeswax in a base of aqueous cream - magic!  Over the years I've tried many different skin care products, most of which have been not only costly but disappointing, and for me this is The Clear Winner.  Not only is it cheap, but I can make it up in varying consistencies for lip balm, face cream, hand cream and body lotion.  It's so good everyone should know of it.  Here is the recipe:

The wax and oil formula is given here in quantities likely to last you for quite some time.  

  • Beeswax - 65 grams.  In Dunedin this can be bought by the block from health food stores. When melted you will have about a third of a cup.
  • Olive oil - 1 and 1/3 cups
  • Apricot oil - 1/3 cup
  • Almond oil - 1/3 cup
  • Vitamin E oil - 1 tablespoon - optional.  It's expensive!
  • Glycerine - also called Glycerol - 1 tablespoon - optional.   This makes it more moisturising..  It also has anti-bacterial qualities - refer link.  It can be obtained from chemists or some health food stores.  Aloe gel is an alternative.
  • Essential oils for scent if desired.
Melt the beeswax in a double boiler, or place it in a container immersed in or directly over simmering water.  Once it has melted slowly add the oils over a low heat.   Allow it to stand for a little so that the ingredients can combine properly.  Once it has done so the mixture will be ready to pour into containers.  When cooled it sets firmly, but is still soft enough to easily take a little of at a time.  Here is the mixture once all the ingredients have been added - I had the glass bowl sitting in a basket-style steamer and the pot full of simmering water:

This is the perfect lip balm just as it is.  If you have any tiny pots suitable to tuck in your handbag these are ideal; small pill bottles from the chemist are also good.  If you have hygiene concerns about applying the lip balm when you're away from the usual means to clean your hands, use a lip brush.

To make lotions and moisturisers of any sort simply add aqueous cream.  This ingredient can be obtained cheaply from chemists.  If you have a troublesome or especially sensitive skin you may be able to get a prescription for it from your doctor.  Aqueous cream has a mineral oil base about which you can read more below.

There is no set quantity of aqueous cream as it depends on how waxy or creamy you want your lotion.  I've found that the simplest approach is to keep quite a generous portion of the basic beeswax and oils formula in one jar for future supplies of lip balm, and combine the rest of it with a smallish quantity of aqueous cream, which gives you a concentrate.  The concentrate is  easier to mix than the pure oils and beeswax formula which sets firm, and from it you can produce fresh pots of lotion very simply by scooping some of it into a third container along with dollops of aqueous cream where they can be combined with a dining fork: 

Alternatively, you may opt for a more predictable result in which case a ratio of one part of the basic formula to three parts of aqueous cream might suit you.  

To achieve the smoothest lotion allow the oil and beeswax mixture to set very slightly then gradually combine it with the aqueous cream beating it rapidly until it's smooth.  An electric beater may be helpful; the sort with a single whirling blade is ideal.  If it doesn't combine smoothly the waxy formula may be too hot in contrast to the aqueous cream so allow it to cool a little longer.

In general I'm less exacting and am happy mixing mine up with a dining fork: it doesn't combine it quite as well but I don't mind the lotion being a trifle grainy with the beeswax and oil - it melts in rapidly when applied and reminds me that I created it myself - with a minimum of equipment. 

Grateful thanks to my very capable niece Lucy, who created this splendid recipe.  If sharing it with others please acknowledge the source.

A further variation:
If your lotion seems a bit rich or oily you can make it lighter by adding equal quantities of pure vanilla essence (avoid the one with sugar and bits in it!) and lemon juice, say half a teaspoon of each per cup of aqueous cream, more or less depending on your preference.

A very fast and easy light skin cream:
Aqueous cream can be diluted with equal parts of lemon juice and vanilla essence as described immediately above.  The ingredients can be combined using a fork.

MORE ABOUT MOISTURISES, OILS AND VARIOUS INGREDIENTS: A high price tag definitely does not indicate a better product: for years I paid $80 dollars plus for a little pot of Elizabeth Arden face cream until a change in circumstances put it out of my reach.  After that I switched to a locally produced one with a lanolin base which was about tenth of the price and my skin improved thereafter.   

Lanolin is an entirely natural substance produced by sheep to keep their skin nice and their wool waterproof.  It's obtained from their fleeces which are pressed after they are shorn.

Skin care products with this as a base suit my skin very well but in recent years I've been unable to source it in its pure form.  It used to be available from chemists.  At some point I must try harder to see if I can get it from an organic provider which should be possible given that some sheep here are raised on organic farms.  Just for the record: although its wonderful for the skin it is not edible!

For reasons which defy any kind of logic, lanolin-based products are mostly stocked only by tourist and souvenir shops.  In fact, I've never found any stocked with other skin care products in the usual shops where I'd expect them to be.  This seems completely weird and possibly indicative of a blind spot in local marketing.  So if you haven't seen these sorts of products where you'd expect them, this could be the reason why!  

The efficacy of lanolin skin care products varies greatly.  All the Wild Ferns products I've bought have been very good.  The ones I used are the hand cream, the body lotion, and the face cream with green tea.  They are beautifully packaged and in the medium price range.  The package in front of me assures the buyer that the product is paraben free, contains no mineral oil, and has not been tested on animals.  I'm surprised there is no mention of this on the company's website. 

Parabens are the subject of considerable controversy as to whether they are safe products or not.  They are used very extensively.  So far scientific studies conclude that they are safe and have found no discernible link between them and the incidence of cancer.  However, conjecture continues.  Discussion of this can be found in the Wikipedia article about them.  The Green Party's website has a list of skin care and cosmetics products which do and don't contain them.  Although the posting is from 2004 and therefore bound to be somewhat out of date, it does give an indication of pervasive usage and perhaps some pointers for those who are interested.

This raises the question of what exactly is in the products we use on our faces and bodies?  Have you ever attempted to read, never mind understand the contents of these products?  Does anyone know, for example, what octyl methoxycinnamate, dicaprylyl carbonate, glycerol sterate are?  I certainly don't.  The Skin Deep site looks into some of these mysteries and rates them from a safety-for-humans angle.  I haven't looked into this site in detail but a quick overview indicates a considerable amount of data about a wide range of specific products.  I came across a reference to this site in the Wikipedia article about moisturisers.

Some discussion about skin care products is entirely for the use of vegetable oils and against mineral oils, as the latter are said to be drying, but it's not as simple as that.  Nor is it as simple as the ingredients being edible or not, or natural or not.  Wikipedia's article about vegetable fats and oil outlines some points.
On the other side of the equation, aqueous cream contains paraffin which is a mineral oil.  It often contains the preservative phenoxyethanol.  Some formulas contain chlorocresol as an alternative to phenoxyethanol.  Paraffin has many industrial uses, some of them to do with food.  Does this make it a no-no?  The answer is that its fine as is made clear in this article about aqueous cream from the Gaia Organics site.  This article from the net doctor site gives similar information.

Discussion about the safety or suitability of ingredients is always in the end going to come down to what suits the individual.  We are all so different.  There are always likely to be some individuals who react badly to any product however harmless it may be to many others.  Some people are allergic to wheat germ oil, some to lanolin, others to aqueous cream, whereas others will benefit hugely.  The good thing about making up your own applications is that you can work out what suits you best and simply exclude those things that don't. 

Those interested in making a shift to organically certified, vegan, and ethically sound cosmetics may wish to consider the Inika Mineral Cosmetics range.  On the 12th October, TVNZ's Close Up screened this item which includes an interview with co-founder Miranda Bond.  Very nice, Miranda, your make up looks lovely!

However, while these cosmetics may be at the top of their particular field I don't think they'll top our recipe for moisturisers!

If you like this article you may enjoy other recipes for personal care items which include:

Others are such recipes and suggestions are listed on the pages linked to below - once there scroll down to find them:


Grace Dalley said...

I saw the TV3 programme, "What's Really in Our Moisturiser?" and they had a very graphic demonstration of the difference between a pot of paraben-free cream and one containing parabens, when they were left open for a couple of weeks. After 2 weeks the paraben-free cream looked like a particularly noxious biology experiment and the cream containing parabens looked much the same as it had when first opened. Whether they are good or bad for you in themselves, parabens certainly do the job of stopping bacteria from proliferating!

Do you know how the homemade cream keeps? I have observed that aqueous cream seems not to go off even when stored for long periods, so perhaps it has preservative qualities.

Leigh said...

Thank you Grace, this a useful information and a good question.

I haven't noticed any change in quality of the moisturiser over time. I've just taken a closer look at the small print on the tub of chemist-supplied aqueous cream and see that in addition to the preservative Phenoxyethanol (1%) it also includes Cetostearyl alcohol (8.1), both of which would act as preservatives, I should think. This seems quite a large proportion of preservative-type ingredients to me. It has a 'best by' date and states the range of temperatures it will tolerate. My supposition is that given that the oil and wax formula is a relatively small portion of the finished product and is well mixed with it, that the preservatives already in the aqueous cream are likely to be sufficient to help keep it in a reasonably 'fresh' state for the time frame indicated for the aqueous cream.

Note: On checking the package of the Wild Ferns lanolin moisturiser I see that these same two preservatives have been used in that, so there are alternatives to parabens.

With regard to the oil and wax formula by itself, I keep any surplus in the fridge until I need it and the quality has remained good. I expect that if any vegetable oil is kept reasonably carefully (ie: fairly cool), it should stay good for as long as it takes to use it up. :-)

Leigh said...

The above has prompted me to look up Glycerine / Glycerol - refer newly inserted link above, and I see that as well as being a humectant, it also has anti-bacterial qualities which would make its inclusion with the wax and oil formula all the more desirable.