I am a crocodile. Well, not literally, obviously (opposable thumbs being a great boon to typing ability) but my skin is so dry, especially in winter, that it feels more true than not. Given that both of my grandmothers were Irish and one grandfather was Scottish, 75% of my DNA is used to a moist, mild climate. Not the description I would use for this buried-in-snow, always-below-freezing New York winter.
Just before Christmas, I stumbled upon this recipe for homemade hand lotion and thought that, together with my homemade body scrub, it would make nice Christmas gifts. I made up a few batches in fancy jars for some of my girlfriends and I also made up a few 4-oz jars as party favors at our annual Christmas party. So far, everyone who has tried this hand cream loves it, and I have to agree: it is awesome. Very thick and rich without being greasy; since you make it yourself, you can control how much (or how little) scent, the type of oil (I’ve used both avocado and sunflower), the type of container you like best, etc. Best of all, you know that there is nothing else in it: wax, oil, essential oils, and water. Oh, and the cost? Literally pennies a jar. I wish I had figured this out years ago.
I will say that the recipe (such as it is) can be a bit finicky: I’ve made this several times now over the last couple of months and I’ve had a few batches simply refuse to emulsify. I’m careful now to make sure I use my thermometer on the oil & water when I am combining (target temps are included in the recipe below), but even so, the last batch I made separated on me while sitting overnight. (If this should happen to you, I’ve had luck with re-heating in the microwave, whisking together to blend, then pouring back into jars to cool. I’ve also just hit the cooled, separated cream with an immersion blender; this can work, but it’s tough if you only made one jar, or half the recipe below). I haven’t quite determined a fool-proof method as of yet: if and when I do, I will report back. Despite the finicky nature of the recipe however, this is really worth trying: I don’t think I’ll ever buy hand lotion again.
Adapted from Handmade Hand Lotion by Kendra at A Sonoma Garden (The links to wax & essential oils in the recipe below go to Kendra’s affiliate page at Mountain Rose Herbs; shopping through these links will send a few pennies her way, which I think is a nice way to say thank you for sharing her recipe with us!)
- 1/4 cup emulsifying wax
- 1/4 cup oil
- about 10 – 20 drops essential oil (I use about 15 drops of lavender, or 8 – 10 drops each of grapefruit & bitter orange)
- 1 and 1/4 cups filtered water
- Add oil and wax pastilles to a small heat-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 1 – 2 minutes, or until all the wax is completely melted and the oil clear (temperature will be about 150 – 160 degrees at this point). Add essential oils, wafting your hand over the hot oil in order to smell when the aroma is strong enough.
- Microwave the water on high for 1 minute, or until it is very warm but not hot (about 120 degrees).
- Add water to oil-wax mixture; it will immediately emulsify and turn opaque. If your water-oil mixture does not emulsify into a smooth, creamy liquid, but clumps instead, it is probably because either the oil or the water were not hot enough. You can try to re-heat the entire mixture for about 1 minute in the microwave; whisk vigorously, and if it looks creamy, pour into a jar to sit.
- Pour into clean jars, cover and allow to sit undisturbed overnight. In the morning, you will have hand cream!
Yields just under a pint.
- Emulsifying wax is a vegetable-based wax from naturally occuring fats & esters and commonly used in cosmetic formulations. The ingredients are cetostearyl alcohol and ethoxylated sorbitan ester (extracted from plant fats) which are considered fairly benign by the Cosmetics Database. For additional information, see the fact sheet at Mountain Rose Herbs.
- Any combination of essential oils can be used; simply add them to the oil/melted wax combination until it smells good to you. I haven’t yet experimented with infusing oil with fresh or dried herbs, spices, or citrus rind, but it seems like a good idea if you don’t have access to essential oils or can’t find one in the flavor you want. Essential oils are usually available for sale at whole foods markets; often yoga, massage, or acupuncture centers will carry them as well.
- The base oil is also optional; Kendra at A Sonoma Garden uses olive oil; I’ve tried both avocado oil (which yields a very thick, rich cream, great for post dish-washing hands; it turns out a beautiful pale green color and it smells strongly of avocado, so if this is something you don’t like, choose a more neutral oil) and sunflower oil (which yields a lighter hand cream; the essentials oils really come through and it is a brilliant white color). Almost any oil will work from specialty massage oils to the canola in your kitchen cabinet.
- Vitamin E is known to be good for a variety of skin conditions; you can pierce a few capsules and squeeze the oil into your oil-wax mixture prior to adding the water.
- I tried a vanilla version, using 1 and 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract, but the lotion separated; possibly the alcohol in the vanilla extract interfered with the emulsion. Next I may try to infuse some oil with vanilla by soaking a vanilla bean and using that for the hand lotion; I’ll report back.
At room temperature, indefinitely.
Homemade Hand Cream