DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.
The biggest problem faced in making cosmetic products at home is shelf life. They do have to be made more often as they tend to spoil after a certain amount of time, but the quality of the product and the knowledge you are using only the best ingredients far outweighs the small inconvenience. The trick is to make them in small quantities, or just enough to last until you know you will need to replace them. Another simple point to remember is -
do not use your fingers!
Without the harsh chemical preservatives, you can easily introduce bacteria. Use a small spatula or plastic knife or similar sterile utensil to lift out a small amount at a time when using the product.
By themselves, oils and waxes will remain stable. It is the introduction of the herbal infusion, or aloe gel, or unsterilized water that presents the problem of mold and bacteria. It is also possible to make or purchase extracts of the herbs you wish to include and use those in your products, rather than an infusion. ALWAYS BOIL THE WATER AND STERILIZE YOUR CONTAINERS (since boiling water will destroy/melt some plastic containers, use alcohol to sterilize these). There are two natural preservatives which can stabilize your product. Tincture of Benzoin is available through your local pharmacy and has been used for a long time commercially. Gum benzoin, from which the tincture is made, is a gum resin from Asia. It is applied at the rate of 1 drop per ouce of product. Becoming more popular each year is grapefruit seed extract, available through herb supply outlets, and is applied at the same rate. Also known for its preservative qualities is vitamin E. It won't take the place of the benzoin tincture or grapefruit seed extract, but 200 to 400 I.U. per ounce of product will not only help out with longevity, it's also good for the skin.
When adding aloe to your product, be aware fresh aloe gel from a houseplant will develop mold quickly. It is better to purchase food grade aloe gel which has already been stabilized.
When a recipe calls for glycerin - it always means vegetable glycerin. At no time should you use any other type. It is always to be food grade vegetable glycerin.
Oils commonly used in cosmetic preparations are sweet almond, olive, safflower, peanut, corn, wheat germ, jojoba, and small amounts of vitamin E oil. Vitamin E can be purchased in gel caps which can then be pierced and the contents squeezed out. In the following recipes the ingredient lecithin refers to liquid lecithin. All lanolin used is anhydrous lanolin. Lanolin comes in liquid and anhydrous (water removed) forms.
One other ingredient you will require is beeswax. It melts at 148ºF, but the process goes more quickly if you first grate it. A hand held rotary grater with the large holes for grating makes short work of this.
Other tools which you will need are a blender, or mini food processor, or similar item which is capable of making mayonnaise, since the process of combining oils and water is similar. My personal favorite is a Black and Decker Handi-Mixer with a drink attachment. It's a lightweight hand-held unit that does the job well and with little to clean up afterward. You will also need a stainless steel or enamel double boiler. It is absolutely essential to melt the waxes and oils in the top portion of the double boiler over hot water in the bottom pan.
Glycerin & Rosewater
Long known for its soothing properties, this is the easiest of the skin lotions to prepare. For a trial size, combine one ounce of rosewater with one ounce of vegetable glycerin. A 2-oz flip-top bottle makes a handy dispenser.
Hot Weather Spritz
In a small spritzer bottle, combine 1 cup of distilled water plus 3 to 5 drops of essential oil of lavender. Keep refrigerated and spritz on skin to cool off. This is especially nice during hot weather trips. A man might prefer the spicy scent of oil of coriander, while lemon tends to be gender neutral. Lavender water or orange water or other floral water can be purchased for this use, but essential oil and distilled water is far less expensive.
Two ingredients serve as a base for masks: powdered oatmeal and powdered almond. Both can be produced at home by powdering oatmeal or almonds in a coffee grinder. One other choice that bears mention is plain yogurt. It makes a refreshing mask when combined with oatmeal and a little lemon juice. Brewer's yeast can also be used.
To make a mask, add distilled water, a few drops at a time, to a tablespoon or two of the oatmeal or almond powder until you have a paste. Spread on your face, avoiding the eye area, then sit back and rest until the mask dries. When ready, wet and wring a washcloth in water that is as comfortably warm as you can tolerate and place the cloth over your face for a few minutes to soften the mask. Then rinse your face clean with warm water and follow with a cool splash.
You can also purchase floral waters such as Lavender, Rose, or Orange to make the paste, or you could also use honey. Honey and oatmeal masks are often mentioned in very old herbal manuscripts. Whichever choice you make, a mask should be applied once a week to revive the skin by getting rid of the dead skin cells which tend to give one that chalky, just embalmed appearance.
Melt waxes, fats, liquid lecithin, cocoa butter (if used), and honey (if used) in the top of a double boiler over simmering water. Watch that the mixture gets only warm enough to melt the contents. Beeswax should be gratd for easiest melting. Make sure all is blended well and then remove from heat. Allow to cool about a minute. To this add the vitamin E if it is used. Make sure all is well combined.
In a mixer bowl or blender, add the water, glycerin and herb extract (if using), the tincture of Benzoin or grapefruit seed extract, and a few drops of essential oil if desired.
While blender or mixer is operating, slowly drizzle the warm melted oils and waxes into the water mixture. It will become thick. The longer you blend, the fluffier it will become. It will appear to be a little 'loose' at this point, but will continue to harden as it comes to room temperature. Pour into a suitable jar and allow to sit on the counter for 20 to 30 minutes, then cap and store in the refrigerator.
Lightweight Face & Body Cream
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/8 cup sweet almond oil
1/8 cup vegetable glycerin
2/3 cup rosewater (or sterile water)
1 tbsp liquid lecithin
1/4 oz. grated beeswax
9 drops tincture of benzoin
Follow directions as given in Procedure above. Shelf life is about one month.
Aloe Moisturizing Hand Cream
This cream is designed for work-worn hands in need of soothing repair
1/4 cup rosewater
12 drops herbal extract (if desired)
1 tbsp aloe gel
1/8 cup sweet almond oil
1/2 tbsp peanut oil
1 tsp cocoa butter
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp anhydrous lanolin
1/2 tbsp liquid lecithin
1/8 oz. grated beeswax
400 I.U. vitamin E
6 drops tincture of Benzoin
Melt waxes, oils, cocoa butter, lanolin and lecithin and allow to cool a bit as per procedure (above). Place aloe gel in blender and whip for a bit. Add rosewater to aloe and blend. Stir tincture of benzoin (or grapeseed extract, if desired) and vitamin E into the warm oils. With blender running, slowly drizzle the oils into the aloe-water mix. Put up into suitable containers and store in refrigerator. Shelf life is about one month.
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/3 cup sweeet almond oil
3 oz. vegetable glycerin
1/2 tbsp liquid lecithin
1/8 oz grated beeswax
8 drops tincture of benzoin
Melt wax and oils in top of double boiler. Place glycerin in bottom of bowl or blender. Turn on machine and begin to drizzle the oil mix into the glycerin per procedure (above).
MY FAVORITE FACE and HAND CREAM
Over the years I've refined this recipe a number of times, but haven't changed it in the last five years. It works well. I make a batch up every 3 to 4 weeks depending on how fast I go through it. Remember to use boiled (sterile) water and sterilize your jar and cap.
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp coconut oil
a walnut-sized piece of cocoa butter
1/2 tbsp liquid lecithin
1/8 oz bees wax
1200 IU vitamin E
1/3 cup boiled water
1/2 tbsp vegetable glycerin
Combine oils, fats, and waxes in top of double boiler. Melt over hot water. Remove from heat and add vitamin E. Combine 1/3 cup boiled water with vegetable glycerin. Drizzle melted oils and fats into water/glycerin mixture while your beater/blender/mixer is working. See Procedure for making cream above.
Rich Face and Hand Cream
For anyone old enough to need a cream that feeds the skin and holds in whatever moisture is available, apply this cream while the face is still damp after cleaning. Yogurt is also useful for cleansing the face. Follow with your usual make-up. Homemade preparations are not as quickly absorbed into the skin as the commercial varieties. This is something to be aware of and expect, but the results are worth the extra moment or two.
If you are not ready to make an extract, but would like to include herbs, simply replace the rosewater with herbal tea made from 1 tbsp of the ground herbs to 1 cup of distilled (or boiled) water. Use the same herbs listed in the Herbal Extract Recipe. Combine the herbs as listed, then powder enough in a coffee mill to make up 1 tbsp. Place in a bowl and pour 1 cup of water just off the boil over the herbs and allow to steep for 10 minutes, covered. Strain through a coffee filter and measure out the 1/4 cup of herb tea to replace the rosewater.
NOTE: If using the herb tea in place of the rosewater, you will not need to use the extract. You can also substitute the rosewater with distilled water to which 3 drops of essential oil of rose or lavender is added.
Add glycerin and extract (if used) to rosewater and blend. While blender is running, drizzle in the combined melted waxes and oils to which the vitamin E has been added (see procedure above). When well blended, transfer to a suitable container. Cover and refrigerate. Shelf life is about one month unless tincture of benzoin or grapefruit seed extract is used.
An easy variation (and richer for aged and thirsty skin) is to make it without the herbal tea or extract. Simply combine 1/3 cup sterile (boiled) water and 1/2 tbsp vegetable glycerin. Melt the oils, waxes and butters and proceed as per instructions. Use the following ingredients (makes a smaller batch which will last about 3 weeks to 1 month in the refrigerator): 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 tbsp coconut oil, 1/2 tbsp cocoa butter, 1/2 tbsp lecithin, 1/8 oz beeswax, 1200 IU Vitamin E.
Petroleum jelly has such a wealth of uses that it is nice to know how to prepare your own non-petroleum substitute. If you check, you will discover that many over-the-counter salves, oinments, liniments and cosmetics have petroleum jelly as a base.
A softer or firmer gel can be made by changing the amount of beeswax used. Try the recipe as written, then decide if it suits or if you would like to change the next batch to a different consistency. For a softer gel, use 1 oz. of beeswax. For a firmer gel, use 1½ oz. of beeswax. For a very soft gel - more like an ointment in consistency - use 1/2 oz of beeswax.
Combine 1¼ oz. grated beeswax and 3/4 cup sweet almond oil (or olive oil) in the top of a double boiler. With water in the lower pan at a simmer, thoroughly melt ingredients together. Remove from heat and pour into suitable container(s). This recipe will fill two 3½ to 4 oz. containers. This allows one jar to be used 'as is' and the other to be used as a base for products you wish to make.
This is a good way to use up those colors of lipstick you aren't very fond of. It is also possible to create new colors by mixing small amounts of differing colors. Keep a record of what you use and how much in case it turns out to be a really good color. You can control the hardness of the product by using less or more beeswax according to preference. If it doesn't turn out quite right, simply toss the experiment back into the top of the double boiler and melt it down again, then add a little more of whatever you need.
1 Tbsp non-petroleum jelly
lipstick the size of a small pea
1/2 tsp grated beeswax
In the top of a double boiler, over barely simmering water, melt beeswax and jelly together till both are well combined. Add the piece of lipstick. Continue to add small amounts (if necessary) until the desired color is reached. Pour into a small lip balm tub or tube and allow to set up (see resources for obtaining hard-to-find herbalware). You can also improve the healing quality of this by adding the contents of one 400 IU capsule of vitamin E.
Even Easier Lip Gloss
Follow directions as for Lip Gloss (above) and combine:
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp sweet almond oil
pea-size piece of lipstick color
1 tsp grated beeswax
200 I.U. vitamin E
NOTE: The difference between these two products is a matter of consistency and which one you prefer.