Make Home-made Handsalve: An Introduction to Carrier Oils

Many skincare products that you buy at the store contain petrochemicals, synthetic fragrances, and other products that are known skin irritants. Making your own skincare products is a great way to have control over what goes into them and what you put on your skin. Making your own products also allows you to easily customize them to your own specific needs. Different types of oils have different properties to them and you can select the ones that provide that benefits you are looking for.

A simple skincare product that you can make at home is hand salve. I like to keep a tin of homemade hand salve around for when my hands and cuticles get dry from working in the yard and around the house. Made with natural oils and beeswax, it is soothing to dry and chapped skin and cuticles. Keep a tin of it in your purse or next to the kitchen sink for just when you need it.

You will want to start by selecting one or more carrier oils that are appropriate for your skin type. The carrier oil will be the base of your salve and will be the ingredient that you use the most of. Below I have put together a list of some more common carrier oils and the different properties they have. These can be found at any health food store and some of them can even be found at the grocery store. In addition to the carrier oil you will also need beeswax. The beeswax makes the salve solid at room temperature. This is something that you can get from your local apiarist at the farmer’s market. It can also be found at healthfood stores and some hardware stores. You can customize your salve with the addition of different essential oils. There have been many books written about the different essential oils and their properties and I could never even hope to scratch the surface of it in a single blog post. If you do choose to experiment with essential oils remember you just need a tiny bit. A few drops is all it takes. The website Garden of Wisdom is a great place to find different essential oils and see what their different properties are.

Common Carrier Oils

Here is a list of common carrier oils used. These are all relatively easy to find. If you would like to see a more extensive list with some of the more exotic oils, once again, check out Garden of Wisdom.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil – Olive oil is a common oil that is rich in vitamin E, vitamin K, phenols, and squalene. Olive oil is known to me excellent for moisturizing and softening the skin. Compounds in olive oil also neutralize free radicals and help repair damage done to the skin from the sun, regulate sebum production, and have anti-aging properties.

Expeller Extracted Grapeseed Oil – Grapeseed oil is composed of mostly linoleic acid. Linoleic acid is a moisturizing compound. It is also effective in fading hyperpigmentation and acts as an anti-inflammatory, soothing irritation to the skin. When buying grapeseed oil be sure to get expeller extracted oil. If it is does not say it was expeller pressed then it was most likely hexane expressed, which uses a solvent to extract the oil from the grapeseeds. Spectrum, Loriva and La Tourangelle are all examples of brands that use the expeller extraction method instead of hexane extraction.

Sweet Almond Oil – Almond oil is one of the least greasy in texture and has a sweet and nutty aroma. It is composed of mainly monounsaturated oleic acid and linoleic acid. Oleic acid is a powerful emollient, which means it softens the external layers of the skin and hydrates the skin. And similar to grapeseed oil, the linoleic acid in sweet almond oil acts as a moisturizer and anti-inflammatory.

Argan Oil – Argan Oil is also rich in oleic and linoleic acids. It is also rich in vitamin E, which functions as an antioxidant.

Avocado Oil – Avocado oil is a heavier oil rich in oleic and linoleic acids, potassium and vitamins E, A, and D.

Jojoba Oil – Jojoba oil technically isn’t an oil but is actually a wax. However, it is liquid at room temperature and has a consistency similar to oils. Jojoba oil is very similar to sebum, which is produced by the sebaceous glands, and keeps the hair and skin soft and supple. Because of it’s similarity to the bodies natural moisturizer it works well for this purpose and absorbs rapidly into the skin.

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Homemade Hand Salve

Making the actual salve is a pretty simple process. I used a stovetop to heat the oil and melt the wax, but you can use the microwave if you want. This recipe makes an amount that fits nicely into a 4oz widemouth ball jar. You can double or quadruple the recipe and give the others away as gifts! For the beeswax, you can either buy pastilles or just grate a solid piece of wax with a cheese grater.

The Recipe

  • 4oz jar or other containers of equal volume
  • ⅜ cup (~6 Tablespoons) of carrier oil (you can use any combination that you like. I used a blend of ¼ cup olive and ⅛ cup grapeseed oil.)
  • 2 Tablespoons of grated bee’s wax or bee’s wax pastilles
  • optional: essential oils (if you are using essential oils, I would not use any more than 15-20 drops total of whatever combination you choose. I chose to use 5 drops of rosemary essential oil and 15 drops of grapefruit essential oil.)

Put the carrier oils into a metal saucepan if you are heating them on the stovetop or a microwave safe container if you are heating them in the microwave. Add the grated bee’s wax or pastilles. Slowly heat the oil until it is just hot enough to melt the wax. It is important to not overheat the oils because it will cause the structure of some of the fats and nutrients to breakdown. The phenols in the essential oils are also sensitive to heat and can lose their potency it the oil mixture it too hot when they are added.

Once the wax has melted and is stirred in you can add your essential oils. I always start out with just a few drops at first when I am trying a new combination. You can always add more if you like.

After you have gotten the salve mixture to you liking, pour it into the ball jar or any other container that you are using. If you can find old typewriter tape tins they make excellent containers to put the salve in that you can keep in your purse. Used mint tins would work great for this as well. Set the salve somewhere where is will not be disturbed until it cools and solidifies.

Now you can bust out your homemade hand salve whenever your skin needs a little hydration. Try it out on your arms and legs too, it works wonders on dry knees and elbows.

Posted in Lifestyle.

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