Back To The Basics: An Introduction to Fresh Lotion and a Recipe!

What is all natural, anyway?

Let’s get this out there right away.  You cannot buy a truly all natural, truly preservative-free lotion.  Why?  Because lotions are made with water, and water is a great medium for growing bacteria.  Lotions with no preservative will not last longer than a few months.  This is completely unacceptable for commercial products that sit on the shelf for months or years before being sold.  A preservative MUST be used in commercial products.

Second, there are no true all natural preservatives.  Some oils like rosemary, have natural antibacterial properties, but none are strong enough to allow a lotion to sit on the shelf for many months.  Some oils, like vitamin E, are antioxidants and will help keep the oils in the lotion from going rancid, but they do not prevent bacteria growth.

Third, the companies that tout their products as being all natural will ALL contain SOME form of preservative that may be derived from nature, but have been changed in some way to make them actually prohibit the growth of bacteria.  The “changing” of those ingredients, or the refining or processing of them, no longer makes them truly all natural.  Grapefruit seed extract is a good example.  It sounds very natural.  It is not.  In fact, some studies indicate that it actually contains, among other things, parabens.

So, this brings me to the point of my post (and much of my life, I have discovered): if you want to make something that is really all natural, you have to make it yourself, and make only small amounts of it so that you don’t have to throw it out if it goes bad over time.  But to be honest, I’d rather take the risk of my lotion growing mold than slather myself with preservatives  that may ultimately contribute to cancer.  That is why I am sharing with you the concept of “fresh” lotions.  We have no trouble making fresh meals, so perhaps we need to reintroduce the age-old (think pre-preservative era) fresh body products too.

Before the invention of chemical preservatives, people really DID use moisturizers.  It was possible to take care of your skin back then.  Cold creams have been around for hundreds, even thousands of years.  The invention of cold cream goes back to Galen, in second century Greece and is still used now.

Take of white wax four ounces, oyl of roses omphacine a pound; melt in a double vessel, then powr it out into another, by degrees putting in cold water, and often powring it out of one vessel into another, stirring it till it be white ; last of all wash it in rose water, adding a little rose water and rose vineger.
—Nicholas Culpeper (1650), London Dispensatory

 

Before you leave a comment that says something like “this product will go bad in a few weeks or a few months without a preservative” please be advised that I am well aware of that.  I am recommending that you make a small batch and use it up before it can go bad.  Refrigeration can help prolong the shelf life.  Check your products for mold, discoloration, separation or off-smell and discard if it doesn’t seem right.  So far I have yet to have any of mine go bad, despite sitting on my bedside table for 2 months.  And in the meantime, enjoy your fresh body products.  After all, who wants to drink canned milk over fresh milk?  Or eat canned apples instead of a fresh one? Especially ones that are laced with preservatives?  Give your body fresh products with fresh ingredients and see the difference.
What is lotion, anyway?
Let’s talk quickly about lotion.  Lotion is a combination of water and oil to create a less-greasy, smooth product that will make a great hand, body and facial moisturizer.  Water and oil do not naturally combine.  Oil will sit on top of the water.  The only way to combine it is by emulsification, or blending it to force the water to combine with the oil, much like making mayonnaise.  They will combine easier and stay together forever if you have an emulsifier.  True emulsifiers are not natural.  Even the plant-based emulsifiers are highly processed.  Beeswax can be combined with borax to make a true emulsifier.  I am not really a fan of borax and would rather not use it.  You can use beeswax as an emulsifier on its own.  It  is more of a mechanical emulsification (ie. it might eventually separate over time) but it has worked well for me and lasts for months, which is as long as your ingredients will last anyway.
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So, stick with small batches and all-natural ingredients, and create the highest quality body products that can be offered with fresh, safe ingredients.
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Basic hand lotion recipe:

Materials

  • Stick blender (immersion blender)
  • Kitchen scale
  • Wide mouth mason jar
  • Spoon
  • Small, thick-bottomed pot
  • Small pyrex liquid measuring cup
  • Spatula

Ingredients

Directions

  1. In a thick-bottomed pot melt beeswax with oil just until it is melted.  Pour into a wide mouth mason jar, set aside and allow to cool until room temperature.
  2. The following ingredients must be at room temperature before beginning.  In a measuring cup weigh and add water, rosemary oil or vitamin E, and essential oil.  Set aside.
  3. When wax and oil combo has cooled down but is still soft, begin blending with a stick blender.  SLOWLY pour your water mixture into the jar in a slow, continuous stream, while blending constantly. Circle around the mixture to make sure it is all blended in, moving the blender up and down, around and around.  Continue to blend for 3-5 minutes to ensure your mixture has emulsified.
  4. Store in a sealed container for up to 2 months.  Refrigeration will help prolong shelf life.

This recipe makes a very basic hand lotion that is great to learn on.  You might want to skip the essential oils and rosemary/vitamin E oils while you practice making emulsions until you have it down pat.  Over the next few weeks I will be adding more recipes that will build off this basic recipe and provide different kinds of skin care.  Watch for the next post which will include a hand lotion with added ingredients to make a drier lotion that helps repair skin damage while soothing irritated or chapped skin.  Enjoy fresh body products!  After all, fresh IS best!

Notes:

  • It is very important to combine your ingredients when they have reached room temperature or your emulsion will fail and your water will separate.  If this happens, drain off the water and use the lotion as a body butter.  It will be greasier but will still make a nice product.
  • Always ensure your hands are clean when you use the lotion to prevent bacteria from entering your lotion.
  • It is helpful to sterilize your utensils first with boiling water to help prevent bacteria from entering the lotion.
  • You can interchange or combine other liquid oils.  Grapeseed oil is known to be one of the least greasy of the oils.
  • If you want to add a solid oil (for example coconut oil or cocoa butter) to your recipe make sure most of the recipe is still a liquid oil so the product doesn’t get too solid at room temperature before you have combined the water and the oil.
  • You can use any infused oil in place of plain oil.  (For example, lavender or calendula-infused oils.)
  • You can use any hydrosol or floral water to replace the distilled water. Check the ingredients first to make sure they are pure. Some people have luck using flower “teas” such as chamomile, green tea or calendula but note that this might increase the spoiling rate.
  • When choosing essential oils keep in mind that citrus-based oils can be photo-toxic. Used in moisturizers on skin that is exposed to the sun can cause severe sunburns.
  • I have linked ingredients to Mountain Rose Herbs, a company that provides high quality, organic ingredients from sustainable sources. Mountain Rose Herbs is my first choice in companies that provide quality ingredients.  Alternatively, most ingredients can be purchased in natural food stores.
  • Here is a link to make your own infused oils

This post has been shared on Homestead Barn Hop #105, Small Footprint Friday #23Wild Crafting Wednesday #82, Waste Not Want Not Wednesday #24Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #67Simple Living WednesdayJoybilee Farm’s Homestead Abundance and Real Food Forager’s Fat Tuesday.

You might also be interested in Chamomile-Infused Fresh Hand and Body Lotion.

Whipped Body Butter Recipe: 2 Simple Ingredients

“Decadent, smooth and rich.”

This Christmas I am, once again, attempting to make (almost) all of my Christmas gifts.  A great gift to give is something that can be used up.  Natural body products are not cheap to buy, but they can be fun and economical to make.

Body butters are oil-based and contain no water-based ingredients.  They are a mixture of oils and butters.  They are very hydrating, but they tend to be greasy.  I have been searching for a way to make oil-based butters smooth and light.  I have finally come across a simple way of dealing with butters: you whip them.  Like whipping cream.  This makes them soft, light, and less oily since there is air whipped into the product.  You can add any essential oil you like, and the overall appearance, texture and hydration is decadent.  The final product feels and looks like whipped cream.  I was very tempted to eat mine…
One thing to keep in mind with whipped butters, however, is that they are really only an oil and they will “melt” back into their oil state IF the temperature at which they melt is reached.  For example, a coconut oil-based whipped butter will melt at 24C (depending on what temperature your oil melts at.  Different coconut oils have different melting points).  Other butters may have a slightly higher melting point.  If your house gets higher than that melting point, or you keep it in a steamy bathroom, or on top of the dishwasher (which I did) it will melt back into an oil and you will have to re-whip it.  You can keep it in the fridge if you are worried about the temperature.

Does it stay like whipped cream for a long time!  YES!  It does.  How long?  I don’t know, but it hasn’t melted on me yet, and so I’d say weeks at least, if not permanently.With a mild and delicious cocoa fragrance, it isn’t necessary to add extra fragrance, but you certainly can if you like. Do not use citrus essential oils in body products since they are photo-toxic when exposed to sunshine. I am not a huge fan of the smell of coconut oil and so I choose the coconut oil that is fragrance-free.

Is this product non-greasy?  No.  It doesn’t contain alcohol or any other ingredients that “dry it out”.  But it is much less greasy than heavy, unwhipped body butter, and it will depend on the butters and oils you use (some are less greasy than others).

Over the next few weeks I will be playing with different ingredients, including kokum and mango butter, two butters which are less oily than cocoa butter and coconut oil.  I have shea butter which is extremely hydrating, and I will also be experimenting with infusing herbal extracts such as calendula, chamomile, green tea and lavender, into some of these oils to make whipped butter recipes that provide soothing, calming and anti-aging properties.  Subscribe to be updated regularly or “like” us on facebook so you know when these new recipes are available.

Ingredients:
6 oz. Coconut Oil (fractionated coconut oil is less greasy but any kind will work)
2 oz. Cocoa Butter
Essential oil if desired.

Materials:

  • Electric mixer and stainless steel bowl
  • Scale
  • Small pot
  • Pyrex measuring cup
  • Whisk or fork
  • Spoon
  • Spatula
  • Storage jar and lid

Directions:

  • In a small pot or double boiler, over low heat, melt 2 oz. of cocoa butter.
  • Add and melt 6 oz. of coconut oil.

  • Once oils are melted but NOT boiling, immediately remove from heat, pour into mixing bowl and refrigerate.
  • Once your mixture looks slightly opaque, remove from fridge and whip.  I use a stand mixer which makes the process go a lot faster.  It will get creamy quickly, but won’t whip immediately.
  • Once it is creamy put it back in the fridge for another 5 minutes or so and whip again. 
  • Once it starts to whip like whipping cream, you know you have it.  If it doesn’t, put it back in the fridge for a few more minutes and try again.  It could take up to 10 minutes of solid whipping to turn it into whipped butter.  It will get quite “stiff” and feel like chocolate mousse if you whip it long enough.
  • Once it starts to form soft peaks you can add your essential oil (if desired) and you are done!
  • Spoon it into jars and put lids on.
  • Store in a cool location.

 

Notes:

  • If you are looking for a good source to purchase body product ingredients check out Mountain Rose Herbs.  Exceptional quality, certified organic ingredients.
  • Cocoa butter helps increase or maintain skin elasticity and is very hydrating.
  • Coconut oil is, among many other things, rich in antioxidants and contains natural microbial and antibacterial properties making it a great oil choice for body products.
  • A little goes a long way.  Use a small amount!

This post has been shared on Frugally Sustainable’s Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways 56, Farm Girl Friday Blogfest #12, Homestead Barn Hop #91, Seasonal Celebration Wednesday #42, Wildcrafting Wednesday and Waste Not Want Not Wednesday #8.

 

 

Plastic Wrap Alternative: DIY Beeswax Cotton Wraps

I was first introduced to beeswax-coated cotton wraps when someone gave me one made locally They quickly became an important part of our food storage regime. They are beautiful, functional, reusable, economical and eco-friendly.  And, as I soon discovered, not difficult to make.

I have been trying to cut back our kitchen plastic usage for years.  I don’t trust plastic especially when it is holding food, and it is simply NOT sustainable.  I replaced all my plastic storage containers and zip lock bags with glass or stainless steel ones.  Other than the cost, those weren’t too difficult to switch over to.  The item that I had a greater challenge replacing was plastic wrap.  The convenience is difficult to replace.  These beeswax wraps, however, have single handedly eliminated plastic wrap from my kitchen.  They are great for wrapping cheese, covering dishes, or folding into snack bags.  They can even be sewn into small snack bags to be used at school or work if desired.

Plastic wrap (I used Saran wrap) is a wasteful, single-use, petroleum product that I am convinced is not an acceptable part of natural living.  When used to store or heat food, plastic leaches toxins into our food that we then consume.  Many studies have now proven that BPA, a chemical that is in many plastics, causes a number of unacceptable health issues in those who consume food products in contact with it.  All plastics contain chemicals, and some are not well-studied to prove their safety. Plastic wrap is no exception.  Beeswax cotton wraps provide a safe and effective alternative.

We have beeswax available all the time since we keep honey bees.  Beeswax is 100% natural, non-toxic, and relatively inexpensive.  I use it in my body product recipes such as hand lotions, body butters, deodorant and balms.  It is water-repellent and has natural antibacterial properties.  When applied to cotton, it renders the cotton “unbreathable” which helps maintain the proper moisture content when storing food.  These qualities make it a great candidate for a plastic wrap alternative.

When choosing your fabric, use 100% cotton (organic is preferable).  The ideal thickness is a sheeting cotton.  (Think, your bed sheets or pillow case).  You can reuse old sheets or pillow cases, or you can choose beautiful fabrics for fun.

If you would rather purchase these wraps made in North America by a sustainable company and priced reasonably, click here.

Materials

  • beeswax, grated (or pellets).  I use about 0.5 oz. of beeswax per wrap
  • 100% cotton fabric, cut to appropriate size (12×12 in. or 8×8 in. works for us)
  • old cookie sheet (that will be used for this purpose only, forever after)
  • paintbrush (that will be used for this purpose only, forever after)
  • chop stick for stirring the wax as it melts
  • cheese grater (used exclusively for beeswax)
  • a make-shift clothesline and clothes pins
  • oven

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 185F.  (Higher will burn the wax.  I know from experience…)
  2. Place pre cut fabric on cookie sheet.
  3. Sprinkle evenly and lightly with grated beeswax.  You don’t need a lot!
  4. Place in preheated oven.  Watch carefully!  This should take 5 minutes or less.
  5. As soon as the beeswax is just melted, remove from oven.
  6. Spread wax evenly with paintbrush to cover over any spots that are not yet coated.
  7. Hang on makeshift clothes line with clothes pegs, to dry.  Once cooled, you can use it!

Notes

  • If your wax starts to harden before you have evenly spread it, simply reheat it in the oven and try again.
  • This recipe uses less than 1 oz. of beeswax per sheet.
  • If you have a lot of wax left on the cookie sheet, place another piece of fabric on empty cookie sheet and it will absorb the extra wax.
  • All of the supplies except the beeswax can be purchased cheaply at thrift stores and can be used again for other DIY projects involving beeswax.  Purchase the beeswax through Mountain Rose Herbs, a trusted company carrying all sorts of ingredients for body products.
  • Wash in cool water with a mild soap.  I use liquid castile soap.
  • Each wrap will last several months or more depending on usage.

This post has been linked to Frugally Sustainable’s Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #54, Fresh Eggs Daily: Farm Girl Blog Hop #10, Homestead Revivial’s Barn Hop # 89, 116th Wildcrafting Wednesday and Real Food Forager’s Fat Tuesday November 20th.

 

Homemade Immune-boosting “Tea” Recipe for fighting Colds and Flu.

I am a firm believer in the health benefits of good food, in getting your vitamins from your diet, and in boosting your immune system naturally, without supplements.  We are fortunate to have easy access to a variety of healthy food, and many of them are high in antioxidants, vitamins and antibacterial properties.  I have combined a few of them to create an immune-boosting tea that tastes so good you will want it every day, not just when you feel like you are getting sick!  With the help of this beverage I have fought off numerous colds that were showing ominous symptoms.

Ginger has natural anti-inflammatory properties.  When steamed and inhaled, it helps open up the nasal cavities so you can breathe better.

Honey is naturally antibacterial, and also has antioxidant properties. When added to a drink, honey can help soothe sore throats and dry coughs.

Cinnamon also has antibacterial properties, and has been used as a pain killer.

Blueberries are high in vitamin C which is beneficial in fighting colds, and is high in antioxidants.

Lemons are high in vitamin C.

If you feel as if you are coming down with a cold or flu, make your self a cup of this fruity tea, drink it up and get to bed!

Ingredients:
1 inch of ginger root
1/2 c. blueberries, fresh or frozen, or 1/4 c. dehydrated.
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tbsp. honey

Directions for making tea:

Peel an inch of ginger root, and bring to a boil with one cup of water.  Add blueberries.  Simmer for 20 minutes.  Strain into a mug.
Add boiling water to ginger/blueberry juice to equal one mug full.
Stir in lemon juice, cinnamon and honey.
Sit back and enjoy!

Note:
Ginger root and blueberries can be kept and reboiled once for a second batch of equally potent tea.

This post has been linked to Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways 27.

 

 

Homemade Borax-Free Dishwasher Detergent

I have tried many different “eco-friendly” dishwasher detergents over the years.  From 7th Generation to Ecos, Method to Ecover, I just couldn’t find one that worked very well.  And with a price as high as those, I certainly wanted something that worked.

Eventually I came across a recipe to make my own dishwasher detergent.  It contained washing soda, borax, salt and citric acid.  It worked… somewhat.  I wasn’t satisfied with the results and neither was I satisfied with the ingredient Borax.  I am not convinced Borax is safe, especially when used on eating utensils etc.  After discussing the homemade recipe with some others, the thought came up “what if we just removed the Borax?”  So when I ran out of my detergent I did just that.  I removed the Borax.   I also added white distilled vinegar as a rinse aid.  The combination provides great results!!

So here is my borax-free dishwasher detergent recipe:

  • 1 cup washing soda (old recipe used  baking soda)
  • 1/4 c. citric acid
  • 1/4 c. coarse salt
  • 10-15 drops of citrus essential oil (Optional.  Orange, grapefruit, or lemon essential oils have great cleaning as well as antibacterial properties.)
  • Distilled white vinegar (in the rinse aid compartment)

Mix first 3 ingredients well in an air tight container. Add essential oil.  Mix again.  Fill your rinse aid compartment with undiluted white distilled vinegar.

Use 1 tsp. detergent for average loads.
Use 1 tbsp. detergent for extra greasy, dirty loads.

UPDATE:  More is not better!  If you are having any build up issues use less! 

Where to find ingredients:
Citric acid is easily purchased in bulk at  U-Brew  stores.  You may find it at grocery stores near the canning supplies, or in the bulk section.  You can also buy it at Mountain Rose Herbs Co.   Some people use plain, uncolored koolaid and get the same effects.  (Make sure you use the colorless koolaid or you will dye your dishwasher!) This is because koolaid is very high in citric acid.  I don’t like the other ingredients in koolaid though so I choose not to use it.  Lemi Shine is also sometimes used to replace citric acid.  I feel the same way about lemi shine as I do about koolaid.
Coarse salt: same as pickling salt.  Found in most grocery stores or purchase coarse sea salt online at Mountain Rose Herbs.  Don’t use regular table salt because of the iodine content.
Baking Soda: We all know where to find it!
Essential Oil: Found in most natural food stores or online at Mountain Rose Herbs.
Tips:

  • I rinse off my dishes reasonably well ever since I switched to chemical-free dishwasher detergents.  Rinsing off grease and baked-on food will help any cleaner, not just a homemade one.
  • Hard water: I don’t know if this would work in hard water or not because my water is soft.  However, my own research indicates that citric acid is often used in addition to regular dishwasher detergents to help prevent mineral deposits on the dishes.  Try it out and let me know!
  • I placed one glass in the dishwasher and left it in for many loads as my tester.  I have done over 30 loads with this recipe to date.

Cost: (based on Mountain Rose Herbs prices)
5 lb. of citric acid is $20.
5 lb. of baking soda is $11.75.
5 lb. of coarse sea salt is $15.
Essential oil (optional) varies in price..

Is it worth it to make your own?
Based on the prices above (not including essential oils), and the fact that there are 36 tbsp. of sugar in a lb. (similar texture and weight to this detergent), I worked this detergent out to cost $0.08 a load. 

7th Generation dishwashing tabs (about 1 tbsp. each) are $6.99 for 20. (based on online price from London Drugs)  So 7th Generation dishwashing tabs cost $0.35 cents a load.   

You’ll be saving a lot of money (not to mention your health and the environment) by making your own eco-friendly detergent.

This post has been linked to Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways #25, Simple Living Wednesday, Homestead Helps Wednesday #5, Homestead Revival Barn Hop #61MorrisTribe’s Homesteading Blog Carnival #6, Whole Foods Wednesday #56 and  Fat Tuesday.