Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Being thankful / being thoughtful, pt. 3 - Body Products

Body Products
I made three types of body products, and I'll probably never spend $ at Lush again since I've learned how to make wonderful stuff at home. (Also, this way, I was able to control my own inputs, which allowed me to NOT include some weird chemical stuff that they happen to use.)

Bath bombs
I made three types of bath bombs: one for kiddos (calming, colored and/or sparkly); one for sore muscles and relaxation; and one initially designed for some pregnant friends of mine, but that also work well for anyone who is trying to heal a wound, plagued by hemorrhoids, or prone to bouts of elevated blood pressure.

The basic recipe is simple:
2 parts baking soda
1 part citric acid
1 part either: corn starch (good for the skin) or Epsom salts (great for sore muscles, stress, blood pressure issues)

The calming ones for kids included corn starch, as well as organic lavender essential oil and chamomile tea leaves. I made some of them pink and sparkly (and also included pretty hot-pink hibiscus leaves in those bombs) and some of them a really nice sea green color.

The basic Epsom salt bombs also included organic spearmint essential oil mixed with organic lavender essential oil, and these smell heavenly in a way that I can't really explain here. Fresh and relaxing all at once, and they make a really pretty stark-sparkly (because of the Epsom salts) white treat.

I am particularly happy with the third variant on this theme. I originally designed these for a couple of friends of mine who are just about to have children, as a sort of therapeutic for what the body goes through, but they’re also just generally healing. Along with baking soda and citric acid, these have a good deal of Epsom salt, which is great for sore muscles, magnesium deficiencies, headaches, and to help healing. I’ve also included three separate types of herbs (which I ground up with the Epsom salt, using an old Cuisinart mixer): oat straw, yarrow, and witch hazel. Oat straw is great if you have anything like varicose veins or vascular issues in general (like high blood pressure), and works well on the skin, too. Yarrow is really excellent for healing hemorrhoids (which is why it was originally in the mama-made ones), for alleviating cramps, and for helping deep/longstanding wounds heal, but it’s also generally a good tonic, which is nice with so many other things that work more deeply in the body. Witch hazel is good at reducing swelling and inflammation in general. Together, they also likely help alleviate pain, and promote good blood flow (and thus, healing). The essential oils are a blend (all organic or wildcrafted) of peru balsam, frankincense, and patchouli. Peru balsam is a good anti-inflammatory and helps with joint pain, plus it’s great for the skin. Frankincense is also really good for the skin, and is another anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic component. Patchouli is a good stress reliever, and good at balancing skin conditions. If you believe the lore surrounding herbals and whatnot, then this mix should also provide a good balance of grounding as well as connecting to deep intuition – which strikes me as a great side benefit for a bath. If you suffer from anything like headaches, nervous tension, or arthritis, this should help.

Hand/body scrubbing salts & sugars
I made two simple scrub recipes, one from sugar and coconut oil, scented with grated ginger and vanilla, and the other from kosher salt, olive and coconut oil, and chamomile leaves. The first is refreshing and generally gentler on the skin (sugar is a great moisturizer), while the saltier version is really good to help you relax and scrub the dry bits from your feet. I packaged these up in some Mason jars, and tied tags to them with the same yarn that I used to wrap the brown kraft paper I used instead of wrapping paper this year.

Like the bath bombs, this recipe is all about the right ratios and otherwise playing with any extra therapeutics or essential oils that you have on hand:

2 1/2 cups of scrubber (sugar or salt)
1 cup of carrier oil (can be coconut, olive, sesame, jojoba, etc., or a mix thereof. All of these have specific therapeutic properties, so your choices might depend on that, and on economics, too. I found really great organic, unrefined coconut oil on sale at Whole Foods, and bought a ton of it - which I then use both for cooking/eating and also for making body items. Being on the lookout for deals like that can really be a great way to save AND to use the quality of ingredient that you want.)
Essential oil, if desired
Tea of your choice, if desired (chamomile is great for scrubs like this)
Shavings of something like ginger or orange peel, if desired

Incidentally, these make an excellent post-diaper-change hand cleanser - your hands end up totally soft, and smelling like sweet goodness, instead of, you know, poo. 

Lotion bars
I have a bit of a confession to make: one of the reasons that I was so keen on making these this season is to see how well they matched up against a favorite product. I absolutely love Lush's "King of Skin" bar, but generally can't justify spending $14 a month on something so non-necessary. For my purposes - soft, pleasantly-scented skin, just-outta-the-shower-ease, general inexpensiveness, and NO crap ingredients or weird non-pronounceables - these are a total win.

I've adjusted the ratios a bit here from my original recipe; the first batch I made weren't quite melty enough, so I dialed back the beeswax a bit, and the cocoa butter scent was a bit overwhelming to me, so I reduced that and upped the shea and coconut oil contents instead. However, you could easily replace any or all of the shea butter with cocoa butter (it tends to be a bit cheaper) and have a similarly luxurious product.

I used a silicon brioche pan for my molds, and it worked very well, creating bars that were reasonably palm-sized but not too slow to melt, either. Each of the 12 cavities holds just over 2 ounces of material, so I planned to make 24 ounces of my lotion bar mixture.

The basic recipe:
4 ounces of beeswax pastilles (these are much easier to get to melt - still no small feat - than the larger discs that you can also get)
8 ounces of coconut oil
8 ounces of shea butter
4 ounces of cocoa butter

Put these ingredients, in this order, in a double boiler (or a bowl that fits well enough over a pot of almost-simmering water). This melting process takes longer than you might think; the coconut oil will liquify almost immediately, but the other two oils will take longer to do so, and the beeswax pellets will only slowly, slowly melt away. Just keep stirring, and try not to let any condensation from the simmering water below make it into your oil bath. If you are using a metal double boiler to melt the wax and plan on adding essential oils, be sure to have a glass bowl (preferably with a pourable spout) handy for pouring your warmed oil into. If you aren't adding essential oils, you can pour directly from your double boiler into the silicon molds.

I also added a mix of essential oils to my bars. First, I prepared a mixing vial (just a little amber 1 ounce glass), filling it about one third of the way with jojoba oil. I then mixed in, very slowly, swirling after each addition, a combination of the following: peru balsam (oh my god, I love how this stuff smells); sweet orange oil; frankincense; patchouli; and the tiniest amount of clove bud oil. These were picked for their general good-skin properties, but also because they promote relaxation without inducing sleepiness - something that I can definitely use as I'm stressed and getting ready for work. Once I found the right balance, I added the entire vial to my warm melted oil mixture (now in glass), stirred to incorporate, and then poured the molds immediately.

Because there is still a fairly high proportion of beeswax in the molds, the oils set pretty quickly, so you want to pour as quickly as you can neatly do so. Place your silicon mold on a baking sheet (or something similarly rigid - this makes it easier to move), and then pour away. Put the filled mold on baking sheet in the fridge for about 20 minutes, and then they should be set. Pop them out of their molds and wrap in wax paper or put in a plastic bag.

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