Monday, November 18, 2013

Lotion Bars for Very Dry Skin

The air is drying out as winter makes its way, leading to dry, cracked skin on the hands. I wash my hands about a trazillion times a day. My knuckles were so dry and rough that they were beginning to itch and sting. I knew the next step was for them to start cracking and bleeding. I needed something to protect them and restore them.

I looked through my cabinet of goodies and threw together some ingredients I thought would be helpful. My original recipe needed some tweaking, but now I have lotion bars that are working great for my skin. After only a few uses I noticed a big improvement. About a week after beginning to use these my skin is back to normal. No rough patches and no worries about cracking the skin.

I keep the lotion bars above my kitchen sink and upstairs. I use them every time I wash my hands and any time I feel I need a little extra softening on my hands. I am pretty much addicted to the lotion bars now!

These bars are super easy to make once you have the ingredients. You can even make lip balm with some of the same ingredients (I will be posting that recipe, too).

Now, go out and get (or order) these ingredients if you do not already have them and get started. You will not be sorry!

Beeswax - This will keep the bars from melting too fast when you are using them and also locks the moisture into the skin. I tried making these without beeswax but I definitely like the way the beeswax holds the bars together and it makes my skin so much more smooth.
Cocoa Butter - It smells great and is wonderful on the skin.
Olive Oil - I have found olive oil to be very nourishing to my skin. Plus, it is easy to obtain and I usually have large amounts in my kitchen already. It is unlikely that olive oil will irritate the skin so this is usually a good option even for those with sensitive skin.
Sweet Almond Oil - I recently started using sweet almond oil when I came across it for another recipe. It is a good carrier oil with benefits for the skin. Please check with a doctor before using this oil if there is a known almond or tree nut allergy. Coconut, olive or grapeseed oil could be substituted.
Vitamin E Oil - Helps the skin to heal.
Argan Oil - Helps to heal the skin quickly. This is an expensive oil, but it does wonders for the skin. We have used it to help clear up eczema on one of the boys. I believe this is a key ingredient if you have skin that is already damaged, though the bars will still be helpful even if this oil is replaced by another (use vitamin E in place of the argan if you would like).
Tea Tree Oil - An antimicrobial that will help kill harmful bacteria and viruses on the skin. Tea tree oil needs to be used with caution. This is what I wrote about it on my other blog, Boys with Braids:
Use with caution, as swallowing tea tree oil can cause serious health problems. Also, using tea tree oil without mixing it properly with a carrier oil can cause skin irritation. Tea tree oil should be 5% or less of any mixture. This is just under half an ounce (0.4 ounces, to be more precise) of tea tree oil or less for every 8 ounces of carrier oil. In teaspoons, this is 2.5 teaspoons of tea tree oil for 8 ounces of carrier oil. This recipe uses much less, so should not cause irritation for most people. Tea tree oil is poisonous for animals in even small amounts (used internally or topically), so keep this away from your pets. Click the link to read more about tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is fine when used properly, but can be left out if you have concerns about using it.
Lavender Essential Oil - Lavender soothes itchy skin. It also has a pleasant, relaxing aroma. If using the minimum amount in the recipe, it will not overpower the cocoa scent. At the maximum amount, the lavender will predominate and the cocoa scent will not be very noticeable at all. An alternative that goes very well with the cocoa scent is peppermint. This will also sooth the skin.

You can swap out some of the oils for others that you may already have or ones that you would prefer. For instance, you could use coconut oil in place of the almond oil and/or olive oil. Use extra vitamin E oil instead of tea tree oil or argan oil. You can use any essential oil scent that you would prefer, or skip it entirely. Whatever you do, keep the same measurements (the essential oil is such a small amount that I do not think it would matter if you left it out without replacing it). If you choose to use coconut oil instead of olive and almond oils, use the same amount of coconut oil as the oil you are replacing. While it is not as important in making lotions to keep the measurements the same, it is more important in making lotion bars. Too much of a liquid oil will keep the bars from hardening properly. I have found these measurements to work well. Have fun playing around with the ingredients and come up with a recipe that YOUR skin loves. This happens to work very well for me, but you may find other oils work better for you.

The following recipe will make 5 or 6 bars that are 1.5 x 1.5 x 0.75 inches. Double or triple the recipe to make more at one time.

Gather your ingredients:

2 Tbsp beeswax granules, or grated beeswax
6 Tbsp cocoa butter (chopped)
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp sweet almond oil
1 tsp vitamin E oil
1 tsp argan oil
1/2 tsp tea tree oil
5-15 drops lavender essential oil

Gather your tools:

A small bowl for mixing oils
Double boiler (or a small bowl or pot that fits on or in another pot for a makeshift double boiler) to melt and warm ingredients
A bamboo skewer or chopstick for stirring (it is easier to clean up than a spoon, or you can throw it out)
Paper towels or newspaper to cover your work surface - beeswax hardens quickly and can be difficult, though not impossible, to get cleaned up
A soap mold, or other mold (I used a silicone brownie pan - the kind for making mini brownies)

Have everything gathered and ready to go before you start mixing or heating anything. This will help the process to go smoother.

Fill the bottom pot of the double boiler with about 2 inches of water. Put the cocoa butter and beeswax in the top pot or bowl and set aside. While the pot of water is heating over medium heat, mix the remaining ingredients together in a small bowl.

Place the top pot or bowl with cocoa butter and beeswax over (or in, if using a very small pot) the heated water when it begins to simmer. Do not allow the water to boil or splash. You do not want any water in the beeswax mixture. The goal is to gently melt the butter and wax without overheating it. Keep the heat as low as you can while still high enough to melt the butter and wax. This will only take a few minutes.

I use a butter warmer to melt my ingredients. It is great for making small batches.
It fits in a small pot and has a pour spout on one side.

Pour the oils into the melted butter and wax and stir with the bamboo skewer. If the wax begins to harden when the oils are added, turn the heat up a little bit. Stir until it is all liquid and seems to be thoroughly blended.

Now, you will need to move quickly because the beeswax sets up fast. Before removing the mixture from the heat, have your mold(s) ready. Remove the pot of melted mixture from the water and carefully dry the outside of the pot. You do not want water dripping off of it into the molds.

Carefully pour the mixture into the mold(s) and allow it to cool completely. It will be set up within a few minutes, but will not fully harden for a couple of hours. When the bars are hard, remove them from the mold. Store in a bag, glass jar or other container. Keep them by the sink, in the bedroom, living room or anywhere you will use them.

That's it!

This silicone brownie pan works perfectly for small lotion bars.
They are the perfect size for rubbing on hands after washing them.
Enjoy making lotion bars and let me know how they turn out! Share any variations you try so I can try them, too!

** Here's a handy clean up tip -- After pouring the mixture out of the pot, take the empty pot and the pot that still has hot water in it over to the sink. Pour the hot water into the mixture pot to melt out the oils, butter and wax. Pour the water down the drain and then very carefully wipe out the pot with a paper towel. It will be very hot, so be careful. It may smart a bit if you touch the pot (not that I would know from experience or anything).

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