The holidays are fast approaching! It’s coming down to crunch time for getting last minute gifts. For many, like me, the economic state of things is dismal at best. I’m pinching my last pennies just to pay my bills and get all of my friends and family gifted for the year.
And to top it off, I just don’t know what to buy for certain people! So I did what I do best and turned to my kitchen for the answers. I set out to see just what I could make by using what was in my kitchen and buying only minimal ingredients.
First, I decided to make some homemade moisturizing cream. This is a gift that goes over really well with the ladies (or anyone that suffers from dry skin), but it can be somewhat tricky to get the consistency just right. The second thing I went for was a sugar scrub to be used before the lotion.
Sugar and salt scrubs are excellent for people who need to exfoliate their skin. The abrasiveness of the salt or sugar is great for sloughing off all those dead skin cells that build up on our epidermis. Plus, it’s mixed with oil, so it starts moisturizing from the beginning.
The best part about sugar and salt scrubs is their simplicity. The base of any sugar or salt scrub is 1 cup of sugar/salt (whichever you prefer) and enough oil to cover it. Viola! Add some essential oils for fragrance and you’re done! Later, I’ll give you a recipe for a mint-chocolate sugar scrub that smells as yummy as it sounds.
When it comes to lotions, as I stated above, it tends to be a little tricky to get just right. You see, most lotions and creams are made by mixing two substances that—for many years—have been considered mortal enemies.
I’m talking, of course, about Oil and Water.
Every geek worth their salt knows that these two substances do not mesh. Water (or H2O as we call it in the chemistry business) is a polar molecule with a positive end and a negative end. H2O attaches to other molecules by linking its positive end to the negative end of another molecule (like another water molecule, for instance). As the old adage goes, opposites attract.
Oils, also known as lipids, on the other hand are pretty neutral molecules. It doesn’t have polar ends for charged molecules to attach to. So when water and oil come into contact, they just bounce off of each other.
So how do we get them to mix into things like lotion? By using something known as “shearing power.” Shearing power is simply the vigorous mixing of the two substances in order to force the like molecules apart and spread the molecules of oil and water evenly into a magical thing known as an emulsion.
However, shearing power is only part of the equation. You will also need something known as an emulsifier. An emulsifier is a nifty thing that can bind to both H2O and lipids. By adding this, it will bind your water and oil into a stable suspension that won’t separate.
But enough of the science lesson!
To make the Mint-Chocolate Sugar Scrub, you will need:
1 cup granulated sugar (any sugar will do, but the finer it is ground, the smoother it will go on)
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup oil (almond is great and doesn’t have an odor of its own)
5-10 drops of peppermint essential oil
Mix the sugar and cocoa powder together. Pour the oil over the mixture, stirring until all of the sugar and cocoa are moist. Add your peppermint essential oil, a few drops at a time, until you reach the desired strength of peppermint that you like.
To use, simply take a teaspoonful into the palm of your hand and gently rub it over the area to be exfoliated. This works great on feet and hands! Then, using warm water, rinse the mix off. You are now silky smooth!
Note: If essential oils are not readily available, you can infuse the oil with peppermint leaves, but this takes 2 weeks. You will need a sterile glass jar, about 1 cup of fresh peppermint leaves or 1/2 cup dried leaves (you can get these from bags of peppermint tea!). Put the peppermint in a jar and cover with the oil. Set in your windowsill and leave for 2 weeks, shaking the mixture every day. Strain the oil through cheesecloth or muslin, squeezing all of the oil out of the plant material. Don’t forget to compost!
Lotion Base Recipe:
1 cup oil (almond or grape seed are my favorite, or you can use extra infused oil from the note above!)
1 oz beeswax (or any other emulsifying wax)
1/4 cup distilled (or previously boiled) water
Start by heating your oil in a pan on a medium setting. Melt the beeswax into the oil. Once the beeswax is melted, remove from heat and allow to cool.
Pour the oil mixture into a blender (that you don’t plan on using for food). Place the lid and turn on to the low setting. Remove the lid (or that little plastic part that can come out of the middle, if you have one!) and slowly trickle the water into the center of the whirlpool of oil, gradually increasing the speed of your blender. Your mixture should begin to thicken into a heavy cream. If it is too thick, add just a tiny bit more water. When finished mixing, pour into a sterile container.
You can experiment a lot with this base! To change the scent, you can add essential oils to the cream, or boil aromatic herbs in the water before mixing it in the blender. You can also boil a little bit of oatmeal in the water to get the emollient moisturizers from the oats. If you find your emulsion just won’t hold together, use less water, or add a bit of borax. Mixed with the beeswax, the borax makes a stronger emulsion. Remember, experimenting is half the fun!