A Panacea for Winter Skin

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Mmm … paste …

Thanks, climate change. When I first moved to Ottawa over twenty years ago, winters were long and dark and dry and COLD. Like, -30°C cold. Now they’re still that cold, but interspersed with warmer, sunnier days where everything melts, potholes form, and we start to believe that the worst is behind us. For like, two days. And then it gets really cold again. And our skin really pays the price for all this temperature variation. So here’s an easy, quick and relatively cheap solution to our winter skin woes, one that everyone in the house, including the baby, can make use of. If you have eczema you might find this a lovely soothing lotion.

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In a double boiler, or a heat-safe bowl over a pot of simmering water, plop 1/2 cup coconut oil and 1/4 cup shea butter. Let that melt.

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While that’s on the go, take a heaping 1/4 cup oats (rolled or quick, not steel cut), and use a food processor or spice grinder to reduce them to a fine powder.

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Once the oil and butter have melted, remove the bowl from the heat and let it cool for a while, until the sides start to harden. If you live in a cold place, pop some plastic wrap over the top of the bowl and chuck it outside in the snow for a bit. Or shove it in your freezer if you’re impatient. Full disclosure: I left mine outside too long and it froze solid. What you’re looking for is something mostly solid but still mixable. If it’s too liquidy then the oatmeal will sink before it’s properly mixed in.

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Sometimes having winter right outside your door is actually a convenient thing. Sometimes. But not very often.

Tip in a few teaspoons vitamin E oil and 5 drops each lavender and chamomile essential oil. The essential oils are optional if you’d prefer to go scent-free.

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Then plop in your ground oatmeal.

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Give that a serious whaz with a hand mixer until everything is uniform.

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Spoon it into a container and leave it for a few days to allow the oatmeal stuff to work its way into the oils. This lotion is a little grainy when you first rub it in, so I prefer to put it on at night, but it soaks in nicely.∗

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∗If you’re not a fan of the grains of oats, you could try a few options (I haven’t tried these but they seem logical): you could infuse the oats in the oils as you heat them and strain them out, or leave the powder in there and it might be a bit softer. Or you can take the oats out altogether and use oat straw extract – Avena sativa – instead, but this stuff is pretty pricey.

Big Beauty Box

Happy New Year!

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For Christmas, Teedz requested a repeat of the Beauty and the Beets package she received last year, namely, another couple jars of those luxurious shower scrubs.  So in addition to some more coffee sugar scrub and salty citrus scrub, I made a big beauty box with more aids to relaxation in it: bubble bath, bath tea, and a crowning achievement, homemade LOTION.  I’m not even kidding.  My major regret was that while every woman in my family got a jar of the luscious stuff, there wasn’t enough left over for ME.  I guess I’ll have to make some more.  Let’s begin, shall we?

Rose-Lavender Bubble Bath

We’ll start with the easiest one and get trickier, okay?

For a bubble bath, you need to start with a soap base.  You can use unscented dishwashing liquid, which is super cheap, but I like castile soap because it’s so cool and old-fashioned.  I bought a rose-scented one to use as my base.  Then you need some glycerine for slipperiness and good bubble staying-power.  I picked this vegetable glycerine up at a health food store in the beauty section, but you can also find it in the first aid aisle of your local pharmacy.  To get the lavender part of the rose-lavender scent, I also got some lavender essential oil and some dried lavender, both from the health food store.  And of course you need a container for mixing.

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Pour 1 cup castile soap and 2/3 cup glycerine into your container (I doubled this recipe because it was going to two people).

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Give those a stir, because they won’t automatically mix.

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Next, add a few drops of essential oil and stir again.

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For visual variety, add a few teaspoons dried lavender to the mix.

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Give that a stir and let it sit for a few days.  The lavender pieces will start to break down in the liquid, infusing it with more lavendery goodness.

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I decanted the resulting emulsion (you will have to shake it up a bit before using) into two glass bottles.  This is them sitting next to the new batch of salt and sugar shower scrubs.

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Bath Teas / Foot Soaks 

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These little sachets of salt are great for their versatility.  You can toss them in the tub, hang them from the faucet while it’s filling, or plop them in a little foot bath for whenever you have a few extra minutes to relax.  The epsom salts are a good healing soak for new mothers and the oatmeal and sea salt make for a skin-smoothing experience.

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I made two different flavours of these.  In the first, I started with a base of 3 cups epsom salts and 1 cup coarse sea salt.  Then a few drops lavender essential oil.

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To that I added 1 cup dried chamomile flowers and 3/4 cup dried lavender flowers.

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All stirred up!

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To the other one I started with the same 3:1 ratio of epsom salts to sea salt.

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Then I added in 3/4 cup dried peppermint leaves and 2 cups ground oatmeal.

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(To make the oat stuff simply chuck some rolled oats — not instant — into a food processor and give it a good whaz.)

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All stirred up too!

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Then I set up an assembly line.  I used some organza we’d rejected from our screen printing exercises, some hemp twine, and an old plastic easter egg as my container-holder.

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I scooped 3-4 tablespoons of the salt mixture into each little pouch and tied it tightly with the string, making a loop so that it can be hung from the faucet.  I used green twine for the peppermint ones and blue for the lavender.

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Luxury Lotion 

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This is probably one of the greatest things I’ve made.  I played around a bit with the original recipe from Girls’ Guide to Guns and Butter and came up with two separate flavours.  With the ratios I used, the resulting lotion is thick and creamy.  It will leave a bit of grease on your hands that absorbs relatively quickly, and the best part about it is that it doesn’t wash off very easily, which, during cold season when you’re washing your hands constantly, is a very good thing.  Anyway, I suggest you give the above post a bit of a read, just to understand the science of the whole thing a bit more.  I’m just going to plunge right in.

The below proportions make about three cups of lotion each, which makes them ideal sizes to give away as gifts.  If you’d like to be selfish and just make some for yourself, then adjust the amounts accordingly.

Rose Water Lotion:

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For this one I cut up a bunch of beeswax.  This is the emulsion that holds everything together.  You’ll need about 4 tablespoons beeswax.

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Plop the beeswax in a double boiler or a microwave-safe container (you can do it either way) and start adding in your other liquids.  Here I’m adding about 2 squirts of vegetable glycerine.  This is what makes the lotion all slippery-feeling.  Don’t add too much or it will be too slippery.

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Scoop out 3 tablespoons shea butter, which I didn’t realize was powdered until it got EVERYWHERE.

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Then 12 tablespoons (3/4 cup) sweet almond oil and 4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) avocado oil.

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And then 3 squirts of vitamin E oil.  Not only is this good for damaged skin but it will also extend the shelf life of your lotion.

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Melt the beeswax/oil mixture in your microwave or double boiler until there is nothing solid left in it and it’s all mixed together.  Pour it into a tall narrow container (like a wide-mouthed mason jar) that will fit an immersion blender and leave it to cool for a bit.

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Basically, lotion is an emulsion of oil and water, and the beeswax is what freezes it into its emulsified state.  So now we need water for this to work.  For this first one I used 1 1/2 cups rose water (you can get this at the grocery store) and 1/2 cup filtered water (if you’re on a chlorinated city water system you’ll want to use filtered or distilled water).  The water and the oil have to be the same temperature in order to mix properly, so what I did was heat up the water to the same temperature as the cooling oil, which was about 130°F.  It just meant that I didn’t have to wait as long for everything to cool properly.  I’m not a patient person.

Now you stick your immersion blender in the oil mix and start whizzing it up until it gets light and foamy.  It will fly everywhere, which is why you should use something narrow to mix it in like a jar.  I used a bowl and things got messy.  I’ll show you a picture in a minute.  Anyway.  As you’re mixing, ever so slowly trickle in water and get it mixed in, a little bit at a time.  If you put them in at the same temperature, you can get all the water mixed in perfectly, though towards the end you’ll have to mix a bit harder to get it all combined.  I wish I had more pictures of this part to show you how cool it is, but I only have so many hands.

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It will look like rich, thick icing.  It looked so much like icing, in fact, that my mother walked past it and though that’s what it was.  So she stuck her finger in it and tasted it.  BAD IDEA.  Apparently it tastes awful.  So resist the urge to eat it.

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This is the still-warm lotion spread on my hand, so you can see the texture.

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Plop it into little jars for storage, or leave it in the jar in which you mixed it, if you’re that clever.

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But here is a dobble of the stuff after it’s cooled, and you can see how thick and rich it is.

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Orange Whip Lotion:

Here’s the mess I left after the second mixing session.  There’s lotion and oil everywhere.

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I didn’t take pictures of the mixing process for the second batch, but I’ll give you the ingredients here and you can go to town.  Just remember that the water and the oil have to be the same temperature (not exactly, but close) in order for the whole science thing to work.

In a heat-proof container, mix together and melt 4 tablespoons chopped beeswax, 2 squirts vegetable glycerine, 3 tablespoons shea butter, 8 tablespoons coconut oil, 4 tablespoons avocado oil, 4 tablespoons sweet almond oil, and 3 squirts vitamin E oil.

Add 8 drops sweet orange essential oil to 2 cups hot distilled or filtered water and drizzle into hot oil mix, blending to emulsify.

Store your lotion in a cool place, maybe in the fridge to be on the safe side.  I’m not sure how long this stuff lasts, with the antibacterial beeswax and vitamin E in it, but you’ll probably use it all right away because it’s awesome, anyway.

It’s relatively easy to clean up, as long as you wipe out your oily-waxy containers with paper towel before washing them in soapy water.

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