I know that most people aren’t quite ready to say the “w” word just yet, but that season of sleet and snow will be upon many of us in a few short weeks, and it’s better to be prepared in advance, right? Just as we try to ensure that our faces, lips, and eyes are protected from harsh weather, it’s important to pay attention to our hands as well: dry, cracked, aching paws aren’t fun to deal with, especially if you spend your day typing or doing any fine-detail work. Here are a few DIY creams and salves that you can create at home:
Keep in mind that any of these recipes can be altered to make either a cream or a salve; the main difference between them is that a salve has little to no water added, so it’s a thick, oily unguent, while creams have been emulsified with water to make them light, fluffy, and more easily absorbed. If you like a thicker, richer substance, then leave out the water in any recipe given. If you prefer lighter creams, then add water to your oil/wax base as per the instruction, and just keep blending/whipping the mixture until it gets to a consistency that you like. It’s best to make these in small batches at first so you can determine by trial and error how much water you like to use (if any), since the product’s consistency will change as it cools.
What You’ll Need
- Double boiler or Crock-pot
- Measuring cup
- Measuring spoons
- Kitchen scale (some items are measured by weight, rather than volume)
- Blender or whisk
- Carrier oils, herbs, and other ingredients as stipulated per recipe
- Empty containers for your products
- Spoons and spatulas
Moisturizing Hand Cream
A variation on the face cream recipe that I shared a few months ago, this is just a thicker version that’s ideal for chapped, cracked, dry hands.
- 1/4 cup organic olive oil
- 1/4 cup organic sweet almond oil
- 1/4 cup organic grapeseed oil
- 1/8 cup organic coconut oil
- 1/16 cup beeswax or carnauba wax pastilles/granules
- 1/2 cup organic hydrosol of your choice
- 1/4 tsp vitamin E oil (a punctured large capsule should be perfect)
- 8-15 drops of essential oil (lavender, rose, orange, neroli, sandalwood, etc.)
STEP 1: Blend all of the oils together in a double boiler, and warm on very low heat.
STEP 2: Once warm, add in the beeswax pastilles and whisk until they’ve dissolved completely.
STEP 3: Pour the hydrosol, vitamin E, and essential oil into your blender (if you’re using one), or a large bowl (if you’ll be whisking by hand instead).
*Note: if you’re doing this by hand, get someone else to pour the warmed oil mixture for you, so you can concentrate entirely on whisking.
STEP 4: Either turn the blender on low or start whisking the water/EO mixture gently, and have that warmed oil mix poured directly into the center of the bowl in a long, thin, steady stream. It all has to be mixed together well to ensure that it all emulsifies properly (you’re trying to get water, wax, and oil to play nicely together, after all). In all honesty, I just go nuts with a whisk and it generally turns out just fine.
STEP 5: Use your spatula to scrape out the bowl/blender, and fill the clean, empty containers you’ve prepped to hold your cream. It’s great to make in small batches, and scent to suit different people’s tastes: my older female relatives love lavender or rose, while some friends prefer citrus scents like lemon, tangerine, or even ylang-ylang with neroli. You can even swap out the olive oil for calendula oil if you’d like to add some healing properties to the cream, but then be sure to use essential oil scents that work well with it so you won’t recoil from the scent.
Warming Arnica and Cayenne Salve
This recipe is great for sore wrists and arthritic hands, but don’t use it on broken/cracked skin, and take care to keep your fingers out of your eyes and nostrils after you’ve applied it.
- 1 cup coconut oil
- 0.3 ounces dried arnica montana flowers
- 1-3 tablespoons dried cayenne powder
- 1/4 cup beeswax granules (or carnauba wax)
STEP 1: If your coconut oil is in solid form, melt it gently in a double boiler on low heat until it melts back to liquid form.. Bruise or chop up the arnica flowers, and then steep them in the oil for 12-24 hours, leaving the boiler on the lowest heat possible. If you have a crock pot, use that instead, just on the lowest setting it has. After it’s been steeping for a few hours, add in the cayenne powder.
Stir this every few hours, if possible, and once it has finished steeping, let it cool for 20 to 30 minutes.
STEP 2: Stretch your cheesecloth over your bowl, and pour the steeped oil over it so it’ll drain into the container below. If it isn’t too hot to the touch, pick up the cheesecloth and squeeze it to get all the oil out. When you’ve finished, pour the filtered oil back into your double boiler; just make sure there aren’t any flower bits left in there. Turn the heat on low.
STEP 3: Add in the wax granules, and whisk until they’re completely dissolved. If you’d like a firm salve, add a few more granules as the amounts given will yield a very soft salve. You can test to see what the texture of the finished product will be like by dipping the back of a metal spoon into the mixture, allowing it, to cool, and then applying to your skin. If you like the consistency, pour the product into a clean, empty container, using a spatula to slorp out all the good stuff.
Cooling Arnica Salve
- 1 cup coconut oil
- 0.3 ounces dried arnica montana flowers
- 1/4 cup beeswax or carnauba wax granules
- 8 drops peppermint essential oil
- 2 to 3 drops lavender, wintergreen, or eucalyptus essential oil: don’t use wintergreen if you have any kind of sensitivity to aspirin
This salve is made the exact same way as the salve above; just leave out the cayenne pepper, and add in the essential oil during the final cooling stage, and stir it in well to disperse it. It’s great for sore joints, but should not be used on open wounds or cracked skin.
Warm and Spicy Hand Salve
Like the cooling salve mentioned above, this is also made in a similar technique to the cayenne/arnica salve. Just steep the dry herbs and spices in oil as per the earlier instructions.
- 1/4 cup dry ground ginger
- 2 tablespoons cup ground cloves
- 1/4 cup ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup dry white willow bark
- 1/4 cup of sunflower oil
- 1 cup of olive oil
- 1 oz vitamin E oil
- 1/2 cup beeswax or carnauba wax pastilles/granules
STEP 1: To make the warming oil, steep the dried herbs/spices in a mixture of the sunflower and olive oils by keeping them in a double boiler on low heat for about 12 hours. Afterwards, strain that oil through a few layers of cheesecloth to remove all the herb/spice particles. Pour that oil back into a saucepan or double-boiler, and whisk in the wax pastilles or granules until they’ve melted evenly.
STEP 2: Remove from heat, stir in the vitamin E oil, and pour into your containers. When you make this salve, your whole house will smell incredible, and the resulting product makes a fabulous holiday gift too.
STEP 3: Remember that in addition to using these creams and salves, it’s important to wear gloves when you’re out in the cold: they don’t just protect your skin, but are also helpful for fending off arthritis.
An avid permaculture gardener, locavore, and novice (but enthusiastic!) canner, Lana Winter-Hébert joins Inhabitat after spending the last decade working as a writer and event guru for non-profit/eco organizations. In addition to her work with this site, she writes features and blog posts for Vegan Cuts, Green Pigeon, and several event planning websites based in London, UK. Currently, Lana divides her time between writing, and doing collaborative projects with Winter-Hébert: the design studio she runs with her husband. Best described as “endearingly eccentric”, she spends any spare moments wrestling with knitting projects, and devouring novels by obscure Czech writers. A Toronto native, she has recently chosen to leave that splendid city in favor of a tranquil lakeside nook in rural Quebec, where she and her Sir co-habitate with two hand-raised sparrows that live in their writing-desk.
All images via Shutterstock