Recipes To Get You Started – Wax On!

We’ve measured the recipes below {also see “Save Your Skin Salve”} by volume, so they don’t necessarily conform to the same rules you would use if measuring by weight. They do, however, yield small batches, allowing you to see what works best for you. You have your choice of which plant wax to use as your base.

Basic Lip Balm

This balm does contain cocoa butter, which adds character, but you can make a bare-bones version without it by substituting some more olive or almond oil instead if you prefer to start simply.
2 tablespoons olive or almond oil
1 tablespoon cocoa butter {or 1 additional tablespoon oil}
1 tablespoon candelilla wax; or 1 tablespoon carnauba wax; or 1 teaspoon rice wax and 2 teaspoons sweet almond wax
Heat the ingredients in a slow cooker until the wax melts. Pour up at once into sterilized containers. Let cool, cap, and label.

Wanna Dance? Foot Balm

Taking time to pamper the feet – yours or someone else’s – can offer smooth rewards. This treatment also works well on rough elbows or dry, flaky skin on arms, hands, and knees. The balm keeps well. Use it along with the scrub {see below}.
1 tablespoon apricot kernel or sweet almond oil
1 tablespoon shea butter
1 tablespoon grated apricot kernel wax or sweet apricot wax
2 tablespoons rose water or distilled water
15 drops lavender essential oil
2 drops peppermint essential oil
Melt oil, shea butter, and wax in a slow cooker. When the wax is melted, remove from heat and stir in the rose water or distilled water thoroughly. Add the essential oils and stir. Pour into sterilized container{s} and seal.

Raspberry Silk Toes Scrub

Use this balm after showers to keep skin smooth. It’s also great as a body scrub for hands, elbows, arms, knees, and legs. Once you’ve rinsed the scrub away and patted your feet dry, apply the Wanna Dance? Foot Balm above.
12 raspberries {fresh or frozen}
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon vegetable glycerin {or mild liquid hand soap}
1/2 teaspoon jojoba wax pearls {medium}
Put the raspberries and oil in the blender and puree. Pour into a bowl, stir in glycerin or liquid soap and the jojoba wax pearls. Refrigerate up to 24 hours. To Use: Smooth the scrub onto feet and work in from toes to heels, massaging gently. Rinse completely.

Save Your Skin Salve.

This all-purpose recipe allows you to substitute your herbs of choice.
The combination here, which includes comfrey, calendula, and chamomile, soothes scratches and scrapes, stings and bites, bumps and bruises, or aches and pains.
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons dried chopped comfrey root
2 tablespoons dried calendula flowers
2 tablespoons chamomile
1 tablespoon hemp oil {optional}
1 tablespoon cocoa butter
3 tablespoons grated sweet almond wax or apricot kernel wax {or 4 tablespoons for a stiffer salve}
Place olive oil and comfrey root in a slow cooker on high for an hour with the lid off. Make certain the oil completely covers the comfrey. Add calendula and chamomile. Cook for another hour uncovered on high heat. Check periodically to ensure that the oil covers all of the herbs and doesn’t boil at least no more than just around the edges. Turn off heat, let cool slightly, and strain the oil, discarding herbs.
Measure 1/3 cup of the infused oil. {If you don’t have enough, add a bit of olive oil} and place it in the slow cooker with the hemp oil, wax, and cocoa butter. Heat until the wax melts {about 20 minutes}, stirring thoroughly. Pour into jar{s}, seal, and date.
* One last note about this salve:
We cooked some up to check the recipe for this article and set it on the kitchen counter to cool. When I returned to see if it had set, I had to step over our dog. I can personally attest that this salve is remarkably soothing on knees that have been bruised and scraped on hardwood floors!

Wax On!

Want to make your own cosmetics and skin care products?

Look at the diverse range of plant waxes that Mother Nature has to offer.

People have been using wax for centuries. Ointments and inks contain wax, and without it, your favorite chewing gum wouldn’t have the right bounce. Its elastic character, along with its ability to disappear when heated and add body to other ingredients, offers a wide range of applications. Traditionally, beeswax has been the hands-down favorite in handcrafted products. But wax comes from other sources, too; animal, mineral, and vegetable. Early American colonists, for instance, looked to bayberries to produce wax. The fruit yielded a scented wax, and candles made from it offered a much better fragrance than the standard tallow dip most settlers could afford.

These days, waxes derived from plant sources such as candelilla, carnauba, rice bran, sweet almond, and apricot kernel are hitting the sales list of suppliers who offer the raw materials for making soaps and boutique cosmetics. Why use these rather than beeswax, the historical standard for salves, creams, ointments, and balms? One reason might be an anticipated shortage at your local apiary thanks to Colony Collapse Disorder {CCD}. This strange phenomenon has adult honeybees deserting the hive, leaving behind the queen, the larvae, and sometimes a full hive of honey. Because scientists haven’t isolated the cause, there’s no cure yet. {Of course, a shortage of beeswax is probably the least of our problems with CCD, considering that bees pollinate about 80 percent of our food crops.}

Yet another reason to opt for a vegetable-based wax: It’s vegan. Many people are moving toward vegan formulas. Our vegan substitute for beeswax comes from the flaky wax residue on the stems of candelilla plants, which grow in dry regions of the Southwest. Second in popularity is carnauba wax, which you might recognize as a key ingredient in the kind of polish that’s used by folks who refer to their cars as “Baby.” This wax is taken from the fronds of a wax-producing palm that grows in northeastern Brazil {Copernicia cenfera}. Like candelilla wax, it’s widely used in the cosmetic industry.

Of course, the final and perhaps most compelling reason to use plant wax: It allows you to incorporate yet another plant into your favorite herb-based beauty formulas.

The Word On Wax

Candelilla and carnauba waxes are both harder than beeswax and have a higher melting point. Beeswax melts at about 144 degrees, whereas candelilla requires about 165 degrees. Carnauba, often cited as the hardest of the natural waxes, doesn’t turn to liquid until it reaches over 172 degrees. For this reason, they’re not quite as easy to work with. Beeswax is forgiving when it comes to applying and reapplying heat. Candelilla and carnauba are more brittle and temperamental. You end up using five to 15 percent more wax.

This might be a good place to point out that formulations are done by weight as is common with recipes at many large-scale commercial ventures. Those of us who make smaller batches, however, frequently measure by volume because we’re more likely to grab a set of measuring spoons on a scale. Measuring by volume is less reliable because wax comes in various shapes and forms, from finely ground powder and chunky little flakes to blocks you might need to attack with a cheese grater. So keep in mind that your experience may vary if you’re measuring by volume.

Then there’s rice bran wax, derived from rice bran oil. It’s hard too in comparing it to candelilla and carnauba, but it definitely has a lower melting point. It differs in character from the other two plant waxes, a difference you can tell by examining the flake closely. If you pick up the others, they will just snap and break whereas the rice bran bends and breaks gently.

You’ll find all three of these waxes in lip balms. Candelilla and carnauba wax, like beeswax, have scents that are noticeable when pouring up a mixture, yet almost completely disappear when the mixture cools. At that point, candelilla and carnauba wax leave less of a signature than beeswax does. Rice bran wax seems to have no scent at all. These fairly stiff plant waxes work best in salves and balms. As a thickener or emulsifier for creams and lotions, though, their performance can disappoint. Instead of producing a smoothly blended product, they tend to crystallize. The result looks a bit like milk poured over sawdust.

If you want a plant-based alternative for creams, lotions, and salves, you’ll want softer waxes that do a better job of emulsifying. Look to sweet almond and apricot kernel wax. Both have a melting point similar to beeswax but feel softer to the touch. They also boast light, appealing fragrances.

You’ll also find a number of plant waxes used in cosmetics that enhance the product’s recipe, but don’t serve as a base. One of these is jojoba wax. Extracted from the jojoba nut that grows in Texas, Arizona, Mexico, and southern California, this viscous oil is chemically a wax, but manifests as a liquid at room temperature. As a result, it looks like oil, is used in recipes like oil, and is generally sold as “jojoba oil.” Formulators love it because it blends beautifully, closely resembles the natural sebum of human skin, and never goes rancid.

Don’t confuse it with jojoba wax beads, which come from the same plant, but are altogether different. These beads don’t work like other plant waxes. They’re perfectly round, and there used for exfoliating, making them better for scrubs. Also called jojoba pearls, these perfect spheres don’t break down, offering gentler exfoliation than ingredients like walnut shells and apricot kernel powder, which contain edges that can scratch the skin.

Working With Wax

If you’re just starting to use plant waxes, here are a few tips:

  • Start with small batches to minimize loss.

  • Have extra wax on hand. If substituting candelilla or carnauba wax in a recipe that calls for beeswax, add 5-10 percent more plant-based wax {by weight} in your first experiment.

  • Use gentle heat. Don’t try to use the microwave. A slow cooker used with caution works well, as does low to medium-low heat on the stove-top.

  • For the stiffer waxes, pour up the mixture into your containers {thick glass- or metal-based containers work best} immediately. Once it melts, there’s no reason to keep it sitting there. Pour it fast, and it will cool more quickly, which helps eliminate consistency issues.

  • When working with carnauba and candelilla, you may have difficulty with plant butter. Shea, cocoa, and kokum butter can all crystallize and spoil a recipe batch. {If this happens, it’s hard to tell whether the butter of the wax has crystallized.}

  • Check how well the final product holds up in your pocket. We call it the “pocket test” around here. When we formulate, we do all the real-life things that will happen to a product. While the car dashboard isn’t a practical test because temperatures are excessive, our starting formula for a lip balm is always hard enough to withstand being in someone’s pocket no matter what the temperature outside.