Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Making Scented Body Oils

Winters in Colorado are pretty dry. So are summers, for that matter, but the time spent inside with the furnace going really does a number on my skin.

For the most part lotions don't do the trick. Most are waxy to some degree, and the unpronounceable ingredients in many commercial ones make me shudder. After all, whatever you put on your skin is absorbed into your body.

A thick, buttery lotion is nice for hands that go through a lot in the kitchen and garden. In that case beeswax is a good addition, as it creates a helpful barrier when you're up to your elbows in soapy water or digging in the dirt. But for the rest of the epidermis I vote for scented oil. Above is my current basketful of scents.

Jojoba oil is supposed to be the most like the oil your skin produces. That makes it a great carrier oil in the summer, as it's light and easily absorbed. In the winter I mix jojoba and hazelnut oils. Sometimes I use almond instead of the hazelnut -- it depends on what I have. None smell particularly of nuts or affect the aroma of the added essential oils.

In the winter some nice additions are:
  • clove and orange
  • sandalwood
  • fir and lemon
Rosemary and peppermint together create a cool glow that's perfect for summer heat. Stay away from citrus in the summer if you plan to be outside, as those oils tend to make skin more sensitive to sunlight (and more prone to burn, even after applying sunscreen).

Year round consider:
  • lime
  • lavender
  • lavender and basil
  • lavender and thyme
Using essential oils rather than fragrance oils is important. Again, they are absorbed into the body when applied to the skin. The effects generally reflect the aromatherapy benefits, an added bonus to the moisturizing qualities of the carrier oils. So applying lavender body oil after an evening bath may help you sleep. Clove and orange is a great combination for a massage. And a combination of peppermint, tea tree, eucalyptus and rosemary -- my Wake Up combo for both oil and soap -- can banish sleepiness and launch you into your day.

Remember that if you have particularly sensitive skin, or are allergic to any of the plants that the essential oils are derived from, you shouldn't apply it to your skin. And never, EVER apply a full strength essential oil directly to your skin. They are volatile, distilled, and very, very strong. Always dilute them with a carrier oil. Here is a list of dangerous essential oils to avoid putting on your skin.

Begin by adding a half teaspoon of essential oil to four ounces of carrier oil. For some scents you'll end up wanting to use more, but that's a good place to start. Lavender and tea tree are among the safest and most beneficial oils to put on your skin.

You can get essential oils at most natural food stores anymore, but if you plan to use them a lot then buying them online can save you big bucks. Here are my usual online sources for good quality oils and so many other handmade toiletry ingredients:

Snowdrift Farm (Arizona)
Camden Grey (Florida)
Glory Bee (Oregon) (also have very good melt-and-pour soap base)
Friday look for a quick recipe for refried beans!

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  1. I didn't know that about the Jojoba oil being most like our own oil. Very helpful. I love the smell of all of these oils, especially sandalwood, lavender, eucalyptus and rosemary. I'll have to try my hand at making some scented oils. Thanks for the tips.

  2. I was giving my lavender plants a haircut last week and even the dry twiglets were full of scent.

    So if I buy jojoba oil and soak lavender buds/flowers and stems in it, is that all there is to the process? Is it better to use the new growth or dried flowers and stems?

  3. Mason, jojoba is actually a liquid wax and creates a barrier to evaporation on the skin much like our natural oils -- which also contain a high amount of wax esters. How's that for wonky science stuff? ; - ) Let me know how your oils turn out!

    Pat -- infused oils are wonderful. Yes, you can simply soak your lavender (dried is probably better) in the carrier oil. To speed things along slightly heat the oil first (100 to 105 degrees), and store your concoction in a glass jar in the dark for two or three weeks. Strain before using. It also works with mint, rosemary or chamomile, if you have any extra in the garden this summer.

    Now you have me wondering about infusing oil with basil...

  4. I always grow rosemary and basil in a pot near the house -- I never thought of using it for something like this. Thanks for the tip!

  5. Ooh, I never thought about infusing oil with plants from the garden! No idea why, I only ever thought of using essential oils. That's opened up the prospect of a whole new activity for the summer...

    I've been wondering about making moisturisers for a while now - do you just rub these onto the skin, or use in the bath? And do you use them on your face? (sorry for being personal!)

    I've been using a face scrub/exfoliator for a year or so now made from ground almonds, oatmeal, almond oil, and lavender, and I really like the way it feels. I'd love to not just follow it up with commercial moisturiser!

  6. Jenni, your face scrub sounds wonderful!

    You can infuse oil with plants for scent and also for their soothing qualities. Calendula (pot marigold) doesn't smell much, but is very good for skin health. So are chamomile and lavender. Dried is best, as the moisture in fresh plants can promote the growth of bacteria. If you're concerned about anything like that, a few drops of Vitamin E makes a good preservative.

    I put the oil directly on my skin, though only use it on my face occasionally. Straight berry seed oils like (raspberry, cranberry) are great round-the-eye/face moisturizers, too.