We shave blocks of our cleaned and processed beeswax for measuring.

We shave blocks of our cleaned and processed beeswax for measuring.

I’m going to give you a brief overview of making your own style of beeswax hand cream at home. It’s easy to follow the recipes on the internet and get something decent, although sometimes it takes two, three or four attempts to understand the key things that make a great consistency. It took us some time and testing. I’ve tried water-based recipes and many of the variations in the process to find a cream that I and my family like. To scent or not to scent? Water or no water? Should we use the secondary agents, or preservatives? The science can be as simple, or as complex as you want to make it. Creams and lotions you buy from the store usually have a plethora of ingredients that I seek to avoid. Those ingredients help the cream to last longer, or go on smoother… but how does the skin like it? Paraben for example is one of those ingredients that people are avoiding, just like aluminum in deodorant? We wanted to come up with a recipe that we liked and also fit a demographic of our local friends and family interested in more natural products. Having a hand-made beeswax cream of your own makes awesome, and easy gifts. Taking the process into consideration, the ingredients I use, (thank you, Amazon) the containers, and my effort to make it all, we’ve found a recipe that is economical for us, something we can call our own and make it the same every time. This is important because we sell ours at the local farmers market, and when people come back for more, we need to be able to sell them more of what they originally bought and loved.

High-quality ingredients for homemade hand cream.

High-quality ingredients for homemade hand cream.

There are many recipes out there and even more variations. Process also affects how your own cream will come out. We’ve made creams in the past that we loved… but neglected to write down exactly what it was we used and how we made it, and where was that recipe we originally followed? As a result, we couldn’t re-create it. I spent a little time going over many recipes, and many theories written by others and just decided to use the most natural ingredients I could, and start with the simplest method of an unscented cream.

If you think I’m sharing my recipe with you, I’m sorry to let you down. But I’m sharing something better… an approach to create your own.

Cream, or lotion?

Is it a cream or a lotion? This is something Jason always complains about because he’s still scarred from the movie “Silence of the Lamb” years ago. So, I took a minute to better distinguish a cream from a lotion. Creams are usually about 2/3 oil  part (including butters and waxes) and 1/3 water part (total water-soluble ingredients) while lotions are more 2/3 water part and 1/3 oil part. 5-6% beeswax is generally sufficient to give your emulsion enough body. These ratios can be adjusted as you desire. You’ll find yourself experimenting.

Lotions and creams are ’emulsions.’ Most everyone knows that oil and water repel each other and so they will separate if you don’t achieve a proper emulsion. To do that, we need an emulsifier. An emulsifier is an agent that binds water and oil together so it will not separate. There are many different emulsifiers with different strengths. Depending on your philosophy (ours is, less is more), some argue that you need a secondary emulsifier. Examples;

  • Palm Stearic (a vegetable-based Stearic Acid) with Cetearyl Alcohol (a vegetable-based emulsifying wax.)
  • Beeswax with Borax
  • Lecithin with a secondary emulsifier
Setting the emulsion in beeswax hand cream.

Setting the emulsion in beeswax hand cream.

I chose beeswax and have experimented with just that. Beeswax is considered an emulsifier with a low strength, and it’s said that over time, it will allow the water and oil to separate. That’s probably true, but I’ve adjusted my formula to be water-less to avoid that separation. I don’t use borax. Also, water is susceptible to bacterial and fungal growth, and must have an anti-microbial agent such as paraben, or grapefruit seed extract. Since I don’t want to add either, I settled on a water-less formula. I use food grade almond and coconut oils. No matter how high the quality of your oil is, all oils can go rancid when they come into contact with air. I chose Vitamin E  (an anti-oxidant) and good for the skin as well. I have read rosemary oil extract can be used too but I have not used it yet. The oils are added to the oil during the heating phase, however, I hold out the Vitamin E oil and add that during the cooling/mixing stage so that some of the benefits are not cooked out of it.  This has been my standard for over two years now and it makes a wonderfully textured, long-lasting great-smelling cream that I can’t keep in stock.

My process:

Having everything very clean and trying not to touch the cream as you work with it is important so that you keep all foreign bacteria out. I add my measured beeswax into the almond oil and begin heating over low heat. While it’s heating, I add food grade coconut oil and stir until all ingredients are dissolved to a consistent looking oil. Note, when I have used the best, organic, food grade coconut oil I can find, I have seen very, tiny little hairs in the solution. You have to be looking pretty hard… but you might see some. After plenty of panic, I’ve found that it is natural coconut fibers from the oil. This might suggests less processing or more natural, so this is really a good thing to me.

I remove from the heat and let it cool for about 15 minutes (until around 122 F.) I periodically check it and stir it watching for my emulsion to set. As it does, I give it another stir. I’ll add in the Vitamin E and stir some more helping it cool. I’ll complete a quick house chore and come back. I use a hand-wand type mixer and have dedicated it to the cause. It works well, and makes stirring easier. I do not add any fragrances to my creams. However, the high-quality coconut oil that I use adds a natural coconut fragrance to it that we call “naturally scented. The cream eventually sets to a consistency that is like gravy, maybe a little thicker. I use a rubber spat to fill my clean containers. From there… we print out some labels of nothing more than clear address labels and a laser printer.

Uncapping honey frames before they are "slung."

Uncapping honey frames before they are “slung.”

A note on beeswax:

If you choose to use beeswax, obviously, you need to get some. It’s handy that we have our own hives here, but let me give you a hint. Your community might have a much larger population of beekeepers than you are aware of. There’s an easy 85 beekeepers within reasonable driving distance of our homestead. You can sometimes locate them by calling your local police and fire department. In more rural ares, you might call the county extension. Just ask if they keep a list of beekeepers. Many do because they often get called to send a beekeeper out to collect a swarm of bees out of the front tree. On in our area, you have a map such as this.

When using the beeswax, a little goes a long way when making creams and lotions. You don’t use a lot like you would making candles. You do want the best, cleanest beeswax you can get… preferably the wax that was sliced off the frames before the beekeeper slung the honey out. If you get in good with a local beekeeper, you can sometimes tell them what you are doing, and they can save that aside for you. Do know that this wax could cost more than another grade of wax. Some beekeepers use all there wax… others, will process it and sell it when they have it. The moral of the story… don’t pay full price at Micheal’s if you don’t have to. Even better, find your local bee club and check in to setting up some bee hives of you own!

I’ve intentionally kept the process general knowing that you can Google many hand cream and lotion recipes to start out with. I recommend you do start with a recipe so you can get the feel for how it works. Once you understand more about how it works, you can begin to experiment and create a recipe that is all your own.

Have fun, and enjoy some pictures.