How to make HERBAL CREAMS
Skin creams that have been infused with herbs add an extra dimension to your skincare routine. Learn how to make your own and reap the therapeutic benefits.
When starting out, it’s a good idea to begin with a basic formula. With more complicated formulas, a number of factors affect the stability of a cream. For example, the ratio of oil to cream can affect the cream’s stability, as can high alcohol concentrations, herbal ingredients high in mucilage and astringents, and chemical salts, which can be found in mineral and spring waters.
Creams can be tricky to make as water is introduced, which always makes things a little more challenging. You need to get the mix of oil and water right.
Naturopath and medical herbalist Valmai Becker, of Phytofarm in Banks Peninsula, says when creating creams you usually start with an oil. “In cosmetic creams I use a base organic cold-pressed sunflower oil because it doesn’t have an odour. It’s pretty high quality and it doesn’t cost too much, either. You can use almond oil as well, but almond is pretty expensive and some people react to it. There’s also apricot and jojoba oils."
These oils act as a carrier for herbs and essential oils, but infused oils, such as calendula-infused oil (see the recipe in Health & Wellbeing chapter), can be used as well. Among other things, calendula contains lycopene. Lycopene’s antioxidant and Uv-blocking capabilities naturally make it a valuable weapon against skin ageing. Another infused oil that’s great for the skin is rosehip-infused oil.
When first starting out with creams, dried herbs are ideal. The most likely reason oils go rancid is because of the water content.
The ratio Valmai uses is 100g dried flowers to 500ml oil. “But if somebody just wanted to make a small jam jar full, they could just fill the jar up with flowers and pour oil in it.”
To add a moisturising factor to your creams, coconut butter, cocoa butter or shea butter can be added. These are all emollients, which help to reduce moisture loss from the epidermis.
Any water used in your formulas should be purified (de-ionised or distilled); don’t use tapwater, mineral water or ordinary bottled water as they contain chemicals that will make products go off more quickly.
Any essential oils used should be therapeutic rather than cosmetic grade, as cosmetic oils contain artificial aromas.
Emulsifiers are also essential in creams and lotions. Otherwise your product will separate and you’ll find oil on top. A vegetable-based emulsifying wax is easy to work with and relatively cheap.