Salve Yourself: How to DIY the Ultimate Beeswax Balm
On Easter Sunday, my dad gave me a one-pound brick of beeswax. He’d bought it on Ebay and used about a tablespoon of it to treat his butcher block, then gingerly swaddled it in plastic wrap and set it on a shelf in his tool shed for three years.
Ever since I decided to ditch store-bought beauty aids to go full hippie and start making my own natural products, offers like that have gotten a lot more enticing. I took the brick, trimmed off the grimy edges with a kitchen knife, and started plotting ways to put it on my face.
Beeswax is endlessly useful. Pretty much any liquid or perishable moisturizing recipe can be solidified or preserved by adding beeswax. The only real prep work? Hoarding vessels to house the finished product. Chapstick tubes. Eye cream pots. A travel size Nivea tin is perfection. My purse holds a half-dozen Altoids tins full of lip balm and frizz tamer and cuticle cream and bobby pins. The mints are kept suspiciously in an unmarked plastic bag with maybe a stray aspirin or two (#priorities).
On its own, beeswax doesn’t have any moisturizing power. Instead, it acts as a waterproof barrier, like petroleum jelly, to protect from outside elements and prevent moisture in the skin from evaporating. That’s a good thing for keeping lips from chapping in cold wind or shielding a small scrape from germs—it's not so good if your body’s trying to get rid of gross stuff. Sweating underneath a thick beeswax barrier will only get you a propionibacterium bio-dome. But very small amounts can be added to lotion and face cream recipes that need some viscosity. For a soft lip balm, I use a 3:1 beeswax-to-carrier-oil ratio. And I add it in equal parts to something I use sparingly and want completely hardened at room temperature, like a perfume solid.
The thing is, beeswax is getting a little bit too useful. I’m running out of Altoids tins. So I spent last week dreaming up the most perfect, multi-use Mother of All Balms. It’s become my cuticle cream, my lip balm, my deep moisture for elbows and knees. It's perfect for chapping around watery allergy eyes and runny noses. I work it into the ends of my hair if they’re looking frazzled and smooth a thin layer over my head to pat down frizz.
Olive oil keeps things smooth and soft, shea butter is a dreamy gift to yourself, and lavender takes care of everything. Of course, any essential oil can be substituted to your liking, but if you’re granting yourself one hippie investment this month, it should be lavender. It’s antibacterial and slightly analgesic, which means the balm is also great for scrapes and burns, insect bites, rashes, and cold sores. Plus, its pleasant floral scent purportedly reduces anxiety. If you’re going to have a cold sore anyway, at least it can smell nice and not stress you out.
I kept the batch small here so it would fit a saffron tin I’ve been itching to fill. But it can easily be doubled or tripled to accommodate that boxy little tchotchke from your mother you thought was useless:
1 1/2 teaspoon beeswax, grated
1 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon shea butter
10 drops lavender essential oil
Melt the beeswax, olive oil, and shea butter together. If using a stovetop, put it in a double boiler to keep it from scorching, but a minute in the microwave will also do the trick. Stir in the lavender and pour the mixture into a heat-resistant container. Do it quickly, though, because it will start to harden right away. Then, leave it on the counter and go for tacos or something so you’re not tempted to stick your finger in it before it sets completely.