Two things have changed since my first three attempts at making lotion: I attended a workshop on making lotions and I bought a hand-blender. I am not sure which made the most difference but I have a feeling they were both important. After using an eggbeater to try to make lotion and ending up with a kind of waxy froth cream (I pretended it was lotion and it kind of was, until it separated), and using a plain ol’ whisk to make cream and ending up with a thick, white paste (which was actually, very amazing. Just not creamy…) I finally signed up for a workshop and went to the library and got a bunch of books. There was one recipe in all of these texts, including the workshop handout: Galen’s Cold Cream. In French, it’s called Cerat Galien.
I have written a bit about my adventures in making lotion already, so rather than go over all of those recipes, I would like to go back to basics and tell you about Galen’s Cold Cream. Galen was a Greek physicist who invented a recipe for a cream using rosewater, olive oil and beeswax. After application, the rosewater in the cream evaporates leaving the skin feeling cool. Hence the name Cold Cream! I remember as a teen reading American novels in which all these ladies were covering their faces in cold cream at night and I didn’t have a clue what it was. I thought it was some kind of grease mask. Which it kind of is, I guess. Mostly, it is used as a cleanser at night, or simply, as a night cream, as it is pretty heavy. Or, as I recently discovered, as Body Butter. Honestly, it is just as luscious and creamy as any body butter you might buy for $20. Just look at it!
Ok, so you can probably tell, it’s back to basics for me because this time I actually managed to make a cream. What I learnt is that the most important thing is to get a hand blender, a good simple recipe to start, and finally, to not be afraid. The cream can take a lot of beating. Literally. If you are using beeswax or a GMS/stearic acid type of wax, then you have to blend it good and long or else it will separate. Also, don’t be afraid of Borax, or sodium borate: it is a completely natural and non-toxic substance. When using beeswax it is a co-emulsifier and helps the wax bind water and oil, and also to keep them bound. The original recipe does not call for borax, but then you may have to re-blend it at some point.
Ok, without too much ado, here is the original recipe for Galen’s Cold Cream (they are all the same, but these measurements came from Janice Cox’s book “Natural Beauty from the Garden”) with notes on alternatives.
Ingredients and Measurements:
- 1/2 cup Olive Oil – or almond oil. I used half lavender-infused almond-oil, and the other half grapeseed oil.
- 1/4 cup Rosewater – you can also use distilled water, if you want something less floral.
- 2 tbsp Beeswax – if you don’t have it in pellets, it helps to grate it. Do not substitute for other waxes
- Optional: 1/8 teaspoon borax. I recommend this if you have it.
- In a double-boiler, melt the beeswax in the oil. Heat slowly until the wax is fully melted in with the oil. Here my beeswax is almost melted:
- In another double-boiler, mix the floral water with the borax and heat until the borax is fully melted and at the same temperature as the oil.
When working with beeswax it is important that both the water solution and the oil solution be really hot, since beeswax has a high melting point and a fusion point of 63C. Apparently, you can do this without a thermometer by judging that both be very hot but not boiling, and most importantly, the same temperature. If you do have a thermometer, you can make sure that they are both around 60 C (140F). According to the workshop I took, the water should be at 55 Celsius (131F) and the oil at 65 Celsius (149F). But I think that the most important part is that both solutions should be hot, and at the same temperature. Personally, I have had some trouble getting my temperatures above 60 C, so I stopped there.
- Once the solutions are at the same temperature, or 55-65, then slowly pour the water into the oil, or the other way around. It doesn’t matter which one you pour, as long as you pour slowly, and whisk/blend while you pour. Alternatively, you can also pour the water into a blender and then turn the blender on low and slowly drizzle the oil into the vortex. I started by pouring the water into the oil while blending with a milk frother (a little battery operated whisk). When all the water had been incorporated, I switched to my handblender and buzzed for 20-30 seconds until it looked like this:
Then I stirred in my GSE and poured it into an old body butter jar, and tried tapping out the air bubbles. Voila! It set really nicely, and was luscious right from the start. It settled and got a bit harder over night, but it spreads just like a Bodyshop body butter.
Because I used an infused oil, rather than an essential oil, it smells like fresh lavender and faintly of rosewater. It is the best cream ever! I use it as a night cream, and as a body butter. My daytime face cream is another cream I made with less oil, and an addition of e-wax. But that recipe is for another post 😀