Creams are a mix of water, oil and an emulsifying agent. This means that you can add water based products (herbal tea or a tincture) and/or oil based products (infused oil or essential oil). By mixing your own you can produce a product specific to you. When making you own cream with a mix of herbal infused oils and/or essential oils you could either make your own cream or use a base cream.
When mixing a cream try to get a vegetable based cream. Vegetable based creams do not contain products from the oil industry (you may be surprised how many contain products based on petroleum or paraffin). Petroleum oils are not absorbed into the skin, this leaves the skin feeling smooth and soft, but does not actually moisturise it.
Herbal base creams can also be bought which already have herbal extracts added in the preparation of the cream. Calendula (marigold), chamomile, comfrey and chickweed cream are all popular bases.
Once you have found a good base cream you can add up to a quarter of its weight in oil or water products, or one drop of essential oil to 5gm of cream. After adding the ingredients together mix them well and store in an airtight preferably, dark or opaque, container.
Many commercial creams will contain preservatives of some sort, so your mix may not need to be kept in a fridge (check to see if your base cream needs to be kept in the fridge). Herbal preservatives such as benzoin essential oil or vitamin E (either as a vitamin E capsule or in the form of wheatgerm oil), can be added to help with preservation.
Making a skin cream can be fun!
The most important tool when making a cream from scratch is a double boiler or bain marie, this allows you to heat your ingredients in preparation for mixing while ensuring they never reach over 100 degrees C.
If your double boiler is large enough to fit two dishes at the same time then you can make sure ingredients are at the same temperature before they are mixed together.
Here is a simple recipe for around 100g of a basic cream that can be used to carry therapeutic ingredients. Substitutions can be made, for example shea butter instead of cocoa butter, and any base oil or herbal infused oil can be substituted for another oil in the recipe however this will affect the texture of the final product.
10g Cocoa Butter
30ml Sweet Almond Oil
15ml Wheatgerm Oil
45ml spring water or herbal infusion
Heat the oily ingredients (Beeswax, Cocoa Butter, Sweet Almond and Wheatgerm oils) together in a bowl over the double boiler until they have melted and then mix to combine well.
Warm the water in another bowl and dissolve the borax in it.
If possible you can heat the two mixtures simultaneously in the same water bath, keeping them at a similar temperature will help with the emulsification process (this is when the oil and water combine to make a cream, careful measuring of your ingredients is important to keep the proper ratio of oils, water and emulsifier – borax in this case – to prevent the mixture from splitting).
Once both mixtures are ready, take them off the heat and slowly add the the water mixture to the oil mixture and whisk until the mixture has cooled. This will be the final product, at this point you can add any essential oils or herbal tincture, be careful here as too many additives will change the oil:water ratio of your cream and may cause it to split.