Monday, March 14, 2011

Hand Cream the Easy Way

In our bee meeting last week, we learned a simple recipe and method for making hand cream. Damon Wallace of Opelika, AL was the speaker and he definitely has this method down to a science. He said it was fine to share with you fine folks, so here we go.

I have researched hand cream/lotions a little in the past and was always very intimidated by the ingredients: glycerin, emulsifiers, lanolin, aloe vera juice.... I did not have these things in my cabinet at home. Other ingredients were even scarier sounding, money wise. I had never even see mango butter and carrot seed essential oils, but they sounded expensive. I was pleased when this recipe was mostly items I could easily locate.

Skin Cream Recipe:

8 oz. olive oil (preferably extra virgin light olive oil)
2.5 ounces of beeswax (clarified)
2/3 cup of distilled water
1 teaspoon of borax (by far the scariest ingredient. I will explain what it does later)
5 drops of tea tree oil
5 drops of Vitamin E (can use the oil inside capsules)
15 drops essential fragrance if desired

The key is too keep everything warm all at the same time. Our demonstrator used a handy electric skillet as a water bath for the ingredients.

  • Add 1 teaspoon borax to 2/3cup to warm distilled water. The warm water will help the borax to dissolve. Stir until completely in solution  
  • Heat the beeswax until melted (140 Degrees)
  • Heat olive oil to 140 Degrees
  • Add tea tree oil and Vitamin E oil to olive oil
  • Add the oil mixture to the beeswax. Keep the temperature up 
  • Add the borax/water solution to the oil/wax, whisking like crazy as you go. The mixture will turn white as it thickens
  • If fragrance is desired, add now to the mixture 
  • Pour into pre-cleaned containers (these containers were white, double walled, rounded bottom 2oz jars)
  • Let sit until cool before capping to prevent condensation
This yields approximately 16 oz of cream. 

I was amazed because it took about 10 minutes or so to make this batch of hand cream. The second batch he did twice as fast because we were not slowing him down with explanations and questions. 

So, let's talk about what is going on with this cream. First, let me address the scary ingredient: Borax. 
Borax is a mineral salt of boric acid. Once I thought about that, I remembered some other uses for boric acid, most important in my experience is flux for welding. Flux allows the solder to flow freely into the cracks of metal, while somewhat lowering the temperature of the surrounding metal. In my jewelry days, Pete taught me all about boric acid and it was a staple in the shop. Now it is also used in some insecticides, so don't eat this hand cream (even though Damon said he would eat this cream because it is "all natural". I will leave that to him.)  Borax is the emulsifier. In terms I can understand, that means it changes the properties of the mixture from a liquid into a cream. It incorporated the oil and the wax together so they will not separate.  It's the "why can't we all just get along" component of this concoction. 
Tea Tree Oil is a common antiseptic and has a very clean smell. 
I would be wary of fragrance. They are very strong and sometimes tend to be allergenic. Choose wisely, or you will end up smelling like old ladies. 

Now on to my evaluation of this cream. Without fragrance the smell is unoffensive. Any smell is really from the olive oil and the tea tree oil (which smells a little camphor-y). It smells a little like outdoors. However, the smell on your hands fades quickly. In the jar, it is a nice cream color. Damon mentioned that the more color your olive oil has, the more green or yellow tint your cream will have. You definitely want it not green- trust me fellas. Ladies don't want green or "pus" colored hand cream. Call us vain- but it's gross. The only complaint that I have is that it is slightly greasy, but most hand cream is. It does soak in nicely and leaves a nice fresh scent. One other slight problem is that it can get a little "chunky". Think of the "lotion goobers" that you get on the end of a pump lotion bottle. They do massage right in and are not unsightly. I am fairly allergic to everything (cosmetic-wise) and I have not broken out. I have been using this cream since last week. 

Damon also did the math for us and determined that the total costs (not counting overhead, just supplies) for this cream per 2oz jar is about $1.36. Not too shabby. You could definitely sell this cream for more. He sells his for about $5.00, which is a very reasonable price. People especially love the natural ingredients and the fact that it supports local beekeepers. 

My suggestion for this hand cream is really for foot cream. This would be wonderful  to slather on your feet and cover with socks. If you were to make this for that purpose, I would suggest either peppermint or lavender oil for fragrance. 

I hope to learn a few methods for clarifying the beeswax and will update you as I learn more. I may try this recipe one of these days with a few tweaks. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Journey Begins

This is the chronicle of a brand new beekeeper. I hope to use this blog as a place to share my findings, experiences, and hopefully find bee-lovin' friends all over the world.

My father has been a hobbyist bee keeper for over thirty years. About 4 years ago, he retired from his job and became the "Bee Man". Since going professional, he will no longer be able to keep bees in the Olympics, but I have benefited greatly from his example over the years. He has several apiaries in Middle Tennessee.  

Since the age of two, I have been going into the bees with him, playing with the drones, trying to find the queen, and trying to keep the smoke out of his face. I continued over the years to go in with him, while wearing the same bee suit for nearly thirty years. On my 30th birthday, I received a my own, brand new bee suit and I knew the torch had been passed. I began to plan for my own bee yard. In 2010, my husband and I decided to move from Middle Tennessee to Athens, GA. I was still determined to carry on my dad's love of caring for bees.  This spring, I will receive my first two hives of my own. The task seems daunting, but at least I have a professional on call for any trouble I have. 

In exchange for his bee consultation services, I help my dad with his blog. Please check it out @  There is a wealth of knowledge about bees, wintering, queen raising, catching swarms, and various problems and diseases. As exciting as bee diseases sound, the real fun is following the adventures of the Bee Squad from Holt Bee Farms. My dad, Greg, and his side-kick, James, have some very exciting times, usually involving some sort of dangerous, swarm-catching antics (that is of course, when they manage to get away from the college girls and single moms, who are mesmerized by the mere presence of such honey slingers). You will no doubt hear about those wild and crazy guys on this blog as well. 

In preparation for my bees (who are scheduled to be ready in mid-April), I have joined the Eastern Piedmont Beekeepers Association. I will pass on the interesting information I learn from those meetings. Also, my dad sends me many great and helpful links that I will post. I hope that in the context of my new beekeeping adventures, the information I pass on to you will be meaningful. If nothing else, I hope that more people will discover what amazing creatures bees are and their importance in our world, like the Latin proverb says, "Neque Mel, Neque Apes" (or No Bees, No Honey).  As one of the most important pollinators, there would be WAY more devastating results from the disappearance of bees than the absence of honey (however, as you take that first taste of the season's honey, you can't imagine any worse than not having honey). 

I hope you follow and enjoy this blog. I expect an exciting summer of stings and discovery!