Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Jumping on the GIY (Grow-It-Yourself) Bandwagon: Skin Care from the Garden

Earlier this spring, I adopted a little cabin: A one-room wonder with a huge stone fireplace and a beautiful plot of land tucked into the hills of a dead-end road.

Living here is truly living a Storey-inspired life. Especially now that my garden is underway – full of herbs and vegetables alike. For veggies I chose the usual suspects: lettuce for daily salads, sweet corn, onions, squash, cucumbers, radishes, and zucchini, along with a few peppers for good measure. Also included are the star players of the pack: tomatoes and basil to accompany homemade mozzarella from Storey’s Home Cheese Making (you can order a kit to make your own over here). Beyond the edible sustenance are the plants more dear to my heart: the herbs. Chamomile, lavender, lemon verbena, and sage will all be mine for the harvesting. And I know just what to do with them.

I’m the youngest of three very girly girls, and my bathroom cabinets have been overflowing with cleansers, moisturizers, toners, scrubs, serums, and oils for as long as I can remember. Granted, it may have all started with my sister’s container of Noxzema, but it wasn’t long before my interest in plants had a passionate meet-and-greet with my appreciation for quality skin care products. The result? At first, it was Aveda. Then I developed a very expensive addiction to Dr. Hauschka. This summer, in my efforts to put a little less stress on my wallet yet still luxuriate in plant-based beauty products, I’m turning my attention to Organic Body Care Recipes, by Stephanie Tourles.
A few years ago, when the book first came out, Stephanie Tourles (who, I should mention, has PERFECT skin) gave me a little blue jar of heaven: a sample from the book of Blue Chamomile and Olive Body Butter. “Let me get this straight,” I remember saying when she handed it over to me (after all, I’m no fair-weather product user), “this is a cleanser, a moisturizer, an anti-inflammatory after-sun lotion, and it’ll defrizz my super-curly hair on humid days?” She nodded. I felt like I had just been indicted into a secret society of skin care! I used every last drop of that lotion – and, as a product junkie, I can honestly admit that I’ve never come to close to finding anything quite like it on the market (trust me, I’ve searched). Finally, I’m going to set out and make my own batch with my homegrown chamomile.

Internet – get ready. I now present you with the recipe. Your skin is gonna love this:

Blue Chamomile and Olive Body Butter
This herbal butter deeply feeds your skin from the outside. It makes a fabulous cleansing cream and facial moisturizer for all skin types and a wonderful nail conditioning cream. It even works well as an antifrizz hair conditioner if applied sparingly to the ends of dry, fine, frizzy hair, and is a great anti-inflammatory after-sun cream. For the chamomile-infused oil, either make your own (see Oil of Sunshine: The Ultimate Herbal Comfort Oil on page 338 for instructions) or purchase it from a health-food store or mail-order supplier.

Recommended for: all skin types, especially inflamed, irritated skin
Use: daily
Prep time: approximately 20 to 30 minutes, plus 30 minutes to completely cool and set
Blending tools: blender; long, slender spatula
Store in: plastic or glass jars; it’s especially beautiful in cobalt blue or dark green glass
Yield: approximately 2 1⁄3 cups

¾ cup extra-virgin olive base oil or chamomile-infused olive oil
1⁄3 cup coconut base oil (must be extra-virgin and unrefined)
4 tablespoons beeswax
2 teaspoons anhydrous lanolin
1 cup distilled water or rosemary, chamomile, or lavender hydrosol
30 drops German chamomile essential oil
30 drops Roman chamomile essential oil

Heat: In a saucepan over low heat or in a double boiler, warm the base oils, beeswax, and lanolin until the wax is just melted. In another pan, warm the water or hydrosol.
Cool: Remove both pans from heat and allow their contents to cool almost to body temperature, until the oils/wax/lanolin mixture just begins to thicken and becomes slightly opaque. It should be the consistency of a soft, loose salve. This will take approximately 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the temperature of your kitchen. As it thickens, give the mixture a few stirs to remove any lumps.
Blend: Immediately pour the mixture into the blender, scraping the sides of the pan to remove every last trace. Place the lid on the blender and remove the lid’s plastic piece. Turn the blender on medium and slowly drizzle the water or hydrosol through the center of the lid into the vortex of swirling fats below. Closely watch what happens: Almost immediately, the body butter will begin to thicken. Blend for 5 to 10 seconds more, turn off the blender, and check the consistency of the butter. It should have a smooth texture. If the water isn’t combining thoroughly with the fat mixture, turn off the blender and give the mixture a few stirs with a spatula to free up the blender blades. Then replace the lid and blend on medium to high for another 10 seconds. Repeat as necessary. The body butter will be thick. Turn off the blender and add the essential oils, manually stirring a few times to incorporate them, then blend completely on medium for another 5 to 10 seconds.
Note: If the temperature of your kitchen is above 76°F, the body butter will maintain a softer consistency. If the temperature is below 76°F, the body butter will be firmer.
Package and cool: Spoon the finished body butter into storage container(s). Lightly cover each container with a paper towel and allow the blend to cool for 30 minutes before capping. If you notice, after a few hours or days, that water begins to separate from your body butter, don’t worry. The mixture can separate if the fat temperature and water temperature are not relatively equal and cool enough when the two portions are blended. Keep trying — making perfect creams is an art! No refrigeration is required if used within 30 days. If refrigerated, please use within 3 to 6 months. (Refrigeration may change the texture of the product, but potency will not be affected.)
Application tips: Immediately following a bath or shower, slather this butter on your damp skin — really massage it in. Because it’s very concentrated, begin with 1 teaspoon at a time. If skin has an oily residue after 5 minutes, you’ve used too much. Simply wipe off the excess with a coarse towel and use less the next time around.

Instead of using the extra virgin olive base oil, I’m going to create my own chamomile-infused olive oil. Stephanie gave me the inside scoop on how to do this:

Pick 5 or 6 cups of chamomile flower heads after the dew has dried (usually around 11 in the morning). Lay the flowers out on a paper towel in a single layer and let them sit overnight or until they’re completely dry (this could take up to two days). Toss them into a quart-size mason jar and pour extra virgin olive oil to the top of the jar. Once you’ve got it nice and full, stir it around a few times to release any air bubbles between the flowers and the oil. Before you place the lid on the jar, cover the oil with plastic wrap or a plastic bag (she said this was the most important step of the process). Stephanie lets the oil sit in a sunny window for a month or so before making her butter – but if you’re in a hurry, you can place the jar in a pot of simmering (not boiling!) water on the stove for 3 hours.

Mountain Rose Herbs is a great resource for all of the ingredients in this recipe. And for more great concoctions and skin care tips, be sure to check out Stephanie’s blog.

P.S. If you like the look of this little cabin of mine – you’ll love Storey's upcoming Compact Cabins, which is releasing in December!

— Jayme Hummer, Publicity

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