Let’s talk about something really practical.
It’s winter, and for a lot of us—especially those of us living in drier and colder places—that means not only chapped lips, but also chapped hands.
This can be particularly true if our work takes us outside frequently—as is true if we work with or manage open spaces, parks, or other public or private lands.
Chapped hands might itch, or crack, or bleed. Cracking and bleeding can be painful, and provide more opportunities for the usual nasties to sneak in and cause an infection. At the very least, these things can be hard to keep clean.
It’s because chapped hands are very real (and uncomfortable) that I started making a healing hand cream about a year ago. At the time, it was a direct response to a friend who had perpetually chapped hands (of the cracked, bleeding variety) from parenting two young children and the frequent hand washing associated with that. But, I’ve since gifted it to friends who spend a lot of time outdoors or work in professions where frequent hand washing is a must.
The hand cream I make is based on several different recipes, but the important thing is that it contains a higher level of oil (coconut, because that’s easy to come by) to beeswax, which makes it a softer consistency and enables it to be absorbed more quickly into the skin.
This hand cream doesn’t take long to make and mostly contains ingredients you can find at your local healthy-foods grocer if you don’t already have them at home. I recommend storing it in a small metal or plastic container if you’re out in the field a lot, but if it’s just sitting around your house, you can probably get away with keeping it in a glass jar (though be careful of picking it up and putting it down with your newly hydrated hands!).
With this cream, a little goes a long way. Try out just a little the first time and then use more if you need it.
Healing Hand Cream
.5 oz (by weight) of pure, unscented beeswax (grated or in pellet form)
1 oz almond, grapeseed, or extra-virgin olive oil
1 oz coconut oil
2-3 drops Vitamin E oil
Essential oil, optional* (I like lavender)
Container to store the balm in
Chocolate melter or double-boiler
A deep glass measuring cup and a hand mixer**
Clean and sterilize all your equipment—since we’ll be putting this on our chapped hands, which could have micro-cuts, we’ll want to make sure we decrease any risk of infection.
Combine the wax and oils except the essential oil, if using, in the double-boiler, and allow everything to melt together. Once melted, add a few drops of essential oil, if using. Pour it into a deep glass measuring cup, or another glass or metal container that you can use your hand mixer in.
Whip the mixture, periodically scraping down the sides, until the cream is room temperature and creamy. This could take a while, but resist the urge to do anything extra to cool it down. If any moisture gets into it, you’ll ruin the batch and need to start over.
Store in an air-tight container in a cool, dark place or use an opaque container.
*If you use essential oils, the smell won’t be as strong as it is diluted in these others, so if you want additional scent, you may need to slowly up the amount you use, checking every couple of drops to see if it’s at a level of scent you’d like. Lavender has some anti-bacterial properties. Be cautious about using citrus-based essential oils. These can cause you to burn more quickly in the sun.
**If you don’t have a hand mixer, you can double or triple the recipe (use the extra as gifts!), and use a stand mixer, or you can whip this sucker up by hand—just prepare to be working at it for a while!