I am beyond thrilled to have my friend Annie Erbsen guest posting today about her natural cosmetic’s business! She is sharing instructions for easy lotion bars and her AMAZING fairy tale life in Italy! Thank you so much for your guest post, my friend.
Once upon a time, a physicist fell in love with an exotic stranger while walking across Spain, and moved to the steepest part of the Alps in Italy to marry the dashing Italian man. There isn’t much physics to be done in the Italian Alps, so she learned Italian, adopted a giant bunny, and started a handmade natural cosmetics business.
That’s my story in a nutshell.
Where I live in Italy, there aren’t many job prospects for non-natives, so I decided to follow suit of every other foreigner I know in Valle d’Aosta: I opened my own business. I decided to sell something that I was doing as a hobby already, which were natural cosmetics that I produce. I’ve always had sensitive, allergic skin, and years ago my mom would whip up calendula balms, lotion bars, and lip balms that made my skin happy. When I moved to Italy, I started making these things for myself, and I also started making cold process soap, creams, and other body products. I discovered that my passions for science and cooking united in a lovely way while making cosmetics: I could be creative, use quality ingredients, create something good for the body , and figure out how to do those things by understanding the biochemical underpinnings of cosmetic science to create the best, most natural products possible. With this, Fleur de Lune, my natural cosmetics business, was born (www.fleurdelune.it, coming soon!).
Unlike my previous career, making natural cosmetics isn’t exactly rocket science, and it is something anyone can do at home in their kitchen, with ingredients from a local natural foods store. I wouldn’t recommend making some products, like lotion, shampoo, or soap without a good bit of study, but anhydrous products are easy. An anhydrous product has no water or water-based ingredients like honey or aloe, so you don’t have to worry about ingredients like preservatives or emulsifiers. Once you add in water based ingredients, it’s difficult to safely make your product 100% natural, but that’s not a problem for us because there are some great anhydrous products out there!
Today we will be making solid lotion bars. They are simply fabulous, and really easy to make. You can find ingredients at health food stores, or online from soapmaking supply companies (the latter is much cheaper!). I won’t give you a recipe so much as a guideline. When making body products, I always like to work in percentages, and I weigh all of my ingredients. Volume just isn’t very accurate, unfortunately, and digital kitchen scales are pretty cheap. I work in percentages because it is easy to change the amount that I make.
You need to find some kind of a mold to make these in. You can use things like silicone muffin tin liners or plastic chocolate molds, as long as it is heat resistant. You want it to be a size that can fit nicely into the palm of your hand.
25% liquid-at-room temperature oil (like sweet almond oil, jojoba oil, or sunflower oil)
25% solid-but-soft-at room temperature oil (like coconut oil, shea butter, or mango butter)
25% hard, brittle oil (like cocoa butter)
So your recipe might look something like this:
25 g beeswax
25 g sunflower oil
25 g coconut oil
25 g cocoa butter
If you use virgin coconut oil and food grade cocoa butter, your creation will smell like heaven, if heaven smelled like a tropical sugar cookie. Just a tip, If you aren’t sure how much to make, 100 g is a good starting amount for a batch, and depending on the size of your mold, will probably produce 2-3 bars.
Now onto the fun part. You can use a small double boiler, or a pyrex measuring cup set in a saucepan with a little bit of boiling water , and melt your cocoa butter and beeswax together. They both take a while to melt, so we are melting them first.
Once melted, add in remaining ingredients, wait for it to melt, and remove from heat heat. We don’t want to heat it too much, or we might destroy the lovely natural properties of our ingredients. Carefully pour the melted mixture into your molds, and wait for it to set up.
At this point, I like to pop them into the freezer for a half hour. When cool and solidified, pop your bars out of the molds and put in a cute little tin or a baggie! If you are in the US, you can get lovely 2 oz tins that are perfect for these bars from SKS Bottle Company. Or you could use an old Altoid tin.
It is best to use these bars after a bath or shower, to lock in the moisture. They also make fabulous massage bars.