Back in 2014, Bill wrote to me with a recipe request for a lavender salve he’d been really enjoying using. He described it as “terrific stuff, with a texture just slightly lighter than Vaseline, a quite pungent lavender aroma, and yellow in colour (like lemongrass soaps).” Oooh. And I just happened to have a vintage “Hendonia Ye Olde English Lavender Brilliantine” tin begging to be re-filled, and some brand new cera bellina burning a hole in my pantry. And roughly seven different kinds of lavender essential oil. All that is to say that this salve really needed to be made, and here we are with Bill’s Lavender Salve.
Bill’s “slightly lighter than Vaseline” comment is what got me started playing with cera bellina. I’d ordered a wee bag for a few reasons; I was intrigued by its ability to create oil gels (seriously, so cool!) and including it in concoctions can really help prevent the graininess that can occur when you include shea butter. The gel bit is really what I was thinking about here, but since this concoction does include some shea butter, it’s doing double duty. Parfait!
The original was a blend of shea butter, avocado oil, jojoba oil, beeswax, and lavender oil. I switched that up a bit for a handful of reasons. I chose cera bellina instead of beeswax for that gel-like/vaseline-y/ointment-like texture it gives. You could use regular beeswax instead, but the consistency is going to be quite different. I find cera bellina makes things quite greasy, so I included some lighter oils.
I used mostly dry-feeling macadamia nut oil and fast-absorbing grapeseed oil, and rounded that out with jojoba and shea butter. This creates a salve that isn’t exactly fast to absorb into the skin, but I can’t imagine how heavy it would be if I’d used predominantly slower to absorb oils! For this reason, I really recommend paying attention to the absorption speeds of any oils you want to swap out.
Bill mentioned the original is quite yellow, like a lemongrass soap. I suspect that comes from large amounts of golden jojoba oil, which I’ve toned down quite a bit to get a lighter, faster-absorbing final product. If you’re keen on having a yellower end product, though, you could swap out a gram or two of the jojoba for some uber-orange seabuckthorn oil.
You’ll want to use a nice lavender essential oil here; I chose a nice French one from New Directions. Choose your favourite “whole” lavender, rather than ones that have been balanced (like lavender 40/42)—those are great for soaps and other places where we need really reliable scents, but not for anything where we’re hoping for some aromatherapy benefits. You’ll notice that once the high notes of the lavender fade away you’re left with a lovely mild nutty scent—that’s from the macadamia nut oil. Yum!
Once you’ve got all the ingredients all you’re doing is melting ’em together in a water bath, letting them cool, and stirring in the lavender. Et voila! Bill’s Lavender Salve. It’s pretty darn lovely 😊 It’s quite soft for a salve (like vaseline, just softer), so I do recommend keeping it in something that seals well if you’re planning on letting it rattle around in your bag, but I love how that softness means it spreads wonderfully. It’s creamy, smooth, and beautifully multi-purpose (lips, hands, dry spots, you name it!). It glides over the skin easily and absorbs quickly, leaving a relatively dry finish that I always want in a salve, but rarely get. I think you’ll like it.
Bill’s Lavender Salve
20 drops lavender essential oil
Prepare a water bath by bringing about 3cm/1″ of water to a bare simmer over low to medium-low heat in a small saucepan.
Weigh the cera bellina, shea butter, jojoba oil, grapeseed oil, and macadamia nut oil into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup. Place the measuring cup in your prepared water bath to melt everything through—leave in the water bath for a solid 30 minutes to ensure everything is very thoroughly melted.
Once everything has melted, remove the measuring cup from the water bath and dry it off. I popped it into the fridge for about twenty minutes to kick-start the thickening process before removing it and stirring it with a flexible silicone spatula. I stirred it on and off as it cooled, breaking up any clumps from its time in the fridge. Once it was room temperature, I stirred in the lavender essential oil and moved the salve to a tin. And that’s it!
Because this salve is 100% oil based, it does not require a broad-spectrum preservative (broad spectrum preservatives ward off microbial growth, and microbes require water to live—no water, no microbes!). Kept reasonably cool and dry, it should last at least a year before any of the oils go rancid. If you notice it starts to smell like old nuts or crayons, that’s a sign that the oils have begun to oxidize; chuck it out and make a fresh batch if that happens.
Makes ~65g (2.3oz).
Want to learn more about these ingredients, including information on substitutions and where to buy them? Check out their entries in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia!