This rich blue balm is a DIY version of a very popular and very expensive shop-bought balm. This particular balm is known for its striking dark blue hue that comes from a hefty dose of expensive blue tansy essential oil. I’ve created a more budget friendly version you can make at home with some lovely butters, silky oils, and gorgeous essential oils. It smells divine, has a delightful melty consistency, and can be easily tweaked to suit what you’ve got at home.
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This balm has two key parts: the oil & butter blend, and the essential oil blend. The oil and butter blend forms the bulk of the product, dictating its consistency, melting point, texture, and absorbency speed. The essential oil blend brings the colours and a whole host of aromatic benefits.
I spent most of the development time for this recipe working on the oils and butters blend. I needed to create something that was firm on its own, but easily scooped out of a tin and then quick to melt into the skin. The original contained five oils and butters; camellia seed oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, marula oil and baobab seed oil—in that order. With a liquid oil first, but with shea and cocoa butter as our only thickeners, I knew the amounts of marula and baobab would be comparatively small to make room for the shea and cocoa to total around 50% without taking over the #1 position in the ingredient list. Since I didn’t have any baobab oil I dropped it in favour of all marula for that after-the-butters liquid oil.
My first attempt was a 55% total blend of shea and cocoa butters, and to my surprise that was way too hard! I worked on dialling it back and settled on a 40% blend. It’s firm at room temperature, creamy when worked with the fingers, and melts quickly—but not too quickly—when handled. It’s a really lovely medley of butters and oils for our essential oils to decorate.
The star of the original balm is blue tansy essential oil, which is a deep, vibrant blue thanks to its high chamazulene content. The other thing that’s high? The price. New Directions Aromatics currently lists 5mL of blue tansy oil at $51CAD. Ouch! So, I set off to select a more budget-friendly (and hopefully stuff-I-already-had-friendly) alternative and quickly settled on yarrow essential oil. Yarrow is also deep blue thanks to high chamazulene levels (though typically not as high as blue tansy). The top three compounds in each essential oil (chamazulene, sabinene, and ß-Myrcene) are the same (though in slightly differing orders), and there’s lots of overlap in the remaining constituents as well. It’s not a perfect match, but given yarrow essential oil is less than half the price I think it’s a good place to start!
There are so many other essential oils in the blend. Myrrh, lavender, frankincense, rose geranium, vanilla, helichruysum, and ravensara. I had everything but vanilla, which I replaced with benzoin. There was also a CO2 fruit extract I’d never heard of (Schisandra Sphenanthera)—a bit of research told me its benefits included anti-irritating and anti-inflammatory goodness, so I opted to replace it with some bisabolol. It was the third last ingredient on the list, so there can’t have been much in the product.
I kept the essential oil blend to 1.5% of the total product. That’s higher than is typically recommended for the face (1%), but given the deep blue hue of the original I believe it must contain at least 1% blue tansy alone as I found 0.6% yarrow gave a very faint blue colour. According to Tisserand & Young, the maximum recommended dose for yarrow (our most used essential oil) is 8.6%—we use 0.6%. Myrhh and Lavender, in second and third place respectively, have no listed maximum dose—we use each at 0.2%. From there on out everything is present at 0.1% or less—you’ll want quite a precise scale for this project!
I made two different versions of this balm; one that gets its colour entirely from the essential oil blend, and one that uses indigo-infused camellia seed oil. As you can see from the photo above, the version with just the essential oils for colour is pretty… fair. If you want the striking blue hue you’ll either want to use the much more chamazulene-rich blue tansy essential oil, or you’ll want to rock the indigo infusion. The video version is all essential oils, which the blog version has the details for the infusion. It’s up to you!
The original balm is marketed for use on the face and body, but given the cocoa butter content it would be understandable if some of you didn’t want to put this on your face (some people find cocoa butter can clog pores). No worries! This balm is yours to do with whatever your heart desires. Enjoy!
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Indigo Lagoon Balm
Essential oil blend
0.15g | 0.6% yarrow essential oil
0.05g | 0.2% myrhh essential oil
0.05g | 0.2% lavender essential oil
0.025g | 0.1% frankincense essential oil
0.025g | 0.1% rose geranium essential oil
0.025g | 0.1% benzoin resinoid
0.04g | 0.16% bisabalol
0.0075g | 0.03% helichrysum essential oil
0.0025g | 0.01% ravensara essential oil
You’ll want to infused the camellia seed oil first. I weighed out 0.25g (0.0088oz) indigo powder into a disposable tea bag and infused that into about 18g (0.63oz) camellia seed oil in a water bath for about one hour before proceeding. That yielded enough infused oil with a bit leftover.
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 shea and cocoa butter into a small heat-resistant bowl—the sort of thing you can comfortably stir in. If you don’t have a small bowl, a heat-resistant glass measuring cup will work. Place the bowl in your prepared water bath to melt everything through.
While the heated phase melts, prepare an ice bath. Take a bowl that is large enough to accommodate the container the heated phase is melting in, and fill it about halfway with ice cubes and cold water.
Once the butters have melted, remove them from the heat and stir in the infused camellia seed oil and marula oil. Then place the bowl in the ice bath and stir constantly for about one minute, until the mixture has cooled a bit but hasn’t noticeably thickened or started to opacify.
Now it’s time to weigh in the essential oil blend! Carefully weigh in each oil. For the last two I recommend doing toothpick swirls if you’re making a small batch—my scale definitely couldn’t weigh those amounts!
Once the essential oils have been added, stir to combine, and then continue stirring the mixture in the ice bath until you reach “trace”—the mixture should have enough viscosity that a small amount drizzled over the surface of the mixture leaves a “trace” for an instant. The mixture should also appear a bit hazy. If you’re a soap maker you’ll be familiar with this—we’re looking for a light trace. Refer to the video to see it in action!
When you have reached trace, transfer the mixture to a 30mL/1 ounce tin and transfer it to the fridge to cool completely (typically about forty minutes). Remove from the fridge and let the balm come to room temperature. That’s it!
To use, smooth a small amount of the balm over any skin that needs some special attention. Due to the higher essential oil content and the indigo infusion, avoid use around the eyes. Enjoy!
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this balm 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.
As always, be aware that making substitutions will change the final product. While these swaps likely won’t break the recipe, you will get a different final product than I did.
- As I’ve provided this recipe in percentages as well as grams you can easily calculate it to any size using a simple spreadsheet as I’ve explained in this post. As written in grams this recipe will make 200g.
- To learn more about the ingredients used in this recipe, including why they’re included and what you can substitute them with, please visit the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia. It doesn’t have everything in it yet, but there’s lots of good information there!
- You can replace the camellia seed oil with another lightweight, fast-absorbing oil
- You could use unrefined shea butter instead of refined, but this will impact the scent of the final product
- You could use unrefined cocoa butter instead of refined, but this will impact the scent of the final product
- You could try a different soft butter instead of the shea, and a different brittle in butter instead of the cocoa, but keep in mind that all of the structure of this balm comes from this precise butter blend. Changing it will impact the end product.
- You can use a different luxury oil instead of the marula oil (or more camellia seed oil)
- For the essential oil blend:
- The blue element is pretty key to this product. You could definitely use blue tansy instead of yarrow if you have it. German chamomile is probably the next most common essential oil with a high chamazulene, but it has a very different (and quite overwhelming) scent than yarrow, and I wouldn’t confidently recommend it as an alternative.
- If you are missing frankincense or myrrh, use more of the one you do have to reach 0.3%
- If you’re missing anything else, just use more lavender essential oil.
- The general theme of the balm is a calming, anti-anxiety, relaxing sort of thing, so keep that in mind if you decide to freestyle your substitutions. Be sure to keep to maximum usage amounts in mind for each essential oil you use.