This soft, creamy ointment features an intoxicating blend of essential oils designed to soothe skin and nerves. It was inspired by a for-purchase essential oil powered ointment I spotted on Pinterest and after perusing the ingredients I quickly figured I could whip up something equally as lovely at home from things I already had on hand! This ointment comes together quickly and easily, and looks very cute in a wee little jar 😊
I created the base for this as I was experimented with some new baking soda free deodorant formulas (stay tuned!). This base ended up being softer than was ideal for deodorant, but I instantly loved the ointment-y consistency and knew I needed to use that base elsewhere. It reminded me of the sort of textures cera bellina gives products, but a bit less oily and more on the creamy side, so I thought some sort of botanical salve would be perfect.
Our oil blend is mainly two lightweight, fast-absorbing oils: safflower oil and mango butter. I’ve included some cornstarch to further reduce the oily feel. The blend is thickened with a combination of silky cetyl alcohol and creamy beeswax for a thick, creamy end product that’s not very waxy and has a wonderful glide-y feel. Swoon.
Bisabolol is a naturally occurring compound that is found in high levels in German chamomile essential oil (Matricaria recutita L.). I find it to have a very faint, slightly sweet scent. I first learned about using bisabolol as a stand-alone botanical active as part of my Formula Botanica coursework, and when I found some for sale at Les Âmes Fleurs I scooped up a small bottle. As you could probably guess from the properties of German chamomile essential oil, bisabolol is anti-inflammatory. It “enhances the appearance of dry or damaged skin by reducing flaking and restoring suppleness“, and it’s a big part of the soothing action of this ointment. Naturally sourced bisabolol is much more potent than synthetic bisbolol, but naturally sourced bisabolol can be harvested unsustainably, so I’d recommend researching your source.
The rest of our essential oil blend contains some great essential oils. Calming lavender, soft cedarwood, anti-bacterial tea tree, healing helichyrsum, and astringent frankincense. The resulting scent blend is soft and botanical—I don’t find any of the individual oils leap out at me. Instead, they blend into a lovely melange with some brightness from the tea tree, warmth from the cedarwood, sweetness from the lavender, and some wonderful soft zest that really ties it all together. I really like it!
We’ll be cooling this ointment by stirring it while it’s in a water bath to prevent graininess—it also helps us get to the cool down phase faster. Once you’ve reached “trace” you can add the essential oils, which I did by weight, but I’ve also provided drops if your scale isn’t accurate enough to register really small weights.
I kept my batch size quite small (just 25g) and put it in a wee little glass jar. I’m enjoying using it on bug bites (the mozzies are out in full force now!) and hot spots from my season shoe switch, or just on dry, irritated hands. I hope you like it as much as I do!
Soothing Cedarwood Ointment
Cool down phase
0.125g | 0.5% Vitamin E MT-50 (USA / Canada)
0.125g | 3 drops | 0.5% bisabolol (USA / Canada)
0.075g | 1 drop | 0.3% frankincense essential oil
0.125g | 1 drop | 0.5% helichrysum essential oil
0.05g | 2 drops | 0.2% tea tree essential oil
0.15g | 6 drops | 0.6% lavender essential oil
0.075g | 3 drops | 0.3% cedarwood 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.
While the heated phase is melting, weigh the cool down phase ingredients into a small beaker or dish. I chose a lightweight beaker so I could use a scale precise to 0.01g—heavier containers are too much for my precise scale to handle.
Prepare an ice bath in a bowl that will accommodate your heated measuring cup—you’ll want a handful of ice cubes and some cold water.
Once the heated phase ingredients have melted remove the measuring cup from the hot water bath and place it in the ice bath. Stir constantly with a flexible silicone spatula, being sure to scrape down the sides frequently. After a minute, stir in the cool down phase ingredients.
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. If you’re a soap maker you’ll be familiar with this—we’re looking for a rather light trace. If in doubt, stir and chill longer, giving it more time to obviously thicken up, otherwise it may not set up properly.
At that point pour the mixture into a jar. I used one of these cute 25mL/0.85 fl oz jars. Leave it to set up for at least an hour before using—it should appear solid. The set-up time will vary depending on ambient temperature (if you’re somewhere quite hot, popping it in the fridge would be a good idea).
Shelf Life & Storage
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.
As always, be aware that making substitutions will change the final product. While these swaps 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 25g (0.88oz).
- You can use shea butter or cupuacu butter in place of the mango butter, but shea butter will make for a greasier product.
- You can use wheat starch or arrowroot starch in place of the cornstarch.
- A different lightweight oil like sweet almond, grapeseed, or sunflower seed will work well instead of safflower oil.
- You can use a different blend of essential oils, but the entire “soothing” theme of this ointment is based around the essential oil blend so if you mess with the blend too much you really aren’t making this recipe anymore. If you do swap out some essential oils, try to choose ones with similar properties, and be sure to check the maximum recommended usage rates to ensure you’re within the recommended range.