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
7.53g | 30.1% safflower oil
10.25g | 41% mango butter (USA / Canada)
1.5g | 6% cetyl alcohol (USA / Canada)
2.5g | 10% beeswax (USA / Canada)
2.5g | 10% corn starch
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.
Weigh the heated phase ingredients into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup. Place the measuring cup in your prepared water bath to melt everything through.
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.
Love what you do and would like to make some of your creations so could you include both American measurements in your recipes.
Just a note, some Americans (myself included) love getting measurements in grams. My scale can do grams and ounces but with rounding, grams end up way more accurate than ounces. I haven’t done much in the cosmetics realm yet but I prefer grams for my cold process soap making and even for regular ole baking, especially for breads.
Thanks, Gina! I believe I got started in oz (even though I’m Canadian) because my scale toggles over to ounces easily and we get many recipes out of the US, and of course they’re in OZ. I’m full metric all the way now, though—that precision is amazing!
Hi Gwen, I’m an American and make things Marie writes about almost every weekend. Grams really are the best measurement, small and precise and easy to do math with as opposed to ounces whitch are 1/16 of a pound and something like 28 ounces. And grams of water are the same as ml’s of water which is for sure on your liquid Pyrex measuring cups in America. Probably your kitchen scale can manage grams as units, but after a bit you’ll want a more accurate scale.
Thanks, Kathie! 😀
As I’ve provided both percentages and a link to a batch calculator you are able to calculate everything in the units and size you desire 🙂 Given I’ve done all the work of developing and writing up the recipes I hope you don’t mind doing that last bit 🙂
I’m sorry if you’ve answered this question elsewhere but I could not find it.
I am very allergic to tea tree oil. Is it feasible to use neem oil as a substitute or just omit the tea tree altogether? Is there anything else you might suggest?
I use ginger essential oil in replacement of the tea tree oil. Neem is a carrier oil.
I wouldn’t use neem; it’s a carrier oil rather than an essential oil, and it smells revolting. I’d probably just use more lavender instead 🙂
That is a lovely EO combination. I can’t afford Frankincense EO, though, so I’ll try infusing the base oil first 🙂 Thank you. I look forward to trying this out.
Thanks! You could also try a different soothing/calming essential oil in place of the Frankincense; chamomile would be a good option, though it’s also not inexpensive 🙂
I’m really looking forward to hearing about your recent deodorant experimentation! I’ve been toying around with different concentrations of epsom salt solutions and then trying to thicken to a gel with arrowroot powder. Just aiming for a semi solid with out a precipitate.
I think I’m making progress, but I’m definitely not there yet. I’m having a hard time finding good information about some of the alternative active ingredients I want to use, which is frustrating!
Hi Marie, I’m looking to make a healing salve that contains propolis, and like this recipe as a starting point. In your opinion, could I omit the bisabolol, add in propolis tincture (maybe 20-25 drops), and replace the beeswax for polawax to help emulsify the tincture? I know the only way to know for sure is to just try it, but I just wanted a second (and more experienced) opinion before I potentially wasted my propolis tincture. Thanks Marie!
I also wanted to add that I did check out your Egyptian Magic balm and your Propolis lotion. Those recipes helped give me an idea of what I wanted, but I wanted more of a thicker salve than a lotion, and didn’t want honey in it. Oh, and I wasn’t sure if adding a tincture (which I’m assuming is water soluble, not oil soluble) would require the addition of a broad spectrum preservative.
If your tincture is water based you will need a preservative. You could look at including soy lecithin to emulsify; it’s useful for including small amounts of water in large amounts of oil 🙂
The bisabolol/propolis swap could work, depending on the medium for the tincture, but I would not replace all the beeswax with polawax as you will end up with a drastically thinner product.
Hello ms. Marie any substitution.on helichrysum and bisabol hard to find it here..thanks.
Please refer to the substitutions list at the end of the recipe; basically, you’ll need to sort something out from what you can get, as it’s very hard for me to make suggestions without knowing what you can get or have.
I’m thinking about doing this but subbing in Shea instead of mango, i notice you mentioned this will make it a bit more oily. Would it be okay to add some isopropyl myristate in order to combat this? If so do you think 5% would suffice?
That’ll definitely help; take the IPM out of the safflower oil 🙂
Hi, I have made beeswax ointments before but always end up with super tiny white bubbles on the surface after a few days. Did I do something wrong do you happen to know if this could be oxidation? If so how can I avoid the ointment to separate?
Once i run my finger through the top to pickup some product, that part will become super bumpy if it sits untouched for a while. Please help! Thanks
It sounds like it might be going grainy—give this post a read and see if anything sounds/looks familiar 🙂
Hi Marie, this ointment is so lovely – the texture and glide-y feel feels so good on the skin :). I was wondering if I could leave out the essential oils for this recipe and replace them with cassia, camphor, cajeput and peppermint, and use the tiger balm essential oil blend with this lovely base? (I will be gifting it, and the ointment seems more luxurious).
Thank you for putting all the work into formulating your products 🙂
It is definitely worth a try! Let me know how it turns out 🙂
What is the pink round object in the bottom of the small saucepan? I am looking for good equipment, and can’t seem to figure it out from the photo. -thanks !
It looks like a heat-resistant silicone pad. Search for “silicone hot pad” on Amazon to see what I mean. Neat stuff!