Make Your Own Elbow Grease
Make Your Own Elbow Grease

I formulated this butter for elbows -- but it will soothe and soften any patch of super dry skin, particularly your ever-suffering feet. But you can also use it as a lip balm, or spread a small amount on your face before going to bed. In the morning you will be shocked, SHOCKED I say, at how soft your skin feels.

(Don't I sound like one of those horrible "Doctors hate local mom who cures wrinkles" Facebook ads? Let me set the record straight then. Even though I happen to be a mom, doctors don't hate me and I don't hate them either. And this won't rid you of wrinkles, it will just make your skin feel nice and soft).

This super concentrated formula goes far -- however this recipe can easily be multiplied. Since it contains no water its shelf life is longer than most, without preservatives or refrigeration. This means that if you find a nice jar to put it in, this can be used as a gift. I avoid giving people preservative-free creams which will spoil as gifts, ever since I discovered one of my beautiful jars of home-made moisturizer at my in-law's house, one year later, black with mold because they'd been saving it for a special occasion....

Step 1: Raw materials

Make Your Own Elbow Grease

This is an extremely simple moisturizer -- you will only need oil, wax, and soy lecithin. You can also add a few drops of vitamin E and some essential oil, or use herb-infused oil.

In the version I have here I used:

  • 1/2 cup mint infused olive oil (about 100g)
  • 4 tablespoons of soy lecithin (80g)
  • 25g of beeswax (this was a chunk about 2.5x3x3.5cm)
  • I also added about 1/2 teaspoon of vitamin E (1g)

    As with any moisturizer or balm, ingredients can be substituted or even omitted -- but keep the soy lecithin, which is the ingredient which makes this such a wonderful and unusual balm. Lecithin is a common ingredient in moisturizers and even chocolate, but the proportion used here is higher here than you will find in most creams.

    You will need to buy the liquid soy lecithin in a bottle -- don't try to cut open the gel pills which are sometimes sold as dietary supplements. You need too much of the lecithin, and the gels are too slippery and viscous to dissect. This means that you will probably have to order it online. I've bought some for Soap Goods and from Mountain Rose Herbs, but any cosmetic supplier will carry it.

    Step 2: Long term prep (optional)

    Make Your Own Elbow Grease
    Make Your Own Elbow Grease

    In the past I've used plain olive oil with a few drops of essential oils, but this time, since I had some aggressive mint invading my little garden plot this summer, I used it to infuse my olive oil. Besides being cheaper, using fresh mint is also nicer: it's mild so you can use the cream all over (I even use it on my eyes!), but it still smells wonderful.

    To make herb-infused oil, you should first dry your fresh herbs. Hang them up in a dark, well-ventilated place for a few days. As soon as they dry out (and before they get completely crumbly and dusty) stuff them in a jar, then fill the jar with oil. Push down with a spoon to remove air bubbles, and make sure the herbs are completely covered in oil.

    To speed things up you can gently heat up the oil with the herbs -- but if you've got time that's not needed. Mine steeped for about three months, but that was just because I didn't get around to making the balm sooner. Two or three weeks should do the trick.

    A note on drying the herbs:

    Although you can theoretically just infuse the herbs without drying them first, I would not recommended it. The mint will not be as concentrated (you won't be able to fit as much in your jar) plus you run the risk of spoiling the oil. Bacteria, mold, and all that fun stuff needs water to grow, so if you don't dry out the herbs first you're just asking for trouble.

    Step 3: Preparation

    Make Your Own Elbow Grease
    Make Your Own Elbow Grease
    Make Your Own Elbow Grease
    Make Your Own Elbow Grease

    If you have infused oil, strain it.

    Mix olive oil and lecithin in a small pyrex or stainless steel cup. Make sure they are well blended or the lecithin will congeal as it is heated and the end result will be unpleasantly grainy. Add beeswax and gently heat the mix in a pot of barely simmering water till the wax melts. Remove from the pan of simmering water and let it cool down for a few minutes before adding the optional vitamin E and peppermint oil. You don't want the temperature to be burning hot, but you can't wait too long either or it will set. Stir well and pour into wide mouth jar or tin.

    Step 4: Use and warning

    Make Your Own Elbow Grease

    Apply small amount to dry skin as needed. For best results, apply right after a bath or shower. After applying it to feet, it is best to wear socks: this balm takes a while to be absorbed, and it can be very slippery. If you have a pet, there's another reason to wear socks: my dog LOVES this moisturizer and whenever I use it he follows me around, treating me like I'm some sort of giant doggy lollipop. So watch out!

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