Balm bars, also called massage bars or solid lotion, are really easy to tackle and can make fun, personal gifts. There is so much scope for letting your creativity loose, both with the ingredients themselves, and the presentation.
First, let’s take look at the basic bar formulation. A lot of recipes you will find online include beeswax in their formula. This does give a firm bar that is more resistant to melting in warm temperatures, however beeswax can block the pores and offers little by way of nourishment to the skin – it really is best kept for use in products like lip balms or protective creams. My basic recipe instead uses a higher percentage of cocoa butter to give a good, firm end product that is really nourishing for the skin. Here is the basic formulation:
- 73% (83% if using liquid oil) Cocoa Butter
- 20% Soft Butter (such as mango, shea or murumuru) OR 10% Liquid oil (e.g. jojoba, almond or avocado)
- 5% Vitamin E
- 2% Essential Oil
Simply melt the solid butters together in a bain marie. Remove from the heat and stir continually as it cools (this prevents graininess developing, especially if using shea butter). Once the mix has cooled to 40c, add in your heat sensitive Vitamin E and essential oils. Your mixture can now be poured into your chosen moulds. If you find the finished bars are too soft, increase the percentage of coco butter – if they are too hard, increase the soft butter/liquid oil.
Once you have mastered the basics, there are all kinds of variations you can try. For an exfoliating effect try adding ground olive stones, sugar, pumice powder or activated charcoal. You could even try adding coffee or mung beans for a massaging effect.
The base can even be used for creating natural deodorant, by adding absorbent kaolin or fuller’s earth clay and choosing deodorising oils such as bergamot or cypress.
Now comes the fun bit – making your bars look gorgeous. Firstly, you need to choose a mould and there are some great ones out there – I particularly like this massage bar mould with a textured surface. However, you certainly don’t need to invest in a mould to make these. Why not try cake cases, ice cube trays, food packaging – the world really is your oyster. Mini bars are particularly handy for single use on clients for the therapists amongst you.
Some people will like to leave their bars plain and simple, perhaps not even adding fragrance. For others, dried petals and herbs can add a lovely natural look. There is also nothing to stop you going all out with glitters and micas – a very economical way to make a body glitter!
So, have fun, share your creations with us, and as always let us know about the experiments that did not go so well – we often learn more from these than we do when we get it right first time!