Instructions for making a silky and moisturizing lotion with marshmallow root and lavandin oil. Use as a nourishing hand and body lotion for dry and weatherbeaten skin. Makes one 100ml pot but can be scaled up for larger batches.
Our skin really takes a beating in winter. It’s cold, windy, and not only are our faces and lips chapped but the rest of our skin can get a little neglected too. Mine does at least, mainly because I’m all covered up and I forget about taking care of it. Dry knees and elbows, shins, and well, everywhere. For conditioning, I tend to use an oil-based product like my lavender body balm. Before that, it needs moisture and that’s why I decided to whip up a batch of winter body lotion.
It’s light enough to be used all over really, so I’ve been taking a generous scoop and massaging it in from top to toe. It’s silky and light yet penetrating and feels as lovely on my face as it does everywhere else. I make it with lavandin essential oil too, which is perfect for this time of the year. Lavandin is a type of lavender, but the essential oil has a lot more camphor in it so it really stimulates the skin and senses.
Marshmallow Root in Skincare
The not so secret ingredient in this recipe is marshmallow root (Althea officinallis). Marshmallow is a tall flowering perennial that’s both edible and medicinal — and YES it’s the original ingredient source for marshmallows. One of the best uses of the plant is in making healing herbal infusions for health and skin. When drunk, it can help soothe upset stomachs, ulcers, and intestinal issues. You’d understand why when you feel the infusion. It’s slightly thickened and very smooth and silky.
It has the same silky and nourishing effect when you use it on your skin. That’s why it’s a wonderful ingredient to add to creams and lotions, especially a winter body lotion. You could use it in a lot of other handmade skincare recipes too: hair detangler, eye gel, after-sun creams, and practically anything really. You can’t go wrong with using marshmallow in skincare.
Using Marshmallow Root in Lotion
The part of the marshmallow you tend to use with making lotions is the root. It’s rich in mucilage and infuses easily into cold water. Though it’s available to purchase, you can grow and harvest it yourself too. The root you see in the photos in this recipe is from my own plants. If you purchase it, it tends to arrive a little more chopped up, so don’t be confused.
Growing marshmallow is easy. It’s a stunning plant that reaches well over six feet tall in my garden. Tall stems emerge from the ground each spring and by August, they’ll be blooming in soft pink flowers. When the stems die down in winter I’ll harvest some of the roots, trying to disturb my plant as little as possible. I take just as much as I need, clean it, chop it and dry it in a food dehydrator. It lasts for at least a year afterward.
Making Handmade Lotion
Making skin lotions and creams is not difficult but you do need to adhere to several rules. First of all, make sure everything is sanitized before you begin. Running all pots, jars, and utensils through the dishwasher works. Also, make sure to measure precisely and to stick to the temperatures and instructions. Stray from the path and your lotion might not make the journey.
Also, any product made with water is going to be a cozy place for microbes to take up residence. Minimizing them in the making process helps keep them under control. A preservative helps with the rest. Without a preservative such as Geogard Ultra, this lotion will only keep for five days. And that’s refrigerated! From that point, tiny unseen organisms start to live, eat, and poop in your lotion even if you can see them. Broad-spectrum preservatives are essential for shelf-life and keeping icky stuff off your skin.
Other ingredients in this recipe are a dependable emulsifying wax, for binding oil and water together. Cetyl alcohol is a vegetable-based ingredient that thickens and helps emulsify. Xanthan gum is another natural thickener and is even used in the food industry.
Nourishing Winter Body Lotion
- 2 heat-proof jars or containers
- 2 ramekins
- Large saucepan
- Immersion blender
- Small sieve (strainer)
- Digital Jewelers Scale
- Small dark glass jar (100ml)
- Rubber spatula
- Digital temperature gun (or thermometer)
- pH testing strips
- 10 g dried marshmallow (Althea officinalis) root 0.35 oz
- 150 g distilled water 150 ml / 5.07 fl oz.
- 90 g Marshmallow infusion 90 ml / 3.04 fl. oz
- 5 g Emulsifying wax (NF Polawax) 0.18 oz / just over 1.5 tsp
- 2 g Cetyl alcohol 0.07 oz / just over 1/2 tsp
- 9 g Sweet almond oil 0.32 oz / 2.5 tsp
- 0.3 g Xanthan gum 0.01 oz / 1/8 tsp
- 1.5 g Geogard Ultra* (Gluconolactone & Sodium Benzoate & Calcium Gluconate) 0.05 oz / 1/2 tsp
- 5 g Marshmallow infusion 0.17 fl. oz / 1 tsp
- 10 drops Lavandin essential oil
- Baking soda (also called Bicarbonate of soda) Optional
Make the Marshmallow Infusion
- Combine the dried marshmallow root and distilled water in a sterilized jar. Running the jar through a dishwasher beforehand will suffice. Cover and leave to infuse overnight.
- Strain the thickened water through a mini-sieve and into another sterilized jar.
- Measure how much one of the heat-proof jars weights and jot that measurement down. Next, measure 90g of the marshmallow infusion into that jar, and 1tsp of the infusion into a small ramekin. Keep the remaining marshmallow infusion on hand for the last step.
Prepare the Oil & Water Phases
- The 90g of marshmallow infusion in a heat-proof jar is your water phase. Set this jar in a pan filled with simmering water and heat to 75°C/165°F. Once it's at this temperature, hold it there for twenty minutes. This helps kill off most of the microbes that might be in the infusion.
- Measure all of the oil phase ingredients except the xanthan gum into your second heat-proof jar. Measure the xanthan gum into its own small ramekin. Next, place the main heat-proof oil phase jar in the pan with the water phase. You're aiming to melt it and heat it to the same temperature as the water phase.
- You're ready for the next step after you've heated and held the water phase for at least twenty minutes, and the contents of both jars are 75°C/165°F.
- If you can fit the head of the immersion blender inside your heat-proof jars that's great. If not, pour the oil phase ingredients into a larger sterilized container, but remember to take its weight measurement first.
- Place the immersion blender in and lightly sprinkle the xanthan gum over the oil phase. Quickly blend it together before it has a chance to gum up. I'd recommend that you sprinkle just a little at a time until it's blended together.
- Pour the water phase into the same container as the oil phase. Use the immersion blender to emulsify the two. You'll see the mixture quickly change into an opaque white cream. With smaller batches, like this one, the immersion blender is likely to leave air bubbles in the lotion. It's not a huge deal if the lotion is for personal use. Larger batches won't have this issue since the head of the immersion blender will keep below the surface of the ingredients.
- When the lotion looks fully emulsified, tap the remaining lotion off the immersion blender's head. At this stage, the lotion might be runnier than you're expecting. It won't reach its full thickness until it's cool. This brings us to the next step, allow the lotion to cool to 45°C/110°F.
- When the lotion is almost cooled, heat the ramekin of marshmallow infusion in the pan to 45°C/110°F. Take it out, add the Geogard Ultra* and mix well.
- When the lotion has cooled, add the Geogard Ultra mixture and the essential oil. Mix really well with your spatula, then weight the container and lotion on your kitchen scale.
- The final weight of the lotion should be 100g (3.53oz). Deduct the weight of the container from your measurement and you'll have a weight for the lotion. I can guarantee you that it will be less, and that's because some of the water will have evaporated during both the heating and cooling phase. Work out how many grams you need for your lotion to be 100g and add that much of the reserved marshmallow infusion. Stir really well.
- Now we need to test for pH. Dip one of your pH papers into the lotion, scrape it off and compare the color to the ones on the pack. Lotion and skin creams need to match the pH of your skin or they can be irritating. If the pH is between 4.5-5.5 you're spot on. If it's too acidic, dissolve the tiniest amount of baking soda (bicarbonate of soda) with a tiny amount of warmed marshmallow infusion. Pass it through the sieve and into the lotion. Take the pH again and adjust again if needed.
- If anything goes wrong with your lotion's emulsion, you'll tend to know within the first few hours. If this is your first time making lotion, scoop it into a sterilized clear glass container and wait. If after those few hours the lotion is holding its emulsion you're good to go. Decant the lotion into a sterilized cosmetic jar and use within six months of dipping your finger into it. Depending on which preservative you use, the lotion will have a shelf-life of up to eighteen months.