Sure, you can purchase fancy (or not so fancy) lotions that come in bottles from your local beauty supplier. Or, you can make your own lotion bars with food grade ingredients and a wee bit of your time.
My super-crafty sister and I made these lotion bars as a thank you gift for my recent baby blessing and shower. What's nice about them is that you don't need a container (although you can pour them into jars if you prefer). We also decorated them with fresh herbs and coffee beans (the coffee beans are exfoliating), but they work perfectly fine without any added ingredients.
The ingredients are all edible (although eating wax is not very appealing, even to a pregnant woman). And they turn out super moisturizing. I've been using one on my belly to help reduce stretch marks. They also make great hand and foot balms.
We scented the lotion bars three ways: a floral lavender based bar, a minty one, and the coffee one got a little spice. You can get as creative as you want with the fragrances. More on that below.
These cook up in under an hour and they cool pretty quickly. We split up the raw cacao and shea butter, but you can also just go with one of those for a full three cups. To make fewer (or more!) bars, just decrease the cups, keeping to a 1:1:1 ratio, keeping the cacao and shea as one ingredient.
Coconut-Cacao Lotion Bars
Makes about 40 one-inch bars
In a double boiler over medium-low heat, melt the coconut oil, beeswax and cacao or shea butters. Note the beeswax will take about twice as long or more to melt than the other ingredients. So, if you're making a large batch, it might make sense to melt that first, adding the other oils later.
Meanwhile, prep your dried herbs, coffee beans, etc, if you're using them. De-stem, clean and drop them into the silicone molds.
If you're making the lotions all one scent, once the oils have all melted and you've turned off the heat, you can mix in your oils. For the full batch, you'll use about 60–75 drops of essential oils. Ration it down if you're making into smaller batches.
For the lavender bars we used a blend of lavender and neroli oils. Geranium would be nice too, as would rose.
For the mint, we blended peppermint, lemon and bergamot. You can also use spearmint. Eucalpytus is nice (but very powerful) and even a bit of sweet orange will work well with mint.
For coffee, we used cinnamon, clove and ginger. You could add a bit of vanilla too.
To get the herbs to stay at the bottom, pour just enough of the lotion mix in to cover them and let it cool. Otherwise, your herbs may float. Once they've cooled, fill the rest of the mold with the oils (which may need to be reheated).
Let cool in molds overnight (freezer is best) and pop out in the morning. Wrap in parchment or wax paper.
A note about cleanup: we did not put too much emphasis on this as we went along, and I really recommend doing so. The lotion bar mixture will begin to cool almost immediately, sticking to any cookware, spoons etc, and it's not fun to get off. So it's recommended to clean items when the oil is still hot and will slide right off. Do not pour the mixture into your kitchen sink, especially if you have a disposal.
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Images: crunchy betty (top), amy ettinger