Make Your Own Elbow Grease




About: I am a paper engineer, writer, maker and chemist wannabe. In addition to pop-up cards I design and build furniture, lights, costumes or whatever I happen to need at the time. Lipstick, a mixing studio, all-p...

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....

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Step 1: Raw Materials

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)

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

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

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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    11 Discussions

    I like this! I have a ton of peppermint, and it's turned out to be wretched for making tea. Thank you!

    I made some of this cream today. I used lavender essential oil instead of mint, and followed the rest of the recipe. I used granular beeswax purchased at my natural food store - they sell it by the pound, and the small amount I needed cost about $1.50. They also had the liquid lecithin, for about $7.00 for a 12 oz. bottle. The first photo shows the beeswax granules floating on top of the oil/lecithin mixture. It wasn't melting, then I looked up online and found the melting temp of beeswax is 145 degrees F. So I turned up the heat a little and it went quickly after that. ( You may be able to see that I mixed it in a Pyrex measuring cup and placed it in the saucepan with water, and rested the cup on a canning jar ring so it wouldn't hit the bottom of the pan. This was convenient for pouring when it was done.) I placed the cup in an ice bath to cool it some before I put in the Vitamin E and lavender oil, but the wax started collecting in flakes, so I just stirred like crazy then poured it into jars. It made three 4 oz. jars, and it smells great. So far it feels really nice, too. I'll try wearing it overnight later!

    wax melting.jpgopen jars.jpg
    1 reply

    4 years ago

    If you use coconut oil, it will be more of a paste. I believe Coconut oil is solid at 73 and liquid at 74 degrees.

    1 reply

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Yes, you can substitute the olive oil with coconut oil -- and the result would probably be a bit more solid. But the texture of this balm is already solid, because of the beeswax. It's hard to the touch but when scooped up it has a texture similar to vaseline.


    I love home made products, and this is a recipe I'll add to my arsenal to draw on when needed. Now if only I had something to cover my elbows with when I sleep! (maybe I'll cut up some old socks)

    I have some Lavender essential oil - could that be used instead of the mint? How much would I put in the oil to give it some aroma and not be too strong for the face?

    1 reply

    Absolutely. Lavender's great, and it's one of the best tolerated essential oils. I'd say if you're using 1/2 cup of olive oil you should be fine with 1/8 tsp of lavender.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    This got my attention! I've got chronic elephant skin elbows, which my wife just loves.. so maybe we'll have to make some of this. Thanks!