This post is sponsored by my friends at Mountain Rose Herbs
Snow is upon us today. The perfectly fluffy, heavy and dense snow that covers everything like a warm thermal blanket but spares the roads. While writing this it’s quiet and peaceful, just like a reflective early winter day should feel. My cat is lounging atop the radiator, secretly eyeing the birds frequenting the freshly filled feeders, and reminding me of how necessary warm cat naps are lately. Admittedly, I spend my fare share of time sitting on top of the radiators too, to warm up when I come home. It’s bitter cold out there (at least, as cold as you might think it would be in the South), and warm and cozy is all I’m craving this month. Although I still have a few days more of this years work to complete, the sense of turning off and tuning inward isn’t far from my psyche.
During the winter, it’s hard for me to find that energetic balance of warmth and moisture when it’s so heavily cold and dry. I feel like I dry out instantly as soon as that radiator heat cuts on during the first chill, and my hands are often the tell tell sign that moisture is just flooding out of my body. I have Raynaud’s which is always a challenge to handle in the cold months. Along with poor circulation, my skin gets incredibly dry, and herbal salves are really supportive to keeping my skin and cuticles hydrated for as long as the cold weather sticks around. I’ve experimented with lots of salves over the years and, as per usual, I often just end up making my own for either better moisturizing capacity or as a more cost effective option because I seriously go through some salves from December-March!
Since the summer, I’ve been experimenting with a new cuticle salve that will tide me through the winter and I finally settled on the perfect herbal mixture that’s extra moisturizing and also therapeutic for my skin health overall. Salves are so easy to make, and I especially love formulating them because they’re so flexible with all of the herbs I can infuse in the carrier oils. For this cuticle salve, I kept it simple and really focused on utilizing two integumentary herbs that work beautifully in the cold and dry winter months.
Gotu kola and Neem are two of my preferred skin supportive herbs and they infuse perfectly in nourishing and rich macadamia nut oil. Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) is an herb I often use to support the outer most layer of skin that may become, dry, flakey or damaged from excessive dryness. In Ayurveda, gotu kola is considered a tridoshic herb, ideal for all constitutions and body types, and these are excellent herbs to consider when working with skin supportive herbs in general. Neem (Azadirachta indica) is also a favorite Ayurvedic herb that I love to use for anything skin related including soaps, toothpastes and infused oils. I included it in my cuticle salve recipe because it’s incredibly effective to help with dry skin that is also a bit itchy, and in the winter months I literally can’t stop messing with hangnails and scratching my cuticles from the dryness. I prefer using neem powder so more of the herbal goodness is available/exposed to infuse into whichever oil I’m using. In this case, macadamia nut oil is my preferred carrier oil because it’s so similar to sebum – the oil naturally made by the skin and it’s very easily absorbed. This trio has been a lifesaver for me since the weather has shifted, and I can definitely notice a long term difference in my cuticle health since using this salve for the past several weeks.
With any salve, I always include some additional ingredients to not only help with the moisturizing quality but to also give it a perfectly creamy and smooth texture. In this formula, I included coconut oil and shea butter to add some additional healthy fats and moisture along with beeswax pastilles to help it solidify. The small pastilles I love using because they melt easily and quickly and they’re way more convenient that grating a huge chunk of beeswax. I keep a variety of 1oz and 4oz tins around to store salves. I use the small tins to travel with, and keep the larger tins around the house and use constantly. Finally, I play with lots of essential oils when I make salves, but using juniper berry essential oil in this salve makes it absolutely perfect for winter time! All said and done, it’s so much more economical when I make salves myself during the months when I go through them so quickly. Additional perk – homemade salves make for awesome little gifts and stocking stuffers too!
Salve making tip: When making any salve, very gradually add in the beeswax little bits at a time. An overly waxy salve is never a good feeling on the skin. What I often do is melt the ingredients together, slowly adding beeswax little by little, and testing it every few minutes. I’ll pour a bit of the hot melted oil into a little spoon and stick the spoon in the refrigerator for about a minute to let it solidify and test the texture, I’ll slowly add more and more beeswax and re-test the solidification until it’s the perfect texture. Also, I recommend adding in the essential oils as your very last step after pouring the oil into the tins. If you add the essential oils too soon or while the ingredients are all melting together, those fragrant, volatile oils will start to dissipate and diminish, so do this at the very end.