Salves, Creams or Lotions?

My family has had many issues with dry, irritated skin on our hands during the winter months. Lots of extra hand washing and dry air… It’s a constant battle. Years ago, we found that the only thing that worked for my husband and didn’t irritate my son’s skin was a salve. Lotions would sting my son badly and would not even touch my husband’s sore, dry knuckles.

We tried lots of different options: lotions, creams, salves and body butters. The differences between all these types of skin care is interesting and helpful when trying to figure out what you need:

  • Lotions are 3/4 water along with an oil and an emulsifier. They are not well preserved because of the water and have a short shelf life without a preservative.
  • Creams are almost half oil and half water along with an emulsifier which makes them thicker and more moisturizing. But they still have a short shelf life without a preservative.
  • Body Butters are typically a 3/4 blend of butters like shea or cocoa and 1/4 oils. This makes them much thicker, well absorbed and very good at moisturizing.
  • Salves are a blend of oils and beeswax. Many salves also have essential oils or vitamin E mixed in, but there is no water in a salve. The shelf life is long because the beeswax acts as a preservative. Vitamin E does as well!

It can be very confusing trying to find what works for every part of the body, for every issue and every age group. There are lotions, creams, butters, salves and then there are body lotions, hand creams and face creams…..say what? It’s enough to make your head spin.

Here is what I do know – salves work the best for my little family on dry, cracked, irritated winter hands.

So, of course, I made my own. Clean and safe ingredients are very important especially when you are putting it on your skin where it will be absorbed directly into your bloodstream. Don’t be fooled by a pretty label – do your research into all the ingredients to make sure they are safe. There are many companies that may advertise safety, but are not completely safe.

This recipe was super simple and fun to make and all you need is a glass jar, measuring cups and spoons, a container for your finished salve (this is a link to a 4 oz container but I used an 8 oz container which held the entirety of this recipe) and a microwave along with a few key ingredients:

Take a glass jar or bowl and add the coconut oil and beeswax using a small spatula. Working with solid oils and butter is messy, but the spatulas help and any coconut oil that wanders can just be rubbed into your skin. Yeah!

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You can see the beeswax, shea butter and coconut oil all in the jar!

I also played with this recipe a little bit and cut the coconut oil in half and added shea butter in as well…. so, 2 Tbsp + 2 tsp of EACH – coconut oil and shea butter. But, you can do all coconut oil of course!

Back to the microwave – heat the coconut oil and beeswax mixture in the microwave on high for 30 second intervals. Stip with your mini spatula between heatings. Once the coconut oil and beeswax mixture is melted entirely, measure and add in the Vitamin E Oil and Almond Oil. Stir.

Adding the almond oil and vitamin e oil!

Let the mixture cool off for a few minutes. Then add your essential oils, stir and pour into your finished container and let it solidify. That’s it!

Keep some in your bathroom, in your purse or in your car  you can make it so quickly and easily that you can make one for each member of the family in different scents. I think I am going to try a lavender one next and then maybe a tropical fruit scent? Who knows.


I am going to try a Heel Salve soon for my old lady heels that uses Tamanu Oil which is an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant that is known to help regenerate skin cells and so is often used on people with scars. We shall see!

Happy Making!

I already got my hands in it!

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