What is a balm?
A balm is a combination of butters, oils and waxes used as the base to which essential oils or other active ingredients like herbs are added. Balms do not contain water hence they require no or less preservatives or stabilisers compared to a lotion. Balms are preserved with either essential oils and/or vitamin E oil. The solidified oils melt when they come into contact with your body warmth and skin. Hence, we recommend ‘warming’ the balm in your hand first before rubbing it into your skin. They last a long time because the biggest threat to their freshness is rancidity.
Lotion vs Balm
The function of a lotion is to deliver oil to our skin. Our bodies naturally produces oil, this is what moisturises and protects our skin. Some of us over produce natural oils aka oily skin and some under produce i.e., dry skin. A lotion uses water to deliver the oil. This serves two purposes: water immediately hydrates and plumps the skin, and it also helps the oil to absorb. However, the plumping effect is short-lived, as water continuously evaporates from the skin. Different environments will cause different rates of evaporation – central heating causes quicker evaporation hence our skin feels drier in winter.
Because lotions contain a mixture of oil and water, they require lots of other stuff to hold them together, keep them fresh and inhibit bacteria and mould growth. Additional ingredients such as emulsifiers, which bind water and oil together, and preservatives, which inhibit bacteria growth in environments that contain water. Without these additional ingredients, the oil would not mix with the water and stay separated looking like a lava lamp.
A balm is a concentrated, waterless moisturizer that delivers the oil directly to the skin. And because there is no water, there is no need for emulsifiers. Oils are blended together and beeswax or a plant wax thickens it up, creating a solid product.
If you were to take a 4 oz bottle of lotion and remove all of the water, emulsifiers, and preservatives, you’d be left with, more or less, a 2 oz balm.
When talking functionality, balms deliver oil to the skin, and skips the “middle man” (water) and his colleagues (emulsifiers and preservatives).
Why I love love a balm
I wash my hands a lot, and I mean a lot, for both work and my hobbies. As an Acupuncturist I have to wash my hands constantly, combined with the pandemic and my lifestyle this has meant my hand washing has increased dramatically over the past year.
Frequent washing with soap reduces my natural oils and the water in London is hard, the limescale dries my skin out even more. Activities such as gardening, the environmental elements – central heating - mean I just can’t apply enough lotion to heal and prevent cracks in my skin. My skin needs to be intact to ensure a safe work environment and dry, sore skin breaks down easily resulting in open wounds and scrapes.
I also have sensitive, reactive skin. Many brands will cause a reaction due to the preservatives, perfumes, colourings or fragrances contained in the product. A product that contains minimal, high powered, natural ingredients with preservatives such as Vit E or essential oils means there is less likelihood of a reaction. A short ingredient list means I can easily see and identify known irritants which is harder to do when you have a long list of ingredients in a tiny font to scan.
Balms are more likely to contain natural ingredients that are mostly or all plant based. Plant based ingredients are better for the environment. I also know when I wash my hands the product I am using will not add anything harmful to our water that can affect wildlife or have a negative impact on the earth.
For my own creations, yes I make my own balms, I select where possible organic oils, butter and waxes and fair trade ingredients for my handmade balms. This means no pesticide residue and suppliers are paid a fair price for the base ingredients in my balms.
If I am creating a herbal handmade balm I also select organic herbs or florals ingredients or grow my own so I can guarantee the quality.
Balms being oil based are long wearing, occlusive (air-and water-tight) and nourishes the protective layer to your skin, sealing in your skincare for optimal results.
Herbal ingredients are easy to incorporate into a balm. Ingredients such as camphor, increase blood flow to the surface of the skin, creating a warming sensation that can distract from pain and stiffness. Camphor and menthol may also improve blood circulation to the muscles, potentially speeding up healing time and reducing inflammation.
Different base oils which are the main ingredients in the balm have different properties. Some are known for their anti ageing qualities – rosehip, evening primrose, while others are good deeply moisturising properties like avocado or macadamia. Balms can be created to suit all your different needs and can be adapted for the seasons as our skin can have different needs dependent on the season, climate, diet, stress and age. We all know puberty acne can be an issue for many teenagers but for many women they can experience adult acne as they approach menopause.
We have a number of balms available in The Online Store, why don’t you pop in and have a look
I offer a personalised service for all my customers. If you’re unsure what product will suit your needs, contact me and I am happy to review your needs and make my suggestions on which products will best suit you.
For month of July 2021, any purchase from The Online Store will receive a free sample of one my handmade balm.