Washing your hands is one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of the coronavirus. I’ve taken that recommendation to heart and have been extra diligent (borderline obsessive) about washing my hands. I even have a mental playlist of songs with 20-second choruses (my favorites right now are “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees and “Truth Hurts” by Lizzo).
I am happy to do my part, but there is an unintended consequence of all this hand washing: My hands are so, so dry. Like, hurts-when-I-type dry.
Science supports my pain. The same soaps and physical motions that break down all those nasty microorganisms will also break down the barrier on your skin that keeps it moisturized and crack-free.
There are a few handwashing steps you can take to ease the dry skin. For example, washing hands with warm water instead of very hot water, which will dry skin out without improving the efficacy of your handwashing, or blotting instead of wiping to dry in order to prevent microabrasions to your skin.
Over Slack (yes, we’re working from home), my co-worker and friend Rosemary Lausier and I were commiserating over our chapped hands. Half-jokingly, she suggested I try making homemade lotion for Sam Tries Things.
My reply: “hahaha … hmm …”
Lotions supply a little bit of moisture to the skin and contain some sort of oily substance that helps hold it in. There are a vast array of lotions and moisturizers on store shelves, some that are more effective than others. Instead of going to the store to find a healing salve, I wanted to see if I could make some on my own — social distancing, meet self-sufficiency.
Learning to try
The first thing I had to do was find a recipe with only ingredients that I already had in my house. It was more challenging than I expected. The internet has seemingly infinite lotion recipes, and yet, a lot of them require ingredients that I don’t have on-hand — particularly aloe vera gel and cocoa butter. Who knew these ingredients were so central to lotion-making?
Finally, though, I did find a recipe I could make with ingredients that I already had in my house from the blog Natural Tasty Chef. The instructions indicated that it wasn’t quite a liquidy lotion so much as whipped body butter, but beggars can’t be choosers.
The shea butter was leftover from my homemade lip balm. The coconut oil was from a number of projects, including DIY deodorant. I used lavender essential oil — perhaps one of my favorite DIY ingredients ever — in my homemade candle and dish soap. If you’ve been following along with Sam Tries Things, you might have all these materials in your house, too.
The exception is jojoba oil, which I haven’t yet used for Sam Tries Things. I bought it when I was flirting with the idea of making my own shampoo (that may be a future Sam Tries Things) but haven’t gotten around to using it until now.
Jojoba oil has anti-inflammatory properties that help soothe chafing and chapping. Jojoba oil is a carrier oil, which is a base oil used to dilute essential oils and absolutes before they are applied to the skin in massage and aromatherapy. According to the recipe, you can also use Argan oil or vitamin E oil, if you have it on hand. Another common carrier oil that you probably have in your house already is olive oil, which has its own skin-soothing benefits. It is fattier and may leave you a little more slick than you’d like, but if you don’t have jojoba oil on-hand, it might be worth a shot.
By the way, it’s pronounced “ho-ho-bah.” I had to Google it and re-film a few takes before I finally got that right.
A trying experience
The instructions were fairly straightforward: Measure out the ingredients and blend them all together.
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Shea butter was a little more solid and difficult to scoop than I remembered, but with a little help from a metal spoon, I was able to accumulate the requisite half-cup. Then, I added the coconut oil. The combination of the butter and oil made my hands pretty soft already — the only problem was that I was so slick, I could barely hold onto anything.
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After blotting (not wiping) some of the ingredients off my hands, I added a few tablespoons of witch hazel. The recipe required a tablespoon of jojoba oil, so I had to remove the stopper because it was too tedious to shake out that much drop by drop. Finally, I dropped in a few drops of lavender essential oil and set up my hand mixer.
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Blending all those creamy, fragrant ingredients was extremely soothing. When it all came together, I was surprised by the creamy consistency of the lotion. I also had to resist the urge to lick the bowl because it looked so much like frosting.
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I tried to get the lotion into a travel-sized squeeze bottle. That was an extremely messy process — lotion kept erupting out of the top as I tried to stuff it in — but eventually, I succeeded in filling the container. With lotion to spare, I was also able to fill a small mason jar that I had leftover from making onion jam.
At that point, the lotion was all over my hands — and let me tell you, they were baby soft. Despite my trepidation about the viscosity of my homemade lotion, it squeezed nicely out of my handheld bottle. The consistency was a little gritty, but the texture quickly melted away, and it soothed my hands considerably.
Clean-up was kind of a disaster, though. All the dishes and utensils I used to prepare the lotion were incredibly slick, and seemed to pass off a moisture-locking sheen onto everything they touched. I had to do a little bit of scrubbing to get my bowls, measuring cups and mixer whisks dry. Perhaps, though, that is the sign of a truly effective moisturizer.
My tried-and-true takeaways
Making lotion is easy to do, but it is a messy process. The finished product works well, even though the consistency is a little gritty. I probably wouldn’t make this to replace store bought lotion under normal circumstances because I prefer a slightly smoother finish and — let’s be honest — it’s fun to shop for lotion. Given the times, though, it’s good to know that I have this on-hand (pun intended) for the foreseeable future and that I can make more if I need it for my dry, thoroughly cleaned hands.
Keep washing your hands, everyone. We’ll get through this together.
Watch: What you need to know about handwashing during coronavirus