A while back, I ran across a fascinating scientific study showing a test cream that contained basil extract demonstrated some pretty significant anti-aging effects when applied topically. The moment I finished reading through it, I knew I HAD to make an anti-aging basil face cream this summer and try it out myself.
Definitely click over and read the study in full (you can find it HERE), but basically, the researchers dried and powdered basil, made an extract of it using 95% ethanol and then incorporated it into an emulsion (cream) containing paraffin oil and a surfactant. Obviously, those are ingredients I can’t just buy from the store (and wouldn’t really want to), but I used that general idea as a base for how I’d frame my cream recipe.
Since a basil tincture made from straight alcohol might be too drying in a face cream, I settled on making a witch hazel extract with fresh basil instead and I just love how it turned out. The witch hazel leaves a cool refreshing feeling on my skin that’s very welcome this time of year.
A Few Notes Before We Start
This recipe uses Emulsifying Wax NF. (<– affiliate link) Some brands are petroleum based or may have extra additives, so read carefully before you buy. The kind I purchase from Mountain Rose Herbs is vegetable derived.
I know that some people have concerns with emulsifying waxes since they’re highly processed. If that’s true for you, you can still use the same general idea of incorporating a basil extract into your favorite beeswax-based cream or lotion recipe. Just don’t try to use beeswax as a direct substitute for the emulsifying wax in this recipe, because it doesn’t work in the same manner.
I chose GMO-free avocado butter and hemp seed oil (<– affiliate links) for their nourishing and moisturizing properties. I have slightly dry skin and also wanted to offset any potential drying from the witch hazel. You can get creative and switch up the butter and oil types as you wish in order to customize this lotion for your skin’s preferences and the ingredients you have on hand.
You need a scale for this recipe. I had one from Amazon that worked for a long time, but when it broke, I got a new one at Walmart for less than $20. It’s a worthwhile investment if you plan on making your own body care products.
Now, on to the recipe!
Basil Anti-Aging Face Cream
- 1/3 cup (4 g) fresh basil leaves and stems
- 1/3 cup (80 ml) witch hazel
- 7 g hemp seed oil (or your favorite oil)
- 10 g avocado butter (or your favorite butter)
- 8 g Emulsifying Wax NF
- 1 to 4 g of a nature-derived preservative (*see step 5 below)
Combine the basil leaves and witch hazel in a mini-food processor and blend well. Strain the now-green witch hazel into a half-pint canning jar or other heat proof container and weigh it. You should have around 50 g or so. Add enough water until your reach 75 g of liquid.
Weigh the oil, butter and emulsifying wax into a half-pint canning jar (or for easier cleanup, an upcycled tin can). Set the can, along with the jar containing the basil infused witch hazel, down into a saucepan containing a small amount of water. Turn the burner to medium low and heat for 10 minutes. This allows the wax to melt and brings the temperature of the liquid up at the same time.
Remove both containers from heat. Pour the hot basil-infused witch hazel into the melted oil, butter and wax. I like to pour it back and forth a few times (mostly because it’s fun to watch it emulsify in front of your eyes; I’m not sure it’s a necessary step though!) Do the final pour into the half-pint jar or container.
Stir the cream for around 30 seconds then let it cool for around 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. To speed things along, you can set the jar in a bowl with a bit of ice water. It will thicken as it cools and as you stir.
At this point, I chose to add a nature-derived preservative. I’ve been experimenting lately with a variety of natural preservative options and will have a big write-up of my findings soon. (Update – click HERE to read that article.) For the batch shown, I used Phytocide Elderberry, which is a mild preservative derived from Elderberries. I bought it HERE at LotionCrafter. I like that one of its key benefits is listed as: “Delivers anti-aging skin conditioning benefits.”
Update: I’ve now switched to Leucidal Liquid SF at 2 to 4% (2 to 4 grams for this 100 gram recipe – I usually go with the 4%, to be safe). You can find that one at Lotioncrafter’s site too.
If you don’t want to use a preservative, that’s fine, but keep your cream in the refrigerator and use it up within one week.
I found this information from the study interesting: “slight phase separation in the sample of base occurred at 40°C and 40°C+75% RH on 56th day of observation whereas the formulation was stable. This may be due to the antimicrobial properties of basil which protects the emulsion from microbial contamination and degradation.” (i.e. The basil extract itself seemed to lend some anti-microbial benefits. However, keep in mind we didn’t exactly duplicate their extract. Still, it’s interesting!)
Spoon your cream into a glass jar and you’re done!
Sometime this week or next, I’m going to sit down and write up the woeful saga of my first iteration and failed experiment while developing this cream recipe. (Update – HERE is the link!) I know that some of you have asked for more stories like that to learn from, so I hope my blundering proves interesting and helpful.
If you enjoyed this tutorial on making a face cream from fresh basil, be sure to sign up for my newsletter HERE to get my best herbal projects, soap ideas, and DIY body care recipes sent straight to your inbox, once per month. (No spam ever, unsubscribe at any time.)
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