Mermaid Lotion

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Alright, so you don’t eat this one.

Now, you know me: I make a lot of stuff in my kitchen. As it turns out, a lot of the stuff that you eat can also be really good for your skin.

Get some food on your face

This is the second article in my Beauty and the Feast series. (Never fear: The Hungry Mouse isn’t turning into a cosmetics blog. I just really like to play with my food.)

Today, I’m going to show you how you can make natural face cream at home, with a few pots and pans and ingredients you can find at most health food stores.


This was a really fun experiment a few months ago. I waited to post it to see how I liked it. I’ve been using it for a few months now, and I absolutely love it!

Two versions of the original recipe

I actually made two versions of this lotion:

  • One with a few essential oils to use on my face
  • One with perfume oil to use as a scented body lotion

I’ll show you how to make the basic recipe below, then you can doctor it up with any extra oils you like.

This recipe for Mermaid Lotion comes from Janice Cox’s fabulous book Natural Beauty at Home. Learn more about Janice Cox on her website, or snag a copy from Amazon.

Because it’s largely aloe-based, this lotion sinks into your skin quickly and absorbs well. It does a great job of moisturizing without making your skin feel greasy.

Cox’s original recipe calls for almond oil, which is a little too heavy for my combination skin. I opted for hazelnut oil instead, which is more astringent, so it tends to be better for oily and combination skin.

For the face cream, I also added a few drops of Rose Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) essential oil and Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oil—both of which are supposed to be fabulous for your skin*.

Basically, to make this cream, you simmer the seaweed for a while, strain it, stir in some aloe, then whisk in some hazelnut or almond oil until it’s emulsified. Stir in a few drops of essential oil, and you’re done! It’s that easy.

Everyone’s skin is a little different. Mess around until you find the combination of ingredients that works for you.

Tell us about the ingredients

Yep, yep. Sure thing. When you’re buying herbs, always check the Latin name to be sure you’re getting the plant that you intend. Many very different plants are commonly known by the same folk name.

  • Irish Moss (Chondrus crispus)—Irish moss isn’t actually moss. It’s seaweed that’s packed with vitamins and minerals. It grows in tidal pools along the Northern Atlantic ocean. It’s highly moisturizing, and is supposed to help increase skin elasticity and also fight wrinkles. Cox recommends using powdered Irish Moss for this recipe. I used flaked, and it came out fine. (Depending on how well you strain it, you may wind up with a few flecks of seaweed in your lotion.)

  • Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis)—Aloe is soothing and moisturizing.

  • Hazelnut Oil (Corylus avellana)—Hazelnut oil is more astringent than most oils, which makes it a better choice for folks with oily skin. I’ve been using it for a few months, and haven’t broken out once. It actually sinks right into my skin. If you want to try using oil on your skin but are afraid of breaking out, definitely give hazelnut oil a shot. (Of course, don’t use it if you have nut allergies.)

Why make your own face lotion?

Honestly? There are a bunch of reasons. For me, the main one is that you can control exactly what you put on your skin.

And why would you want to do that?

Take this quick test: Look up your current face cream on the Cosmetics Database, an online database with a ton of safety information and research on commercially available skin care products.

The site breaks each product down by ingredient and rates it on a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being worst) so you can see just how beneficial—or hazardous—for your health it is.

I was really surprised to learn that a couple of drugstore products I was using on a regular basis had ingredients that researchers had linked to all sorts of nasty side effects (organ system toxicity, hello!).

On a practical level, making your own products can be a lot cheaper than buying them, since you’re not paying for a brand name.

Oh, and of course, it’s a ton of fun to play amateur cosmetologist at home. (Sorry, I’m such a girl sometimes…)

Where to buy ingredients if you can’t find them locally

You should be able to find everything you need at a decent health food store. If not, here are a few places that you can order online. I’ve done lots of business with both of them, and highly recommend them.

I’m lucky enough to live a hop, skip, and a jump away from Artemisia Botanicals, a great herbal supply shop in Salem with some of the nicest and most knowledgeable staff you’ve ever met.

If Artemisia doesn’t have what you’re looking for, I also like Mountain Rose Herbs a lot, too.

*My official disclaimer

Alrighty, most of you know this, but I need to say it anyway:

I’m neither a licensed aromatherapist nor a trained herbalist, so all of this information is provided for entertainment purposes, and is not intended to be professional medical advice. This information isn’t meant to diagnose, prevent, treat or cure any disease. Be sure to do your due diligence and research these ingredients on your own to see if they’ll agree with you or not. Be extra careful if you’re pregnant or nursing, have nut allergies, etc., etc. When in doubt, consult your doctor or a trained professional. Essential oils are potent and can be highly toxic in the wrong proportion, so proceed with caution.

Mermaid Lotion

Adapted from Janice Cox

1 Tbls. powdered Irish moss, or other dried seaweed
1 cup distilled water
1/4 cup aloe vera gel
2 Tbls. hazelnut oil
a few drops of essential oil or perfume oil

Yields about 1 pint of lotion

Rehydrate the Irish Moss

Grab your Irish moss.

I’ll warn you: This stuff smells like fish food. It will smell really icky until you mix the aloe into it, at which point the smell like, magically disappears. (You won’t wind up smelling like low tide, I promise.)

Put it in a 1-quart pot.

Add the water.

Give the pot a whirl to combine. Let it sit for about a half an hour to plump up.

It will go from looking like this:

To looking like this:

Simmer for about 20 minutes

When the Irish Moss is rehydrated, set the pot on the stove over medium-high heat. Bring it to a rolling boil, then reduce the heat enough so that you keep a constant simmer.

Warning: Don’t walk away from the pot, as you’ll be really, really (really, really) sorry if it boils over at this point.

As it simmers, it’ll start to thicken up and get gelatinous.

After about 20 minutes, you should wind up with a thick jelly that looks about like this. It will smell pretty awful, and at this point, you’ll probably be cursing me for stinking up your kitchen.

Keep going. Trust me.

Strain the Irish Moss jelly

Strain the Irish Moss jelly into a medium-sized bowl.

Push it through the strainer with a spatula.

Keep pushing until all you’re left with is pulp in your strainer.

Be sure to scrape off the back of the strainer.

Make the lotion

Measure out your aloe and add it to the Irish Moss mixture.

Whisk to combine.

It will turn into a thick paste that’s slightly lighter in color.

Slowly, drizzle in the hazelnut oil, whisking to incorporate it as you drizzle.

The cream will get lighter in color as the oil emulsifies.

When you’ve added all the oil, your lotion should look about like this:

Whisk in any extras

For a scented body lotion, add a few drops of your favorite perfume oil. If you’d like to add any essential oils to make a face lotion instead, do that now (remember, only a few drops). Whisk to incorporate.

And, voila! Homemade face lotion. I like to bottle my lotions in canning jars. Add a nice label and a few ribbons for a great homemade gift.

Thanks again to the fabulous Janice Cox for such a great recipe. It’s definitely one of my favorites.

I hope you enjoy it if you give it a try! Let me know how it goes!

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Jessie Cross is a cookbook author and creator of The Hungry Mouse, a monster online food blog w/500+ recipes. When she's not shopping for cheese or baking pies, Jessie serves as an Associate Creative Director at PARTNERS+simons, a boutique ad agency in Boston. She lives in Salem, Massachusetts with her husband and two small, fluffy wolves.

12 COMMENTS

  1. Wonderful homemade lotion, I would love to make the body lotion version, it sounds very moisturizing! I wish I could use the face lotion version but since I have oily skin it wouldn’t work as well.

    • I know it sounds weird, but my face was always oily and broken out until I began using olive oil as a moisturizer. Sounds counterintuitive, but I promise, it more evenly balances your skin. (The olive… or hazelnut… more closely resembles your natural skin oils so it is soaked up and used as such to promote elasticity and a generally healthier complexion. Read: less redness and blotching. Plus these oils are non-comodegenic, so they really do not cause breakout; quite the opposite.) I really think you might be surprised at how much your skin with thank you after you quite stripping it of it’s natural oils and then only applying a water-based lotion to it. Just try it when you have a week to yourself so you can a) enjoy your newfound skin, and b) not worry about it making your face oily.

      And as for the lotion, this looks amazing! I am going to try it as soon as I can get my hands on some o’ that moss…

  2. Thanks for posting this! The lotion looks awesome. I’ve just requested the book from our local library and will look through and try some of the lotions. It’s nice to know exactly what goes into the products we put on ourselves.

  3. Hi there,

    Does this cream need to be refigerated between uses? How long does it last before it goes bad? How much finished product does it usually make? (so I know what size containter to put it in.)

    Thanks!

  4. I want to start off by thanking you for this post and idea. However, this was a complete fail for me..:(

    Most likely because I had to use kelp powder instead of flakes and I used a different brand of aloe vera. I made sure it was the gel, though.

    It was just a green watery mess. I even tried taking some of the water out and I tried adding more aloe vera.

    Comparing my cup of aloe vera to the picture of what you used here, mine looks quite watery, while yours looks way more gelly. There were no bubbles in mine.

    The color never lightened. Not even after I used over half the bottle of aloe vera.

    Oh, and i couldn’t find hazelnut oil anywhere near me, not even at Whole Foods. They have..like everything. Except hazelnut oil, apparently. My local health food/product store never even heard of hazelnut oil. So I will be buying it online.

    Even though this was a bust, I used the chunky bits of expanded kelp for a facial wash/scrub. Got rid of some dead skin and my skin feels amazing. I like that the ingredients I have can be used for other things or alone, such as rose essential oil on my face.

    I quite enjoyed the smell of “low tide”. Took me back to when I was little and my grandparents had a boat and a canal (which lead straight to the Gulf) in their backyard.

    My cat was going nuts while I was boiling the kelp, and I woke up to her licking my face… Apparently my face tasted fishy after washing it with the kelp last night, which is fine because I want it to sit on my face while I sleep and then shower it off in the morning.

    This experience will not keep me down. I will keep trying and experimenting. I hope this encourages others, in case it doesn’t come out as they planned(:

  5. If you only knew how healthy this recipe is for women! It’s an amazing anti-aging lotion for anyone with hypothyroidism due to its high iodine and magnesium minerals. I added my own homemade carrot oil (instead of hazelnut oil) for extra anti-aging benefits. Seaweed has potent skin rejuvenating and reconstructing properties!
    Thanks for the recipe!

  6. Hi everyone,
    it seems like the questions on the freshness issue/refrigeration/preservatives didn’t get answered yet, so I can throw my bit into the ring.

    I researched a bit on this and what seems like a good natural option to preserve lotions is grapeseed extract, (but dont confuse with grapeseed oil) on ebay for around a fiver, or Opthiphen, which is natural and chemical free preservative, more about it on here:
    http://www.naturesgardencandles.com/candlemaking-soap-supplies/item/optiphen/-optiphen—preservative.html
    this is also on ebay for around a fiver.
    Another option is to keep the batch in fridge (also always sterilise your utensils and jars beforehand) and take only little bit into separate jar to use over a day or two.
    Keep in mind, if your aloe gets oxidised for more than 4 hours, it will lose many its beneficial properties.

    Good luck with your homemade lushness!
    🙂

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