18th Century Hand Pomade for Winter: A Hand Cream Recipe

August 18, 2013 in Creating The 18th Century, Living history, Looking Good, Soap, Scent, Toners and Tonics, Uncategorized by M C

I’ve been using Claire’s Cold Cream for a couple of weeks now, and I’m still amazed at how well a 1779 recipe for cold cream performs in 2013.  It makes a lovely night face cream, and easily substitutes for any body cream I’ve used, leaving appendages smooth and silky.  It’s quite impressive.

What it won’t do is hold up as a hand cream.  It’s just too thin to hold up to my life.  It absorbs relatively quickly, but the feeling of supple and moisturized skin doesn’t last long enough.  Back to Flora’s for inspiration!

Unlike the cold cream, which is made with expensive almond oil, Flora recommends “Sallad Oil” for certain pomades, including hand balms.  She also calls for Olive Oil so she recognizes a difference between the two oils.  I’ve gone ahead and assumed, based on when they’re called for, that the Sallad Oil is a cheap, readily available, edible oil, whereas the olive oil was pricier and perhaps not available year ’round.  I’m going to use olive oil because it’s cheap and readily available, c. 2013, whatever it was c. 1779.

Next we’ll need herbs.  The cold cream doesn’t really have a scent (nor herbs steeped in the oil), but hand cream should have a nice scent.  Juniper berries were used in Sweden to treat inflammation and wounds, plus they have a nice piney scent (and I have some on hand.. always a plus).  Mint from the garden because mint improves everything.  Oat straw because oats are soothing, and calendula flowers, for their properties as an anti-inflammatory.

Everything in my salve (or Pomade for the Hands) could be readily found on the 18th century farm. Juniper doesn’t grow on my farm, but it grows in the valley below me, or, ironically, on the mountain above me.  I’m stuck in a little climatic anomaly.  If you don’t have an 18th century herb garden growing outside your kitchen the herbs are available at a decently stocked health food store.

herbal winter hand cream recipe

But if you get a chance, you really should plant calendula, or pot marigold (Calendula officinalis). The flowers are edible, dried they can be used in place of saffron, and they add a lovely rich yellow color to the oil I’m using to make this hand cream… probably because calendula is also used to make a yellow dye.  It’s one of the most versatile of the old herbs, and pretty too.

1/2 C dried Calendula flowers
1/2 C oat straw
12 juniper berries, crushed
handful of fresh mint
1 1/4 C olive oil

3 T beeswax pastilles
1/2 T jojoba oil
1/2 T lanolin
enough almond oil to top off to 1 C

Put your herbs in a glass jar and add your cup of olive oil.  Set the oil out in the sun to steep.  This is a good time of year to make your winter pomade for the hands because it is still warm enough for the sun to heat up your oil nicely, extracting the oils and scent from the herbs. The Toilet of Flora encourages you to “bring in from rain,” but you, of course, have a lid on your jar.  Still, you might want to bring it in at night, just for the authenticity of the whole thing.  After a week (more or less)..

winter hand moisturizer recipe

Cover the top of the jar with a scrap of cheesecloth (or any other loose weave fabric you have sitting around) and pour off the oil into a heat proof 2 cup measuring cup, or for authenticity, earthen vessle.  Be very careful if you decide to use a paper towel instead of cheesecloth, they can tear.  Instead of covering the mouth of the jar, cover the cup by making a cone of the paper, and pour the oil off into the cone.  Don’t dump, the paper there to filter small particles, not withstand the entire contents of the jar being dumped into it.


Add beeswax, jojoba oil, and lanolin, and top off your measure to 1 C with almond oil.  The jojoba and lanolin are there to mimic spermaceti which was a popular ingredient in the 18th century.  If you don’t have lanolin you can substitute coconut oil, but you will end up with a coconut scent.  Very inauthentic!

Set your cup into a pot of water and bring the temperature up to a simmer.  Keep an eye on your blend, when the beeswax melts it goes quickly.

Pull the cup from the water and stir briskly.  To speed things along you can dump your hot water, refill your pot with cold, and put the cup back into the pot to cool down more quickly.  As the heat goes out of the blend it will start to cloud and thicken, stir briskly until the blend is opaque, then add a splash of water, continuing to stir briskly.  Your blend will take on a warm yellowish to pale green color (depending on how lavish you were with the fresh mint).  Decant your hand cream (or pomade) into a couple of 4 ounce jars (if you’re giving one for a gift) or an 8 oz jar.

The end product has both lanolin and beeswax in it, so when you smooth it on it leaves a soft barrier between you, and your active life.  Again, unlike modern products which you squirt into your hands in a glob all you need is a tiny dab to do your hands.  And if your life is like mine.. wrists. It takes some getting used to, this using of tiny amounts.

winter_hand_cream1A reader asked me “how much time does it take to make these?” and the answer is “very little.”  Something I’ve found surprising.  The sun does most of your work, and once you start melting the beeswax start to finish is less than a half hour’s time.  Your biggest hurdle will be washing out the cup you used to make the product.  If you don’t need the cup leave it for a few days and use the skim of pomade on the inside to clean it out.  Then polish the glass with a paper towel, and wash the cup with very hot water.  Be careful, handing the glass though, the melting oil makes the glass slippery.  If you can’t be bothered?  Melt and whip your oils in the same jar you’ll be storing them in.  Or in a jar you will be recycling.  Just make sure you’ve got enough room in your jar to stir vigorously without splashing your nicely scented ingredients all over the kitchen counter.

Congratulations, you’ve made your winter supply of Hand Pomade for Winter.  

The sample jar is one of two, shown for color and density, obtained from this recipe.

Have you tried Toilet of Flora (1779) cold cream for Claire?

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