The Elder tree has been held as sacred in various folkloric traditions, as has the Elder Mother who presides over it. Any lady whose age numbers in the thousands has learnt a thing or two about natural beauty and, luckily for us, the Elder Mother shares some of her secrets in the creamy white elderflowers that adorn her trees in May and June. Elderflowers have long been used in skincare recipes for their softening, anti-inflammatory and beautifying properties and infusions have been used to even the skin tone, ease sunburn and prevent wrinkles.
I love elderflower infused oils for use in face and body care recipes so this year I decided to experiment with a few different base oils to see how they captured the fragrance and nourishing properties of the elderflowers. With the resulting products I made a face oil, a day cream and a body butter, the recipes for which are included here.
Along with my usual sweet almond oil infusion, I chose to try safflower oil and macadamia oil as well as a couple of solid oils- coconut and mango butter. Safflower oil is popular in cosmetics because it is high in essential fatty acids. Like sweet almond, it is a light oil with little odour so I thought it would work well for capturing the scent of the elderflowers. Macadamia is a rich, fatty oil that it particularly beneficial for dry or mature skins and has a deep nutty aroma. Coconut oil has a lovely light consistency which is perfect for cream making though its strong smell can detract from the elderflowers, so I also tried the mango butter which has a similar, though slightly creamier consistency, with hardly any smell. Coconut oil is considered cooling and elderflowers have been recommended for sunburn so I thought this would make a nice aftersun if blended with some aloe vera and lavender water.
It’s important to use only organic, cold pressed oils to retain all the therapeutic benefits and ensure there are no traces of harmful chemicals in your products and, of course, make sure you only harvest elderflowers from areas you’re sure haven’t been sprayed.
Fresh Elderflowers give up their scent and beautifying properties quite quickly and will go off if left to infuse too long. I chose to sun infuse my oils for about 10 hours on a bright windowsill which was plenty of time for them to absorb all the goodness without getting that ‘cat’s pee’ smell that can accompany over done elderflowers! With the coconut and mango butters I melted them in a bain marie before pouring them over the elderflowers and allowing to infuse for a day before re-warming and straining. You can use the heat method but the oils can quickly degrade at high temperatures so I prefer to sun infuse where appropriate. For a detailed explanation of how to infuse an oil see my previous post here.
As elderflowers have very fine pollen I chose to strain the liquid oils through a coffee filter to ensure as much of the plant material as possible was removed and prolong the life of the finished oil. The melted butters went quite happily through a muslin cloth however. I was really happy with all the different infusions, especially the mango butter and safflower which, I thought, retained the best smell. The macadamia oil has a really decadent feel but would be too heavy to use alone so I decided to mix equal parts of the three liquid infused oils to make a delicious face oil. By mixing all three you get the benefits of them all with a really nice consistency. Don’t feel you have to use the same oils as me, feel free to use any that you fancy and you can also just use one rather than a combination for ease and practicality.
Elderflower Face Oil:
This recipe makes three 30ml bottles
30ml elderflower infused in safflower
30ml elderflower infused in sweet almond
30ml elderflower infused in macadamia
3ml vitamin E Oil
I use just 3 or 4 drops of this oil massaged into damp skin at night and it feels so soft in the morning.
I also made a face cream for use in the day.
Elderflower and Rose Moisturiser:
50 ml rosewater
25ml aloe vera gel
1/2 tbsp vegetable glycerine
50ml elderflower infused oil (I did 20 safflower, 20 almond and 10 macadamia)
20ml elderflower infused mango butter (or coconut butter. Use plain if you have none infused)
5ml Vitamin E
5 drops Vitamin A
10 drops Rose Otto essential oil
This makes a really lovely, rich cream so a little goes a long way. Melt the beeswax in a bain marie and add the mango butter and oil when it’s already soft. In a separate container, mix the aloe vera, rosewater and vegetable glycerine. Take the oils off the heat and allow to cool slightly before adding the vitamins A and E. Whilst this is cooling you can warm the waters mixture by placing the container in the pan of hot water the oils were melting over. It’s important to get the oils and waters to roughly the same temperature to enable them to mix properly, otherwise your cream will separate. For more detailed instructions see my cream making post here. I use a small hand blender to mix them as I’m not making a large enough quantity to use my big blender. You could also use an electric or hand whisk. Begin to blend/ whisk the water mixture and slowly add in the oils, a drizzle at a time. Continue to blend until you have a nice smooth, even, creamy consistency. Spoon into a jar or jars and stir in the essential oils. Pop in the fridge for a short while to cool. This cream will last a couple of months out of the fridge but 6 months in the fridge.
I’m currently making a toner to go with this by infusing elderflowers in witch hazel distillate. For normal or combination skin mix 25ml of the resulting liquid with 75ml of rosewater and place in a spray bottle to spritz on after cleansing or to refresh the skin throughout the day. For dry skin, drop the witch hazel to 10ml and up the rosewater to 90ml and for oily skin you can increase the witch hazel to 40ml and use 60ml of lavender water instead of rose.
Finally I made a really simple body butter with the following ingredients;
60 ml elderflower infused in sweet almond
30ml elderflower infused mango butter
30ml shea butter
Melt all the ingredients together in a bain marie/ double boiler, mix well and pour into a 120ml jar. Allow to set in the fridge before using liberally.
Do patch tests first to ensure you aren’t sensitive to any of the ingredients in these recipes.
And last but not least, don’t forget to thank the Elder Mother!