Tuesday, April 2, 2013

DIY Wound Care Salve

Yesterday, I went to the dermatologist to have a couple cysts removed - one on the back of my neck that was about the size of a garbanzo bean, and one on my face that was still very small (ball bearing sized?), but was growing.  He had been comfortable at the first visit that these were just cysts but agreed it would be a good idea  to get them removed.

The removal went without a hitch - the one on my face came out cleanly and shouldn't return -  the one on the back was 'crumbly' and took a bit more effort to get it all, but he's sure he did and the odds of it returning are low.

I'm glad to see them gone - the one on the back especially was noticeable enough to cause well meaning total strangers to ask me if I know it's there and to suggest I get it 'looked at'.  Done, and gone.

After each area had been sutured up and bandaged, he gave me my aftercare instructions - twice a day, gently wash with soap and water, apply some Vaseline, and cover with a regular bandage.

Er... awhile ago, I got rid of the aged and mostly non-used jar of Vaseline I had, and have no interest in applying petroleum jelly on a wound now.

I asked if the purpose for that was to keep it moist, and he affirmed - moist and covered will speed healing and reduce scarring.

Grudgingly, we stopped at a drug store on the way home, and I hesitated in the aisle where the wound care products were.  There was the ever-present Vaseline, and near it was a jar (I can't recall the brand name) of a petroleum jelly substitute touted as a wound protection salve.  The ingredients looked pretty good - beeswax, soy oil, vitamin E, and rosemary essential oil.  The price, though, was ten times the cost of a similar sized jar of Vaseline.

I hesitated some more, nearly picked up the Vaseline... and then stopped and thought. I have everything in that salve except the soy oil - and  that's the one ingredient in there I'm iffy about. I have several other oils, though, and I bet I could figure this out.  I wouldn't need to use it until the following morning, so I had time to do this.

I left that aisle, bought some waterproof bandaids, and when home to see if I could make something that felt like petroleum jelly.

I chose to use grapeseed oil, but I think olive oil, almond oil, avocado oil - any of these would work, and on further contemplation, avocado oil would have been my choice.  Choose a liquid oil that won't go rancid quickly, and one that has properties that are good for the skin are the best bet.

I had to go through more effort than necessary because my beeswax was in a big, hard brick (bad choice when  I bought that - there is a good reason they sell this in pellets!).  I tried to grate it and that was getting nowhere fast, so I put it in my wax melting metal pitcher and set that in a pot of boiling water to melt the whole brick down.  After it melted, I poured what I needed for the salve into a half pint mason jar, and poured the rest into a muffin tin to harden. I'm now storing these much more manageable rounds of beeswax in a container for future use.

Here's the recipe, with my 'live and learn' improvements factored in:

Wound Care Vaseline Replacement

1 ounce beeswax pellets
1/2 cup healthy liquid oil (olive or avocado oil)
1 Tablespoon Vitamin E
20 drops rosemary oil
20 drops lavender oil

Combine beeswax and liquid oil in a small mason jar.  Set in a pot of water (careful - don't let water get into the jar), heat to boiling, and simmer until wax has completely melted.  Keep a close eye on this - the wax is flammable.

Once fully melted, remove from heat and stir well to completely combine. I used the back of a wooden spoon and 'whipped' it in the jar for about a minute.

Let the jar start to cool - when the bottom of it starts to look hard, add the Vitamin E and the essential oils, stir again to recombine well, and then let it sit until cool.

The finished salve will be firm, yet soft to the touch, and once you have a small bit scooped up, it will soften a bit from body heat and feel just about identical to Vaseline - except that it will smell wonderful, and the Vitamin E and rosemary and lavender all help promote healing and ease scarring, and both of the oils have antiseptic properties.

(Update 1/20/14 - we have used this SO OFTEN over the last several months, for everything from chapped lips and skin, to sunburn and bugbites, to various scrapes and nicks.  I absolutely stand by this as an first aid essential to keep on hand.)


  1. This looks brilliant - thanks so much for sharing at #EmptyYourArchive ... have you any idea how long it will last? Alice @ Mums Make Lists

  2. The last salve you made us, worked wonders on our chigger bites. Maybe I can get my daughter to switch over to making salves instead of slime!