Just about every "natural" or "organic" range I use has some kind of balm situation going on. It makes sense: balms (also known as salves, ointments, or the rather more quaint unguent) have been used since time immemorial to treat skin complaints. They're also, if you think about it, rather a good vehicle for whatever star ingredient a skincare range wants to promote.
Balms are basically a mixture of waxes, oils/butters, and plant extracts like essential oils. They seem fairly easy to make, too, although I probably won't be trying any time soon -- as you'll see below, I've got a whole bunch to use up!
Most of the balms I own or have used in the past have a mixture of beeswax as a base, which acts as an occlusive agent (barrier) over the skin, with castor oil and shea or cocoa butter being the fatty component that act as the carrier for whatever essential oils or other plant extracts are included. The exceptions to this are Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour Cream (mine was a freebie from a pharmacy) and Lucas Papaw Ointment, which I've included for comparison's sake because they are massively popular. These two have petrolatum as the base, which some people have a problem with (from what I've read, petrolatum used in cosmetics and OTC drugs are highly refined and shouldn't be of concern, but there are environmental sustainability issues to think about).
I've written about Antipodes Saviour in the past: it's my Windex. Along very similar lines in terms of consistency are Suvana Pawpaw and Honey Balm and Archeus Vital Balm (won through their Facebook competition, of which I was the sole entrant. I'll be writing more about the Archeus brand later). The Moreish Salvation Balm (mine came in a travel/sample set) is quite a bit harder and waxier than the others, and harder to warm up and work into the skin. I think I would prefer it in a stick form than in a jar.
The Trilogy Everything Balm is one I've used in the past and much like the others, but with a rather more penetrating fragrance -- it pays to check that you like it before you go for it.
Want to see a couple of slightly creepy videos of them in action?
Yeah ignore the captions. I can't delete them.
What can you use them for? There's the obvious -- put them on minor cuts and scratches to help heal and protect. I've got a grody scab that I've been picking at for a month which I've been sealing up with these for the past few days, and now there's fresh pink baby skin there. They're also good as lip/cuticle/heel treatments. Another trick is to use it as a subtle highlighter, rather than regular cosmetic highlighters which often have confusingly inappropriate amounts of shimmer or glitter. I've also heard of people using these as a cleanser along with a washcloth, but I haven't gone that far.
I've listed the ingredients for the products I've mentioned below, for comparison's sake. Hope that helps!
- Antipodes Saviour: Ricinus communis (castor oil), limnanthes alba (meadowfoam oil), helianthus annuus (sunflower seed oil), cera alba (beeswax), daucus carota sativa (carrot seed oil), calendula officinalis (calendula flower oil), theobroma cacao seed (cocoa butter), hypericum (St John's wort), butropsermum parkii (shea butter), pisium sativum (pea extract), melaleuca alternifolia (Australian tea tree oil), vitis vinifera (Vinanza grapeseed extract), panthenol, santalum album (sandalwood oil), anthemis nobilis (chamomile flower), echinacea purpurea (echinacea extract), totarol (totora extract), hesperdin.
- Archeus Vital Balm BATCH 053A: Comfrey leaves, plantain and chickweed infusions in organically certified camellia oil, organically certified beeswax and cocoa butter, vitamin E, organically certified Lavender essential oil, Teatree essential oil and myrrh.
- Moreish Salvation Balm: beeswax base, Argan Oil Pohutukawa Almond Oil Jojoba Flaxseed Oil Rosehip Oil Carrot Root extract Olive oil Wheat Germ Oil
- Trilogy Everything Balm: Octyl Palmitate, Cera Alba (Beeswax), Sclerocarya Birrea (Marula Nut) Oil, Olea Europaea (Olive) Oil, Rosa Canina (Rosehip) Seed Oil, Oenothera Biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Oil, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Triticum Vulgare (Wheat) Germ Oil, Mel (Honey), Parfum, Citral*, D-Limonene*, Citronellol*, Coumarine*, Geraniol*, Linalool
- Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour Cream: Petrolatum 56.8%, Lanolin, Mineral Oil, Tocopherol, BHT, Salicylic Acid, Rincinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Vegetable Oil, Zea Mays (Corn) Oil, Fragrance, Citral, Citronellol, Geraniol, Limonene, Linalool, Propylparaben, Iron Oxides.
- Suvana Pawpaw and Honey Balm: Ricinus Communis (Castor ) Seed Oil*, Cera Alba (Beswax)*, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil*, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa Butter)*, Carica Papaya (Paw Paw) Extract, Mel (Honey)*, Buxus Chinensis (Jojoba) Oil*, Vanilla Planifolia (Vanilla Bean) Oil*, Euphorbia Cerifera (Candelilla) Wax, Daucus Carota Sativa (Carrot) Oil, Stevia Rebaudiana Bertoni Extract, Tocopherol (Natural Vitamin E).
- Lucas Papaw Ointment: Fermented Fresh PawPaw Fruit, Rhus Succedanea Wax, Glycerine, Petrolatum, Canola Oil, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Beeswax, Corn Starch, Potassium Sorbate (0.1 mg/g).