A tale of two cuticle creams

Recently, a friend asked if I could make her a cuticle cream. So I started researching what makes a good cuticle cream, and discovered that certain ingredients seem to be favoured by the beauty industry when it comes to nail-care products. They are as follows:

  • Lanolin: As mentioned in an earlier post, lanolin is a great emollient and skin protector. It is a natural substance secreted by the sebaceous glands of sheep. It consists of esters of fatty acids and naturally occurring steroid alcohols, which help with trans-epidermal water control by creating a protective barrier over our skin. As such, it is a common ingredient used in products that sooth and condition brittle nails and cuticles. One point of consideration is that lanolin is an animal-derived ingredient, and also contact with it may cause an allergic reaction to some people.
  • Jojoba oil: Extracted from the seeds of the jojoba plant, this ingredient is technically a wax ester (not an oil). Containing a host of fatty acids, jojoba oil has a chemical structure that resembles human sebum. When absorbed into our skin, jojoba oil mixes with our sebum to form a layer that helps with trans-epidermal water control without blocking our hair follicles. Jojoba oil is considered one of the top nail-care ingredients (commonly found in cuticle oils): not only is it good at softening dry cuticles, it’s also molecularly small enough to penetrate the nail plate, which helps keep the layers of our nails hydrated.
  • Rice bran oil: Extracted from the bran or outer coat of the brown rice grain removed during the milling process, this oil contains vitamins B and E, plus a host of fatty acids including the oleic acid. It is a great anti-oxidant and has good skin-softening properties.
  • Avocado oil: Pressed from the avocado fruit, this oil is a more heavy but highly penetrative oil that absorbs easily into the dermis of the skin. Containing vitamins A, B and E, plus many fatty acids, it can help with cell regeneration and is a good skin protector.
  • Shea butter: A natural fatty substance obtained from the nuts of the shea tree, shea butter is a staple ingredient in all kinds of skincare products thanks to its nourishing properties. Like rice bran and avocado oils, shea butter contains oleic acid which is highly compatible with the human sebum, which means it can be easily absorbed by our skin, and can help the absorption of other active ingredients.
  • Beeswax: Commonly found in nail care products, beeswax can help condition and strengthen brittle nails, as well as protect our cuticles from dehydration by forming a protective layer on the delicate area around our nails to keep the moisture in.

Bearing in mind all of the above, I decided in the end to make two cuticle creams: one with lanolin and beeswax, and another one with jojoba and rice bran oils. To me, there is no point throwing all of the above ingredients into one single cream since we don’t actually need to combine everything in order for the cream to work. Besides, I wanted to show that it is possible to make an effective skincare product yourself using as few ingredients as possible!

To keep things simple then, I used the following base ingredients in both recipes (the same amounts in each recipe):

  • Avocado butter: Available from many natural cosmetics suppliers, this butter is a ready made mixture of shea butter, avocado oil, tocopherol (vitamin E) and hydrogenated vegetable oil (using this means I didn’t need to include shea butter and avocado oil separately).
  • Coconut oil: A popular emollient used in beauty products, coconut oil is known for its many benefits (including anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties). It is great for soothing itchy skin. It also has a lovely, faint, coconut scent.
  • Natural vitamin E (tocopherol): As well as soothing dry and itchy skin, natural vitamin E also helps slow down the oxidation process in the oils (which is what causes rancidity), so I used it to help extend the shelf life of the creams.

I also decided to scent both creams with the same blend of lemon, lavender, rosemary and atlas cedarwood essential oils – which I think goes beautifully with the subtle sweet scent from the coconut oil.

Therefore, the only difference ingredient-wise between the two creams is that one contains animal-derived ingredients (lanolin and beeswax) plus some sweet almond oil to help with the blending, while the other one (with jojoba and rice bran oils) is vegan-friendly.

In terms of texture of the finished products, the one with lanolin and beeswax has a firmer, putty feel to it, while the one with jojoba and rice bran oils has a much lighter, almost lotion-like texture.

A tale of two cuticle creams: with lanolin and beeswax (L), with jojoba and rice bran oils (R). Notice how the presence / absence of beeswax affects the texture.
A tale of two cuticle creams: with lanolin and beeswax (L), with jojoba and rice bran oils (R). Notice how the presence / absence of beeswax affects the colour and texture.

Anyway, below are the recipes – do have a go at making them and let me know what you think (and which you prefer if you have tried both)!

Version 1: Cuticle cream with lanolin and beeswax

Ingredients (make 20g of cream)

  • 11g avocado butter
  • 3.7g coconut oil
  • 2.1g sweet almond oil
  • 1.9g beeswax
  • 1g lanolin
  • 2-3 drops natural vitamin E
  • 3 drops lemon essential oil
  • 2 drops lavender essential oil
  • 1 drop rosemary essential oil
  • 1 drop atlas cedarwood essential oil

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Version 2: Cuticle cream with jojoba and rice bran oils

Ingredients (make 20g of cream)

  • 11g avocado butter
  • 3.7g coconut oil
  • 3g jojoba oil
  • 2g rice bran oil
  • 2-3 drops natural vitamin E
  • 3 drops lemon essential oil
  • 2 drops lavender essential oil
  • 1 drop rosemary essential oil
  • 1 drop atlas cedarwood essential oil

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Steps (they’re pretty much the same for both versions)

  1. Make a double boiler by first filling one-third of a small saucepan with boiling water and let it simmer over a very low heat.
  2. Place the ingredient(s) that take the longest to melt into a heatproof measuring jug (For version 1, this means beeswax and lanolin; for version 2, avocado butter). Now place the jug carefully inside the saucepan, making sure the hot water doesn’t spill out. Slowly let the heat from the water in the saucepan melt the ingredient(s).
  3. Once this first lot of ingredient(s) has melted, add in the coconut oil and gently stir with a spatula or spoon until it melts. Turn off the heat if necessary – you don’t want the mixture to get too hot.
  4. Once the coconut oil has melted, take the jug out of the saucepan, wipe its base dry and place it on the worktop.
  5. For version 1, add in your sweet almond oil now; for version 2, add in the jojoba and rice bran oils. Stir to mix everything.
  6. Cover the jug with clingfilm and leave the mixture in the fridge to cool for 20 minutes.
  7. After 20 minutes, take the jug out of the fridge. The mixture should by now have hardened.
  8. Add in the drops of vitamin E and the essential oils.
  9. Using an electric hand mixer, whisk the mixture for a few minutes until it becomes creamy.
  10. Scoop the whipped cream into suitable containers.

Additional reading

  • Find out how cuticle oil works from the Nails Magazine website.
  • This page from Cosmeticsinfo.org contains more information on the uses of ingredients commonly found in nail-care products.
  • To learn more about different carrier oils and butters (especially if you’re interested in their chemical makeup), take a look at Susan Barclay-Nichols’ blog – I learned a lot from Susan’s posts. 🤓

Featured image credit: https://flic.kr/p/CXUZWZ (cropped), by Charanjit Chana, reproduced under CC BY-SA 2.0

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2 thoughts on “A tale of two cuticle creams

  1. I’ve tried both now, and I like them both! I prefer the scent of the plant-based one – it has a cleaner, fresher, more citrus smell which I presume is because the lanolin and beeswax have their own subtle smell tgat maybe cloud the essential oils you added. Not that the lanolin one smells bad by any means!
    The plant-based cream feels a bit oiler when it melts on your skin, whereas the lanolin cream feels a bit more like a protective coating. I’ve been putting the on before bed so that I can apply generously and leave it on, and it’s too tempting not to cover my entire hands with it, which has left them nice and soft. My cuticles weren’t too bad anyway, but I’ll have to remember to use the cream in winter when my cuticles get chapped in the cold weather and could do with some TLC a la CQ.

    1. Glad you liked both creams, Laura! You’re right about lanolin and beeswax having their own natural scents. (I use a “low-odour” lanolin in my recipe but obviously it’s not odour-free by any means…) Feel free to use the cream(s) on your hands, elbows, heels, etc. – I do! Personally, I find the lanolin and beeswax one very good for softening super dry areas like elbows and heels.

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