Before J left for Canada last week, I made sure he had the bath and body care necessities. One thing I’ve been wanting to try my hand at but haven’t gotten around to until now was after shave, because generally he doesn’t use it. However, he expressed a desire to have some and I wanted to see how this worked; and I was curious how it smelled, because it sounded awesome but sometimes things that sound great together end up just horrible. I was happy to find out that the scent is light and pleasant, masculine but not overbearing. It’s got a fresh, not quite woodsy smell from the bay laurel and juniper, and spicy aftertones because of the spices in the rum and the nutmeg essential oil I added. You can leave the nutmeg out if you don’t like that-both the nutmeg and the juniper are optional-and you can try other essential oils as listed in the recipe if the bay laurel alone isn’t enough scent for you. I liked it on J a lot with the juniper and nutmeg, however, J has reported back to me that using it makes his face feel a little wind burned, so we will consider leaving the nutmeg out next time as that’s possibly irritating his skin. If you decide to use cassia or cinnamon essential oil, be aware that this is a potential concern there, too. It causes increased circulation to the skin and can be a skin irritant. Not usually in such tiny amounts, but on freshly shaved skin, it’s definitely possible. Just be cautious.
Bay Rum Aftershave (Recipe adapted from The Art of Manliness)
(This makes a ridiculous amount of aftershave, but I can’t reduce the volume any further. You might be able to halve it, I guess. It keeps well, and makes a good gift. I have ours stored in a mason jar out of the light to prevent the oils from degrading).
Bay Laurel Essential Oil 2 grams This is not made with the traditional leaves of “pimenta racemosa”, but the scent is pretty darn close and still smells awesome
Spiced Rum (I used Kraken) 4 oz
Rubbing Alcohol 90% 4 oz (alternatives, use witch hazel here)
Distilled water (boil for 20 minutes, let cool, then measure) 4 oz
Powdered magnesium 7 grams
Totally optionally, but fun to use and means you don’t have to shake the hell out of the bottle every time: 2-3g polysorbate 20. (2g if you’re just using the bay laurel oil, 3g if you’re adding other oils) It emulsifies the essential oils into the rest of the liquid so they don’t float on top. If you have Polysorbate 20, great. If not, just shake your bottle extra well before you use it.
Optional essential oils:
Juniper (I used ten drops)
Nutmeg (I used ten drops)
Sweet Orange (I used five drops)
Cassia or Cinnamon
A note about preservative (omg, groan, here she goes!): With this much alcohol, this should not need a preservative. Unless you use the witch hazel. Then you need a water soluble preservative like optiphen at the recommended rates. And… “Should not”. However, to be safe, I boiled my water for 20 minutes and let it cool then measured out my 4 oz to further reduce risk of bacteria and mold. I strongly suggest you do the same either way! It doesn’t take long and it makes a difference.
After you’ve boiled your water, measure it into a large container (I used a 8 cup measuring bowl), then add the other ingredients. Add your essential oils and Polysorbate 20 last, then whisk well to get it to emulsify together.
The original directions called to strain the mixture at this point, and when I did, the magnesium had clumped and I strained the majority of it out. I left the ingredients list “as is”, but I’ll be honest; when I make this again, I’m going to seriously reduce the amount of magnesium or leave it out entirely. Allegedly, it’s purpose is to close the pores and tighten the skin post shave, however, I’m told by my husband that the rubbing alcohol does a very good job of doing these things. I think next time I will try simply two grams of magnesium for the entire bottle and see how much I filter out, because wasting it all was frustrating.
After you’ve mixed your ingredients, use a funnel to pour into whatever bottle you like for everyday use; I suggest a disc top bottle or something similar. Store the rest in a container with a tight lid that you can put in a dark place. You can even keep it in the fridge for extra longevity, although with all that alcohol, I’m not too concerned.
I noticed with ours, the smell changed a little after about a week, or my nose did. As essential oils blend and smells mature, it’s to be expected, so don’t be surprised if you like this more or less as time passes. I think you’ll like it more.
So J did some reading and uncovered an a article that mentioned that using magnesium in aftershave could cause skin irritations. This gets to the bottom of that “wind burn” he’s been feeling, and is reassuring to me because I didn’t think there was enough essential oil present to cause that kind of reaction but it wasn’t impossible. I am glad we don’t have to narrow down ingredients further. Apparently it’s not uncommon for this to happen.
Also, according to the article he found, it’s generally regarded as a good thing to add a humectant such as glycerin, and something with styptic properties to aftershave. The most common DIY ingredient is alum, so that’s what we will try. As for a humectant, we can try glycerin as it dissolves easily in alcohol or we have the luxury of trying raw honey (a more expensive option, but definitely possible), or silk peptides. I’m going to encourage him to let me use silk peptides, as silk proteins closely match skin and hair proteins and I’ve personally found silk soothing in lotions and creams. Of course, we can try a small amount of both glycerin and silk, there would be no harm done, the aftershave would still be refreshing and tightening with no sticky feeling. I had hoped to be able to use something like cetyl alcohol, as it’s a fatty alcohol with great moisturizing properties, but it’s also thickening and emulsifying-and that’s bad-and only dissolves in oils, not in water or alcohol. There are other fatty alcohols and esters out there that probably would work, but I’m still learning about them. For now, glycerin and silk are great natural ingredients that will do the job and do it well.