The Art of Darkness

Easy Bath Beads

May 30th, 2012 by Cobwebs

Bath BallsHomemade bath beads are a super-easy project that are nice as a gift or simply to indulge yourself. They’re also a good way to use a favorite scented herb.

Here are two recipes, one for a milk-based bath and one for a diffusing oil. Everything for the first one (with the exception of the essential oil) should be available at your local grocery store. The citric acid and oils for the second recipe can be found at health food stores or online. Essential and fragrance oils are widely available at craft stores and online.

Milk Bath Beads

1 C powdered milk; you can use powdered goat’s milk if you’re feeling indulgent, but plain dry milk powder works fine.
1/4 C borax powder
1/4 C cornstarch
2-4 T strong herb tea (see below)
10-20 drops essential oil or fragrance oil of your choice (see below)
2-3 drops food coloring (optional)

To make the herb tea, cover about 1/4 C of dried herbs with 1/2 C boiling water, let steep for 10 minutes, then strain and cool. Strongly-scented herbs such as lavender or peppermint will provide the most fragrance, but you can use any herb that appeals to you, from dried rose petals to green tea. (Make sure that whatever plant material you choose isn’t a skin irritant, and if you collect it from your garden ensure that it hasn’t been sprayed with pesticides or other chemicals.)

Choose an essential or fragrance oil in a complementary scent, and ensure that it’s also skin-safe; some “fragrance” oils are formulated for household rather than personal use, and some essential oils can irritate skin or eyes.

Mix the milk powder, borax, and cornstarch in a bowl. In a separate small bowl mix 2 T of herb tea with about 10 drops of fragrance oil (don’t be surprised if the smell is rather strong; it will be muted quite a bit in the finished product). Mix in a few drops of food coloring if desired–using too much will throw the liquid ratio off and could potentially stain the tub, so if you want a really deep color use a little soap pigment instead. Thoroughly blend this liquid into the dry ingredients, adding small amounts of additional tea if necessary, until it reaches a claylike consistency. Be careful not to add too much liquid or the mixture will turn to sludge. Add a few more drops of fragrance if the scent isn’t strong enough to suit you.

To form balls, roll the dough into pieces about the size of a golf ball; if you’re making a lot of them you might want to wear latex gloves to prevent skin irritation. You can also shape the balls using something like a fillable plastic ornament as a mold; rub the inside with a bit of vegetable oil to help the dough release. Dry the balls on waxed paper for 24-48 hours depending on size, until firm to the touch. Store in an airtight container. To use, simply toss in warm bath water and let it dissolve.

Diffusing Oil Bath Beads

2 T Epsom salts
1 T kosher salt or sea salt
1 T powdered milk (optional)
1 T dried herbs (see above for suggestions)
3 T baking soda
1 T citric acid
2 T cornstarch
4.5 T shea butter
1.5 T coconut oil
10-20 drops essential oil or fragrance oil (see above for suggestions)

Grind Epsom salts, kosher salt, powdered milk, and dried herbs in a (clean) coffee grinder until finely powdered. (If you don’t have a coffee grinder or spice mill you can try a small food processor or blender, but it might take a bit of time to reduce everything to a powder.) Combine with the rest of the dry ingredients in a small bowl and mix thoroughly.

Heat the shea butter and coconut oil together in a small saucepan over very low heat or (preferably) over a double boiler; they have a low melting point so it won’t take long. Stir in the essential oil, then pour the oil mixture into the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Roll into balls or mold as above, and dry on waxed paper in a cool, dry place until firm. Store airtight in a cool, dry location. To use, add a ball to warm bath water.

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