This is a departure from my usual pursuits on this blog. Usually I focus on historical doings, but today I had an entirely modern task — though with its roots (that’s a pun, kids) in history.
Ancient Egyptians used beeswax as a hair treatment, though they used it a bit differently from what I’ve done. They would put a rounded cone-shaped lump of beeswax right on top of their heads, looking almost like a bun of hair. It would melt with their body heat and under the warmth of the hot Egyptian sun, perfuming the air around them, and sticking in their hair. Because beeswax does contain honey, it was probably very attractive to insects; but honey is also mildly antiseptic, antibiotic, antifungal, and antibacterial. Honey never spoils. It’s useful for treating skin rashes, burns and abrasions, which means that no doubt it was healthy to have it in contact with the scalp. I’m not sure, though, whether it wasn’t just as harmful to have the wax itself sticking to the scalp. I wonder if it was hot enough to melt the beeswax enough to make it easy to remove from the hair — or whether maybe it sometimes pulled out hairs with it, when a person tried to remove it. I’d call it sort of a toss-up, myself.
Nevertheless, beeswax features heavily in modern pomades, or at least, in my pomade and in every recipe or method I have encountered.
My sweet Hakim went to his favorite barber shop yesterday. I love the new cut, but there is a problem. The pomade that they use at his barber shop reeks. It smells like a spill from a chemical plant. I can’t believe this is what people are using specifically to smell good — especially awesome people like The Barberians, who are otherwise pretty much wonderful in every way. Something in that pomade was playing merry havoc with my asthma, and giving me a headache. Hakim pouted at my reaction, then in a fit of enlightenment, dared me to prove my awesomeness by fixing the problem myself. “Make me something better!”
1 part coconut oil
1 part beeswax
1 drop essential oil (optional, for scent only) — I went with lemongrass
1. Melt oil and wax in a double boiler or a mini-slow cooker on low heat.
2. Get your next set of tools ready. First, you need containers for the pomade. I happened to have two thick plastic gelato containers that I wasn’t using for anything else, and one of them said “Coconut,” so I was amused to use it. Next you’ll want a fairly small ladle, so you can pour into what will probably be a narrow opening. This isn’t a nice wide soup bowl, but a two to eight ounce container, most likely, so get a ladle that won’t dribble down the back side of it and onto the countertop while you’re paying attention to where you think the pomade is going to go. If I could have found a ladle with a pouring edge, I’d have bought it, but I couldn’t.
3. Turn off heat; stir in essential oil (and, in my case, also the avocado oil). Pour into a container before it solidifies.
The moment I finished ladling pomade into the gelato containers, I realized that something was wrong. I heard a very quiet popping sound. Not like something breaking, but like something bending rapidly. It turns out that if you put something very hot, such as molten wax, into a plastic container that was meant to hold cold things like gelato, the plastic will deform. The bottoms of my gelato containers had suddenly become round.
I apologize for not photographing this, but it quickly became apparent that I needed to work fast. Very quickly I poured the pomade back into the crock pot, turned it back on, and cleaned up the surprisingly small spill that I couldn’t prevent. What to do? Very soon I realized that the only way I could expect to solve the problem of containing the wax was to use metal containers. I found one, a tin box that had once held Reese’s Peanut Butter Mini-Cups. That held about 8 fluid ounces of pomade, which was roughly half of what I had left after the preceding adventure.
One shopping trip later, I had four small round tin jars with see-through tops, three little blue ones and a silver one (thank you, Michaels.com!), which I washed out and likewise filled with the remaining pomade.
Hakim has enough pomade to last him at least a year. He also has enough to offer to a friend or two at work or at conferences, should he find anyone who might want them. And I have a new thing that I know how to make.
This pomade should also work nicely as a beard-conditioner and mustache wax.