adventure skincare

Fresh & Fair Trail Magic

As a one-woman show, balancing production with administrative work can be a challenge – especially through the holidays.  After that storm has passed, I get to turn my energy back inwards and revisit some of my reasons for consolidating my longtime hobby with my professional career in the outdoor industry (coaching and retail) as a full time business.  Everything is strategic.  I usually plan the itinerary for my backpacking trips based on calorie expenditure per thousand feet of elevation, and relative warmth. Knowing the frequency of potable water sources also helps many hikers plan their route and packlist. Similarly, I try to isolate a gap in skincare routines that I might solve with more sustainable ingredients, packaging or even my special branding navigation system.  I am pursuing this labor of love as an artisan with an entrepreneur’s spirit; and that’s where the Triple Bottom Line fits in.

These 3 metrics of sustainability include People, Planet and Profit – and they must balance, prioritized equally.  If there is no environmental problem to solve or one is created (example: single-use plastic); I move along despite the capacity to increase profit.  If a raw material is sourced without fair pay, permissions, or in excess of crop tolerance; I find a substitute distributor, grow my own or find an equivalent material.  Although it is a huge struggle for small businesses, I try to order in bulk to keep my materials costs low and calculate my retail prices to be accessible for the people.  In the spirit of removing barriers, I sponsor ambassadors and various programs that support inclusion and diversity in the outdoors, donate a portion of my product to folks who contribution time to public trails with maintenance, education and leadership.  Lastly, I personally volunteer 5-10 hours each week to repair drainage, restore trail corridors, assist with trail planning/land manager relations, remove invasive plants, plant native ones and provide some training opportunities to stewardship. As some elements of my professional training have past, others have just begun.


Here’s my short list of Trail Magic resources.

Coming soon to a trade show near you?

Well, at least there’s one and it’s new to me.  It’s a start, though!  With a growing foundation partnering with regional brick and mortar retail locations to sell my product, I wanted to reach to the fringe of my network.  Although I’ve worked in the outdoor and wellness retail world and attended trade shows on behalf of other businesses, I am honored to represent my own brand at one finally!  It is my intention to stay within the athletic and outdoor adventure world, Philadelphia is far enough mileage-wise that I expect to see some new faces.  As a new exhibitor showcasing a unique – and relevant – style of product outside their typical bikes and bike parts lineup, they interviewed me on their website, to introduce my business to their attendees.  Those were some good questions!


Hughes Muse

FAQ: Balm or Salve?

Craft shows and farmers markets are often full of people exposed to natural, handmade skincare for the first time. People often ask for “Chapstick” instead of lip balm, not realizing that is a specific brand name, like Kleenex instead of tissue. Since I only sell what I make, myself, I don’t resell other brands of product.  I try not to come across as if I correcting them, because they may have an association with their choice of words differently than I do and instead I seek to open up the discussion about my process. After all, talking in person with the maker of a product can be quite informative.woodsy warrior salve in tin

The jury is definitely still out on all the similarities and differences between balm and salve – because they overlap in so many ways. My exposure to both is through the world of retail and herbalism, but I took a quick tour in the internet and saw nothing consistent in the examples. Yet, I’d like to suggest there ARE some commonalities not already mentioned. Of course, these are my observation and not indicative of an attempt to rewrite anyone else’s definition. There might still be items in the world that do not fit this definition but are labeled as such. For the most part, they seem consistent in this regard, though:unscented lip balm vegan paperboard tube texture

In a nutshell, it seems that most people would agree that balms sit on top of the skin while salves absorb into skin. Salves generally seem to be softer than balms, and are applied with the fingertip.  Yet, they are firmer than an ointment or lotion, which share similar functions and ingredients albeit different ratios. Any of the above may have herbal infusion or essential oils, while salves specifically seem to utilize more herbs and balms use more aroma, not necessarily essential oils and sometime even flavor – a different kind of extract. Both salves and balms may be functional; however, salves primarily exist to support healing, while balms seem to exist to prevent damage. Balms, being more firm, tend to be formulated in stick form and have a “slip” factor to glide the product from an applicator tube instead of fingertips, versatile for travel and everyday use. Conversely, Salves tend to hang out in first aid kits or medicine cabinets until they are needed and have a variety of consistency. I know mine vary greatly depending upon the season.

DIY – Vegan Skin Salve Recipe – NO Beeswax!

Here’s a moisturizing recipe that I’ve come up with as the base for a number of salves to meet everyday needs.  One can modify the moisturizing or breathability quality with a slight adjustment in the ratio of waxes.  A lot of skin salves and balms use beeswax because it has a very long shelf life, antiviral and antibacterial properties; however, it also can add a stickiness to a product where it may not be desired over time, where breathability and slip are key.  Having 100% plant-based products is important to me, so I’ve done a lot of formulation testing to come up a similar properties using Candelilla Wax instead of beeswax that I can use in deodorants, lip balms and massaging salves alike.

For added benefits, the solid or liquid oils can be infused with herbs, with advance preparation (2 hours to 6 weeks in advance – there’s a whole ‘nother DIY article on this topic).  With coconut oil, since it is solid at room temperature, I use the heat method of infusing, bringing the coconut oil just barely to the melting point with the herbs for up to 4 hours on the lowest heat possible.  If managing heat over a stove is difficult, you can melt the oil and pour over the herbs and place in a sunny warm place or hold in a 200degree over, wrapped in foil.  If time permits and I’m using a liquid oil, the solar infusion is always preferred, as it produces a higher quality, more potent extract.  For skin salves, I find myself drawn to calendula, jewelweed, lavender, lemon balm, st. john’s wort, arnica and sassafras.  Since I have included infused oils in my soapmaking from scratch, I have noticed that combining oils in the infusing stage, produces inconsistent results – I recommend infusing oils with herbs in separate containers, and only combining your infusions after they have processed, if you must (Example: one herb per jar).  If you can’t harvest and dry your own herbs, you can buy some high quality ones here.

double boiler glass measuring cup stove cooking pot boil water

I recommend to weigh out and start melting your candelilla wax and shea butter in a double boiler (jar or glass measuring cup in pot of water 1.5″ full), since it takes about 45 minutes for 2 oz to melt completely, and might need some stirring to finish the job.  While this is happening, you can weigh out each of your remaining ingredients into separate dishes and cover your work surface with a couple of paper towels or newsprint.  Place containers about an inch apart on this surface in a row or two.  Unlid each one and set lids aside.  Also , put a few stainless steel spoons in the freezer.

Next, you’ll add the coconut oil.  I’ve found the raw stuff smells a bit nutty/fruity and varies in consistency, so I prefer the organic, refined – but don’t let my preferences stop you if you have some of the other kind on hand.


 As the coconut oil finishes melting, you can remove from heat and gradually stir in your liquid wax or oil to the melted wax/butter combination.  Sesame, Sweet Almond Oil, Jojoba Wax, Olive Oil, are all good options with high absorption that also add slip.

I recommend tempering your base after it is completely melted, measuring 140* F for 20 minutes.  You can use one of the frozen spoons to check the consistency with a quick dip-test.  If you have 1 drop fall off the spoon after pulling it out before it rehardens, it may be too firm to spread over skin without a built-in applicator (like a lip balm tube) – so you’ll want to add more liquid oil.  If you get more than 4 drips, it may melt in its container on a warm day – so you’ll want to add more wax or butter.  These micro adjustments can make all the difference in if your product can be used on the lips or skin and how it is applied.


materials tins salve herbs essential oils infusionOnce you have the consistency you like, you can stir in your essential oils, immediately pour into your containers and gently top with their lids.  Allow your containers to cool completely before moving them.  Label each with the ingredients and store in a cool, dark place using completely within a couple of years.

I often recommend lavender since it has so many calming and cleansing properties, but you might also use Helichrysum, Carrot Seed Oil, Roman Chamomile, Geranium and/or Clary Sage for this particular type of moisturizing and skin calming salve.  Sometimes, I also save a little room for a few drops of Rosemary, for its antioxidant properties.  Thoroughly review the properties and safety of any essential oil(s) you plan to use.*



VEGAN SKIN SALVE RECIPE – makes approx 12 ouncechamois lube tattoo aftercare diaper rash creme skin salves.

  • 2 oz Candelilla Wax
  • 6.5 oz Shea or Mango Butter, Refined
  • 2 oz Coconut Oil, Refined
  • 2 oz Oil or liquid wax
  • 0.1 oz Vitamin E
  • Up to 100 drops of essential oils*
  • 12 x 1 oz tin or glass containers





*This is the total, combined limit for a 12.6 oz batch, and there are approximately 600 drops in an ounce of liquid, so < 2% Essential Oil Safe Dilution Rate for most essential oils is about 10 drops per ounce of finished product. Research those marked as potentially phototoxic (many citrus) or sensitizing (peppermint, cassia, etc.) in which the amounts should be reduced further.  Exercise caution and research each essential oil as skin contact can cause dermatitis and irritation, or respiratory problems in children and pets.  To learn more about the safety of use with essential oils, check out Tisserand’s book or take a course in aromatherapy.



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