Free Recipe – A Simple and Inexpensive Beginner’s Lotion – with Instructions

Recently, I posted an update to one of my cream recipes — Coc-Oats, Milk & Honey Cream.

I received a comment on that post that gave me the idea that maybe it might be a good idea to post a very simple and inexpensive lotion recipe so that those who are just learning to make lotions would have a starting point.

It can be intimidating if you are reading some of the internet resources to learn how to make lotions.  Those sites are a wealth of great information, but for a beginner, the technical jargon is a bit much to absorb and can be off-putting if all you are trying to do is make lotion and not get a chemistry degree.

The good news is that you don’t have to learn all that to make a lotion.   You will need more education if you want to formulate lotions yourself, but if you just want to make a lotion from a simple recipe, and maybe learn to make a few modifications to it, it is unnecessary.

So here it is.  A recipe for absolute lotion beginners (along with some tips for modifying the recipe to make it more luxurious).

This recipe uses very little in the way of ingredients. It limits the initial investment you need to make in obtaining “stash” for lotion making. Most soap makers should already have most of this.

Keeping it simple also limits the number of things that can go wrong while learning to make lotions, and keeps the cost low in case you have a failure (it won’t cost you much but time).

This recipe makes approximately 8 ounces / 250 grams of lotion.  This is a very small batch, and probably the minimum size you want to start with.  Making small batches also limits expense, as it takes very little in the way of ingredients to make this.

This recipe is written in grams because some of the ingredients are used in very small percentages and most kitchen scales only measure to one decimal point of an ounce.   That is not granular enough to accommodate small percentages of the lotion ingredients, but grams do accommodate this.  Most home kitchen scales can do both grams and ounces, you just have to switch to different setting to make it measure grams.

What do I need to buy:

Let’s go over the list of what you need.  There are a couple of things specifically for making lotions that you might not yet have.

Ingredients you may already have:

  • Distilled Water
  • Sweet Almond Oil
  • Apricot Kernel Oil
  • Shea Butter
  • Fragrance Oil (the kind you use for making soap)

Other ingredients you may need to buy:

  • Vegetable Glycerine
    • If you don’t have this, you can use sodium lactate instead – in an equal amount.  You might already have this in your soap making stash.
  • Polawax emulsifying wax (or Emulsifying Wax NF)
    • Polawax, I am finding, produces a nicer feel to the lotion and seems to be more stable, with less problems than plain Emulsifying Wax NF.
      • For a beginner, I would recommend that you splurge for the few extra dollars and buy the Polawax.
      • I got mine at Brambleberry >>Here.  It is a bit expensive ($20/lb) but you only need maybe a teaspoon full to make a batch of lotion, so it should last you for many, many batches.
    • If you will be using emulsifying Wax NF instead of Polawax, add 1% (2 grams) more.
    • Below is a picture of Polawax.

IMG_4947

  • A preservative – I used Liquid Germall Plus, but you could use another one such as Germaben or Optiphen.
    • I sometimes use Optiphen for my lotions, but it can cause issues and destabilize the lotion sometimes.   For beginners, you will have better results with something like Liquid Germall Plus.   As a bonus, you don’t have to use as much of it as you do Optiphen, so you can buy a smaller amount up-front and limit your startup cost.
      • I bought my Liquid Germall Plus from LotionCrafter >>Here  (it was $6.99 for 5 ounces, but you only use a gram or two at a time, so it will also last a long time and many batches of lotion).
    • There is no such thing as an effective “natural” preservative.  Rosemary Oleoresin Extract, Grapefruit Seed Extract and Vitamin E are NOT the preservatives and will not work to prevent mold, bacteria and other dangerous contaminants.  You must use a full spectrum preservative such as Optiphen, Liquid Germall Plus, Germaben II, or a similar preservative.
  • A Thickener – if you want to make a thicker lotion, you will need to add a thickener. This will also help keep the lotion together and stop it from separating.
    • I suggest Cetyl Stearyl Alcohol (also called Cetearyl Alcohol).  It is another waxy substance that comes in little tiny wax flakes.   You add it to the oils phase (I will include instructions below for optionally adding it).
    • You can buy this at Lotion Crafter or Camden Grey.  It is inexpensive (about $4 for 8 ounces).
    • If you can’t find cetearyl alcohol where you live, you can also see if you can find cetyl alcohol, or stearic acid.  Both will work as thickeners and can be changed out 1 for 1 with the instructions I have included for using the cetearyl alcohol (use the same amounts).

Equipment you will need:

You will need no special equipment to make this.  If you are a soap-maker, you probably already have all of it.   Here is what you will need:

  • Digital Kitchen Scale that measures in grams
  • Silicone or rubber spatula for stirring
  • Large frying pan that will hold two glass measuring cups.
  • 2 glass measuring cups – 1 cup and 2 cup sized.
  • A small measuring shot glass, or small container for holding a very small amount of liquid
  • Stove (for heating the water and oil phases).
  • Stick Blender (or immersion blender)
  • Digital Infrared Thermometer
  • (Optional) Mini Funnel

Sanitize Ahead of Time:

Before you start – about an hour or two before – sanitize your containers and equipment.

This helps kill off any bacteria or mold that might get into the lotion.  Lotion is very fragile this way and it is better to start with sanitized equipment and containers to avoid introducing any contaminants.

  1.  Wash the measuring cups, spatula, containers, lids, and blender attachment in hot, soapy water.  Rinse.
  2. Add 1/4 cup of household bleach to a sink full of clean, hot water and soak all of these things for a couple of minutes.
  3. Drain the water from them and let them thoroughly dry. (do not rinse them as the water can re-introduce bacteria).
  4. Alternately you can spray ordinary isopropyl rubbing alcohol on all this equipment, containers, etc. instead.  Then just let it dry.

Basic, Inexpensive Beginner’s Lotion Recipe:

This is a light lotion, and it is fairly thin because no thickeners have been used.  It is, however, moisturizing, very simple, takes very little ingredients to make.

It can be improved upon to make it thicker or more luxurious (see inspiration below the recipe and instructions).

Water Phase:

  • Distilled Water  – 195 grams (78.1%)
  • Vegetable Glycerin – 5 grams (2%)

Oils Phase:

  • Sweet Almond Oil – 10 grams (4%)
  • Apricot Kernel Oil – 10 grams (4%)
  • Shea Butter – 13 grams (5%)
  • Polawax Emulsifying Wax – 10 grams (3.9%)
  • Cetyl Stearyl (Cetearyl) Alcohol – 2% (5 grams)

Cool Down Phase:

  • Preservative (Liquid Germall Plus) – 1 gram (0.5%)
    • If using Optiphen, use 1% / 2 grams and deduct 1% / 2 grams from the Sweet Almond Oil.
  • Fragrance Oil (or essential oil blend) – 1 gram (0.5%)
    • You can add up to 1% / 2 grams, but if you do, deduct 1 gram from one of your oils in the oils phase.
    • In my example recipe, I used Nurture Soap – Vanilla Cream Fragrance Oil.

The basic process for making lotion:

There are a lot of words below describing the steps in detail and that can look intimidating.  Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a lot of words to describe something very simple.    Let me try to simplify these steps into one sentence:

  • Measure, Heat, Combine, Blend, Cool.   That’s it!

Now let’s dig in deeper to describe each of those concepts:
IMG_4951

Step One: Measure the Water Phase Ingredients:

  1. Into the 2 cup sized measuring cup, weigh the distilled water.
  2. Tare the scale and add the vegetable glycerin to it (or sodium lactate).
  3. Remove from the scale and tare it again.  Now weigh the entire cup full of water (you want the weight of the cup included this time).  Write down the weight.  You will need it later.

Step Two:  Measure the Oils Phase Ingredients:

  1. Measure the Sweet Almond Oil into the 1 cup measuring cup.
  2. Tare the scale and add the Apricot Kernel Oil into this cup.
  3. Tare the scale and add the Shea Butter.
  4. Tare the scale and add the Polawax.
  5. Tare the scale and add the Cetyl Stearyl (Cetearyl) Alcohol.

Step Three:  Measure the Cool-Down Phase Ingredients:

  1.  Into the small shot glass or container, measure the preservative.
  2. Tare the scale and add the fragrance oil.
  3. Set this aside for now.

Step Four:  Heat the Water Phase and Oil Phase Cups:

You have two choices when it comes to heating the ingredients.  You can either microwave them (carefully) or you can use the “heat and hold” method.

Many people believe that using “heat and hold” helps kill off bacteria and mold spores and help form a better emulsification.

Other people feel that microwaving works just as good as long as you watch the temperature and don’t overheat them.

You will need to make a choice on which method you want to use.   I will describe the heat and hold method here.

  1.  Put the large frying pan on the stove and put about 2 inches of water inside of it.IMG_4917
  2. Place the water phase and oils phase measuring cups side by side into the pan.
  3. Heat on medium heat until the ingredients in the cup are about 158 degrees F  (70 C).  Monitor the temperature and don’t let it get too hot.  You should only have some gentle bubbles in the water in the pan, like in the picture above.
  4. Once it gets to temperature, set a timer for 20 minutes.   Let the cups heat for 20 minutes, keeping the temperature at between 158 to 168 degrees F  (70-75 C).
  5. After 20 minutes, turn off the stove and remove the cups from the water (use a hot pad).
  6. Weigh the water phase cup again.   Compare it to the measurement you wrote down earlier.    Did any water evaporate?   If so, heat some distilled water in the microwave and add it into the water phase cup until the weight matches was it was before.
    1. Make sure the water phase and oil phase are close to the same temperature before you combine them (with the instructions below (under the Microwave Method section).  If one of them has cooled off, heat in the microwave in very small time increments (so as not to overheat them).

Note:  Microwave Method

Using the microwave method is much quicker, but may affect the stability of your emulsion (how well the lotion stays together without separating).   It will also not kill of as many bacteria as the heat and hold method, so your lotion may become contaminated much quicker.    Knowing this, use this method at your own discretion.

If you prefer to use the microwave method instead:

  1. Put the water and oil phase cups into the microwave.
  2. Heat on high for 30 seconds.
  3. Stir each cup and measure the temperature.    You don’t want to let them get too hot.   They need to stay between 158 F (70 C) and 168 F (75 C).
  4. You will likely need to repeat heating several times, each time you do, decrease the amount of time you cook them to avoid overheating, especially as they approach the 158 F (70 C) range.
  5. If one gets hotter than the other, remove it from the microwave and continue heating the other.
  6. The trick is to get them both in the temperature range without overheating them.
  7. Important: Measure the water phase ingredients again.  Some of the water may have evaporated and you may need to add more water to bring it back up to the right measurement again.  If you do, add more distilled water and heat the water phase cup in the microwave until it gets to temperature again.  If it is over 199 grams, remove some of it to measure 199 grams exactly.
  8. Once both the water and oil phase cups are at temperature, proceed to the next step.

Step Five:  Mix the Water Phase and Oil Phase Together and Blend:

  1. Once the oils phase and water phase are at the proper temperature, pour the oil phase ingredients into the cup containing the water phase ingredients. It should turn white and cloudy right away.IMG_4955
  2. Stir for 30 seconds or so with a spatula.
  3. Insert a stick blender and “burp it” (tilt it slightly and tap it against the bottom of the container to release the air bubbles held underneath it.)IMG_4958
  4. Turn the stick blender upright and mix for about 2 to 3 minutes.  Try not to lift the stick blender up out of the mixture to avoid getting more air (and thus bubbles).
  5. If you get some bubbles, that is normal.  As the lotion cools and thickens, they should blend back in.IMG_4960

Step Six:  Rest, Cool and Repeat:

  1.  Let the mixture rest and cool for 10 minutes.
  2. Stick blend for about 2 minutes (burp the stick blender when you reinsert it into the lotion mixture).
  3. Let it rest again for 10 minutes.
  4. After 10 minutes, check the temperature of the mixture.  If it is not yet about 100 degrees F (37.8 C), then repeat step 2 and 3 above.

Step Seven:   Add the Cool Down Phase:

  1.  Once the mixture has cooled to 100 degrees F (37.8 C), pour in the small cup of cool-down phase ingredients that you had set aside (fragrance and preservative).
  2. Stir it in with the spatula.
  3. Stick blend the mixture for 1 minute (don’t forget to burp the stick blender).

Step Eight:  Pour Into Containers:

  1.  You an either wait for this to cool off completely (for a few hours) or you can pour it into your containers now.  If you put it into containers now, just let it cool with the lid off for several hours to help any condensation evaporate.
  2. If the mixture is very thick, you can put it into jars.   If it is still thin enough, you can pour it into lotion bottles.  Using a mini funnel can help, but is optional.
  3. It may seem very thin at this point, but as it sits and cools, it will thicken up.IMG_4962

Step Nine:   Adore Your New Lotion!

  1.  You have created lotion!  Hooray!   That was so easy, I bet you are eager to get started making more!   So what else can you do with this recipe?   Read below for some ideas.
  2. Is this the most luxurious lotion ever?  No, not in the least.  It is intended as  a beginner, economical lotion.  It is a nice lotion, but not terribly luxurious.  HOWEVER, the recipe is customizable to add more luxury easily.  See below.

How to Modify This Recipe to Make It More Luxurious:

Oils:

You can replace the Sweet Almond and Apricot Kernel Oils with whatever oils you like. Just use the same amounts listed in the recipe and replace that oil with a different one. Dig into your soap making stash and experiment with different oils.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Avocado and Olive oils make a lovely, rich lotion that is great for dry or aging skin.
  • Hazelnut and Grapeseed oil make a light, non-greasy lotion that is better for those with oily skin.
  • Rosehip Seed and Evening Primrose oils make a luxurious facial lotion.
  • Hempseed and Rice Bran oils make a lotion that is both light and “drier feeling”.
  • Using melted Babassu or Coconut oils as one of the oils will give a little more thickness to the lotion.

Butters:

  • Replace the shea butter with another butter such as Cocoa, Mango, Tucuma, Murumuru, Cupuacu or Kokum.  Using a harder butter (than Shea) will also help thicken the lotion a little bit.
  • To make the lotion a little richer, replace the Apricot Kernel oil with a butter (so you will have one oil and two butters, or one oil and one butter that replaces both the shea and apricot kernel oil – example:  Sweet Almond Oil – 10 grams and Cocoa Butter – 23 grams).

More Inspiration for Customizing This Recipe:

Oils Phase Substitutions:

You can deduct grams/percentages from one of the oils in the recipe (like the sweet almond oil) and add oil soluble ingredients in it’s place.

If they are heat sensitive, such as botanical extracts, add the ingredient to the cool down phase. If they are not heat sensitive, you can add them directly to the oils phase.

You may need to look up the ingredients to find out if they are heat sensitive or not.

I have indicated below some examples:

  • Olive Squalane (add during the oils phase) –  you can use up to 30% (75 grams)  (recommend starting with 3% (8 grams)).
  • Oil Soluble Botanical Extracts (add during the cool down phase) – you can use up to 5% (13grams).  (recommend starting with 2% (5 grams)).
  • Silicones (dimethicone or cyclomethicone) (add during the cool down phase) – you can use up to 30% (75 grams). (recommend starting with 3% (8 grams)).
  • Vitamin E (T50 Tocopherols) – (add during the cool down phase) – use up to 1.5% (4 grams). (recommend starting with 2% (5 grams)).
  • If you want a thicker lotion with more body, replace some of the oil with a thickener such as Stearic Acid, Cetyl Stearyl (Cetearyl) Alcohol, or Cetyl Alcohol.  Use 2 to 3% (5 to 8 grams).
  • Replace one of the oils (or a partial amount of one of the oils) with an ester such as cetyl esters or jojoba esters.  This can help make the lotion feel “glossier” and be more lubricating. (recommend starting with 3% (8 grams)).

Here is an example of a substitution of an oil phase ingredient:

I like the recipe above, but I want to include some oil soluble chamomile extract at 2% (5 grams).  So I take 5 grams away from the Sweet Almond Oil (which is now going to be added at only 5 grams (2%). and I add the 5 grams of chamomile extract during the cool-down phase (since it is heat sensitive).

Water Phase Substitutions:

You can deduct grams / percentages from the distilled water and add other water-soluble ingredients.   If they are heat sensitive, add them during the cool down phase.  If not heat sensitive, add to the water phase.  (You may need to look the ingredients up to find out if they are heat sensitive or not.  All the ones listed below are not, so they can be added directly to the water phase).

  • Another liquid such as Aloe Vera Liquid (not gel) or a floral water / hydrosol (up to 10% / 25 grams).
  •  Skin-loving conditioners / humectants such as Allantoin, Honeyquat, Proteins (rice, oat, silk) or Panthenol (up to 3% / 8 grams).

Here is an example of a water phase substitution:

I have some rose hydrosol that I want to use.   I want to use 10%.   So I deduct 10% (25 grams) from the distilled water and add in my 25 grams of rose hydrosol.  Now the distilled water is only used at 168 grams (67.1%) instead of 193 grams (77.1%).  Rose hydrosol is not heat sensitive, so I can add it directly to the water phase.

Other:

You can add a colorant.   Micas and Liquid Soap Dyes work the best.

You will want to add a very small amount of colorant after you have emulsified the mixture, or during the cool-down phase.   Just add it and blend it in.

This example lotion does not have a colorant, but here is a picture from another lotion that did (so you can see how much to start out with).  You can add more until you reach your desired color, but start small and add from there.

IMG_4939

Where to get Supplies:

I am not affiliated with these companies and get no benefit monetarily for recommending them.  They are just the supplies I have used and have worked well for me.  (Sorry but they are all in the US, so if you are not in the US, I don’t know where you would get them in your country).

  • Brambleberry (look under the “additives” section).
  • Lotion Crafter – has many lotion making ingredients and additives
  • Camden Grey – Has a large selection of oils and butters — even some fairly luxurious and rare ones such as Borage Oil and MuruMuru butter.
  • Nurture Soap – Has some great fragrances and mica colorants
  • Nature’s Garden – Has a large selection of fragrances, and often has 1 ounce sample sizes at reasonable prices.  (1 ounce is plenty more than enough to make lotion with).

If you want to make a thicker lotion that is more like a cream, check out the free recipe for Coc-Oats, Milk & Honey Cream.

I will be posting more recipes and inspiration for more complex lotions than this, but will try, from time to time, to post beginner recipes as well.   It can take time and money to build a stash of lotion making ingredients.  It crosses paths with soap making ingredients sometimes, but for lotions, there are many more ingredients that you may want to acquire to make your lotions extra-luxurious, or to tailor them for more specific purposes such as hair conditioners, facial creams, or dry skin creams.   The good news is that all of these are made in exactly the same way, so once you learn to make a basic lotion, those skills will transfer to more complex recipes that include fancier ingredients.

I hope you enjoyed this little tutorial on lotion making and I hope you give it a try.   It really is a fun and rewarding project.  Once you get started with it, you will start to think of all kinds of lotions you will want to make for yourself.  I find that I use the lotions much more than I use my handmade soaps.   Soap you use once a day when you shower, but lotion you can use all day long.

If you sell soap, you may find that adding lotions to your product line can be lucrative.  I mean, lotion is like 70 to 80% water, which is dirt cheap.  If you keep the ingredients simple, you can make a lotion for a couple of dollars and sell it for whatever you think you can get for it.   I mean, Rodin Olio Lusso is selling 2 ounces of cream for $84.  It costs $6.00 to make (and I am sure that they get the ingredients cheaper than I do as they buy in bulk).

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7 thoughts on “Free Recipe – A Simple and Inexpensive Beginner’s Lotion – with Instructions

  1. THANK you for taking the time to post this. It’s absolutely perfect for a beginner like me, and I can’t wait to give it a go! I’ll let you know how I get on 😊

    Like

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