making lotions (and creams)

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making lotion is a simple process, a matter of combining the water phase (i.e. water and other water soluble ingredients) with the oil phase (i.e. oils waxes, butters, and any other oil soluble ingredients) into an stable mixture with the use of an emulsifier. (items like preservative, fragrance, silk, etc are referred to as the miscellaneous phase.)
lotions and creams are emulsions. emulsions are [mainly] either o/w (oil in water) with the lesser portion of oil dispersed in the greater portion of water, or w/o (water in oil). most [commercially available] lotions and creams are o/w emulsions. the major different between a lotion and a cream is the consistency; lotions -- usually with an oil/butter content ranging from 10% to 25% -- tend to be lighter in feel, while creams -- usually with an oil/butter content above 25% -- tend to be denser and greasier. although lotion usually has a thinner consistency [than cream], it can be made very thick by using more butters (solid at room temperature) and less oil (liquid at room temperature) and by using [more] thickening agents (e.g. stearic acid, cetyl alcohol, etc.).
you customize the lotion by the selection of the oils (and other ingredients) to suit your particular specification. [some of] the various ingredients (and the reason for their inclusion) are listed below. "oil" would entail any [carrier] oils and/or butters you desire, that decision being based on personal preference. see "oils & butters" for a list of the more common ones ...with their characteristics and benefits.
below, in additon to the basic lotion making procedure and ingredients list, and my recipes, i include a "lotion calculator" to aid in the formulation of lotion recipes. i also address the use of the "hlb emulsion system" and the use of [natural] "sunscreen for spf protection".
basic lotion ingredients
allantoin: this unique product (available at "mms") is an optional ingredient that is used for skin protection; it's used to hasten the growth of new, healthy tissue. the emulsion is first made and then allantoin is added to the process when the product is below 90° f. good mixing is required to thoroughly disperse the allantoin.
-- use from .5% to 2%
citric acid: use up to 1% for the preservative and ph lowering qualities. (see "skin ph" for more information about ph and the skin's acid mantle.) if you find the lotion to be too acidic and irritates your skin, lower the amount used.
-- use from .25% to 1%
emulsifying wax (1): this is the product that holds the water and oil together in a stable emulsion. although stearic acid can "thicken" your product, it cannot make an oil & water emulsion stable. do not confuse the two. they are very different.
-- use from 3% to 5%
glycerin: is a humectant. this means it has the ability to draw water right from the air and bring it closer to your skin.
-- use from 3% to 8%
oil: use any solid or liquid oil. if you use a liquid and want a thicker lotion, you'll need to use stearic acid. the use of solid oil can eliminate the need for stearic acid. personal preference will dictate how much of and which oil(s) and / or butter(s) are used.
-- use from 10% to 25%
phenonip (2): is a complete preservative, effective against many kinds of bacteria, yeast and mold. although phenonip is an oil-soluble substance, it can be used effectively in oil-based and water-based product. phenonip is designed to be used at higher temperatures and is added to the product during formulation.
-- use from .3% to 1%
stearic acid (3): this is a "stiffener" that thickens your lotions. lotions are oil in water mixtures; creams are water in oil mixtures. creams are usually thicker, but you can give your lotion a thick, cream texture by using stearic acid (usually in conjunction with solid oils).
-- use from 3% to 5%
water: most often when people say their skin is dry they need water, not oil. also, when oil is needed, water is usually the vehicle to get a very thin coat of oil on the skin. distilled water is preferred. if desired, [liquid] aloe vera can be substituted for a portion of the water.
-- use from 60% to 80%
1 this is a "convenient" (and readily available) single emulsifier for general use, however, there are other options available to perform this task, which provide the same degree of emulsification but affect the lotion with a different feel and texture. see "emulsion systems" for additional information.
2 there are other preservatives available; germaben II, germall plus, liquipar, just to name a few. each has its own usage parameters. the choice will be dictated by the product being made, the process being used, and personal preference. see "preservatives" for more details on the various preservatives and antioxidants. This page also contains notes on the new preservative "cosmocil cq".
3 cetyl alcohol is another stiffening agent, which can be used in conjunction with or instead of stearic acid. emulsifying wax and stearic acid are commonly used for "home" preparations because they are readily available, however, "the herbarie" is an excellent source for many other emulsifiers and thickeners, (as well as emollients, conditioners, humectants, and surfactants), for use in making skin care products.

my recipes
you'll notice that many of the suppliers [of lotion ingredients] carry a lot of synthetic and natural-but-modified products used to affect the texture and feel of lotion. i personally aspire to produce a natural product, so i try to restrict the use of these ingredients to a minimum. but as you try to "improve" your product, you'll find there are some of theses additives that are necessary (e.g. preservatives, emulsifiers, thickeners), and some you'll use to improve the "feel" (e.g. silicone oils), and some that are beneficial to the skin (e.g. allantoin, oats, silk). what you don't want -- (or rather what i don't want) -- is a lotion with an ingredients list that reads like some of the commercial products, which don't actually contain any "real" oils or butters but use combinations of synthetic emollients.
note - all of the formulas are listed for a 100 gram end quantity. by doing it this way, the individual ingredient amount is also the percentage of the total. this makes it easy to view each item in terms of its percentage, and it's a simple matter of multiplication to get the desired quantity (i.e. times 1.25 to get 125 grams or 4 oz., etc.). this also make it easier to convert the formula to ounces. simply divide the desired end quantity by 3.52 (i.e. 16 ounces divided by 3.52 = 4.55). then multiply each ingredient by that amount to get its equivalent in ounces.
...or you could just enter the formula(s) in the "lotion factor chart" below to easily calculate any desired quantity (in grams or ounces).

ingredientsformula #1formula #2formula #3formula #4formula #5formula #6cold cream
cocoa butter 3.0 gm -------- -------- 1.0 gm -------- -------- --------
emu oil 2.0 gm -------- -------- .7 gm 2.5 gm 2.5 gm --------
jojoba oil -------- -------- -------- -------- -------- -------- 15.0 gm
olive oil 3.0 gm -------- -------- 1.0 gm -------- -------- 15.0 gm
shea butter 3.0 gm 11.0 gm 11.0gm -------- 11.0 gm 11.0 gm --------
shea oil -------- -------- -------- 1.0 gm -------- -------- 15.0 gm
cetyl alcohol 4.0 gm 4.0 gm 2.0 gm -------- 4.0 gm 2.0 gm --------
stearic acid 2.0 gm 1.0 gm 1.0 gm -------- 1.0 gm .5 gm --------
beeswax -------- -------- -------- -------- -------- -------- 10.0 gm
emulsifying wax -------- -------- -------- 1.3 gm -------- -------- --------
ceteareth-20 1.5 gm 1.5 gm 1.4 gm -------- 1.5 gm 1.3 gm --------
glyceryl stearate 1.5 gm 1.5 gm 1.6 gm -------- 1.5 gm 1.7 gm --------
cyclomethicone 2.0 gm 2.0 gm 2.0 gm -------- 2.0 gm 2.0 gm --------
dimethicone 1.0 gm 1.0 gm 1.0 gm -------- 1.0 gm 1.0 gm --------
vitamin e 1.0 gm 1.0 gm 1.0 gm 1.0 gm 1.0 gm 1.0 gm 1.0 gm
aloe vera 20.0 gm 24.0 gm 24.0 gm 61.0 gm 24.0 gm 24.0 gm --------
distilled water 37.0 gm 42.5 gm 44.5 gm 28.7 gm 28.5 gm 31.0 gm 36.5 gm
goat's milk 10.0 gm -------- -------- -------- 10.0 gm 10.0 gm --------
sodium borate (borax) -------- -------- -------- -------- -------- -------- 2.0 gm
citric acid 1.0 gm 1.0 gm 1.0 gm 1.0 gm 1.0 gm 1.0 gm --------
glycerin / sodium lactate 4.0 gm 5.5 gm 5.5 gm 1.3 gm 5.5 gm 5.5 gm 4.5 gm
hydrolized oats 1.0 gm 1.0 gm 1.0 gm .5 gm 1.0 gm 1.0 gm --------
hydrolized silk protein -------- -------- -------- -------- 1.0 gm 1.0 gm --------
natrasorb -------- -------- -------- -------- 2.0 gm 2.0 gm --------
cosmocil cq -------- -------- -------- 1.0 gm 1.0 gm 1.0 gm 1.0 gm
phenonip .5 gm .5 gm .5 gm -------- -------- -------- --------
allantoin .5 gm .5 gm .5 gm .5 gm .5 gm .5 gm --------
h. silk protein (<120°f) 2.0 gm 2.0 gm 2.0 gm -------- -------- -------- --------

formula #1: this produces an ultra thick, emollient, heavy-duty lotion that absorbs quickly and is excellent for moisturing hands, feet, elbows, and knees.
formula #2: this produces a full-bodied, moisturizing, quick-absorbing, all-shea formula lotion. this is a great for dry rough areas needing special attention like hands, feet, knees, elbows, etc.
formula #3: this produces a moisturizing, quick-absorbing, all-shea formula lotion, identical to formula #2, but lighter in feel and texture. this spreads easily and makes a wonderful all purpose lotion but is especially good for hands that get washed many times during the day and require the constant re-application of lotion.
formula #4: this produces an ultra light non-greasy formula that moisturizes without leaving any residue. it's excellent as an all-over body lotion and even a facial moisturizer.
see "formula #4" for additional notes on this formula.
formula #5: in this formula, i wanted to increase the percentage of emolience. the all shea formulas (#2, #3) performed very well so without decreasing the amount of shea butter, i simply added the emu oil. i also added goat's milk. because of the increased oil, i added 2% natrasorb (a modified wheat starch used to counter greasiness). i've started using cosmocil cq as a preservative instead of phenonip because, (in addition to having no parabens), it has no odor to cover up the fragrance is optional. this produces a thick full-bodied lotion comparable to formula #2.
formula #6: formula #5 performed so well, i decided to make the same modifications (emu oil, goat's milk, natrasorb, cosmocil) to formula #3.

cold cream: is a w/o emulsion and has been used for centuries as a cleansing (wipe-off) and a softening (leave-on) cream. use any combination of soft (liquid at room temperature) oils -- i use equal portions of jojoba, olive, and shea oils. melt the oils together with beeswax and vitamin e. dissolve borax into heated water, add glycerin and preservative, and add this to the oils.
(using an electric mixer with wisks or beaters), blend thoroughly; continue to beat as mixture cools. when cooled, incorporate fragrance if desired, and if using a heat-sensitive preservative, add it at this point. spoon into container.
it is not necessary to beat the mixture "continually", but it is imperative to beat it well throughout the cooling process, or else it will set into a thick mass, not at all the creamy texture you want. the thickness of the cream is controlled by the amount of beeswax. for a "denser" cream, increase the beeswax accordingly. emollients that are solid at room temperature (e.g. shea butter, mango butter, cocoa butter, etc.), will produce a thicker product, so if used, they require a proportional reduction in the amount of beeswax.
for more, see "all about cold cream".

note on citric acid / allantoin: the recommended usage range [for citric acid] is .25% to 1%. i had been using 1%. however, as of 9/06, i reduced the amount of citric acid to .25% (in all formulas) to account for a slight irritation i was detecting.
i had noticed, when first applying the lotion, a momentary, albeit very slight, irritation. i had [erroneously] attributed this to excess citric acid. i first reduced the citric acid to .5%, and then to its minimum, .25%. however, i was concerned about this because the preservative works best in an acidity environment (5.5 to 6 ph) and my lotion was registering 6.5 to 7 ph. i also noticed no decrease in this irritation. eventually it was determined that the irritation was coming from the "grit" of the allantoin, which i was using at a rate of 1%. so, i've increased my citric acid back to the 1% [the amount i started with], and reduced the allantoin to .5% -- (the msds for this item states it is soluble @ .5%). some skin types, however, may still require a decrease in the citric acid.

note on preservative: cosmocil can be substituted for the phenonip in all of the above formulas allowing for the difference in the recommended usage amount (phenonip - .5% / cosmocil - 1%).
note on shea butter: mango butter can be substituted [in part or all ] for the shea butter in any of the formulas since the two are very similar in their properties and characteristics ...although mango butter does seem to be a bit less greasy in texture. no other modifications to the formulas are necessary.
note on silk: there are different silks (varying by supplier). some are heat sensitive (to be added post process) while others are not (can be added to the water phase), and each has it's own recommended usage amount. check with the particulars of the silk you are using to determine when to add it and how much to use.
note on sodium lactate: sodium lactated (nal) is a humectant derived from whey and, when substituted for the glycerin in the lotion formula, [allegedly] out performs the glycerin in drawing moisture to the skin. your own personal experience will either support or disprove this claim. in any event, when used, it does leave the lotion with a less-tacky feel.
note on vitamin e: vitamin e is an excellent antioxidant for preserving lotions (and oils) from oxidation and rancidity. as of 9/06, i've incorporated this into all the formulas. .5% would be adequate for this task, however, i'm increasing this to 1% so that the lotion will impart the antioxidant properties to the skin (in its defense against free radicals). the type of vitamin e needed here is alpha-tocopherol, the form most easily absorbed by the body ...(not acetate).
note on infusions: white tea/calendula: the cosmetic industry has been showing a lot of interests in white tea, which is highly regarded for its antioxidant properties. since i drink white tea anyway [and have it on hand], it was a logical segue to eventually include it in my lotion formulas. i simply make a strong brew and substitute it for the water portion of the lotion formula. the slight coloration and aroma of the tea has no perceptible effect on the end product.
likewise, calendula flowers make an excellent infusion to be used in this same manner. calendula is a renowned healing herb, wonderful for toning and promoting blood supply to skin tissue and is a natural antiseptic. it, however, does have its own aroma and color, which will impact the end product. other botanicals (e.g. chamomile, lavender, etc.) can be used in the same way.


body butter: although neither an o/w emulsion nor a w/o emulsion, this "whipped shea" can have the consistency of a cream ...this particular formula is more salve-like in texture.

mixing instructions
oil phase: combine all the waxes and oils in a microwavable container and heat until all are melted -- (to approximately 180° f).
water phase: separately, heat water (and optional aloe vera and goat's milk) to between 140° f and 158° f. dissolve the citric acid, glycerin, goat's milk, hydrolized oats, silk, and preservative (phenonip/cosmocil*) in the water.
add the water phase to the oil phase and blend thoroughly (with an immersion blender).
let cool -- to 90° f.
miscellaneous phase: add allantoin, fragrance, silk, etc. and blend completely.
if germaben (or a similar preservative) is used -- that has to be added after the emulsion is made and has cooled to 90° f -- it would be part of the miscellaneous phase.
due to the mixture's consistency, (which is usually quite thick at this point), it is important that this phase gets incorporated thoroughly and evenly.
pour into bottles -- note that this mixture thickens as it cools and, when it gets below 90° f, it will be very thick (proportional to the amount of thickening agent used). it will not "pour". you will have to devise your own particular method of getting the finished lotion into the bottle ...especially if it has a narrow neck.
the lotions's thickness can't be properly evaluated at this point since it will continue to thicken [slightly] over the next 72 hours. wait until after this time to determine if there needs to be any adjustment to your formula.
silk is listed under both the water and miscellaneous phases. this depends upon whether or not the silk is heat sensitive. usage amounts and instructions usually accompany the product.
* phenonip is an oil-soluble substance and it is widely suggested that you dissolve the phenonip in the hot oils. phenonip is also soluble in water, however, it has a stronger affinity for the oil. if it were added to an oil and water mixture, the phenonip would dissolve in the oil.
according to the manufacturer, when phenonip is dissolved in the water first, (before combining the water phase with the oil phase), it is more effective at retarding bacterial growth. it's a good practice to divide the phenonip between the water and oil phases.
cosmocil is all added to the water phase.

if you want to go beyond the recipes and processes to learn more about the specifics of lotionmaking and the ingredients used, "snowdriftfarm" has an extensive tutorial which contains a wealth of information about the craft.

"", which is another excellent source of lotion-making ingredients, has a "resource / technical" section which offers an abundance of information on [many of] the various lotion making ingredients (e.g. preservatives, emulsifiers, humectants, thickeners, etc.).

lotion factor chart
this chart is helpful in formulating recipes and for calculating quantities of ingredients needed to produce a given amount of lotion. it is, however, just a [convenience] device; it's not intended to be some rigid format to which a lotion formula must adhere. from the wide latitude in the [percentage] ranges and the omission/inclusion of other ingredients, you can imagine the myriad combinations possible. in the end, it's all up to you and what you want.
even though the ingredients are pre-listed, you can enter any ingredient you desire. see the "help" doc for tips on using this calculator.
ingredientsamountgramsounces%% range
10 - 25
^^^ ^^^
^^^ ^^^
^^^ ^^^
^^^ ^^^
3 - 5
^^^ ^^^
3 - 5
2 - 5
^^^ ^^^
1 - 4
^^^ ^^^
.25 - 1
ingredientsamountgramsounces%% range
60 - 80
^^^ ^^^
^^^ ^^^
.25 - 1
3 - 8
1 - 5
1 - 2
2 - 10
.5 - 1.5
.3 - 1
.5 - 2
2 - 5
total amount: total grams: total ounces: factor:
© skinesscentuals 2007

emulsion systems
to talk about the emulsion system, you have to talk about hlb (hydrophilic/lipophilic balance). to put it simply (and the operative word here is "simply"), every oil, butter and wax has a required hlb. every emulsifier has an hlb value. through calculation, you determine what the required hlb is for your particular combination of oils/butters/waxes. by combining emulsifiers -- and it's best to use a combination of two or more -- in such a way to achieve the necessary hlb, you can create an emulsifying system for your formula that better suits you needs.
it's necessary to experiment with different combinations of emulsifiers since different combinations [of emulsifiers] produce different results (i.e. feel, texture). although the emulsifying wax (included in the basic ingredients list) is a convenience, it leaves the product with a characteristic "waxy drag". this isn't significantly unpleasant, but with an alternative emulsifying system, this aspect can be diminished.
 • see "emulsions and the hlb system" for a more complete explanation on how to use this system to create an effective emulsifier -- this is a .pdf document (originated by "convergent cosmetics") which can be downloaded or viewed online.
 • a note on the hlb values of silicone oils: in an attempt to obtain the hlb values of silicone oils, (in particular cyclomethicone and dimethicone), an extensive search of the web failed to produce any results except to say that silicone oils have an hlb range of 8 - 12. i contacted a chemist who informed me that the 8 - 12 range is correct; the cyclomethicone should be about 8, the dimethicone about 9 - 10. the higher the cps, (which is the measure of viscosity), the higher the hlb value. the cps of cyclomethicone is 4, dimethicone is 350, some thicker silicone oils have a cps as high as 8000. for relative comparison, water has a cps of 1 - 5. for my purposes, (and reflected in the above recipes), i use an hlb value of 8 for cyclomethicone and 9 for dimethicone.

sunscreen & spf
most commercial sunblocks, and products boasting sunblock protection, use chemical sunscreening agents that are not readily available to the general public or home lotion crafter. it is, however, possible to incorporate suncreen portection into your lotion using natural minerals, but it's not as simple a process as adding x amount of ingredient(s) to achieve x amount of suncreen protection (spf).
"suncreen & spf" explores the use of these natural minerals (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) as sunblocking agents, how they may be used to add an element of sunblocking protection to your product, and the caveats regarding spf claims.
advisory: there's been a lot of interest in using [products containing] "micronized" titanium dioxide and "micronized" zinc oxide as natural sunscreens. be advised that there is also considerable discussion about these "micronized" particles as being in and of themselves carcinogenic ...thereby defeating their purpose. to draw your own conclusions, google "titanium dioxide nanoparticles sunscreen" (or similar keywords) to see the litany of documents exploring the possible deleterious effects of sunscreen with these nanoparticles.