How to make a natural lotion, cream, moisturiser – Tutorial


It’s confusing trying to learn how to make a lotion.  There is a lot of contradictory information on the internet and in books.  Most recipes on the net and in books give unsafe and /or incorrect information, for example vitamin E, GSE or rosemary extract are preservatives or that beeswax is an emulsifier – these are untrue.

This tutorial will walk you through the equipment, ingredients, method and provide you with recipes and tips so you can make your own lotion, cream or moisturiser.


  • Barrier to block water escaping from the skin eg shea butter
  • Humectants, which are ingredients that attract water to your skin eg glycerin, panthenol
  • Emollients – eg oils to hydrate your skin.
  • As oil and water do not mix an emulsifier helps combine the oil materials with the water eg emulsifying wax
  • Thickener (otherwise the lotion will be water thin) and this also gives it stability eg, Cetyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Alcohol and Stearic Acid or a gum like xanthan or guar.
  • Preservative – this really isn’t optional, I’m afraid – see below.


Cosmetic formulators use the weight measurement of grams instead of ounces, cups, teaspoons etc. To help with conversion, there are 28.3495 grams (g) in an ounce (not fluid ounce). 453.592 grams equal 1 pound. 1000 grams make 1 kilogram. It’s also handy for converting from percentages because if you’re making 100g of a lotion then 1% of an ingredient weighs 1g.  If you want to make 600 grams of lotion then multiply everything by 6 so an ingredient which is 2% becomes 12g.  An ingredient which is 10% becomes 60g.  Grams (a weight measurement) is similar to millilitres/ml (a volume measurement) as 100g of water is the same as 100ml of water but this isn’t accurate for all liquids – oil weighs less than water so 100g of oil might only measure 80ml.



In the UK you can buy all the ingredients from

In the US – lotioncrafter, theherbarie,, wholesalesuppliesplus (Brambleberry also sell lotion supplies but they do not sell liquid germall plus so buy Phenonip preservative instead – and put 1% in the heated oil phase.).  Lotioncrafter and theherbarie sell the widest range of lotion supplies and lotioncrafter, wholesalesuppliesplus and brambleberry sell a handy mini-mixer.  Thesage and brambleberry and wholesalesuppliesplus only sell some of the ingredients listed under the heading OTHER INGREDIENTS below.

Be aware of the shelf life of the oils you buy – some only last 3 months and some can block pores  – the ones I’ve listed in here last at least 1 year.


For a basic lotion/moisturiser I would recommend the following (I have also listed which phase the ingredients should be added):-

  • Preservative – essential, not optional. My favourite is liquid germall plus – 0.5% cool down phase. Why is it essential?? – see Vitamin E, benzoin, rosemary extract, grapefruit extract are anti-oxidants NOT preservatives – they will help with oxidation of oils only and do nothing to help prevent gram positive and negative bacteria, yeast and mold which grow in anything containing water.)  If your lotion is unpreserved it will last as long as milk eg up to 10 days. (You can’t rely on your vision to check whether your lotion is OK because bacteria and spores are microscopic and can’t be seen by the human eye.)  If you aren’t going to use all your lotion within 10 days (refrigerated) then please use a preservative so you don’t get a skin infection or allergic reaction.  The ideal preservative is broad spectrum meaning it guards against bacteria, mould, yeast and other fungi. Swiftcraftymonkey’s favourite preservative (very easy to use and effective) is liquid germall plus.  (Note: Optiphen can de-stabilise your emulsion.) (If you are buying from Brambleberry they do not sell liquid germall plus so a good alternative is Phenonip but this goes 1% in the heated water phase. For other preservative choices see –
  • Emulsifying wax – (note: many recipes on the net state that beeswax is an emulsifier – this is incorrect –  Please use emulsifying wax instead.  There are lots of different types of emulsifying wax.  There are various different kinds of emulsifying wax (aka ewax) and some are unstable so I would not recommend buying them.  The ewaxes from the suppliers I listed above (gracefruit’s NF version, lotioncrafter, theherbarie, the sage, and brambleberry) are stable.  Ewax is needed so the oils and water will not separate – add at 25% of the total of the oil phase plus the oil soluble ingredients in the cool down phase eg oils, butters, vitamin E, fragrance/essential oil, cetyl alcohol, silicones (cyclomethicone, dimethicone).  So add up all the oil soluble ingredients – these can be found in both the heated oil phase and the cool down phase and then find 25% of that amount.  That is the amount of ewax to use. It is NOT 25% of the whole recipe.  Note: If you have oily skin then lotionpro 165 / lexemul is more appropriate for your skin type- use it at 3%.  In the UK and in the US, lotioncrafter sell it. The emulsifier goes in the oil phase.
  • Butter (eg shea, cocoa) – Great for dry skin.  Use up to 15% in the oil phase.
  • Sodium lactate – a great non-sticky humectant (draws water to the skin) – more powerful than glycerin and is found in our skin’s natural moisturising factor – 2%. It goes in the water phase.
  • Glycerin– a slightly sticky humectant (draws water to the skin)– use between 2% and 7% water phase depending on how dry your skin is – add more the drier your skin.  Although 6% might feel sticky to some.  Glycerin is made as a result of the soap making process.
  • Cetyl alcohol (not to be confused with cetearyl alcohol) – (note: brambleberry and wholesalesuppliesplus don’t sell cetyl – stearic acid is an alternative – it’s similar but stearic tends to be thicker and waxier).  Stabilises and thickens your lotion (otherwise it’ll be as thin as water) and makes your lotion glidy. (It’s made by heating coconut oil with a strong base. This process is the same process used to make soap (saponification)).  1-4% – oil phase. The higher %  you use the thicker and more moisturising your lotion will be.
  • At least 2 oils. You can include these carrier oils in the oil phase from 0-20%.  Do take a look at this website for info and also note the shelf life I usually choose at least 2 different oils in a lotion – preferably a light one and a medium one which is suited to your skin type.  If you are in the US you might be able to find these oils in the supermarket, but you can buy these oils from the suppliers I listed above also.
    • if you have v. oily skin then these oils are great for you: squalane, jojoba, hazelnut, macadamia
    • rice bran oil – good medium oil suitable for all skins (In the UK this oil is sold in a supermarket – Alfa one brand costs £2.20 for 500ml).
    • apricot kernel oil or fractionated coconut oil – these 2 are good light oils suitable for all skins
    • refined avocado oil, olive oil and meadowfoam oil – good for dry skin (In the UK you can buy regular  olive oil from a supermarket)
  • Vitamin E (Tocopherol)– antioxidant (not to be confused with the acetate version) and extends the life of your oils and butters slightly but note that it is not a preservative.  Cosmetic chemists advise that using too much anti-oxidant can cause a pro-rancidity reaction – make the product rancid. This is because anti-oxidants work by oxidising first. They advise that adding 1% is way too much and that we should add instead 0.05-0.1% depending on the recipe. It is best to purchase mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols (or better still mixed blends with gallates etc) – L form is less effective than the D form.  (Swiftcraftymonkey puts it in the cool down phase, however, vitamin E is heat stable and for better lotion stability and emulsification we should limit the number of ingredients in the cool down phase, so vitamin E should go into the heated oil phase).
  • Fragrance oil or Essential oil.  Do check it is cosmetic and skin safe. This is added at up to 1% (do check supplier’s recommendations for maximum usage) – cool down phase but take note that some essential and fragrance oils can be allergenic.

(note – add EITHER fragrance or essential oil – not both).

  • Deionised/distilled water.  Water phase. In the UK – from or for a cheaper alternative, deionised water (for car batteries) from a petrol station or Halfords, or the car section of large supermarkets eg ASDA or Morrisons which is much cheaper. Another alternative, purified water from your local independent chemist (if you go to Boots, only the Pharmacist will be able to look it up and order online). If you live in the US, you are lucky as you can buy cheap distilled water easily from any supermarket. About 55-80% of your lotion will be water. The more water, the thinner your Lotion.  BUT please add an extra 10% because you will lose some water through evaporation. How to calculate how much water to use?  The amount is whatever you need to make your recipe add up to a total of 100%.  So if all your ingredients excluding water add up to 40% then your water % will be 60% as 60% is needed for the recipe to add up to 100%. If all your ingredients excluding water add up to 30% then your water % will be 70%.  Don’t forget to add an extra 10% on top of this to account for water evaporation. (Note: if you use tap water instead of deionised/distilled the trace metals and contaminants in the water will shorten your lotion’s expiry date.)

Do keep all your ingredients in the fridge so they last longer.  You can also freeze the oils/butters but I would advise against freezing the other ingredients.

How long is the shelf life of your lotion? Note the expiry date of each of your ingredients – the shelf life for your lotion will be that of the ingredient which will expire first.

Note: You only need to preserve products which contain water or water phase ingredients – this includes goat’s milk, aloe vera, hydrosols, floral water as they contain mainly water.


You can use this calculator to convert the %s below into grams.  But it’s easy to calculate it yourself – if you’re making a 100g lotion 1% equals 1g so if you have an ingredient eg, glycerin which you want to add at 2% then 2% is 2 grams.  If you want to make a 500g lotion then multiply the ingredient’s percentage by 5 eg 2% glycerin will be 10 grams.  For a 700g lotion multiply by 7 so 2% glycerin will be 14%.  Easy.

Here’s a basic recipe:-

WATER PHASE – water soluble ingredients

??% de-ionised/distilled/purified water (but add 10% extra to make up for evaporation caused by heat). The % of water is whatever amount is needed to make the recipe up to 100%.  So if all your ingredients excluding water add up to 40% then your water % will be 60% as 60% is needed for the recipe to add up to 100%. If all your ingredients excluding water add up to 30% then your water % will be 70%.  Don’t forget to add an extra 10% on top of this to account for water evaporation.

2% sodium lactate

2% glycerin (increase this amount up to 6% if you have v. dry skin but it might be a little sticky)

OIL PHASE – oil soluble ingredients

??% emulsifying wax NF (or lotionpro 165 / lexemul for oily skin add at 3%) – (add ewax NF at 25% of the total of the oil soluble ingredients (including those in the cool down phase) eg oils, butters, essential oil/fragrance, vitamin E, cetyl alcohol, dimethicone, cyclomethicone). Note – some ewaxes are more reliable than others – see above.  Do not add at 25% of the whole recipe.

8% – oils – choose 2 or 3 depending on your skin type (if your skin is dry then you can increase the oil amount so it totals up to 15%).

2% cetyl alcohol or stearic acid

???% butter – If you have dry skin you could add some shea/cocoa butter here (up to 15%)

0.1% vitamin E

COOL DOWN PHASE – this is where the heat sensitive ingredients go

0.5% liquid germall plus

1% up to essential oil or fragrance

Cosmetic formulators use grams rather than ml or ounces or teaspoons for accurate measurements.  Note: 100ml is not the same as 100g but they can be the same/similar.  For example 100ml of water is the same as 100g but some ingredients weigh more or less than water, oil for example weighs less.  You can use the calculator here to convert the percentages above into grams.

We need three things to emulsify our lotion properly:-

  • Chemical emulsification - choosing a good emulsifier will save you from having lots of failed batches.
  • Heat emulsification - we have to heat our ingredients up to a place where they are happy to emulsify.
  • Mechanical emulsification - we have to blend our ingredients together using a hand or stand mixer or stick blender (a coffee/milk frother or whisk isn’t great as it puts air into the lotion and can destabilise it).

1.  Sanitise containers, countertops, equipment – see under the equipment section above and boil some deionised water in the microwave in case you need it later to make up the water which evaporated (if more than 10% water evaporated).

2.  Weigh your water phase into your container (if the container is a pyrex jug put the pyrex jug into a saucepan which has some hot water in it. Sit the jug on an empty tuna can which is placed the bottom of the saucepan so the jug isn’t in direct contact with the saucepan.

3.  Weigh your oil phase into your other container (if the container is a pyrex jug put the pyrex jug into a saucepan which has some hot water in it. Sit the jug on an empty tuna can which is placed the bottom of the saucepan so the jug isn’t in direct contact with the saucepan.

4.  Heat both phases to 75˚C/165f and then hold them there for 20 minutes. Most emulsifiers form micelles. As these micelles decrease in size the theoretical stability increases.  Your oil phase and your water phase will be more fluid/lower viscosity at higher temperatures. This fluidity does two things to help emulsification. First, it makes it easier to break the oil phase into very small droplets. Second, it makes it easier for the emulsifier to migrate to the oil-water interface, which is where it needs to be for a stable emulsion. (This is part of the emulsification process – the heating part of emulsification.)  Note: 70C for 20 minutes can’t be counted on to sterilize a product.  It will likely reduce microbial levels by killing some of the non-endospore-forming bacteria, but it will probably not kill all of them

NOTE:- Cosmetic chemists advise that it is only really necessary to hold the water phase for 20 minutes as this is where 99% of the nasties live (however, only the non-endospore-forming bacteria will be killed).  You will need, however, to heat the oil phase up to the same temperature as the water phase when you combine the phases for a proper emulsion – the emulsifier will be more water soluble at that temperature. 

6.  When both phases reach 75˚C/165f, slowly pour the water phase into the oil phase and mix very well with a stick blender.  Do not use a milk/coffee frother or whisk or spoon/fork as the emulsifier needs high shear without pumping so a stick blender should be used.   Mix periodically as the temperature drops.

7.  When you reach 45˚C/110f, add your cool down ingredients and mix very well.  You will notice it will start to thicken up quite quickly and will continue to thicken up over the next hour or so.

8.  Allow the lotion to come to room temperature.  Weigh the lotion to see if more than 10% water has evaporated.  If it has, add some of the pre-boiled water to make up the difference, mix well.

9.  Put your lotion into jars/bottles only once it is at room temperature otherwise you will get condensation inside the container and the condensation will not contain preservative.

Common mistakes:-

  • Not combining both phases at 75˚C/165f.
  • Putting the ingredient into the wrong phase. The water goes in the heated water phase along with the water soluble ingredients. The oil, butter, cetyl alcohol, vitamin E, dimethicone and emulsifier go into the heated oil phase. The preservative, cyclomethicone, liquid panthenol and the fragrance/essential oil go into the cool down phase
  • Not using a stable emulsifier – even though your emulsifier might call itself “ewax”, do check which ingredients make up that ewax as they vary enormously and some are unstable.
  • Using a coffee frother or whisk or spoon/fork rather than a stick blender.


Moisturisers – Type of skin Water Phase.  Add water at whatever % is needed to make the recipe total 100%.  Plus add an extra 10% water for water lost through evaporation.  Oil Phase Cool down phase
Slightly Oily skin 2% sodium lactate 3% squalane, 3% jojoba/macadamia/ hazelnut, 2% cetyl alcohol, 3% lotionpro 165 / lexemul, 0.1% Vitamin E 0.5% liquid germall plus
Normal/combination (doubles up as a  body lotion) 2% glycerin, 2% sodium lactate 10% oils – squalane, apricot, rice bran, 2% cetyl/stearic, 3.5% emulsifying wax NF, 0.1% Vitamin E 0.5% liquid germall plus, up to 1% Essential oil/fragrance oil
Dry (doubles up as a light body butter) 3-4% glycerin, 2.5% sodium lactate 12% oils – apricot, rice bran, olive,  refined avocado, meadowfoam, 4% shea/cocoa butter, 2.5% cetyl alcohol/stearic, 5% emulsifying wax NF, 0.1% vitamin E 0.5% liquid germall plus, up to 1% Essential oil/fragrance oil
Very Dry (or body butter/foot or hand cream) 5-6% glycerin, 3% sodium lactate Same as for dry skin but add 6% more butter and 1% more cetyl/stearic and 1% more emulsifying wax NF, 0.1% Vitamin E 0.5% liquid germall plus, up to 1% Essential oil/fragrance oil


(Note: In the US lotioncrafter and theherbarie sell virtually all the ingredients below.  Thesage, wholesalesuppliesplus and brambleberry only sell some.)

I have indicated below which UK suppliers sell the ingredient and which US suppliers do NOT sell the ingredient.

  • Hydrosol/hydrolate/floral water to the heated water phase (up to 40%) – see  Do check it is preserved before you buy it.  In the UK the only supplier I’ve found who sell preserved hydrosols is fragrantearth.  They sell a variety which are unpreserved but only 2 of them are sold in both preserved and unpreserved forms – rose and lavender and in Europe there is (In the US – thesage’s are unpreserved and Brambleberry does not sell them so the best option for a preserved hydrosol is Lotioncrafter or theherbarie).
  • Dimethicone – This silicone is a barrier ingredient to help keep our skin moisturised and protected by forming a light film – 2 to 4% (4% for very dry skin).  Heated oil phase. Don’t forget to include this when you calculate the 25% for ewax. In the UK gracefruit and soapkitchenonline sell it.  In the US brambleberry and wholesalesuppliesplus do not sell it.
  • Cyclomethicone – This silicone offers slip and glide with detackification of the oils and butters  – usually added at 4% or less.  Makes your lotion feel very silky. Cool down phase. Don’t forget to include this when you calculate the 25% for ewax. In the UK Gracefruit sell it.
  • Hydrolyzed oat protein (or other protein such as silk amino acids or wheat) – humectant, emollient and film former, silky – use as directed by the supplier.  You can also use egg white protein powder at 0.2% in the cool down phase.
  • Aloe vera do check it contains a preservative unless it’s in powder form or immersed in oil.  Soothing, anti-inflammatory – heated water phase.  Gracefruit sells a concentrated powder form.  In the US it comes in either water and oil soluble formats: thesage do not sell. Brambleberry’s extract is a good choice rather then their unpreserved liquid version – use 5% oil phase. Use wholesalesuppliesplus’ powder version at 0.4% water phase.  Lotioncrafter aloe vera juice – water phase up to 30%. Theherbarie’s gel liquid – water phase up to 30%.
  • Hyaluronic acid – (not the SLMW version) very moisturising and film forming – prevents trans epidermal water loss and holds water (cocoa butter and dimethicone also do the same).  You only need tiny amount – eg 1 gram for 3kg (3,000g) of lotion. In the US Brambleberry, wholesalesuppliesplus and thesage do not sell. In the UK gracefruit sell. In order to use the 1g powder first make up a 1% solution of hyaluronic acid containing the 1 gram powder and then use that mixture for future lotions.  Place in a pre-sterilised container the following:- 98.5% deionised/distilled water, 0.5% liquid germall plus and mix together. If you live in the US you can buy a mini mixer from lotioncrafter, wholesalesuppliesplus and brambleberry to make it much easier for you to mix (In the UK: Next, sprinkle 1g of the hyaluronic powder v slowly into a vortex, hopefully with no clumps whilst mixing with the mini-mixer. Takes a while to mix in the HA particles so they aren’t clumped (you can also squash the gel against the side of your jug with a spoon to help get rid of lumps too).  I usually use 1-3% of the finished mixture in the cool down phase of my lotions – 1% for normal skin and 3% for dry skin.
  • d-panthenol or panthenol – (the “magic” ingredient in Pantene Pro Vitamin) non sticky moisturising humectant (vitamin B5), good healing properties – add at 2 to 3% cool down phase if it’s liquid, otherwise if it’s in the powder form it goes in the heated water phase. In the UK soapkitchenonline and gracefruit sell. In the US thesage and wholesalesuppliesplus do not sell it.


Q: My lotion is too thin.  A: add 2% more cetyl alcohol

Q. My lotion is too thick/heavy.  A: did you add 10% to the water to account for evaporation? If yes, delete 2% cetyl alcohol and reduce the butters.

Q: My lotion is too greasy.  A: reduce/remove some of the heavy oils/butters (especially shea butter, olive and coconut) and add between 3-5% isopropyl palmitate (IPM) to the oil phase.

Q: My finished lotion has bits of oil floating in it and/or has separated or doesn’t look mixed. A: Take a look at the instructions about how to make the lotion and check you followed the exact procedure.  Also  check you are using the right % of emulsifying wax and that you bought the ewax from either – In the UK Gracefruit, In the USA: wholesalesuppliesplus, thesage, lotioncrafter, brambleberry or theherbarie and not from a different supplier.  Also these pages should help: and and

Q: My lotion feels sticky.  A: remove some of the glycerin and any gum you included.

Q: My lotion is not moisturising enough.  A: increase the oil % and add heavier oils eg olive oil and also shea/cocoa butter. For very dry skin on top of this you can add dimethicone and hyaluronic acid and if you’d like it thicker add 2% more cetyl alcohol.


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42 thoughts on “How to make a natural lotion, cream, moisturiser – Tutorial

  1. Wow, what a great article! Thanks for taking the time to share!
    I found a link to this page from The Soap Making Forum – very helpful :)

  2. wow thank you so much for sharing.

    I do have a question: if the aloe vera is already preserved with preservatives and i use that instead of water, do i still need preservatives in the lotion if the rest of the ingredients are just oils? thanks so much! keep up the good work

    • Peonybee, thanks for your question. Yes you would still need a preservative to cover the whole of your lotion even though most of your lotion is oil. The lotion making tutorial described above will give you an oil in water emulsion, which is, – to put it very simply – imagine a glass full of water with oil droplets floating in it – that is what your lotion will be like – lots of tiny oil molecules surrounded/enveloped in water. There needs to be sufficient enough concentration of your preservative sitting in the water part left when some of the preservative will cross over to the oil molecules. Another point to note is that aloe vera is frequently preserved with preservatives (the organic acids) which are only effective when the ph is low.

  3. Thanks so much for your detailed comment! The aloe vera is actually preserved in phenoxyethanol. Does it serve the purpose as a preservative for the entire lotion? sorry if my question seems dumb , better safe than sorry :D

  4. Peonybee, There are no dumb questions here. Happy to receive questions. I’m afraid it doesn’t serve as a preservative for the entire lotion as some of it might leech over to the oil phase and there won’t be enough preservative in the aloe vera part. Just as a side note, phenoxyethanol is good against Gram positive and Gram negative bacteria and yeast but it’s not great against fungus so your aloe vera (which is notoriously difficult to preserve anyway) might not be protected very well against fungus. So I would recommending using it up within a few months of purchasing it.

  5. thanks so much for the response! I guess safety always comes first and I really would like to avoid anything chemical if I can help it, so I guess the question is whether to use anything water in a lotion base. So which preservative would you recommend for all round protection? Thanks again :D

  6. peonybee, if you prefer “natural” with ecocert and all round protection then you have 3 choices:- (a) microgard/Geogard Ultra/neodefend – don’t use with Vitamin C – make a solution with water and add 1.5% at cool down and at the end you’ll need to take the ph down to ph 5 using citric acid. In the US theherbarie/lotioncrafter/ingredientstodiefor sell it and in the UK soapkitchen sells it (geogard ultra); or (b) mikrokill ect/preservative eco/geogard ect/ Plantaserv M (in the UK aromantic sell it and in the US you can easily find it) – use 1% cool down (ie below 45c) It is insoluble in water so requires adding to something like glycerin but can affect the viscosity of some systems causing emulsion stability). It has a 1 year shelf life; or (c) Euxyl K712 – don’t use with Vit C – cool down phase 1.5% – take ph down to 5.5 or less using citric acid. Hope this helps.

  7. Hi im making a hair moisturizer cream and Ive never used cetyl alcohol but I am now but when I used it, it got hard and waxy instead of a thickening cream. I use it properly?

    • Try using cetyl alcohol at a lower %, for example, 1% or 2%. If this doesn’t work it could be other ingredients in your cream which are causing issues, for example, your emulsifier. It would be helpful to see the whole of your recipe and then I can advise further.

  8. Very detailed and accurate tutorial – should really help beginning lotion makers. Only one thing I disagree with … I know that Susan is fanatical about heating the phases separately, but in fact the all-in-one method has been widely used and is particularly suitable for emulsifiers like Olivem 1000 which form a liquid crystal structure.
    Also, not disagreeing, just an addition: The BTMS you can buy at Gracefruit is BTMS 25 and is a great emulsifier – just doesn’t have the butylene glycol that BTMS50 has.

    • Hi Ged, thanks for your comment. Yes Susan does like to heat and hold the phases separately, as do my cosmetic science diploma tutors. Interesting above olivem, I will need to research this point. Oh, just a side note – Gracefruit is now selling BTMS-50.

  9. thanks for responding. Since my question I made a hair moisturizer still using cetyl alcohol but this time it was light like a whipped butter instead of a creamy consistancy. I used shea butter, coconut oil, cetyl alcohol distilled water, essential oils as well as jojoba oil, sweet almond oil and vegetable glycerine, coco butter, avocado butter, and cupuacu butter

  10. Hi Jane
    Are you doing the SCS diploma? Wow – I’m impressed … and a bit jealous ….
    I’ve been “making stuff” for about 10 years and gained a reasonable amount of knowledge, but would love to do the SCS course as it really is the gold standard, but unfortunately don’t have the A Level sciences they suggest … failed O level general Science was my top level …
    Thanks for the tip about Gracefruit and BTMS-50. I’m not sure which of the two I like best … I got on quite well with the 25 before I realised that that was NOT the one Susan was talking about! We have such a lot more choice in emulsifiers over this side of the pond now that it’s beginning to overwhelm me – I have about 10 different ones in my supplies at the moment. I really should take the time to test each one out with a standard lotion recipe … one day …

  11. Hi, Jane, What a helpful tutorial! You have touched on the Olivem. Can it be used on its own or is a co-emulsifier needed, and which one? I tried to use it with Cetearyl alcohol as, I believe, Olivem is partly based on it. I have also tried using it with Stearic acid, and both, cetearyl alcohol + stearic acid. I have not yet figured out the best way of stirring/homogenising the emulsion, as it benefits from some further stirring for a few minutes on the following day or two. I also noticed that over time (2-3 months) the viscosity of the Olivem based emulsions increases. Perhaps, it is the cetearyl alcohol continues to “interlock” the ingredients.
    Thank you for the tip about the measuring equipment. I have ordered it from Amazon who are running a free delivery offer at the moment.

    • Hi Lyuda, thanks so much for your comment. So glad you find the tutorial helpful and the tips on measuring equipment. There are few different kinds of Olivem – which one do you have? You can see here that Swiftcraftymonkey had issues with Olivem 800 – A few people also have had stability issues with Olivem 1000 too. I would advise using a gum to stabilise the emulsion eg xanthan or alternatively Oliwax LC at 3%. When you add the phases together stir rapidly for 2 minutes and then stir gently and continuously until it cools down to room temperature. I haven’t heard of a viscosity issue with Olivem – besides stability, the usual complaint is that it feels waxy – to counter this you can add a polar liquid ester such as C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate to reduce the drag and whitening. Hope this helps and do let me know how your next lotion goes.

  12. Hi, Jane, many thanks for your time and helpful links. Would you know where I can buy Alkyl Benzoate in UK? I was using Olivem 1000 and xanthan gum in the water phase, sometimes supported by the Na alginate (instead of Na lactate). Homogenising and stirring, using thistle oil, which is polar. I found that homogenising creates airlocks. Would you have any suggestions for a ECO preservative in the oil serum where non-polar and polar oils are mixed and sthe emulsifier is Polyglyceryl Oleate? Not sure where it is needed, though.
    Thanks again.

    • Thanks for your comment. I’m afraid I’m not an experienced user of Olivem so can’t offer more solutions. I would recommend that posting a question on the forum of chemistscorner as they are can be good answering technical and complex questions.

      I managed to get hold of alkyl benzoate as a sample but the supplier doesn’t sell in small quantities. Soapkitchen probably have some alternatives you can use.

      The Polyglyceryl Oleate which you are using is, as you know, a water in oil emulsifier. W/o creams are the most difficult to make, syneresis is common. Some tips;

      Use an appropriate HLB emulsifier (HLB-6 or less)
      Use higher molecular weight lipids and include a more hydophilic ester especially if you don’t want it oily (e.g., IPM)
      Use Epsom Salt or another salt to stabilize the emulsion
      Don’t use a water phase thickener
      Add the oil to the water phase slowly with mixing
      Esters can be used without limits but vegetable oils are best kept to no more than half the oil phase

      A homogeniser is essential if you want your cream to be stable after a couple of months but it sounds like you have one. It’s important to keep the oils and water heated while pouring the water into the oils. I try to keep the water at 2-5 degrees higher than the oils. This helps keep it from cooling down too fast. Once the water is fully incorporated and the emulsion is congealing well, I remove it from my double boiler to begin cooling.

      On my blog I list some preservatives with Ecocert although I haven’t personally used them in w/o creams – I usually use liquid germall plus.

      In case you’re interested, I’ve emailed you an invite to the Making Cosmetics facebook group which is a useful place to discuss formulas, problems etc. Indeed anyone can join.

      Hope this helps somewhat.

  13. I think that is one of the so much important information for me.
    And i am happy studying your article. But wanna statement
    on some basic things, The web site style is perfect, the articles is in point of
    fact excellent : D. Good task, cheers

  14. Hallo, ich bin regelrecht begeistert von diesem Bericht.
    Dafür möchte ich mich wirklich bedanken. Sehe ich es richtig,
    dass dies weiterhin den gültigen Inhalt aufzeigt? Oder gibt es derzeit etwas
    Neueres? Wenn dem so ist, dann möchte ich es liebend gerne wissen, wenn dies irgendwie geht.

    Recht herzlichen Dank schonmal!

    • Katherina, thanks for your comment – so glad the tutorial was helpful. Yes this is the most up to date version. if you like, you could follow/subscribe to my blog, that way you are notified when I write future posts. Happy formulating.

  15. Hi there! This blog post could not be written
    much better! Reading through this article reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He always kept talking about this. I’ll send this information to him. Fairly certain he’ll have a good read.
    Thank you for sharing!

  16. I’m confused. Why is cetyl alcohol listed as a separate ingredient from the emulsifying wax ingredient? Cetyl alcohol IS an emulsifying wax.

  17. Hydrolysed and de-oiled lecithin powder (lysolecithin) is a good emulsifier. Lecithin on its own can be tricky- oxidizes and is not that stable.

  18. Can you tell me why you recommend to use the Hyaluronic acid – (not the SLMW version)? I have been making a serum and using the SLMW version, what is the difference?

    • Kristin, Sodium Hyaluronate can come in a variety of molecular weights. The ones most typically sold are 1 to 1.5 million daltons. These are very large molecules and they create serum-like solutions when used at 1% in distilled water. This is typically what is used to create stock solutions. Lotioncrafter sell one that is 1 million daltons. The super low molecular weight version (SLMW) has a much lower molecular weight, generally expressed as <50,000 daltons and typically may be less than 15,000 daltons. This lower weight molecule is better able to penetrate the upper layers of the epidermis (but not very far, as it's still pretty big), but unlike the higher molecular weight Sodium Hyaluronate, it is not a film former, so it is not very effective at preventing Transepidermal Water Loss (TEWL).

  19. Hi! Very informative article. I have a very good cream recipe that using just oils, butters and beeswax. It doesn’t separate, likely because I don’t add water. The cream does go on oily and I am wondering if I added an emulsifying wax, would I get a more “creamier”, less oil cream? Ultimately, I would like something more “creamy”.

    • Hi Deborah, Thanks for your comment. To create a non-oily creamy texture you would need to add water to your balm so it would become a lotion/cream. The instructions above will walk you through the process, Good luck.

  20. I have diabetes and as a result have very dry skin. I bought some lanolin and have made a small amount of cream. Now I find it may not last. It’s all learning I suppose. My problem is the tackiness of the lanolin. What can I add to stop this? I saw that answer somewhere but can’t find it again. :-) Also what amount should I use and will it replace something in the recipe or just be an addition?
    Thanks for the help,
    Would your please email the to me? I don’t always get online.

    • Hi Sylvia, Thanks for your comment. I would advise to follow the recipe in the table above for “very dry skin”, but deduct 3% glycerin, add 1.5% lanolin to it as well as 3% dimethicone and 3% cyclomethicone. I think you will find with this recipe that your lotion will not be tacky. Good luck

      • Thank you for your answer and this extremely informative article Jane. I knew, however wonderful it all sounded, that there had to be more to making a good cream than throwing 3 or 4 things into a measuring cup, mixing it, melting it together and then calling it all natural and expecting it to be safe. I love the effects I get with the lanolin but that sticky feeling just had to go. I can’t wait for the rest of the things I need to get here so I can once again turn my kitchen into a ‘lab’. ;-)

  21. great article,makes sense finally, could not find anything sensible in my country. There are very few websites here about cream/lotions making and all sort of confusing,either really easy which are useless after few days or very difficult without any explanation how to mix what, what reacts with what., what can be used in each phase.. I mean the theory is none, like people does not want to tell the secret here for those who does not know so one does not steal an idea if someboy comes up with a miracle lotion or something:)lol,even when i asked some questions on discussions here I did nto get answers, haha, thank you for that.

    Naturally, I have a question, have you ever used herbs soaked in oil/water/glycerol in your lotions? The question I have is if I can heat that up, meaning, adding to the hot water/oil phase, or after, when it cools down to below 40 C.thank you.

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