Making lotion at home is far easier than you might imagine and the results are much better and safer than what you can buy in stores. Homemade lotion reduces your plastic use and gives peace of mind in terms of what’s in that bottle. You also get the opportunity to create your own scents and experiment with different types of oils. Read more to learn all about lotion.
I love figuring out things that I can make at home that are both more affordable and better for me. Lotion is something we don’t really think about much because it’s just lotion and it makes our skin feel soft and smooth. However, our biggest organ is our skin and it does absorb what goes onto it, so when we’re applying just any lotion all of those ingredients sit on our skin and some do get absorbed. Plus, lotion is half water which means we’re paying a high price for just water. Making it at home means you get to use limited ingredients and you can play around with scents that you enjoy. It’s also much, much cheaper.
I have a lot of tattoos, and I use a lot of lotion so that I don’t look all dried out and dull. I’m picky about lotion because I don’t support brands that do animal testing, and those long ingredient lists of chemical names freaks me out. It’s been on my mind for a while to just start making it myself, but I figured it would be a really complex process. I was wrong. It’s actually really easy to make at home, and you don’t need a lot of investment to get started. I’ll walk you through some of what I learned and hopefully you’ll see that it isn’t a difficult process.
Disclaimer: I am not a cosmetic production professional. I’m just a dude who likes to learn about everything and save money where I can by making my own home products. My recipe works well for hands and body because it’s non-allergenic oils, but I cannot guarantee that it will be okay as a facial moisturizer. I use it on my face with no issues, but everyone’s face is unique.
Before we jump into things I want to first explain the purpose of lotion, and the difference between body butter. Our skin is exposed to the elements all day long, and if you live in a climate that isn’t really humid, your skin dries out because it loses moisture. If you bathe often, scrub your skin vigorously in the shower, or just wash your hands a lot, your skin loses its natural oils which protect it from exposure to air and wind and warmth. Lotion has oils in it which create an oil barrier similar to our natural body oils. Lotion is also about fifty percent water which gets absorbed into the skin, hydrating it, and then the oil that’s left behind traps the new moisture leaving you feeling not dry. The oil also gives your skin a sheen and makes it feel smooth.
People might argue this with me, but you should use different products depending on the time of day and how moist your skin is when applying products. If you’re coming directly out of the shower or bath you should apply a body butter that doesn’t have water in it. Whipped shea butter, cocoa butter, coconut oil, or another type of oil. Your skin is already hydrated, you just need to trap that moisture in using an oil. Throughout the day though you should be using a lotion because the added water moisturizes your skin.
This whole trapping and soaking in business is what really made me consider what I’m putting onto my skin, because if I’m using a product with lots of ingredients I can’t really know what’s going into my body through absorption or what is being left on my skin once the water soaks in. You might just say, “buy better products,” but that’s a double edged sword due to high cost, access, and a lot of high end products still use a lot of ingredients. They need to. The lotion you buy at the store could be months if not a year old by the time you buy it. Companies need to make sure that the product doesn’t go rancid so they add in a variety of preservatives to keep it shelf stable. There’s also the issue of dyes to color the lotion and fragrances with an undisclosed number and kind of chemicals.
I priced out the ingredient amounts used for this recipe, and it came out to $1.50 for a 16 ounce bottle of homemade lotion. Limited ingredients and you’ll see that they are all really simple in terms of what they are. You can order the ingredients online or if you have a hobby store in your area that does soap making you could find most if not all of it there.
This is just one recipe for homemade lotion and it’s enough to get you started into a new addiction. There’s so many different ways to make it, but the process is the same and the recipe is more like a formula. I did break it down into weight and measurements, but if you have a scale, I’d highly encourage you to weight the ingredients for the most precise amounts and consistent result.
Lotion really only needs a few ingredients
The water you use in your lotion should be distilled. Tap water has a lot of chemicals in it and even filtered water will have chemicals and debris in it that you don’t want sitting on your skin. A gallon of distilled water is around a dollar and will make many bottles of lotion.
There are so many different types of oil that you can use for lotion making. This recipe uses a liquid oil but I’ll have another one soon for room solid oils like shea and cocoa butter. The type of oil you use really depends on what you can get and what you prefer. I like using jojoba oil because it’s easy to find and is really close to our body’s natural oil. Actually, jojoba oil is a liquid wax, if you want to get all technical. You could also use almond oil, sunflower seed oil, grapeseed oil, or rosehip oil. You can find them in the skin care section of stores.
We know that water and oil don’t mix. So, in lotion making we need something that will bind the two together. There are a variety of options. Stearic Acid is the one commonly used in store bough oils; however, stearic acid can be an irritant and on its own shouldn’t make contact with skin because it is toxic. The amount used in your bottle isn’t much so it’s generally regarded as safe. I prefer an emulsifying wax. It’s easy to get, it’s not costly, and it’s easy to work with.
When you combine water with anything there’s the opportunity for bacteria growth. Your bottle of lotion included. You really should use a broad spectrum cosmetic preservative so that you don’t have issues with bacteria growth. One small bottle will last a long time, and each kind of preservative states on the bottle how much to use. I like Germall Plus, a broad spectrum preservative, because the company states they are cruelty free and it’s easy to use. A few drops really are all that’s needed per batch of lotion. It will keep for 3-6 months at average house temperatures.
The best bottles to use for any homemade cosmetics or products are made out of glass. It’s reusable as long as you don’t break it, and there isn’t the potential for leaching toxins from the plastic and liner. Brown or dark green glass is best because it limits UV exposure which can damage the preservative or the scents, if using. Clear glass is okay as long as your bottle isn’t in a place that gets a lot of natural sunlight. Also, I’ve seen a lot of people storing their lotion in a jar that you dip your fingers into. That’s gross. It is okay for a pure oil blend like whipped shea or cocoa butter, but a water based moisturizer has the potential to breed bacteria. If you’re dipping your fingers into that jar all day, everyday for weeks just think of what weirdness gets into their from under your fingernails. Plus, if you’re sharing that jar of lotion with other people. Ew. Double ew. A pump bottle is contained and no fingers are getting wriggled around inside of it. Maybe you’re into that, but I like finger free lotion on my body.
Your lotion doesn’t need a scent. However, using essential oils to scent your creation is much better than what is used in store bought. Essential oils are overall safe for skin and even children, depending on age. You’ll need to know your allergies and do a little research if you have sensitive skin or are making this for children. You can use more affordable oils to get a good scented product, just make sure that it is safe for use on skin, because you don’t want candle oils on your body. Price is also a factor when considering essential oils, and many people have preferred brands they like. It is totally up to you what you use. My recipe is just a guideline and the scent could be completely omitted if you want a scent free lotion.
Essential oils come in a range of potencies and prices. The more pure the oil the higher the cost. The more carrier oil in the bottle the more affordable it will be. It is really up to you and your wallet on what you use. Obviously, the more expensive and more pure essential oils are going to be stronger in fragrance and have less additives. But, if you’re thinking logically, even a lower cost essential oil is going to be better than whatever chemical perfumes used in store bought lotions.
Here are some of the products that I purchased for my first batches of lotion. I’m not sponsored by any of these brands nor am I brand dedicated. I found good prices on them at the time and that’s why I used them. Get whatever brands suits you and your wallet.
I suggest ordering jojoba oil online because you’ll find much better prices than in a store. The bottle I got was 33 oz and it’s a good size to last a long time. Jojoba is rich in vitamin E, vitamin B complex, copper, and zinc. Many oils are comedogenic, which means they clog your pores and can cause irritation or acne, but jojoba’s chemical structure is different and is noted to be safer for facial skin. It is also one of the most commonly used oils in cosmetics because it is the least allergenic of oils.
Oil and water don’t mix so you need something to bind them together. There are a lot of options out there. Stearic acid is the most commonly used in store bought cosmetics, but stearic acid could be an irritant for some people. Emulsifying wax works well to combine water with your oils and you don’t use enough in the recipe to leave a waxy residue on your skin. One 16 oz bag is plenty for many batches of lotion. Make sure to look for Plant-Derived because some waxes are petroleum based or are made with a list of ingredients.
You need to use a preservative in your lotion. Anytime you mix water with something there’s the potential for bacteria growth. You don’t want the water in your lotion to carry bacteria that gets trapped under that oil barrier. Store bought lotion has a lot of types of strong preservatives added because it needs to be shelf stable for months if not years. If you’re making your own lotion you don’t need to use more than just one broad-spectrum preservative because your bottle won’t sit on the shelf for that long. However, safety is always important and it’s why you should use a preservative even if it’s going to be used up within a month.
Vitamin E is optional for lotions. Jojoba does have E in it already, but you might want to boost your lotion if you have dry skin. Vitamin E depletes with age, especially if you use a tanning bed, are exposed to a lot of sunlight, or are under florescent lights often. Vitamin E keeps your skin feeling soft, maintains moisture, and protects your skin from damage. Our natural body oil, sebum, contains vitamin E, but if you wash your skin a lot or are exposed to things that damage your skin or strip the sebum you should use a vitamin E infused lotion or oil.
- Double boiler Glass bowl
- Scale Optional
- Bottles with or without a pump
- Milk frother or whisk
- 260 grams distilled water (approx 1 cup)
- 120 grams jojoba oil (approx 2/3 cup)
- 16 grams emulsifying wax (approx 2 teaspoons)
- 4 grams vegetable glycerin (approx 4 teaspoons)
- Cosmetic preservative (Each preservative states the amount needed and its between 0.5-1% of total weight)
- Optional Vitamin E (Amount depends on potency of vitamin E: pure or with carrier oil)
Optional Essential Oil Blend
- 2 teaspoons lavender
- 1/2 teaspoon cedarwood
- 1/4 teaspoon grapefruit
- 1/4 teaspoon balsam fir
- Note Before You Start: Because you are a making a cosmetic product that will be applied to your skin you should work with clean and sterilized tools. (Avoiding possible bacteria contamination goes for cooking as well.) While your double boiler water is boiling you could boil spoons or whisks in the water. Rinsing your other bowls with boiling water also is an easy way to sterilize. Putting your tools into the dishwasher prior to use and using a heat or sterilize setting is also an easy method.
- Prepare the double boiler by bringing the water in it to a simmer. Measure the jojoba and emulsifying wax into a glass bowl and place over double boiler. Once the wax has melted, remove from double boiler. Do not microwave to melt the wax, because that will damage the oil.
- While the oil and wax is heating, heat the distilled water to around 130°F. Once both water and oils are heated, carefully pour the water into the oil and mix using a milk frother or small whisk. The color will be an off-white and opaque. It only needs to be mixed for 30-60 seconds.
- Leave mixture in the glass dish on the counter for 15 minutes. Stir a few times then leave on the counter for another 15 minutes. Mix in the preservative, vegetable glycerin, and optional oil blend and vitamin E. Pour the lotion blend into your glass bottle or jar at this time, cover, and let cool at room temperature for an hour before use. It will thicken into lotion consistency as it cools. If using a plastic bottle or jar you should allow it to cool further before transferring.
- Use it often and enjoy and play around with scents! See notes for more information.
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Thanks for reading! I assume if you made it this far you were either on the toilet and needed reading material, or you for some reason are actually curious about what I’m writing. Either way. Wash your hands and have a great rest of your day!
4 thoughts on “Homemade Lotion”
Thanks for the detailed post on making lotion. I plan on giving it a try and making my own. Do you have links to Vegetable Glycerin as well as the glass bottles/jars, frother/whisk and scale? I don’t trust Amazon reviews and want to make sure what I purchase is going to work properly. Thanks Justin, appreciate your help/suggestions!
I will add that to the blog post too! That’s a good question.
I try this recipe but the lotion is not thickening. Any suggestion I can get my lotion from not been runny.
Are you using emulsifying wax? I’ve found if I try to replace that then it stays watery.