Making your first lotion is a very exciting moment! Watching oil and water come together in a creamy emulsion seems almost like a magical event!
Oils - you will want to choose an oil that offers some nice qualities. Something with a decent shelf life. And something not too expensive for your first try. I'm going to suggest olive oil, sunflower oil, or rice bran oil. You'll want to use this at 10% to 20% of the recipe. The lighter the oil, the lighter the lotion. If you use fractionated coconut or sunflower oil, you'll have a light lotion; use rice bran, medium; use olive oil, heavier. Olive oil is great for body lotions, not so great for hand lotions. Normally I'd use a few different oils, but for your first recipe, choose one oil so you can determine if you like it or not. If you mix them up, how do you know which one you love?
Emulsifier - you'll want an all in one kind of emulsifier, so I'm going to suggest either Polawax (non-ionic) or BTMS (cationic). I like Polawax over emulsifying wax NF as Polawax is made by one company and is the same every time. Emulsifying wax NF is cheaper, but I've found different companies offer different results, and you want something you can count on when you're making lotion. (The NF stands for "National Formulary" and it is a standard, but they can add things - fillers, as it were - that could have an impact on your emulsification.) BTMS is going to create a cationic (positively charged) lotion with a powdery after feel; Polawax is going to to create a non-ionic (neutrally charged) lotion with an oily after feel. You are going to use your emulsifier at 25% of the oils and butters amount. So if you are using 20% oils and butters, we're going to use 5% emulsifier.
Water - you'll want at least 70% water in your first lotion. You can eventually substitute hydrosols or aloe vera for this water, but for the first one, it's easier to use water. The water will determine how thick your lotion will be...so if you use 80% water, it's going to be thinner than a 60% water lotion (60% is almost a cream, 70% is still pourable, 80% is more for facial moisturizers).
Preservative - you will need this at 0.5% to 1% based on your preservative of choice. I use Liquid Germall Plus, which is suggested at 0.1 to 0.5% (I always use 0.5%) or Germaben II at 0.5% to 1.0%. There are many different preservatives available - here's a link to the list at Voyageur - but these are the two I know best and like.
Preservative is not optional; it is essential. I know a lot of people get into making bath and body products because they want to be natural but failing to use a preservative in a lotion or surfactant mix will result in natural fungi and bacteria and other nasty things to grow in your lotion, which could make you sick or hurt your skin. As of March 2009, there are no proven "all natural" or organic preservatives available to the home crafter. So choose something that doesn't require a lot - 0.1 to 0.5% - and enjoy your ick-free lotion!
Grapefruit seed extract or GSE IS NOT A PRESERVATIVE. Studies have shown the only preserving power this ingredient has derives from the preservative used to preserve the GSE. If you use this product, you are not preserving your lotions properly and gross things could grow on it.
Vitamin E is not a preservative. It is a great anti-oxidant, meaning it will prolong the shelf life of your oils. It will not keep nasty things from growing in your lotion!
Now that I've scared you...
So know you know the basics...what's next?
Butters - you can add cocoa butter, mango butter, shea butter or other butters to add more emolliency, some great skin loving additions, and thickness. Let's use 5% shea butter in this recipe. (Check out the post on butters for more information.)
Thickener - we want to add a thickener to help make the lotion thicker. (Wow, that was clear, eh?) If you want a body or foot cream, stearic acid is a great choice as it makes a thick cream like texture. If you want a glidy lotion for your body or face, you'll want to use cetyl alcohol. (I think of the difference this way...stearic acid reminds me of whipped butter, whereas cetyl alcohol reminds me of Cool Whip.) I'm going to use cetyl alcohol in this first recipe at 3%, which means it is more of a body and face kind of lotion than a foot or elbow lotion. (Cetyl alcohol is considered an "oil free" moisturizer, but with the amount of oils and butters in this recipe, it's kind of a pointless comment!)
Fragrance - a nice lotion needs a nice fragrance. If you choose to fragrance your lotions (and I recommend it!) then you are going to use 1% of your total weight in fragrance oil. Choose something you don't mind smelling all day! If you wish to use essential oils, 1% is a good place to start for things like lavender or vanilla, but some essential oils need to be in lower amounts for leave-on products like lotions and creams. Ensure you are using your essential oils at safe levels.
Skin loving goodies - you know I love the hydrolyzed proteins and panthenol, and you can include those at up to 2% in your lotion. I like using silicones for glide, so you could add those at 2% each as well. And I do love me some humectants! I'm doing a series of posts on various ingredients you could add to your lotions over the next week or so with modified recipes, so if you're not research girl (or boy!), don't worry!
- a scale that can weigh 1 gram (available at supply stores or places like London Drugs in the culinary aisle)
- 2 heat proof containers
- a double boiler (make one up on the stove with a pot with warm water)
- a thermometer (a candy thermometer works really well here)
- spoons (metal ones...)
- mixer (with beater attachments) or a stick blender
If you make this recipe with 1% = 1 gram, you will have 100 grams of lotion. If you want to double or triple it, feel free!
BASIC FIRST LOTION RECIPE
15% oil (sunflower, soy bean, rice bran, or olive oil)
5% shea or mango butter
3% cetyl alcohol
5% emulsifier (BTMS or Polawax)
1% fragrance or essential oil
0.5% to 1% preservative
(This doesn't total 100% because of the difference in preservatives!)
1. Weigh out your water in a heat proof container and put into a double boiler. (As a note, weigh more than 70% because it will evaporate when heated, so you'll have less than 70% in the end).
2. Weigh out your oil, butter, cetyl alcohol, and emulsifier in a heat proof container and put into your double boiler.
3. When both containers have reached 70C, weigh out your water again, then add it to your oil container. (This is a very cool moment...watch closely. It's emulsified! It's lotion!)
4. Blend with a hand mixer or stick blender for at least 3 minutes. Repeat this process as often as you would like until the temperature reaches 45C.
5. Let cool to 45C, then add your fragrance or essential oil and preservative. Mix well with your hand mixer or stick blender, then let cool.
6. When the mixture has cooled to room temperature (a few hours), put into a bottle (with a pump, if possible), jar, or malibu bottle, then use.
A FEW TIPS ON BOTTLING
My tip on how to get lotion in a bottle...put the lotion in an icing bag (or a plastic bag with the corner cut off) and pipe it in, banging the bottle lightly to get the lotion all the way to the bottom. Some people will bottle the lotion when warm as it is easier, but I worry about condensation, so I prefer not to do this.
If you are using a malibu bottle, you can use a funnel. Put the funnel in the malibu and squish it so the air comes out. Then pour the lotion into the funnel and release the bottle. It will suck the lotion down and you will get a nicely filled bottle!
In a jar, just spoon it in and bang the jar lightly so it settles well.
And I suggest labelling this with some kind of ingredient information so you know what you made. If you like it, then you will want to make it again!
Well, there's your first lotion. Pretty awesome, eh?
Tomorrow I'll introduce you to one of my favourite ingredients...the humectant. These are hygroscopic ingredients that draw water from the atmosphere to your body, making you feel more moisturized.