Easy Homemade Lotion Tutorial

February 22, 2013

in Appetizers & Misc., DIY & Crafts, House & Home, How-To's, Recipes

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Few things are more satisfying to the body and the ego than homemade lotion. In addition to the obvious benefits of being more economical and free from mystery additives,  it works far better than its store-shelf counterparts, which, more often than not, leave my skin feeling dry and overall unsatisfied. Do you ever have that experience?

As an added bonus, making lotions yourself allows you to give your moisturizers fresh, natural scents like coconut, lavender, and chocolate – a far cry from the artificial, lab-manufactured fragrances.

Let’s start with a few lotion-making Q & As:

How do you make a lotion?

Unlike salves, which are made by melting beeswax and oil together and allowing everything to set into a spreadable mass, smooth, easily-spreadable, snow-white lotion is made of water and oil, emulsified together with the help of beeswax (or manufactured emulsifying wax).

Making lotion requires a blender, and a technique I am about to show you.

Is it cheaper to make your own than to buy it at the store?

If you prefer high-end, natural-ish, paraben-free organtic lotions (many of which are still loaded with unpronounceable ingredients), it is most certainly cheaper to make your own. All you really need is oil, beeswax, and water.

Will this lotion feel different from store-bought?

Yes – because it contains no drying alcohol often found in boughten varieties, this lotion will leave some oily residue and feel a little greasy until absorbed. Once it’s absorbed though, your skin will feel soft and supple and not one bit dry.

Personally, I don’t mind that it feels greasy after the application as far as my face and body are concerned, but I find it too greasy for my hands. To remedy this excess greasiness, I simply rinse my hands in water without soap immediately after applying, then dry them. This simple step leaves them soft and not one bit oily. A happy medium, and, again, so much more effective – and affordable – than what I used to buy.

In short, because this lotion is fairly rich, you gonna wanna use a smaller amount.

How does the lotion keep without preservatives?

For a limited amount of time. Which is why I store mine in the fridge, where I know it will be spoilage-free for at least a month. .

Is this lotion-making a messy process?

Regardless of what you’ve read elsewhere on the web, the clean-up is easy if you take time to wipe all lotion-making equipment with paper towels prior to washing it in hot water and dish-washing liquid.

How long does it take to mix up a batch?

Not more than ten minutes, and it can be used immediately after.

What kind of oils can I use?

Any kind of cooking or body oil you have – but some are greasier than others.

If you wish to use coconut oil, which is wonderfully fragrant and moisturizing, be advised that it will stay solid below 76 degrees, so it needs to be mixed with some non-solidifying oil. Plenty of people use coconut oil directly from their cupboard as moisturizer as well.

What else can I add to my homemade lotion?

1) cocoa or shea butters

Personally, I found that the oil, water, and beeswax emulsion really benefits from the addition of either shea or cocoa butters, resulting in a smoother and quite a bit more nourishing product.

Cocoa butter is especially amazing because of its rich, decadent chocolate aroma, and cocoa-butter-based lotion needs no additional fragrances.

Shea butter on the other hand is completely odorless, which makes it a great candidate for when you want a fragrance-free lotion, or if you wish to scent it with an essential oil which would otherwise clash with the cocoa scent. If you want your lotion to smell like pure lavender, for instance, shea butter is the way to go.

You can also use straight-up shea butter directly on the skin, which is great for chapped areas.

2) glycerin or honey

Both glycerin and honey are humectants, which is the name for substances that help retain moisture. Adding a bit of glycerin to a lotion gives it a pleasantly slippery feel, but be careful not to add too much or your lotion will feel sticky. A little squirt is all you need.

Glycerin can be either vegetable (i.e. plant-derived) or the regular kind (made from animal or petroleum-based oils, as far as I understand). Regular glycerin can be found at drug stores and vegetable glycerin is often sold in food co-ops and such.

3) aloe vera gel

You can also substitute the water in the recipe with bottled aloe vera gel, which will make your lotion really smooth and slippery like store brands. By contrast, lotions made with plain water will feel more like body butters.

4) oatmeal water

Boil NON-instant rolled oats in water for a ten minutes, allow to cool, strain out the water, and use it in place of regular water in your lotion. Another way to get a nice, slippery lotion!

5) rose water

Substitute the water in the recipe with rose water for a faint rose scent.

6) green tea

Substitute green tea for the water in the recipe.

7) essential oils

If you wish to use your favorite essential oils, add a few drops to the water prior to mixing it with the melted wax-and-oil combo. I am wild and crazy about lavender, for instance, and make at least some lavender lotion on a regular basis.

Does my water need to be distilled?

Not necessarily. Personally, I just use my regular hard water from the well on my farm – the same water we drink every day – and it works just fine. If you only have unfiltered, chlorinated city water, you may wanna go with distilled water instead.

I’ve tried making lotion before but it later separated. What gives?

Your water and oil-beeswax mixture need to be about the same temperature as you are combining them.

Will lotion-making win me treasures in heaven?

Not anymore than a gluten-free diet will, as neither is a moral virtue in and of itself.

Now let’s take a look at the actual process!

These are the ingredients I used in this sample batch:

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Avocado oil, jojoba oil, cocoa butter, and beeswax, which I like to grate off a leftover beeswax candle piece. You can buy your beeswax in bricks, which, along with exotic oils, can be found on Amazon.com, at food-cooperatives, and Mountain Rose Herbs.

A little bit about the ingredients pictured above:

beeswax - in addition to its role as an emulsifier, high-quality beeswax adds a sweet, vanilla-like aroma to your homemade products (something you notice especially in lip balms, where you use a lot of it).

avocado oil - a rather light, odorless oil with great moisturizing properties.

jojoba oil - thick, rich, odorless oil that it is incredible in lotions, salves, and lip balms, giving them a silky feel.

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cocoa butter - the same stuff that’s used in the making of white chocolate, and my absolute favorite, as it imparts both luxurious feel and divine chocolate smell to your lotion. I couldn’t recommend it more.

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Here’s what cocoa butter looks like. It is rather solid and needs to be scraped out of the container to be added to your recipes. It costs a little bit to buy this amount, about $8, but given the quality of this product, and the fact that you only use about a tablespoon per recipe, the price ends up being reasonable.

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Beeswax! It will need to be grated. I use my regular hand grater, which I afterwards wash in hot water and dawn while helping myself along with a metal scrubber. But, again, beeswax is edible, so any residue shouldn’t be a problem.

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Although I didn’t use it in either of the recipes in this post, I love adding lavender essential oil to my lotions whose ingredients do not already have a fragrance of their own. If you wish to add essential oil to yours, add it to the water before blending it with the oil and beeswax.

Now on to the process. First, the ratios:

Your base lotion-making formula is as follows:

  • 1 part oil
  • 2 parts water (or rose water, green tea, aloe-vera gel, etc)
  • 1/4 part beeswax

To this, you can also add:

  • 1/8 to 1/4 part cocoa or shea butter, if using
  • a few drops of essential oil or oils of your choice – add them to the water prior to incorporating.

In this particular recipe, for example, I’ve used 6 tablespoons of avocado oil plus 2 tablespoons jojoba oil (1/2 cup of oil total), 2 tablespoons cocoa butter, 2 tablespoons beeswax, and 1 cup of water.

Next, the method:

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The first step is to melt together your beeswax, oils, and cocoa or shea butters, if using. I prefer to do it in a microwave, using a mason jar in which I intend to blend and store my lotion. It takes about two minutes on high for everything to melt completely.

However, I understand that some people seeking to make their own lotion are doing so out of the crunchiness of their hearts and despise microwaving. If this is you, or if you simply don’t have a microwave, just melt everything together in a double boiler.

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Whatever your values or melting preferences, continue to heat your mixture until there are no solid particles remaining.

Allow your mixture to cool slightly before using, but not all the way to room temperature.

Next, stick your immersion blender into the beeswax-oil mixture and run it while slowly pouring in the water (your water and oil need to be about the same temperature). At first your mixture may resemble cheese curds floating in water, but press on and watch everything transform into a smooth, white lotion.

If some of the water ends up not being incorporated, just pour it off and blend what remains. No biggie!

If you only have a jar blender, melt your oil and beeswax in a mason jar, allow to cool, add all the water at once, and screw the blender blade base on like you would a lid. Did you know you could do that?

Now allow the blender to blend everything for about a minute, or until you arrive at the lotion consistency.

Just be sure to wipe your blender blade or attachment well with a paper towel prior to washing, which will absorb and remove most of the oily/waxy stuff.

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You will end up with something like this!

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Here’s what it will look like on your skin.

(I apologize for the view of my hand.)

And that’s it!

Enjoy!

Here’s the printable recipe for you:

 

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

1 amy hughes February 27, 2013 at 5:07 pm

This looks so lovely! I’ve tried making lotions blending water and oil before, but I’ve had a problem of having them separate about 6 hours after I make them. Any thoughts on why that might be?

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2 Sofya February 27, 2013 at 5:29 pm

How would you describe the separation? I believe this has to do with water and oil being about the same temperature as you are combining them.

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3 Deana Simmons May 1, 2013 at 6:46 am

I found that if you notice the separation after the mixture starts to cool, you can blend more. I have a submersible blender and used it again to blend. After the second blending the lotion did not separate but I did have a bit of water on the top that I just poured off.

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4 Maureen O'Danu February 28, 2013 at 8:26 pm

This is an excellent article with good information. Thank you very much. I have some oil around the house I may have to use for this.
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5 Sofya February 28, 2013 at 8:34 pm

Tell me how it turns out, OK? And if it separates. I am still testing the recipe…

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6 Lindsay March 1, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Great post! I’ll have to try this!!! At Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families we’re working to protect American families from toxic chemicals, this is right up our alley! If you’re interested in joining our blogger network, please send me an email!

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7 Margit March 16, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Thanks, this was fantastic! I just made it after spending days trying to get bees wax (in the North of Spain…) Great recipe!

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8 Natalia March 19, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Hi. I was really excited to try this recipe. I tried it and tested the water and oil/wax temperatures before mixing. They were almost the same. I still had separation and the texture is much more runny than your photo, although it is certainly useable. At first, the mixture was very watery. I added more wax and that helped. I’m wondering if the separation is actually from over mixing (like when making mayonnaise at home). Also, at what temp should I start blending oil and water and do you pack the grated beeswax into the Tbs. or just use a fluffy pile? Thank you so much!!!!!

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9 Sofya March 19, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Hi Natalia,

I definitely pack the beeswax into the measuring spoon – I should have clarified that. I blend when they are kind of tepid. One key here I think is adding the water slowly while beating – incorporating small amounts of water gradually, that is. The other way go to about it is to simply dump out the water that did not get incorporated and blend what remains – I’ve had that happen sometimes too. I am quite certain that over-mixing is not a culprit here, as this is not as delicate an emulsion as mayonnaise. I’ve also tried adding cold water to the tepid wax-oil mixture, and that worked too.

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10 Deana May 1, 2013 at 6:49 am

I would compare it to make mayonnaise. You have to drizzle the oil in the blending process or you end up with a mess. Just in this case it is the water you are drizzling.

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11 Sofya May 1, 2013 at 7:14 am

I agree with that.

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12 Katie March 19, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Thank you for this recipe. I was looking for just this kind of thing.

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13 Natalia March 20, 2013 at 12:38 am

Sofya,
Thank you for the info. It helps a lot. I can see right away that the beeswax was part of the issue (I ended up melting more and adding it, which helped). I did pour off some of the extra water, too. I do like the “new” result a lot and tested it on several people I know, all of whom really liked it. One thing I did differently, though, was to add the essential oils after initial mixing, which worked. I’m definitely planning on making more of this (I did my own twists this last time, using Shea, sweet almond, grape seed and apricot as my base oils). Ank you, again. You provide wonderful info. and simple and easy instructions to follow. My last challenge is the tiny bit of pilling of wax, like sand, that occurred. I think that might have been from adding it at a different temp. than the already blended lotion base. It was all a bit of an expirament, but I just used it against and it’ll be fine.

Thank you and you thank you! I can’t wait to make more!

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14 Sofya March 20, 2013 at 12:05 pm

Hi again, I believe you sandy experience is due to not melting the beeswax completely. It is ok to heat the oil-wax mix till it starts to boil.

And you are right, you can add your ess. oils at any point, as long as you are not adding them to hot liquids.

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15 jen greenberg March 29, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Hi Sofya,

This is so fun! Thank you!

I tried the recipe twice. #1 turned out white and separated a little. I followed your recipe, using grape seed and jojoba oils, with aloe vera gel mixed into the water. #2 turned out light green/yellow and was fine until I added the last 1/4 cup water.

I’m going to try it again, and use a little less water, with no aloe vera. I’m very keen to keep trying and hear how other experiments are going.
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16 Sofya March 29, 2013 at 2:15 pm

You gotta beat the water in as you are adding it very, very slowly for the lotion to be able to absorb that much. It works with less water also. I have had excellent luck with using aloe vera only, not water, or water only. Mine separates a little too which I don’t mind one bit because I find it still does the job.

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17 jen greenberg March 30, 2013 at 12:26 pm

Thanks Sofya! It worked this time. I used half water half aloe vera, and added the entire cup very slowly.
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18 kirill April 3, 2013 at 11:46 am

Hi. I like your tutorial on home made yogurt. I am about to make 1 quart batch in a glass jar. My question is – do I cover the jar when leaving it for 8 hours to “cook”?

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19 Sofya April 3, 2013 at 1:37 pm

Yes, you do. You also need to wrap your jar into some towels, etc. to add extra insulation, and set it in a warm place, you can’t just leave it on the counter unless your room temp is over 80 degrees or something.

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20 Amy April 26, 2013 at 3:35 pm

I think this will always separate as there is no emulsifying wax to bond the oils and waters together, does look lovely though!

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21 Amy April 26, 2013 at 3:36 pm

And I just read you said you can use emulsifying wax as well, don’t mind me, I need new glasses!

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22 Sofya April 26, 2013 at 5:55 pm

Beeswax is an emulsifier too, and it’s a wonderful natural unprocessed product. The whole point is to avoid factory ingredients.

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23 Zil August 1, 2013 at 1:21 pm

Thanks for posting this I really love it,

I am about to do my third batch but I have yet to get the consistency quite right. The first time was a little chunky but the second time was down right cottagcheesy although I still happily used it. I Use coconut oil for my oil, unbleached beeswax, and my water is 1/2 aloe vera, 1/2 strong brewed green tea. I am mixing it in the mason jar with a handheld mixer. The lotion is amazing. It actually is diminishing my stretchmarks that are about ten years old. I just want to be able to get the consistency normal enough that I could proudly share with my girls. Any tips?

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24 Sofya August 1, 2013 at 1:59 pm

What you gotta do to avoid the cottage-cheesiness is just keep on blending for a while. In my experience, it is always coming together in that way – first cottage-cheesy, then eventually – after some minutes of blending, it turns into a smooth lotion. You can try using cold water too.

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25 Bimbo August 14, 2013 at 3:08 am

Hi Sofya
Thanks for this recipie. The first time i made this ths water was seperating. And so decided to use rose water and aloe vera gel in place of water the next time and it came out fine. Just a quick question, should coconut be considered to be in class of oils like jojoba or does fall in class of sheabutter. W

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26 Sofya August 14, 2013 at 8:58 am

More like shea butter, but depends on the temp – it’s solid under 70 degrees or so. I would NOT use it as your only oil.

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27 aya October 4, 2013 at 9:09 am

hello
just one question: i have made the cream but probably added to less beeswax > the result: to runny cream.
how can i make the cream a little thicker?

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28 Kitty October 19, 2013 at 11:53 am

I have a question: How can I make my own Grape seed Oil? I have the Grape seed powder. Thank you. Kitty

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29 Jen October 23, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Great, informative article. I’m definitely going to give this a go. Would adding vitamin E oil give the cream a longer shelf life?

Thanks!
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30 Sofya October 24, 2013 at 9:33 am

Yes, it would!

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31 Cheri November 15, 2013 at 9:28 pm

OH MY!!! The microwave made all the difference for me. I had just about given up making any products with beeswax until I ran across this post. Now my lotions are smooth as silk instead of having bits of wax that had hardened before it could be mixed in well. Thank you!

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32 Renee November 19, 2013 at 7:14 am

At what point would you add in the honey or glycerin?

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33 Mimi February 20, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Hello Sofya,

I wonder why me cream turns into a green/yellowish color.
Also, it doesn’t have the desired texture.. I have no problem of separation, but it is too liquid.
I thought I had to blend more, but after 6 minutes it’s still the same.
I wonder what I did wrong.
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34 Levana Kirschenbaum April 5, 2014 at 11:09 pm

I’m trying to obtain a mix with the consistency of whipped butter. I melted 1 part each: almond butter, Shea butter, cocoa butter. When the mixture cools, it feels very gritty and is very hard to spread. But because it feels absolutely fabulous on the face and the hands, I want to stay as close as possible to my mixture as I possibly can, meaning, I want to leave it as concentrated and pure as I have it here, only more spreadable. I love the idea of adding water or green tea and beeswax. I don’t want the mixture to end up like a lotion but like a cream. So my question is: how much water do I need to achieve this? And if I have more butters than water, do I still need the beeswax, and how much of it? Thank you so much for your guidance!

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35 Sofya April 25, 2014 at 9:02 pm

My guess is you’ve used too much of the oils that solidify more or less at room temp, namely cocoa and shea, and not enough of the almond oil. Next time you need to use more almond oil or other oil that stays liquid at room temp, is my guess.

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36 andy April 30, 2014 at 10:55 am

Levanna, when shea butter is heated at high temperatures, it becomes grainy when it cools too quickly. I suspect too high of heat is the problem. I experienced this when heating shea butter before whipping it into a cream.

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37 Zahn May 9, 2014 at 2:58 pm

Hi, I loved your recipe. Have you ever tried using a little cucumber. It is very nice.

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38 Evelyn June 6, 2014 at 3:29 pm

Re: Bees Wax: If you put the grater you are using for your bees wax into the freezer so it gets real cold, the grating process will be much easier and your grater will not get all waxed up and so much easier to clean.

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39 Shoshona July 11, 2014 at 5:38 pm

Reading through the comments, it looks like I should add coconut oil as though it’s a shea or cocoa butter, rather than an oil? What would happen if I added in a touch more coconut oil or shea butter, would it thicken the consistency or just throw the whole formula off?

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