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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
You will end up with something like this!
Here’s what it will look like on your skin.
(I apologize for the view of my hand.)
And that’s it!
Here’s the printable recipe for you:
DIY Body Lotion
- 1 part oil
- 2 parts water (or rose water, green tea, or aloe-vera gel)
- 1/4 part beeswax
To this, you can also add:
- a few drops of essential oil or oils of your choice – add them to the water prior to incorporating
- 1/8 to 1/4 part cocoa or shea butter, if using
Jojoba, Cocoa, and Avocado Lotion
- 1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa butter (due to the firm consistency, you’ll need to scrape it out of the container with a spoon)
- 2 tablespoons jojoba oil
- 1/4 cups + 2 tablespoons avocado oil
- 2 tablespoons grated beeswax
- 1 cup of water (about the same temperature as the oil-beeswax combo)
1. Heat the oils, cocoa butter, and beeswax together either in a double boiler or a microwave (you will need to microwave it on high for about a minute and a half), until the mixture is completely liquid, with no solid particles remaining.
2. Transfer the mixture into a mason jar where you intend to make and keep your lotion, and allow it to cool until warm – but not all the way to room temperature.
3. Begin to blend the mixture with an immersion blender while slowly pouring in the warm water (be sure that you water and oil are about the same temperature to prevent the separation). Continue to blend and watch it transform into a thick, white lotion we all know and love.
4. For clean-up, use a paper towel to wipe down the blender attachment prior to washing it in hot water and dish-washing soap.
5. Your lotion will keep for at least a month in refrigerator.