I’ve usually considered myself a lotion girl. I like body butters, but have preferred lotions because they spread easily (I always feel like I’m in a hurry) and lotions seem to be better suited to all types of weather. So I went on a quest to find homemade lotion recipes. If you are looking for body butter recipes, you can check out my other post “All Natural Homemade Body Butter Recipes“. What you will find here is an education on what you need to know to make your own homemade lotion recipes, and several links to some websites with formulas. I did not include specific step-by-step instructions, as you will see, it can get complicated.
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The Science of Making Homemade Lotions – Emulsifiers
If you really have your heart set on making your own lotion, then there are a couple of things you have to consider. Lotions have a thinner consistency because they contain water, which is why they spread so wonderfully. But you must know that because of water, lotions can breed bacteria, so unless you add a preservative, you must use them within a few days, otherwise, you run the risk of spreading contaminated lotion all over your body (and risk getting sick). Don’t worry, I’ll cover all natural preservatives you can use later.
Lotions also contain one or more oils to moisturize your skin. However, in order to bring oil and water together, you have to add an emulsifier or they will separate (think making your own salad dressing at home). What emulsifier can you use?
Most recipes for homemade products say to use beeswax. You can purchase a block of beeswax and shave as much as needed or use beeswax pastilles (pellets).
That being said, in the natural/organic skin care world, they do not consider beeswax an emulsifier at all. That’s not to say it is not a good ingredient to include in your recipe. Oh no, it most definitely has excellent healing and soothing properties, but to rely on it as an emulsifier may be why several of the comments I have read from homemade lotion blogs state they could not get their product to come together, it remained a gloppy mess, or it soon separated like a bottle of salad dressing. What else is there?
One blog I read endorsed the idea of using a pinch of borax to help the solution emulsify. Borax, though considered “natural” is a known carcinogenic and must be used very cautiously. Uh, no thanks. Another option is emulsifying wax. That, too, is a little controversial. As I originally reported in my post “The Top 10 Ingredients in Lotion to Avoid”, emulsifying wax can be produced via a plant or petroleum based wax and requires the use of certain chemicals in its production that may be considered questionable (Polysorbate 60), some companies of all natural/organic products will not use it, while others consider it to be perfectly safe based on their source and/or low concentration level.
I searched for additional sources of all natural and/or organic emulsifiers and I found a website that is actually an online school called Formula Botanica. They discuss four natural emulsifiers you can buy such as Vegetal/Montanov 68 and Xyliance. I would consider trying one of these if I were to start making my own lotions on regular basis. But there is still one more ingredient needed to make a safe lotion – a natural preservative. Does that exist? Yes it does!
Using Natural Preservatives – Don’t Miss This Critical Step
If you are like most people, you will probably not be able to use an entire batch of lotion in three days as is safely recommended. I suppose you could share it with your entire family (and your friends, and a few neighbors…) How important is it to use a preservative if you plan to use your lotion more than a few days? It is critical.
I read more than one study showing how bacteria can be spread from a contaminated bottle of lotion. One study traced back the deaths of several people in an ICU to a bottle of lotion the aides were using on these patients, it contained bacteria deadly to patients who were probably already immunocompromised. If it contains water, bacteria will grow without a preservative. But isn’t this website all about using all natural products? Yep! What to do? Don’t worry, I gotcha covered…
First, a word of caution, some websites out there will tell you that you can use Vitamin E, rosemary extract and grapefruit seed extract as preservatives. Others, especially the schools who teach the proper way to make your own lotions (for personal use or resale), will caution you that these are NOT preservatives. They may be excellent ingredients to add to your product, but you need to consider more effective preservatives to ensure safety if you will be using your homemade lotion for any length of time.
I found an article from another online school for skin care, called the School of Natural Skincare which discusses natural broad spectrum preservatives that are, as they say, “either derived from natural sources or are nature identical.” They have a list of three preservatives, trade names, and companies you can buy them from.
Another resource for those who are really serious about making lotions or other skin care products is Making Skin Care. They have a post about emulsifiers, recommended combinations to use and a list of over 13 different products used as natural preservatives.
Homemade Lotion Recipes – Links to Lotions
So are you overwhelmed yet? Trust me, this is why you may want to consider choosing homemade body butter recipes over lotions, they are easy peasy!
However, if you would rather make a “lotion” that does not need preservatives or emulsifiers, then you can give this one a try from the website Life From the Ground Up.
All right, I have to confess, this is really a body butter recipe, not a lotion (but she calls it a lotion). She says it is non-greasy because of the almond oil and jojoba oils which absorb into your skin more quickly. However, some of the comments seem to contradict this, saying it is still somewhat greasy. They recommend adding a tablespoon of arrowroot powder to the recipe to reduce the greasiness, and I have heard of using this trick before on other do-it-yourself websites so it probably helps. I have not tried this recipe yet, but I plan to!
Here’s another “All Natural Homemade Lotion Recipe” by Wellnessmama.com that is posted as a lotion (no water, so no need for preservatives or emulsifiers).
The picture looks more like a cream than a lotion, but it does appear to be less “intense” than a body butter. She goes on to share other recipes including variations with aloe with no mention of adding a preservative, so either add one or use it in three days. Safety first, people!
If you’d like to explore some other recipes on your own and then take the responsibility of adding the needed preservatives, Livingthenourishedlife.com includes a whole list of links to recipes, however, many of them are really body butters (just so you know).
I hope you found this information to be helpful so that you can decide with confidence whether or not you want to pursue making your own lotions. Let me know how it goes and if you’ve found any recipes that YOU would like to share!