The Basics of Making Lotions

Making your own lotions can be fun, creative and can also address your special needs.

By Sherry Barker


Basically, all creams and lotions are termed as an “Emulsion” -  which is the “combination of an oil base and a water base” to form an “emulsion”,  by the use of an “emulsifier” to bind the oil and water bases together so they will not separate.

  It is the same principle when making mayonnaise, which is an emulsion of a water and oil base using soy lecithin and eggs as the emulsifier that binds the oil and water together while blending in a blender.

          There are generally at least 3 parts to any cream or lotion.  A = water base, B = oil base, C =emulsifier, and you may add 2 additional parts; D = preservative if needed, E = additives such as color, fragrances, Essential oils, Fragrance oils, other additives.

          A cream or lotion “recipe” should be written also as a formula with percentages of the whole, so you will know the correct proportion of each part that makes up the whole. Plus by using percentages,  you can easily decrease or increase batch size and all suppliers list usage rates in percentages.

           Measurements for ingredients are expressed in weight and not volume, and ingredients should be weighed on a digital scale, for accuracy.

          A preservative should be added to a cream or lotion if you intend to “sell the product” or keep it for more than a few weeks.  Bacteria, mold and fungus can form in any product containing water and therefore a” preservative” should be used as well as an “antioxidant” for the Oil base of your lotion.

          I prefer natural preservatives for personal use such as Benzoin, Grapefruit seed Extract or Rosemary Oil extract, however, the shelf life is still quite short.  Therefore when you sell a product you will need to add a synthetic preservative to ensure the safety of the product for your customers.  I prefer to use Germall Plus Powder as a preservative because it is “paraben free” and less likely to cause an adverse skin reaction. Usage rate is only 0.02-.05 % so you can still have a 95% natural product to sell.  Vitamin E is an excellent antioxidant and can be used at only 0.01 % of oils, and I like to add Wheat germ oil to lotions and creams because it is extremely high in Vitamin E and acts as an antioxidant for the oil base as well as being beneficial to your skin.

          It is fun to create and to “tweak” a basic formula by using different oils, herbs and botanicals, essential oils, additives, etc., much like you would tweak a recipe if you are creating a different cake recipe!   See the Variations after the basic lotion formula.

Equipment for creams and lotions:

  Stick blender:  to rapidly whisk the bases together

Digital scales: to accurately weigh your ingredients, especially important when using a small batch of cream or lotion

Glass or Stainless Steel mixing bowls and pots [do not use aluminum or Teflon coated equipment]

Thermometer: for testing the temperature of the bases

 Rubber Spatula: for scraping cream or lotion out of bowls

  Med size Plastic bowls for measuring ingredients on digital scales

   Lotion bottles or cream jars

   Microwave or stove top burners can be used in the following formulas

   Heavy Glass bowls for microwave or double boiler SS pots for stove top.

    For small batches I like to use the microwave and Large Pyrex measuring  cups due to ease of pouring.

   Tall Glass or SS mixing bowl

I love to make herbal/botanical lotions and creams for the supportive properties of these herbs/botanical.  Infusing herbs/botanical into oils and water is quite easy to do and adds many skin benefits to your lotions and creams.

Before infusion, some herbs/botanical [rose hips] may need to be “ground” before use, just place small amount into a coffee grinder and pulse until finely ground.

Using Herbal Infusions or Hydrosols in Lotions provides many beneficial vitamins and minerals, essential oils, and other properties that help make a healthy lotion.

How to make Herbal/botanical Infusions:

Water infusions: 1 part herb/botanical to 3 arts water. Boil distilled water and pour over the herb/botanical, cover and steep for 1 hour. Stain through coffee strainer to remove solids, and use the liquid in your cream and lotions.

Oatmeal infusion: 1 part “ground oatmeal” to 4 parts distilled water or herbal water.  Add oatmeal to the herbal water and bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low, and cook for 20 minutes, Strain through coffee strainer to remove solids and use oatmeal-herbal water as skin softener-soother and amino acids [protein] in lotions.

Oil Infusions-quick method: 1 part herbs to 2 parts oil.  Add herbs to oil of choice, bring to just below boiling point, cover and remove from heat, steep for 1 hour, strain through nylon stocking or jelly bag to remove solids and use infused oil in creams and lotions.

To begin, here are a few basic formulations for Lotions

          Note: My favorite herbs/botanical are Calendula , Rose and Lavender, because they are so beneficial to the skin and are easy herbs to work with.  However, you can substitute any herb/botanical you wish for the following formulations [recipes].

 If you do not want to make your own infusions,  you can purchase ready made infused oils and hydrosols from suppliers.

 Generally the water base for a lotion is about 80 % of the whole, and the oil base is around 12-14 % of the whole,  with the other percentages made up with emulsifiers, preservatives and additives for a total of 100 %.

Sherry’s Rose Lotion     Yield 16 oz 

  This Basic Formula can be tweaked for making many other herbal/botanical     infusions, and other additives - see Variations at bottom.This formula is an Excerpt from Sherry’s  Cream - Lotion Spreadsheet and New    Natural Care Advanced book due out this winter or spring on CD

This basic formulation makes a moisturizing and conditioning lotion that sinks in well and is very beneficial to your skin.  Use after bath or for a night lotion on body or face!

Part A  -  Water base =  80 % of total

          Rose Water           70%  =  11.2 oz = 317.52 gr High in Vitamin C

          Aloe Vera Juice     5%  = 0.8 oz = 22.68 gr      Healing agent, conditioner

          Vegetable Glycerin  5% = 0.8 oz = 22.68 gr      Humecant          

Part B  -   Oil Base  =    14 %  of total

          Grape seed Oil                  9 % = 1.6 oz = 45.36 gr   Light oil,  conditioner

          Jojoba Oil                       1 % = 0.16 oz = 4.536 gr   Great conditioner

          Oil of Evening Primrose    1 % = 0.16 oz = 4.536 gr   Omega 3 oil

          Cocoa or Shea butter       2 % = .32 oz = 9.072 gr   Moisturizer

          Wheat germ Oil               1 % = 0.16 oz = 4.536 gr   High in Vit E

          **  Palm Stearic Acid       1 % if your using Liquid Germall Plus preservative

        see notes below            Natural thickener

Part C = Emulsifiers  = 4 % of total

          E-wax NF                        3% = 0.48 oz = 13.608 gr    Self emulsifier

          Soy Lecithin           1 % = 0.16 oz = 4.536 gr      Binding emulsifier

Part D = Preservatives  =

Germal Plus liquid

       Recommended Use Levels: 0.1 - 0.5%

     synthetic preservative if desired for longer shelf life of lotion

          Total for percentages should always = 100%

Part E  = Additives [not included in total percentages above]

          Rose Geranium EO  = 2.46 ml =  0.5 ts, =  0.08 oz =  2.36 gr

          French Clay = 4.93 ml =  1 ts = 0.17 oz = 4.72 gr    

          Rose Powder or Mica for color  [if desired]  1.23 ml = 0.25 ts = 0.04 oz = 1.18 gr

Procedure - Directions:

   Microwave method: heating to 170 degrees kills  any bacteria, mold or fungus present.

          Note: You will need to weigh each ingredient on a digital scale, in a small plastic bowl to assure you have the proper proportions.  Add the bowl to the scale and then turn on the scale so that it will not weigh the bowl too.

1.  Combine Part A in large glass cup and heat to 170 degrees, holding for 13 min.

2.  Combine Part B and Part C in glass cup and heat to 170 degrees and hold for 15 min.

3.  Pour Part B/C into a tall SS or Glass Mixing bowl, using rubber spatula to get all.

4.  Place the mixing bowl in a bowl of cold/ice water to cool it and immediately Slowly pour Part A into in Part B/C while stick blending, and continue until it is thick.

5.  Use Thermometer and when lotion reaches 120 degrees or lower, add Part D and blend in well. ** See Notes Below for how to add preservative.

6.  Add Geranium EO [using a dropper] to the clay and mix in well with a fork or little whisk.

7.  Add Part F to lotion and stick blend until well incorporated and lotion is thickened and creamy.  Pour into bottles using a sterile funnel.  Cover tops of bottles with a clean cloth and wait until lotion reaches room temperature before capping to avoid condensation from forming under cap.  Lotion will thicken more as it cools.

NOTES on Preservatives:  If using “Germall Plus Liquid, you will want to add the Palm Stearic Acid to Part B as an added thickener because of the “extra” liquid in Germall Plus liquid preservative. And add the Germall Plus liquid to mixture as described above and blend in well.

If your using Germall Plus Powder, do not use the additional Palm Stearic Acid in Part B, Add the Germall Plus powder to the lotion by “sifting” the powder, using a small screen sifter, onto the top of lotion and blend in well using the stick blender.  I prefer to use the powdered form rather than the liquid preservative.

You could also add 1/4 ts Benzoin powder and 1 Tb Grapefruit Seed Extract for a natural preservative for personal use and store no longer than 1 month in Refrigerator.

              Variations to Basic Lotion above

Rose-Oatmeal Lotion:

          I love to infuse Ground Oatmeal into my lotions which gives the lotion extra amino acids, and is very soothing to the skin as well as providing extra body to the lotion.

Once the you infuse with rose, use the rose water to also infuse the oatmeal, as directed in the forward above.  Use the rose/oatmeal water as the water in the above formulation.

It is that easy!  And feels wonderful on your skin  - use for a night lotion, after bath lotion.

Rose-Oatmeal-Rooibos Tea Lotion:

          Rooibos tea is rich in Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Sodium, Copper, Zinc,

manganese, and Iron which is beneficial to your skin and this tea works  well with herbal infusions for lotions.

Oh, and be sure to drink  some regular Rooibos tea while your making this lotion !

Use the rose water and infuse it with the Rooibos Tea and Ground oatmeal if desired], and strain through a coffee filter to strain out solids.  Use the liquid for the above formula.

Calendula Lotion:

For Problem Skin, Eczema, Mature Skin and Baby Lotion

          Use Calendula petals instead of the rose for water and oil infusions.  Calendula is a great supportive herb and soothes the skin.  I like to combine Calendula water with oatmeal and Jasmin Green Tea infusion for the additional skin benefits.  I do not use any EO or FO when making Calendula Lotion so that it can be used for people with problem skin , for  Mature skin and makes a great Baby lotion.  Otherwise,  Rose Geranium EO works well with Calendula lotion but use sparingly - not for baby’s lotion.

     You could also use prepared Calendula Infused Oil, adding 1 part to 2 parts Almond oil, as your oil base.

Using Other herbal infusions: “Tweaking” the basic formula:

          You can infuse ANY herb/botanical of your choice for the above formulation, or use herbal combinations for the base such as Rose/lavender and use Rose EO or FO, and Lavender EO for the fragrances.   Men love Peppermint, Patchouli,Spearmint and use like kind EO’s.

          You can also omit the herbal infusions and just use EO’s and/or hydrosols in your lotion for skin benefits and use FO’s for light scenting.  You may want to increase the EO to 3-3.5 ml if not using herbal infusions.  I would not increase FO because they can become an irritant if used at higher levels.

Other Additives for healthy skin benefits:

          I also like to add a little Brewer’s yeast instead of the clay, for Vitamin B or you can use Provitamin B sold in supply stores, and use ½ ts per 16 oz, added with the additives in Part E of the above formula.

          Adding some carrot  powder also gives it Vitamin A as well as Beta Carotene, and I use 1/8 ts per 16 oz, added in Part E of the above formula.

          Use rose hydrosol  instead of infusing Roses into Water.

Above formulas are created and “copyright” to Sherry A Barker and all rights are reserved.
You can now purchase Sherry's spreadsheets and recipes in her e-books which you can find on-line