DIY Cold Process Lotion for Beginners

DIY Handmade Lotion for Beginners

Beginners who are new to handmade bath and body products are recommended to do more research before getting started. Whether you are making for your own use, as gifts or to sell, you do not want to make something that is harmful to the skin! Especially lotions, please read on and do more research if the information below is not enough for you.

First of all, what is lotion? Is it the same as body butter? No, body butter is made of fats; usually combination of oils and butters. Whereas lotion is a combination of water (aqueous) and/ or fats. The idea of lotion is that: water hydrates the skin while the oil locks the moisture. Handmade lotion, if properly made, is more comfortable on the skin as compared to body butter which can feel really oily at times and not suitable for those with oily skin.

Now, you may realise that water and oil doesn’t “combine”. To make them combine, we need to use an emulsifier. Emulsifier thickens the water and oil and let them “combine”. To let the emulsifier works its magic, it is important to keep stirring the water/ oil when the emulsifier is added. STIR VIGOROUSLY to let them combine properly to prevent “separation” later.

Another important ingredient in handmade lotion is preservative. Vitamin E oil is not a preservative but an antioxidant to prevent rancidity of oil content in the lotion. What about the preservative for water content in the lotion? Well, while distilled water does not expire easily, many handmade lotion makers love to use fresh produce to substitute water; a popular example being fresh milk (goat milk, breast milk). Imagine keeping a bottle of fresh milk in the bathroom, how long until it starts to smell like puke? Not long, maybe days, maybe hours. It starts to smell when bacteria and germs start growing. You can cover the smell by adding fragrance to the milk but the bacteria and germs are not going away. SO PLEASE USE PRESERVATIVE in your handmade lotions even if you’re using tap water.

Let’s look at a simple lotion recipe (for reference only):
  • 5g Jojoba Oil
  • 0.5g Vitamin E Oil
  • 2g Simple Emulsifier
  • 5g Glycerin
  • 85g Water
  • 0.2g Antimicrobial Preservative
  • 1g Essential Oil of choice

Prep: Make sure tools are all clean, not even a speck of dust (that speck of dust could be the reason why there is a spot of mould in the lotion later!). Sterilise and spray with rubbing alcohol if available.

Using the above recipe, I tested making lotion using a cheat method. I weighed all ingredients into a lotion bottle, tighten the cap and SHAKE and SHAKE until the ingredients were evenly mixed and the lotion finally thickened up. It may sound simple but took a LOT of energy (and time!) to shake, LOL! Initially there were few big lumps where the water/ oil “balled” up with the emulsifier. So I had to keep shaking it to break the lumps. There were so much bubbles in the lotion which is kind of annoying. It was hours of shaking before I finally poured it out on a strainer to break the lumps. In the end, it still turned out great though!

Here’s another method I used:
  • Mix jojoba oil, vitamin E oil, glycerin, half the water and lastly the emulsifier in a measuring cup.
  • Use a spoon/ small spatula to stir until the solution thickens a little. 
  • Then slowly add the remaining water while stirring, add the preservative and essential oil.
  • Keep stirring all the time. When I was sure all ingredients were well mixed, I poured the lotion into lotion bottle although it is still pretty fluid.
  • The lotion thickened up on its own after few hours. If it doesn’t, shake it and shake it.
  • Lastly, label the lotion and date it.

Using the second method, the ingredients are more evenly mixed compared to the first method. However, with enough stirring/ shaking, both methods worked. The lotion is thin and light.

DIY Lotion for Beginners

If you would like to design your own recipe, it is important to know the ingredients. Find out from your supplier on the recommended usage of each ingredient. Some of us are generous to add more than recommended but do note that some ingredients may cause skin sensitivity when added too much, so just stick to the recommended range.

Usage rate is usually shown in percentage. Eg. for a 100g lotion, 1% is 1g. Some may be confused with g and ml measurement. 1g water is about 1ml, keep this in mind as a guidance. But do know that weight of oils/ emulsifier/ preservative may not be the same – as long as the amount is within the recommended range, it is ok to have a slight difference from the actual recipe.

Here’s a simple list of recommended usage of our supplies:

Simple Emulsifier/ Cold Process Emulsifier
  • Function: Thickening, allow water and oil to combine
  • Usage rate: 0.5~2%
  • pH range: 2 to 12
  • Temperature: Use below 60 degree Celsius

Antimicrobial Preservative
  • Function: Prevent water based bacteria and germs
  • Usage rate: 0.1~1%
  • pH range: 3 to 9
  • Temperature: Use below 50 degree Celsius

Vitamin E Oil Soft Gel (0.5g/gel)
  • Function: Skin-loving oil based antioxidant, prevent oil rancidity
  • Usage rate: 1 soft gel per 200g lotion (it is ok to add more in place of other oils but it is so precious to add too much)

  • Function: Hydrating
  • Usage rate: 80-90%
  • Can be substituted with other aqueous ingredients such as: milk, plant extracts, herbal concoction etc. which are beneficial to skin (please research carefully before using!)

Base Oil/ Butter
  • Function: Moisturising, locks moisture
  • Usage rate: 10-25%
  • Example of base oils/ butters: olive oil, jojoba oil, coconut oil, shea butter, cocoa butter etc.

  • Function: Add viscosity (tackiness), attract moisture
  • Usage rate: 5%

Essential Oil (EO)/ Fragrance Oil (FO)
  • Function: FO scent the lotion, EO adds other skin-beneficial properties depending on the EO chosen
  • Usage rate: 1-3% (some EOs can use up to 10% but 3% is generally safe on skin, too much may cause irritation)
  • Make sure to choose skin-safe type of EO and FO, NOT the air freshener type. If no EO/ FO added, the lotion will smell like the ingredients added to the lotion (eg. oily smell or smell of juice used to replace water).

Colourant/ Other Additives
  • Usage rate: Depends, a little goes a long way!
  • Choose cosmetic grade ingredients. For colour, we prefer to use mica powder, natural kaolin clay powder or titanium dioxide to lighten up/ colour the lotion. A little goes a long way. Without colour, the lotion usually looks yellowish (from the oils/ butters) or the tone of the water substitutes that you used in the recipe. Please research properly each ingredient before adding to the lotion!

Ready to make your own lotion yet?