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June 06, 2018 5 min read

How to Make a Homemade Lotion

Lotion making... For some reason it conjures up the image of medieval ladies cooking up little pots of creams in my mind (don’t laugh), and I’m immediately daunted. I love making my own skin and body products, but as soon as melting or cooking is involved I’m put off by the mess and complicated-ness. In this week’s blog, we reveal the lotion making process and see why it's worth the effort. If you’re a novice at making lotions and creams or want to get into DIY, read on!

What’s in a (homemade) lotion or cream?

A lotion or cream is an emulsion, a mix between oil and aqueous phases. Simple ones consist of oils, butters, floral water and essential oils. Melt, whip together and voila! More advanced lotion making uses emulsifiers such as Olive M900 and Olive M1000 to blend oil phases and aqueous phases. There are two types of emulsions: the ‘oil-in-water’ (O/W) emulsion when oil is dispersed in the water phase, and the ‘water-in-oil’ (W/O) emulsion where the water phase is dispersed in the oil phase. O/W cream emulsions contain 45-80% oil phase and have a heavier, greasier feel; they are generally night creams and extra nourishing. W/O cream emulsions contain 10-35% oil phase and are typically lighter day creams. The basic formula for lotions is 5-8% emulsifier, 12-20% oils and the rest water phase, additives, botanicals and preservatives (in other words, about 25% oils and emulsifier and about 75% water soluble ingredients).

Insert: Don’t be confused by the percentages, you can simply convert them to grams or milliliters, as a total of 100% can be equivalent to 100ml or 100g, as long as you keep the same units with all ingredients.

Olive M900 is a water-in-oil emulsifier, whereas Olive M1000 is an oil-in-water emulsifier, but may be used for water-in-oil emulsions too. Both are natural emulsifiers derived from olives, as the name suggests. There are also emulsifying waxes. Lotions and creams using an emulsifier turn out richer, creamier and more like your typical product found in stores than the simple oil and butter lotions which don’t use an emulsifier. But the good thing is, emulsifier or not, homemade lotions are completely natural and free of toxic chemicals. They can also be made to suit your tastes and skin needs and can be made vegan (omit the beeswax, use these alternatives instead: carnauba, kahlwax). Use a natural preservative such as Geogard 221 or Geogard Ultra to give your lotions and creams a longer shelf life.

Ok, now that we know what’s in a lotion and a bit about the chemistry, let's get into some recipes. Technically you can use any carrier oil and butter in your oil phase. I like a blend of almond and jojoba oil, but feel free to experiment with your favorite oils. You can also use whichever essential oils suit your needs and nose. It is important to sterilise all utensils and equipment before making your lotions and it is best to use an immersion blender (stick blender) for all the mixing. Here is an easy, non-emulsifier recipe:

Silky Homemade Lotion

⅓ c sweet almond oil

½ T beeswax

1 ½ T mango butter

1/2 tsp vitamin E oil

1 T cocoa butter

20 drops of essential oils of your choosing

½ c rose water

Combine the almond oil, mango butter, cocoa butter and beeswax in a bowl resting over a pot of simmering water, or use a double boiler if you have. Stir occasionally until melted together (it should reach 70 degrees). Let the mixture cool until room temperature (important!) - it should look thick, creamy and opaque. Add the vitamin E oil and your essential oils. Use an immersion (stick) blender to pulse up and down for a few seconds. Finally, gently and gradually pour in the rose water, blending for a few seconds until combined. Then pulse up and down for another 30 seconds. Pour into a pump bottle and store in a cool place.

For those who want to try the more advanced cream making process, below are recipes using an emulsifier for a more professional look and feel.

Vanilla Body Butter (W/O emulsion)

35% oil phase { 10ml jojoba oil

                            10ml macadamia oil

                              5ml avocado oil

                              7ml Olive M1000

                              3ml cetyl alcohol

60% aqueous phase { 60ml distilled water

5% cool down phase { 1ml preservative such as Geogard 221

                                      2ml D-Panthenol (ProVitamin B5)

                                      2ml vanilla oil

Sterilise all equipment. Heat the aqueous phase in a water bath (bowl over pan of simmering water) to 70 degrees. At the same time, heat the oil phase in a separate water bath also to 70 degrees. When both phases have reached 70 degrees, remove from heat and slowly add the oil phase into the water phase, stirring continuously. As emulsion takes place, place the bowl in some cold water to cool, still stirring. When the mixture cools to 50 degrees, add the preservative, panthenol and vanilla. Keep stirring until room temperature, then pour into a glass jar and store in a cool place.


Healing Frankincense and Myrrh Lotion

1 T olive oil or sweet almond oil

1 T coconut oil

1 T emulsifying wax

½ c distilled water

10 drops frankincense essential oil

10 drops myrrh essential oil

As always, sterilise all utensils before you use them. Melt the emulsifying wax and the coconut oil in a water bath. Remove from the heat and stir in the almond or olive oil. Slowly blend in the water. Return to the water bath, stirring all the time until the mixture becomes creamy and thickens. Blend in the essential oils, then let cool. Pour into a pump bottle or jar and store in a cool place.


Orange Bliss Hand Cream (O/W emulsion)

70% oil phase { 20ml calendula oil

                            20ml sunflower oil

                            20ml mango butter

                            10ml Olive M900

27% aqueous phase { 21ml floral hydrosol of your choice

                                        5ml glycerine

                                        1ml epsom salt

3% cool down phase { 1ml preservative such as Geogard 221

                                      1ml vitamin E oil

                                      5 drops orange essential oil

                                      2 drops each of lavenderbenzoin and ylang ylang

Sterilise all equipment. Heat the aqueous phase in a water bath (bowl over pan of simmering water) to 70 degrees. At the same time, heat the oil phase in a separate water bath also to 70 degrees. When both phases have reached 70 degrees, remove from heat and slowly trickle the water phase into the oil phase, blending continuously. When the temperature drops to 40 degrees, add the cool down phase ingredients one by one, blending after each addition. You may need to experiment a bit with the amounts of essential oils, to suit your taste. Cool to room temperature, pour into a glass jar and store in a cool place


Hopefully this blog has made lotion making a bit easier to understand. It may be a bit of a learning curve when first working with emulsifiers but I hope this inspires you. Happy cooking!


Lotion Making Part 2 is out - read it here!

2 Responses


March 05, 2020

Hi Ronel, in this case I wouldn’t worry about heating up to 70 degrees. I don’t think that is necessary. You should just be able to dissolve the geogard ultra powder in the water and follow the recipe as usual.
Let me know how it goes!


Ronel Brammer
Ronel Brammer

March 05, 2020

Good Evening,

I am very keen to try out the Rose and Cardamon lotion in your Lotion making part 2 section. The only trouble is that I have Ultra Geogard instead of Geogard 221 and I am not sure how to use it. Since it is a powder I think have to dissove it. I found a recipe on the internet where the person dissolved it in water and heated it up to 70 degrees. At the same time they also heated up the oils to 70 degrees and added the two solutions together.

Can you help at all?

I really enjoy your website and have ordered some products from you.

Kind regards
Ronel Brammer

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