Cheap & Cheerful Lotion Bars

Cheap & Cheerful Lotion Bars

Ah lotion bars, simple yet enigmatic. 

A lotion bar is essentially a solid form of lotion, which makes it easy to transport, and potentially requires less packaging. It is long lasting, filled up with all kinds of good-for-skin ingredients, and is generally considered a more planet friendly product due to its waterless formulation.

Once in contact with wet skin, the lotion bar transforms into lotion that you can rub into your skin.

The only drawback of lotion bars is that you can’t include water-based ingredients. So you can’t make a very fancy lotion bar packed with a range of exciting ingredients, but if you just need a simple, low maintenance lotion that gives your skin the moisture it needs, then lotion bars are your friend.

Now, there are many, many ways to make lotion bars. You could use butters, or waxes, or fatty acids and alcohols, and there are many variations of each of these; or you could even use a combination of everything.

I decided to try make the most cost effective version of a lotion bar. Since skin butters are fairly pricey, I decided to use an isolated component of butters, instead of butters themselves: a fatty acid called stearic acid. 

I also included a fatty alcohol, plus an emulsifier. The emulsifier is included so that when the lotion bar is applied to wet skin it turns into lotion. It’s really what makes a lotion bar a lotion bar and not just a solid body butter bar or a massage bar.

I had some OliveM 1000 on hand so I just used that (plus it’s just a really nice emulsifier), but you could use any O/W emulsifier. If you want to keep costs down, try  Eco E wax which is exceptional value for money.

These three solid ingredients provide structure and hardness to the bar, as well as benefits to the skin.

For the oil part you could use any oil of choice. I prefer lighter oils such as  sunflowerjojoba, or even  squalane or  hemisqualane. You could also give your lotion bar some X factor with an infused oil such as  calendula, or  make your own macerated oil.

I rounded the formula off with some Vitamin E oil for its antioxidant and skin properties. 


Cheap & Cheerful Lotion Bar

20%  stearic acid

20%  cetyl alcohol

15%  OliveM 1000 or another  emulsifier of choice

44.5% dry oil such as  hemisqualane (a silicone alternative), or sunflowersafflower, etc

0.5%  Vit E oil

Mold of choice


Weigh and add all the ingredients to a beaker. Heat until everything is completely melted. Then pour into a mold and allow to set.

Use after showering, on wet skin. Rub the bar over your wet skin, then rub the lotion in.

Variations and Substitutions

You could theoretically use  cetostearyl alcohol instead of stearic acid and cetyl alcohol, so if you don’t have those two on hand, try cetostearyl.

You could add in some essential oil.

Feel free to include oil-soluble actives such as  Vitamin A, or  oil soluble Vitamin C, Co-enzyme Q10bisabolol, etc. You will need to make room for them in the formula by taking from the oil amount.

You could use any other O/W emulsifier of choice. It may yield subtle changes to the formula but feel free to experiment!

If you live in a very hot climate and melting might be a potential issue, then try increasing the amount of solids (ie. the stearic acid, cetyl alcohol and emulsifier) by a few percent each to make a harder bar that can withstand more heat. Alternatively, store the bar in a cool cupboard.

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Hi Boitumelo, xanthan gum will not work in this case. You could try adding more cetyl alcohol for the stearic acid amount, but I don’t know if the end result will be the same. I really recommend sticking to the formula on this one – lotion bars can be tricky to get right!


can I subtitute stearia acid with xanthan gun .I also have cetyl alcohol


Wow, Thank you so much, this is so clear. Thank you let me shop then.


Hi Kabelo, I’m so glad you enjoy the blog :)

Are you wanting to make the lotion bars, or normal lotion? You can include all of those in a normal lotion formula. If you use the recipes we have, they include preservatives as well.

If you want to make the lotion bars, keep in mind that you can only add oil soluble ingredients here. So you won’t be able to add the collagen and niacinamide. We do have an oil soluble form of Vitamin C so you can use that. And for the liquorice I would recommend making an oil infusion with it, as mentioned above.


Hi Julliet hope you are good, I have been obsessing over this blog for a while, what an infomattive platform. May I ask a question? Can I put the following ingredients together in my lotion, shea butter or lotion bar for brightening?

vitamin c
vitamin e

If I can,will i need presevatives to sustain a longer shelve life?