How to make a lotion – THEORY pt.1

Hello! 🙂

Escin and Caffeine Eye Cream14

Right after posting the body-butter recipe I realized it was not good enough and so I started studying and studying how face and body creams are really made.

I have decided to make short posts to explain also to anybody who would like to learn, how they are done in real.

The subject is not the easiest thing, it needs a lot of studying and understanding but I will try to make things as simple as they can be 🙂

A very basic lotion is made of:
– water,

– oils/butters,

– emulsifier,

– preservative.

[Of course there are much more ingredients that  can be added (like active ingredients or thickeners, for example), but I am starting from the basics so learn step by step and everything will be clear! 🙂 ]

Water and oils together give hydration (the water obviously is hydrating, but the oils or butters help the water to not evaporate… plus they give nutriments to the skin; but I will talk about this further on), the emulsifier keeps the water and the oils together 🙂 otherwise they would separate and that wouldn’t be anymore a cream (plus studies says that a cream, read “emulsified water and fats”, hydrate more than separated water and oils; which means that if you shake water and fats together and use them as a cream it will not hydrate you as much as if you made an actual cream with the same ingredients 😉 ).
At last the preservative saves the cream from the proliferation of dangerous bacteria (anytime you use water in something you produce by yourself, you need to use a preservative or you need to save your product in the fridge and use it in a few days only). I don’t know why but people dislike “preservatives” as if they were a terrible thing. They are not: there are many kinds of preservatives, some are eco-friendly (which doesn’t mean that they are like “fresh water”) some are not at all… you can choose accordingly to this, but bear in mind that using a preservative in your products is not an option (if this can make you feel better usually the % of preservative, which changes according to which one you are using, is only around 0.5%).

But now back to the ingredients:

It must be “demineralized” microbiologically pure water, you should be able to find demineralized water in supermarkets as the water used for ironing. There is a post which explain better on this HERE.
You could also use different kinds of hydrolized flower waters (like rose water, witch hazel…), choosing according to their properties (but keep in mind that many times they are expensive and they don’t have really strong properties… they can be considered more “poetic” than effective, which means that they almost only “sound good” 🙂 ).

I am going to make a separate post about the choice of oils and butters because there are definitely too many things to say.
In a cream you should not use just one kind of fat: oils and butters should be balanced and chosen accordingly to the kind of cream you want to make, the purpose it has, the touch you want it to have… it’s not a matter of  so called “miraculous” properties (actually the more you will study “how to make a cream” the more you will realize that NOTHING IS MIRACULOUS… but maybe I should make another post about this also 🙂 ), it is a matter of viscosity, density, feeling at the touch, spreading ability.
To make it very short: there are some rules you have to follow in order to make a balanced “fall” of fats in your cream.

Also the emulsifiers will have their own post.
Emulsifiers can be very different from one another: some must be heated until 70°C to work, some cannot be heated at all or they don’t work (so according to this difference you will have to change how you make the cream… you will see how in a second!); some are for W/O (read “water in oils”) and some are O/W (read “oil in water”) [everything will be explained, don’t worry 🙂 ]; some give a dry feeling to the cream, some a rich, or a light, or a very smooth touch.
Nothing is left to “chance” and as you start experimenting you will be able to experience the difference from one another.


23 thoughts on “How to make a lotion – THEORY pt.1”

  1. Great post, you break it down really simply and I like your writing style. Very informative! I am currently working with a cosmetic formulator on a cream and have been making lots of batches of cream and constantly learning. Thanks for sharing your advice. Keep up the great blogging!


    1. I read your comment here and im also doing experiment’s on making creams, lotions, hair gels, shampoos, and other items can i get help from you in this?


  2. Please simplify how to make a pearlized liquid hand soap – I want to use, SLES, Cocamide DEA, CAB, Glycol Distearate, etc. Do I heat the distearate with water to 70 degrees or do I mix it with water and surfactants and then heat it. A little confused.


    1. Hello Paul.
      I think the confusion comes from the fact that you are talking about detergents in a post about the making of a lotion 😀

      Usually the making of a detergent does not require the heating of anything… however, since you want to use the Glycol Distearate things become different…
      You have to separate the formulation in 4 phases and proceed so:
      Phase 1) glycol distearate + small amount of cetyl alcohol + a solubilizer
      Phase 2) water and glycerin
      Phase 3) your surfactants combined
      These three phases you will heat up in a double boiler until all is melted. Then you pour and stir the Phase 1 into the Phase 2, and later the Phase 2+1 in the Phase 3.
      Eventually you add the Phase 4 which is made of preservative and those ingredients which don’t have to be heated (for example proteins, if you are going to add them).

      Hope this was clear.
      I had not talked about this before in my blog because I honestly don’t like much the Glycole Distearate (and probably I wouldn’t even use Cocamide DEA, but obviously it is a free choice 🙂 ).

      Hope it helped! 😉


  3. hi there! 🙂

    Could you recommend a good immersion blender? Do you think its worth it to invest in a good blender or would kitchen aid immersion blender work just as well?


  4. Just a note on your comment on “hydrolized flower waters”: I believe you may be referring to hydrosols. As the result of the distillation of plant material and water, they contain numerous chemicals such as terpenes, phenols, etc and (though they look like water) are not a 1:1 substitute for water in formulations due to their acidic pH. The common and not so common hydrosols I distill have had pH as low as 4.2 and as high as 6.5.


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