Formulating lotion: Phase C & ACTIVE INGREDIENTS- THEORY pt.6

Finally the final step of making creams!

Phase A contains the water soluble ingredients which won’t get spoiled by heat, Phase B contains the fats, the emulsifiers and the oily soluble ingredients which won’t get spoiled by heat… now it is time to talk about the most interesting PHASE C!

Phase C contains:
preservative (in a percentage between 0.5 and 1%, according to which one you are using),
essential oils or perfume (usually for a face cream 2 drops are enough on 100 gr of product),
active ingredients (those ingredients full of good properties which would get spoiled if heated up to 70°C) usually, added all together, their percentage won’t go over 10%.

Active Ingredients deserve a longer talk, obviously, mainly because there are tons of active ingredients and each has their own percentage of use.

But what are Active Ingredients?
They are those ingredients which give a specific value to the cream.
Usually their percentage is not too high in the cream: there are specific concentrations needed for every active ingredients and whenever you purchase one, you should get the information of the percentage to use in a cream from the seller; for example Coenzyme Q10, also known as ubiquinone, should be added to a cream around 0.1% which is a very very low percentage if you think of it this way… but it is enough for its efficiency (just for the record: Q10 is of a very strong orange/yellow color and even the 0.1% will add a yellowish color to your cream; if any commercial cream which is said to contain Q10 is shining white, well… maybe it will contain the 0.01% of it 🙂 ).

There are tons and tons of active ingredients. Obviously I will make singular posts about the most easy to find and interesting ones.
New active ingredients get out on the market everyday trying to create new needs to us. Sometimes you can find that the “liquid Q10” is nothing else than “water, some oil, some emulsifier, Q10” which means that the Q10 is not pure (and probably at less of 0.5% of what you are buying)! So be aware of what you buy, read the ingredients of everything, be sure of the composition of everything you buy.

Now back to our Active Ingredients!
There are different qualities an Active Ingredient may have, these are some:

Acids and exfoliants – these are those ingredients which will help the cream to have a lower pH (for example citric acid, lactic acid are used mostly for this purpose), and those which chemically exfoliate the skin, helping the turnover of skin cells. If a cream contains chemical exfoliants it should be used only as a night cream, far from the eye area and never in summer period (better if you use it only from the middle of autumn and winter… until the slight beginning of spring). If you use such creams in summer, your skin might get ruined and have stains. It is true that there are different kind of acids and some are milder than others in matter of exfoliants… but with your own skin you’d better always play safe 🙂
Here is a little list of Acid and exfoliant ingredients: alpha-lipoic acid (mostly actually famous as an antioxidant), azelaic acid (good for acne prone skin), citric acid, ferulic acid, vitamin C (ascorbic acid), glycolic acid (a very famous exfoliant, and I add that it may also be very dangerous), lactic acid (it can also be used as a main active ingredient in a cream, but often it is used only in a matter of one or two drops to make the pH go lower), malic acid, mandelic acid (a light exfoliant), retinoic acid, salicylic acid (very famous for acne, can be very dangerous if used improperly).

Antioxidants – these are the active ingredients which work as antioxidants: keep in mind that many antioxidant ingredients work better in a synergy with each other (this means that if you want to make an antioxidant cream, you should add different kinds of antioxidants to the cream formulation)! To make it sound very easy: if two antioxidants separately have “power 1”, if you add both to the cream, the cream will have “antioxidant power 3” 🙂 something like this.
Some antioxidants can be: Coenzyme Q10, alpha-lipoic acid, gamma oryzanol, vitamin C and stabilazed formulation of vitamin C (magnesium ascorbyl phosphate, sodium ascorbyl phosphate… there are also new formulas!), tocopherol or tocopheryl acetate (vitamin E), gluconolactone, carotene, resveratrol, lycopene, bioflavonoids. 

Active ingredients good for oily skinazelaic acid (it also helps against acne), niacinamide (it is used at percentage which changes from 1 to 4% and it is very effective to some skins while, for others, it might result too aggressive, therefore start using it at a low percentage and see how your skin reacts: keep in mind that with niacinamide in a cream the pH has to be 5-5.5 and it never has to go over 7. Also, a cream with niacinamide should be kept far from eyes and lips), glycyl glycine (difficult to find and quite expensive but it help contrast the action of oleic acid into our sebum. Oleic acid seems to be responsible also for dilating the pores. So… this is a good ingredient 🙂 ), aluminum starch octenyl succinate (this is a very fine powder which helps the skin to not shine).

Hydrating – Humectant – when emulsifying water and oils you already create something “hydrating” but here are some active ingredients which give an “extra boost”: allantoin (soluble in water at 0.4%. Can create some problems in creams), Collagens amino acids: lysine, proline, glycine, glycerine (very highly hydroscopic, but it is mostly added in Phase A to help the xanthan gum in opening up), hydrolized silk/milk/oat proteins, sodium lactate, trimethylglycine.
[obviously there are much much more hydrating ingredients out there. Just always be aware of what you are buying and do research on the internet!]

Soothing Ingredients – my two favorite and, for me, most easy to find are: allantoin (also hydrating active) and bisabolol (a derivative of chamomile, has to be added at 0.5%, it is also good for acne skin because it has a anti-inflamatory and anti-bacterial action). Another very effective one is Glycyrrhetinic acid but it may be slightly difficult to use; panthenol (Vitamin B5) can be used up to 2%.

Whiteners – these ingredients can help in case of pigmentation of the skin. Kojic acid (it is an acid, so pay attention), Vitamin C, niacinamide, arbutin (used at 2%).

Vasoprotector – for example these are good in case of blue ender eye circles: escin, rutin.

Anti-aging ingredients – as you can imagine these, together with antioxidants, are those where the market is giving its “best” inventing new needs everyday and trying to cheat (also) 🙂 these are some good active ingredients: ceramides (there are many kinds of ceramides, it is not just one, so bear this in mind), phytosterols, ginseng extract (I will talk about different kinds of extracts in future), betaglucan, centella asiatica, plant stem cells, soy isoflavones, Phytosphingosine, viper serum (difficult to find), zanthalene (another active which works similarly to the viper serum), hyaluronic acid (actually it might be more hydrating than anti-aging… but let’s leave it here).

Anti-cellulite and anti-under-eye-bags – since, as it seems, cellulite is mostly connected with water retention and bad blood circulation, the active ingredients which are good for fighting cellulite happen to be the same which are good also for under-eye bags. Obviously, the percentage in the cream will be different (unless you want to burn your under-eye area 🙂 ). Here we go: caffeine (one of my favorite active ingredients! Used up to 2% for eye creams and 3.5% for anti-cellulite creams), escin (percentage is 0.5%-1% for eye creams, up to 1.5% otherwise), fucus dry extract, theobromine (this is mostly against cellulite, I never heard of using it against under-eye-bags).

Well, more or less, I told you about the active ingredients. From the next posts I will be showing you some real examples of how to use all this theory 😉
Have a great day! 😀


26 thoughts on “Formulating lotion: Phase C & ACTIVE INGREDIENTS- THEORY pt.6”

  1. Hi! I’ve been reading your website for some time now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Atascocita Texas! Just wanted to mention keep up the great work!


  2. your blog is unreal a lot of useful information in one page. Keep it up I am really enjoying thanks for sharing your experience in this fabulous DIY


  3. If possible please put a DIY for hyper pigmentation problem in face or body ^^ I will do it for sure I love making DIY ^________^


    1. I will think about that 🙂
      But since I have the opposite “problem” I don’t know how I could see if the formulation works 😀 but I will try to find a solution to this 🙂 maybe ask friends to test


  4. Hi, I couldn’t find your article about “extract”. Can you give me the link? Thank you!


  5. Wow,I can’t help but stop by,thank you so much ma’am I believe this is my last bus stop on cosmetic making ,

    Please madam I want to know how to use HYDROQUINONE 2% as a lightening agent in my product for personal use,please I find it difficult to calculate 2% so please help me on my calculation and convenient time to add it into my made cream or lotion ,Thanks a lot


    1. Hello.
      Hydroquinone is a very difficult ingredient to work with. It needs air tight manufacturing and protection from UVs.
      It is DANGEROUS to formulate with it in a home environment so I don’t suggest you to do it.


  6. I found your blog again after 4 years. You helped me out with some lotion making concerns then and it came out fabulously. I also made a HA serum which was a hit with my family and I ended up making a dozen of it for all my aunties :D. Unfortunately I fell out and went back to commercial lotions. Im picking up on this again and have been reading about all the chemistry, ficks law etc most which is beyond me but all very fascinating. Its my dream to make the ultimate face cream with everything but the kitchen sink in it. 🙂 Good to come across your blog again. And I see you are just as patient and generous as I remember.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey I am so glad!
      Actually I have been buying some lotions too lately (mostly body lotions because I fall in love with some fragrances that I cannot find!!!).
      Thank you for your kind words 🙂


      1. Oh yes fragrance is a big selling point for me too. I have tried to purchase the chocolatey smell in Vaseline cocoa butter lotion so that I can add it into eucerin creams but the two chocolate oils I tried didn’t smell anything close to it.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi, I recently discovered your blog and I’m learning so much here! Please do a follow up post as promised, pleaseeee!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I was wondering,what is the difference between all the different kind of extracts,like liposoluble ,Hydroglycolic,Freeze dried,CO2,,1:2 ratio…Which one is better to use? Most common one I could find was “Glycerin, water, %20 extract”..I looked through the websites you have linked but couldn’t find the ones in powder form


    1. It depends on the extractor: what is it going to extract / how powerful it is.
      Glycerin is not the best extractor. Glycolic is quite a good solvent (but the same behaviour it has on good components, it has on the skin as well so I wouldn’t exceed). CO2 is maybe the best way so far, but they tend to be expensive.


      1. Oh I see! I understand what EG,EF,ES means but what does TM means? I was thinking of going for “Centella ES tit. asiaticoside 20%” for my calming centella serum,as I understand this is a dry extract soluble in water?


  9. just making sure i understand… vit E and hydrolyzed proteins and Propanediol (a panthenol substitute) are all added to phase C, the cool down phase right? with the preservative ?

    Liked by 1 person

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