How to make foot & hand cream: formulating!

Let’s finally put all what we have learnt so far into practice! πŸ™‚


Imagine we want to make a foot or hand cream: we know that it has to be rich in fats (around 20-25%) and it doesn’t need too many active ingredients or at least not the most expensive: a cream for foot and hands needs to be thick, very emollient and hydrating.

Let’s start FORMULATING:

Phase A:
water to 100Β (HERE the explanation)
– glycerin – 4 (it doesn’t need to be too low)
– xanthan gum 0.5 (it is very high for a cream and I am not adding a carbomer like I suggested to do here: the reason for this is that I am going to use in high percentage an active ingredient which would destroy completely the carbomer, so why to waste πŸ˜‰ )
Nothing to say about the phase A: except for the explanation of the choice of the gelling agent.

Phase B:
Here about the fats we know we can use even up to 25%, we don’t have problems about fatty acids and the only thing which can stop us from choosing merely out of our taste is to always remember about the GREASE-FALL rule. Just to sum it up: in the formulation of one cream you need to add butters and oils of different consistency. According to the result you want to obtain, you will try to create a gaussian wave distribution of oils and butter %: for example if you want a thick cream you will use the higher percentage of butters (but not only them!) and if you want a light cream you will use very light density oils mostly (but also a very low percentage of butter).
I never talked about waxes before, so I do it now: waxes are usually not counted into the grease-fall as their function is mostly to add a very thick and heavy feeling (but also quite dry) to the cream. However they give a good protection to the skin, creating almost a film, therefore it is a good idea to add them in our cream since feet and hands (specially in cold winters) need protection against the cold.
Now let’s formulate this grease fall πŸ™‚

One way to do the Grease-Fall it could be this:
– jojoba wax – 2
– cocoa butter – 5 (very hard butter, will also help thickening the cream)
– shea butter – 10 (quite soft butter, good consistency)
– argan oil – 5 (medium oil)
– grape seed oil – 5 (light oil, easily absorbed)
25% fats (we don’t count the waxes)

As you can see every consistency of fat is added to the cream, giving more importance (read “more percentage”) to the butter which has to give the consistency to the cream.

Another way could be also this:
– jojoba wax – 1
– beeswax – 1
– cocoa butter – 4
– shea butter – 7
– mango butter – 5
– argan oil – 4
– primrose oil – 2
– grape seed oil – 2
– jojoba oil – 1
25% fats (remember we don’t count the waxes)This just to say that once you have the grip of it you can variate very much in your formulation; however having more ingredients in number doesn’t mean having a better grease-fall or having a better cream in the end.

The recipe of the cream in the picture is done with the first example of grease-fall and this is the complete Phase B:

– jojoba wax – 2
– cocoa butter – 5Β 
– shea butter – 10Β 
– argan oil – 5
– grape seed oil – 5Β 
– Metil Glucose Sesquistearate – 3 (emulsifier)Β 
– cetyl palmitate – 1.5 (thickener)Β 
– cetyl alcohol – 1.5 (thickener)Β 

Phase C
preservative – 0.5 (this is because of my own choice of preservative: you will have to do according to what you use)
–Β aluminum starch octenyl succinate Β – 1 (this is in powder and it helps leaving a dry feeling on the skin)
Now to the important active ingredients of this cream:
Urea – 10 (it is a very good humectant because of its water-binding property and it also exfoliates the skin, helping skin regeneration. One of the bad sides of urea, however, is the fact that inside creams it tends to rise the pH, this could cause a few problems which I will explain more in detail in the post about this ingredient, for now just trust me πŸ™‚ )
gloconolactone – 2 This ingredient is an acid which, if used at 4-5%, is an exfoliant, while, if used at 2%, it has mainly a sequestrating-function (I copy pasted from a chemistry dictionary online: sequestrating isΒ the action of forming a chelate or other stable compound with an ion, atom, or molecule so that it’s no longer available for reactions) to make it simple it means that it keeps the pH stable, therefore if you add urea in your cream, always remember to add 2% of gluconolactone.
3 drops grapefruit EO, 2 drops mint EO
1 drop of food grade red color πŸ™‚ just for the final touch πŸ™‚

Step by step:
I weighted the ingredients of Phase A in this order: glycering, xanthan gum, water (keeping 15 gr of water aside for the Phase C).
I weighted the ingredients of Phase B and added them in the second becher.
I put both of the bechers in a double-boiler and checked that they reached 70Β°C.
Once reached this temperature I poured Phase B into Phase A in 3 different times, mixing with an immersion-mixer until everything looked smooth, emulsified and white.
At this point I kept stirring slowly with a spatula until the cream reached room temperature.
I weighted the Phase C and added to the 15 gr of water which I had set aside: first the urea, then the gluconolactone. I added this mixture to the cream.
Then I added the preservative and mixed with the immersion-mixer once again (the final time: it will give a better result in the cream).
Eventually I added drops of the essential oils to my taste and the same for the drop of red colorant πŸ˜‰

Now check the pH, it is fine if it is between 5 and 6 πŸ™‚ otherwise adjust it πŸ˜‰

Have a great day! πŸ˜€




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40 thoughts on “How to make foot & hand cream: formulating!”

  1. I like the idea of making my own hand and foot cream with nice scented oils such as argan oil. I think urea is both a preservative and a way to smooth and lightly slough skin so it is a good addition to the homemade cream.


  2. My son is a physiologist and I’ve visited him in several labs. I love your efforts here but can’t understand ANYTHING!
    For example, a Web & Amazon search to buy “gloconolactone” comes up with ZERO!
    And how the heck do I check the pH??? With those diabetic strips from the drugstore?
    I want to make a strong urea cream for heavily calloused feet.
    I’d LOVE a simple recipe! You obviously know what you’re doing and your cream looks beautiful!
    Thanks much.
    CJ Hinke


    1. Simple recipe doesn’t mean effective.
      To formulate with Urea there must be gluconolactone (or something that works similarly) to not let the pH rise so it is a must.
      pH stripes you can buy online together with gluconolactone.
      On my blog you find all the theory of making creams and also links to serious online stores.
      Just check the All recipes site index and you will find all the links there.
      It sounds difficult and overwhelming but it is not.
      Yes it takes some time to learn but it is worth ig.
      All the best πŸ™‚


  3. hello i made cream by your recipe it was good but after one month it look like thin oily water i could not understand what is the problem with


    1. Hello.
      I believe the cream was not well emulsified, therefore after a month the oils separated again.
      I am thinking of making a video to show how to properly emulsify creams πŸ™‚
      I am now on holiday but in September I will try to make this video πŸ™‚


  4. Thank you for this introduction to making creams! I found it refreshingly technical with lots of helpful insights. I will be giving it a try after delving deeper into your website. Fun!


  5. Great article.
    Always love experts who know how to explain to laymen. Thanks for that!
    I want to add Urea to my cream. Can I use lactic acid( which I have at hand) to reduce the ph instead of gluconolactone? If so wat must be the ratio? Thank you.


    1. Hello Priya!
      Hmmm no it doesn’t work like this:
      Lactic Acid lowers the pH, yes, but that’s a temporary thing: we use it to lower the pH of our creams but in the moment we make them. We make a cream, we check the pH, if it needs to be lowered then we add few drops of lactic acid… wait 5 minutes and check the pH again until we are satisfied.
      The problem is that Urea tends to rise the pH in time, which means that if we made a cream pH 5 and waited few weeks, if we were to check the pH again it could be 6 (or higher). Urea changes at higher pH so we need to keep the pH of our cream stable… so this is the reason why we add Gluconolactone!
      In fact it works in a way that it actually stops the pH from rising in the cream (thing which lactic acid cannot do). You see, Gluconolactone creates a system which stabilizes the pH (to make it very very simple: Gluconolactone “tends to stop” the pH from rising”); in fact if you, for example, added too much gluconolactone and got a very low pH and wanted to rise it… it would take you a LOT of alkaline substance to make the pH rise again.
      So this is why it cannot be substituted with Lactic acid.
      Hope it was clear πŸ™‚


      1. Thank you. That was very informative.
        I dont have access to gluconotlactone since the few sites that offer this dont ship to India where I live.I googled for other sequestrating agents like you mentioned. Citric acid came up.I have some at hand Can I use this instead?

        Actually I wanted to make a DIY Amlactin with the ammonium lactate.will it work If I I add 12% lactic acid and about 10% Urea and a sequestrating agent additionally to adjust the ph. Or will this change the compound itself?


      2. No citric acid is again like lactic acid.
        Sodium lactate is a good hydrating agent.
        But what kind of cream do you want to achieve?
        If it is for feet or hands (as it should be) you could adjust the pH and keep it adjusted (every week you check it).
        You can make a very small amount (200 gr) and use it quickly so the Urea won’t go bad.
        I think this would solve the gluconolactone problem! πŸ™‚

        Where are you in India? πŸ˜€
        I have been there few months πŸ™‚
        I love India, but sometimes it is difficult to live there for me πŸ™‚


  6. Thank you so much for the quick response.
    I want to make a body cream/lotion that would take care of hyperpigmentation left from psoriasis that I used to have. I cant use strong AHAs as it may irritate my skin and trigger a flare up. Amlactin is a safe mild exfoliant and moisturiser that works well in my case. But again its not available where I live.
    I put together this recipe with the ingredients I have at hand using your hand cream as a model. Can you please troubleshoot this for me?
    Phase A
    Water to 100
    Glycerin 4
    Xantham gum 0.5
    Niacinamide 5
    N acetyl Glucosamine 3
    Licorice extract 8

    Phase B
    Coconut oil 20
    Castor oil 5
    Emulsifying wax 3

    Phase c
    Urea 8
    Lactic acid 8
    Preservative 0.5

    Make it the way you described above. Ph at 6.

    Im not really worried about the consistency of the lotion/cream as Im only going to wear it at night. And Im okay with making a fresh batch every week. It would be great if the actives compliment each other and work to reduce the spots and keeps skin well hydrated.Will this work?

    I live in Tamilnadu. Its the southern most state. Its rather hot and humid down here. And sometimes it is difficult to live here for me too πŸ™‚


    1. hmmm is it for body or face? πŸ™‚

      Lactic acid you shouldn’t put it at 8, you should just check the pH BEFORE you add it (at the very very end) and add few drops of it ONLY IF you need to lower the pH πŸ™‚
      (then you check the pH again, add few more drops if it is not low enough, mix and check the pH again πŸ˜€ until you are happy with the pH of the cream!)

      In phase C put water 10, so you will keep the total grams of the formula to 100 πŸ™‚

      About this:
      N acetyl Glucosamine 3 – I never used this ingredient so I don’t know it and I don’t know if the concentration or the pH is ok.
      Licorice extract 8 – if it is a powder (what kind of extract is it?) 8 might be too high (the cream might separate because when a cream is too full of powders it tends to not emulsify very well).

      Hope this was helpful πŸ™‚
      Never been to south of India, but I heard coconut is good there (I love Thai coconut, the coconut I drank in north India was not tasty at all instead!)
      I also like dosa and uttapam!! πŸ˜€


  7. i love your blog
    just an idea
    you know everyone love spa treatments
    but they cost alot
    so many are trying diy at home
    and are trying to stay very natural
    so a kind request
    if you post formulations on pedicure and manicure and facials and hair treatments
    for example cuticle remover callus remover foot soak hand soak srubs for hands feet and face and hair mists and steams for different skin types and hair protein treatment and heat protecting stuff for styling with flat irons and blow drying face masks for different skin types hair detangler hair styling stuff
    not to forget staying 100% natural
    i have found this to be very challenging
    am working on it too
    your formulations will be way better than mine for sure
    because am a newbie
    but i think that these things are major stuff which every girl should know how to make
    i mean we crave for spa treatments so much but they are expensive not all can afford it and many use harsh stuff too
    so if you kindly consider this big request πŸ™‡


    1. I will think about it but most things you have mentioned are only hyped in Spas but they are nothing special.
      I mean: cuticle removing balm πŸ™‚ it is a simple thick cream or thick fats combination with a good smell. The same goes for hand feet and all the other treatments.
      They just ask if you would like the pampering vitamin E treatment or the new Hyaluronic Acid treatment and they charge you a lot… but both those creams have probably less good ingredients than you put at home.

      EVERY cream you make at home is way better than any you buy. No HA cream you buy contains 1% HA. And the same goes for every other product you may try to make. πŸ™‚
      Then if you use a cream as a body cream or as a foot mask, that’s your decision πŸ˜‰ you are free to do both πŸ˜‰


      1. Please where can I find more information about the type of urea used for skin and hair products…as there are some urea types used as preservatives and others for farming.
        What is it soluabke in and what other ingredients I may add to it or not add to it
        Many thanks


      2. The one used for preserving is Hymidazyl urea and it is a preservative.
        The one used for cosmetics is just UREA and it is of cosmetic or pharmaceutical grade.


  8. I love your very easy to follow formulation. The cream came out thick and smooth. Is it possible to add (phase c)urea, gluconolactone and a preservative to a ready made hand cream purchased at the store?


  9. Hi , thank you very much for your kind sharing. I have a question on emulsifier.
    May I know how would we identify what and how much emulsifier to be used in a cream?

    Thank you!


    1. You should follow the guidelines of the website where you purchase but, even better, the MSDS. At the end of the day, however, it takes mostly trial and error cause mucj depends on which oils you use πŸ˜‰


    1. Hello Varsha.
      Hmmm urea is extremely cheap and works so well that I don’t know what could be a good substitute.
      Exactly what do you want your hand cream to do?
      Because urea does a bunch of things, so I can think of something more specific.


  10. Hello, I have found gluconolactone but it come with sodium benzoate and calcium gluconate . Can I still use it?


    1. I believe what you have purchased is a blend which is used to preserve cosmetics. It cannot be used in the same way as you would use gluconolactone if you had it on its own. You can still use it as a preservative 0.75% to 2%


  11. Hello!! Loved your recipe and your website. I’m from Brazil and I’m having trouble finding the gluconolacctone in here. I will try to do as you suggested above, a small batch and then checking the pH weekly. Thanks!!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Why do you not use carbomer? May I know what “active” ingredient that destroys carbomer? How does that particular ingredient destroys carbomer?


      1. Hi! Yes, I know. But there is no electrolyte in this formula! XD
        I am referring to this post, this particular cream of yours here.
        I looked and looked, I checked and checked, I still do not see what contains electrolyte,
        Am I missing something?


      2. Ok I thought it was a general question.
        Here urea melt my carbomer (I had tried making the formula with the carbomer first and when I added urea it liquified, that’s why I changed it).


      3. Strange, I can’t reply to your last comment!
        Thanks for your prompt response!
        OMG! Nooooooo! What!
        You and I know that carbomer creates the best gel and the best suspending agent. And certainly the best light-non-tacky-feel (compared to Xanthan Gum and most other “natural” thickeners). But yes, sadly most synthetic thickeners are ultra sensitive to electrolytes. Salt-tolerant synthetic thickeners are not easily accessible to regular DIYers like us here.
        I think this project for me is a failure because my skin, in general, dislikes lipids of any kinds. Argh!


      4. Yes I too like carbomer gel, however for this being a foot/hand cream it was good enough in the end.
        I have been using lately some new gelling compounds that combine xanthan, sclerotium and other gelling agents (I can’t remember right now and I am not home) and they give a much better end result than xanthan alone and quite resistent to electrolytes! But ok, they are not as good as carbomer alone… :/


  13. Well very interesting indeed,but for a beginner is a little bit confusing and i’m sure it’s not because you don’t explain well πŸ˜€ ..And your website has quite a sweet name ..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Salycilic acid isn’t going to be so easy to add due to the poor solubility, however – being an acid, it will lower the pH. There is no way to know HOW MUCH without trying: depends on many factors like the starting pH, the % you add and so on… You will have to check it


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