Wednesday, September 30, 2009

When lotions go wrong!

At one time or another, we've all experienced epic lotion failure and asked ourselves what we did wrong. We call it separation, but do you know why it happened?

The main reason for separation is "the coalescence of dispersed droplets", in other words, the oil clumps together. Because the oil has a lower specific gravity than the water, it floats to the top and separates from the lotion. Every oil and water lotion will fail eventually because it's not a natural state for oil and water to be mixed together like this, but that date should be far far into the future for a good emulsification system. (When I say far in the future, I mean you should be able to give a lotion to your currently infant daughter on her graduation day! I don't recommend this - no preservative is going to hold out THAT long - but that's the kind of time line I mean!)

A note in response to some lotion recipes I've seen on the 'net...Separation is NOT normal. If you're experiencing separation, you are doing something wrong. And you can't repair it by shaking the bottle before use.

When two or more droplets collide and combine with each other resulting in the formation of one larger droplet. This is an irreversible breach of interfacial film between the two phases and is not fixable. What causes it? Poor choice of emulsifier or too low a level of emulsifier, your pH level, too many salts, and temperature. What can we do about it?

Heating and holding is essential - getting both phases of your lotion up to 70C for 20 minutes can ensure you get all the ingredients to the right temperature. Solubility of ingredients generally increases when you have a higher temperature, and when you have two phases that really don't get along that well, you need every bit of help you can get to make them mix!

I've seen this a few times - it's not pretty. Your oil phase floats to the top of the lotion, leaving a thin, milky coloured layer of water and other ingredients at the bottom. What caused this? Well, it's a natural thing for oil to float on top of water, so it could be a poor emulsification system, not enough emulsifier, failure to get the ingredients to the proper temperature, or failure to mix the lotion adequately. (In my case, I didn't get the two phases to the same temperature - I think. This was before I bought my thermometer!)

What can we do about this? Heating and holding, for one. You can increase the viscosity of the lotion with a gum or gel, although this really is a pain in the bum. You can ensure you have a good emulsification system. And remember to mix well.

I use a hand mixer for personal sized batches of lotions and a stand mixer (love my Kitchenaid!!!) for larger batches. You can also use a stick blender for smaller batchers, and a paint mixer attachment on a drill for huge ones. This is all about mechanical emulsification - again, we need to make the oil and water want to stay together, and mixing is a huge part of that. I mix quite a bit when we add the two phases together, I mix when the temperature drops a little, and I mix when I add the cool down ingredients (fragrance oil, preservative, and so on).

How to mix? LabRat recommended mixing until the lotion reaches 25C to 28C. I'm going to be honest, I don't do that when I'm using a hand mixer. It really is a lot of work and I don't have an hour to stand there holding a mixer! (I know, I know, I should but, I have so many things I want to make and so little time). If you have a stand mixer, put it on a low setting and let it run, checking the temperature periodically so you know when to add the cool down ingredients. If you're using a hand mixer, really it's your call. I find it works for me in the way I described above, but it isn't the best manufacturing practice you can do.

FLOCCULATION (my new favourite word! Try to use it in conversation!)
A process by which 2 or more droplets aggregate to form even larger drops (bigger than 2 mm!) This can promote sedimentation and creaming at a faster rate. The rate at which droplets aggregate is affected by the pH and ionic strength of the aqueous environment (meaning, it's about the water phase, not the oil phase). The floc (the joined droplets) float to the top and create the creaming effect.

This can also be caused by a too large oil phase coupled with a level of emulsifier that can't handle it. If you're using Polawax or e-wax, make sure your emulsifier level is 25% of your oil phase. Use a co-emulsifier or thickener like stearic acid or cetyl alcohol. If you continue to see this, use another emulsifier. I used to use general e-wax but switched to Polawax due to flocculation. I did try a number of things to get the e-wax to work, even increasing the amount to way more than I liked, resulting in a grippy lotion, and I finally decided to go back to Polawax despite the increased price.

When one droplet engulfs another, creating a larger droplet. This differs from the other forms of lotion failure because it's not so much about the collision of droplets as above. (I think of this one as one droplet eating another - a violent act - whereas the others are about droplets coming together and not wanting to be separated - an affectionate act.)

What can be done? Again, all the stuff mentioned above.

Lotions can go wrong for myriad reasons, but we can control most of them. Just remember lotions are formed through chemical, mechanical, and heat emulsification.

Chemical emulsification: Ensure you are using a good emulsification system at the right levels.

Mechanical emulsification: Mixing! Get a good mixer you feel comfortable holding for a while. Or treat yourself to a nice Kitchenaid mixer. Get a bowl and paddle for use exclusively for your bath and body products.

Heating: Always heat and hold at 70C for 20 minutes. Get your phases to the same temperature. Buy a nice candy thermometer (a bargain at $10 or less!) and check the temperatures regularly.

Measure your ingredients: Always go for weighted measurements instead of volume. Get a good scale - they're not expensive at $40 for a digital scale that weighs to 1.0 grams (and if you're really into making lotions, get one that goes to 0.1 grams. Good for mineral make-up as well!)

Know your ingredients: Knowing how to alter your emulsifier or which thickener to add will help you modify recipes properly.

A pH meter would be nice, but they're not cheap and are only good for one thing (whereas your scale is useful for so many things!) I know I have one on my Christmas list!

Join me tomorrow for fun with phase inversion!


Petra said...

I have never thought of using a stand mixer for lotions. Which attachement would you remcommend? the flat beater? wire whisk?

I have usually used my stick blender, but I find that I create a "foamy" lotion that settles and then looks less than full.

Also, I shear speed necessary or just good mixing?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Petra. I use the flat beater for lotions, the whisk for things like sugar scrub or body mousse when I want some serious aeration. I am not a fan of the stick blender because of that foaminess!

I find mixing the lotion on 1 with my hand mixer (it's a really powerful hand mixer - Black & Decker 250 watts) or low with the stand mixer is more than enough to get it incorporated. If it's starting to spray everywhere, you have it too high!

Mich said...

FLOCCULATION--oh, that's a good one!

Scene: Ladies Salad Luncheon

Mich: "Excuse me, Edna, I think your dressing is flocculating."
Edna: (Aghast) "I beg your pardon!"
Gladys: (Shocked) "I can't believe she uses that sort of language. In polite company, no less!"

(Mich is escorted out of the luncheon by Agnes and Florence. Once out of sight, Mich does happy dance.)

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Ha ha ha! And this is why you're awesome, Mich! I've been using "defenestrate" as my word of the week and have quite enjoyed it. On to "flocculation"!

Aesthete said...

Hi Susan, this is probably a dumb question. Usually if I get separation, it's always a small amount of the water phase. Is there a particular explanation for that or did I miss it? I could just be terrible at making lotion :-(

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Aesthete - there are no dumb questions!!! Can you give me a little more information? Is the water separating at the bottom of the container or oils floating to the top? Are you getting a really creamy top bit with a watery bit at the bottom of the container? Or is there water on the top?

Which emulsifier are you using? And which preservative? Let me know and I'll try to answer what I can!

Aesthete said...

I'm using Polawax and Geogard 111s Inci: sodium dehydroacetate. The water usually separates at the top, the rest seems to stay intact. This is what I'm working with:
1% Lecithin
2% behenyl alcohol
5% polawax
9% Jojoba & avocado oil combo
75% H2O
2% sodium lactate
1% Lactic acid
.5% silk protien
.5% allontoin
.5% pathenol
1% Hydroxypropyl starch phosphate
1% vitamin e
.5% dimethicone
.5% Lavender EO
.5% preservative
I really love this face blend and have tried some of the other suggestions to fix it. just can't seem to get there....

Magia said...


One of my lotions is fine in the pot- looks beautifully emulsified and creamy. Then you put it on the skin.

If you glide it on and leave it, it seems ok, but if you rub it in or try to massage it in, it forms into little solid(ish) curled up bits- like when you have sweaty skin and you rub it.

Any idea what might cause this, or how to remedy it please?

The recipe is based on one of yours and is the following:

53.5% rose water/water
5% aloe vera
2% guar
1% silk protein
1% hydrolyzed wheat protein

7% Incroquat BTMS
3% Honeyquat
12-15% butters
2% Coconut Oil
1% Jojoba Oil
3% cetyl alcohol

3% panthenol
2% glycerine
3% cyclomethicone
1% essential oils
0.5% to 1% preservative

The Fawn said...

Hello Susan,
I have been reading your blog here for a while now.
I am new to lotion making and after my 8 failure out of 10 tries record...I am hoping you could help finding out what I am doing wrong for a good emulsifying system.
I use a 25% polawax for the oil phase, heat both water phase and oil phase to at least 70 C for at least longer than 20 min. Then I mix at least 3 minutes with hand mixer at each additions.
Yet, the next morning I always have sedimentation with the foamy cream oils floating at the top while the milky liquid is on bottom.
Here is one of my recipes:
Heated water phase:
Water - 50% + 11% (taken out for cool down phase)
aloe vera juice - 10%
glycerin - 3%
silk peptide powder - 05%
Heated Oil Phase
shea buter - 5%
avocado oil - 4%
hemp seed oil - 4%
castor oil - 1%
polawax - 4%

Cool Down Phase
Pantehnol 2%
cromoist 2%
green tea extract 1%
EO - 1.5%
LGP - 0.5%

I had a great success with the basic lotion recipe you posted here
Yet there must be something I am doing wrong most of the time....

PS. I know it's a really long post.
Thank you for just reading it!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Fawn. I have few thoughts...

1. Try mixing it for longer.

2. I wonder if the green tea is causing destabilization? I'd suggest removing it for at least one batch to see if this is the problem.

3. Are you adding the heated oil phase to the heated water phase or the heated water phase to the heated oil phase? It's a better idea to add the water phase to the oil phase.

4. Are you using Polawax or e-wax?

Let me know!

The Fawn said...

Thank you for the suggestions!
I will be doing another test without the extracts and mixing longer.

answers to 3 & 4:
Yes I doing add the water phase into the oil phase.

I believe I am using polawax unless my supplier made a mistake.

I will let you know how it turns out.

The Fawn said...

Hi Susan,

it turns out that eliminating the green tea extracts--> still leads to failure of emulsification.

I tried again yesterday, this time I took out aloe vera, silk peptide, cromoist, panthenol, and extracts.
And it WORKED! So the only extra to the basic recipe here is glycerin, and it worked. (which logically it should in the first place....)

So I now think there's nothing wrong with my mixing procedures......and I should go on to try adding one variable at a time and find out exactly which one is ruining the system.

I will let you know when I find out the trouble maker, lol!

Kathy said...

To The Fawn - I have been experiencing the same separation and grainy-ness in my lotions recently. I heat and hold and mix, etc. etc. like you do, yet the lotions are still separating. I use Polawax at 25%. I made 8 lotion items this week and all failed, and I'm not sure why. The two ingredients that you took out are the same ones I use, Panthenol and Aloe. I'm wondering if these are the culprit. Did you ever go on and take out one at a time? I would like to know if you have discovered why the separation. Thanks, Kathy

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

I'd love to hear your results, The Fawn and Kathy, because I've been using those ingredients for years and haven't had any issues with the lotions. Nor have I had a lot of people write to me to tell me that they've had issues with the recipes I've written - In general, someone will write to me with issues, I make a few suggestions, and it works the next time.

I use BTMS-50, Polawax (not e-wax, but the brand name stuff), and Natramulse as emulsifiers, and I haven't had any issues with those emulsifiers with those ingredients.

Obviously I use those ingredients as I'm the one writing the recipes! It's obvious morning, apparently! Ha ha ha!

The Fawn said...

To both Kathy & Susan,

I actually did go through many of the ingredients, by using the most basic lotion recipe and testing one additional ingredients at a time.

It turns out that aloe vera juice is safe. LOL, like it should be.

as for sodium innocent too! :D

I have had 2 successes this week and I am currently convinced that it was the procedure.

Meaning " I have NOT been mixing my oil phase carefully".

In fact since by the time that the oil phase reaches 70 degrees, it is usually all melted and seems to be a homogenous mixture.
I believe I have neglected to physically mix the oil phase thoroughly while it is melting in the water bath.

Then again, maybe my next attempt will separate again (oh, please don't let that happen..), but I have convinced myself that 17 failures are not enough to defeat my spirit as a scientist.....(this is said with bitterness)

BeeFarm said...

M attempt t making lotion appeared to be great...looks good..good consistency and color. But, when I put the lotion on my skin and rub it in, it get very slippery as if I'm rubbing water on my skin. If I keep rubbing, the watery portion goes away and I'm left with the buttery/greasy lotion that goes into the skin. It stays for a long time and feels great. It's that watery part that's unnatural.

What's causing that??? Weird.

The Fawn said...

Hello again,

so since I last commented, I have tried lotion making another 6 times or so.

So far my results are okay... with the body lotions - about 80% success rate.

But I am still failing with the facial lotions. They ALWAYS separate! Sigh*
I thought it was the increased water phase % and decided to add a bit more polawax - which did not help.

I am quite sure that I am mixing enough now, since I stand there with my mixer during the heating phase and for 20+ min after I pour the water phase into the oil phase.

So I am still failing hopelessly.

To Susan & Kathy: any advice would be greatly appreciated ;)

To Beefarm: I know exactly what you are talking about!!! I once bought a premade lotion base from a supplier and it did exactly that.
It made me very annoyed but....I don't know what causes that either.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

To everyone...I hope I didn't sound arrogant when I made this comment - because I've been using those ingredients for years and haven't had any issues with the lotions. Nor have I had a lot of people write to me to tell me that they've had issues with the recipes I've written - In general, someone will write to me with issues, I make a few suggestions, and it works the next time. Re-reading it, I feel like I sound really arrogant - my recipes always work, thank you very much! - and that was not my intention!

Hi BeeFarm. I think you have a lotion that's kind of separated, so when you rub it on your skin, you're seeing the oil phase and water phase fall apart. That's the only explanation that makes sense to me.

Hi Kathy! Any news on the lotion making front? How have your last batches worked out?

Hi The Fawn. I'm sorry it isn't working out for you - I wish there was something more I could offer, but short of coming to your house and seeing what you're doing when you're making lotions, I'm not sure what else to offer!

Wait a second...something just hit me! Are you adding 11% water to the cool down phase? What temperature is the water? And you're mixing for 3 minutes when you add it? May I suggest reducing the amount of water you're adding - to make those extracts dissolve, you don't need 11 grams or more of water - and checking the temperature? I'm not saying this is the culprit, but it might be one of the problems!

Here are a few more ideas...
Try adding the oil phase to the water phase and see if that helps. Try adding a thickener to the mix - something like cetyl alcohol or stearic acid - and see if that helps. Try adding a co-emulsifier - lecithin, or another emulsifier, like BTMS-50, in small amounts.

I'm sorry I can't be more helpful...

The Fawn said...

Hi Susan,

sorry for the late reply, I've been quite occupied and away from my computer.

But I assure you I did not find you arrogant sounding :)
I am just very thankful that you've attempted to help me so many times already!
I love your blog and it's so kind of you to share your knowledge of lotion making with us already.

Now, I have actually tried to decrease the cool down phase to as low as 1.5% ( EO + LGP).
And I am also trying with the thickener cetyl alcohol.
I am currently tweaking my temperatures. And I will try the oil into water phase next time!

mamirican said...

Wow! I was really excited about starting to make my own lotions but I don't know now, seeing that there are so many things that can go wrong. I think I better educate myself more on the subject. by the way I love your blog and your sense of humor.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Mamirican! It's funny you write this because I've been spending the month of January convincing new lotion makers not to be scared of making lotions! Here's a post I wrote on how to trouble shoot a lotion fail and here's the start of Newbie Tuesday! Please read this post on how to avoid mistakes because I really don't want you reading more and more and more until you get intimidated. Get out there and make a lotion. (Yes, you might make a mistake, but you'll learn from it. And you probably won't if you follow the directions properly!)

Aesthete said...

OMG Susan, I'm going nuts! I've been trying to figure out why this lotion is failing, have tried to make it a few times. PH is fine, heated and held, mixed at same temperatures, using polawax at 25%. I think if I knew what kind of failure it is it might be easier to figure it out. Can you please look at this and tell me what you think??

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan - ok...why do we have to call it an EPIC fail, first of all? I'm feeling like an EPIC loser right now! arGH! My oil and water phases are having separation anxiety issues...I have the dreaded slight oil slick on top of an otherwised behaved batch...I haven't incorporated any preservative yet, so I'm about some more heat and stick blending?
I used your wonderful light lotion recipe with the 80% water phase and FCO and AKO as my oils and BTMS as my emulsifer....
thanks, Merilyn

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...My recipe is VERY basic and I LOVE it but it seperates a little every time I use it. I make a small batch and divide it up for me and my daughters to use within the month. I don't put a perservative in it b/c it is a small batch and we use it quicly and I haven't had any problems so far (been using this recipe since this past summer, 2012.

Basic Lotion Recipe;

3/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup distilled water
2 Tbsp bees wax, shaved
30 drops Lavendar EO

1) Sterilize tools
2) Add distilled water in Blender, set aside.
3) Add oil in a glass measuring cup.
4) Add bees wax to oil
5) Heat glass measuring cup in a pot with water to create a dbl broiler.
6) When the bees wax is melted remove the glass measuring cup from dbl broiler and let sit for 2 mins.
7) Turn on the blender (with the water already in it) and slowly pour the oil in creating an emulsion. Once oil and water is combined add in the Lavendar EO and blend.

So what am I doing wrong?

Thanks, Lynn

Lynn Waugh said...

Anonymous said...
Hmmm...My recipe is VERY basic and I LOVE it but it seperates a little every time I use it. I make a small batch and divide it up for me and my daughters to use within the month. I don't put a perservative in it b/c it is a small batch and we use it quicly and I haven't had any problems so far (been using this recipe since this past summer, 2012.

Basic Lotion Recipe;

3/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup distilled water
2 Tbsp bees wax, shaved
30 drops Lavendar EO

1) Sterilize tools
2) Add distilled water in Blender, set aside.
3) Add oil in a glass measuring cup.
4) Add bees wax to oil
5) Heat glass measuring cup in a pot with water to create a dbl broiler.
6) When the bees wax is melted remove the glass measuring cup from dbl broiler and let sit for 2 mins.
7) Turn on the blender (with the water already in it) and slowly pour the oil in creating an emulsion. Once oil and water is combined add in the Lavendar EO and blend.

So what am I doing wrong?

Thanks, Lynn

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Lyn. Beeswax isn't an emulsifier, so the only emulsification you might see will come from the heat and mixing, which means it will separate every single time. You cannot violate the laws of chemistry - beeswax is not an emulsifier. The only emulsification you get is because you mixed it well or heated it well. Beeswax possesses no emulsifying properties on its own. Combined with borax, it can create an emulsification system, but it does not emulsify without it.

Click here for a longer post on the topic of beeswax NOT being an emulsifier!

I can see three other issues with your recipe - it is in volume, not weight, so it's not that accurate, and this is 50% water lotion, so it's not sure if it's a water-in-oil or an oil-in-water recipe. And you need to heat and hold, not just heat until something is melted.

This may sound harsh, but this is a really terrible recipe. There are so many lovely anhydrous - water free recipes - and lotion recipes out there you could make, I really suggest you find one of those and put this one aside. On this blog, take a look at lotion bars or whipped butters or click on the label "anhydrous". (I suggest the anhydrous products as you don't want to use preservatives, and it's a terrible idea to make a water containing product without preservatives.) There really are some great recipes out there, but this one really isn't one of them.

Let me know if I can be of some help again!

welly said...

HI Susan, I tried to make a very light lotion, after the mixing of the oil and water phase, all is good until I add in the essential oils.. I just would not disperse well, and leave a layer on top. What do you think went wrong?

my formula is;
aloevera 200x 0.01%
aqua 93.77%
essential oil 1.2%
neodefend 1%
ecomulse 2%
kukui nut oil 2%
rosemary oleosin 0.02%

Thank you for you help..

welly said...

sorry, forgot to info that it is supposed a "hair lotion", leave in conditioner.

Stevi K said...

I'm hoping I'll get some good insight here! I've been making lotion for about a year and had great success until recently. What's the change you may ask? Well, I've started incorporating Essential Oils. Adding a few drops previously for scent changed nothing. Adding upwards of 2+ tsp to 2+ Tbsp (for therapeutic use) is causing separation and I'm not sure how to treat the essential oil: as an oil or a water? It acts like an oil but evaporates like a water so I'm not sure which way to skew the other ingredients to create a stable lotion again. Help!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Stevi. Can you please post your exact recipe by weight or percentage - not volume as that just isn't accurate - and your exact process. Essential oils are oil based and if you've added a significant amount, you need to modify the amount of emulsifier you use. Be very aware that even a 1% change in oils an result in lotion fail!

Stevi K said...

I measure by volume so I'll try to flip it... before adding essential oils:

50% water (1 cup)
37.5% oils (3/4 cup)
12.5% beeswax (1/4 cup)

When we added the EOs (77 drops) to 1/2 of the above batch by the next morning it was starting to separate.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Stevi. Beeswax isn't an emulsifier, so this recipe can't work. If you are achieving success, it's because you're heating and mixing the recipe. What preservative are you using? You have to preserve the product if it has water in it.

May I suggest a visit to the FAQ for a few pointers in making lotions, using preservatives, emulsifiers, and more? I think there is a lot that might interest you there!

As a note, we use essential oils at 1%. At 30 ml to 500 ml, you are way over the safe usage rate!!!

Stevi K said...

It's working just fine, thanks. I use room temp water, hot oils, and no preservative. I've never had an issue until adding the EOs which is causing the separation. I've had this on my nightstand for up to 3 months and never had an issue.

Has anyone here every used Medicinal or Therapeutic amounts of essential oils in their homemade lotions? Thanks.

Stevi K said...

Nevermind, just found a ratio on an Australian site.
For those who might be interested they say, no more than 20 drops to 50 grams (or 1.8 oz). So for my 77 drops I should have had almost 1/2 again as much lotion! Now I know.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

I can't stress enough taking a look at the basic lotion making instructions to achieve a strong emulsion. I also can't stress enough using weighted measurements for your products as you don't have 37.5% oils in this recipe because of the specific gravity of the oils. In order to use things like essential oils safely, we need to know the exact amounts by weight and percentage of the product.

I don't understand. You said the recipe isn't working, you said that it separated. Isn't that why you posted your comment? I've offered you ideas on why it isn't working and what you can do to fix it.

Stevi K said...

I'm sorry if I wasn't clear. I wasn't asking for input on how to make lotion. I was asking for input on adding essential oils in Therapeutic (LARGE) amounts. I wanted to know if anyone was using them and if so which way they skew their recipe's water/oil ratio for best results. None of the recipes I've found utilize Therapeutic amounts (much larger than the suggested 1%).

Since essential oils are not oils as we think of them, such as we use in our lotions, I wanted to know if they add it as an oil or a water. For now I'll be adding less water with the amount of EOs I'm adding and see how that rolls.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Sorry, when you asked for help making a stable recipe in a post about lotion fails, it really looked like you were asking for help with a recipe that didn't work. Your subsequent posting of the recipe shows that it isn't a recipe that doesn't work, which further solidified this thought for me. (Not just my opinion but based on chrmistry.) I apologize for trying to help when you didn't ask for it.

Essential oils are oils. They are oil soluble ingredients, so they are calculated as part of the oil phase. I'm not sure where you got the idea that they are treated as a water as they are non-polar and oil soluble. Wherever you read that information is, unfortunately, wrong.

Please don't share your lotion with anyone else if you aren't using a preservative. It has a life span of a day or two without proper preservation. Vitamin E isn't a preservative, nor is citric acid or GSE. Please be safe when you're making products. It's such a pity when someone is injured by an unpreserved product, and it only takes a quick Google search to see the problems smi preserved lotion can cause. Not seeing contamination doesn't mean it isn't there. (You mention the version on your night stand looks find, but I would love to see you get it tested!) As we say in science, absence of evidence isn't evidence!

Havie fun making your products!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

As a quick note, I did answer your question about how to modify your recipes in the first comment I made.

Sherry said...

I'm very excited that my new recipe of lotion came together perfectly. I didn't realize until the second batch that the water heats up way slower than the oil, so I started the water and got that up to 170* then got the oils up to that degree. It was a little tricky getting the oils the same temp before merging them. Is there a trick that I should know? I did use the stick blender for the allotted three minutes and then let it set for a half hour before blending with a whisk. I whisked it about every 45 minutes until it cooled. Everyone has been so helpful and all the questions helped to make my lotion making experience a great one.

Anonymous said...

STEVIE K - Essential Oil usage should NEVER exceed 3-6% of your total formula. That is therapeautic usage...It's the oils themselves that have the therapeautic benefit..using MORE because you want to make it stronger just isn't safe! It might help you to do some additional research on the usage of essential oils.

Lise said...

Stevi's 77 drops was a huge clue that the recipe being used was homeopathy pseudoscience, so it was very odd that he/she came here for any help. No offense, but the natural people making unsafe therapeutic lotions and such are probably not worth your time to answer. I've never been able to change anyone's mind or get them to read any sort of chemistry.

Tiffany (Younique2011) R. said...

Can you fix lotion/hair conditioner if you mess up more than once? I bought tons of books and none of them mentioned letting the liquid and oil phase heat up to 160 degrees F to emulsify it together. The first time I made this batch the liquid and oil was not the same degrees. Plus it was too watery. I keep mixing my preservative (cosmocil cq) with the water phase because it's water soluble. Doing that increases my liquid phase. After reading blogs, I realized I should wait until the lotion cools down before I add any additives. Anyway, I mixed both phases together, later saw it separated. So then next day working with this same batch, I ended up heating the liquid again (I didn't let it get hot). I mixed another 8oz of oil with btms 50 emulsifier. Because the liquid and oil wasn't the same temperature. Did research and that's when learned that the water and oil phase has to be the same temperature. The third day working with the same batch I added a tiny bit of oil (less than one ounce) and mixed it with a tiny bit of btms 50 (at least 9) and soy lecithin (possibly 2 teaspoons). The liquid and oil wasn't 160- had issues with that but I let them both get to 120 degrees f. The lotion still separates. Now that I know my mistakes, can I fix it? Or should I throw it away??? Please help me.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Tiffany. No, you shouldn't heat it more than once as you will mess with the less heat tolerant ingredients, like preservative and additives.

I encourage you to visit the hair care section of the blog for more conditioner recipes - tons, in fact! - that I know will work if you follow the general conditioning making instructions. I also encourage you to check out my conditioner making tutorial and the newbie tutorial.

Nenica said...

Hello Susan,

I keep and keep reading your blog to find new interesting info every day... So I decided to make a recipe and everything turns out really well until the very very end when the lotion becomes foamy. There is no oil and water separation as far as I can tell, however it has that foaminess/bubbly feel throughout. I feel like it is a mousse more than a cream. So the recipe is, for 1 kg

1. 60g stearic acid
2. 25 g cetearyl alcohol
3. 10 g triethanolamine (TEA)
4. 125 g grapeseed oil
5. 4 g of phenova (preservant which I add at the end when the lotion is cool and finished)
6. 1,125 ml distilled water (which I previously make an infusion of rosemary, lemon verbena and something called guayusa)

So I heat the #1,2,4. I heat apart #6. I mix them at about the same temperature, then when it starts cooling off I add the TEA.
Am I adding the TEA too late? should I add it when I am heating the water?? Also, I whisked it a whole lot... lol... perhaps I made the mistake there!!
Am I using too too much water?? I was really trying to make a lotion which would not feel that oily in the skin so I added more water (before I was making it with 750ml but it was too creamy). My issue is that in my country (Ecuador) we cannot find olivem 1000, polawax, etc. Si emulsifying it with those 3 things seemed appropriate!!! Finally, now that I have the foamy top. Is there a way to fix it??

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Nenica! I'm afraid I can't really work with this recipe if it isn't in percentages. It seems like there is a lot of water and not a lot of anything else. Light lotions tend to get foamy, but my understanding is that because you are creating a soap with these two emulsifiers, you'll see a lot of foam! Try mixing it less or at a lower speed. I'm afraid I really have no other suggestions.

Beth said...

Hi Susan,
I've been working on making a good lotion for about two weeks now using the recipe: 66% distilled water, 7% goat milk, 5% shea butter, 7% sweet almond oil, 4% avocado oil, 5% emulsifying wax, 4% stearic acid and .82% phenonip. Iv noticed that when I pour it in the bottle, every so often, it seems that the lotion is thin and watery on the bottom and thicker on top. What could cause this? I poor it still hot into the bottles so I wondered if I should be letting it cool a bit first? Thanks for your help!

Natasha Guadalupe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Natasha. I'm afraid I can't really offer any support here without knowing the percentages and the exact process you followed (for instance, how did you mix, how long, etc.). I cannot stress enough how important it is to weigh our ingredients instead of using volume measurements. It means that every time you make this product, it's going to be a bit different than last time. That lack of consistency leads to fails and problems. (If you want to know more about why we weigh things, check out the FAQ!)

As an aside, this isn't a lotion. A lotion is a product in which oil and water are brought together by an emulsifier. You aren't using water or an emulsifier, so this is more of a balm or other anhydrous or non-water containing product.

Why didn't it work? Sorry, I have no idea. Normally you could just heat this up and combine them and see success, but you've tried that and it didn't work. Are you sure you don't have water in this product?

Vidyut said...

Best thing for me from this post was discovering that I'm not the only person who has to do loads of mistakes before nailing something. :D

At one point a friend had commented that I should just go and buy a lotion after researching ingredients. But where was the fun in that? Then he said hiring a chemist to handhold me through would be cheaper than all the wasted batches. But where is the fun in that....

Though on serious note, things I make loads of mistakes on are things I am able to make best later. I suppose I've already discovered all the wrong ways to do them :D

D Saumure said...

Hi Susan. I have a quick question. I finished making a lotion this morning and it has clear white layer on the bottom, After reviewing my recipe I noticed I only had 4.13% emulsifying wax (recommended usage is 5 to 10%). My question is this - can I reheat and add the additional wax (the preservative I used was optiphen plus which can be added pre or post emulsification as its good up to 80 degrees C)? Will with Vit E survive the reheat? Cool down ingredients were Vit E, fragrance and that's where I added my preservative. Thanks


D Saumure said...

Sorry emulsifying wax was only 3.66% - recipe is:
79.81 % water
5.65% almond oil
2.99% hi oleic sunflower oil
1.66% fractionated coconut oil
1.66% ricebran oil
1.66% cetyl alcohol NF
3.66% emulsifying wax
0.67% glycerin
0.24% vit E
1.00% optiphen plus
1.00% fragrance

lc said...

Hi Susan!

I love your blog and am so glad you're providing such a fantastic resource for those of us getting into making cosmetics... I have a question based on a body way recipe I made today. My ingredients are as follows:

Weight % For 240 g /8.5 oz

Phase A
Distilled Water (diluent) 23.3 % 56 g / 2 oz
Glycerin (humectant) 15 % 36 g / 1.3 oz
Xanthan Gum (thickener) 1 % 2.4 g / 0.1 oz

Phase B
Alpha Olefin Sulfonate (cleansing agent) 15 % 36 g / 1.3 oz
Coco Betaine (cleansing agent) 8 % 19.2 g / 0.7 oz
Sulfosuccinate (cleansing agent) 5 % 12 g / 0.43 oz
Glycol Stearate IP (pearlizer) 2 % 4.8 g / 0.2 oz
PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate (emulsifier/emollient)1 % 2.4 g / 0.1 oz

Phase C
Almond Oil (emollient) 12 % 29 g / 1.0 oz
Grapeseed Oil (emollient) 11 % 26 g / 0.9 oz (Just used almond oil in it's place)
Cetyl Alcohol (thickener/softener) 2 % 4.8 g / 0.2 oz
Stearic Acid (emulsifier) 2 % 4.8 g / 0.2 oz

Phase D
Preservative- Leucidal liquid SF, AMTicide Coco 2%
.75 ml fragrance

Add phase A into a disinfected glass beaker, sprinkle the xanthan gum into the water and mix well. Combine phase B in another beaker and heat to 150F/65 to melt the glycol stearate IP. Add phase A to phase B and stir gently to mix all ingredients. Add phase C to a separate beaker and heat also to 150F/65C to melt the ingredients. Add phase C to the still hot phase A/B and stir until it is a homogenous solution. Remove from the heat. Cool to 100oF/40oC and add phase D to phase A/B/C, stir again.

I followed the instructions exactly, except my thermometer broke so I did not measure temperatures just boling water in double boilers. I had no issues with separation but the consistency is very gloopy sticks to itself and creates long strings... Please help what I can do to get a creamier less gloopy body wash??? Thanks so much Susan and insights you have to offer are much appreciated!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi lc. What instructions did you follow? This isn't a recipe I would write, so I'm wondering if you might not want to talk to the original recipe writer for more information as I don't have time to troubleshoot other people's recipes.

If you created it, I'm wondering what you were thinking and how you came up with this? Are you trying to make a body wash or a lotion? You don't have an emulsifier in here, so it can't be a lotion, but it can't be a body wash as you've added all these oils and such. I think you might want to pare back to the basics - surfactants, water, preservative - and take a look at what you really need in here.

As a request, in the future, could you find more appropriate posts on which to leave comments? This is about lotions going wrong, and you're asking about a body wash. This means that really only you will see the comments as no one looking for body washes going wrong will think to look here. Thanks!