Saturday, July 10, 2010

Back to basics: Lotion bars - the basic recipe!

Consider the lotion bar. Easy to make, easy to tweak, and easy to carry around in your purse or pocket. We can make them as simple or as complicated as we wish. We can wrap them in foil or cellophane, package them in adorable tins, or put them in lip balm or deodorant containers. I love lotion bars for the summer months - take them to the beach or camping in a twist up container, and you've got a great lotion that won't accidentally get squished or get all over the place!

This recipe is rated E for everyone, but is especially great for beginners, those who don't wish to use preservatives, or those who are seeking an all natural product. The shelf life of this product is dependent upon the shelf life of your oil.

For this recipe you will require a mould of some sort or some lip balm tubes, lip balm pots, slider tins, or deodorant containers. (These must be new and clean. Please do not re-use containers for these types of projects.)

33% beeswax
33% hard butter
34% liquid oils

32% beeswax
33% hard butter
33% liquid oils
1% fragrance or essential oil
1% Vitamin E

Weigh the beeswax, hard butter, and liquid oils into a heatproof container and place into your double boiler. Heat until the solids have melted. Remove from the heat and add the Vitamin E and fragrance or essential oils (optional). Mix well, then pour into your mould or container and let sit until hardened. You can move the mould carefully to the fridge or freezer and let set.

If you are using a lip balm or deodorant type container, make sure it is twisted all the way down so you are getting maximum depth in the container. You may get the dent you see in the picture - you can add more to the container as the lotion bar hardens to avoid the dent (my dent is really enhanced by the fact that when I made this lip balm I moved it and slopped the mixture everywhere - try not to move your mould or container too much once you've poured it!).

As a note, if you are making lotion bars in lip balm containers, a 100 gram batch will make about 10 or more, depending upon the size of your container. Feel free to modify this recipe to be 1/3 of the original recipe - say 10 grams of beeswax, 10 grams of your butter, 10 grams of your liquid oil, with 0.3 grams fragrance oil or about 0.3 to 0.4 ml or so. This is a good batch size to try, especially if you're using some exotic oils like babassu or evening primrose oil and don't have a large amount with which to experiment!

The lip balm containers I buy tend to be 7.5 ml. If I make a 100 gram lotion bar recipe, I generally end up with something like 90 ml to 100 ml of oils, which will make 10 to 13 lip bam tubes! If you don't want that much, then you'll want to reduce the recipe amount! 

Lotion bar recipes refrigerate and freeze very well, so they store well if you make too much or get interrupted when you're in creation mode! You can store them in a container, or pour them into a mould and unmould them into a freezer appropriate bag. Make sure you label them well!

I hate looking into the fridge or freezer and asking myself, "Lotion bar, scrub bar base, lip balm?" and then having to throw the container away when I have no idea! Hey, there's an idea for a game show!

As with the whipped butters, you can make huge modifications to your bar based upon the type of butter and oil you choose. If you choose something like cocoa butter, you'll have a harder bar. Choose something like shea butter, and you'll have a softer bar.

Lotion bars are difficult to mess up - if you don't like the way they feel, just melt them down again, add a little more of something, then re-mould. If you find they are too hard, add a little more oil or butter. If they are too soft, add a little more beeswax. If they are not fragrant enough, add a little more scent. If you have fragranced the bar, you might want to melt them lightly as the fragrance can be heat sensitive!

This is a picture of my favourite mould. It's a chocolate mould for making peppermint patties - it cost about $3.50, and each one is about 10 grams. It's perfect for tester sizes or small tin sized bars. Because the bars are so small, they cool quickly in the freezer so I can see if I like the recipe in a few minutes instead of waiting an hour of so! 

Have fun coming up with your own oil and butter combinations, and feel free to share those you love in the comments section! I'll be sharing a few of my favourite combinations in the next few days, but join me tomorrow for modifying the wax amount!


Birgit Biehl said...

I love all your posts and I will be playing with body butters tomorrow. I would like to know if you have ever formulated a 'creamy massage lotion'?? I checked on your blog, but didn't find anything. Would the spray lotion formula lend itself for this purpose? Could it be tweaked? Let me know your thoughts!

Lissa said...

Susan - years ago I lost my "lip Balm" beaker so pulled an old esspresso carafe out and Voila a perfect lip balm pour (er). The lip on the carafe is tiny and lends itself to pouring into a small lip blam tube. I much better control over my product.
Thanks again for your wonderful blog!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Birgit. I made a massage lotion at one of the first classes I took at Voyageur, but I can't post the recipe here as it isn't mine. I do remember it was a lotion and we used Polawax and cetyl alcohol, and there was quite a bit of dimethicone as the emollient.

Making massage lotions is a personal thing - I know massage therapists like to have some grip to their lotions, whereas we at home want to have some serious slip - so it's hard to make a suggestion.

I would suggest using any lotion recipe with some greasy oils, no butters, and some dimethicone and see how you like that. Humectants like glycerin aren't necessary (and can make it feel a little grippier) so I think you'd want to start with a 70% water recipe and don't use BTMS because it's too dry.

Sorry I couldn't be more helpful!

Denny1600 said...

Susan: Thanks for your great website and all that you share! I don't know much about lotion bars. How do you use them?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Denny1600! I think it depends on how you want to use a lotion bar. In general, just rub them on the place you want to moisturize, then rub it in some more with your hand. I also use them when I get out of the shower to trap in moisture!

Denny1600 said...

Susan: Thanks so much! I'll have to add this to my list of things I want to try. All of this is so addicting!

Cindy said...

Hi I am new at this lotion bar thing. i made some and it is seperating.... Beeswax, Shea butter, Coco butter, Almond oil, I thought i would be clever(not) and added lotion base. Now it hardens but there is a goo on the bottom of mold. and a liquid. HELP PLEASE. I have re done several times and added more wax to no available


Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Cindy! Does your lotion base contain water?

VinAlly said...

I love the idea of a lotion bar for two reasons. One, great for carry on as it's not a liquid. The TSA should be OK with a lotion bar, I should think. Two, for those of us who need to be careful of our ingredients for medical reasons. Looking forward to trying this one day.

Elizabeth Aqui-Seto said...

Perfumed Lotion Bar
Susan, I recently made this lotion bar recipe which I'm using as a sort of Deodorant Bar. I know that I must have arrived at the formula, using some of your suggestions. But I can't locate the original recipe on the blog. Can you help me locate the original recipe? Here's what I used, and my comments:

20% wax (10% beeswax; 10% candelilla)
30% butter (15% shea; 15% cocoa)
39% fractionated coconut oil
10% fragrance (I used EOs: clove bud, peppermint, blood orange, grapefruit, ylang ylang)
1% vit. E.

Notes: The ingredients melted beautifully and set in a nice solid Initially I found the bar too greasy but once I used my fingers to more evenly distribute and rub into my underarms, this worked fine.

Next time round, I would love to revise the recipe to make it more creamy and less greasy, but still want a nice easy slip when applying. Perhaps I should add some stearic acid to the wax. In which case, I need to figure how much stearic acid to use? And perhaps use mango instead of shea butter?

Thank you.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Elizabeth! Please write to me at and let me know which e-book you want. Thanks for the review!

cest cheese said...

I'm having fun with several of your recipes, though I must confess, I'm not as exacting in my calculations as I need to be. I am still learning about what works with what, and how each product alone is designed to work.

At any rate, my latest attempt at a lotion bar/stick turned out great. I like the slightly honey/lavender scent from the yellow beeswax I used. The bright pea-green color is kind of fun too.

I put it in in a 1 oz push-up container and use it as a heel softener. It's firm enough to stay solid in the container, but soft enough to glide over skin without leaving an oily film. Could work as a lip balm, I think, with a different essential oil. It's kept at room temp for a month now and still looks like new.

32% yellow bees wax
26% mango butter
20% castor oil
20% aloe vera oil
3% lavender essential oil
1% rosemary EOD
1% Liquid Germall Plus


Cynthia Scott said...


I decided that before I start using those expensive ingredients I mentioned before, that I would read some newbie stuff and I am enjoying it very much and find that I am now inspired to give lotion bars another go. I found the ones I made to be too hard and I found it to be somewhat clumsy to use them without a container like ones for deoderant for instance. I found it got slippery in my hand yet didn't go onto my skin so easily as my hands are generally warmer than say the skin on my arm. But with a container that rolls it on that would probably solve my issue. Hate to spend yet more money though lol. We'll see. I just wanted you to know that I find your posts to be exciting and interesting to the point of making me eager to try stuff I hadn't planned on doing. Boy am I ever going to be busy!! As the more I read the more I want to do this, that and the other!!!



Mona said...

Hi Susan, have you ever tried using a slow cooker instead of the double boiler method?
I am trying to figure out a way to move my lotion making out of the kitchen : )

Seaglass Soapworks said...

Hi Susan,
I know this is an old post, but if you know where you got that mold in the lotion bar picture, I would love to know.
Thank you,

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

There are no old posts, Dawn! I get notifications for every comment made!

That mold is a chocolate mold for making peppermint patties. I bought mine at Scoop & Save in Langley, B.C., but you should be able to find them on-line. I think they hold 15 grams to 30 grams - 1/2 ounce to 1 ounce - for each one. I love that mold so much!

Jay Hurley said...

Hi Susan

Firstly thank you for your wonderful blog ....don't ever stop! It is absolutely incredible that you freely give your time, knowledge and experience to the rest of the world. You are such an inspiration to us mere mortals so once again, thank you.

I live in SW France from where I make and sell my plant based soap, creams and lotions. I have a dedicated client base who are always expecting me to push the boundaries and produce new products. Increasingly, I am being asked to produce a solid deodorant bar as many of my clients want to do away with the associated waste that come with stick deodorants etc. I am currently testing 2 solid deodorants, one made with my own hand made sodium stearate combined with esters and so on (similar to your formulation No. 22 but with enhancements such as marshmallow root for added slip) and another with plant butters, waxes with plant additives.

It will be interesting to see what my group of product testers think and I'd be happy to share the outcome with you and seek your advice on improving the formula.

Bon soirée à tous
Jacqueline Hurley
Caylus, South West France

Moxie said...

Hi Susan,

I've been slowly working my way through your blog, and continue to be wow'd by the information.

I'm thinking about trying to make a mica, shimmer bar somewhere down the road, but are starting with a more simple process for now.

One of the questions I have - is I'm wanting to make a bar for a friend. I was thinking about going with shea for the butter, rice bran or avocado, and maybe some Babassu for the oil. But I'm stumped with the waxes. I know she goes to the gym from work, which means that sometimes she has her gym bag in the car.

I know cocoa butter would have a higher hardness as well - but I don't want the bar to be too hard in general.

Candilla wax seems to have a higher melting point, is that something I'd replace the beeswax with altogether? Or would I use it with the beeswax so it stays nice and creamy?

Any input is much appreciated!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Moxie! I think the only thing I can say is to try them. Candellia wax is draggy like beeswax, but I find it too draggy for my tastes, but you might like it. The thing with all of this is that you won't know until you make it!

Having said that, I've never had a lotion bar melt on me as the melting points tend to be pretty high, so consider putting it into something like a deodorant container so it's less likely to melt!

Just a few thoughts there!