If we're going to rejoice in the past, I thought this post needed repeating! If you are new to making lotions, please read this post as it covers all the different components you require to make an emulsified product stay emulsified and safe! This post is permanently housed in the frequently asked questions section of the blog - look to your right! And I'm sorry it's a day late. I didn't hit "publish" - I hit save!
WHAT DO WE NEED IN A LOTION? (Original post can be found here!)
For a lotion, you must have an emulsifier and it should be done at the proper ratio. If you see a recipe that contains less than 25% of the oil phase in emulsifier, it may not work. So if you have 20% oils and you have less than 5% emulsifiers, it may not work. Similarly, if you see a recipe that has 1/4 cup water, 1/4 cup oil, 1/4 cup emulsifier, you know there's way too much emulsifier and will feel pretty waxy.
Acceptable emulsifiers are emulsifying wax, Polawax, BTMS, and things like Natramulse, Sugarmulse, and combinations like glycol distearate and ceteareth-20 (check out the HLB system information for more). Unacceptable emulsifiers are beeswax (without borax), paraffin wax, or no emulsifiers at all. Beeswax with borax can act as a water in oil emulsifier; beeswax on its own will not act as an emulsifier.
If you have no emulsifier a lotion will emulsify for a short period of time thanks to the concepts of heat and mechanical emulsification. Heat something up or mix something well enough and you'll see some emulsification. This will separate in a short period of time, leaving with you with a mess of honey and water and oil and other lovely things you've wasted on a poorly designed lotion recipe.
If you see a lip balm recipe with anything water soluble - glycerin, honey, water soluble oils, stevia in glycerin - this will separate out eventually. I know it's a lovely idea to sweeten our lip balms with honey, but they simply won't stay together and the water soluble stuff will bubble up and taste really awful. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news...
A good recipe will be done in weight measurements, not volume. (See this post for reasons why.) A quick summary: Weight measurements are more accurate. It's hard to figure out 1 tablespoon of a pastille type ingredient like BTMS or emulsifying wax. You will see mineral make-up recipes in volume measurements - that's understandable due to small amounts, and you can convert the recipe on your own - but all other recipes should be done in weighted measurements. And preferably in grams.
If you want to convert a recipe in percentages to weight, just convert the percentages to grams. So if you have 10% sweet almond oil, just call that 10 grams. This will give you a 100 gram batch. Then you can multiply by any number to get a larger batch. If you want to make a ton of conditioner, multiply each ingredient by 10 so you can make 1000 grams or 1 kilogram of conditioner. (So 7% BTMS becomes 70 grams of BTMS. And 2% hydrolyzed protein becomes 20 grams and so on.) Most scales have a gram setting on them and it's a lot easier to work with grams than ounces! The metric system rules!
Anything with water must contain a preservative. GSE is not a preservative (click the link for more information). If you're making the product for yourself as a tester, use a preservative. What if you love it? What if you make a large batch and want to keep it? Don't you deserve a well preserved product? Preservatives aren't that expensive and are well worth the cost! If a recipe you think you'll love doesn't contain a preservative, add your own at the rate you know will work!
I don't get this logic - I'm only making it for myself, so I don't need a preservative. So you don't deserve a product free of bacterial, fungal, and yeast contamination? Is your skin or hair less worthy of protection? Please always use a preservative.
Follow good manufacturing procedures for lotion recipes. There are reasons we do these things, and to not do them is to invite contamination and epic lotion fail.
If you find a tutorial that violates these rules, ignore it. You will find another lotion recipe somewhere on the 'net that fulfills your needs.
If you really want to try it because it has some lovely ingredient in it - say, sweet almond oil - remember that you can take a recipe you know and love (or one you know that works) and substitute sweet almond oil for any oil in the recipe. You've learned enough about modifying recipes to know that you can easily substitute one ingredient for a similar ingredient, right?
Remember what I was saying about names of products? Sure the Aloe & Oat Hydrating Conditioner sounds lovely but it can easily be altered to be a Lavender & Silk Hydrating Conditioner or a Rosemary & Wheat Hydrating Conditioner or even a Chamomile & Green Tea Moisturizing Conditioner when you know your ingredients.
If you still want to try that recipe you've found but have doubts about, then you can modify it! Figure out the heated water, heated oil, and cool down phases. Adjust the emulsifier. Add some preservative. Follow good manufacturing processes. But honestly, if you can do this, you should be formulating your own recipes!
There are some recipes out there that can't be saved, and there are so many great ones out there. If you find one that doesn't work, figure out what appealed to you and find a recipe that you know will work!
If you want to know more about formulating lotions, please check out these posts from the learning to formulate series - post 1 (summary) and post 2 (more stuff). And check out those in between as well!