Friday, January 8, 2010

Formulating with oils - lotion bars for very dry feet

Lotion bars are considered pretty basic bath and body products. Melt, pour into a mold or container, wait until hardened, use. Their simplicity makes them a great place to play when we are trying to figure out what oils we like in what combinations. I figured it would be fun to show the process of how to decide on an oil combination in a product by using lotion bars as my example.

If you've never made a lotion bar, please consult this post...

Here's a basic recipe for a lotion bar...
33% beeswax
33% oil
33% butter
1% fragrance or essential oil
Melt the beeswax, oil, and butter in a heat proof container in a double boiler. Once melted, add the fragrance or essential oil and mix well. Pour into molds or deodorant containers. Use and enjoy.

Let's say you want to create something for your very dry feet. You've been walking around this summer on sand and concrete. They are chapped, calloused, and very very dry. Start by choosing your butter...(You can find a comparison chart about the butters here...)
  • Cocoa butter is the hardest butter, so a lotion bar with this butter will be very hard. It is approved by the FDA as an occlusive ingredient.
  • Shea butter is a medium butter, so it will be less hard than a cocoa butter bar. It contains allantoin, approved as an occlusive ingredient, and cinnamic acid esters, which can reduce redness and irritation, and behave as a sunscreen.
  • Mango butter is a medium hardness butter, so it will be less hard than a cocoa butter bar. It contains mangiferin, which is a great anti-oxidant, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory ingredient. Caffeic acid is one of the strongest anti-oxidants available in oils and butter, and reduces redness. It is a dry feeling butter.
(Click here for a chart of the oils, click here for a chart of the exotic oils.)

Let's choose shea butter as our primary butter. Yes, it's greasy feeling, but we don't really mind that on our elbows or feet. (If you have issues with greasiness, then try mango or cocoa butter. Avocado butter - which I haven't really discussed - is very dry!)

What are our goals?
  • Softening - vitamin E and oleic acid
  • Moisturizing - oleic acid,
  • Skin barrier repair - linoleic acid, GLA,
  • Water retention - linoleic acid, GLA
  • Reduce itching - phytosterols, oleic acid
The shea butter will offer softening and moisturizing and could heal wounds through the allantoin contained in the butter. We could choose an oil like sesame oil that has a lot of Vitamin E (up to 1095 ppm) or rice bran oil (400 ppm), both of which have a nice balance of oleic and linoleic fatty acids. Linoleic acid will help restore our skin's barrier function and reduce itchiness. Oleic acid is very moisturizing and regenerating to skin cells. It is also considered an anti-inflammatory and sinks into skin well.

Rice bran oil contains oryzanol, which offers moisturizing, softening, and anti-inflammatory properties. It also contains squalene, which is great for moisturizing and softening.

Sesame oil is incredibly high in phytosterols, which behave like cortisone, offering anti-inflammatory features with a reduction in redness and itching. Plus it has the added bonus of not staining fabric or sheets, so if you want to go sockless, you won't ruin your good linens!

So which do I choose? But wait! Do we have any exotic oils we could add that would fulfill some of the features?

Borage oil is very high in GLA, and it will help with an increase in skin hydration and skin flexibility, as well as reducing redness. The ferulic acid soothes and moisturizes skin, as well as reducing itching and inflammation. It contains about 400 ppm Vitamin E, which is nice, and a goodly amount of ß-sitosterol, which will reduce redness and provide anti-inflammatory properties. It contains ellagic acid, which can increase the regeneration of skin cells and thicken the skin. It is a dry feeling oil.

Evening primrose is also high in GLA, so it will help increase skin hydration and flexibility, as well as reducing redness. It doesn't contain a lot of Vitamin E - 221 ppm - but the gallic acid has been demonstrated to be a wound healer, so it will help with cracks and scrapes on your skin. It also has a nice amount of phytosterols to help provide anti-inflammatory properties. It is a dry feeling oil.

Pomegranate oil is interesting in that is filled with punicic acid, which offers cell regenerating, anti-inflammatory properties. It can help repair sun or weather damaged skin. Ellagic acid can increase the regeneration of skin cells and thicken the skin. And the gallic acid is a wound and burn healer. The phytosterols are very high, so you will get more anti-inflammatory properties as well as more properties to reduce redness or itchiness.

So which one to choose? Since I'm only using 10 grams of oil of exotic oils, cost isn't a huge concern. If I consider what's in my workshop, I'd go with sesame seed oil at 23% - high in Vitamin E and phytosterols - and borage oil at 10% - GLA, ferulic acid, and ellagic acid. The shea butter, Vitamin E, and oleic fatty acids will soften my skin; the GLA will ensure my skin's barrier repair features are restored; and the phytosterols will make my skin feel less itchy and red; and the polphenols will help thicken the skin on my feet.

(okay, it's a terrible name, but I'm not great with names for products!)
23% sesame oil
10% borage oil
33% beeswax
33% shea butter
1% fragrance or essential oil

Join me tomorrow to take a look at formulating for a winter facial lotion bar...


madpiano said...

Hi, this post came just in time as we are having quite a discussion over at the Fresholi Forum regarding one of Lush's lotion bars (they call them massage bars or body butter bars). We came up with 2 main questions: How come they claim that there is fresh fruit in the bar without using preservative or emuslifiers and why is this lotion bar not working ? I have been reading the reviews for this bar on the german forum and plenty of people there say while it smells nice, it leaves their skin dry and cracked and makes their hands feel like they have powdered them.

Here is a link to the bar in question:

Here is a link to the discussion we have ongoing, if you are interested:,6902.0.html

There is a chance that you might not be able to see that discussion, as you need to be a member with a certain amount of posts for some sections of the forum. Let me know, if you want me to copy it for you.

p said...

Hi Susan,

Great post, as always - it's really instructive how you think through your oil selection.

Maybe you've addressed this elsewhere in your encyclopedic site :) but I was wondering, is there any harm in heating up the borage oil to make the lotion bar? I've been wanting to make a GLA-rich balm for around the eyes, but I haven't been able to figure out if taking those heat-sensitive polyunsaturated fatty acids up to beeswax-melting temps (140 or 150 F) will do a lot of damage to the oil. I know you know what you're doing, so it must be ok! Would I be doing harm to my lovely GLA-rich oil if I brought it up to caranuba wax melting temp (180-185 F)?

Thanks a million! You are a fount of knowledge!!


Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi p. Thank you for your kind words!

No, it's fine to heat the borage up to 70˚C and hold it (what's that in F? 170˚F or so? Check my calculations!) with the other oils. You don't want to get it to the smoke point - it varies with different oils, but I'm thinking anything over 350˚F is a bad idea!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Madpiano! How did I miss this comment? I do frequent Fresholi from time to time and saw this discussion. My thoughts - I don't think they can use fresh fruit in a lotion bar format, so I suspect these are fruit extracts, perhaps the oil soluble form? And lotion bars aren't really that great for very dry skin. They don't contain water, so the intention is to trap the water in you might have on your skin. If you don't have enough water in your skin - very dry skin, for instance - there's nothing to trap!

If you have really dry skin, lotion bars aren't the best choice unless you've used a nice spray of some sort (then the lotion bar) or you've just stepped out of the bath or shower. Instead, choose a very occlusive lotion with loads of water...

p said...

Good to know that you can heat borage to moderate temps without hurting it! I'll be making use of that fact. :)

Re Lush's lotion bar, is it possible that they're *starting* with fresh fruit? Maybe they macerate their fresh fruit in hot oil to extract the oil-soluble goodies themselves, then strain and separate to get only the anhydrous portion? Or maybe they dry their fresh fruit first and then macerate?

Even if they are starting with fresh fruit and making their own extract, their labeling is still inaccurate - you can't say the product contains fresh fruit unless the fruit (not just the extract) is in there. Inaccurate, but maybe they have reason to feel they're not lying, at least...

Anonymous said...

Hello there, thanks for such a wonderful site, I have set it as my home page so I don't miss anything. I was wondering if anyone else has the problem of getting dirty heels after using lotion bars? If I wear thongs (now I'm giving away where I'm from), my feet have lots of dirt stains on the heel. I love the idea of using lotion bars and wanted to know if there was an ingredient to add or remove. My lotion bar is beeswax, mango butter, jojoba and olive oil. Thanks a mill in advance, Rachel.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Rachel! I've included your question in today's Weekend Wonderings! The short answer is that when you put grease on your feet, I think you're going to get dirty!