Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Lotion bars

This is the first in a series of posts about anhydrous products. What are anhydrous products? It means "without water", and they are products made with oil soluble ingredients. Because they don't contain water you don't need to use a preservative (although I suggest 0.5% to 1% Vitamin E to keep the oils from going rancid), and you can usually package them in something other than a bottle (like a chocolate foil, bag, or tin). You also don't have to worry about emulsification (bringing oil and water together) because all your ingredients are in one phase (oil being one phase, water being another).

Oil based ingredients are pretty obvious - oils, butters, essential oils, fragrance oils - and include silicones, as well. When buying an ingredient, check the INCI or the information from the supplier to see if it is oil soluble. Water based ingredients would be things like water, glycerin, aloe vera, hydrosols, and surfactants. So you can't include those things in your anhydrous products. (Again, you can find oil based aloe vera oil or butters, so that's not to say you can't find things that might work well with an oil based product.)

What happens if you mix a water based thing into an oil based thing? You will get separation. Oil and water don't like each other (check your salad dressing to see this in action). If you add a water based thing - glycerin - to an oil based thing - shea butter - it will eventually seep out as the water and oil repel each other (this isn't exactly true, but it's easier to explain it this way...)

As I've noted above, you can include essential and fragrance oils into your anhydrous products without effort, but colouring can be a pain. (I'm doing a post on colouring in the future, but you will need to use oil based or powdered colours. Food colouring or icing colouring is right out!) So if you use water based colours, they will sit there in little watery balls in amongst your whipped butter or lotion bar - it's not pleasant to look at, and when the watery ball touches someone's skin, it's going to leave a big mark.

What exactly are lotion bars? They are solid, oil and butter based (anhydrous) bars made with beeswax, liquid oil, and butter. You melt, fragrance, then pour them into a mold or something like a deodorant container or tin and use them to seal in moisture wherever you need it. I think of them as giant lip balms for your body!

A basic recipe for lotion bars...
33% beeswax
33% liquid oils
33% solid butter
1% fragrance oil

Weigh all three ingredients in equal amounts in a Pyrex jug, then heat until all the solids have melted. Add 1% fragrance oil (by weight) and pour into a mold or deodorant container. Let set. Use. Rejoice.

This is a fairly basic recipe and the lovely thing is that you can tweak it to your heart's content, using a variety of oils and butters. (Check out the posts on oils and butters to see what would work for you!)

For your first bar, try something really basic and use that as an example bar of what you want. Try sunflower, safflower, or soy bean oil (all available at the grocery store) with cocoa butter and beeswax. This will give you a good baseline for what a basic lotion bar feels like.

The hardness of your butters is important here. If you use all cocoa butter in your lotion bar, you're going to have a very hard bar. If you use all shea butter in your bar, you will have a softer bar. So consider how soft you want your bar to be. A softer bar will be squishier, but will definitely melt at body temperature (great for a massage bar).

For an after bath bar, I'd choose...
  • sunflower oil - a great emollient (about 20% of the bar)
  • hempseed oil - I can use this in a lotion bar as I'll be using it quickly, and it is fabulous for my skin (about 13%). I will need to add 1% Vitamin E in this bar for sure!
  • cocoa butter - it lays down a protective barrier to trap in moisture
For a foot lotion bar....
  • avocado butter or avocado oil - a heavy oil great for really dry and chapped areas
  • mango butter - if I use 33% mango butter, it'll be quite soft, but very emollient
  • avocado butter & mango butter (equal amounts) - a quite soft, but emollient bar
For my lips...
  • olive oil - a great humectant (draws water from the atmosphere) about 1/2 the oils amount
  • aloe oil - a great healing oil (not making a claim here, but it is awfully good!)
  • aloe butter - the goodness of aloe in a butter - but very very soft (about 15%)
  • cocoa butter - to harden the bar and offer great emolliency
You can add anything you like to a lotion bar recipe, as long as it is oil soluble. So hydrosols, water, aloe vera liquid, and other water soluble ingredients are right out! Hunt around for butters and oils. I've recently picked up aloe butter and aloe oil, so I can have the goodness of aloe in an anhydrous bar.

MY FAVOURITE LOTION BAR RECIPE28% beeswax - to harden the bar
10% fractionated coconut oil - this is a very light oil, very emollient
25% sunflower oil - conditioning for the skin
3% rice bran oil - high in Vitamin E
30% mango butter - creamy and emollient
2% IPM - (an ester) IPM helps greasy things feel less greasy and sinks in quickly
2% cyclomethicone - this silicone helps with the glide
2% vitamin E - to prevent rancidity and good for my skin
1% FO

Melt all but the cyclomethicone and fragrance oil in a heat proof container in your double boiler. When all the ingredients have melted, add the cyclomethicone and fragrance oil, then pour into a mold or twist up deodorant container. Let set. Use!

This is a bar intended to start melting at your body temperature, that's why I used all mango butter.

  • Packaging: Wrap them in foil and label them, then present in a nice cellophane bag.
  • Chocolate molds and silicone ice cube trays are great for molding lotion bars!
  • Packaging: Find some nice tins for portability!
  • Make sure you label your lotion bars so you know which one you loved best or so your giftee knows what they are getting! Please note on your labels that these are NOT EDIBLE even if they are adorable and smell great. (A co-worker tried to eat one I scented with pecan praline!)
Lotion bars are incredibly easy to make and wonderful to use. They're portable and non-liquid, so they're great for long flights or camping trips. Play with the butters and oils to find a recipe your skin loves!


Naima said...


I would like to try your favorite lotion bar recipe.

Where can I find IPM and the silicone?

Also, what FO's do you prefer?

I look forward to your reply.

DiMsUm said...

Hi susan,
I am so happy that I found your blog. It has a wealth of reliable information, and I really like how you incorporate chemistry concepts in your posts- makes a fellow scientists understand things a little better.

I am trying to make my own lotion bars, but I want to exclude beeswax and all waxes from the recipe. Can you recommend a good substitute such as a butter?

Thank you

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Naima! I don't know where you live, but ask your supplier if they have IPM or cyclomethicone. I get my IPM and cyclomethicone from Soapcraft. (Karen is fantastic!)

Hi DiMsUm: You could try using something like kokum butter, which is very hard, but I worry that something that is that hard will drag on your skin and not feel very nice. You could use some fatty alcohols (cetyl, cetearyl, or behenyl) or fatty acids (stearic acid) to harden the bar as well. (I did some experiments last year with fatty alcohols/acids and creating butters out of oils.) It sounds like an interesting project. Can I ask why you're pursuing this project? Curiosity, personal preference, religious or dietary restriction? Sorry if I'm prying, but I find these kind of challenges interesting!

<a href="http://swiftcraftymonkey.blogspot.com/2010/01/few-other-butters.html>Click here for the other butter posts.</a>

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say I read you can sub soy wax for the beeswax. It works out pretty well, but you may have to play around with the different proportions.

Anonymous said...

Dear Susan
Can we add some BTMS to the lotion bar?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Rosi! I'm answering your question in Sunday, January 4th's Weekend Wonderings. The short answer is yes, you can!

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan,

I'm trying to figure out if there's a general rule for tweaking the basic recipe (33/33/33/1 -beeswax/butter/oil/fragrance). You said that, for example, with cocoa butter, you'd use less beeswax. So if I use beeswax at 25%, what's the rule for altering the butter and oil? Does that now available 8% (freed up by reducing the beeswax by 8%) get split between the oil and butter equally, resulting in 25/37/37/1 ? Or does that 8% get added to the oil, resulting in 25/33/41/1 ? I'm looking for a general rule about what ingredients should be increased when the beeswax is decreased. I hope this question makes sense, I just realized it's midnight and I'm a bit sleepy! I got completely absorbed (again) by your blog this evening :)


Anonymous said...

how can you get glycerin to mix in a lotion bar? Do I heat to a certain temperature? Mix the wax and glycerin first before ZI put in my heated oils? Help I love glycerin in all my products.

Lisa Reidzans Schmock said...

So, I wanted to try something easy, and lotion bars couldn't be easier. I followed the basic recipe with beeswax, shea butter, and hazelnut oil. Was way too draggy on my skin, and it felt sticky on my hands, and too greasy. Then I tried 25% beeswax, 35% cocoa butter, 40% FCO, sticky and way too greasy but I cured the draggy problem ;) Then there was 26% bw, 14% cocoa butter, 20% shea butter and 40% rice bran oil. Nope, sticky/greasy. At this point I still hadn’t found where to buy IPM. Stuck with 25% bw, 33% shea butter, and monkeyed around with a bunch of different oils, the above, as well as soybean. Still not liking the feel. Started using 28% bw, 40% mango butter and a variety of different oils. My last lotion bar recipe was 25% bw, 20% mango butter, 10% shea butter, 44% oils, fco, rice bran and hazelnut. Sticky/greasy, but really feels good on my feet!

This week I’m going to try the MY FAVOURITE LOTION BAR RECIPE, however I’m going to replace the sunflower oil, don’t have any. Going to leave everything the same, although I may try the beeswax at 25% or even 20% and see if that alleviates the sticky feeling on my hands. I finally bought some IPM, LOVE IT! I used it in an after shower body oil spray of 50% FCO, and 50% Cyclomethicone. So nice. Gonna try some other oils with the cyclomethicone. Avocado oil, my favorite, for sure! I’ll post my lotion bar results if I remember ;)

Moj sapun... said...

This is one of my favorite anhydrous recipe which I made many times. I have very dry skin and found that following ingredients combination suits me the best:
35% organic coconut oil
33% beeswax
16% shea butter
16% cocoa butter.
I leave it unscented but this lotion bar has so delicious scent coming from used ingredients. I usually use it for hands. It is really effective product especially during winter!

Best regards,


Lisa Reidzans Schmock said...

So my last bar, I used 20% beeswax, 8% Cocoa Butter (just in case lowering the beeswax affected the bar hardness), 30% Mango Butter, 38% oils, 2% Cyclomethicone, IPM, and Vitamin E, 1% Fragrance. Liked the bar fine, but again it feels sticky to me, and it doesn't seem to melt into my skin all that well, maybe that as the cocoa butter? If I lowered the beeswax even more to 15%, how else should I change the recipe to make up that 13% of missing beeswax? Does anyone have any other suggestions?



Lisa Reidzans Schmock said...

Woops sorry, suggestions on how to rid the lotion bar of it's "stickyness"!

Susanna Originals said...

This looked like an easy and fast recipe for Christmas presents and I decided to do a foot scrub bar since I have a big jar of dead sea salts. I doubled the recipe, used 66 gm neem (I'm addicted to Neem, swear it cures all skin problems); 66 gm cocoa butter; 33 gm beeswax. When it cooled to warm, I added 3 gm EO (a mix of scotch pine, eucalyptus and wintergreen) and, according to your Snap Guide recipe, added 2 x 170 gm sea salt. As soon as I poured it in, it glommed onto the oils and basically, I ended up with oily salt bars. Is this right? I had to scoop it into the molds and flatten it with a spoon. My bars certainly don't look like your picture and I'm wondering if I messed up somehow? Or is the dead sea salt thirstier than normal salt?

Susanna Originals said...

whoops, sorry, that should have been 66 gm beeswax. It looks a little better this morning now that it's hardened; it was just a shock to see all the oil disappear into the salt!

Marina said...

Hi there Susan!

I was tallying the totals for your Favorite Lotion Bar recipe and it totals to 103%. Should we cut down the oils/butter a bit?

I am looking forward to making this IPM and silicone-enhanced bar! Love your blog! Marina

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Marina! Eek! I made a mistake there, but considering this is how I make it without modifications, I can assure you it will work the way it is. You might want to reduce the Vitamin E. I was just reading how 0.5% will do as much as higher levels for both rancidity and skin conditioning, so reduce that to 0.5% and save some money!

K said...

I just made a pumpkin spice lotion bar based on this recipe and just WOW! The difference IMP and Cyclomethicone make have knocked my socks off. Thanks Susan!


ziegfeldgirl said...

Hi, Susan!

I'm toying with the idea of making a solid lotion/serum bar as a treatment for the face. Do you think that could work? I'm thinking I would probably use harder butters and lessen the beeswax. Instead of rubbing the bar directly on the skin, I was thinking about making a softer bar and warming it up in your hands and then applying with fingers. I just love anhydrous products and am curious to see if I could figure out something workable for the face. If I pursue this, do you have any suggestions as to what butters would be good?

A Fajardo said...

Hi ziegfeldgirl, have you tried your idea of solid face lotion/serum? Any luck? I'm very curious as it seems like a great idea! Thanks!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi ziegfieldgirl! Sorry I missed your post, but I've missed a lot this year with the back pain getting in the way of life. Sure, you could make a solid facial product. I've made a few on the blog - this one is the first I found in a search - and they are nice products. I can't really use them as I have really oily skin, but others have used them and like them. I put one in a deodorant container for ease of application.

I'd use something that melts at skin temperature, like babassu oil or coconut oil, and try to use as little beeswax as possible. Try using something like cetyl alcohol to stiffen the bar. I've done this on the blog in a few recipes.

Hi A! You can make any lotion bar and turn it into a solid facial product. I've offered a few suggestions here. I hope the commenter above you comes back to share her results.

BoCRon said...

I'm excited to make my first lotion bar. I'm trying to get something like the Lush Buffy bar. I love how it moisturizes but not how it smells. I was going to try 33% beeswax, 33% shea butter, 33% coconut oil and 1% fragrance. From what I'm learning, the coconut oil is considered more drying. Should I replace it partially with another oil? Like meadowfoam oil or similar?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi BoCRon! I hope you've tried the lotion bar by now! I'm sorry about taking so long to answer, but I did, and you can find that on Monday, June 19th, 2017. The short answer is to try a lotion bar with those ingredients and see what you think. Find the longer answer on Monday! Thanks for writing!

sabry khalil said...

What about adding vitamin c and feurlic liquorice powder as writing to those anhydrous butter

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Sabry. If they are water soluble, they won't mix into anhydrous products.