Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Lotions: Facial moisturizers

Yeah, I know, once you find a moisturizer you like, it's really hard to try a new one. I was forced to make my own after my favourite decided to change an ingredient and my acne prone skin broke out like silly!

So what is the difference between a light lotion and a moisturizer? The "active" ingredients. We want to maximize every single drop of the non-water ingredients to make our skin fabulous (this isn't a claim...it's a wish!)

So we need the basics for our lotion - water, hydrosol, oil, emulsifier, thickener, preservative, humectant - in the same proportions as the light lotion, but we are going to choose our ingredients very very carefully. We want to avoid anything that could clog pores, cause pimples, or create drag on our skin.

There are three ingredients we want to maximize in this recipe - the humectant, the oils, and the additives in the cool down phase. We want the biggest bang for our buck, the ingredients that can make the most different in our skin and the ones that make people stop and comment on how lovely we look today! So these are the areas on which we'll concentrate the most.

WATER PHASE - about 80% of the recipe
Water - About 50%

Aloe vera - aloe vera contains allantoin, which is good for healing and regenerating new cells. Plus it is soothing, which is always a good thing.

Hydrosols - lavender is good for soothing inflamed skin, reducing redness, and toning dry and oily skin. Rose hydrosol is good for balancing sebum production, and soothes redness.

Humectant - choosing a fantastic humectant for a facial moisturizer is really important. You want something that isn't sticky and doesn't add drag, and something that offers as many benefits as possible. Sodium lactate is a good, non-sticky humectant for a facial moisturizer. It can be exfoliating at over 3% and can aggravate acne at over 5%, so keep it at 2%. You can use glycerin here at 2%. Or you could be really bold and try something like tamarind seed extract (from the Herbarie, a great humectant that improves skin's elasticity and hydration). Or honeyquat, a cationic polymer that will condition your skin and draw moisture from the atmosphere. Or try hydrovance, another great humectant. Or add 2% polyquat 7 (Condition-eze 7) to the mixture.

A note on sodium lactate - it is a mild AHA (lactic acid) so including it will actually add some AHAs to your lotion (more on this topic tomorrow). If you are sensitive to AHAs, please use glycerin, tamarind seed extract, hydrovance, or one of the quats (honey or polyquat).

OIL PHASE - about 15% of our recipe
Emulsifier - at about 4%. You could choose BTMS as a cationic (positively charged) emulsifier in this case. It will make a powdery lotion that is still moisturizing, and it will condition your skin. (Although, with BTMS the moisturizer won't be as glidy as with e-wax!) Or use 4% of Polawax. There are tons of emulsifiers to choose from - we want them at 4% in this recipe.

Thickener - at about 2%. We really don't need much of a thickener at 80% water, but we'll add cetyl alcohol because it adds emolliency without adding oils (so this is the "oil free" in the "oil free moisturizers" you see in the shops) and it gives a little more glide.

Oils - at about 8% or so. This is where we get to play. You will want to give serious consideration to the oils you want to put on your face. If you haven't already, check out my post on oils to see the list and the post on exotic oils for some ideas on what you'd like to include in your recipe. You will want to choose oils considered "low" on the comedogenic scale. (I'm only putting a short summary here, so check out the posts for more information on the oils!)

For all skin types, the following oils are fantastic choices...
  • jojoba oil - light to medium weight - resembles the skin's sebum, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial
  • hempseed oil - light to medium weight - contains ceremides, which protect the skin, and resembles the skin's sebum (very short shelf life, use 1% Vitamin E and keep in the fridge!)
  • olive oil - heavy - a humectant, full of phytosterols, and good for inflamed skin
For acne prone skin, you might want to consider a combination including
  • hazelnut - astringent, high in fatty acids
  • macadamia nut - resembles the skin's sebum
  • grapeseed oil - astringent and "hypoallergenic"
For aging skin, you might want to consider the following...
  • safflower oil - very emollient, skin penetrating, cell regenerating properties, and filled with good vitamins
  • rice bran oil - very emollient, filled with vitamins, highest amount of Vitamin E, great softening and moisturizing properties
  • sesame oil - restructures and moisturizes skin, filled with various vitamins and minerals (like Apple Jacks! Although they used to have 10 vitamins & minerals and now only have 9...which one did they feel wasn't necessary?)
If you want something very light and sink-in-able, you might want to consider using squalane and fractionated coconut oil. This is a wonderful base and you can use an exotic oil (like evening primrose) to take it to the next level of awesome!

For regular skin (does anyone have that any more?) you'll want to choose nice moisturizing oils that contain various vitamins and good things. (Sorry for the passive-aggressive stance here, but I envy you every single day!)

As you can see, our regular oils are chock full with all kinds of wonderful properties, so you can go with those and leave it at that...and I suggest this for your first facial moisturizer. Let's not not complicate things by adding tons of various oils because we need to figure out what you love! (Having said that, we'll complicate this all tomorrow with our tweaking a facial moisturizer post...)

I'm leaving out the butters as most people's skin cannot tolerate that kind of intensity. If your skin can handle a little butter, then add a little, perhaps 2 or 3% maximum.

COOL DOWN PHASE - about 6% of our recipe
Preservative - at 0.5% to 1% - essential! You do not want to get bacterial and fungal growth in something you're putting on your face!!!

Hydrolyzed proteins - 1 to 2% - we want a film former and protectant in our moisturizer to keep the outside world distinctly out! I like hydrolyzed oat protein, but you can choose soy, corn, wheat, silk, and so on.

Panthenol - 1 to 2% - panthenol helps with cell repair and regeneration. An awesome thing indeed for a facial moisturizer.

Essential oils - 0.5% to 1% - there are many essential oils that are fabulous for your skin...tea tree, lavender, chamomile, and so on. Add these at low levels, and learn how much to add before adding them!

Botanical extracts, complexes, AHAs, salicylic acid, and so on - as directed by the supplier or at 1 to 2% - there are many botanical extracts you can use for your face (see the toner post for a complete list) and these are going to be the "active" part of your recipe. I'll get more into this tomorrow. For now, you can use the botanical extracts at 0.5% listed on the toner page.

WATER PHASE - you can use 80% water if you don't have the hydrosols and aloe vera
48%% water
15% aloe vera
15% hydrosol of choice (I'm using lavender hydrosol)
2% humectant of choice (I'm using sodium lactate)

8% oils - I'm going to use hempseed, macadamia nut, and jojoba for my dry-ish, acne prone skin
4% emulsifier - Polawax, e-wax or BTMS
2% thickener - cetyl alcohol for the glide

0.5% to 1% preservative
2% hydrolyzed oat protein
2% panthenol
0.5% chamomile extract (for soothing)
0.5% honeysuckle extract (for acne)
**If you are using oils with less than a 9 month shelf life, please add 1% Vitamin E to your cool down phase!**

1. Weigh out your water phase in a heat proof container and put into a double boiler.

2. Weigh out your oil phase in a heat proof container and put into your double boiler.

3. When both containers have reached 70˚C, hold for 20 minutes. Weigh out your water again, then add it to your oil container. (Leave out about 1 tbsp of heated water and mix it with your powdered extracts in a shot glass.)

4. Blend with a hand mixer or stick blender for at least 3 minutes. Repeat this process as often as you would like until the temperature reaches 45˚C.

5. Let cool to 45˚C. Add the preservative, hydrolyzed protein, panthenol, extract, and essential oils and mix well with the hand mixer or blender. Let cool.

6. Pour the mixture into a bottle - one with a treatment pump, preferably - and let sit until completely cooled.

There you have it - a facial moisturizer filled with soothing, healing, and moisturizing ingredients (please do not make any claims about this lotion - just enjoy what you've made!)

This is a very nice moisturizer you've tweaked to be perfect for your skin...but I know you're itching to add a few goodies, right? So join me tomorrow for the tweakage!


Topcat said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have just made my first emulsified lotion and your post has given me so much great information to tweak my next one :D

Ebonyeyed said...

This has got to be the best description on moisturizers I've ever read. Thanks, Susan.

Anonymous said...

Great article!!! Can you tell me what the shelf life of this would be?

Zoe said...

Hi Susan. I'm having the best fun reading through your articles! What a terrific resource you've put together here.

Question: in this post, you say that most people's skin can't tolerate butters and to only use at 2 -3 %. Yet in your Basic Lotion recipe, you indicate the use of butters at 5%.

Is one an old opinion and the other what you're thinking now?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Anonymous. The shelf life will be as long as your shortest lived ingredient, generally the oil. If you're using things like evening primrose oil, you're looking at 6 months. If you're using esters like C12-15 alkyl benzoate, you're looking at up to two years. So if you want something to last a year, choose an oil that has a life span of a year. And add anti-oxidants - those can extend the life span, although it's hard to figure out by how much.

Hi Zoe. I think I said that most people's faces can't handle butters because I use butters at up to 95% in some products (like whipped butters). I can handle straight shea butter on any part you can choose, but put it on my face, and I've got a pimple party started!

Danuta Kildan said...

The most educational and fantastic blog. I am reading it daily. Thank you ;)

Anonymous said...

A great blog! Very well-written and thorough posts, many useful recipes and a science-based approach.

Thank you.

Nyssa said...

Finally found my recipe so I can write up a review.
This was my first attempt at making a lotion - my favourite one no longer existed (I hate it when they do that) and I could not find another one that I liked.

My take on your recipe:

48.5% water
15% aloe vera
8% chamomile hydrosol (anti-inflammatory, anti-irritant)
7% rose hydrosol (soothing, hopefully help balance sebum)
2% sodium lactate (humectant)

4% jojoba oil (my favourite)
2% olive oil
2% castor oil
2% cetyl stearyl alcohol (could not source cetyl alcohol)

0.5% preservative
2% hydrolyzed oats (humectant, film forming)
2% panthenol
0.5% calendula extract (for soothing)
0.5% green tea extract (for every reason)

Originally I had planned on grapeseed oil, but decided against as I'm not sure how old it is already...
My thoughts?
Does the job, but I don't love it... yet. It takes a little too long to sink in for my tastes, and I think I'd like a little more moisture.
For my first attempt, I think I used too many oils - but I got excited by all the wonderful properties they could add!
I had been using plain jojoba oil as a moisturiser prior to making this, so I might try my next attempt with that to see how I like it.
I also may try adding allantoin too.

Thanks for your wonderful blog Susan, I love the way you explain the "why" of everything so we can develop our own custom made lotions.


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Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Elson Cade! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! HA HA HA HA HA! Thanks for the great laugh!

Oh, you were being serious about this product ? HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

Samantha Kiffer said...

Hi Susan,

First of all, I just want to say that I'm a HUGE fan of your blog. Super knowledgable and easy to understand!

I've been making lotions for a little bit now and I have a few base recipes down so I'm starting to try and "spice" them up a bit. To this end, I was wondering what your opinion on the use of botanicals in lotions is.

I know on a different post (I'm not sure which one, maybe the one on Lush's "fresh" ingredients) you said that you saw no great benefit to using botanicals when extracts and hydrosols would suffice. I believe you mentioned something about it being more difficult to preserve due to loose botanicals in the product. However, what is your opinion on infused oils and/or using tea as a base instead of water? Dried herbs are more affordable readily available in my area, and I would really like to find a way to incorporate them. If I strained the oil and tea through coffee filters a few times, would this lesson the free botanicals present? Should I use a a different and/or larger amount of preservative to account for this? Or is there just no viable way to ensure preservation?

Also, what about infused oils in body butters/balms/salves? Would the same difficulty arise despite the lack of water?

Sorry for the long post and thanks for sharing your expertise with us!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Samantha! Here are two posts from the FAQ I wrote on this topic...
Why can't we use tea in our products?
Infusions and teas in our products

Cynthia Scott said...


You really are THE source to go to for lotion making in my opinion. I'm VERY thankful for all you do here. This is just such a fabulous resource!! And I do plan on contributing to your projects with the children, another fabulous thing you do. I can't decide which book to go for at this moment. I'll probably end up with all of them lol. (Say do you have any plans of putting them in print? I like e-books - soo handy - but have found that when it comes to reference-type books that hard copies are easier to work with.)

Ok so question - I'm reading labels, not interested in reproducing anything!! I don't have a favorite lotion. But I ran across something "all natural". I know you don't care for that label - EVERYTHING is natural after all.

Here's the ingredient list for the one I'm thinking of:

About 10 different oils - I won't bother you with what (except have you ever heard of Tacuma butter and Andiroba oil? Lol and there are others like this. Stuff your average Joe is not going to be familiar with so how do we know they're super good?!?!)
Laurel wax
Vegetable emulsifiers
Guar gum
Caprylyl glycol

Now question: am I correct in saying that all the emulsifiers you use are vegetable emulsifiers? Or are some of them chemicals - I know you hate that word too (or at least hate the way people use that word sometimes after all AU is gold right on the "chemical" chart mmmmm that's not what that's called, ah element chart - I actually have been looking at the composition of things and finding I cannot AT ALL figure them out!!!) but I'm trying to distinguish things like formaldehyde from things like honeyquat. Trying to figure out what are "good for you" ingredients and what are not. A really difficult thing to do these days!!! Like darn near impossible (with my level of education)!! Sooo many differing opinions but I feel pretty confident that I can trust your opinion!!

And Caprylyl glycol is the preservative right? (And is a "chemical" - not that all chemicals are bad - sooo not saying that!!!! At all!!! I'm all for certain chemicals! I just want to know which chemicals are "good for you" or at least safe. And having a super difficult time of it.)

Thank you. Sooo much!!


electrikat65 said...

My first epic failure at homemade anything. It was beautiful and fluffy and medium thick and I was almost ready to put my face in the bowl! Then I added the glycerin, then the optiphen, stirred gently, then I put in my essential oils and the whole bowl started bubbling, curdlind and separating and I ended up with an awesome smelling bowl of water. I think maybe my scale doesn't like to measure 1 gram accurately? I might need to get a jewelers scale? It was just fine until I added the EO. Does this sound familiar to anyone else? I was making a small batch for practice. 113 grams. I've made your conditioner and leave in conditioner and they turned out great. I'm at a loss.

electrikat65 said...

Apparently I added about half an ounce of EO to a four ounce batch of lotion because my scales don't like small amounts. I got a scale that measures in tenths of a gram and tried again tonight and it was awesome! Good tools make good batches. Never doubt it.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Thank you so much for sharing this! I think this is something we really need to think about!!! I think I'll write about this today!

galaxy butterfly said...

Hi Susan,
I hope tis is posted in the right place, but i really couldn't figure out where else to post it. First, let me say I'm really sorry for your loss, you have my love and heartfelt sympathies. Second, thank you so much for all your work on point of interest, you have taught me so much!
For my question... I've recently got my hands on some Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer and I'm wondering how to use it and in which stage of a formulation, can you help? I don't really have a formula i want to use it in yet I'm just musing :D

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Galaxy Butterfly. Thank you for your kind words.

I found this data sheet that might help - data sheet.

Where did you buy it? I'd love to find some of this! My suggestion would be to contact your supplier and ask them for some help, but it seems like you could add 1% to 5% to start and see what you think! I'd love to hear your experiences with this ingredient.

galaxy butterfly said...

Hi Susan,
Thank you for the data sheet! I actually got the Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer sent to me in India by a friend in America who is a chemist and knows i like to play around with awesome ingredients. Unfortunately he has taken off for Peru, having left me with a baggie of the stuff and absolutely no documentation / C.O.A. I could just wait for him to come back, but where's the fun in that? Besides it irks me that I have this beautiful thing sitting in my little workshop and have no clue what to do with it!
Will definitely let you know how it goes.

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Harmony Prizeman said...

Hi Susan,

I have been a follower for quite some time but now I am finally a Patreon subscriber! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge, advice and everything else - you definitely are someone I admire!

I would like to know whether you use liquid extracts or powders in this? I can only get my hands on glycerine based ones here in Australia. I can see that they are water soluble however cannot stand high temperatures so should be added in the cool down phase. I wonder what the additional glycerine would be like for the skin since it is quite sticky?

I have combination / acne-prone skin and am looking to make my own moisturiser since the lady I used to buy it from doesn't sell it anymore :(

This is definitely a great recipe for me to try. First to get the ingredients!

Thanks again so much for all you do, it means a lot!

gyen said...

"if your skin can handle a little butter..." Haha, I use butters straight on my face. I don't think of my skin as very dry, but I don't think I've had more than one or two pimples, even in my teens, and my skin doesn't seem to mind oil directly on it. It soaks in. Anyway, it's funny how different people's skin loves/hates different things.