Thursday, April 2, 2009

Lotions: Making a cream

Now you know the basics of lotion making, let's tweak our recipe to make a cream. What's the difference? A cream is much thicker than a lotion due to the lower water content. A cream belongs in a pump bottle or a jar; a nice bottle with a disc cap that you have to squeeze isn't going to be suitable.

The only true difference between a lotion and a cream is the water content. I'd use 60 to 65% water phase for a cream (versus 70 to 80% for a lotion). I'd add more butters to the cream to thicken it up (it doesn't have to have more butters, but this is what I'd do), and I'd tend to add more thickener like stearic acid or cetyl alcohol. (Stearic acid for something you want to stay on difficult places like elbows or feet; cetyl alcohol for a glidy cream, like a body butter).

So how do we go about making a cream?

The basics are the same - oils, butters, water, emulsifier, thickener, preservative, fragrance - but we change the amounts to get what we want. And we're going to add the humectants!

If I wanted a foot cream, something thick and rich and decadent that will stay on, I'd include a few humectants - glycerin, because I'm not worried about stickiness - and olive oil - it does double duty. I want something very emollient, so I'm going with some nice butters are heavier oils. And I'm using stearic acid so I can make sure it is a tenacious cream (is that really the right adjective? I want something that will stay on!)

60% water
3% glycerin

15% oils - olive and rice bran are great choices here (we want heavier oils)
10% butters - I'd choose shea and/or mango here as they are both very emollient
6% emulsifier
3% stearic acid

0.5 to 1% preservative
1% fragrance or essential oil blend

Addition...3% menthol crystals - add this to the oil phase if you have them. (Your workshop is going to be very menthol-y, and I suggest keeping your face away from the warm oil container, unless you're my best friend, then you'll be huffing it and going "aaah!") Take 3% from your water phase to compensate.

Or you could choose an essential oil blend and add it at 1% (see the cool down phase above). I like a blend of 1 part each eucalyptus, camphor, and peppermint for a foot cream (smells like Vicks!), which helps circulation and feels nice a cool.

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. (If you are using menthol crystals, add this to the oil phase.)

3. When both containers have reached 70C, weigh out your water again, then add it to your oil container.

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 45C.

5. Let cool to 45C, then add your fragrance or essential oil and preservative. Mix well with your hand mixer or stick blender, then let cool.

6. You can pour the mixture into a jar now, but leave off the cap and let set for a few hours. Or you can wait until the mixture reaches room temperature, then spoon into your jar. Or you could use a pump bottle or malibu bottle as this will be bottle-able if you have a way of squeezing it out!

You've made a cream! Hooray! If you want to make this for your body, I'd suggest many of the same ingredients, but you could substitute cetyl alcohol for stearic acid (more glidy), lighter oils, and leave out the menthol. Oh heck, let's just make a body butter tomorrow, eh?


7akeemoh said...

easy steps ..thnx ..the question is what do u prefer and why ..adding the oil phase to the water phase or the reverse ?? i,m doing all mine with water to oil and i get very nice cream base ..what do u prefer (again) ..

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

When I'm using Polawax, I always add the water to the oil phase for the benefits of phase inversion, which creates a more stable emulsion. If I'm using something like BTMS-50, you can add the water to the oil phase or the oil to the water phase as it doesn't go through this process.

Anonymous said...

I'm just getting into formulating and I know you have a general rule of using an emulsifier at 25% of the oil phase. In this recipe, you're somewhat below that level (for 28% oil phase, you'd need 7% emulsifier). I know it's only a guideline, but I'm wondering why you chose the lower amount here. Thanks!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

I've made this recipe countless times with the 6% emulsifier and it worked for me, but I have modified the recipe in the learning to formulate series (click here for the specific post) because everyone kept asking me this question! It's a rule of thumb, not written in stone, but it's a good thing to always ask why there's less emulsifier in it!

Susanna Originals said...

Susan, thank you so much for all the wonderful info on this site and in your books.
Quick (I hope) question: I've been using coconut oil in a hand cream and when I reordered, ordered fractionated coconut oil by mistake. Can I substitute and if so, what is the change to either the oil or the wax? Thanks in advance.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Susan, thank you so much for all the wonderful info on this site and in your books.
Quick (I hope) question: I've been using coconut oil in a hand cream and when I reordered, ordered fractionated coconut oil by mistake. Can I substitute and if so, what is the change to either the oil or the wax? Thanks in advance.

Hi Susanna. Fractionated coconut oil is a very light, less greasy feeling oil while coconut oil is a medium to heavy feeling, greasy feeling solid oil, so they don't have much in common. You can use it at the same rate you used the coconut oil, and it will be a thinner, less greasy feeling lotion. If you want to get some of the thickness and greasiness back in the lotion, you could try substituting shea butter for the coconut oil or babassu oil, if you have it. I can't really suggest much more without your full recipe...

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan,
I can not thank you enough for all your informative posts.
I Made an unscented cream yesterday for my friend with very sensitive skin. I left the cream in the bowl over night with a stainless steel spoon in it. Today I noticed on one side of the spoon the cream has been discoloured(purple in colour).
From the beginning the cream smelt like metal (before discolouration), so I had to add a few drops of lavender essential oil. Whenever I use rose water in my formulas it always has a metallic smell.
The ingredients were:
Rose water, 64%
Glycerine, 3%
Vitamin E, 1%
Grapefruit seed extract, 1%
Oil & butter 22%
Cetyl alcohol 3%
Carrot seed oil 1%
Tragacanth gum 0.5%
Rosemary extract 8 drops

No water and preservative added because my friend has super sensitive skin.
Now the problem is if the cream would have chemical reaction on steel, would the stick blender be safe to use?
I have never had this problem before.
Your help would be appreciated.
Thanks in advance.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Sarah. I've answered a lot of your question in this post as it seemed like it would be too long to write here.

Your lotion is contaminated. You need to throw it away and throw away the rose water to prevent this from happening again. You need to use a broad spectrum, effective preservative in your products in the future - grapefruit seed extract is NOT a preservative, it might be an anti-oxidant - so this doesn't happen again. Your friend with the sensitive skin can handle a preservative, and she'll thank you for giving her a product that is free from contaminants and safe for her skin.

You should be able to use a stick blender. The issue isn't with metal, the issue is with contamination.

What is the point of 8 drops of rosemary oil? I'm just curious...

I hope I've answered your question!

Anonymous said...

Hi Susan,
thank you for your quick response.
I was told by my supplier the Rosemary Extract (not rosemary oil) is very strong and you need a few drops in your cream and I googled it and I couldn't find a straight answer , so as you can see they left me in a limbo and I didn't wanted to risk it. That is silly of me.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Sarah! Rosemary oil isn't super strong - depending on the type, you could use it at up to 1% in the cool down phase of your product. If it's rosemary oleo extract (ROE), which is used for retarding rancidity, then there are different suggested uses. You'll have to check the bottle or the supplier's site to see what you bought!

But don't measure anything in drops as you don't know how much you're using. If you're using smaller amounts like this, get yourself a tiny $20 scale from a jewellery shop or one of those places that sells drug paraphrenalia - and say very loudly that you are making bath & body products with it! - and use that to be more accurate!

satsaluu said...

Hi Susan,
your blog is amazing, a lot of information and you have so much knowledge. can i ask your help?
i want to make a whitening cream, here is a list of ingredient, but i'm not sure about the percentage and i want to ask you for help.

tapioca powder

steric acid
jojoba oil
ricebran oil
olive oil
pumpkin oil

turmeric extract
almond powder
vitamin C
vitamin A
bearberry extract
licorice extract
kojic acid
Alpha arbutin
preservative ( not sure what kind and % )

i'm very appreciate your help and your time.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Satsaluu! If you've never made a lotion before, check out the posts in the Newbie section to learn to how make one! Make a few, then consider adding those extra ingredients one at a time so you can see how the lotion feels before adding another new ingredient. There are a lot of ingredients you seem to want to use, and I think it best you start with the basics them learn whether or not you can include those ingredients. Look up Vitamin C and see what happens when you add it in a water based product. Think about whether or kit turmeric powder will discolour the lotion and your skin. And so on. You have to start at the beginning, which is finding a basic recipe like the one in the newbie section and learning how to make a good lotion first before you make one with loads of additives!

Have fun formulating!

satsaluu said...

Hi Susan,
Great suggestion, thank you, i will start with the simple one first and add more ingredients later. and yes, i also think about turmeric extract has very stong color, i might have to skip that one. about vitamin C, i read a post about adding lemon in a cream, so i dont want to use lemon and i'm thinking to use vitamin C instead.

thanks again.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

I'm writing a post on adding Vitamin C to be posted tomorrow. The short answer is that you can't add vitamin C by adding some powder or squeezing a lemon into your lotion. Please read the post to learn more!

roxy said...

Hi Susan,

I've just found your site and started experimenting with recipes. Lots of fun ahead. I have a question about this recipe. I made it to the exact proportions, although I wanted it as a hand cream. I used rosewater and glycerine for the water phase, and rice bran oil, apricot butter, beeswax, and stearic acid for the oil phase. i just don't completely like the feel of the finished cream. For me it's too dry and waxy feeling. DH tried it (he has drier hands than me) and he said it was okay, but he wouldn't call it a cream, more of a balm. Which part of the recipe do you think I need to tweak so it's less dry and waxy to me, and a bit more creamy? Is it the stearic acid? Or just a lower % of beeswax?

Thank you in advance.


roxy said...

Hello again, I have just had feed back from one of the relatives that I gave the cream/balm to for Christmas and they have said the same thing; that it take ages to absorb into the skin and sits on the surface. I am at a loss at which variable I should try altering first and would really appreciate your advice.

Thank you.


Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Please post your exact recipe in percentages along with your exact process. Thank you.

roxy said...

Thank you :-)

The recipe:

Water phase
60% rosewater (360g)
3% glycerine (18g)
2% borax (12g)

Oil phase
15% rice bran oil (90g)
10% apricot butter (60g)
6% beeswax (36g)
3% stearic acid (18g)

1% essential oils consisting of 30% lemon, 50% geranium, and 20% ylang ylang

I heated the oil phase and the water phase in separate bain maries over water until the oil phase had all melted together, and tested when they were about the same temperature with my finger. Then I put the oil phase in a bowl and poured the water phase in gradually while whisking. Once it was all incorporated I stirred in the essential oils.

Thanx again.


Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Roxy. Beeswax and borax will not work as an emulsifier for oil-in-water lotions, and even if it did, it will not work in the proportions you've used here, so you don't have a stable emulsifier in this product. I don't know where you found this recipe, but I would encourage you to go back to the recipe writer and let them know that they are sharing something really unstable.

I encourage you to go to the newbies section of the blog and read the post on learning how to make a lotion as there's a process that has to be followed as well as all kinds of things about ingredients. There's a process called heating and holding that you have to follow to get a stable and emulsification that you really should be following if you're making products at home. As well, if you're creating a product that contains water, you need to use a broad spectrum preservative as this lotion has a shelf life of maybe 3 days before contamination starts, especially if you haven't heated and held.

Please use water in your product. Using 60% hydrosol in a product can mess severely with the pH and chemistry of a lotion, plus, you're just wasting it. Using 10% to 20% hydrosol or water in a product is a better idea.

If you're looking for a different skin feel, choose ingredients that will feel more absorbent and less greasy. Take a look at the emollients section or the oils comparison chart to find something that will be more silky. I'd get rid of the beeswax entirely as it offers nothing but waxiness and drag, and use cetyl alcohol instead of stearic acid to add more slip and glide. I have literally hundreds of lotion recipes on this blog, so I encourage you to find one that is noted to be more slippery and glidy. Again, the newbie section will offer you loads of information on this topic.

I think the short answer to all your questions is to check out the newbie section, use a proper emulsifier, get rid of the beeswax, borax, and stearic acid in favour of more glidy ingredients, use a proper preservative, and follow the heat and hold method. Let me know how it turns out!

roxy said...

Hi Susan, that's a lot to take in. I started with the foot cream recipe in this article, that's where I got the % from, and adding stearic acid. I can't remember why I decided to use this recipe though, I know there was a reason when I did it but that's before the stress of Christmas and it's gone from my brain.

Someone showed me how to make herbal creams for healing purposes and I've been working from that up until now. Their recipe was 100ml oil, 50ml water (they used juice squeezed from chickweed when they were showing me) 15g beeswax, and borax at 2% as a preservative (dissolved in the water phase). Until I came across your wonderful site I didn't know borax was an emulsifier, even a bad one. Using this basic recipe I've made a few healing creams (just for the family and my own entertainment), with herbal infusions for the water phase and oils selected for their different properties for the oil phase. They've all been very nice creams but I'm thinking you will have a thing or two to say about them. I'm only here to learn. This was why I used beeswax instead of the emulsifying wax, because it had worked before.

I would still like to be able to make herbal/healing creams but would you advise against using herbal infusions as the water phase? If so, what's the problem? Also, could you explain why rose water is wasted as the water phase? Would it still not come in contact with the skin and do its rose water thing? I guess that borax is no kind of preservative.

I will definitely start from the beginning and learn from the ground up. And probably ask a lot more questions.

Thank you for your time.