Sunday, July 11, 2010

Back to basics: Lotion bars - tweaking the waxes!

Yesterday we took a look at the basic recipe for lotion bars. You can change the skin feel, melting point, and hardness of a bar by playing with the wax type and amount without changing the type of butters or oils.

Although the basic recipe is 1/3 beeswax, 1/3 butter, and 1/3 oil, playing with those amounts can result in softer or harder bars. If you reduce the wax, you'll get a softer bar - increase the wax, you'll get a harder bar.

How much wax you'll use depends upon the type of butter you're using as your primary butter. If you're using a hard butter like sal, kokum, or cocoa butter, using 20% to 25% beeswax should give you a decently hard bar. If you're using a softer butter like mango or shea butter, 25% to 30% is a good amount. If you're using something like babassu or aloe butter, 33% or higher will be necessary as these are really soft butters.

As a note, I would use babassu as if it were an oil because of its low melting point on skin, which means it will melt into nothing in the summer heat (check out the containers filled with liquid in my workshop!). And with something like aloe butter, how you use it depends upon what it is combined with to make it a butter. If you have shea-aloe, think of it as shea butter. If you have an aloe butter in coconut oil, think of it as coconut oil and use it more as an oil than a butter.  

It's also important to consider the season. Increasing the beeswax amount will increase the melting point of your bar. Using 33% beeswax during the summer will result in a bar that will withstand a trip to the beach or storage in your purse.

And consider the skin feel. A 33% beeswax bar will feel a lot more draggy on your skin than a bar with 25% or 30%. If you've created a 33% beeswax bar and you feel like you have to put a ton of work into the application, you might want to consider reducing it and increasing your oils.

Here's an example of a babassu, kokum and beeswax bar I made recently. Babassu is an amazing oil - it melts on contact with your skin and feels incredibly decadent! - and I made up a 1/3 each beeswax, kokum, and babassu bar. But it was really draggy and the babassu didn't melt nicely, it felt like I had wasted  an amazing ingredient. So I re-melted it and tried again.

47% babassu oil
25% kokum butter
25% beeswax
2% fragrance oil
1% Vitamin E

As a note, I really don't need the Vitamin E for longevity of these oils as they have really long shelf lives, but I like what Vitamin E can offer to my skin. This feels much nicer and is still quite hard in the container.

If you want to make a vegan product, there are other waxes you can try in a lotion bar - click here for a post on waxes - but you might not be using the standard 33%. The rule of thumb when using something like candelilla wax is to use about half the amount of beeswax. So the basic lotion bar might look something like this depending upon the type of butter you choose.

16% candelilla
41% butter
41% oil
1% Vitamin E (optional)
1% fragrance or essential oil

Or consider using soy wax. It is a little softer than beeswax, so it will not stiffen your bar as much. Consider starting at 33% soy wax with all the butters and oils, but you'll want to play around to find the perfect consistency.

32% soy wax
33% butter
33% oil
1% Vitamin E (optional)
1% fragrance or essential oil

Join me tomorrow for fun tweaking our lotion bars with oil and butter combinations!


Lynda said...

I'm so glad you included candelilla wax. I just ordered some to try in a lotion bar and wasn't sure about the percentages. I have read that it's not as greasy. I can't wait to try it. Love your blog. I am learning so much! Thanks.

Angela said...

Hi, I was wondering when using soy wax do you need a special brand or will container or piller wax work fine? Thank you so much for all you share. I'm having a ball travelling around your blog posts. :)

AZ said...

Do you need to add any preservative in it or is it just okay as it is? I reeeeeeellllly wanna make one but I always worry about it getting spoiled

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi AZ. I've answered your question in today's Weekend Wonderings. The short answer - products without water don't need preservatives.

I can't encourage you enough to check out the newbies section of the blog. So many questions answered in such a small space!

Brian said...

My girlfriend and I are planning to start making our own lotion bars to replace the expensive Lush massage bars we've been enjoying lately. We've been quite happy with their consistency, and we notice that their ingredients tend to omit wax, containing only butters, "perfume", and essential oil. Will cocoa and shea butter mixed normally produce a usable bar? Or does this require some more complicated process?

p.s. This blog is great. I can't express how refreshing it is to see a scientific approach in an area so rife with the "eww, chemicals" mentality. Looking forward to many great projects with your help!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Brian! Thanks for the kind words. I strive to the best, most accurate information I can, plus I love chemistry, so I can talk about it for hours here and no one glazes over or loses interest!

I've answered your question in today's Weekend Wonderings. The short answer is that you could make a massage bar without waxes!

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if the percentages are by weight or by volume?

Thanks for the recipes,

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Jay. Check out the FAQ to answer your question!

Elizabeth Gilbert said...

I have been looking for small metal tins like the one in your picture. Do you have any suggestions on where to find some? Thank you!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Elizabeth! I get mine at Voyageur Soap & Candle!

Anonymous said...

Hello, If I used the candelilla wax, could I use half coconut block and half cocoa block to make a lotion bar?

I was just wondering how it might work.... I love the smell of both and wanted them to create a awesome smell :)

Thank you!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Gaia Rose. You will want to use half the amount of wax if you aren't using beeswax. And you can use any butters you like, but some people might not like the look of the black cocoa butter on their skin. It goes on and stays on quite dark!

Yvonne Spanks said...

So happy to find this. I recently have become obsessed my self. Even venturing in to the unknown territory of gardening and growing my own herbs/flowers for skincare. Not like taking on everything at once. Go big or go home right, lol. Love that there is a fellow obsessive out here in the Fraser Valley!!! And you have obviously been at it longer and to that I am very grateful as hopefully I won't have to stumble along so much anymore, lol. Signed up to the blog. Cannot wait to learn more!!! Yay!!!! If you ever do any speaking or classes I would LOVE to be a apart. If you do not, maybe a coffee (provided that I understood this right that you are near by, lol). Thanks for sharing :-).

Tracy Carlin said...

I was wondering if it would be okay to add an antioxidant like ROE or Viramin E T-50 to extend the life of the oils? If so, does it matter which one is used?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Tracy! I'm answering your question in Wednesday, December 3rd's Weekday Wonderings. The short answer is that adding an anti-oxidant to an anhydrous or non-water containing product is a great idea. (If you can't wait to see the whole answer on Wednesday, check out the FAQ where I have a whole section on anti-oxidants.)

Anonymous said...

Hi, I have been experimenting with Lotion bars and have started to try bars without wax using 70% cocoa butter and 30% oil (Apricot kernel). I like the consistency of the product and the feel but I am dissapointed that I keep getting lighter coloured patches on the bars. These patches are not as smooth as the rest of the bar. I have tried whisking the oil after heating but this did not help.

I have taken a photo but dont know if it is possible to add it!

thanks for your help


Lisa Morris said...

Hi Susan I made a batch of lotion bars using 1/2 cup each of shea butter,coconut oil and soy wax. I usually use beeswax but the beeswax I have on hand has a very strong wax smell and that over powered my last batch. This time with the soy wax it did'nt set oh and I also used essential oils as well. Any help on why it did'nt set and also does all beeswax smell waxy?
Thanks Lisa

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Lisa. First, may I suggest using weighted measurements as they are more accurate. Due to differences in volume, you are likely not using equal parts of each ingredient. Secondly, not all waxes are the same. Soy wax is a very soft wax while carnuaba is a harder one. You can't substitute them one-for-one in recipes. I have a feeling that if you've found a recipe online that instructed you to use volume measurements, you've also only used a tiny amount of your essential oils. Probably a few drops. For most EOs, you can use them at up to 1% in your cool down phase. This may help with the smell. But here's the thing - ingredients have smells, and botanical and natural ones even more so. You either have to accept it or find another ingredient. Try to find deodorized waxes and see if you like those. Good luck! And have fun with this new hobby!

JDzJane said...

I too tried to make lotion bars with soy wax with a 1:1:1 weight ratio of coconut oil, shea butter, and soy wax. I didnt add any EOs or scent. They didn't set up or get hard. It's a nice thick lotion or body butter. But I was really hoping for a solid bar. Any suggestions for getting it to be a hard bar.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi JDzJane! You can't just substitute one ingredient for another and expect the same results. Soy wax doesn't stiffen things up the way beeswax does, so you'll have to play around with the amounts. Shea butter makes for a less stiff bar as well, so you've used two ingredients that don't add to the stiffness of the bar for ingredients that are very stiff. If you want a stiff bar, you need to use stiffer ingredients. So you might want to use beeswax or another wax for the soy wax. Use another butter. And so on. Pleaes check out the series I wrote about lotion bars in the "back to basics" section of the blog (do a search) to learn how to modify your bars.

Rosie Riley said...

Thank you Susan for your expertise. Have you tried making a solid lotion bar with e wax instead of beeswax? In essence more like a lotion recipe in a bar. Bwe swap can feel waxy and I'm looking for a recipe that is solid and holds well and wondering how e wax and cetearyl alcohol would work with coconut oil cocoa butter and almond oil plus e oils. Do you have any suggestions for percentages? Many thanks Rosie