Monday, February 28, 2011

What can you share about lotion making? What do you want to know?

As I've been writing this series on lotion making, I've realized there are so many little things I do to make lotions, both in formulating and the process itself, that I wasn't taught by someone else but learned along the way. And we all have those little things that we've figured out ourselves based on our supplies, our workshops, our equipment, and so on. So I'm asking you, my wonderful readers, to share your helpful hints on lotion making. Whether it's about ingredients, process, equipment, bottling, or anything else, please share it!

And what do you want to know that I haven't covered here yet? Those little questions that are driving you nuts or just one of those "why do we do that" moments? Please post your thoughts here. It's easier if it's all in one place so I can refer to it, but it's also a way that others can share their thoughts and help out!


Terri said...

First , thank you for your wealth of information. You have been wonderful! My nagging question is how do you account for the loss due to evaporation of ingredients during the heat and hold? have separate pots with just water and/or other ingredients heating as well to add later? and I never checked, but is there a change in the weight for oils,butters after the heat/hold as well? It just doesn't seem like my 100g 'experiment' doesn't equal 100 in the end.

Jillian said...

Hi Susan,
Will the silicones in a rinse-out hair conditioner be stripped out by including
centrimonium chloride in the conditioner? I'm puzzling over this.

Nancy Liedel said...

I'm struggling with a few things. They're not on the front burner, but I wrote out the plan today for the first time. This should be cake, but its not. w/o emulsion, mostly oil. A good emulsifier for a thin, primarily exotic oils concoction, that has a light surfactant in it (yet to be determined). I'm cooking up an Oil Cleansing Method in a bottle for different skin types. The surfactant does not have to be foamy, just to remove the uber oily feeling that some of the heavier oils can leave on skin. Not strip them all away.

I'm thinking PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate, which means some water, because it's not soluble in oil and I'm thinking the surfactant might not cut it. I considered lecithin, for a nano-second. Dumped it.

I'm going through surfactants right now. Gentle, work well with the rest of the ingredients and not strip the skin of the oil I just put on it.

Obviously, this is a long haul project. Each system will need to be tested on people with the proper type of skin, and use the product for 6 weeks, before we can even begin to determine efficacy. Then, challenge tested with all that oil and the small amount of oil. I thought a year, but I'm starting to think two now. So there. That's my conundrum at the moment. I'm coming along. :)

Priya said...

I second Terri's question! I seem to lose quite a bit of my water phase when I heat and hold.

Lise M Andersen said...

Hi Susan,
I discovered your blog only recently and am so pleased to be reading it. Thank you for all of your wonderful content!
I have a question about lotion consistency and emulsifers. I have been working with 2 emulsifiers quite common (in Europe where I am located) that are known from the food industry (I think they were developed for vegan ice cream). They are glyceryl stearate (VE) and sodium stearoyl lactylate (MF). I use these in combination with cetyl alcohol, and can get the most fabulous stiffness out of a very high water content lotion, but I am looking for a thick and RUNNY consistency with these emulsifiers. Have you ever worked with them? If so, have you ever been able to achieve a thick and runny consistency with them? I've tried tweaking the formula many times and have't gotten lucky yet. The reason I prefer working with these is that they are organic, edible and completely safe. I apprecaite any input you have.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Jillian. I think you're referring to this post, and you can use silicones with cetrimonium chloride without the fear of losing all of their goodness!

Hi Terri and Priya. I think I wrote a post on evaporation ages ago...yep, I wrote this post, but I need more detail about heating and holding.

Hi Nancy! Great ideas. Thanks so much for sharing your great ideas!

Hi Lise! I haven't worked with them separately, but I have worked with them in the form of Ritamulse. Have you tried it without the cetyl alcohol? That would be my first suggestion. And have you tried it without butters? That would be my second suggestion. Sorry I can't be more helpful, but I haven't got access to a lot of the HLB combination emulsifiers with which I can play, so I don't feel comfortable giving advice unless I've been hands on with it!

Lise M Andersen said...

Thank you for your input. I will definitely give This a try. :)

Victoria said...

Hello Susan,
first of all, thank you so much for doing what you do...this is such a blessing!!!
Here is my question:
I've been working on creating a line of body butters, using your basic body butter recipe from the lotions tutorial and I am coming up against a couple of things, that I haven't been able to figure out. First of all, I am using beeswax as my that OK and should there be a different percentage for it, rather then the 6 or 7 % emulcifier that you are recommending? Also, even though, I am using the 3% Cetyl alcohol, the butter comes out very thick and not glidy enough...what can i do to remedy that? It is also a bit grainy, even though I've been tempering the butters I use in it...
Finally, my stick blender only mixes it up to a certain point, until it becomes too thick for the blades to keep mixing, so what do i do at that point...what's a good device to use, as doing it by hand is really hard on my body and doesn't mix it well enough...there ends up being too much air in the final product.

I would really appreciate your help. If you'd like, you can write to me directly at

Thank you,
Victoria Raisky

Mychelle said...

One thing I do is keep a nice glass bottle at my work station for excess oils. When I over-pour oils when weighing I pour the excess into the glass bottle and I have an amazing, luxurious oil mixture that I use for bath, body, and massage. Simple, but a fun way to deal with excess.

Victoria, beeswax is not an emulsifier. Susan mentions this a few posts back and several other places throughout the blog. It is so important to understand that beeswax is a thickener, not an emulsifier. Totally different thing. HTH!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Mychelle! Thanks for your advice to Victoria and your bottle suggestion. This is a great idea and great way not to waste our valuable oils!

Hi Victoria! Your problem is the beeswax. As Mychelle mentions, beeswax is not an emulsifier (I make a note of that in this post and many other places), so you'll have to choose a proper emulsifier like Polawax, e-wax, BTMS, and so on if you're making an oil in water product. It won't be thick or glidy if you're using beeswax in your product: Beeswax is great at increasing the grip and tenacity of a lotion, so I'd get rid of it completely as it's not adding any emulsification to the mix. And that much beeswax is going to make your lotion too thick to mix. I don't know if the graininess is from the beeswax, your butters, or the emulsification failing - you can get graininess with that problem as well - but I would suggest your first step is to choose a good emulsification system and make your product with that and see what happens. You're getting air in your final product because the beeswax is stiffening and setting those bubbles in place.

I like to use a hand mixer with either the beater blades or whisks, depending upon the product. No offence intended towards stick blenders, but I'm not a fan of them. They have their place, but I find them more difficult to use and difficult to clean. I know a mixer can add some air and bubbles, but I've found it's less than when I've used a stick blender. But that's just my opinion. I know some people love them!

Ged said...

Hi Susan and lotion-makers

Susan, some of your "summary" posts recently have been particularly useful - great to have all the info in one place.

My lotion-making tip is one that could well have already been mentioned, but here goes ...

Once your lotion is emulsified but still warm and rather liquid, take out a teaspoonful and put it in a small glass or plastic dish and then pop it into the freezer for five minutes. This will give you an idea of what the consistency of your final lotion will be and you can decide whether you're going to adjust the water amount.

Also, if, like me you pour your lotion into bottles while it's still warm, always keep some leftover lotion on hand, as I find it ALWAYS settles to a lower level when cold. Doesn't matter if you use opaque bottles but looks bad if you're using clear PET.

Nene said...

Hello Susan! Thank you so much for this series and all that you do. It is very much appreciated.

I would like to know which in your opinion is better? Pouring the water phase in to the oil or the oil phase in to the water phase? On the forumulary suggests pouring the water phase in to the oil phase for better stability, however I noticed on other sites they suggest the opposite.

Victoria said...

Hi Susan and Michelle, thank you for both of your responses, I will try it out with a different emulcifier, probably e-wax...thanks again for your help, I really appreciate it!

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Nene. As I mention in this post, by pouring our water into the oil phase, you will get a phase inversion, which means our lotions will be more stable.

Lotioncrafter has great information and if you see a situation in which they say one thing and someone says another, I'd go with them every time!

Nene said...

Thank you so much Susan! Makes perfect sense.

Mariam said...

Hi Susan: LOVE your blog, read it everyday.
Further to Nancy's post about oil cleansers, I would like a good recipe and/or your thoughts on these products:

1. Bobbi Brown's oil cleanser: Isoproply Palmitate, Triethylhexanoin, Isodecyl Isononanoate, PEG-20 Glyceryl Triisotearate, Polybutene, Triisostearin, PEG-8 Diisostearate, PEG-12 Diisostearate, Zingiber Offinale (Ginger) Root Extract, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender), Bixa Orellana Seed Extract, Pentylene Glycol, Glyderin, Bisabolol, Methyldihydrojasmonate, Glyceryl Laurate, Tocopheryl Acetate, Water

2. DHC's deep oil cleanser: olea europaea (olive) fruit oil, caprylic/capric triglyceride, sorbeth-30 tetraoleate, pentylene glycol, phenoxyethanol, tocopherol, stearyl glycyrrhetinate, rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf oil
Thanks in advance. Hope you feel better soon.

Victoria said...

Hi Susan,
So, I tried out your body butter recipe without beeswax and with e-wax instead, also using a mixer instead of stick blender and this time it came out completely runny and liquidy not like butter at all, even though I did everything else the same as before, just not using beeswax. So now I am having a problem, exactly opposite from before. First it was too thick, now it's not a butter...Please help.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Mariam! I'll make a note of those products for an upcoming post! Thanks!

Hi Victoria. That makes no sense because that recipe is really thick. Can you e-mail me the exact recipe and process you used for it? Have you let it sit for a while to cool down? I've found that at first it can be quite liquidy, but it will solidify and create quite the cream or butter. Let me know and I'll see what I can do!

Some lotions can take as long as two days to reach their end consistency, depending on the thickeners (for instance, cetyl esters take longer than cetyl alcohol or stearic acid). You can't tell the true consistency until you get it to room temperature and the fatty acids and other wonderful thickeners reach their solidification point! (See Ged's suggestion about putting it in the freezer!)

Victoria said...

Hi Susan,
thanks for your response...i just sent you an e-mail with all that info. Looking forward to hearing from you :-)