Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Newbie Tuesday: Formulating lotion bars

I love lotion bars. They're super easy to make and you can customize them in so many ways! But what is a lotion bar, exactly? These are generally solid-ish, anhydrous products made with oils, butters, and waxes. The basic recipe is generally 1/3 butter, 1/3 oil, 1/3 wax, but you can make loads of modifications to this ratio. (From this post...)

What does this mean? This means that you place your heatproof jug on the scale and measure out 33 grams of your favourite butter, 33 grams of your favourite oil, and 33 grams beeswax. Heat it up until it melts, add up to 1 gram fragrance oil, then put into a mold of some kind and allow to cool until solid. (I like to put it in the fridge or freezer.)

That's it! Seriously? That's it?

Yep. Seriously? I said, yep!

It's amazing how simple it is to make these anhydrous or without water containing products. Whipped butter required two ingredients, and lotion bars require three. But making the product isn't the hard part in most recipes. It's coming up with the skin feel you really want in a product. The fun is experimenting in the workshop with the oils and butters you love! Let's take a look at each component of the lotion bar.

If you want to skip ahead, here's my really detailed post on making lotion bars from the Back to Basics series. This post is more about choosing your ingredients. 

The kind of butter you choose will determine what other ingredients you'll want to use, so this is the logical place to start. If you choose something like cocoa butter, you'll have a harder and less greasy than you would with refined shea butter.

If you came up with a whipped butter-oil combination you loved in your whipped butter, I suggest using those as the base of the lotion bar. I love a mango butter - sunflower or soy bean - rice bran oil combination for my slightly oily skin when I'm using them as a foot or chapped skin bar, but I really like mango butter with lanolin, lecithin, hazelnut or soy bean oil for my cuticle balm.

The colour will also depend upon the type of butter you choose. I can make my all white lotion bar using mango butter and white beeswax or the slightly beige kokum butter bar, all coloured by the butter. (Click here for a post on other butters...)

How much wax you'll use will depend upon the type of butter you chose. Cocoa butter is a harder butter, so you'll use less beeswax (as low as 25%). Mango butter is in the middle, so you can use 28% to 33%. Shea butter will vary, but I generally use 33% with my refined and ultra refined shea butter because it's so soft. The goal is to keep the bar solid when it is in the container or your hand, but to have it melt when it hits your skin. The beeswax will increase the melting point and drag on your skin, so you don't want to use more than you need.

There are other waxes you can choose - click here for a list - and you'll have to play around with them to see what works with your oil and butter combination. In general, carnauba and candellia require about half the amount you'd use for beeswax and soy wax will require a little more than beeswax. It really is something you have to try in the workshop.

Choose an oil that goes with your skin feel. Again, if you found a combination you love for the whipped butter, go with that and add the beeswax to it in the right proportions.

Because your oil amount is larger, you can play with oil combinations. Try 10% of one thing and 23% of another or 16% and 17% or 10%, 10%, and 13%! Spend a bit of time reading up about your emollients if you want to get creative.

As usual, feel free to alter pretty much anything in the recipe to match what you have in your workshop.

33% beeswax
33% butter of choice
33% oils of choice
1% fragrance or essential oil

33% beeswax
33% refined or ultra refined shea butter
33% oils
1% fragrance oil

Consider non-oils like cyclomethicone (2%, cool down), dimethicone (2%, cool down), IPM (up to 5% in the heated part), and so on. Cyclomethicone makes the bar feel drier and adds some silkiness to it. Dimethicone will offer some barrier protection and a glidy feeling. And IPM helps reduce the feeling of greasiness that might come from the oils.

28% beeswax
30% mango butter
31% oils (16% sunflower oil, 15% rice bran oil)
5% IPM

1% Vitamin E
1% fragrance or essential oil
2% cyclomethicone
2% dimethicone

Can you predict what this lotion bar might feel like? 

28% beeswax
30% mango butter
10% lanolin
10% lecithin
20% oils of choice - hazelnut or soy bean are good choices
1% Vitamin E (optional)
1% fragrance or essential oil

Melt everything except the Vitamin E and fragrance or essential oil in a heat proof container in a double boiler. When the ingredients have melted, remove from the heat and add the Vitamin E and fragrance oil. Pour into mold or container and let set. Rejoice.

I don't recommend you make more than 100 grams the first time you make lotion bars for two main reasons. (In fact, may I suggest trying 50 gram batches?) One, you are experimenting, and you don't want to make a ton of them so you have a cheap excuse to play further. And two, 100 grams makes a lot of lotion bars.

If you're putting them in lip balm containers, consider that the ones I bought from Voyageur hold 4.5 ml, a little less than a teaspoon, so 100 grams is going to make more than 20! If you're putting them in these little deodorant containers, consider you can make something like 10 of them with 100 grams. If you're putting them in little tins, consider that the the little chocolate molds held about 12 grams, so you can make 8 of them! I love lotion bars, but I can make them last a really long time!

There are many ways to store your lotion bars. Lip balm tubes, deodorant tubes, little tins...or you could go with plastic chocolate molds, silicone ice cube trays, soap molds, massage bar molds, and so on. Just have something you can put the non-containered lotion bars into when you're done. I like little tins or cellophane bags.

You can make quite large lotion bars - think of massage bars, for instance - but I really do suggest you start small and work your way up in size once you find a recipe you really like.

I regularly say you can use 1% fragrance or essential oil to fragrance your products...be careful with essential oils, and read up on them before using in your products. Some have lower than 1% suggested usage rates, some aren't suitable for leaving on the skin (citrus might make you photosensitive, for instance), some aren't suitable for some applications (peppermint might not be the best choice for a bath bomb), and some aren't suitable for some conditions, such as pregnancy.

Well, what are you waiting for? Get into the workshop and make some lotion bars! And post your results here so we can talk about it next week! (As usual, posts will be eligible for a random draw for your choice of an e-book!)

I've created a visual tutorial on SnapGuide to help you make lotion bars! 

Posts on lotion bars:
Back to basics: The basic recipe
Back to basics: Lotion bars - tweaking the waxes
Back to basics: Lotion bars - tweaking the butters and oils
Back to basics: Lotion bars - let's get complicated
Back to basics: Lotion bars - wrap up and link-o-rama
The chemistry of our nails: Lotion bar with lecithin and lanolin

Want to join in the fun? Check out the previous posts in the Newbie Tuesday series!
Newbie Tuesday: Learning about oils and butters - an introduction
Newbie Tuesday: Testing the skin feel of our oils
Newbie Tuesday: We're pushing the schedule back a week (great discussion here about the skin feel of our oils!)
Newbie Tuesday: What did you learn about the skin feel of your oils?
Newbie Tuesday: Creating a body oil
Newbie Tuesday: Creating whipped butters - choosing your butters
Newbie Tuesday: Creating whipped butters - recipes to try
Newbie Tuesday: What did you think about your whipped butters?
Creating whipped butters: A visual tutorial (Snapguide)

Join me next week when we take a look at your questions, comments, and recipes for awesome lotion bars! 


Miri Pardo said...

Hi Susan!

My husband and I use your posts regularly to stop formulating fights, so thank you!

We have a problem when using vanilla eo in our lotion bars-- it falls to the bottom or is unevenly dispersed through our lotion bars. How can we stop this? Hubby say "make an emulsion," but I say how is that possible if we are not using any hydrous based products?
At the end of the day, some of our vanilla based bars have most of the vanilla eo in them. Not pretty.


Diane said...

vanilla is very strong and thick and needs lots of heat and mixing to blend all in - unless you have to scoop it out, it is diluted in something which you have to take into account as an ingredient. If it says "absolute" there are solvents present. I've never used it in a product in its pure sense except in a perfume (very diluted). It's not the easiest one to work with in my experience.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Miri! I'm a family counsellor, so I guess I'm helping prevent conflict all over the place these days! :-)

Just wondering if what you have is vanilla eo? I know one of my favourite suppliers offers water soluble vanilla extract and an essential oil. And it can be because the vanilla is cold when you add it to the hot oil. I know that sounds weird - won't it heat up when you add it to something hot? - but I've noticed this in my conditioner bars when I add the fragrance oil. It can just sink to the bottom in a clump! Perhaps heating it slightly would work?

Voyageur Soap & Candle - vanilla extract (w/s)
Voyageur Soap & Candle - vanilla EO (o/s)

Anne-Marie said...

I always really love your detailed and thought-through posts. Thank you so much for taking the time and energy to talk about formulations. =)

Alexis said...

In theory a week should be plenty of time but.....not for me.

I wanted to make my first recipe as simple as possible, which can be challenging for me. I guess I really enjoy measuring a bunch of stuff or something.

33% Cera Bellina
33% Kokum Butter
33% Rice Bran Oil
1% Vanilla Vanilla Cybilla fragrance

I made 20 grams! That was enough to fill 2.5 flower-shaped molds of a silicon ice cube tray.

I like everything about these except I don't like having my finger tips waxy. This looks so much like my favorite lip balm, which is getting harder to find. So I thought my next batch would be for lip balm, again 20 grams.

2nd formula:

18% Cera Bellina
10% Sunflower Seed Wax
5% Candelilla Wax
23% Kokum Butter
10% Cupuacu Butter
17% Rice Bran Oil
16% Passion Fruit Seed Oil
1% Vit E

This filled 4 lip balm tubes with 0.5g left over - just filled the top button of the flower mold. I think this is a nice unisex blend for lip balm because it's not shiney. I included the sunflower seed wax for summer since it has a high melt point. This really is just as nice as my fav lip balm but has more staying power. The little 0.5g bar also made a nice lotion bar! This little piece was less tacky feeling than the first formula and seemed to glide more once it started to melt, which took a few more seconds than the first recipe.

For the curious, the ingredient list for my fav lip balm is titanium dioxide, castor oil, candelilla wax, isopropyl palmitate, vit E complex, organic calendula oil, organic jojoba oil, zinc oxide, octyl methoxycinnamate.
I used to ask for this for Christmas but won't need to anymore. ;-)

AZ said...

Do we need to add any preservative to them??? R all oil only creations do not need preservatives???

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi AZ. If you look at this post - when do you use preservatives? - you'll see that only things that contain water or things that you will have around water need preservatives! (It's also mentioned in this post, back to the very basics, part one.

Irène said...

So many thanks for all !

sailorzeo said...

Hi Susan, I've been trying to duplicate the Lush Wiccy Magic Muscles massage bar. Their listed ingredients are cocoa butter, adzuki beans, shea butter, jojoba oil, cinnamon eo, peppermint eo, and coconut oil. I did a lot of searching to find if someone else had already done the work, and found a recommendation of 45% cocoa butter, 25% shea butter, and 30% liquid oils. That sounded off to me, as I'd made some bath melts with similar proportions, and as soon as they were out of the fridge, I just had melted lumps. So I took my recipe and went 75% cocoa butter, 20% shea butter, 5% jojoba and 5% coconut oil. Even with that much cocoa butter, it still went melted schlump as soon as it was out of the fridge. Then I realized my math error, and tried to fix it by remelting it, taking the total weight up, adding another dose of shea butter and 3% stearic acid. I just checked it tonight (after taking it out of the fridge this morning) and it's still soft enough to put a finger through.
Lush doesn't use any wax in their bars, and they were nice and solid at room temperature. Am I doing something wrong with my proportions? Should I try adding more stearic acid? Or should I just give up and remelt it with some beeswax/carnauba/candellia wax? Thanks in advance. :-D

Heather said...

Hi Susan. Love your blog! I am also wondering about the wiccy magic muscle bar. Seems like everyone wants to duplicate lush lol. For me it is more of trying to figure out how in the world they make a hard bar without wax. The bar is hard but when you rub it on your skin it doesn't melt as fast as plain cocoa butter would. It kind of feels creamy to the touch but not a lot melts on the skin. Just thinking about the ingredients doesn't make sense. Cocoa butter is hard and melts instantly, Shea is softer and also melts instantly. Mixing the two together just doesn't seem like it could produce something as hard as cocoa butter that melts slower. I have tried to duplicate it using 90% cocoa, 8% Shea and the remaining 2% oils and fragrance. Still get a bar that melts super fast and doesn't even come close to the consistency of their bar. Is there some secret I am missing? I guess I am just curious. They make a shower scrub bar called Buffy that also doesn't have wax. Anyway who better to ask than you? Lol thank you for all of the helpful information! Heather

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi sailorzeo! Have you tried this with the beans? I know that might not make a big deal, but I know that my scrub bars without the sugar are softer than those without! I wouldn't use wax as it will mess with the melting of the product.

Hi Heather. I think they are using a ton of cocoa butter in their bars. Maybe try using a butter that melts closer to body temperature - like babassu - in place of something else?

Can I be really honest? I never try duplicating Lush stuff any more as there always seems like there's some magic explanation for why they can make it their way but no one else can. They can use fresh avocados that never go off, they can make things without preservatives, they can make things without proper emulsifiers - it seems like there's always some long explanation that generally defies the laws of chemistry of physics that they do in their plants that makes the product work. It's just too frustrating, so I give up.

Heather said...

Hi Susan. Thank you for the fast reply. I have one of their " fresh face masks" in my fridge right now. As a matter of a fact it has been in their for 2 months. I do not plan on using it. Just kind of forgot about it. No signs of mold or weird smells. I have heard they use a preservative that can be classified as a fragrance. If not then they have magic fruit that doesn't go bad lol. I get more joy out of creating my own products anyway. My sister wanted a dupe of the wiccy bar and it got me wondering how they produce it. Mine will just have to do lol. Thanks again! Heather

Merihelen said...

Thanks Susan for your input on Lush products. I am convinced and feel in fact know they don't put everything on their ingredients. For example, in the Mask of Magniminty, they list Bentone gel, well, what's that made up of? Well it appears it's made from about 3 different ingredients (not listed of course). This gets so angry! Every time I list my ingredients I never just put aloe gel- I think when that happens it's very misleading...I have tried several times to dupe the M.O.M mask to no avail. There is no way! Their mask is minty LIGHT green I am so skeptical of their process and ingredients! Do you know how to get it to lighten up? Another question do you think they are using refined butters? I don't even smell the shea... PS great blog, I love it, great job!

Penpen said...

Okay I have a question because this has been a huge issue for our family and our little us ones we are trying to create and continue with. We are trying to get Tim's to fit our bars.....we originally started out with oval but now are contemplating doing just round but our problem is finding tins that are affordable from a business point. Has anyone found or do you know of a great place that has affordable tins for our lotion bars??
Thanks in advance for anyone's assistance with this??

Anonymous said...

Penpen- I just got a shipment of 4 oz. round tins from specialtybottle.com that fit my molds from brambleberry.com

Journaler said...

I'm brand new to this and was happy to find your site (after the fact...) I made my first lotion bars using bees wax, coconut oil & shea butter. i used a few drops of lavender and rosemary. The bar works but it's not creamy enough..its quite hard actually. And I'm not crazy about the scent but I can work on that. Any suggestions on a better recipe? And can I re-melt the few bars I made and add something to make them just a bit softer/creamier.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Journaler! As I don't know your original recipe, it's hard to suggest what might make it creamier. I mention a few things about how to formulate a bar, and I'm sure there are a few suggestions about making a softer lotion bar that might work for the recipe you have now. I've also written up or linked to so many recipes in the post that I feel confident in saying one of those will offer a more creamy texture than what you've made in the past.

Lotion bars are, by definition, hard. It might be this isn't the product you're seeking. Check out the newbie section for all kinds of recipes for beginners, including whipped butters and lotions.

Journaler said...

Thanks Susan Barclay-Nichols. I used 1 cup shea butter, 1 cup bees wax, 1 cup coconut oil and a few drops of lavender & rosemary. I'll check out the newbie sestion. I do want to know if I can re-melt some of the bars I made to add some additional or different oils.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Journaler! I'm afraid I can't help when something is in volume measurements because it doesn't work out to 1 cup of beeswax = 250 grams beeswax. Please use weighted measurements when you're making things as it's easier to see what's happening. What I can say is that you aren't going to get much creamier than using shea butter. It's the epitome of creamy! What I will suggest is that you make much smaller batches - you can go as low as 30 grams total - in the future.

As for this recipe, measure it and see how much it weighs. Then you can add a few things to it. Don't add any more hard waxes or butters to it. Try adding some oils to it. Try 10% of the total weight and see if you like it. If not, add 5% more, then 5% more and see what you think. That's really the only way to do it. But do it by weight!

Annewow said...

I got some beautiful molds from bulkapothecary.com/categories/massage-oil-lotion.html and i love them, they also have different oils that work great with this recipe. thanks for posting!

Katie said...

I've been making lotion bars and have noticed an unexpected change of consistency within the bars themselves (as opposed to between bars or between batches). They seem harder/waxier on the outside and softer/less waxy towards the center. I'm using equal amounts beeswax, butters (cocoa, shea) and oils (coconut, avocado). I use a double boiler to melt the ingredients, pour into the molds and freeze. I can't imagine what could be causing this & would appreciate any insight.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Katie. Unfortunately, without a complete recipe in percentages along with your complete process, I can't really help much. If you could share that, we'd be able to offer some ideas.

Kay Bee said...

Hey Susan:

So happy I came across your page. I am a budding small business owner. I have tried making lotion bars and have had some degree of success. However, I noticed that after a few weeks I start to get little white spots on my bars. They eventually spread and cover the entire bar. They feel very rough on contact. I am wondering if there may be some sort of contamination somewhere as these bars don't usually require a preservative.

I have used optiphen in some cases but it doesn't seem to help. Do you have any suggestions or ideas as to what may be causing this?

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Thank you for your kind words, Kay Bee. Without your formula, it's hard to make a guess as to what's going on. Sorry.