Natural Aqueous Cream

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Traditionally, aqueous cream is very light, well absorbed and fragrance-free. This light cream is achieved by using – as the name aqueous suggests – mostly water. Many people prefer to use aqueous creams for their sensitive skin, eczema or for their children’s skin. Therefore, the key to achieving a good aqueous cream is to formulate an oil-in-water emulsion which uses hypoallergenic carrier oils. Of course, you may add essential oils to this fragrance-free recipe if you prefer. Lavender essential oil is a good choice for sensitive skin, and is considered a safe essential oil for children. Don’t expect this cream to be richly nourishing. If that is what you’re looking for, rather make my rich winter body cream recipe instead. This recipe will definitely moisturise your skin, but it’s so light that it won’t feel greasy and rich like most creams and body butters. If you have never made a cream emulsion before, please refer to my basic lotion recipe for step-by-step photos.

Recipe variations

Oil substitutes:
You may substitute the oils in this recipe with any other oils as long as you use the exact same weight. I recommend using a liquid oil, and one that is hypoallergenic like hemp, sunflower, sweet almond, apricot kernel, canola or jojoba oil. Avoid using sweet almond and apricot kernel oil if you have a nut allergy though. If you do substitute, I cannot guarantee that it will have the same texture, colour or scent as my recipe, since each oil brings different properties to lotions.

Adding essential oils:
You may add up to 4ml of additives to this cream, for example, essential oils and vitamin E oil. For pregnant women and young children, I recommend using a maximum of 1ml (~20 drops) of safe essential oils. If you’d prefer not to use essential oils, but you want a fragrance, then substitute the distilled water and use a hydrosol instead. Hydrosols are like flavoured distilled waters that are significantly milder, safer and cheaper than essential oils. Rose water is an example of a hydrosol.

Changing quantities:
If you want to make a bigger batch, you may multiply the quantities. For example, multiply all ingredients by 5 to make one kilogram of lotion. This lotion is light enough to be pumpable.

Citric acid:
You may choose to exclude the citric acid solution if your cream tests to at least a pH6. However, if it tests to pH8, like mine did, you must lower the pH in order for the preservative to work. Geogard Ultra is only effective within pH 3-6 range. So, at pH8 you will have an unpreserved product. Citric acid is strongly recommended also because it lowers the pH of this lotion from pH8 (neutral) to pH5.5 (slightly acidic), which is the natural pH of our skin. You may also use your own pH strips / meter to measure the pH of your lotion, and add a few drops of citric acid at a time until you reach a pH5.5. If you adhere to my exact recipe, you should require approximately 1ml of a 25% citric acid dilution to achieve this desired pH. To make a 25% dilution, dissolve 1 part of citric acid in 4 parts of distilled water (in weight).

Note on preservatives:
When I make this recipe, I use the preservative Geogard 221 (which is dehydroacetic acid diluted in benzyl alcohol). Geogard 221 is a golden liquid, whereas Geogard Ultra is a powder. You may use any cosmetic preservative you wish, but I recommend Geogard Ultra. Remember that each preservative has its own directions for use, so simply adjust the instructions in this post about when to add the preservative and how much of it to use according to the manufacturers instructions. If you use Geogard Ultra, simply add it to the distilled water in step 4. Whereas if you are using Geogard 221, then add it after the final lotion has completely cooled down in step 12.


Cost Price: R 18.90 per 200g excluding essential oils (in 2020, based on the best retail prices I’ve found).
Lasted me about:
 1 month using twice a day for my face and hands.
Estimated shelf life: 3 months if you include the preservative, and store away from direct sunlight. Without the preservative, this lotion only has a shelf life of 1 week when stored in the refrigerator. Please note that ingredients like vitamin E oil and anti-bacterial essential oils will not effectively preserve your product.


Some people may be weary about including a synthetic preservative, like Geogard 221 or Geogard Ultra. However, these preservatives are ECOCERT and SOIL association approved to be used in certified organic products, and has no evidence of being toxic when used as instructed by the manufacturer (Geogard 221 at 0.5 – 1% ; and Geogard Ultra at 0.5 – 2% of the total recipe weight).


  • No Petroleum and Paraffin (also known as mineral oil). Yes, that’s what is inside popular aqueous creams.
  • Achieve perfectly moisturised skin, without the oily residue.
  • Ideal for sensitive skin and eczema.
  • The texture is just like the aqueous cream you buy in-store, except it’s completely natural.
  • Works out cheaper than buying natural aqueous cream brands, and is about the same price as ordinary retail brands.


  • Distilled water: is a pure form of water without additional minerals, salts and other deposits which typically shorten the shelf life of a lotion. You can find distilled water at most pharmacies. Don’t confuse distilled water with filtered, spring or purified water – they are not the same thing. (Buy here)
  • Vegetable glycerine: moisturises the skin and retains moisture in the skin by acting as a protective barrier that locks in moisture. It is also necessary to hydrate the xanthan gum in the recipe to prevent clumps from forming. (Buy here )
  • Xanthan gum: stabalizes the lotion so that it does not separate or curdle in heat. Xanthan gum is a sugar derived from either corn, soy or wheat. (Buy here)
  • Castor oil: is a hypoallergenic oil with a low comedogenic score, making it ideal for sensitive skin. It is rich in fatty acids, especially high in ricinoleic acid. It is used to treat dry, irritated skin and wrinkles, and is also reputed to boost collagen production. If you are pregnant, please speak to your doctor before using castor oil topically. (Buy here)
  • Grapeseed oil: is a hypoallergenic oil with a low comedogenic score, making it suitable for all skin types. It is one of the lightest and best absorbed carrier oils, and it lacks fragrance. Grapeseed oil contains vitamin E, and has been shown to improve skin tone, and help the vitamin C and E in your skin to be more efficient. (Buy here)
  • Eco E-wax: is a vegetable-based emulsifying wax which allows water and oil to combine without separating. It is also known as Glycerol Monostearate, and is ECOCERT and SOIL association approved for use in natural and organic products. (Buy here)
  • Geogard Ultra: is a synthetic preservative composed of gluconolactone and, the organic acid, sodium benzoate in powder form. It is ECOCERT, NATRUE and SOIL association approved for use in natural and organic products. (Buy here)
  • Vitamin E oil: An antioxidant that protects the skin from further sun damage, treats damaged skin, and it helps decrease the signs of lines and wrinkles. (Buy from Faithful to Nature or Dischem)
  • Citric acid: is an organic acid that occurs naturally in citrus fruits and is a common additive in foods. In this recipe, citric acid is used to lower the pH of the neutral lotion to the natural pH of human skin, which is slightly acidic at pH 5.5. (Buy here)

Need help finding these, or other ingredients? My shopping guide may help you.


If you don’t want to make it yourself, then Oh-Lief Natural Aqueous Cream is a really good product that I can recommend. I have bought and used this product myself. It contains simple ingredients, and is also fragrance-free. This product has the best reviews on Faithful to Nature for products of its kind. It is, however, more pricey than making it yourself:

Do you think that this is an effective aqueous cream for sensitive skin? If you’ve tried it, please share your feedback in the comments below.

4 thoughts on “Natural Aqueous Cream”

  1. Hi, I made this lotion and it turned out great, my only issue is that when I first apply it on my hands it looks stringy what could be causing this?

    • Hello Martha, and thank you for your feedback. It’s hard for me to know exactly what “stringy” looks like without seeing the cream. When I experience “stringy” cream I understand that to mean when too much xanthan gum has been added and it has a thick and almost sticky texture. If the cream is on your fingers, and you separate them, it stretches out like elastic. Is that what your cream looks like? If so, then it’s too much xanthan gum. If not, you can send me a message on one of my social media channels, and attach a photo or video of the cream. That way, I may be of more help to you.

  2. Hi Christina,

    I made this lotion in the past and loved it. I ran out and made more tonight, but I screwed up and it’s very watery 😩. I know where I screwed up..but is there anything I can do to fix this?

    • Hello Erin. Perhaps if you tell me what you did wrong, then I can help determine if there is a fix for it. What went wrong? Did you forget the xanthan gum?


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