Basic Lotion Emulsion

Oil-based balms and butters are great for the skin, but they leave a trace of oil behind everywhere – you will discover oil stains on your pillow, smudges on the lens of your glasses and fingerprint evidence on everything you touch. If you are looking for a natural moisturiser recipe that is light and will absorb perfectly without leaving an oily residue on your skin, then this recipe is for you. The secret to making a lotion that absorbs perfectly is to combine oil with water – so this recipe is an emulsion. It requires a few more ingredients than balms and butters, but the method remains quick and easy. This recipe may also be used as a base which you can customise with your own essential oils.

Lotion Emulsion for Beginners

15 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Natural Skincare

Lotion Emulsion for Beginners

A natural and fragrance-free oil-in-water emulsion recipe for beginners. This lotion is thin, light, easily absorbed and may be stored in a pump bottle.

Ingredients

    Cool Down Phase:
  • 1g Geogard Ultra OR 1ml Geogard 221 (preservative)
  • 1ml Citric Acid Dilution – 10% dilution in distilled water (to correct pH)
    Equipment & Tools:
  • Kitchen Scale (to weigh all ingredients)
  • Blender or Whisk
  • Graduated Pipette (to measure small volumes)
  • 2x Heat-proof pots or beakers
  • 2x Stainless steel spoons
  • 2x Hot Plates / Stoves
  • pH strips or digital pH meter (optional)
  • Thermometer (optional)
  • Sterilized container (to store lotion)
  • Funnel (to transfer lotion into bottle)

Instructions

  1. Makes 200g lotion. This recipe must be followed in weight (grams).
  2. Combine vegetable glycerine with xanthan gum to make a paste. Set aside.
  3. natural nerd_how-to-mix-xanthan-gum-and-glycerine@2x
  4. Place all oil phase ingredients into one pot.
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  6. Place the distilled water (and Geogard Ultra, if using) together into another pot.
  7. Start to heat the contents of both pots at exactly the same time, on the lowest heat setting.
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  9. When the water becomes warm, add the glycerine-xanthan paste to the distilled water and mix well. The water will become murky and thicker, like a gel.
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  11. Do not allow the ingredients in either pot to boil or get above 70’C. The contents should get hot, but not boiling hot. If you can’t get both pots to the same temperature, rather have the water phase hotter.
  12. Once the contents of both pots are the same hot temperature (approx. 70’C), combine them by adding the oil phase to the water phase.
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  14. Whisk manually for 2 minutes, or blend for 10-20 seconds, until you see that the oil has combined with the water and the mixture is white and creamy. This is your lotion.
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  16. Set your lotion aside to cool down to room temperature. Do not cover with a lid.
  17. Once the lotion has cooled down completely, add the citric acid dilution. Mix this in very well so that it is evenly distributed.
  18. natural-nerd_how-to-ph-correct-with-citric-acid@2x
  19. Follow this step only if you are using Geogard 221 instead of Geogard Ultra, otherwise ignore completely. Add the Geogard 221 preservative after you have mixed in the citric acid dilution. Ensure that you mix this in very well too, so that it is evenly distributed. If you are using Geogard Ultra, refer to step 4.
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  21. Transfer your lotion into a sterilised container using a funnel if necessary, and store away from direct sunlight. Use within 3 months.
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Notes

1. The preservative is necessary, since there is water in this recipe. Water invites bacteria. Without the preservative, this lotion will have a maximum shelf life of one week even if it’s kept in the refrigerator. Without a preservative; bacteria, fungus, mould and yeast will start to grow. You may use any preservative, but bear in mind that each preservative has different applications and usage rates. So make sure to read the manufacturer’s directions and adjust the recipe accordingly.

2. To make a 10% citric acid dilution, dissolve 1 part citric acid in 10 parts distilled water (in weight). In other words, 1 gram citric acid dissolved in 10 grams distilled water. For this recipe, you will use 1 ml of that final dilution.

https://naturalnerd.co.za/basic-lotion-emulsion/

Recipe variations

Oil substitutes:
You may substitute the oils and butters in this recipe with any other oils and butters as long as you use the exact same weight. However, I cannot guarantee that it will have a texture, colour or scent that you like, since each oil brings different properties to lotions.

Adding essential oils:
You may add up to 5ml of additives to this lotion, for example, essential oils and vitamin E oil – or you may use this recipe as is for a fragrance-free lotion. I usually add about 2ml (~40 drops) of essential oils to my lotion base.

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 thin and light enough to be pumpable. If you would prefer a thicker, cream-like texture, adjust the quantities of these ingredients as follows: 115g distilled water; 16g Olive Oil; 20g Shea Butter; 30g Coconut Oil and 14g Eco E-wax. The same instructions apply. These quantities will result in a cream, rather than a lotion.

Citric acid:
You may choose to exclude the citric acid solution, however it is strongly recommended as 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 10% citric acid dilution to achieve this desired pH. To make a 10% dilution, dissolve 1 part of citric acid in 10 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), because I still have a big stock of it at home. However, it seems that this preservative is no longer being manufactured, so I’ve had to update this post with the best preservative that is currently available in South Africa – Geogard Ultra. Geogard 221 is a golden liquid, whereas Geogard Ultra is a powder. That’s why you’ll notice my photographs show me adding a liquid preservative at the end (in step 12). 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 cooled down in step 12.

COST & SHELF LIFE

Cost Price: R18.70 per 200g (in 2019, 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 adding ingredients like vitamin E oil and anti-bacterial essential oils will not effectively preserve your product.

CHALLENGE

  • If this is your first time making an emulsion, it may seem like you need a lot of ingredients that you’ve never heard of, especially when compared to making a simple oil-based moisturiser. You may be tempted to stick to the easy, greasy stuff.
  • 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).

CHERRY ON TOP

  • No oily residue. Your skin will be moisturised without you having to look like a glazed donut.
  • The texture of this emulsion is just like the lotions you buy in-store, except its completely natural. The texture is what you are most accustomed to.
  • Works out significantly cheaper than any retail lotions and creams. And when you buy each ingredient, you will be able to make kilograms of lotion at a fraction of the cost of buying the same amount (whether natural or not). For example, the preservative Geogard Ultra may cost you R650 to buy once-off, but since you are only using 1 gram at a time, you will be able to make this recipe 250 times over. That’s enough for 50 litres of lotion! It’s the same for other ingredients too. If you have to buy every ingredient, there will be an expensive once-off cost, but if you work it out you will see that the cost per gram of this recipe is cheap.

INGREDIENTS

  • 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.
  • 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)
  • Olive oil: contains anti-aging antioxidants and hydrating squalene, making it superb for hair, skin, and nails. (Buy here)
  • Coconut oil: has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and moisturizing properties. It is composed of nourishing fatty acids, especially high in lauric acid. It also contains vitamin E and healthy fats, which help to make skin smooth. (Buy here)
  • Shea butter: has high concentrations of fatty acids and vitamins which soften skin. It also has anti-inflammatory properties. Shea butter conditions, tones, and soothes your skin. (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)
  • 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.

RECOMMENDED RETAIL OPTIONS

If you don’t want to make it yourself, then here are some natural lotion emulsion products which you can buy. I have used and approved each one. They are, however, more pricey than making it yourself:

My personal favorite (and it smells amazing!):
Earthsap Milk & Honey Lotion ingredients: Purified water, olive fruit oil, aloe oil, stearic acid (source: palm oil), beeswax, rosemary oil, vitamin E, xanthan gum, jojoba and evening primrose oil.

Best reviews and fragrance-free:
Oh Lief Natural Aqueous Cream ingredients: Water, glycerine, coconut oil, cetyl alcohol, sesame seed oil, olive fruit oil, glyceryl stearate, glyceryl stearate citrate, cetearyl alcohol, bentonite clay, betaine (sugar pulp), glyceryl caprylate, beeswax, xanthan gum, benzyl alcohol, dehydroacetic acid, citric acid, tocopherol (vitamin E).

Do you think that this is an effective lotion which absorbs perfectly? If you’ve tried it, please share your feedback in the comments below.

2 thoughts on “Basic Lotion Emulsion”

  1. Hi Christine,
    Thanks for the body lotion recipe. I tried it yesterday and it really is the best that I have tried so far (I have used the one on your course without the gum).
    I find the ph strips a bit useless and see you link to the take-a-lot site – which do you recommend? I also need a more sensitive scale – mine only measures in 1g increments so I’m not 100 % sure I got the Glycerine and XGum measurements entirely correct.

    • Hi Lindsay,
      Thank you so much for your positive feedback 🙂 I’m so happy that you like it. I’ve recently improved my course recipe to include the gum – it makes a huge difference. The reason I linked to a Takealot search, rather than a specific product, is because their links are constantly changing. But I personally buy the yellow one that currently costs between R244-R314. Here is the current link. I also only have a scale that measures in 1g increments – I’m sure your measurements were fine. It’s okay if they are off by a few milligrams. And with a bigger batch, you’ll be able to measure more accurately at least. But if you do want to buy a more sensitive scale, here is one that measures in 0.01g increments for sale on Takealot too. I hope that helps.

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