Make natural moisturizer

Over 95% of recipes taught fail safety tests.

Learn the correct way to make a lotion from Jane, an expert Cosmetic Chemist whose clients include Body Shop, Blistex, Ted Baker, Boots

This tutorial will walk you through the process step by step.


What’s the difference between a lotion, cream, moisturiser and body butter? They are made the same way and mostly contain the same ingredients, however a lotion and moisturiser tend to be more fluid than a cream or body butter so may contain less oils, less emulsifier and less thickener. A moisturiser and cream are usually used on the face and special ingredients called actives are more likely to be included. Also less heavy oils are used.


1. SCALE – Two types – one for large amounts and one for small amounts:-




Small –



2. NON-MERCURY GLASS LAB THERMOMETER (buy 2 at least as over time they will break): – For the UK: and for the US:

3. MIXER – use white attachment for lotions less than 300g and the metal attachment for above 300g:-


and USA:

4. TWO METAL TRIVETS / RINGS (to place the beakers on top of so the beakers don’t touch the bottom of the saucepan) – comes in all sorts of forms – a ring or cooling rack eg or if you can’t find one you can use an empty tuna or sardine can or even a cookie cutter. If you are in the UK use ebay to search for the words: gas safety stars

5. TWO AUTOCLAVABLE POLYPROPYLENE CHEMICAL RESISTANT LAB BEAKERS – UK – and USA: either lotioncrafter tri-pour beakers or

6.JUG to hold your cool down phase ingredients

7. SANITIZER – I usually sanitise all my equipment and actually everything that touches my ingredients/lotion including bottles/jars before I make my lotion. If you live in the UK you can use Milton (fluid version is better than the tablets or wipes) which you can get from pharmacists – it’s used to sterilise baby bottles. If you live in the US you can use instead 70% isopropyl alcohol (walgreens and walmart sells). 70% is better than 100% as the water in the solution denatures the microorganisms’s proteins.


– In the UK –
– In the US – lotioncrafter and theherbarie (there are others but for ease I’ve chosen these two as they do most/all of the ingredients):-

1. PRESERVATIVE – essential, not optional. Try liquid germall plus/GFplus GPL – 0.5% cool down phase. Vitamin E, benzoin, rosemary extract, grapefruit extract are anti-oxidants NOT preservatives – they will help with oxidation of oils only and do nothing to help prevent gram positive and negative bacteria and mold which grow in anything containing water.) If your lotion is unpreserved it will last up 5 days in the fridge. (You can’t rely on your vision to check whether your lotion is OK because bacteria and spores are microscopic and can’t be seen by the human eye.) If you aren’t going to use all your lotion within 5 days (refrigerated) then please use a preservative so you don’t get a skin infection or allergic reaction. The ideal preservative is broad spectrum meaning it guards against bacteria, mould, yeast and other fungi. (Note: Optiphen can de-stabilise your emulsion.). For other preservative choices see –

IMPORTANT: Putting tea, goat’s milk, honey, hydrosols, floral waters, aloe vera, extracts, protein, powders, starches etc in your recipe which will really challenge the preservative. Yes it is possible to use, for example, 50% aloe vera or hydrosol in a formula and still pass preservative tests but do ask the supplier for a copy of the micro testing for the batch of aloe/hydrosols you are buying (could be in the Certificate of Analysis) – check it is less than 100 cfu/gram or ml and no staph, Candida albicans or Gram negative bacteria!.

Note: You only need to preserve products which contain water or water phase ingredients – this includes goat’s milk, aloe vera, hydrosols, floral water as they contain mainly water.

2. EMULSIFIER – Cetyl alcohol and beeswax are NOT emulsifiers. A proper emulsifier is essential otherwise your lotion will separate and you’ll find oil on top. If you have oily skin buy lotioncrafter’s lotionpro or in the UK buy’s lexemul. For all other skin types, please be careful which emulsifying wax you buy as some don’t work. An easy to use natural emulsifier blend is Natragem EW sold by Penny Lane Organics in Canada and in Europe you can buy from, two emulsifiers: Emulsan II and Polyglyceryl-3 dicitrate / stearate and use them to make your own natural emulsifier blend by using 50% of each. So if the formula indicates 5% emulsifier you would use 2.5% of emulsan II and 2.5% of polyglyceryl-3.  But do note that this emulsifier blend is very thin so you will need to add extra cetyl alcohol for thickness as indicated in the recipe below.

A starting guide of how much total emulsifier blend to use is to add it at 25% (one quarter) of the total of the oil soluble ingredients in your recipe. (Note: Oil soluble ingredients can also be found in your cool down phase, for example, fragrance, vitamin E, cyclomethicone). So if your oil soluble ingredients excluding the emulsifier totals 10% then you’ll be using 2.5% emulsifier. However if you are using lotionpro/lexemul add it at 15% (instead of 25%) of the total oil soluble ingredients, but do not add it below 3% in your actual recipe. Please note lotionpro/lexemul gives quite a thin lotion so unless you have oily skin, you may wish to add an extra 2% cetyl alcohol.

3. OILS – In the US you can buy most oils from the supermarket. In the UK we are a bit more restricted. I’ve only listed oils which have a shelf life of at least 1 year. Please choose 2-3 oils according to your skin type:-

– oily skin: hazelnut, jojoba, squalane, macadamia.
– normal skin: squalane, rice bran, fractionated coconut oil, apricot kernel
– dry skin: apricot kernel, rice bran, meadowfoam, olive, refined avocado

Note: shelf life—most oils are between 3-12 months from when they were manufactured—the ones below have a 1 year min shelf life. Check the shelf life of oils not listed here on swiftcraftymonkey’s blog. Your lotion will last as long as the shortest shelf life ingredient.

4. HUMECTANTS – draw water from the air to your skin, helps moisturise: glycerin (1%-7%) and sodium lactate (1-2%). Sodium lactate another effective effective which you might wish to include if you have dry skin. .

5. THICKENER/STABILISER – this is essential: (1-4%) cetyl alcohol and/or (0.2-0.3%) xanthan gum. Xanthan gum is optional but provides additional stability.

6. BUTTERS (optional) – pick one: shea, kokum, cocoa, mango. Good for dry skin and for body butters.

7. WATER – use distilled, purified or deionised. Do not use tap water or bottled water or mineral water as this contains chemicals which will make your lotion go off quicker.
– In the US distilled water available from supermarkets.
– In the UK carplan brand deionised water in the car section of supermarkets or in Halfords. Alternatively, independent pharmacists sell purified water.
BUT please add an extra 10% because you will lose some water through evaporation. How to calculate how much water to use? The amount is whatever you need to make your recipe add up to a total of 100%. So if all your ingredients excluding water add up to 40% then your water % will be 60% as 60% is needed for the recipe to add up to 100%. If all your ingredients excluding water add up to 30% then your water % will be 70%. Don’t forget to add an extra 10% on top of this to account for water evaporation.

8. VITAMIN E (TOCOPHEROL) – optional. This is not a preservative so will not guard against bacteria or mould which grows in anything containing water. This is an antioxidant and so helps extend the life of your oils very slightly. This is used at up to 0.1% (if more than 0.1% is added, it will be at risk of pro-rancidity).

9. FRAGRANCE OIL or ESSENTIAL OIL – optional. Usage: up to 1%.

10. DL-PANTHENOL (0.5-3% optional) – non sticky moisturising humectant (vitamin B5), healing properties – add at 2 to 3% cool down phase if it’s liquid, otherwise if it’s in the powder form it goes in the heated water phase.
Note the expiry date of each of your ingredients – the shelf life for your lotion will be that of the ingredient which will expire first. Do keep your more sensitive ingredients in the fridge or freezer so they last longer.

11. SILICONES: usage 1-4% – optional but really improves feel:-
– Dimethicone – good for barrier protection for dry skin, reduces soapy and waxy feel from emulsifying wax
– Cyclomethicone – gives slip, glide and a silky feel

USE WEIGHT MEASUREMENTS (grams) NOT VOLUME (ml, drops, cups, teaspoons etc)

Cosmetic formulators use the weight measurement of grams instead of ounces, cups, teaspoons etc. For example, a can of coke will hold about 330 grams. The recipes we are using are in grams and we will be making about 400 grams.

For accuracy weight measurements should always to be used. It’s much easier to weigh precisely than to measure by volume. For example, 100ml or teaspoons of different ingredients will weigh differently as they have different densities (specific gravity). For example a teaspoon of sunflower oil will weigh less than a teaspoon of water and a teaspoon of sunflower oil will weigh a different amount to a teaspoon of olive oil.

Use our recipe calculator on this site to convert the % below to grams.


WATER PHASE (water soluble ingredients go here)
??% de-ionised/distilled water – The % of water is whatever amount is needed to make the recipe up to 100%. So if all your ingredients excluding water add up to 40% then your water % will be 60% as 60% is needed for the recipe to add up to 100%. If all your ingredients excluding water add up to 30% then your water % will be 70%. Don’t forget to add an extra 10% water as at least 10% will evaporate during the 20 mins
2% sodium lactate (optional)
1% panthenol if its the powder version (optional)
3% glycerin

OIL PHASE (oil soluble ingredients)
2% butter (optional, if you have dry skin)
4% Natragem EW (emulsifier blend – essential) sold by Penny Lane Organics in Canada or in Europe do buy the 2 natural emulsifiers from aliacura mentioned in the emulsifier section above and use 2% each. Alternatively, or if you have oily skin you can use instead: lotionpro/lexemul
8% – total of your chosen oils
2% cetyl alcohol (increase cetyl to 4% if either you have: (a) non-oily skin and are using lotionpro/lexemul or the two aliacura emulsifiers or (b) you have dry skin).
0.1% vitamin E (optional)
2% dimethicone (optional)
0.2 xanthan gum (optional but helps stability)

COOL DOWN PHASE (water/oil soluble heat sensitive ingredients)
2% cyclomethicone (optional)
up to 1% essential oil or fragrance (optional)
1% panthenol if it’s the liquid version (optional) .
0.5% liquid germall plus (or if you are using another preservative see our preservative review page).


1. Sanitise containers, countertops, equipment – see under the equipment section above and boil some deionised/purified/distilled water in the microwave in case you need it later to make up the water which evaporated (if more than 10% water evaporated).

2. Weigh your WATER PHASE into your container.
• Put your container into a saucepan which has some hot water in it.
• Sit the container on an empty tuna can or trivet which is placed the bottom of the saucepan so the container isn’t in direct contact with the saucepan. If you are using an induction hob please use a trivet which is made of aluminium otherwise the trivet can heat up to over 100C/212F.
• Heat the water phase to 75˚C/165f and then hold it at that temperature for 20 minutes.
Note: 75C for 20 minutes can’t be counted on to sterilize a product. It will likely reduce microbial levels by killing some of the non-endospore-forming bacteria, but it will probably not kill all of them.

3. While your water phase is heating, weigh your OIL PHASE into your other container.
• Put the container into a saucepan which has some hot water in it.
• Sit the container on an empty tuna can or trivet which is placed the bottom of the saucepan so the container isn’t in direct contact with the saucepan. If you are using an induction hob please use a trivet which is made of aluminium otherwise the trivet can heat up to over 100C/212F.

4. Heat the oil phase up to the same temperature as the water phase.
Note – You DO NOT need to hold the oil phase for 20 mins, however, we will need to heat the oil phase up to the same temperature as the water phase when you combine the phases for a proper emulsion (see below).

5. After the water phase has had 20 minutes at around 75c/165f and the oil phase is also at that temperature;
• Slowly pour the water phase into the oil phase and mix very well with a stick blender.
• Mix periodically as the temperature drops.
Do not use a milk/coffee frother or whisk or spoon/fork as the emulsifier needs high shear (extremely fast horizontal flat blade mixing) without too much turbulence so a stick blender or our recommended bosch mixer is best used.  (The bosch mixer is also handy as the white attachment can mix lotions less than 300g).

6. When the lotion reaches 45˚C/110f, add your cool down ingredients and mix very well.
• You will notice it will start to thicken up quite quickly and will continue to thicken up over the next hour or so.

7. Allow the lotion to come to room temperature.
• Weigh the lotion to see if more than 10% water has evaporated. If it has, add some of the pre-boiled water to make up the difference and mix well.

8. Put your lotion into jars/bottles only once it is at room temperature otherwise you will get condensation inside the container and the condensation will not contain preservative.

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