The Handmade Lotion Trials: First Batch

I ran out of my usual lotion last week.  I have been using St. Ives for years.  I’ve enjoyed various formulas they’ve come out with.  Generally speaking they use very mild scents and they’ve always been affordable.  All natural they are NOT.  I have branched out time and time again to find an all natural replacement for it but no formula has met my needs.  My skin is sensitive and very dry.  I use hand lotion obsessively.  I am very picky about what it should feel like and how it should perform.  I think everyone’s skin responds differently to moisturizers and so what works for me will not necessarily work for others.

When I got down to scraping the bottle of my St. Ives lotion I bought a replacement for it, once again telling myself that some day I would just try to make my own lotion.  I had a neighbor once who said she and her mom make their own lotion every year and said it’s really easy.  However, needing lotion RIGHT NOW TODAY THIS MINUTE I brought home a familiar formula of St. Ives called “Intensive Healing” and opened it up and slathered it on my dry legs and was instantly overwhelmed by the most potent fragrance – perfumey and strong enough to knock a horse out.  This was new.  They don’t usually have such obnoxious fragrances and usually the fragrances smell pretty natural.  This scent that accosted me from my own skin reminded me of a certain cologne-stinking produce man I have a secret and strong dislike for.

Not okay.  Not only that, even if I could stomach such a strong scent on myself, I am not okay with accosting other people with chemical fragrances that may give them headaches or worse – make them sick.  So I hit the lotion isle at Rite Aid hoping to find one last bottle of my tried and true lotion.  They didn’t have any.  I read every lotion bottle on the shelf.  Every damn one.  I’m pretty sure I made the Rite Aid employees very nervous.  The ingredients lists, even on the “natural” bottles, read like foreign languages.  Partly this is due to the fact that most of the companies list ingredients like vitamin E in fancy-pants science lingo.  Still, do I need all that crap in my lotion?

Remember: skin is the largest organ of your body and what you put ON it goes IN in it.  Into to your system.  Toxins enter your system easily through skin.

I complained about my lotion problem to my mom and she got all excited to try making our own.  I love this about my mom.  She is the greatest inspiration to me to make my own medicines and go the natural route.  She brought me up that way.  So we consulted our Rosemary Gladstar herbal recipes book and found she has a “perfect” lotion in it.  Last night we made it.

What it has in it: Coconut oil, sweet almond oil, grapeseed oil, 8 vitamin E capsules (emptied), linseed oil (a tiny bit), beeswax (we used 1/2 ounce for this batch, the recipe says 1/2 to 1 ounce), filtered water, aloe vera gel, and some essential oil (grapefruit).

How did it turn out?  It’s thick, which is what I like in a lotion.  It smells like coconut, which I don’t like (though it’s a huge improvement on the nasty loud smelling bottle I have to ditch on someone who likes that kind of thing).  It has a greasy feeling finish, which I don’t like at all.

How hard was it to make?  Easy!  It worked really well following Gladstar’s directions.  It didn’t separate on us and it didn’t require any special equipment.  Cleaning my blender and the bowl we used may require a trip through the scouring hot dishwasher to remove all trace of the beeswax but that’s a small price to pay.

Is it less expensive to make your own than to buy it?  That is highly dependent on what oils you choose to use.  It is also difficult to cost because this recipe called for a tsp of lanolin but we had to fork out $11 for a whole bottle of it.  Stored properly the lanolin will last a very long time and we can use it for many batches (maybe as many as 10) which makes the cost difficult to determine.  We also had to buy vitamin E in capsules, we only needed 8 of them but had to buy a whole bottle.  That was another $10.  I think if you use inexpensive oils you can make a very cheap lotion.  While cheap is good when on a budget like we are, I insist on good quality so I’m willing to spend more for sweet almond oil.  Buying bulk oils online is probably the best way to reduce the cost of making it.

How much does one batch make?  We got a total of about 16 ounces of lotion.

I have two other books with lotion recipes in it and I also have a friend who makes lotion professionally who has offered to let me make some with her.  My plan is to devise a master formula to meet my personal preferences and learn enough about how to adjust it so that I can make suggestions to others who want to try their hand at this but who may want a different sort of performance from their lotion.

Biggest question I need answered: what controls how greasy a lotion feels?  The main ingredient in lotion is oil and obviously oil is grease – is it the amount of water that tempers the greasy feel?  Or does the beeswax also temper it?  Are there certain kinds of oils that are more or less greasy feeling?

I’ll report back when I’ve made my second batch.

10 thoughts on “The Handmade Lotion Trials: First Batch

  1. NM

    I’ve made that lotion, and more-or-less liked it; also made various mixtures of beeswax and oil, with varying results. Tried cocoa butter; too greasy. Never saw much difference in the various vegetable oils. Seldom could be bothered with aloe gel or vitamin E. Have used rose water, which is kind of fun, but I like beeswax scent too much to want it altered. Oh, and I made some with balsam, which was also interesting, but now I forget how it turned out. The scent of balsam is divine, and now is the time to collect it.
    At the moment, I’m in love with shea butter, which I am using straight from the container because I haven’t gotten around to making any lotion in quite a long time. I love those incredibly expensive little metal tubes of French lotion … but they are mostly shea butter, and it occurred to me it would be a heck of a lot less expensive to just buy a plastic jar of shea butter from the health food store and live without the little disposable metal tube, and the pretty lemon verbena scent. Or add lemon verbena essential oil to the shea butter in a lotion, which was the original goal, and I might get around to doing that one of these days … or not …
    My lotions often contain comfrey oil, for extra healing properties, and I’ve been mulling over the possibility of coming up with a homemade version of Bengay.

  2. angelina Post author

    We must get together and compare more notes! AND I never did post directions for making my own rosewater as you showed me how to do and I want to do it again this summer. Can you show me how to do that again? That needs to go up here on Stitch for reference! I think comfrey should be added to just about everything. So good for the skin! So cocoa butter is greasy too? I don’t like greasy feeling on my skin – maybe shea butter is a better choice for me. I love the smell of balsam and obviously when I smell it on the air it makes me think of you. I’ll bet you could buy one of the tubes for cheap to use in making your own. Or buy one of those fancy French tubes and for a special present for yourself and then reuse the tube to make your own. Please work on the Bengay!!! My mom an I are going to experiment with deodorants too (solid forms) and I have saved up some twist up Tom’s of Maine deodorant containers. I also have to work on lip balm recipes. Man, if I could make all these things in my own kitchen I would be so pleased.

    I’m totally inspired to clean out my herbal cabinet – get rid of much too old dusty herbs, rancid things, and take stock. I’m going to place an order with Liberty Naturals to get a number of oils, butters, and ingredients for herbal remedies and beauty products. I love doing these things. I wish so often that I had more time in my life to play with potions. I think I just have to squeeze it in there. Let’s get together soon. Maybe lunch near the library again?! It might be too cold, of course.

  3. Laura

    I am definitely interested to know if you find a good lotion formula. I’ve got a bunch of ingredients for lotion, but have yet to find a formula to try.

  4. angelina Post author

    What kind of lotion do you like? Light or heavy? Thick or thin? Give me a description here so as I do my trials I can refer back and keep in mind what you’re hoping for. I like a thick but light lotion. I like natural but subtle scent. So that’s what I’ll be aiming for. But doing trials of different formulas will give me different results and I may find a formula that you’d like better than me.

  5. NM

    The weather isn’t supposed to be crazy cold in the next week, at least. Maybe we could have lunch together on Friday?
    Last summer wasn’t great for rosewater because it was raining when the damask was trying to bloom. Also we were building a greenhouse, and chopping things up and down, and away, which reduced the number of blooms. Maybe this summer will work out better.
    I highly recommend growing a damask for the intense fragrance, but they do get crazy big. Also, although this one is supposed to repeat bloom, mine never does. But it’s glorious, while it lasts. Easier than rosewater, for those lacking in time, are rose vinegar and rose-scented vodka (both of which I like to put in hair rinse water, in very small amounts); stick rose petals in jar. Cover with vinegar or vodka (not both). Cap. Strain at some point. Or not.
    I always have more projects than time…

  6. angelina Post author

    I have two very strongly scented antique moss roses that I think would work pretty well for making rose water. I know it isn’t the traditional choice but I figure it’s worth a shot. Most mosses are once blooming. Oh! Not Friday – I’m going to the city and I don’t know when. It’ll have to be next week. Or this Thursday?

  7. NM

    I believe any strongly-scented rose works fine, so if you have ones you’re happy with, no need to plant more. Unless, of course, you want an excuse to. ; }
    Personally, I don’t think a yard can have too many heirloom roses … Mr. Black begs to differ…
    Don’t think I can do Thursday; have a project going at work. : < Next week it will have to be, 'cause I have a lunch date tomorrow.
    Remind me to tell you about my plan to make our own organic wool pillows (the ones online being non-affordable — besides, it's more fun to do it yourself. well, mostly. there is the whole manure-y fleece thing to deal with. And the I'm-a-lousy-seamstress thing…). If said plan hasn't been squelched by then, which is a possibility. Oh, and the homemade laundry soap project.
    Have fun in the city!

  8. Mindy

    I once worked a rotation in nursing school in a nursing home that strictly used Crisco only on the patient’s skin. I kid you not they had the softest skin ever! I keep forgetting to spoon some into a container and put it by my shower to try it on my own skin that is becoming dryer the older I get. I think I’ll go put some on before bed. Please post the results of your trials.

    My sister-in-law and I made many bath products for Christmas gifts one year, including lye soap, and making our own lye from ashes. I wish I could find that recipe again! We did bath salts which were very easy, also dusting powder and an oatmeal bath, but I can’t remember if we did lotion or not.

  9. angelina Post author

    Hi Mindy! I want to make soap eventually -the kind with lye. That’s really cool that you did that! I personally wouldn’t care to slather myself with Crisco but I think that’s one of the earliest forms of skin moisturizer – animal fat. Animal or plant fats is the base of every moisturizer.

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