2016 Lessons

Things I learned in 2016

I would like to do this yearly or have reflections every six months or so. We’ll see. 

1) Having a personal crisis will show you who your friends are. You’ll never know how many people will stab you in the back until push comes to shove, or how many people will adamantly stay by your side in a jam no matter what. I’ve been incredibly thankful for everyone who stood by me this year. I remain cautious about trusting after being burned by so many people who I thought would at least ask my side of the situation, but instead jumped on the hate bandwagon. So sad for them that hating on someone is second nature.

2)Despite all that, it’s awesome to be Mimi. Tatum and Poots keep me going. Watching Tatum grow up this past year from tiny baby to independent one year old has been a treat. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. Poots continues to thrive and become more independent. We babied her a little too much and she’s outgrown that, but she’s still very much in need of cuddle time sitting beside me and just hugging.

3) I learned that while I can’t live without coffee, I’m meh about alcohol. The last booze I bought was to make aftershave with. Not even joking. 

4) I learned that soapmakers fall into two categories: those of us who are anti palm products and who generally use lard and tallow (and other animal based products like honey, beeswax, and lanolin), and anti-animal products users who will use palm and palm kernel oils, and their by products. There’s a tiny subset which eschews it all and only uses oils and I’m still learning how to make soap like they do for my vegan friends. Hot process seems to be the answer, but it’s a skill I’m still learning.

5) I learned that creating your own successful skin care or make up line is about as hard as breaking into Hollywood. That doesn’t mean I’ve given up on the idea yet. I’m just being more realistic.

6) I learned easy stuff this year. How to make cold process soap. How to make hot process soap. How to make CPOP soap. How to make liquid soap. How to make a coconut free recipe. How to make a lotion, a cream, a body butter, a lotion bar, a pain relief stick, a muscle cramp roll on, an anti acne roll on, a migraine essential oil roll on, a calm balm, beard balms, beard oils, shaving oil, aftershave, deoderant, and of course, body and face wash. I’m sure there’s more. 

7) I learned -am learning – to write tutorials. I kind of suck at it, but I hope to get better. 

8) I learned that you don’t have to see someone daily, weekly, or even monthly to feel like they are an integral part of your life. Even if you only see them a few times a year, for a few days at a time, that’s enough to have a solid connection with them. How many people do we just say hi to online all winter long and then see semi regularly from May-Sept? It’s a goodish amount. It works for us. The winter months are long, but we survive. 

9) I learned I can survive a month at a time without my husband. I don’t like it, and after a few days I stop sleeping well, but the house stays together, animals get fed, kids stay together, and I can even handle a crisis without him (gotta give my ex credit and thanks for muscle power, though).  

10) I really wanted to get to ten, although I am having trouble thinking of a tenth item that is positive. Oh, I know. This year I donated several bags of clothes I wasn’t wearing and scaled my wardrobe way back. If I hadn’t worn it more then once the past year it got tossed. A lot of clothing went into three large garden trashbags. I learned over the course of the year I didnt miss any of it, and I even was able to add items to the bag that was left. It was a great experience and I plan to continue to downsize, although probably less dramatically from here on out, and also donate a lot of my costume pieces to the clothes swaps at the events I go to. I don’t dress up often anymore and would like to see someone else get some use out of these pieces (mostly corsets and tutus, a few neat hats). 


My skincare routine

I’ve been asked about my skin care routine, especially for my face. I have what advertisers would call “early middle age” skin, so my products differ slightly than most tutorials out there. I thought I’d write about what I do, and how I do it. 

I’m rockin’ a pixie cut these days instead of these pinned up half dreads, but my face hasn’t changed much in six months. This is my no make up, just woke up and haven’t had coffee yet, grumpy face.

I should discuss my environment. I live about 25 miles outside of Wichita, Kansas, USA, which has the double whammy of having less than ideal humidity for your skin most of the day (perfect in the early mornings, dry the rest of the day and night), and a non-stop wind that averages at least 10mph and buffets your skin, stripping away moisture even more. Dry, chapped lips are a constant here, and dry itchy skin a common complaint. 

The Keeper of the Plains, Wichita Kansas. 

As far as acne goes, my skin is blessedly calm these days. I fought cystic acne through my teens and twenties so it’s great to have those days behind me. I have one spot on my chin that gets the occasional pimple, from my hands laying on it while I’m sleeping. Other than that, I’m good. I also don’t have particularly sensitive skin. As a result, what works for me might not work for all of you. 

Chai Spice lip balm. One of my favorites. 

Red Velvet lip balm. It goes on sheer so you can build up the color to however dark you like.

Everyday, the one thing I grab all day long is lip balm. Even if I get lazy and skip moisturizer, I’m never going to skip lip balm. My favorite, hands down, is my shea butter lip balm but if I want something tinted, I reach for red velvet lip balm. Both are fantastic. I’m also working on some more, but they aren’t listed in the shop yet. 

My moisturizing cream experiment with helichrysum and carrot seed oils.

After lip balm, the next thing I use daily is a moisturizing cream I whipped up that features goodies like argan and rose hip oils, and mango butter. It’s not as oily as you’d think, being 2/3 water, and has silk and glycerin to help trap moisture near my skin all day long. I added lactic acid, caffeine, allantoin, niacinamide, and dl-panthenol. My skin has been great since I started using it regularly. 

Surfactant cleanser that’s gentle and packed with skin goodies and humectants. This bottle was only ever half full, and I’ve used it as bubble bath for the kids a few times because it only takes a few drops for my face. 

My rose clay bar. I’ve had it forever and am slowly whittling it down. It has coconut oil and aloe in it, but was dried hard before I used it. As long as I keep it dry between uses it stays mold and germ free. 

For my face, I tend to just use water unless it feels really oily, then I break out the surfactant based cleanser I made. Once a week or so, I wet down the rose clay bar and make a mask for my face and enjoy that. It’s handy to be able to just get it wet and rub it across my face. 

Summer shimmer lotion

Citrus Sugar Scrub: lately I’ve been making my sugar scrubs with cocoa butter and leaving them unscented. 

For daily dry skin, I like to use whatever lotion and sugar scrub I’ve concocted recently. You can get a good idea of what I might be using by reading what I’ve posted about in the past few months. I tend to stick to the same recipe or formula over and over once I have it down. I wash with whatever bar of soap/shampoo I’m using on my hair at the moment, or with whatever liquid shampoo I’ve created. Lately it’s been cinnamon patchouli bars I formulated especially for my hair type but it could be anything; rainbow swirl, ocean breeze, molasses, etc. 

Cinnamon Patchouli bars 

Rainbow Swirl bars

Green Smoothie Shampoo with Calendula And Bamboo

And that’s about it. I’m pretty low maintenance. Most of what I use is made by yours truly, and I’m pretty proud of that. It’s ever changing as I make new things and need to test them, with a few exceptions. I’m pretty devoted to that moisturizer. I always finish one shampoo bar before I start a new one, but since I use them on body and hair they go pretty fast. I make my lotions the same way pretty much every time, but I like to vary up the essential oils or fragrance oil so I don’t get bored. When all else fails I fall back on the trifecta of tea tree, lavender, and rosemary and can’t recommend them enough. 

What products do you rely on faithfully? 

Fruitcake Soap

This year I decided to make two different soaps to give out as Christmas presents. I made a Pumpkin Pie soap that was based on shea butter back in the summer, so it would have 5 months to cure since it didn’t have any “hard oils” like palm, lard, or tallow. It looks like pumpkin pie with whipped cream on top, and smells good enough to eat. I also decided to make fruitcake soap, to compliment the fact that my husband makes and gifts fruitcake to friends and family every year. 

Most people who try my husband’s fruitcake like it, even if they profess to hate fruitcake. I’m not sure what he does different, but even I admit that it’s definitely better tasting than anything I was forced to try as a child. Giving away slices of fruitcake soap this year to match his loaves of fruitcake and continue the Christmas theme seemed perfect.

 I avoided any kind of a rum fragrance (I’m not even sure how you’d do a rum fragrance but I know there’s beer fragrance out there so it probably exists). Instead, I used Brambleberry’s “Sleigh Ride” fragrance oil. The description for it off the website reads: “With a top note of orange, followed by a middle note of green apple, and winding down to peppermint and cloves, this scent is so fantastic….” and so on. It really does smell like holiday baking, and was perfect for this project. 

 I made three colors of soap to represent the candied fruit that’s in fruitcake. I used shine red mica from Soap Goods and made red, hydrated chrome green oxide for green, and yellow oxide for yellow (both those came from Brambleberry). Once they had cured for about a week, I chopped them roughly into cubes with my crinkle cutter and left them to cure a little longer in a bowl. In retrospect, I should have chopped them a lot finer, about half the size of what I did. The cubes were almost too big to make the project work! 

I used 800g oils for the “candied fruit” and another 800g oils for the batter part. If I make this again, I will decrease how much soap I make for fruit to 600g and increase the batter or cake part to 1000g. I calculated based on how many cups the mold held that I needed 1600g oils. My recipe was as follows:

# Oil/Fat %

1 Apricot Kernal Oil 13%

2 Canola Oil 20%

3 Castor Oil 7%

4 Coconut Oil, 76 deg 35%

5 Lard, Pig Tallow Manteca 25%

I also used 1 tsp sugar in my lye water, and 3% or 24g of 60% sodium lactate solution as well. This was my first time using sodium lactate but I’m impressed with how easy it made it to unmold the final soap. I also included about 4 tbsp of kaolin clay in the oils pot with the fragrance oil to help anchor it, before I added the lye solution. 

To the cake part, I added 2 tsp ground cinnamon. It added just enough color and texture to make it look like actual batter. Then I brought the whole mixture to a fairly thick trace so it would suspend the colored bits evenly, and put it in my silicone bundt pan. I had to stir it in the mold to get all the nooks and crannies filled, and rapped it on the counter frequently to get it to settle and get air bubbles out. 

Because the bottom wasn’t completely smooth, after I unmolded it and sliced it I had to trim the bottoms of each slice. Once again, using smaller pieces of colored soap would probably have prevented this and made for a smooth bottom on the mold. Oh well. It’s still cool soap. Each slice makes a very thick chunk and I am going to advise my giftees to cut them into thirds crosswise to make smaller, dish sized slices that are more manageable. But sometimes presentation is important as function.

This is officially my 24th batch of soap. It’s weird to think I’ve only made two dozen batches. I have so many more planned for after the holidays, I will dramatically increase that number I think just rebuilding my Etsy shop and getting back on my feet. Looking forward to it! 

Lotion Making Tutorial part two

I want to discuss making a more complex lotion, one with humectants and skin loving goodies in it, but before I can do that, I really feel like you need to understand how lotion works with your skin and also why we use certain ingredients. So yes, this is going to be another long blog post!

The Chemistry of Your Skin (this next part was taken in large from the Point if Interest blog. Kudos to Susan for having done such thorough research).

Healthy skin contains about 10% water. The water in your skin influences elasticity, tensile strength, barrier characteristics, and the appearance of your skin. If you’re running with less than 10% in your skin, you’re too dry and you’ll need to get more moisture in there somehow. You can live in a more humid climate (apparently 60% is ideal, so those of us in Kansas are lucky because the average here is 66%, although the barometer in my house tells me it’s only 50% now that it’s winter), drink more water, prevent further damage, or draw or apply water to your skin.

Our stratum corneum-the outermost layer of your skin-contains a natural moisturizing factor (NMF) of its own. It is a complex mixture of water soluble compounds, such as amino acids, organic acids, urea, and inorganic ions. This NMF makes up about 10% of the stratum corneum. Some major components of the NMF are sodium lactate, urea, and sodium PCA. When we absorb water from the atmosphere (or lotions!), this water dissolves these molecules and they act as humectants in our skin, drawing water in from the atmosphere. But if we live in arid climates, have done some kind of damage to our skin (side note: a week in the desert every year is damaging to your skin!), the NMF gets compromised and doesn’t keep us moisturized. This is where we use our lotions with humectants to help protect and repair the damage.

But water alone isn’t going to quite cut it. It evaporates too quickly to really make a huge difference. This is where our oils and other ingredients come in.

We need three things to moisturize our stratum corneum:

1) Occlusion: We need to reduce water loss (trans epidermal water loss or TEWL), from our skin. So we use oils, film formers, and other ingredients to trap the water in our skin.

2) Humectancy: Humectants will help retain water in the skin and will draw water from the atmosphere.

3) Emolliency: We add moisturizing ingredients so we aren’t bothered by the rough, dry, skin, and to keep it from getting further damaged.

So how do we make products-in this case a lotion, and later a cream-with all this in mind?


There are many emollients you can choose from- oils and butters are the most common. Also known as vegetable triglycerides, they are the main ingredients we use in lotions to soothe and moisturize our skin. Different oils offer different benefits-longer shelf life, lovely vitamins-so you can choose you oils and butters to suit your needs.

Hydrolyzed proteins like oat, wheat, corn, silk, soy, and baobob are film formers and emollients. They contain oligosaccharides and amino acids. They are water soluble, so not appropriate for oil only creations like body butters, but exactly what we can use in a lotion.

They work on your skin by penetrating the outer layers of the stratum corneum and function as moisturizers. They also work as irritant mitigators, which makes them a great addition for facial products. In hair care products, they can penetrate the cuticle into the cortex of the hair, and help reduce cortex damage.

They also help you retain moisture in your skin and hair, so they have some humectant properties.


This is the way we prevent TEWL (trans epidermal water loss) from our skin. We want to trap that water and prevent it from evaporating from our skin, and protect our skin from further damage while it repairs itself.

All the things discussed so far that offer emolliency- oils, butters, proteins-will trap in moisture and do double duty of making the skin feel softer. But there are other ingredients that we can use to occlude the skin called barrier ingredients.

The butters-cocoa, shea, mango-are great barrier ingredients. Each butter has its own benefits, but the key is that they stay on your skin. (Personally I’m very fond of shea butter, I prefer it almost always over anything else).

You can add aloe vera as gel, juice, or powder in about any quantity you want in your recipe. Aloe vera has trace electrolytes that may be beneficial to your skin.

There are other things that are great for occlusion, like beeswax and allantion, but for the purposes of our lotion we don’t need to cover them right now. Just think of everything that might be a physical Barrier on your skin in lotions and creams, body butter and lotion bars.

Humectants: What are humectants? They are hygroscopic ingredients that can draw moisture from the atmosphere to your skin. Ideally, we use them at 2-5% in lotions to make skin feel more moisturized. Currently there is some debate if using humectants in a non-humid climate such as the desert states is effective. It’s interesting for sure!

My favorite humectants are:

Glycerin-cheap, easy to use, and plentiful. It helps thicken your lotions a little. If you use it in surfactant based systems like shampoo, it’s fantastic as it’s actually will increase bubbles. Use at up to 5% is what she has written here, although Susan goes ont to recommend 2-3% as feeling “less sticky” and I’ve always used at around 10% with no problems. To each their own, I guess.

Silk peptides: Silk molecules are the same size as the protein molecules in your skin and hair, which allows silk to replace areas of damage and strengthen those areas. It makes your skin and hair silky soft and smooth with very little use. Use at about 2-3%

Propylene glycol: readily available, but I’ve never tried it. A lot of people don’t like it because it has a negative image as being a harmful chemical, although it’s actually very safe.

Sodium Lactate: derived from beets, this product is used to harden soap bars so I always have it around. At 3%, it has exfoliating properties as well as humectant properties. Win win! It also has some anti-acne properties, if that’s a concern for you. Works great in water based products like toners. It’s been my new favorite ingredient and I find I’m putting it in everything. 

So what will we use this time? Just silk and glycerin.

Modified “First” Lotion with Humectants

Oils Phase

15% oils (liquid oil, like olive, sweet almond, sunflower)

5% shea butter

6% Ecomulse or other complete emulsifer

Water phase

60% water

8% glycerin

2% silk peptides

Cool down phase

1% fragrance or essential oil

0.5%-1% preservative, as indicated on bottle

Weigh out your water phase ingredients, making sure to tare the scale inbetween each one, in a heat proof container such as a pyrex measuring cup and cover loosely with foil.  Measure out your oil phase ingredients, making sure to tare the scale in between each addition, and place both cups into a saute pan that contains about 1″ of water. Bring water phase ingredients to boil then simmer for 20 minutes. Oil phase ingredients should melt during this time and need to be stirred occasionally. When 20 minutes is up, combine both cups in a heat proof container and whisk. Voila! Lotion! Mix with stick blender for a few seconds until light and fluffy, then whisk a little more. Let cool until contents are just warm to touch. Add cool down phase ingredients and whisk again until well incorporated. Decant to pump bottle.

The best way I know to get lotion in a pump bottle is to use a funnel and a flexible silicone spatula for smashing it around in the funnel so it goes down. Susan at Point of Interest recommends putting your lotion in a piping bag, like icing goes in, and squirting it in the bottle that way. I haven’t tried it, yet, but if my lotion ever thickens up on me a lot before I can get it in the bottle I will keep that in mind for sure.

I’m sure you’re curious how to make a thicker lotion, like a cream, to use on elbows and feet. Here’s a recipe:

Oil Phase

10% oils (Olive oil is a great choice here, as it’s thick and rich with vitamins A, E, and D)

10% shea butter-you can use any butter like shea, mango, sal, or even cocoa butter.

8% coconut oil (Extra virgin kind, that’s solid at room temperature. NOT the fractionated coconut oil!)

7% Ecomulse or other complete emulsifier

Water phase

50% water

10% glycerin

3% silk peptides

Cool down phase

1% essential or fragrance oil

0.5-1% preservative

The directions are the same as for a lotion, except you mix it with the stick blender a little more and decant it into a jar instead of a bottle. A small, 4 oz Bell jar would work, or even a small jelly jar although there would be extra room at the top. If you want to get fancy and make this an awesome foot cream, add 5% (approx 5 grams for a 100g product) menthol crystals to the oils phase (keep your face out of the steam to avoid irritation) and you’ll have a nice tingly foot cream when it’s all done. Menthol crystals are easily available on Amazon or from Brambleberry and Bulk Apothecary. Lotioncrafters has started carrying them, too. You can also just increase the amount of essential oil up to 5% and use peppermint and camphor (if you have camphor).

That’s all I have for lotions… Be sure to ask questions if you have any!

December Soap Challenge! 

This month, the challenge was to do a tiger stripe. Amy Warden of Great Cakes Soapworks, also here in Kansas, did these two soaps for the tutorial so we could get an idea of what we were striving for. 

Tiger stripe with a hanger swirl

Tiger stripe using the tilted mold technique

There were also a lot of other links to videos on tiger stripe technique so this month, there were a lot of resources to learn the technique and visually /mentally practice it before diving in. I was excited about watching YouTube video after video, while the baby napped this week, but ultimately decided to try the tilted mold technique. 

For my colors, I chose Shine Red mica from Soap Goods, and from Brambleberry, I picked Sunset Orange mica, Buttercup Yellow mica, and Kermit Green mica. I also used white, with titanium dioxide (also from Brambleberry). I used the last of my Shine Red, which means ordering more soon. I’ll have to wait til I need other supplies to offset the shipping costs but that’s the best bright red I’ve found yet that stays true in CP soap. 

I had another scare with my colors! I specifically remember checking that they were safe in cold process soap-and stayed true. However, once mixed with soap, my sunset orange deepened dramatically and my buttercup yellow turned bright orange. I decided to just go with it (because I was committed, since at that point my soap was in squeeze bottles and I was working against the clock). After I was (finally) done getting the soap in the mold, I had a chance to read the jars and was relieved to see that orange said it would mellow as it cured and yellow said it would initially change color in CP soap but would change back as it cured. Sure enough, as the hours went by, I was able to watch the swirl design I did on top of my soap slowly change colors. The shine red stayed true, but everything else changed colors. The orange mellowed, the yellow changed from orange to yellow, green brightened, and white whitened. It’s hard to see in the picture below but you can definitely see all the colors if you look, and this was taken at the halfway point.If

I wasn’t able to unmold my soap for three days because it was too soft and it was in a silicone mold. In the meantime I made “fruitcake soap”; you should read my blog post here on that! It was the longest three days of my life and I needed to keep myself busy. 

But finally three days was up and I was able to cut my soap.

It was so soft from using such a slow moving recipe that I ended up using fishing line to cut it to keep from smearing the colors. Of course, I could have waited a few more days, but who has the patience for that when they need to peek inside?!! And here’s what I found: 

This one is my favorite: 

Before I forget, my recipe for a very slow moving soap is like so:

il/Fat %

1 Avocado Oil 15%

2 Canola Oil 15%

3 Castor Oil 5%

4 Coconut Oil, 76 deg 25%

5 Lard, Pig Tallow Manteca 25%

6 Olive Oil 15%
I don’t add sodium lactate or clay to this recipe, as I’ve found those things to accelerate even at room temperature. I don’t notice the faint acceleration they cause most of the time, but in tricky recipes where I want my soap loose til the end, I avoid them. I wish I could use may be 1% sodium lactate, though, to harden the bars for cutting. Maybe I’ll experiment with that on a non-challenge soap! I also avoid working with any new fragrances or “hot” essential oils. This time I used Energy, by Brambleberry, and based my colors around its almost fruity scent. My daughter commented that it looked like sherbet wave soap. So that’s what I’m calling it: Sherbet Tiger Stripes. As soon as it hardens off enough, I will plane the pieces that need to be smoother and set it to cure. Because I used my little silicone mold, this made smaller than usual soaps. I’ve often considered packaging them in three packs. Well I guess we’ll see! 

Happy Soaping! 


Lotion Making Tutorial, part 1

(Over the next several posts I plan to publish a series of “how to’s” on some basic beauty DIY stuff. I plan on publishing here quite a few things you can make as Christmas gifts, so I hope to get as many tutorials out as possible giving you time to make things for the holidays. I’ll also post links to pages with other great DIY ideas so you can get your gifts made and shipped and stockings stuffed.)

I also want to thank Marie at Humblebee and Me and Susan at Point of Interest. Your blogs and tutorials will be linked to over the next few days (and weeks), repeatedly, as your experience exceeds mine by leaps and bounds. Along with a few other blogs, both these women have been a source of inspiration this year, and I’m thankful they do what they do-so I can do what I do, better.

Today and the next time are about lotion. I dove into making lotion after reading blog post after blog post under the “Lotion” section at Humblebee & Me. I finally ordered Emulsifying Wax NF off Amazon (because I didn’t know where else to buy supplies back then) and I remember being thrilled once my lotion had thickened up into and that it got two thumbs up from my husband. It was a relatively complex lotion, looking back, but like all lotions the complexity was in the ingredients and not in the process.

Now about lotion making: normally oil and water don’t like to mix, because water is polar and oil is non-polar. This, as I’m sure you’ve seen before, results in the oil just floating on top of the water. However, if we add an emulsifier -a ingredient that is water loving and oil loving (hydrophilic and lipophilic)-it will bring the oil and water together in a stable mixture. This mixture is called an emulsion.

So let’s learn a little about emulsions.

First of all? You’ll hear the terms “oil in water” or “water in oil” thrown around on blogs, along with “anhydrous”. Anhydrous simply means water free, like a whipped body butter, a lotion bar, or a sugar scrub. “Hydrous” would be the opposite; contains water. Oil in water are the kinds of lotions and creams we make, where there are oil droplets suspended in water with the help of an emulsifier. The bulk of the lotion is water-ideal for your stratum corneum, your outermost layer of skin -and there’s enough oil there to trap water next to the skin and keep it moisturized. That’s the grand plan. More on that over at Point of Interest. I will also cover skin anatomy and how lotion works another day.

Three things are needed to emulsify a lotion properly and keep it stable (this next part is taken largely-but not entirely – from a .pdf available at the Point of Interest blog):

1) Chemical emulsification: Choosing a good emulsifier will save you a lot of stress. Choose one that works with ingredients you like to use-some have a narrow pH allowance, so if you forsee yourself making Vitamin C infused face lotions, that might not be the emulsifier for you. If you really want to learn about emulsifiers, the HLB (hydrophilic -lipophilic balance chart) is the place to start. However, it’s a heck of a lot easier and more reliable to go with a complete emulsifier for basic lotions and creams. Ecomulse (also goes by Ritamulse,or Emulsimulse), Emulsifying Wax NF, brand name Polawax, and BTMS-50 (also called Incroquat BTMS 50), are four common all around emulsification systems (and we will be exploring those emulsifying systems another day) that are easy to use. My preference is Ecomulse, and I’ll explain why in a minute. However, any one of the four should work to make a lotion, so if you already have an emulsifier around or locate one wherever you choose to buy supplies, hey, go for it. But we won’t be using the “beeswax and borax” method, or any of the co-emulsifier systems like stearic acid and TEA.

2) Heat emulsification: While there are increasing numbers of cold process emulsifiers out on the market-and I’m dying to get my hands on some and report back -the four I just mentioned above come in pellets or flakes and have to be melted before they are useful. All the ingredients in the lotions we make right now have to be heated to the point where they are ready to bond.

3) Mechanical emulsification: This takes some work with a whisk at the very least, and ideally a stick blender or the whisk attachment on a hand blender. The flip side of that is that you can actually break an emulsification by over beating it. So small, controlled pulses are the way to go. 3 minutes at most at one time.

How to make lotion? In the following recipe, and all lotion recipes I publish, you’ll see three phases.
1) Oil phase: Heat these until melted in a double boiler, then hold at that temperature for 20 minutes if it contains coconut oil or shea butter. This should contain everything that plays well together as “oils” which includes the emulsifier, oils, butters, co-emulsifier, thickeners, and any oil soluble goodies. Coconut oil and shea butter need to be “tempered” for 20 minutes or they can separate and turn grainy in your lotion later. It’s unusual but it happens, so better to temper it. (This applies to anything Shea butter and coconut oil are in: body butter, lotion bars, lip balm, etc.)

2) Water phase: Heat these to a boil then reduce and simmer for 20 minutes with foil over the top to trap steam and stop loss of moisture through evaporation. This would include ingredients like water, hydrosols, aloe vera, witch hazel, sodium lactate liquid, and other water soluble goodies. We do this to kill any microorganisms that might be living in the water and could make you sick.

3) Cool down phase: These are the ingredients you’ll add to your emulsified mixture after it’s reached body temperature (it should be only slightly warm on your skin). This phase includes hydrolyzed protein, panthenol, fragrance or essential oils, and preservatives.

A note about preservatives: yes, you must use them. If you aren’t willing to, you can stop reading now. No, they are not optional. A 4 oz or 100g bottle needs about .5g of my favorite preservative (Liquid Germall Plus). I would rather take .5g of preservative dispersed over 100g than the risk of invisible mold and bacteria making me potentially very sick. Lotion lasts 4-7 days before you SEE mold, but it can be there much sooner without a preservative, and bacteria are invisible. Since we are making lotion in our homes under less than sterile conditions, it makes the need for a broad spectrum preservative that much more necessary.

The best way to make a double “double boiler”: take a large, flat bottom saute pan and fill with approximately 1″ water. Put your oil phase in one Pyrex (or other heat resistant)measuring cup and your water ingredients in another. Set them in the saute pan and heat on med until the oils are melted and the water simmers. Go from there!

Example Lotion Recipe (real one after this!)

Oil phase:

20g oils

5g emulsifier

Water phase:

74g water

Cool down phase:

Preservative (as directed by manufacturer)

Fragrance (1-2%)

Use 25% of your oil amount in emulsifier. So for 20g of oil, you’ll want 5g of emulsifier. It’s been my experience that 6g works very nicely. I generally recommend 6g emulsifier as a good way to go.

1) Weigh your oils ingredients and put into heat proof cup, put in saute pan.

2) Weigh your water ingredients and put into heat proof cup, cover with foil, put in sauce pan.

3) Heat until oil ingredients are melted and water ingredients have simmered 20 minutes.

4) Pour together into heatproof container. Whisk together. This is emulsification! Rejoice!

5) Break out the stick blender and mix the lotion in short bursts. Leave it for about 10 minutes, blast it again. Keep doing this.

6) When the lotion is down to “just really warm” to the touch, add your cool down phase ingredients, mix again, and put into (pump) bottles.

Why pump bottles? Studies have shown they are least likely to get contaminated with bacteria, mold, or other microorganisms. Next up is a bottle with a flip top cap or a disc “push button” cap. Those work nicely as well for everything except the thickest lotion and creams. And if course, some creams, like a foot cream, will just have to be packaged in jars. In that case, wash your hands before you handle the cream, and don’t double dip; don’t touch your feet or your body and then into the jar again. Get as much as you need the first time and spread it around, then come back to massage it in. This prevents bacteria and germs from getting into your jar of cream. Of course, nobody is perfect, and that’s why we have broad spectrum preservatives. They cover us when we store our lotion in a warm and humid environment, ideal for mold growth, like the bathroom. Or when we double dip into our jar of foot cream accidentally. Don’t do these things on purpose, but don’t panic if you do accidentally because you used your preservative correctly so you have coverage.

Deep breath, as I put my soap box about preservatives away…

Now, how about a real lotion recipe?

First let’s discuss…

Supplies you will need for general lotion making (and DIY stuff, actually)

1) A scale- you can buy one off Amazon for under $20. Mine is an Ozeri and was $12. Admittedly, it’s my second one since I killed my first one when I got it wet, so they are very cheaply made and not water resistant or anything. But they weigh accurately and get the job done. For a bit more, like $40, you can get a much nicer digital scale that weighs down to milligrams, which is ideal. My scale doesn’t measure lower than one gram, so I’ve had to get creative. For 0.5 grams, I’ve been estimating by measuring out one gram and just pouring in half. For preservative, I measure it right in the lid-why get another container dirty and with that tiny amount you probably can’t transfer it properly anyways. I set the lid of the preservative bottle on the scale and tare it to zero, then add a small amout to the lid, and set it back down. The goal is usually one gram. Most preservatives call for 0.5 or 1 gram per 100g of product.You’ll have to read up on your preservative and know what it requires. I also occasionally use the drops trick: 20 drops from a 3 ml pipette is 1 gram, so 10 drops should be 0.5 grams. This works well for extracts and essential oils. I suggest buying a box of 3 ml pipettes if you are going to DIY much, it’s $5 off LotionCrafters and you’ll use them for all your essential oils, extracts, anything that you want a small amount of and don’t want to spill. You might also ask at your pharmacy or crowd source your friends and see if anyone can get pipettes from work if you only want one or two. Often, pipettes come with larger bottles of essential oils as well.

2) Pyrex measuring cups (or other guaranteed heat resistant measuring cups). At the minimum, have two 2 cup measuring cups, but you’ll want many, many, more. You’ll find yourself searching thrift stores for them and just grabbing two every time you go shopping for a bit, in 2 cup then in 4 cup. (4 cup even more if you make soap!)

3) Spoons- you’ll need spoons for stirring things. Go buy a restaurant supply and buy at least 10, or thrift some. Consider buying a bundle of 25 or 50 if you’re going to really get into DIY cosmetics and bath and body. Otherwise you use up all your household spoons.

4) Stick blender-immersion blender – ideally with whisk attachment.

5) Everyone recommends a candy thermometer. I have two, and a digital thermometer, and I have never used them. However, other blogs with other recipes may give out temps to be followed, so grab a candy thermometer or an instant read.

6) You’ll need a funnel for pouring your lotion into bottles. I recommend getting the three pack of funnels in different sizes; the small is useful for smaller bottles and you’ll be surprised how often you need it as you learn new things. I use mine to decant beard oil, high proof vodka into essential oil roller ball bottles, and all kinds of things into one ounce dropper bottles.

7) Bottles! If you only plan to do this once or twice, just pick up 1-2 travel size bottles in the travel and sample aisle of the supermarket. They can be push or flip top, or hand cream style for our purposes. If you hope to make a lot of lotions, give them to friends, etc., the cheapest place I’ve found for bottles and pump tops is Bulk Apothecary. In fact, if I’m totally honest, it was their dirt cheap price on bottles and jars that got me shopping there in the first place. I think you can get 50 bottles for around $15 and 50 pump tops for about the same, which beats anything you’ll find on Amazon. I know, you’re saying “I don’t think I need FIFTY bottles!” but if you start making lotion, and then you also learn how to make hair conditoner, and maybe you decide to join me in learning about surfactants and you end up making facial cleanser … Then you want to make some to give away as gifts…well, fifty bottles can go pretty quick. I would advise you to buy pump tops AND disc tops for them if you ever think you’ll want to make liquids like face toner or aftershave. It’s maybe $5 more for the disc tops and then you can use your bottles for so much more. If you can afford it, buy two sizes of bottles, get some 8 oz bottles as well, or a second pack of 4 oz in a fun color (they have bottles in red, blue, purple; not just white, clear, and amber ). I have 4 and 8 oz bottles, and pump tops and disc tops, as well as double wall plastic jars in 2 oz and 4 oz from them and attest to the quality. Where Bulk Apothecary and other suppliers hurt is in the shipping, so while you’re there, browse the oils and butters to make your lotion, and any essential oils you’ve been meaning to pick up. I believe they carry emulsifier, too, but possibly not Ecomulse. Otherwise I recommend Lotion Crafters for emulsifier and things like hydrolyzed protein, silk, glycerin, etc. that you might want eventually in a nicer lotion. We’ll get to that.

Now about the basics..

Oils and butters: You have 19g of oils and butters to work with. I like my lotion to be a little heavy, to really moisturize (unless I’m called upon to make a light lotion, in which case I would skip butters and use all light carrier oils like fractionated coconut oil, grapeseed oil, and hazelnut oil). So I make 5-8g of that 19g a butter or coconut oil. My favorite thing to use is shea butter because it’s just so good for your skin, and by itself it’s very greasy but in a lotion you get all the benefits without feeling like a slippery mess. I also love using coconut oil For the same reason.

For a first lotion, Susan of Point of Interest recommends you choose ONE oil like olive and stick with it (so that would be 19g olive oil). I suggest you do what you want, but you write it down so you can decide what you like and don’t like about the lotion. There are a ton of great lotion recipes over at Humblebee and Me , or you can follow this basic one. I prefer to use a butter, but this time we will use coconut oil. I like to use extra virgin olive oil a lot, because it’s easy to get, because it’s rich in skin healthy vitamins, and it makes a great lotion, and I think that’s it. Normally I would add something like sunflower seed oil, but I think I will make that optional so that nobody has to buy too much extra stuff.

Emulsifier: I’m going to recommend Ecomulse. It also goes by the name Ritamulse and Emulsimulse (INCI-that’s code for heres the ingredients!-Glyceryl Stearate (and) Cetearyl Alcohol (and) Sodium Stearyl Lactylate). Look for those ingredients. This emulsifier has certain perks; it’s ECOCERT approved for use in organic products, it gets a great rating from Skin Deep, and it’s easy to work with. It has proved to be mostly infallible, as long as you don’t add a bunch of low pH stuff in there or cationic ingredients. This really doesn’t effect us making basic lotions. Also, Ecomulse sets up into full lotion immediately while E Wax can take up to three days to fully thicken up.

As for the other emulsifiers, Emulsifying Wax NF (E Wax) and Polawax are nearly identical. The NF stands for National Formulary. Ideally, E Wax should be the same no matter who you buy it from because it has the same active ingredients, however, each company makes the non INCI ingredients slightly differently so the E Wax you bought from some random place on Amazon might be very different than the E Wax LotionCrafters sells, that Brambleberry sells, etc. I haven’t tried them all so I can’t report back, but I will be discussing Lotion Crafters E Wax in a separate post.

BTMS 50 is a cationic emulsifier that I’ve found makes excellent hair conditioner but somewhat watery lotion. Once I figure out what I’m doing wrong with it there, I’ll share a BTMS lotion recipe. If you have BTMS, by all means, give it a try! Everyone else swears it makes fantastic lotions so the watery thing is a flaw on my end (or I got a bag of bad emulsifier, wah wah).

Water: While you can replace some or all of the water with hydrosols, aloe vera, witch hazel, and other ingredients, for this first lotion I’m going to suggest you use simply distilled water. You’ll want at least 70% water in a lotion. Water helps determine how thick your lotion is. 80% water, a thinner lotion, 60% water, much thicker (almost a cream, while 70% is still pourable and 80% is more like a facial moisturizer).

Preservatives: Most preservatives will require 0.5%-1%. I use Liquid Germall Plus for lotions and Optiphen ND for watery items like body sprays, room sprays, bug off spray, etc. I do not recommend using Optiphen products in lotion as they have a nasty tendency to break emulsions. That breaks your heart.

We already discussed that preservatives are mandatory. I’ll leave it at that. If you want to know more, go to my About page and click on Preservatives

Fragrance: You want your lotion to smell nice. If you choose to add scent to your lotion, do so at 1% of the total weight. You can use essential oils or fragrance oil. Ensure you are using your oils at safe levels for a leave on product! Do your research! 1% of our lotion is 1 gram, or 20 drops. I can’t think of an essential oil that’s unsafe for the skin at 1%, but there may be some out there so be wary of new ones you aren’t familiar with. Feel free to ask me to look up anything in my essential oil safety guide for you. But plan for 20 drops! Single note or a blend. My favorite winter blend right now is five drops peppermint, ten drops spearmint, and three blobs benzoin for a minty vanilla like scent with some depth. It’s nice. If you put the benzoin bottle in a cup of hot water for about ten minutes before you try to get any out, it pours easier. Pro tip 😉

Skin loving extras: I love to add vegetable glycerin and silk peptides to my lotion as humectants, to draw moisture from the air and hold it by my skin. I also recommend hydrolyzed protein; I use oat but you can get wheat, baobob, and all kinds of things. Read more about hydrolyzed proteins!

I’m listing this first recipe in percentages, but you can just convert each number to grams and end up with 100g or 3.7 oz lotion. This should fit in a travel sized bottle from the travel/sample rack or hopefully you’ve invested in some 4 oz pump bottles.

Basic first lotion recipe:

Oil phase:

6% Ecomulse or other emulsifier

7% coconut oil (use high quality)

6% olive oil (extra virgin)

6% sunflower seed oil (or more olive oil)

Water phase:

70% distilled water

Cool down phase

1% fragrance or essential oils

0.5%-1% preservative of choice

1) Weigh your water out into a heat proof container (measuring cup!) and cover with foil. Place in double boiler saute pan

2) Weigh out coconut oil, olive oil, sunflower seed oil, and Ecomulse and place that cup in double boiler.

3) After water comes to simmer, set timer for 20 minutes.

4) Pour contents of both cups into a heat proof container (small mixing bowl or larger measuring cup are good) and watch as emulsification happens! Yeah! Whisk gently! Lotion!

5) Blend with stick blender for a few minutes. Let cool 10-20 minutes, blend again for a few minutes. Do this until the lotion is only warm to the touch.

6) Add fragrance or essential oils and preservative. Blend again. Use funnel to pour into bottle. Will reach maximum thickness in about 24 hours. However, you can use it as soon as it’s cooled off.
That’s it! Give it a try and see how you do! Next I will give you a more complicated lotion recipe and explains for all the new ingredients.


Due to the lack of page views or interest in this tutorial (despite me shamelessly promoting it), I’m not rushing to put out more. I had hoped to write and publish one every other day for a few weeks, but they are labor intensive and time consuming. I don’t mind, but it seems pointless if there’s nobody to take advantage of it. I’m not saying anything here that can’t be found elsewhere on the internet, with a little research. In the meantime, I encourage you to check out Humblebee and Me, or SwiftCraftyMonkey (Point of Interest) for other tutorials and recipes by two of my favorite people. Just until I can get new ones written.

Good luck and happy making!