“Imagine the security of knowing you’re applying healthy substances onto your skin.
Imagine the pleasure of a soft, smooth and youthful skin.
Imagine the satisfaction of making your own cosmetics.”
– Jan Benham
We have been primping, perfuming, and decorating our bodies since the beginning of time to enhance our attractiveness and magnetism. While we’ve given up practices like face masks made of crocodile manure and lead paint for whitening the skin, natural skin care has always had an enduring attraction. Since Cleopatra’s time, botanical extracts have remained the most important resource for healing and beautifying in the natural world.
Adding botanical extracts such as essential oils in the correct amount to your own handmade creams and lotions allow for customization of your products, contributing to both psychological and physiological well-being.
This is why blends that provide a combination of important botanicals in creams, lotions, and ointments are gaining popularity.
The advantage of homemade natural moisturizers is that they can be customized by the producer by using specific ingredients for their inherent properties. Homemade moisturizers that are made with all natural ingredients are full of skin-nourishing minerals and vitamins. Their natural benefits include the ability to hydrate and rejuvenate skin, the ability to restore damaged skin cells, and the ability to prevent future damage caused by harsh environmental factors by creating protective temporary barriers on skin. Producing homemade moisturizers has the added advantage of being eco-friendly, as the use of natural products means that chemicals are neither being used on the skin nor polluting the atmosphere. Because products can be stored in reusable containers and can be custom labeled for each new product after being sterilized, there is less waste from the disposal of packaging.
There is a large variety of moisturizers, the most popular being face creams, body lotions, body butters, and face milk. They can all be easily produced at home with a few simple natural ingredients that basically need to be melted together and cooled before they are stored in their containers for later use. Creams and lotions are comprised of three things: 1) a “base” or “carrier” oil, which will be a healing and nourishing oil of personal preference, 2) water that is purified of toxins and pollutants, also known as distilled water, although pure floral waters or other water-based liquids may also be used, and 3) an emulsifier (usually a wax, although it can also be a combination of other natural ingredients that provide emulsifying properties once they are combined).
Emulsifiers are the binding agents that keep the water and the oil joined together in a moisturizer, because these two components will not combine otherwise; they are a necessary component for creating the fixed and lasting emulsion of oil and water.
Most commercial body butters are actually dense creams that have more wax content in them. A lotion is simply a diluted cream, and a milk is a diluted lotion. Each product is slightly more diluted than the one before: BUTTER (thick, heavy, oily) → CREAM (thinner than butter and usually whipped) → LOTION (thinnest, lightweight) → MILK (more liquid than lotion but richer).
There are two types of emulsions although both types contain the same ingredients - oil and water. They are: Oil-in-Water Emulsions and Water-in-Oil Emulsions.
Oil-in-Water moisturizers are those with more water than oil. These are also referred to as water-based products. The oil or fat droplets simply disperse in the layer of water. These emulsions are used more in moisturizing products (e.g. body lotions and day creams.
Water-in-Oil moisturizers are usually oil-based products used for a fatty feel (e.g night creams and sunscreen and makeup). In this emulsion, water droplets are suspended in the oil layer. This type is the ideal base for dry or sensitive skin, as it is milder and leaves the skin’s lipid bilayer undamaged.
A carrier oil will be the main, “base,” ingredient in a moisturizer recipe. The ideal carrier oil is one that is healing, nourishing, rejuvenating, and protecting. Popular choices for oils include Olive and Jojoba. Oils are safe to use, they are effective, and they are free from the chemicals found in commercial moisturizers. They can be custom-picked for their particular skin benefits and to match certain skin types.
Waxes are the most commonly used emulsifier. Emulsifying waxes are derived from plant-based fatty alcohols. Waxes also thicken a cream – without a wax, creams would have the runny consistency of a salad dressing. The molecular makeup of an emulsifying wax attracts oil particles and absorbs water particles. Because the oil remains mixed in with the water, the wax helps the oil penetrate the skin and replace lost moisture. In the process of producing a homemade moisturizer, the emulsification occurs after the heated oil phase, the heated water phase, and the cool down phase has been completed.
POPULAR EMULSIFIERS – EMULSIFYING WAXES (“E-WAXES”) AND ALCOHOLS:
BEESWAX is not an emulsifier on its own. Beeswax and Borax in combination make a natural emulsifying system, but their consistency will not have the same high quality that emulsifiers made with Cetearyl Alcohols can offer. A very small amount of Borax is required, but using beeswax without it can make a cream or lotion fail. An emulsion can be created with a combination of natural ingredients. These ingredients must always be combined in order to have an emulsifying effect, unlike wax, which works all on its own. A good starting combination for a natural emulsifier is Beeswax, Liquid Lecithin, and Borax. Here is a simple formula for a basic natural emulsion recipe: 80% Beeswax, 10% Borax, and 10% Liquid Lecithin.
EMULSIFYING WAX NF (INCI NAME: CETEARYL ALCOHOL (AND) POLYSORBATE 60) can be used to create thin or thick emulsions, depending on the concentration used. The typical usage rates are 3-6% of the total recipe weight. The advantage of using this emulsifying wax for cosmetic preparations is that it does not leave a residue on the skin. It has excellent stability and will not cause the ingredients in a product to separate.
(INCI NAME): CETEARYL ALCOHOL is a fatty alcohol that is a combination of Cetyl and Stearyl alcohols. It is known to be a skin softener and conditioner, lending emollience to a moisturizer. The typical usage rates are 1-25% of the total recipe weight. It can be used as a thickener and stabilizer as well. Using 1% will thicken a product to the consistency of a light lotion. For the rich consistency of a hand cream, a maximum amount of 25% is suggested. It can be used as a co-emulsifier if used at concentrations of 2% or less.
(INCI NAME): CETEARETH-20 can be used on its own or it can be combined with other emulsifiers such as Glyceryl Stearate. It gives a silky, shiny feeling to the finished product. The typical usage rates are 1-6% of the total recipe weight. The maximum usage level recommended is 30%.
(INCI NAME): GLYCERYL STEARATE is both an emulsifier and a stabilizer for emulsions, the latter being a chemical that inhibits emulsions from separating. It helps reduce the surface tension of the substances that are to be emulsified. It works as a lubricant giving skin the appearance of being soft and smooth by forming a barrier on the skin’s surface, thereby slowing the rate of water loss. Usually, it is used in combination with another emulsifier such as Polysorbate 20 or Ceteareth-20. The typical usage rates are 1 - 5% of the total recipe weight.
(INCI NAME): CETEARYL ALCOHOL/CETEARETH-20 is not a wax but rather a waxy pellet that is used in lotions. It is especially beneficial for lotions that are intended to be thick and waxy such as those for the tougher skin of elbows and feet. The typical usage rates are 2% or 6% of the total recipe weight. It can also be combined with an emulsifying wax.
BEFORE ADDING AN EMULSIFYING WAX TO A MOISTURIZER RECIPE, A FEW FACTORS NEED TO BE TAKEN INTO CONSIDERATION:
NATURAL VS. SYNTHETIC EMULSIFIERS: Even the most “natural” emulsifiers need to be extracted, separated, and processed out of plant oils and fats until they become the emulsifiers that are commonly used.
CERTIFIED VS. NOT CERTIFIED: A supplier should be able to clarify whether or not an emulsifier is organically certified for those that are strict on using only certified products. Not all “natural” emulsifiers are going to be certified, as there are high costs to become certified.
GLOBAL STATUS: Criteria to consider may include the status of the emulsifier being vegan, halal or kosher.
SUSTAINABILITY: Some DIY cosmetic producers insist on using only fair, sustainable, non-bioengineered oils for emulsifiers such as palm oil or palm oil derivatives. There are varying levels of sustainability and emulsifiers that are palm-derived do not always carry the name “palm.” Some of the examples of plant/palm-derived ingredients include Cetyl Alcohol, Cetearyl Alcohol, Palm Kernel, Olive, Sunflower, high- and mid-oleic Sunflower, Peanut, and Coconut oils.
HLB: HLB stands for “Hydrophilic Lipophilic Balance.” There is a belief that emulsifiers that are water-soluble (higher HLB value) are best suited for oil-in-water emulsifications and those that are oil-soluble (lower HLB value) are best suited for water in oil emulsifications.
OPTIMUM OIL PHASE CONCENTRATIONS: The performance of the emulsifier is affected by the amount of oil used in the products, so it is important to know in which particular oil phase the emulsifier would work best.
VISCOSITY RANGE: The type of emulsifier used can adjust the viscosity of the product. The emulsifier selected should suit the desired viscosity range, whether it is that of a body milk moisturizer or that of a thick night cream.
REQUIREMENT OF A STABILIZER/CO-EMULSIFIER: Co-emulsifiers are emulsifiers that are not meant to emulsify on their own and are instead used to enhance the activity of an existing emulsifier. Some emulsifiers might require the addition of a stabilizer or co-emulsifier for increased product viscosity and stability. The requirements of the formula should be considered before adding a co-emulsifier. To illustrate, if an emulsifier works only with a synthetic stabilizer, it should not then be used in an organic or natural formula.
BEST WORKING PH RANGE: Emulsifiers have ideal pH ranges at which they work best. Departing from this range may cause changes in the texture, appearance, viscosity or stability of the product. It is even more vital to consider the pH range when creating the product’s preservative. To illustrate, if using a weak acidic preservative that works most efficiently at a pH that is lower than the pH at which the emulsifier works, then either the preservative or the emulsifier needs to be changed.
ALCOHOL TOLERANCE: Due to their binding and emollient properties and their ability to alter the consistency of liquid products, fatty alcohols that protect and soften the skin are often incorporated in emulsions and are then referred to as “co-emulsifiers,” because they are meant to support the other “main” emulsifier. Alcohol has the power to weaken many emulsions, however. Suppliers can provide more information regarding the alcohol tolerance of a product if alcohols are going to be applied to emulsions.
OIL PHASE CHARACTER: It is imperative that the chosen emulsifier suits the ingredients in the moisturizer. Sometimes the oils used will be plant oils, waxes, and butters and at other times they might be fractionated oils, fatty alcohols or monoesters rather than triglycerides (fats and oils.
COLD VS. HOT PROCESS: The most commonly used emulsifiers come in the forms of pellets, flakes or powders that need to be melted with the oil or water phases. This can be a disadvantage if heat-sensitive ingredients are also being used, but should be used if ingredients do need to be melted. Liquid emulsifiers are available that allow for a cold blending technique.
SHEAR TOLERANCE: Some emulsifiers require a homogenizer, which is a mixer that produces fine particles and droplet sizes, as well as a “high shear” - the rate at which fluid moves between two parallel plates, one being stationary and the other moving at a constant speed. Some emulsifiers cannot withstand high shear and would be destabilized by a homogenizer.
APPLICATION DOSAGE: The emulsifier is generally added at approximately 20% of the oil phase, though some work best at lower or higher concentrations. The concentration can be reduced with the addition of co-emulsifiers or stabilizing agents.
Additives are optional ingredients that may be added to a product for their healing or preventative properties or for the ways in which they boost the qualities of the product itself. Some additives for moisturizers provide extra hydration, boost the hardness or softness of the product, improve its appearance, reduce/prevent/stop skin irritation, and/or promote the growth of healthy cells. Most additives are included in the mixture of ingredients during or after the melting stage of the production process. Regardless of which additives are selected, they should all comply with Health Canada and FDA regulations and be certified for cosmetic use to ensure that they will be safe on skin.
Thickeners can be natural, synthetic, or semi-synthetic and they are derived from various sources including natural sources. The most versatile thickeners are those that are synthetic. They provide stability and better performance of cosmetic products by enhancing the consistency, volume, and viscosity. Some thickeners allow water to remain on the skin and thus offer a moisturizing property. They are composed of varying molecular structures including polysaccharides, proteins, alcohols, silicones or waxes.
For those that prefer their moisturizer to have a thicker, richer texture than oils have to offer, butters are an ideal option, as they have more saturated fatty acids and higher melting points. Some are preferred for their antioxidants, vitamins, and fatty acids, which work to diminish signs of aging and other skin issues. Other butters are preferred for their ability to protect skin from UV damage or from coarse, cracked skin.
Butters can be heated and added to other types of moisturizers during their liquid phases. When incorporating a butter into a lotion, such as to create a “Shea Butter Lotion” for example, the amount to add will vary for each recipe. The recommended ratio is 75% solid to 25% liquid oil. Although the body butter can be used as soon as the base ingredients are blended together, the mixture will be too dense and tough to spread over the skin at this stage. When whipped, however, the air that is incorporated into the mixture creates a lighter consistency that makes the application much easier. This also means less butter is needed at the time of each application, which in turn extends the life of the product.
Preservatives are natural or synthetic ingredients with anti-fungal, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties that are added to personal care products to keep them fresh and to protect both the product and the user from the negative effects of harmful bacteria. Preservatives are only needed in products that contain water. They work by preventing spores from germinating and producing more microorganisms and by deactivating cells by disrupting their cell membranes. Many store-bought moisturizers contain preservatives that can be harmful to skin whereas producing homemade moisturizers allows for the use of natural preservatives that can help minimize negative skin reactions.
Homemade natural products can also be made without preservatives; however, they will not last as long as commercial moisturizers. There are a couple of solutions to this issue, including the option of creating products in small batches that will be used within a short time period, adding ingredients with antimicrobial properties, or creating anhydrous products, which are products that do not contain water, as introducing water to cosmetic containers is the leading cause for the development of harmful bacteria, mold, yeast, and fungi. This includes ingredients that contain water such as hydrosols/floral water, Aloe Vera, or goat’s milk to name a few popular choices. Any water used should ideally be distilled and boiled before having anything added to it, but generally the less water in the product, the longer it will last. Glass containers are highly recommended for storage, as they can be reused and they eliminate the risk of products being tainted by the harmful chemicals that are commonly found in plastic containers. Product contamination can typically be prevented or slowed down by also using dispensing bottles instead of open mouth jars, because the bacteria from fingers can be introduced to the product.
To extend the longevity of a moisturizer, an anti-oxidant is needed, as it will reduce the rate of oxidation. This is a chemical process during which natural ingredients are degraded or damaged due to exposure to oxygen. An oxidized product will develop brown or black spots. An antioxidant can be added directly to oils or added to the oil phase of the moisturizer formula. Naturally preserving additives that are anti-oxidants include Geranium Essential Oil, Grapefruit Seed Extract, and Green Tea Extract, among many others.
To help preserve the moisturizer, an anti-microbial is needed, as it will work to destroy bacteria and other unwanted micro-organisms. Naturally preserving additives that fight bacteria, mold and fungus include Vitamin E oils, Tea Tree Oil, Jojoba Oil, Avocado Oil, Olive Oil, Red Raspberry Seed Oil, Green Tea, Aloe Vera or honey.
There are ingredients that boost the capabilities of preservatives but there are also those that interfere with or completely inactivate them. Some of the ingredients that might interfere with them include pigments like ultramarine blue and thickeners like cellulose derivatives and guar gum.
CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING WHEN LOOKING FOR A SUITABLE MOISTURIZER PRESERVATIVE:
1. Which ingredients are being used? Are they oil-soluble or water-soluble?
2. What will the product’s final pH be?
3. Is it non-sensitizing? In other words, does it have any tendencies to cause allergies or sensitivities?
4. Is it long lasting? Will it continue to work under both normal conditions and less favorable conditions?
5. Does it take rapid action to quickly re-sterilize the product, if it should become contaminated?
6. Is the preservative non-toxic and non-irritating?
7. Is it compatible with all the ingredients in the formula?
8. Does it remain stable under heat? Does it undergo disintegration during storage?
FLOWER WATERS (ALSO CALLED HYDROLATS OR HYDROSOLS)
Floral waters are a byproduct of the essential oil production process. They have similar properties to essential oils but are gentler on the skin and are thus safer to use on the face than essential oils. Floral waters contain therapeutic properties that would not be found in the essential oils of the same floral matter. Popular floral waters used in cosmetics include Rose Water, Lavender Water, and Orange Blossom (neroli) Water.
Aromatic oils such as synthetic fragrance oils or essential oils can be added to a moisturizer formula for a pleasant scent with therapeutic properties that benefit the user both physically and mentally. The essential oil of choice should be one that would not cause an allergic reaction to the user. The percentage of essential oil to a cream or lotion should never exceed 2%. Both types of oils can be easily added to a moisturizer emulsion once it has been melted and removed from heat. They should be mixed in thoroughly. The final moisturizer product should be kept in a closed container in a cool area. To prevent any unexpected allergic reactions, a skin patch test is highly recommended.
Moisturizers can be colored with the use of any water- or oil-based colorants. The following colorants are typically used in moisturizers: LabColours, Micas, Oxides & Ultramarines, Jojoba Wax Beads, Natural Tinting Herbs, and D&C and FD&C Dyes.
When creating DIY products, it is imperative to prevent the transmission of infection. This can be done by ensuring proper hand washing. It is important to use sterile gloves and a hair net to provide the necessary protection.
Sterilize everything with which the lotion or cream will come into contact; have a spray bottle of alcohol ready with clean sterile jars and towels at hand.
To create a lotion or cream, two ‘phases’ must be produced: an oil phase and a water phase. They both need to be heated to kill any microbial visitors.
All your oils and waxes – including your emulsifying wax – and butters will go into the oil phase and may be taken off the heat as soon as the wax is melted.
All your waters (distilled, or up to 40% floral waters or aloe or witch hazel with distilled water) will be heated just until a light steam wafts from the surface and tiny bubbles form on the bottom of the pot. Borax, if you are using it, will be dissolved in your water phase.
Tinctures, actives, essential oils and preservatives will be added after the cream has begun to emulsify.
WHEN THE WAXES HAVE COMPLETELY MELTED (OR THE BORAX IS DISSOLVED), YOU ARE READY TO MAKE THE PRODUCT. YOU CAN DO THIS IN ONE OF THREE WAYS:
Use two pitchers to pour both phases back and forth until they are emulsified and cooled, then pour into sterile containers; this is the traditional method, used since the Middle Ages.
Whip the water phase with a stick blender while pouring a thin stream of the oil phase in, and after all is blended, continue to whip for another five minutes before pouring into sterile containers.
Put ice in one bowl, and place the second bowl on top – stainless steel bowls of the same size are excellent for this. Begin pouring both phases in while whipping with a whisk; this will cool the cream as it emulsifies, and you will feel this happening as the whisk hits the bottom of the bowl. When it is all emulsified and cold, pour into sterile containers.
Pour your cream just before it arrives at the thickness you want because as it cools, it will get a bit thicker. Caution: if it is just right in your emulsion for a lotion, and you want to put it into a lotion bottle, you will have to add more sterile water phase now, or it will be too thick to travel up the length of the pump.
Recommended books for further reading on the subject:
The Creamy Craft of Cosmetic Making by Jan Benham (1996, 2001) The Aroma Shoppe Ltd., Toronto, Canada.
The Baby Boomers Beauty Bible, by Jan Benham (2004, 2010) The Aroma Shoppe Ltd., Toronto, Canada.
A double boiler (or a pot filled with boiling water and a heat-resistant glass bowl that can be placed over the pot)
A stainless-steel saucepan
A measuring jug – 1 L (approx. 34 oz) size preferred
A stirring spoon
Measuring spoons i.e., teaspoon (5 ml or 0.16 oz), dessertspoon (10 ml or 0.33 oz), and tablespoon (15 ml or 0.50 oz)
A scale that has both imperial and metric measurements
Empty glass jars and bottles for finished product
Label (to keep final products organized)
* Ingredients are measured by weight, in grams, for accuracy
WAXES AND OILS:
28 g (approx. 1 oz)/4 dessertspoons lanette wax (emulsifier)
60 g (approx. 2 oz)/6 dessertspoons Jojoba Oil
200 g (approx. 7 oz) distilled water
50 g (approx. 2 oz) Rose Water
1.23 g (¼ tsp) Grapefruit Seed Extract
12 drops Lavender
8 drops Geranium
7 drops Palmarosa
Sterilize all utensils, product containers, and workshop surfaces. Wipe utensils and wipe down surfaces with alcohol.
In a heat-resistant bowl (or in a double boiler), melt the emulsifying wax and oils.
In another saucepan, heat the liquid ingredients (Rose water and distilled water) until they have reached boiling point.
When the waxes and oils have completely melted, and the water is gently boiling…
Slowly, add the waters to the melted wax and oils, stirring constantly until all water has been added.
Remove the double boiler from the heat source. Continue stirring until the mixture has completely cooled.
Add grapefruit seed extract, plus any essential oils, nutrients, and goodies.
Pour into sterilized jars and bottles.
Source: The Baby Boomers Beauty Bible, 2011.
120 g (1/2 cup or 4 oz) Almond Oil or Jojoba Oil (or any other liquid oil)
60 g (1/4 cup or 2 oz) Coconut Oil
60 g (1/4 cup or 2 oz) Beeswax/Emulsifying Wax
5 g (1 tsp) Vitamin E Oil (optional)
30 g (2 tbsp) Shea Butter/Cocoa Butter (optional)
Essential Oils, Vanilla Extract or other preferred natural extracts (optional) (see recipe for ratio)
237 g (8 oz) mason jar or tin
Combine Almond Oil/ Jojoba Oil (or any other liquid oil), Coconut Oil and Beeswax/ Emulsifying Wax in a double boiler or a glass bowl on top. If using Shea/Cocoa butter, add it as well.
As the water heats, stir the ingredients occasionally as they melt so that they are fully incorporated.
When all ingredients are completely melted, add Vitamin E Oil (if using) and any essential oils or scents like Vanilla. A 2% dilution of essential oils is the ideal amount to add to a lotion. To make a 2% dilution, add 12 drops of essential oil to every 30 ml (each fl. oz.)
Pour mixture into the 237 g (8 oz) mason jar/tin. The viscosity of this product will not pump well through a lotion dispenser.
Use the final product within 6 months in the same manner as a regular lotion.
75 g (1/2 cup or 4 oz) Shea Butter
75 g (1/2 cup or 4 oz) Cocoa Butter or Mango Butter
120 g (1/2 cup or 4 oz) Coconut Oil
120 g (1/2 cup or 4 oz) light oil (such as Almond, Jojoba, or Olive Oil)
10-30 drops of preferred Essential Oils (Optional)
455 g (16 oz) mason/glass jar
Combine all the ingredients (except the essential oils) in a double boiler or glass bowl.
Stir them constantly over medium heat until all the ingredients are melted.
Once melted, remove the mixture from the heat and allow it to cool slightly. If including essential oils in the formula, add them now.
Allow the mixture to cool in the fridge for 1 hour or until it begins to harden but still remains somewhat soft.
Using a hand mixer, whip the mixture for 10 minutes until fluffy.
Refrigerate the whipped mixture for 10-15 minutes to set.
Store the final product in a 455 g (16 oz) glass jar with a lid.
Use the butter in the same manner as a regular lotion or body butter.
The butter may soften at room temperature in which case it may be stored in the fridge, but it will remain whipped at a temperature lower than 24 áµ’C (75 áµ’F).
60 g (2 oz) Beeswax/emulsifying wax
15 g (1/2 oz) Cocoa Butter
45 g (1 ½ oz) Palm Kernel Oil
235 g (8 oz) Coconut Oil
120 g (8 tbsp or 4 oz) Almond Oil
235 g (8 oz) Goat’s Milk
355 g (12 oz) distilled water
15 g (1 tbsp or 0.5 oz) Germaben II
Mix together the Beeswax/emulsifying wax, Cocoa Butter, Palm Kernel Oil, Coconut Oil, and Almond oil in a glass bowl.
Microwave or heat the mixture over the stove until melted.
Whisk in the water and Goat’s Milk until the whole emulsion cools. When first mixing the oils and liquids together, the milk may have a strange appearance and it may seem to be curdling, but continuous mixing will help it turn to lotion.
Add the Germaben II to the mixture once it has become lotion. If the lotion is too thick, add more water to thin it out. Re-heating the lotion and mixing again helps it stay emulsified.
If the lotion starts to separate, add more emulsifying wax.
Store the final product inside a 1 L (1000 g or 34 oz) glass jar in the fridge.
Pay close attention when heating any mixtures that include oil, as the oil can rapidly overheat. This is especially true for small amounts of oil, which can overheat in seconds. Never leave oil unattended on the stove. If called away from the stove, be sure to remove the pan from the heat.
Avoid overheating the oils. The wax and oil mixtures simply need to be melted, not boiled.
Keep young children and pets out of the way.
After each use, clean all equipment in boiling water, rinse well, and dry. It is best to use these utensils only for making cosmetics and to avoid preparing or storing food in them due to the possibility of cross-contamination.