How to make Homemade Lotion - Natural Easy Beginner Friendly DIY Recipe
Updated: Sep 15
I have been DIYing skincare and haircare for a while now. Many people are surprised when I say I do it and are asking me if it is hard to do. To answer simply, no it is not hard to do. Although the recipes I use have become more complex because I tend to add more and more active ingredients but for today, I want to share a very easy, beginner-friendly natural lotion recipe. This homemade lotion has only five ingredients that are all Ecocert. This is a label for environmentally friendly and socially conscious practices of the ingredients used in my formulations.
What is natural
Let's first start with ‘what does natural mean’? Unlike organic, natural is not a protected term with strict regulations and a clear certification process. This makes it difficult to exactly say what natural means as different people look at this topic in different ways. Some look at it very purely while others take a more pragmatic approach when considering the term natural. This topic can roughly be divided into four different categories. Each of these categories can be considered natural, it just depends on how you look at it and how you would like to make your skincare products.
Natural as it is found in nature
This is the purest way of looking at the term natural. In this case natural means that the ingredients are used the way, they can be found in nature. As the ingredient is not chemically altered by humans so it remains its original chemical composition. Cold extraction of oils from seeds directly found in nature is an example of this. Like cold-processed shea butter or cold processed argan oil all fall in this category.
Natural as naturally derived
In this case, the ingredient has undergone a chemical reaction to reach the state the ingredient is used in when used in formulations. Fermentation or hydrolysis of plant materials are examples of these chemical reactions. This way emulsifiers and preservatives are often naturally derived because they have undergone this process. Also, essential oils extraction is a naturally derived process as in this case the plant material has undergone (steam) distillation.
Natural as in nature-identical
In this case, the ingredient is not derived from nature but is synthetically processed to have the same chemical structure as it is found in nature. Citric acid (a pH regulator) is an example of this as it could be derived from citrus peels but as the demand is extremely high (in the food industry), it is synthetically made to meet this high demand.
Natural as in a plant-derived synthetic
Many skincare ingredients are petroleum-derived but as the demand for plant-derived skincare grows, these petroleum-derived ingredients are mimicked with plant ingredients to meet this demand. In this case, plant materials are used to create an ingredient that is chemically the same as the synthetic version was but is now a plant-based version.
As you can read there are many different ways to look at the term natural. I mostly focus on ingredients that are naturally derived but I understand that sometimes nature-identical are needed as the process of creating it from the plant source can be very costly.
This recipe does not contain beeswax. There are several reasons why I don’t use beeswax in my homemade recipes.
I am allergic to beeswax. This is the most obvious reason for me to not use beeswax and I know there are lots of people out there who are allergic to beeswax. Each time I hear someone mention that the lip balm they purchased is giving them extremely cracked and dry (and painful) lips, I know they are also allergic to beeswax. As beeswax is not an official allergen, they might not even consider they are allergic so they continue their lives without knowing.
Another reason for me to not use beeswax is that it is an animal-derived ingredient. This means that beeswax is not vegan.
Not an emulsifier
Beeswax is often used as a natural emulsifier. However, beeswax is not an emulsifier. When you use beeswax instead of a real emulsifier the oil and water will somewhat mix but the resulting emulsion is not stable. This means that after a certain time, this could be days to weeks, the lotion you made will split. You will see this in your lotion as it will start with small bubble-like droplets (these are either droplets of oil or water) that appear in your lotion and after a while, the oil and water of your lotion will completely split and you end up with a layer of oils and a layer of water.
Water is the largest part of our lotion. This is because our skin needs water as our skin contains a lot of water. But we can’t just use ordinary tap water when creating skincare products. Tap water undergoes several physical and microbiological filtrations before it reaches the faucets in your home. This way you can use it for normal household procedures as it is free of pathogenic microorganisms. But for some of us, the quality of our tap water differs and we need more steps of filtration to make our water drinkable. Household filtration systems reduce the hardness of our tap water and remove suspended particles to make the water drinkable.
This however still does not make the water suitable for creating cosmetic products as there could still be minute quantities of substances, such as chlorine, sulfates, and various metal ions that could interfere with the product’s stability and performance. Therefore we want water in its most pure form which is distilled water.
Is deionized water ok?
In deionized water, special ion-exchange resins remove anions and cations present in water using hydronium and hydroxide ions (H3O+, OH-). This results in deionized water. However, this method does not purify microorganisms, volatile material, organic impurities, or suspended material therefore, distilled water is used.
When using a lotion we apply lots of water to our skin and we want to water to remain in our skin. Therefore, we use a humectant. A humectant draws moisture from the outside towards your skin. There are many humectants available but glycerin is one of the easiest available and the cheapest. Making it a great beginner friendly ingredient. But don’t think that just because it is cheap it is not an awesome humectant. It is a skin protectant and skin conditioning agent which is great to protect the skin against dehydration. Therefore, all most all of my DIY skincare products contain glycerin.
Oils and water don’t mix naturally, they need some encouragement to properly mix. This is an emulsifier. The molecules of an emulsifier contain both a hydrophilic (water-loving) side and a hydrophobic (oil-loving) side. Therefore, emulsifiers can bind to both oil and water compounds creating a uniform emulsion.
The emulsifier we are using today is Olivem 1000. This is an oil-in-water emulsifier derived from olives. It is both an emulsifier and thickener which is compatible with a wide pH range (3 to 12). It is shown to be safe and clinically tested to be hypoallergenic, it provides creams with an excellent spreadability without soaping.
Olivem 1000 has a complex combination of fatty acids chemically similar to the lipid composition of the skin surface making it a great skin conditioning agent as well.
Argan oil is a plant oil produced from the kernels of the argan tree that naturally occurs in Morocco. In Morocco, they use argan oil to dip bread in at breakfast or during dinner for over couscous or pasta. However, it is more commonly known for its uses in cosmetic products.
Argan oil has great benefits for our skin as it is naturally high in vitamin E. Vitamin E has great antioxidant properties which greatly benefits healthy skin and hair.
A preservative is needed in every formulation that contains water. This is because bacteria and other microorganisms love water. They grow and thrive in an aqueous environment. To suppress this contamination, we need to use a preservative.
Any broadspectrum preservative will work fine in your formulation but I prefer to use one that is as natural as possible. I choose Biogard or Cosgard in the skincare projects I make.
Video with Instructions
50 gram batch
Cool Down Phase
Storage & Shelf-life
This lotion contains a high amount of water so you must include a broad-spectrum preservative to prevent microbial growth. Even with the use of a preservative, this lotion will eventually spoil as our tools for homemade lotion making are not sterile laboratories. So, if you notice any change in color, scent, or texture, stop using it and make a fresh batch.
Be aware that making substitutions will change the end product. While these changes won’t break the recipe, you will get a different product than I did.