How to Make a Lotion

by Susan Barclay Nichols

Make an oil-in-water lotion from scratch in about an hour!


  • 66 Grams Water
  • 15 Grams Oils of choice
  • 5 Grams Shea, mango, or cocoa butter
  • 3 Grams Cetyl alcohol
  • 6 Grams Emulsifier (Polawax or Incroquat BTMS-50)
  • 1 Gram Fragrance or essential oil
  • 0.50 Grams Preservative (liquid Germall Plus)
  • 3 Grams Glycerin
  • 2 Heatproof containers
  • Thermometer (candy, preferably)
  • Hand mixer or stick blender
  • Bottle with pump or disc cap
  • Digital scale
  • Instructions

    Step 1

    I can remember the moment when I learned I could make lotions at home. My reaction? "I CAN MAKE LOTIONS AT HOME?" I said loudly with just a touch of disbelief. How was this possible?

    Step 2

    It's possible to make an awesome lotion filled with lovely oils, decadent butters, and fantastic fragrances at home with a few ingredients, but you must follow the directions carefully to succeed.

    Step 3

    To create a successful and safe lotion, you must follow the process exactly. I cannot stress this enough! And if you don't want to use preservatives, lotions aren't for you.

    Step 4

    Oil in water lotions are those with more water than oil. Most lotions are o/w. It has a heated oil phase, a heated water phase, and a cool down phase.

    Step 5

    A lotion is an emulsion that brings together oil and water, two things that normally get don't along. A stable o/w emulsion requires a good emulsifier along with heating and mixing.

    Step 6

    I generally use Polawax or Incroquat BTMS-50. There are other emulsifiers, but these are great for beginners. If you buy emulsifying wax NF, increase the amount to 7% for this recipe.

    Step 7

    Beeswax is not an emulsifier on its own. You cannot substitute it for the emulsifier in this recipe and you can't use it combined with borax to emulsify this product.

    Step 8

    Choose an oil for this project. You can use any oil you might find at a grocery or health food store in this recipe. I like rice bran and olive oil, but then again, I don't mind greasy oils!

    Step 9

    Cocoa butter is an approved barrier ingredient, which means it used to prevent chapping and protect injured skin. It will make the lotion feel slightly stiffer than those using other butters.

    Step 10

    Mango butter is a drier feeling butter that will make the lotion slightly stiffer than one with shea or no butter.

    Step 11

    Shea butter comes in different types - raw, refined, or ultra refined - and it will make the lotion feel a bit greasier than those made with other butters.

    Step 12

    A few oil and butter combinations to consider are cocoa and olive oil for a medium weight lotion, mango and hazelnut for a drier feeling, and shea with soy bean for really dry skin.

    Step 13

    As I only have so much space here, please visit the emollients section of my blog to see the charts I've created.

    Step 14

    Cetyl alcohol is a fatty alcohol we use to thicken and offer extra emolliency to the product. If you don't have it, increase the oils or butter by 3 grams.

    Step 15

    Glycerin is a humectant, which means it'll draw water from the atmosphere to our skin. It helps increase moisturization. If you don't have it, just increase the water by 3 grams.

    Step 16

    Preservatives are not optional, they are essential. If you don't wish to use them, don't make products containing water. An unpreserved lotion has a 3 day life span, and is unsafe to use after that.

    Step 17

    I use liquid Germall Plus at 0.5% in the cool down phase. To learn more about preservatives, please vist

    Step 18

    Grapefruit seed extract, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, and citric acid are not preservatives. They are anti-oxidants and will help retard rancidity of the oils. They will not prevent contamination.

    Step 19

    Prepare your space. Clean the surfaces, equipment, and containers with rubbing alcohol. Tie back your hair and wear gloves.

    Step 20

    Measure into your heatproof container the HEATED WATER PHASE of 66 grams water and 3 grams glycerin Then place it into a double boiler like apparatus.

    Step 21

    Measure into another heatproof container the HEATED OIL PHASE of 15 grams oil, 5 grams butter, 3 grams cetyl alcohol, and 6 grams emulsifier Place into the double boiler and heat.

    Step 22

    Heat both containers to 70 C or 156 F, then hold them at that temperature for 20 minutes. We do this to ensure all ingredients are melted, to reduce contamination, and to help emulsification.

    Step 23

    You cannot use the microwave to heat ingredients. Create your own double boiler by putting your containers in a pot filled with water. Find a little rack so they don't touch the bottom.

    Step 24

    Failure to heat and hold is the number one reason for lotion fails. (The second reason is not using a proper emulsifier or not enough of a good emulsifier. The third? Poorly written recipes.)

    Step 25

    Remove both containers from the double boiler and pour one into the other. This is the moment of emulsification! Let's watch!

    Step 26

    Mix well with either a hand mixer or a stick blender. I generally mix for 3 to 5 minutes. I don't recommend a whisk as we aren't looking for bubbles.

    Step 27

    Allow the lotion to cool to 45C or 113F. Add the COOL DOWN PHASE of 0.5 g liquid Germall Plus and 1 g fragrance or essential oil Mix well. Allow to cool to room temperature.

    Step 28

    When the lotion has cooled, get it into the bottle. It's a little too thick for a funnel, so I like to use a piping bag or a sandwich bag with a corner cut off so I can squish it quicker.

    Step 29

    Congratulations! You made a lotion! And now your brain is dancing with images of what you could do next time! Did you keep notes as you made this one? What could you change?

    Step 30

    This recipe should make around 70 ml or a little more than 1/4 cup. Want to make a larger batch? Multiply the amounts to make more! Don't go over 10 times or 1000 g: That's a really large batch!

    Step 31

    Feel free to play with this recipe! You want 20 grams of oils and butters, but you can change the amounts to 10 g butter and 10 g oils for a thicker product or 20 g oils for a thinner product.

    Step 32

    Feel free to play with the water amount, just make sure it totals 69 g. Add aloe Vera, witch hazel, and other hydrosols or extracts. Water soluble things go into the heated water phase.

    Step 33

    Check with the supplier to find out if that ingredient you love is heat sensitive. If it is, put it in the cool down phase. (I suggest a visit to my blog Point of Interest if you want to learn more!)

    Step 34

    If you want a PDF of this guide, visit

    Step 35

    A few notes: You cannot use volume measurements - tsp, tbsp, etc - for this recipe. It must be weighed. It will fail otherwise.

    Step 36

    Can you believe you just made lotion? From scratch? In your favourite fragrance? If you wish to march about the house singing "I made lotion", have at it! Share with your friends and family!

    Step 37

    And consider putting this product together with the other products I've taught you how to make in other guides - whipped butter, balm, and emulsified sugar scrub! They make great presents!

    Step 38

    If you want to learn more about making your own bath & body products, or want to see the hundreds of recipes I've created, visit my blog, Point of Interest, at