Homemade Lotions & Creams

Among the formulation techniques and processes, emulsification is considered the most challenging. It takes some time, a lot of practice, and many failures before getting it right.

Homemade lotions, creams, and moisturizers are all emulsions and are made the same way with mostly the same ingredients. You need to know that emulsions (lotions or creams) contain a water phase and an oil phase. Oil and water do not mix well, so that is why we need emulsifiers, together with processing methods, to help to keep them emulsified.

What is Emulsion

An emulsion is a heterogeneous system of two immiscible liquids (water and oil phase), one of which is dispersed as liquid droplets (i.e., the inner or dispersed phase) in the other (i.e., the outer or continuous phase). Water phase could be water or any other hydrophilic liquid i.e., hydrosols and the oil phase could be consisting of any lipophilic substance (or a blend of a few of them) such as oils and butters.

An emulsion is either of water-in-oil (W/O) or oil-in-water type (O/W), depending on the proportion of the outer phase and type of emulsifier used.

O/W emulsions feel lighter over the skin because the water phase is the outer phase, emulsions are either liquid (lotions and milks) or semi-solids (creams).

W/O emulsions provide better protection, especially important for mature and dry skin, and night care. They often leave a lubricious, rich, and oily feeling when applied to the skin.

The main difference between the 2 emulsions is the proportion of the liquid phase is higher in O/W emulsions. W/O emulsions have a high oil concentration, whereas O/W emulsions have a low oil concentration.

O/W emulsions tend to be less cost-effective, as oils are always more costly than water and these type of emulsions are generally more challenging to produce. 

What is Emulsifier

Emulsifier contains both a water-loving head and an oil-loving tail, acts as an additional agent to form a homogenous mixture keeping water and oil together.

There are 2 types of emulsifiers.

Oil-in-water (o/w) emulsifiers keep oil drops packed in water

Water-in-oil (w/o) emulsifiers keep water drops packed in oil.

HLB stands for “Hydrophilic-Lipophilic Balance” was developed for PEG-based ingredients. However, for modern, PEG-free emulsifiers, especially in natural and organic cosmetics, emulsify plants oils (i.e., there are no paraffins or silicone oils that need to be emulsified) are used. Hence, most suppliers data sheets do not even mention the HLB for modern emulsifiers. If however the HLB is mentioned, HLB around 4-6 is W/O emulsifier and around 8-16 is O/W is emulsifier. Otherwise, it will mention the type of emulsifier: W/O (water-in-oil) or O/W (oil-in-water).

Difference Between Water-in-Oil and Oil-in-Water

The main difference or the cause of the difference is the nature of the emulsifier. W/O emulsifiers and O/W emulsifiers have different natures and different HLB ranges. In short, you cannot use a W/O emulsifier to create an O/W emulsion.

The two terms describe the way the separate molecules are brought together to produce the emulsified product:-

An oil-in-water emulsion is where fine droplets of oil are dispersed through an aqueous base. These O/W emulsions tend to be more liquid, like milk or a skin cleansing lotion.

A water-in-oil emulsion is where ultra-fine droplets of water are dispersed throughout the fatty base ingredients. These emulsions tend to be quite thick and greasy.


The Nature of Emulsifier

The nature of the emulsifier determines whether an emulsion is O/W or W/O. It dictates which emulsion you are making. W/O emulsifiers and O/W emulsifiers have different natures and different HLB ranges. You cannot use a W/O emulsifier to create an O/W emulsion.

Simple and basic tests which can disclose the nature of the cosmetic emulsion. The test is using 30% dispersion of a W/O and an O/W emulsion in water. A drop of a water-based food colour to each emulsion.

W/O Emulsion does not blend well with water

When stirred the dispersions with a glass rod, you will see the W/O repels water and does not blend with water whereas the O/W emulsion blends and disperses in water.

After stirring the mixture, the W/O emulsion remains white in a surrounding pink solution whereas the O/W emulsion turns pink, meaning the colour blends with the emulsion.

You can easily observe the difference between the W/O  and O/W emulsions by adding a water-soluble colour. W/O emulsion does not blend and O/W emulsion blends.

Making a Hot Process Emulsion

1. Prepare your two phases:

Start by creating the 2 phases of emulsification
 – The oil phase
– The water phase
Weigh the oil phase: where all the oils and butters are melted and blended together.

3. Emulsify:

Slowly pour the water phase into the oil phase and mix for 2-5 minutes with a tiny wired whisk/ an electric handheld mini mixer. Blending continues until the product has cooled.

2. Heat:

Heat your two phases to around 70-75°C/158-167°F in a bain-marie. Both phases must be at the same temperature simultaneously.

4. Add the preservative and heat sensitive ingredients :

Weigh your cool down phase ingredients like essential oils and heat sensitive ingredients into a separate beaker. When the emulsion cools down 40°C/99°F, add your cool down phase ingredients and mix very well.

If you intend to keep the lotion to use over a short period, because it contains water, you will need a preservative. Preservatives are there to protect you from bacteria, fungus, and yeast. Add your choice of preservatives.

Allow the emulsion to continue to cool down to room temperature. Pour your emulsion into jars/bottles only once it has cooled down to room temperature, otherwise, there will be condensation inside the container.

Your emulsion may reach their final consistency after 24 hours to allow the emulsion to stand for 24 hours. Observe and take notes, and you may not get it right the first time as emulsification is challenging, so don’t be disheartened!

Few points to take note:

  • If your emulsion has separated, you can add 0.3% xanthan gum to water phase to thicken up. Remember for oil and water phases to emulsify, and temperature needs to be around 70C
  • If your emulsion is runny, reduce your water phase and increase your oil/butter. Adjust your emulsifier percentage accordingly
  • If your emulsion is too thick, reduce your oil/butter and emulsifier percentages.
  • Any soapiness of your emulsion, thicken the water phase. Xanthan gum makes soapiness worst so try to use lesser of another gum.

O/W emulsions are generally, more stable to make and this is the type of emulsion we learn to make. 

This e-book will teach you the process of making your own lotions creams and facial cream mask/scrubs by harnessing the power of nature.

The focus is to use vegetable oils, butters and essential oils to make emulsions. Once you master the technique of emulsification, you will not just know how to make lotions and cream but also facial cream-based masks and scrubs.

This e-book is for people who wants to learn to create their own natural skincare products.

What Will You Learn:-

  • Introduction to Emulsification and How to Convert Formula to Weight
  • Learn the Correct Techniques for Creating Lotions and Creams of Your Own
  • Essential Oil Safety for Natural Skincare
  • Measuring pH and Adjusting pH
  • Common Ingredients To Use and Basic Equipment
  • How to Formulate Lotions, Creams, Facial Cream Masks and Scrubs with Recipes Based Upon the Formula Flowcharts and Sample Recipes Provided

Emulsion Calculator

Make beautiful lotions and creams with this handy calculator!

The Emulsion Calculator is an Excel Worksheet that quickly and easily allows the formulator to calculate the requirements for emulsion. Emulsion Calculator is designed for O/W emulsions.

This calculator requires only the input of the ingredients and percentages and will save much precious time to calculations by hand. The calculator is made up of 3 parts. All ingredients are added to the phases by using the available drop-down menus. By entering the size of the batch, the weight of each ingredient for the formula will be calculated. Next, print out the page and the recipe is ready!

Water Phase: Enter all ingredients that go into the water phase. Since water percentage is automatically calculated, the total of the formula will always equal 100%.

Oil Phase: Enter all ingredients that would be included in this phase. Enter the percentage of each Ingredient, and both water and oil phases will be calculated.

Cool Down Phase: This phase is for antioxidants, fragrances, essential oils, and preservatives.

The Emulsion Calculator Excel Worksheet also provides a table on basic starter formulas for home-crafters for lotion, moisturizer and body butter for various skin types.

It comes the warning alert to give a good reference of your formula to ensure each category of the ingredients is within the recommended range.

The Emulsion Calculator is used by home-crafters or formulators who already know the basis of emulsification or are in the process of learning it. You can learn to make homemade lotion cream by will following the key steps on creating an emulsion as well as formulas.

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