Let's  walk through how to make a natural lotion, cream, body butter and moisturizer from scratch.

  Lotions, creams, body butters and skin soothers are all a combination of water/oil emulsions that are made with a blend of mostly the same ingredients.  Light lotions and summer cremes tend to be more fluid than heavier creams or body butters. Lighter lotions contain less oil and have a higher water content making them a thinner more pourable product.  Light skin creams blended with special active ingredients are formulas that are likely to be used on the face while the thicker butters are made for whole body use. Body butters are often emulsions made the same way light lotions are made, but blended with heavier oils and butters.

   Why create a water/oil blend emulsion for skin care? 

   Body butters are often made with a water/oil emulsion, but sometimes they are not. Sometimes home studio crafter's will omit water from a body butter and use a blend of whipped hard and soft oils which will allow for a decent shelf life while omitting the need for a preservative. These are often a first choice for the organic and all natural customer, but they can result in a grainy or greasy product if not formulated perfectly. Turning these heavy butter formulas into emulsions with just a small amount of water will create a beautiful heavy skin cream that soaks into the skin and feels silky smooth.

   Emulsion based skin creams use water and oil applied with heat and a little bit of time to make a cosmetic.   The emulsifying ingredients are what allows the water and oil to bind and stay mixed together in the  cosmetic. By using  E-wax (emulsifying wax), silky e-wax ( a smoother more velvet version of standard e-wax), BMTS-50,   and glycerin the two parts water and oil will bind and hold together despite their natural chemical tendency to separate from each other.

   EQUIPMENT Use for making DIY lotions

       1. SCALE – Digital is best with a button that toggles between units of measurement.


       3. MIXER – both a hand mixer and a stand mixer are heavily used for all types of skin creme projects. A hand mixer or stick blender is an essential tool for most DIY cosmetics. It does not compare to hand whipping or a hand blender. The stick blender is a must have. Likewise, once you begin to make anything that should be whipped for fluffiness needs a stand mixer. The kitchen aide stand mixer is the most popular and smartest way to spend your money for this product.  It will reliably complete the job every time, and the motor will last for decades. This becomes important when it comes time to mix heavy jobs like shea and cocoa butter recipes where the machine won't fail.

       4. DOUBLE BOILER/WATER BATH:  Pre assembled double boilers are most ideal. This is a common kitchen tool that will get your hard oils melted with precision temperature control. A water bath works just s well for most projects. To replicate the function of a double boiler place a heat safe glass dish inside a wide skillet or shallow pan with a few inches of water on simmer. This will also allow for hard ingredients to melt while controlling the heat.

      5. CONTAINER to hold your product as you stick blend or cool down. These can be heat safe glass or plastic in most cases. Skin creams rarely have ingredients with a strong chemical reaction, unlike a chemical soap recipe, so glass and plastic are safe to use.

      7. SANITIZER – 70% isopropyl alcohol.  70% is more effective than 100% as the water in the solution denatures the microorganisms’s proteins.




– What type of water?

    Use distilled water.  Some people can get away with using well or tap water depending on where they live, but there is a reason we don't want to do this. Typically, common water contains chemicals which can shorten shelf life.

– What about losing water from evaporation due to heating the emulsion?

    It can be expected that the heating of water will lead to evaporation. Make sure to measure the water content after the distilled water after it has been brought to a boil for 20 minutes. This will kill any potential bacteria that may have formed after distillation.


– Essential, not optional.  “Preservative-free” is a myth!  Products claiming to be preservative free either are not properly preserved, fail to list the preservatives on the label or as the preservatives used have a dual purpose the seller is relying on the other purpose as their function.  Vitamin E, benzoin, rosemary extract, grapefruit extract are anti-oxidants not preservatives – they will help with oxidation of oils only and do nothing to help prevent gram positive and negative bacteria and fungi which grow in anything containing water. If your lotion is unpreserved it will last up 5 days in the fridge. We cannot rely on our vision to check whether our lotion is preserved properly because bacteria and spores are microscopic and cannot be seen by the human eye. Home test kits are very unreliable. The ideal preservative is broad spectrum meaning it guards against bacteria – both gram negative and gram positive and fungi,  For preservative choices and more information click here.

– IMPORTANT: Including tea, goat’s milk, honey, hydrosols, floral waters, aloe vera, extracts, protein, powders, starches and such like in your formula will really challenge the preservative. It is, however, possible to include, for example, 50% aloe vera or hydrosol in a formula and still pass preservative tests if the formula is carefully formulated. If this is in question, a crafter can always have batches sent for testing with a laboratory to see that the preservative effectively keeps the product free from mold, bacteria, or yeast.

You only need to preserve products which contain water or organic material that supports microbial life. – this includes goat’s milk, aloe vera, hydrosols, colloidal oats, pulverised plant material.


– Units of measurement: Weather you are working in grams, ounces, or another unit of measurement, you will occasionally need to translate these back and forth. The typical measurement for a soap recipe in America is ounces while nearly every one else measures in grams. You can work in what ever measurement is most comfortable. However, grams are far more accurate because the size is smaller. So, if you are crafting a product in small amounts or the precision accuracy is very important grams will get you closer to the pin point correct measurement. If you are making a large batch ounces will be a more useful tool.


Your product’s shelf life will be ultimately determined by a stability test.  However to get some idea of the shelf life of your ingredients, look up each of your ingredients’ shelf lives and whichever ingredient expires first will impact the shelf life of your lotion.

If you are selling your product, a three month stability test will need to be performed. As any changes in a lotion will take place faster at higher temperatures, samples are put at different environmental conditions which include a range of temperatures from room temperature,  4°C /39°F (usual fridge temperature) to 40-45°C (104°F-113°F).  Samples are checked every 2, 4, 8, 12 and 24 weeks to see if they change over time.  If there is very little change after 3 months then the product may last for two years if it also passes other tests, such as preservative. You can buy a reptile egg incubator to carry out the 40-45°C (104°F-113°F) check.


Our article on emulsions and stability recommends natural emulsifiers (at least two effective emulsifiers must be used), provides details on how to create a stable emulsion and what concentrations to use.  Do not forget to include two stabilizers so your lotion stays emulsified!  It is important to note, cetyl/cetearyl alcohol and beeswax are not emulsifiers and some emulsifying waxes do not emulsify! 

Questions on emulsifiers? Browse or post in the forum.


If you want to learn more about lotion recipes and the  nuance of blending ingredients, we have hundreds of lotion recipes available in the Thermal Mermaid Recipe Directory. Our directory contains thousands of soap, bath cosmetic, and lotion recipes with hundreds of exclusive video tutorials, along with an entire community of active artisan cosmetic makers to help in the forum.

Troubleshooting Need help?

    Feel free to explore some answers in the Soap Making & Bath Cosmetics ~ Thermal Mermaid Facebook Group


1. Sanitize containers, countertops, equipment. Boil some distilled water in case you need it later to make up the water which evaporated (if more than 10% water evaporated).

2. Weigh your WATER PHASE into your container.

• Heat the water phase using either a hotplate or double boiler/water bath (see equipment section above), to around 75°C/165°F and hold it at around that temperature for 20 minutes.

Note: 75°C for 20 minutes cannot be counted on to sterilize a product. It will likely reduce microbial levels by killing some of the non-endospore-forming bacteria, but it will probably not kill all of them.  To access a discussion between expert chemists and microbiologists on why the heat and hold is needed  (It should be noted that chemists are not taught this 20 minute period as when an emulsion is scaled up it will automatically receive more than 20 minutes heat and hold as an average emulsion will take approximately three times longer to produce in the factory).

3. While your water phase is heating, weigh your OIL PHASE into your other container.

Heat the oil phase up to roughly the same temperature as the water phase using either a hotplate double boiler/water bath (see equipment section above).  You DO NOT need to hold the oil phase for 20 mins, however, we will need to heat the oil phase up to the same temperature as the water phase when you combine the phases for a proper emulsion (see below).

4. After the water phase has had 20 minutes at around 75°C/165°F and the oil phase is also at that temperature follow the steps below.

• Slowly pour one of the phases into the other and mix for 2-5 minutes with a homogenizer or for crafters, a stick blender/mini mixer.  Do not use a milk/coffee frother or whisk or spoon/fork as emulsions need high shear.

• Mix as the lotion cools.  (Chemists will use an overhead stirrer for cool down phase stirring and crafters use a stick blender switched on intermittently.)

5. Weigh your cool down phase ingredients into a separate container. When the lotion cools down to 45°C/110°F, add your cool down phase ingredients and mix very well.


• You will notice your lotion will start to thicken up quite quickly while the lotion cools and it will continue to thicken up over the next hour or so.

6. Allow the lotion to continue to cool down to room temperature.

• Weigh the lotion to see if more than 10% water has evaporated. If it has, add some of the pre-boiled water to make up the difference and mix well. (Evaporation also occurs during the cool down period and a different amount of water will evaporate each time the lotion is made).

Test the pH and change as needed. 

7. Pour your lotion into jars/bottles only once it has cooled down to room temperature otherwise there will be condensation inside the container. The condensation will not contain preservative.