As a do-it-yourselfer and component of all things natural and wholesome, one of the most helpful, healthy, and skin-wise things I’ve come across is natural, handmade lotion.
I’m not talking about the “natural” junk most people sell at trade shows with the pretty labels and jacked-up prices. Most of those are concocted starting with a premade “base” lotion that can be purchased at most craft stores. Moisturizers and fragrances are then added to the base and a “natural” label is slapped on the container to make it more appealing and consumer friendly. The problem with those premade bases is that they typically contain all varieties of nasty chemicals that can actually damage and dehydrate your skin, causing premature aging*.
The natural lotions that I make for myself and my family are truly made from scratch, starting with nothing but nature. I start with an emulsifying wax (naturally derived from beeswax, soy lecithin, and sodium borax) which you can either make yourself or purchase online (I usually get mine on Etsy.com for convenience but I have made it myself and gotten a comparable if not identical product).
Along with the natural emulsifying wax, I use only the most moisturizing, skin-nourishing ingredients such as olive oil, coconut oil, sunflower oil, Shea butter, cocoa butter, aloe, vitamin E, and essential oils (for fragrance). These ingredients not only moisturize the skin, but have been proven to reduce signs of aging, even skin tone, and increase elasticity.
You can experiment to come up with different weights of moisturizers and different textures — whatever feels best to you. I’ve made some rich, creamy body butters and some ultra-light facial moisturizers. This is a recipe that I like to use for daily, all-over moisturizing.
What you will need:
- emulsifying wax (unless you’re making your own).
- coconut oil (in the cooking oil section at your local grocery store; organic is best because it retains more antioxidants and nutrients, but non-organic is still nutrient-packed and good for your skin).
- olive oil (in the cooking oil section at your local grocery store).
- sunflower oil (also in the cooking oil section).
- Shea butter (a refined Shea butter can be purchased in small quantities from many craft supply stores, but I prefer to get mine unprocessed and unrefined, from Etsy.com)
- Essential oil in whatever fragrance you like (it is important to use essential oil because synthetic fragrances contain alcohol and a whole host of other chemicals that are no good for your skin).
- water (distilled is best because it is free of chlorine and minerals found in tap water and can be purchased at most grocery stores for under a dollar a gallon, but tap water is also fine).
- pot that you don’t mind melting wax in.
- a wooden spoon for stirring.
The basic formula you will be using (for any lotion, body butter, or moisturizer) is going to be one part emulsifying wax plus one part oil plus five parts water (these are directions for a double batch, for ease of measurement). The thickness and creaminess of the lotion you end up with has everything to do with the ratios of different kinds of oils that you use. For example, coconut oil, Shea butter, and cocoa butter are all solid oils. Using a larger ratio of these will cause your end product to be thicker, whereas using more olive oil will make your end product thinner (like regular hand lotion) but still very moisturizing, and a heavier ratio of sunflower oil will produce a very light moisturizer that can be used as a facial moisturizer (or a very effective makeup remover).
First things first: Place your pot on the stove and turn it up to medium heat. You don’t want it to get too hot or the wax will stick to the bottom (and smell weird) and the oil will burn (and smell weird). Measure out two cups of emulsifying wax and dump it straight into the pot. Next, measure out your solid oils, 3/4 cup of coconut oil, 1/4 cup of Shea butter. Dump it all in the pot with the wax and wait for it all to melt to liquid, stirring frequently until smooth and thoroughly mixed.
Once the wax and solid oils are melted and mixed, measure in your liquid oils — 3/4 cup of olive oil, 1/4 cup of sunflower oil — and stir until thoroughly mixed. Once all of the oils are melted and mixed, you’re going to add 10 cups of water (tap or distilled) and turn off the eye of the stove. Remove the pot from the stove and stir the mixture periodically as it cools (don’t wait too long between stirs because while the mixture is still hot it could separate and you would have to reheat it). As the mixture cools, it should become thicker and more opaque until it resembles ordinary hand lotion. Once the lotion has completely cooled, it’s time to add your essential oils. The amount you add is up to you; just keep adding drops until you are satisfied with the fragrance.
Once everything is mixed, cooled and complete, you should have enough lotion to fill about four or five 16-ounce Mason jars. I find that it’s best to store your product in Mason jars while it is not being used because glass jars seal more tightly than plastic containers, giving your lotion a longer shelf life. Although, I usually end up giving mine away to family and friends long before I even start running low on the first jar (and trust me, they LOVE it).
* Top ten ingredients to avoid in any skincare products:
- Parabens — typically used as a preservative because of its antimicrobial properties. Parabens can cause skin rashes and have been found in breast cancer tumors.
- Diazolidinyl or Imidazolidinyl Urea — typically used as a preservative to extend shelf life. The American Academy of Dermatology has linked these chemicals to severe contact dermatitis and both of these chemicals release formaldehyde which can be extremely toxic to humans, especially when absorbed over a long period of time.
- Petrolatum (petroleum jelly) or mineral oil — while most people look to petroleum jelly to heal chapped lips and hands, it actually has the opposite effect. It can clog your pores and inhibit your body’s ability to moisturize its own skin. However, it is extremely inexpensive, so it is used in most “moisturizing” skincare products.
- Propylene Glycol — usually made from synthetic chemicals, it has been found to cause hives and to worsen eczema (even though it is often found in creams and ointments made to combat eczema).
- Stearalkonium chloride — initially created as a fabric softener, skincare companies use it in hair conditioners and lotions because it is far cheaper and easier to produce than natural conditioning proteins.
- Synthetic colors — used to make skin products look pretty, these chemicals (often labeled FD&C or D&C) have been found to be carcinogens.
- Synthetic fragrances — usually alcohol-based, these chemicals can cause respiratory hardship, hyper pigmentation and brown spots on the skin.
- Alcohol — any variety of alcohol is a natural dehydrating agent, and although it is found in almost every mass-produced skincare line, it will draw the moisture out of your skin.
What tips do you have for making all-natural lotion? Post your comment in the section below: