Starting with an Empty Cupboard: Ingredients for Lotions & Creams

Today we start the third day of the Empty Cupboard series! Many of people have asked me over the years about the basic ingredients I recommend for lotions and creams, so this list was really easy for me to write.

Let’s take a peek at my lotions and creams ingredients wishlist!

Required Ingredients: These are ingredients that I feel are the most important items for lotions and creams. Without these ingredients, I feel that a lotion or cream is not going to turn out the right way.

Emulsifying Wax: While we offer many emulsifiers for making lotions and creams, I feel the best emulsifier for any beginner is our regular Emulsifying Wax. This emulsifier can handle most formulations with ease. It has only given me one problem over the years and that was simply because I transposed a number and used too little! As you increase your knowledge and become more confident with your lotions and creams, then you can expand your emulsifier options if you desire.

Stearic Acid: If you are planning on making only very fluid lotions then Stearic Acid is not necessary but if you want to also make thicker creams, I recommend using Stearic Acid. We use Stearic Acid to make a cream thicker by increasing the stearines that give a cream the body it needs. Stearines are a fatty acid that have a strong bond which gives the thickening properties.

Humectant of Choice: Humectants are something that I will give you the basic information, but I will let you choose your own humectant based on your personal preferences. We carry four humectants: Liquid Glycerin, Hydrovance, HoneyQuat, and Sodium Lactate. I’ll describe each humectant briefly so you can choose the one that you would prefer to use.

  • Liquid Glycerin: My first introduction to a humectant in lotion was to Liquid Glycerin. While Liquid Glycerin is a wonderful humectant, you do have to watch the usage rates and not use anymore than 3% due to the potential of the final product having a sticky residue. Since Liquid Glycerin pulls moisture from anywhere including skin, it is liked more in humid climates over dry climates. Our Liquid Glycerin is vegetable derived and biodegradable!
  • Hydrovance: My favorite humectant is Hydrovance because it doesn’t have the stickiness that sometimes accompanies lotions made with Liquid Glycerin. Hydrovance is more of a long term moisturizing humectant than Liquid Glycerin as it can help skin feel soft and smooth for several hours.
  • Sodium Lactate: Like Hydrovance, Sodium Lactate isn’t as sticky as Liquid Glycerin can be. This humectant is produced from renewable resources and completely biodegradable. Sodium Lactate also allows you to enjoy long term moisturization with great effects!
  • HoneyQuat: While HoneyQuat is a new humectant to our catalog, it is also a great moisturizer. It is noted to be every effective with a low sticky factor that can influence the application of lotion. It is not viscous, and it is great to know that a little goes a long way!

Liquid Germall Plus: Every lotion or cream needs a preservative. Do you remember Taylor’s post about the importance of preservatives? That post makes my skin crawl with the very idea of not using a preservative! The best preservative that I can recommend is Liquid Germall Plus. It is a very effective preservative that has no known chemical inactivators nor does it break down your emulusion. The low usage rates of this preservative also means that you get more for your dollar in using this preservative!

Recommended Oils: You are more than welcome to use oils that are not on this list. I have simply compiled a list of my favorite oils for lotions and creams.

Sweet Almond Oil: This is a wonderful oil gives a soothing drag that has massage therapists in love with it. A mid-weight oil, Sweet Almond Oil has minimal odor and leaves skin not feeling excessively oily.

Apricot Kernel Oil: As I classify Apricot Kernel Oil as a mid weight oil, it is one of my favorites for lotions. This oil has a pleasant and very faint nutty odor that is easily covered by fragrance or left alone. Sadly this oil is sometimes overlooked, but I love this oil because it can be used for the many people who worry about allergies.

Macadamia Nut Oil: Firmly placed on my oil weights list as a light weight oil, Macadamia Oil is a dreamy oil for light summer lotions that are massage worthy. As it has a barely-there odor, it is great for all lotions!

Rice Bran Oil: Even if I keep trying to write Rice Brain Oil, I still love this oil in lotions! (I guess I have zombies on the brain!) I place this oil on the light side of my mid-weight oils. I haven’t written many formulas using this oil, but I really need to rectify this error because lotions made with Rice Bran Oil are perfect for season transitions. Minimal odor makes this a fantastic oil for those who have sensitive noses.

Sesame Oil: The Sesame Oil in our catalog isn’t like the toasted Sesame Oil that the Chinese are extremely fond of. This lighter mid-weight oil gives a smooth and creamy feel to lotions that I’ve been hard pressed to find elsewhere. Sesame Oil doesn’t have much of an odor so there aren’t limits to using it! (I’ll leave the toasted Sesame Oil in my kitchen!)

Sunflower Oil: While this oil is certainly a mid-weight oil, the long shelf life of our High Oleic version makes this a great oil in lotions. Lotions made with Sunflower Oil leave the skin feeling refreshed without any extra weighty oils!

Additional Ingredients: These ingredients are 100% optional. You are not required to use them as you begin to make lotions. These are simply options that you can consider adding to add a little “oomph” to your lotions and creams.

Fragrance Oils or Essential Oils: This is something that I can’t tell you which ones you should or shouldn’t order because everyone has their own personal preferences and that makes it hard to give recommendations. Choose something that interests you. If you are struggling to find something that you would like, feel free to call or e-mail us for help!

Extracts: While I enjoy adding extracts to my lotions and creams, they are beneficial but not necessary. I typically add extracts to give label appeal and please the end users. I would recommend reading the descriptions for the extracts and choosing one or two that suit your needs. Extracts are something that a little bit can really alter the feel of a lotion to a better product so if you think you have a pretty good lotion, look to extracts to make the pretty good graduate to WOW!

Tomorrow we will take a look at the basic ingredients for making lip balms!

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10 Comments

  • Barb Muprhy says:

    I am really enjoying all the information, lots I was unaware of. For instance, humectants…I have so far only used the glycerine which I was not too thrilled with. Can you tell me whether the others, such as honeyquat and hydrovance are “natural” products? I really try to avoid using anything other than natural ingredients. Thanks, Barb

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    • Andee says:

      Barb,
      Natural is such a touchy definition as there is no legal definition of the word and each person has their own definition. I would NOT define Hydrovance as a natural product nor is it naturally derived. Depending on your formulation, I would recommend you try the Sodium Lactate. I think this would be considered as natural an option as glycerin.

      Honeyquat is a naturally derived quaternized conditioning agent made from honey. Honeyquat is made by reacting the pendent hydroxyl groups (on the disaccharide) of a “light” deodorized grade of honey with a chlorohydroxytrimethylammonium derivative. Recommended Usage Rate: 2-5% Honeyquat would be a more costly substitution, perhaps you can play around with some of each.

      Let me know if I can be of further assistance.

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  • Neal says:

    Excellent overview. Have you tried the veggie emulsifier in lotions?

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  • birdies says:

    Honeyquat is a favorite for me in lotions
    and hair products.
    I haven’t tried it in cold process soap…..hint, hint

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    • Andee says:

      birdies,
      As the normal process of soapmaking produces glycerin. I don’t think the addition of another humectant is necessary, especially since soap is a wash-off product, not a leave-on product. Honeyquat is probably better used in products and leave-on products.

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  • caren says:

    Another item that I always like to have on hand and is easily obtained at the grocery store is gallons of distilled water, as I don’t have a reverse osmosis system here. I was using a zero water filter but the filters were so expensive to replace at the rate I was using them.

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  • Wanda says:

    Living in a country where the language is different, the pricing is much different and of course the ingredients are strange makes it hard to have a craft a person can actually keep up with. I know because of my 4 years in Japan. Good luck with your formals even if someone else is putting them together they are still your creations.

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  • stella says:

    I am taking notes and making my wish list for the basics to maybe start a “hobby” business for pocket money. Thanks for posting the lists.

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  • Mesha says:

    Great info! I would have never thought Sesame oil to be such a great oil for lotions. I am anxious to try it!

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