Balsam Poplar Lotion Bars


Editor’s Note:

This post covers a part of herbalism that we thought our readers would enjoy. The salve recipe shared in this post is something we would suggest proceeding with caution before selling. We don’t want you to find that you are selling a product with a medical claim. As such, we must say that this product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.*

Olive oil infused with balsam poplar buds; a balsam poplar tree is in the background.

I’m back again with my Balsam Poplar-infused olive oil. This time I am working on a lotion bar, my favorite way to deal with my dry, irritated, chapped skin. Some days it feels like I wash dishes sixteen times! Add handling hay (to which I am allergic), milking my goats, and general farm and home chores, and it’s a recipe for discomfort. I could simply rub the infused oil on my skin (and sometimes I do), but a lotion bar is a lot more portable and less messy.

One problem with lotion bars is fractionation, which can occur in any anhydrous mixture and even in mixtures using water. Fractionation does not affect the efficacy of the product, but when it makes your lip balm or lotion bar feel grainy, it’s disappointing. Fortunately, there are things you can do to decrease the likelihood of losing the desirable smooth texture.

How do you know if a mixture will be prone to fractionation?

You can get an idea by the percentage of oils used that tend to fractionate. Most oils that are solid at room temperature can fractionate under the right conditions – namely, being exposed to heat that will cause the oil to soften.

One thing that helps is using High Melt Point Shea Butter in your formulation. HMP Shea has a melting point of 104 to 113 degrees F, versus the regular Shea Butter, which melts at 89 to 100 degrees F, and it has all the same wonderful properties.

Another aid is using Palm Kernel Oil. Its naturally high melt point (102 degrees F) and smooth texture are fantastic for leave-on products.

Remember, you can always call 435.755.0863 or email our Technical Support Team and reap the benefit of the decades of experience in formulating any type of body care product you can imagine. It is our pleasure to help you succeed!

Here’s a more time-consuming way to get the answer to the fractionation question: multiple test batches. Tina suggested that I try four different formulations for my lotion bar, each time increasing Cocoa Butter and decreasing Palm Kernel Oil. Then I will carry the tins around all day in my bra or pocket to keep the lotion bars at body temperature. When I change into my pajamas at bedtime, I’ll set the tins on the table, and in the morning I’ll see if any fractionation occurred.

Behind the Ingredients

Let me tell you why I chose the ingredients in this formula, and then I’ll mix up my test batches.

Beeswax offers skin protecting properties as it helps create a breathable barrier on the skin to hold in moisture. It also provides the stiffness that keeps the lotion bar hard until it is rubbed on the skin to apply, and it gives a pretty yellow hue that I like.

Lanolin will provide another moisture barrier to offer long-term skin protection. Many products use petroleum jelly to achieve this barrier, but I would rather use a natural oil! Lanolin is found in the fleece of sheep, and that’s why sheep shearers’ hands stay buttery soft during shearing season.

Olive Oil infused with Balsam Poplar Buds is the entire purpose of this lotion bar. You can use most any oil that is liquid at room temperature. (Next year when I gather these buds, I plan to infuse a few different oils for more variety in weight of the oils.)

I’m using Cocoa Butter mainly for its stiffening properties; the same with Palm Kernel oil.

High Melt Point Shea Butter lends to a smooth feel to the finished product and combats fractionation with its higher melt point.

Turmeric Butter is one of our newest products, and it’s a skincare powerhouse! It also has a higher melt point (104-122 degrees F). Turmeric is noted for its anti-inflammatory properties, and adding this popular herb to a base of all organic oils and butters makes it even more fabulous! I had an itchy, irritated spot on the inside of my arm this evening, and I wondered what would happen if I applied Turmeric Butter to it. I was amazed and delighted when the irritation began to fade. Nice to have that confirmation of my choice to include it!

Finally, a little bit of Natural Vitamin E provides antioxidant properties to help prevent the oils from becoming rancid.

To make these lotion bars, gather the following supplies and equipment, then check out the recipe.

SUPPLIES

Beeswax
Lanolin
Olive Oil (infused)
Cocoa Butter
Palm Kernel Oil
High Melt Point Shea Butter
Turmeric Butter
Natural Vitamin E
Mold or container of choice

EQUIPMENT

Scale
Microwave-safe container or double boiler
Flexible spatula

These four versions of the recipe are what I tried to see how far I could go with the Cocoa Butter before fractionation happened. I made tiny test batches – just 10 grams each! If you have a good quality scale, you can easily do this, too. It sure saves on ingredients when you can work with such small amounts to see what turns out best.

Test 1 – 7% cocoa butter

25% Beeswax
5% Lanolin
25% Olive Oil infused with Balsam Poplar Buds
7% Cocoa Butter
12% Palm Kernel Oil
15% High Melt Point Shea Butter
10% Turmeric Butter
1% Natural Vitamin E

10-gram test batch

2.5 grams Beeswax
0.5 grams Lanolin
2.5 grams Olive Oil
0.7 grams Cocoa Butter
1.2 grams Palm Kernel Oil
1.5 grams HMP Shea Butter
1 gram Turmeric Butter
0.1 gram Natural Vitamin E

Test 2 – 9% cocoa butter

25% Beeswax
5% Lanolin
25% Olive Oil infused with Balsam Poplar Buds
9% Cocoa Butter
10% Palm Kernel Oil
15% High Melt Point Shea Butter
10% Turmeric Butter
1% Natural Vitamin E

10-gram test batch

2.5 grams Beeswax
0.5 grams Lanolin
2.5 grams Olive Oil
0.9 grams Cocoa Butter
1 gram Palm Kernel Oil
1.5 grams HMP Shea Butter
1 gram Turmeric Butter
0.1 gram Natural Vitamin E

Test 3 – 11% cocoa butter

25% Beeswax
5% Lanolin
25% Olive Oil infused with Balsam Poplar Buds
11% Cocoa Butter
8% Palm Kernel Oil
15% High Melt Point Shea Butter
10% Turmeric Butter
1% Natural Vitamin E

10-gram test batch

2.5 grams Beeswax
0.5 grams Lanolin
2.5 grams Olive Oil
1.1 grams Cocoa Butter
0.8 gram Palm Kernel Oil
1.5 grams HMP Shea Butter
1 gram Turmeric Butter
0.1 gram Natural Vitamin E

Test 4 – 13% cocoa butter

25% Beeswax
5% Lanolin
25% Olive Oil infused with Balsam Poplar Buds
13% Cocoa Butter
6% Palm Kernel Oil
15% High Melt Point Shea Butter
10% Turmeric Butter
1% Natural Vitamin E

10-gram test batch

2.5 grams Beeswax
0.5 grams Lanolin
2.5 grams Olive Oil
1.3 grams Cocoa Butter
0.6 gram Palm Kernel Oil
1.5 grams HMP Shea Butter
1 gram Turmeric Butter
0.1 gram Natural Vitamin E

INSTRUCTIONS:

Weigh Beeswax, Lanolin, Cocoa Butter, Palm Kernel Oil, HMP Shea Butter, and Turmeric Butter into a microwave-safe container or double boiler. Heat until all components are melted. Add infused Olive Oil and Natural Vitamin E, stirring to fully incorporate. Quickly pour into the mold or tin you are using. Once it is hardened, you are ready to use it. The 10-gram batch perfectly fills one of our quarter-ounce screw top tins.

NOTES:

I was a bit hesitant to use Cocoa Butter in this recipe because I was concerned its chocolatey aroma would overpower the balsam scent from the infused oil. I am glad I went ahead and used it! Contrary to my fears, the Cocoa Butter actually lends a warm and sweet component to the overall aroma!

Each time I increased the Cocoa Butter by 2%, I decreased the Palm Kernel Oil by 2%. The two oils have similar enough properties that there is not much difference in the texture of the first and the fourth formula, though there is almost double the amount of Cocoa Butter in the fourth formula. I’ll use these lotion bars for a few days before I decide which one I want to make the final formulation.

All four of the lotion bar sample batches.

Formula one, with 7% Cocoa Butter, was a complete success. There is not a hint of fractionation.

Formula two, with 9% Cocoa Butter, also remained smooth and creamy.

Formula three, with 11% Cocoa Butter, was another success. Eleven percent is getting close to where fractionation is likely to happen, so I was glad to feel none of the telltale graininess when I applied it.

And the winner is … Formula four, with 13% Cocoa Butter, also shows no sign of fractionation after the test!

Testing for Fractionation

To test for fractionation, I carried them in my bra all day, and in the evening, I took them out and made sure each lotion bar was soft. They were, so I left them out to come to room temperature again. The next morning I was pleasantly surprised that none of them had any sign of fractionation. Just to be sure, I did the entire operation again. And again, there was no fractionation. Yay!

Now all that is left is to decide which version I like best. I tried each one on a different spot on my arm, and they all make my skin feel great. My preference is for a harder lotion bar, so I expected I would choose the first formula with the least cocoa butter and most palm kernel oil. However, it feels too oily on my skin. After much deliberation (and some really moisturized hands and arms), I decided I like the formula with the most cocoa butter – #4. It goes on more like a cream and does not feel as greasy.

Formula 1 and 2 spread on my arm.

Formulas 3 and 4 spread on my arm.

Although I used the round tins for my test batches, I think I’d prefer these lotion bars in a slider tin or mini deodorant tube. The lids of the little round tins confounded my slippery hands one too many times.

What do you think about this experiment? Have you ever done something similar? Tell us about what you learned!

*This recipe has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This recipe tutorial is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please consult a doctor for medical advice and assistance.

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About Denise

I'm a crazy goat lady who got into making my own soap with goat milk, found MMS to order supplies, and now I get to combine my love of creating skin care products with a job to pay the feed bill. I live in Alaska and greatly enjoy the unique aspects of my northern home - summer days when it never gets dark and the Northern Lights dancing above in winter. Favorite scents include Spicy Lime, Rhubarb & Sugar Cane, and Eucalyptus Spearmint.

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