Bones of a Lotion Formula

We often are asked about how to create a lotion formula. Today I’m going to discuss what goes into lotion.

The five necessary components are:
• water
• oils
• emulsifier
• humectant
• preservative

Everything else is optional and either added for label appeal or specific properties.


Water is the carrier or solvent. It provides the initial hydration that the oils trap, and it helps disperse or dissolve some of the ingredients for skin improvement. We recommend using distilled water as the base for lotions.


Oils provide emollients and nurturing properties to the skin.


The emulsifier causes the oils and water to combine and stay combined. This is the most critical component, as without an emulsifier, you will not have lotion.

You may be familiar with the concept of an emulsifier through cooking; egg yolks are often used to emulsify an oil/water mixture, as are honey and mustard.

Did you know that milk is an oil in water emulsion?


Humectants cause moisture in the air or in the formula to be absorbed by the skin. This ingredient will make your lotion formula more efficacious at moisturizing. Lotion can be made without a humectant, but it will lack the moisturization that a humectant will provide.

Your humectant can be glycerin, sodium lactate, or one of many commercially available humectants such as Hydrovance, which is made up of hydroxyethyl urea. There are a multitude of humectants from which you can choose.


You can make lotion without a preservative, but it won’t last. The preservative retards, prevents, and protects against growth of unwanted bacteria and yeasts.

Many preservative systems use drying alcohols to achieve their aim. We offer several different preservatives; drying alcohols are not part of our preservative systems.

Do you still have questions about lotion formulas? If so, you may reach out to our Technical Support Team for more detailed help. Or reply here; we’re always ready to answer questions asked in comments.

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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 Wild Mint and Ivy, Rhubarb & Sugar Cane, and Eucalyptus Spearmint.

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