Body oils sounds like they should be the perfect, easy, DIY. Take some oil, put it on your body, and you’re done. Right? Unfortunately, if you’ve tried it you’ll know that approach can leave you feeling pretty darn oily. Why do commercial body oils leave your glowing while DIY ones can leave you feeling greasy? In this blog post I’m going to teach you the formulation strategy big companies use to create ultra light body oils and I’ll share a simple, all natural base formulation that is super customizable so you can easily create your very own dry body oils like the ones sold by Glossier and Morrocanoil.
Want to watch this project instead of read it?
What is body oil?
Body oils are anhydrous—water free—body moisturizers. They’re basically a liquid body butter. Body oils don’t hydrate because hydration requires water, but they can help lock in water after a shower, and definitely soften the skin and leave it supple and glowing.
Commercial body oils definitely contain oil, but they aren’t entirely oil, and that’s why they’re so much lighter than a 100% oil DIY body oil will be.
The basic structure of a dry-feeling body oil is this (broadly):
- 70%+ ultra-light emollients
- 10–30% oils of choice
- Fragrances, essential oils, and other oil-soluble actives & extracts as desired
Within this framework there is tons of room to play!
Despite forming a relatively small part of this sort of formulation, the carrier oils are the star(s). Have fun with this part! Choose oils you love. Have some fun with a theme. Introduce a bit of luxury if you want to!
I settled on a blend of ultra-light, vitamin-rich Rosehip Oil and linoleic-acid rich Passionfruit Oil for mine. I also experimented with including 0.5% deep red Sea Buckthorn Fruit Oil to add some colour to the oil, but decided the rosehip oil added more than enough colour without any help.
The make-it-light ingredient(s)
These ingredients are responsible for the formulations light feel on the skin and thin, mist-able viscosity. They generally make up well over half of the formulation.
Within the “make it light” category we’ve got two broad sub-categories: esters and volatile silicones.
There are quite a few esters to choose from, including Medium chain triglycerides, Isoamyl cocoate, Isoamyl laurate, Coco-Caprylate, C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate, and Isopropyl Myristate. Some of these options are natural, and some aren’t, so be sure to do your research and choose natural options if that matters to you.
The volatile silicone category is quite a bit smaller, especially when we’re looking at ingredients we can purchase as smaller makers. It’ll generally be Cyclomethicone and other cyclo-siloxanes. Isododecane will also do a beautiful job. Natural silicone alternatives like EcoSil can also work well, though they are not volatile, so are nowhere near as light as cyclomethicone or isododecane.
As the “make it light” ingredients form the majority of the formulation, the specific ones you choose will have a big impact on the feel of the final body oil. All the options I’ve mentioned feel light, but some are lighter than others. Some have quite a powdery dry-down (C12-15 Alkyl Benzoate) while others feel more oily, but still dry (Isopropyl Myristate). Experiment and have fun with what you use!
I chose a blend of Medium chain triglycerides and Isoamyl cocoate (both are natural) for this base formulation, but you can definitely switch that up depending on what you’ve got. Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT/Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride) should be easy to find no matter where you live, but I suspect many of you will need to swap the isoamyl cocoate out for a different ester or a volatile silicone. You can also use more MCT if that’s all you can get.
Adjusting the richness
The higher the percentage of oil in the formulation, the richer it will be. If you want a lighter body oil, use less oil and more esters. You could also include something volatile, like Cyclomethicone or Isododecane in the “make it light” blend to further lighten the final product.
If you want a richer final product, use more oils and less esters. Using more oils can start to make the finished product thicker, and thicker liquids don’t mist (they jet, like a water gun), so keep that in mind if you want to mist the finished formulation.
Want to watch this project instead of read it?
Adding fun ingredients
If you want to add some fun ingredients, rule #1 is to ensure everything is oil soluble as this formulation is anhydrous.
Fragrance & essential oils are a lovely and obvious choice to add some scent to your body oil. I’d recommend 0.1–1%, depending on what you’re looking for and how strong of a scent you want. I opted for 0.5% of Cuba from Stock Fragrance as I am obsessed with this scent! If you love oak moss and labdanum I think you will adore this fragrance oil 😍
Oil-based botanical extracts are also a great option; Bramble Berry sells quite a few, confirm by ensuring the base of the extract is Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride. You could also make your own herb-infused oil and use that as part of your oil blend.
Make room for fun ingredients by reducing one of the other ingredients; it doesn’t really matter which one. Follow recommended usage rates to determine how much to use.
Relevant links & further reading
- Rosehip Oil in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Passionfruit Oil in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Medium chain triglycerides in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Isoamyl laurate in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Tocopherol (Vitamin E) in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- How long will ______ last? What is its shelf life? in the Humblebee & Me FAQ
- Other body oil formulations:
Dry Summer Body Oil
Weigh all the ingredients into a small beaker, or directly into the bottle you’ll be storing the serum in. I used two 2 oz frosted glass bottles with mister tops from Voyageur Soap and Candle Co. This formulation will also dispense well from a treatment pump, an eyedropper, or an orifice reducer.
If it’s a beaker, stir to combine. If you went straight for the bottle, cap and shake.
That’s it! To use, mist some product over the skin after towelling dry from a shower or bath. Be careful where you spray/mist this product. It is very easy to cover tiles and other hard surfaces with a light misting of oil over several applications, rendering that surface dangerously slippery. Massage in and enjoy!
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this product does not contain any water, it does not require a broad-spectrum preservative (broad spectrum preservatives ward off microbial growth, and microbes require water to live—no water, no microbes!). Kept reasonably cool and dry, it should last at least a year before any of the oils go rancid. If you notice it starts to smell like old nuts or crayons, that’s a sign that the oils have begun to oxidize; chuck it out and make a fresh batch if that happens.
As always, be aware that making substitutions will change the final product. While these swaps won’t break the formulation, you will get a different final product than I did.
- As I’ve provided this formulation in percentages as well as grams you can easily calculate it to any size using a simple spreadsheet as I’ve explained in this post. As written in grams, this formulation will make 200g.
- To learn more about the ingredients used in this formulation, including why they’re included and what you can substitute them with, please visit the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia. It doesn’t have everything in it yet, but there’s lots of good information there! If I have not given a specific substitution suggestion in this list (vitamin E) please look up the ingredient in the encyclopedia before asking.
- Please read the blog post for substitution guidance on the carrier oils and the esters.
- If you’d like to incorporate an essential oil, please read this.
The rosehip oil was gifted by Plant’s Power.
The passionfruit oil was gifted by Lavida Oils.
The bath bomb press and mould were gifted by The Bath Bomb Press.
The Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT/Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride) in the video was gifted by Bramble Berry.
The MCT in the blog post and the amber mister bottle were gifted by YellowBee.
The sea buckthorn fruit oil was gifted by SIBU.
Links to Amazon are affiliate links.