Today we are diving deep into the archives to Bee Better a project I published almost exactly nine (!!) years ago. This formulation began life as a Lush dupe(ish), and while the 2014 version wasn’t bad, I’ve learned a lot since then. Today’s updated version is softer and more cosmetically elegant, uses fewer ingredients, and I think it smells better, too. Let’s get making!

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The Lush original

The product that inspired this formulation is Lush’s “Dream Cream“. It’s marketed as a cream for irritated, reactive skin. The ingredients are:

Oat Milk (Avena sativa), Rose Water (Rosa centifolia, Aqua), Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Olea europaea), Fair Trade Organic Cocoa Butter (Theobroma cacao), Glycerine, Stearic Acid, Triethanolamine, Fragrance, Tincture of Benzoin (Styrax benzoin), Rose Absolute (Rosa damascena), Chamomile Blue Oil (Matricaria chamomilla), Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca alternifolia), Lavender Oil (Lavandula Angustifolia), Cetearyl Alcohol, Benzyl Alcohol, *Benzyl Benzoate, *Citronellol, *Geraniol, *Limonene, *Linalool , Methylparaben, Propylparaben.

From this list we can see it’s an emulsion with an oil phase of oat milk (water infused with oats, though the water is missing from their parenthesis… and this really should be listed as water up front with the oats much further down the list), rose hydrosol, and glycerine. The oil phase is olive oil, cocoa butter, stearic acid (which teams up with triethanolamine to form the emulsifier), and cetearyl alcohol.

The formulation is scented with fragrance, benzoin, rose absolute, chamomile essential oil, tea tree essential oil, and lavender essential oil (the rose hydrosol will contribute some scent, too). It is preserved with two parabens, and potentially benzyl alcohol. Benzyl alcohol can be found in preservatives (like Geogard® ECT) as well as essential oils and fragrance oils. Lush has used asterisks to denote ingredients that “Occur naturally in essential oils” (and are calling them out due to IFRA regulations on declaring allergens), but haven’t asterisk’ed the benzyl alcohol, so I’m guessing they either forgot, or it’s part of the preservative system.

My original formulation

The original inspiration for this formulation came from a Lush product. I created my first version of it back in 2014, and then made a video of it in 2016—it was the 10th video I shared on the YouTube channel! When I re-made the formulation for YouTube I used colloidal oatmeal instead of a homemade oat infusion (for ease and potentially improved stability) and was more explicit about preservative usage than I was in 2014.

I stuck fairly close to the Lush ingredient list, deviating only to drop the rose hydrosol (I probably didn’t have any and figured the rose absolute would be adequate) and choosing a different preservative system.

I actually still have the jar of this cream that I made for the video in 2016. The emulsion is stable and there’s no signs of microbial spoilage, but the oils have definitely oxidized.

Something I remember about this formulation was not being crazy about the tea tree oil in the scent blend. I know tea tree is quite a classic essential oil, but in the years since I created this formulation I’ve finally accepted that I don’t like it all that much. It’s just not for me.

What I changed

This 2023 version definitely takes a few steps away from the Lush original, though I tried to keep the spirit of the formulation in mind while also making the formulation more accessible to home crafters.

The oil phase

The original Lush oil phase was pretty simple: olive oil, cocoa butter, stearic acid, and cetearyl alcohol. I decided to swap the olive oil for oat oil because I happen to have some oat oil right now, and I thought oat oil would pair beautifully with the oaty theme of the formulation. The oil phase size of the 2014 version was 25%, and the oil phase in this updated version is 27%.

The emulsifier

As I did in 2014, I used an emulsifying wax instead of a blend of stearic acid and triethanolamine (TEA). I did try the stearic/triethanolamine (TEA) approach in a patron exclusive video, though! The general gist is: it’s neat, but the pH has to be basic and that’s not great for the skin, so I’m not that interested in pursuing it.

I used Ritamulse SCG for the 2023 version, and at a lower rate than I did in 2014. The 2014 version calls for 1% emulsifying wax for every 3.8% of fats. I’ve since learned that we don’t need anywhere close to that much emulsifying wax to create a stable emulsion, so this updated version uses 1% emulsifying wax for every 8% fats. That’s not the even the absolute lower limit, but this reduction makes for a far softer, lighter emulsion even though the oil phase is slightly larger. Groovy!

Reducing the emulsifier did make the emulsion thinner, so I included some Cetearyl Alcohol to boost the viscosity. This is almost certainly more thickener than Lush used in theirs as the cetearyl alcohol on their ingredient list falls after all the essential oils. If you don’t have cetearyl alcohol you could try a different fatty thickener. I think C10-18 Triglycerides (Butter Pearls) would be a good choice!

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The scent

On the scent front, I decided to make things much simpler. I experimented with including rose hydrosol, lavender essential oil, benzoin, and a fragrance oil, but after a few attempts I stripped it back to just a wee bit of lavender essential oil, and I ended up liking that best. The lavender mixes really nicely with the oaty/cocoa-y scent of the base, and I thought an essential oil famous for being calming was perfect for something called “dream cream”.

Dropping four of the essential oils that I used in the 2014 version also makes this updated formulation more accessible. If you’ve been following me for a while you might’ve noticed that I’ve shifted away from using lots of different essential oils in my formulations. Now, if one of my formulations calls for lots of ingredients, they’re more likely to be versatile functional or active ones vs. 5+ different essential oils. This is partially because I learned a lot more about safe essential oil use in my My Formula Botanica Diploma in Organic Skincare Formulation and I don’t always want to spend the time doing all the calculations to ensure a complex essential oil blend is within IFRA limits. It’s also because many of the essential oils I purchased in my early making days expired and had to be binned. Most of them had barely been touched, so re-purchasing would’ve been silly. As a result, at this point in my formulating life I’m only buying essential oils I love and use a lot (like lavender), meaning I no longer have a really wide selection of essential oils to choose from. If I could go back in time and chat with my newbie maker self I’d definitely tell her to slow her roll on the “collect ALLLLL the essential oils!” thing.

If you did want to play with including some of the Lush original scents, you definitely can. You might want to switch to refined cocoa butter if you do—the cocoa note combined with tea tree wasn’t great to my nose. It’s pretty easy to swap 20–30% of the distilled water for rose hydrosol. Remember to keep the rose level quite low due to the methyl eugenol content; IRFA recommends a maximum of 0.012% for Rose otto.

The preservative

As I did in the video, I’ve preserved this with 0.5% Liquid Germall™ Plus. I know this works as that 2016 video version shows no signs of spoilage! I think Optiphen™ Plus would also work well for this formulation. If you use something natural like Euxyl k 903 I’d recommend including a chelator for a stability boost.

The process

In 2014 I made this as a one-pot, hand-whisked emulsion. That will still work, but I have switched to a two-beaker, immersion blender’ed approach these days. I’m using my new-to-me Bamix blender and hoooooo boy, do I love it. I swear I can see with my naked eye that it creates finer emulsions. Swoon!

A big part of my improvement

I completed two diplomas with Formula Botanica since I first tried my hand at this formulation back in 2014, and I now hold a Diploma in Organic Skincare Formulation and a Diploma in Organic Haircare Formulation. Earning these two diplomas—especially the skincare one!—really helped me level up my formulation skills.

One of the biggest concepts I learned in my Diploma in Organic Skincare Formulation was that of safe essential oil usage. Back in 2014 I’d fallen into thinking that essential oils were safe because they were natural, but in my Formula Botanica course work I learned that they need to be treated with care, and that each essential oil is different when it comes to safe usage rates.

If you’d like to learn more about Formula Botanica and experience how they teach, I recommend signing up for the free formulation master class they’re offering soon!

Spring 2024: Formula Botanica is offering a free formulation masterclass where you can learn even more about formulation! You can sign up here 🙂 I highly recommend it, especially if you're wanting to see how Formula Botanica works.

Relevant links & further reading

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Lavender Oat Dream Cream

Heated water phase
66.4g | 66.4% distilled water
4g | 4% vegetable glycerine (USA / Canada)

Heated oil phase
3g | 3% Ritamulse SCG (USA / Canada / UK / AU)
14g | 14% oat oil
7g | 7% cocoa butter (USA / Canada)
3g | 3% cetearyl alcohol (USA / Canada)
2g | 2% colloidal oatmeal (USA / Canada)

Cool down phase
0.5g | 0.5% Liquid Germall Plus™ (USA / Canada)
0.1g | 0.1% lavender essential oil (USA / Canada)

Prepare a water bath by bringing about 3cm/1″ of water to a bare simmer over low to medium-low heat in a wide, flat-bottomed sauté pan.

Weigh the heated water phase into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup or glass beaker. Weigh the entire lot (measuring cup + ingredients) and note that weight for use later. Weigh the heated oil phase into a second heat-resistant glass measuring cup. Place both measuring cups in your prepared water bath to melt everything through.

After about 20–30 minutes the oil part should be completely melted and the water part should be thoroughly dissolved. Remove the water bath from the heat and weigh the water phase. Add enough hot distilled water to the heated water phase to bring the weight back up to what it was before heating, and then pour the water part into the oil part. Stir with a flexible silicone spatula to incorporate.

Grab your immersion blender and begin blending the lotion, starting with short bursts so the still-very-liquid lotion doesn’t whirl up and spray everywhere. Blend for about a minute before switching to hand stirring. You’ll need to be fairly diligent with the stirring at first, but once the mixture has thickened up a bit and is uniform you can switch to stirring occasionally. Once the outside of the glass measuring cup is just warm to the touch (40°C or cooler, if you have a thermometer) we’re ready to proceed.

Now it’s time to incorporate our cool down ingredients. Because cool down ingredients are typically present at very low amounts you’ll need to use an accurate scale—preferably one accurate to 0.01g. As these more accurate scales tend to have fairly low (100–200g) maximum weights you won’t be able to put the entire batch of lotion on that scale without blowing it out. So—grab a smaller dish. Add a scoop or two of lotion, and then weigh the cool down ingredients into that, using the more accurate scale. Stir to thoroughly incorporate, and then stir all of that back into the master batch of lotion. Doing it this way minimizes the amount of cool down ingredients lost to the secondary container.

Once the cool down phase has been incorporated, all that’s left to do is package it up! I used a 100mL (3.3fl oz) black plastic jar that looks just like the ones from Lush; it’s from YellowBee. This emulsion is thick enough that I don’t recommend a pump-top bottle, but I think it could work in a squeeze tube.

Use as you’d use any hand or body lotion. Enjoy!

Shelf Life & Storage

Because this cream contains water, you must include a broad-spectrum preservative to ward off microbial growth. This is non-optional. With good manufacturing practice and proper preservation, this formulation should last at least a year. Even with a preservative, this project may eventually spoil as our kitchens are not sterile laboratories, so in the event you notice any change in colour, scent, or texture, chuck it out and make a fresh batch.

Substitutions

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.

Gifting Disclosure

The glycerin, Liquid Germall™ Plus, and black jar were gifted by YellowBee.
The cocoa butter was gifted by Baraka Shea Butter. Links to Baraka Shea Butter are affiliate links.
The oat oil and colloidal oatmeal was gifted by Bramble Berry.
Links to Amazon are affiliate links.