One of the first products I ever really wanted to dupe was a lavender scented hand lotion from L’Occitane. The scent was the first thing that drew me in—a soft, powdery lavender with hints of citrus and vanilla. It was also a wonderfully light lotion, but still hydrating. It’s hard to describe the type of lightness; the best descriptor I can think of is skim milk, oddly enough. It was light and perhaps a touch translucent, and managed to be fresh and hydrating all in a wonderful, skin-softening package. I created a version of this lotion back in 2014, but I recently dug up the original tube from L’Occitane while moving, and polished it off. That reminded me of how lovely it was, and I decided I ought to take another stab at it.
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Given the relatively thin consistency of the lotion, I knew we’d need a smaller oil phase than my previous dupe. I settled on 18%, which gives us a lotion that absorbs wonderfully fast without any hint of greasiness. I split the oils between two that were featured in the original—shea butter and Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, which are the second and third ingredients in the lotion, respectively (after water). Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride is an isolated blend of two fatty acids found in coconut oil, so you could look at it as a more stripped-down version of fractionated coconut oil. You can find Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride sold as “MCT” or “Medium Chain Triglycerides” as well, and it’s one of the few oils safe for Pityrosporum Folliculitis (malassezia folliculitis). That’s pretty much just a fun fact here, though, as the rest of this recipe is not fungal acne safe. I also included a touch of cetyl alcohol (also in the original)—not only for the awesome silky, emollient goodness of cetyl alcohol, but to ensure the smaller oil phase didn’t leave us with a runny end product.
For lots of wonderful, lightweight hydration I knew some great humectants and moisturizers were in order for the water part. The original uses sorbitol, glycerine, propylene glycol—I settled on glycerine and Propanediol 1,3. Propanediol 1,3 is a humectant derived from corn, and it is fairly similar to propylene glycol, which is an effective and popular humectant. Lab Muffin has written a great piece on these—read it here! Usage rates are up to 20%, so I gave it a go at 5% in an earlier version of this recipe but found that resulted in a product that had a feel that tipped over from “velvety” to “draggy”, so I dialled it back a to 2%. I also included some panthenol (vitamin b5) and hydrolyzed silk for added moisturizing power—these ingredients weren’t in the original, but I felt like they were definitely in keeping with the idea of a high-end, super hydrating hand lotion.
To further lovely-ize this lotion I’ve included some Penstia™ powder, which gives the end product the loveliest slip and end feel. Including Penstia™ powder is basically a super-simple cheat to creating really nice lotions, which I cannot complain about! At this point in time I’ve tried adding it in all three phases—heated oil, heated water, and cool down. It doesn’t melt in the oil phase and doesn’t dissolve in the water phase, and doesn’t need to be heated, so there’s no reason to add it to either of those phases. However, it’s a clumpy powder and needs some immersion blending to incorporate well in the cool-down phase. So, at this point in time I’d probably choose the heated oil phase as you’re unlikely to look into your heated oil phase, see powder, and think it isn’t done melting, and then the Penstia™ powder gets all the mixing it needs as part of your initial high-shear blending bursts, so you don’t have to worry about over-mixing with fussier emulsifiers. I’ve left it in the cool down phase in this recipe as that’s what you’ll see in the video, but be aware you can put it in whichever phase you want.
The scent blend is slightly updated; I still feel the lavender/litsea cubeba/benzoin blend is a good starting point, but the original also had a “powder” note that’s hard to describe, and I was hoping to channel that a bit with the tiniest amount of a fragrance oil that has a bit of “powder” to it. I chose “Clean Cotton” from New Directions Aromatics, which very much lives up to its name and smells like fresh, powdery laundry. I added a solitary drop to the scent blend. It’s nice, but not quite right. I will keep searching for the proper, elusive powder note, but for now—this is a step in the right direction.
For the cool down ingredients: I find it very helpful to weigh them into a small dish so you can use a more precise scale—my 0.01g scale cannot handle the weight of a full batch of lotion. So, I weigh the cool down ingredients into a small dish, pour some lotion into the dish, stir to combine, and then scrape as much as possible of that lotion back into the master batch and thoroughly mix. Watch the video to see this in action.
I’m loving the end product. A small amount glides on beautifully and leaves my hands wonderfully soft for hours, even through multiple washes. I don’t notice any soaping or tackiness as it dries down—it’s all just pure, silky, wonderful hydration. I hope you try it!
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Lightweight French Lavender Hand Lotion
Cool down phase
0.05g | 0.06% Vitamin E MT-50 (USA / Canada)
3g | 3% Penstia™ powder (USA / Canada)
0.5g | 0.5% Liquid germall plus (USA / Canada)
0.1g | 0.1% litsea cubeba essential oil
0.03g | 0.03% powdery fragrance oil (I used “clean cotton“)
0.5g | 0.5% lavender essential oil
0.5g | 0.5% benzoin resinoid
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 ingredients into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup. Weigh the heated oil phase ingredients 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 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, leave to cool for ten, blend for another minute or two, and repeat this blend-cool-blend cycle until the outside of the glass measuring cup is barely warm to the touch and the lotion is thick and creamy.
Add your cool down ingredients, and blend again quickly to incorporate the Penstia™ powder. Transfer to a container of your choice; I used a 100mL squeeze tube from Les Âmes Fleurs and I am really liking having my DIY in a squeeze tube (I used an empty syringe to fill it). I know YellowBee is also carrying them, though they’re all sold out at the moment. That’s it—you’re done!
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this cream contains water, you must include a broad-spectrum preservative to ward off microbial growth. This is non-optional. Even with a preservative this project is likely to 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.
As always, be aware that making substitutions will change the final product. While these swaps won’t break the recipe, you will get a different final product than I did. Do remember that anything you replace with water will diminish the performance of the recipe.
- As I’ve provided this recipe 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 recipe will make 100g.
- Hydrolyzed oat protein will work well in place of the hydrolyzed silk. Sea kelp bioferment (Canada / USA) would also be a good alternative. You could also replace it with more water.
- Propylene glycol should work well in place of Propanediol 1,3. You could also replace it with more water; I don’t recommend replacing it with glycerin as that would be sticky, and sodium lactate washes off quite easily so it isn’t a great choice for a hand lotion.
- You can replace the panthenol with more water.
- Mango butter or cupuacu butter will work in place of shea butter
- You can substitute another lightweight oil like fractionated coconut oil, sweet almond, grapeseed, or sunflower seed for the Caprylic/Capric Triglycerides
- You could try cetearyl alcohol in place of cetyl alcohol, or use more shea butter (this will make for a thinner product)
- If you don’t have Penstia™ powder you can replace it with more water
- Feel free to use a different essential oil blend, just keep the percentages of the recipe in balance and pay attention to maximum recommended usage rates for the EOs you choose
- The fragrance is definitely optional; feel free to replace it with more lavender essential oil.