Today’s lotion is one I created at the request of some friends. Their daughter (Little E) had painfully dry, cracked hands through the winter, and she really didn’t like to use lotion as most of it stung and hurt. That really resonated with me as that’s what my hands were like when I was younger. I remember my mom applying lotion to my hands before bed and it stinging to the point of tears. It was awful. So, I asked Little E what she’d like her new lotion to smell like, we settled on lemon, and then I set to work.
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Our priorities were: deep, long-lasting moisturizing goodness; soothing & healing; non-irritating/stingy; and lemony loveliness! Many of the ingredients I chose straddle a couple of those, which is nice! For moisturizing, we’ve got a hefty dose of vegetable glycerin, aloe vera, and panthenol (aka vitamin B5). Vegetable glycerin is a powerful and inexpensive humectant, helping hold water to the skin so it stays hydrated for longer. Panthenol and aloe vera have a lot in common; they’re both moisturizing, soothing, and anti-inflammatory. They also both boost healing—fabulous credentials for this formulation!
The panthenol and aloe also team up with colloidal oatmeal and allantoin for some great skin-soothing, healing-boosting goodness. If you’ve ever taken an oatmeal bath (I definitely took a few when I had chickenpox as a kid), you’ll know that oatmeal is wonderfully soothing to irritated skin. Colloidal oatmeal brings that soothing oat-y goodness to this lotion, helping soothe and protect the skin. Allantoin also contributes quite a few fabulous benefits to the lotion—healing, soothing, skin-protectant, and anti-irritating properties! I’ve kept the concentration low (0.3%) because it’s not very water-soluble (0.57%) and I wanted to be certain it would incorporate easily.
The oil phase is 16%; I hypothesized and figured a heavier, greasier lotion wouldn’t be really popular with a young child (or her parents, given how much kids like to touch things!). 16% keeps the lotion fairly fast-absorbing, even with a decent dose of rich shea butter. A touch of dimethicone helps further protect the skin while reducing tackiness from the glycerin, and some cetyl alcohol adds lovely slip and body. I’ve chosen non-ionic Polawax as our emulsifier, as charged emulsifiers (like Ritamulse SCG [anionic/negative] or BTMS-50 [cationic/positive]) have a higher irritation potential (source). I’ve never experienced any irritation from either of those emulsifiers, but since we’re erring on the side of caution I’ve gone with a non-ionic emulsifier.
I included a touch of a water-soluble yellow dye for a cheery colour, and blended together a citrussy fragrance with a titch of a more floral one (New Directions’ tea flower—it seems to have been discontinued). I started with just citrus but found the end product smelled a bit too much like a cleaning product, so I incorporated a touch of something floral to take off that clean-toilet edge. If you’d prefer to use essential oils I’d recommend the blend I use in this lotion—it gets rave reviews!
Speaking of rave reviews—Little E loves this lotion! Her parents reported that she described it as “her second best friend” (after her brother) and hugs the container 😄It’s comfortable for her to apply and wear, and her hands haven’t been painful since she started using it. Woohoo! I hope you like it as much as she does 😊 Enjoy!
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Little E’s Lemon Shea Hand Lotion
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. 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 it. Add enough hot distilled water 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, 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.
When the lotion is cool 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.
That’s it! Transfer the lotion to a jar; I used a 100g (3.5oz) screw-top plastic jar from YellowBee. This lotion is too thick for a pump-top bottle, but would likely work well in a squeeze tube.
Shelf Life & Storage
Because this lotion contains water, you must include a broad-spectrum preservative to ward off microbial growth. This is non-optional. 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.
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.
- 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.
- To learn more about the ingredients used in this recipe, 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 please look up the ingredient in the encyclopedia before asking.
- You could try propanediol instead of glycerine
- Emulsifying Wax NF will work in place of Polawax. Olivem1000 and Ritamulse SCG should also work.
- You can use refined or unrefined shea butter
- You could also try a different rich oil or butter in place of shea butter—oat oil comes to mind
- I don’t recommend swapping out the dimethicone as it really helps prevent this lotion from being tacky.
- You could try a natural silicone alternative, like LuxGlide 350. Look for one that is marketed as a dimethicone alternative rather than a cyclomethicone alternative.
- You could try a slippy liquid oil, though no liquid oil will do the same job as dimethicone.
- Both of those alternatives will result in a stickier end product.
- Cetearyl alcohol will work instead of cetyl alcohol, though the end consistency will be a bit fluffier
- The dye is optional; replace it with more water if you don’t want to use it
- You could also use a yellow mica instead, though you’d need to use more (~0.5%)—remove the extra % from the water
- You can use a different essential oil blend or fragrance.
- You can leave the essential oil/fragrance oil out entirely, replacing that 0.5% with more distilled water.
- If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this page.
The water-soluble yellow dye, 100g (3.5oz) screw-top plastic jar (blog), and 100g (3.5oz) double wall plastic jar with silver trim (video) were gifted by YellowBee.
I obtained permission from Little E’s parents to discuss her and her lotion publicly before publishing 🙂