I thought I’d do something a little different for Mother’s Day this year. Instead of sharing recipes your moms might like, I’m sharing a recipe I made with my mom, based on what she likes! My parents live on the coast, where it’s much more humid, so when my mom visits she often adopts a recent lotion creation of mine to combat Calgary’s legendary dryness. A few visits ago I didn’t have anything up for adoption (gasp!), so we worked together to develop something just for her. She loved it and ran out, so on this visit we made another (bigger) batch, and I thought I’d share it in honour of Mother’s Day!
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The first thing we did was figure out what Mom wanted in her lotion. Pumpable, non-greasy, hydrating, and good for dry, irritated skin were our top priorities. We also had a bit of an essential oil smelling session before settling on plain benzoin for the first batch, and then a creamsicle-y version (inspired by a wood polish I make that my parents love) for lotion 2.0.
Our water phase is amped up with some ingredients that are great for added hydration and soothing irritated skin. Aloe and panthenol (vitamin B5) are wonderful for unhappy skin, and glycerin and silk help keep skin soft and hydrated. We included more panthenol than I often do for an extra dose of skin soothing and humectant goodness since my mom likes to garden and work with her hands (resulting in lots of hand washing!).
The oil phase is a bit on the smaller side, making for a more pump/squeeze friendly lotion (we also decreased the amount of cetyl alcohol from the first batch to the second to help with getting it all out of the bottle). It’s a fairly simple oil phase, made a bit unique with the inclusion of some lanolin. Lanolin is the soft wax pressed from sheep’s wool, and it’s an amazing occlusive. It is very popular in things like nipple creams and eczema balms as it’s excellent for irritated skin. It’s also thick, sticky, and has a rather… distinctive… smell, so we kept it to 4%. I find the scent comes through a tiny bit in the end product, so if you aren’t fond of the smell, check out the substitutions listed at the end of the recipe.
Some calendula extract further amps up the soothing action as part of our cool-down phase. Our scent blend is orange and vanilla, from vanilla-like benzoin and sweet orange essential oil. One of my more exciting learnings from Formula Botanica has been that not all citrus essential oils are photosensitizing! Back when I first got started I read in a few places that citrus essential oils are photosensitizing and should never be used in leave-on skin care products. Any contact should be followed by at least 12 hours of no sun exposure, lest one end up with awful burns. After combining that reading with a DIY citrussy lotion that definitely left me burnt pronto, I’ve stayed away from them ever since. However, it turns out there’s a bit more room for play than I’d thought—exciting! Mandarin, sweet orange, tangelo, and tangerine essential oils are not photosensitizing, and the steam-distilled versions of lemon and lime essential oil are also skin safe.
To further add to that, there’s also room to include photosensitizing essential oils if maximum dermal limits are observed (thank you, Tisserand & Young!). Maximum dermal limits for essential oils vary greatly, and it’s something I’ve been working on learning more about for the last year or so (again—thank you, Tisserand & Young!). Some of the maximum limits for photosensitizing essential oils are quite low, to be sure, so if you don’t have an accurate scale and aren’t working in percentages it’s likely best to avoid them, but also good to know!
“Skin should not be exposed to sunlight or UV lamp irradiation for 12–18 hours, if any of the following are used at levels higher than those indicated. However, there is no risk of phototoxicity if the maximum levels are observed: angelica root (0.8%), bergamot (0.4%), cumin (0.4%), grapefruit (expressed) (4.0%), laurel leaf absolute 2.0%, lemon (expressed) (2.0%), lime (expressed) (0.7%), mandarin leaf (0.17%), orange (bitter, expressed) (1.25%), rue (0.15%), taget oil or absolute (0.01%).” – Essential Oil Safety: A Guide for Health Care Professionals (2nd Edition) by Robert Tisserand & Rodney Young
Anywho—citrussy revelation aside, this is a simple-to-make, rather decadent lotion. I find the lanolin can make ample applications of it feel a bit tacky directly after application, but my mum assured me it wasn’t something she’d noticed as she’d motored through the first bottle. I hope you enjoy this lotion as much as she does!
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Mom’s Creamsicle Hand and Body Lotion
For the water phase; I used 80g of water. This is the result of adding up the distilled water (52g) and the aloe juice (20g), and then adding 10% (72 x 1.1 = 79.2, and then rounding up). I do this to compensate for water lost to evaporation during heat & hold (the added 10% is typically just included in my recipes without note). If you want to be more precise, weigh the entire water phase measuring cup + contents after adding all the ingredients, note that weight and then add just-boiled distilled water after heat-and-hold to get back to that weight. I tried it both ways for this recipe and didn’t notice a difference in the end products.
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 water phase ingredients into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup. Weigh the 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.
Transfer a few tablespoons of the lotion to a smaller container, and weigh the cool down ingredients into that container. Stir to combine, and then transfer the lot of it back into the rest of the lotion. Stir to combine.
Once the lotion is completely cool, pour it into a 120mL/4oz plastic pump-top bottle. Enjoy!
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.
- 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.
- If you don’t have panthenol you can replace it with distilled water
- If you don’t have hydrolyzed silk you can use hydrolyzed oat protein or sea kelp bioferment instead, or just replace it with more distilled water
- You can use more water or a hydrosol in place of the aloe vera juice
- I used Polawax as my complete emulsifying wax, but BTMS-50 and Emulsifying Wax NF should also work
- Feel free to use a different oil your skin loves in place of the safflower oill. I’d recommend sweet almond, grapeseed, or sunflower seed as good alternatives.
- You can use shea butter, mango butter, or cupuacu butter instead of the lanolin
- You can replace the cetyl alcohol with more safflower oil or lanolin, though both of those swaps will make for a thinner end product
- You can use a different liquid botanical extract in place of the calendula extract