Today we’re formulating up a cheery, sunshine-y bottle of Natural Oil-Free Turmeric Face Lotion. This slippy, lightweight lotion is heavy on the hydration and features anti-inflammatory turmeric extract and brightening niacinamide. Let’s get making!

How to Make Natural Oil-Free Turmeric Face Lotion

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Hydrating hyaluronic acid and moisturizing, preservative-performance-boosting Propanediol 1,3 play big roles in our heated water phase. I’ve selected Geogard Ultra™ to preserve this formulation as I’ve really been enjoying working with this natural preservative lately. I’ve been finding it works well and I love that it also boosts skin moisturization! I’d say its two formulation downsides are 1) it’s slow to dissolve (hence its inclusion in the heated phase) and 2) it causes the pH of our formulations to drop quite a lot, so I’ve also included a bit of a NaOH solution to raise the pH.

Our oil-free oil phase (say that ten times fast!) is primarily a blend of ultra-light and slippy isoamyl laurate with a titch of silky cetyl alcohol for added body. Isoamyl laurate is a new-to-me plant-derived emollient, and I’m really enjoying formulating with it! You could easily use Coco-Caprylate or Neossance® Hemisqualane instead, but if you love esters and are looking to add to your collection, this is a great one to try out.

Save 20% on isoamyl laurate and everything else at Formulator Sample Shop with coupon code HUMBLEBEE

I’ve used Olivem1000 to emulsify this formulation; I used this emulsifier a lot in my Formula Botanica Diploma in Organic Skincare Formulation coursework. I was tempted to select Ritamulse SCG (Emulsimulse, ECOMulse) instead, but its smaller functional pH range has conflicted with Geogard Ultra (our natural preservative) in past formulations, so I decided to stick with Olivem1000. Olivem1000 is pretty darn prone to soaping; I’ve worked to minimize that by combining it with an ester and a fatty alcohol, but this formulation will still soap if you rub a large amount of it into the skin enthusiastically. I selected a treatment-pump bottle to reduce the amount of product per-pump, which helps reduce your experience of soaping on application.

Fall 2022: Want to learn more about natural lotion formulation? Formula Botanica is currently offering a free formulation masterclass that will teach you about using natural actives and more! You can sign up here 🙂

The turmeric-y goodness that is the namesake (and source of colour) for this formulation comes in the form of a liquid turmeric extract from Voyageur Soap and Candle Co. (gifted). If you don’t have it you could try making a batch of turmeric glycerite from fresh turmeric root and glycerine; Lise has shared a full tutorial on how to do that here! Hers is certainly very strongly coloured, so I’d start with the same amount and see how strong that is before including more. Turmeric is famous for staining anything and everything, and I don’t want your pillowcases turning yellow from using this face lotion!

Niacinamide (Vitamin B3) brings skin-brightening, barrier-boosting benefits to this formulation. Because niacinamide (Vitamin B3) wants to be in a pH range of 5–6, and because Geogard Ultra drags out pH down close to 4, we need to raise the pH of this formulation. I’ve done this using a 10% NaOH (sodium hydroxide/lye) solution. To make this solution, simply combine 1 part NaOH and 9 parts distilled water (by weight). Be sure to wear gloves and eye protection as NaOH is a very strong base; be careful. This solution will effectively raise the pH of our formulation. If you change anything about this formulation I recommend leaving out the NaOH solution and doing your own testing and adjusting to ensure the pH is just right for what you’ve made. This is especially true if you change the preservative!

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Relevant links & further reading

Natural Oil-Free Turmeric Face Lotion

Heated water phase
28.2g | 56.4% distilled water
0.75g | 1.5% Geogard Ultra™ (USA / Canada / UK / NZ / Aus / South Africa)
10g | 20% low molecular weight 1% hyaluronic acid solution (USA / New Zealand)
2.5g | 5% Propanediol 1,3 (USA / Canada)

Heated oil phase
1.25g | 2.5% Olivem1000 (USA / Canada)
1g | 2% cetyl alcohol (USA / Canada)
3.5g | 7% Isoamyl Laurate (USA / Canada / EU)
0.25g | 0.5% hydroxyethylcellulose

Cool down phase
0.25g | 0.5% liquid turmeric extract
1g | 2% niacinamide (vitamin B3) (USA / Canada)
0.15g | 0.3% lavender essential oil
0.25g | 0.5% Vitamin E MT-50 (USA / Canada)
0.9g | 1.8% 10% NaOH solution

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 (except for the hydroxyethylcellulose) and the water part should be thoroughly dissolved (the Geogard Ultra will be the ingredient to watch for). 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 Mini Mixer (for smaller batches) or immersion blender (for larger batches) 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!

Before packaging, we’ll quickly test the pH to ensure it’s correct. Create a 10% dilution by weighing 2g product and 18g distilled water into a small bowl or beaker and whisk to combine (wondering why?). Check the pH with your pH meter (I have this one [USA / Canada]). Depending on the shape of your bowl/beaker you may need to tilt it in order to fully submerge the sensor on your pH meter. If you made this formulation as written, the pH should come out to right around 5.5–6, which is great—no need to adjust. I’d say anything in the 5–6 range is fine. If yours is outside that range, please read this article to learn more about pH adjusting.

When you know the pH is a-ok, package up the lotion. I recommend using something with an airless pump bottle as the smaller dispensing amount helps reduce the experience of soaping. Use as you’d use any face lotion. Enjoy!

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.

Substitutions

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 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 recipe will make 50g, which works well in a 50–60mL bottle.
  • 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 please look up the ingredient in the encyclopedia before asking.
  • If you change anything about this formulation I recommend leaving out the NaOH solution and doing your own testing and adjusting to ensure the pH is just right for what you’ve made.
  • If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this FAQ and this chart.
  • You could try replacing the hyaluronic acid with a blend of aloe juice and perhaps 5% glycerine.
  • You can replace the propanediol 1,3 with glycerine.
  • To substitute the Olivem1000:
    • Emulsifying Wax NF would be a very simple, non-natural swap
    • I did not use Ritamulse SCG (Emulsimulse, ECOMulse) because it doesn’t work below a pH range of 4–5, and this cream definitely hits that range before the NaOH is added at the end.
    • Montanov™ 68 (USA / Canada / UK / EU) will also work, though in my limited experience working with this emulsifier I find it’s even more prone to soaping than Olivem 1000 is.
  • You can substitute another lightweight ester like Coco-Caprylate or Neossance® Hemisqualane for the isoamyl laurate. If you don’t care about the formulation being oil-free you could also use a favourite lightweight liquid oil like Camellia Seed Oil.
  • You could try a different gum or gelling agent instead of hydroxyethylcellulose; xanthan gum (soft) (USA) would probably be my first choice for a natural alternative at this point. Solagum AX would also work nicely.
  • You can use a homemade turmeric glycerite instead of the extract. You may be able to use more, but tread carefully to avoid staining!
  • You could use Panthenol (Vitamin B5) instead of Niacinamide (Vitamin B3), though this will remove the brightening benefits of the formulation.
  • If you’d like to incorporate a different essential oil, please read this.

Gifting Disclosure

The airless pump bottle was gifted by YellowBee.
The hydroxyethylcellulose was gifted by Essential Wholesale.
The isoamyl laurate was gifted by Formulator Sample Shop.
The turmeric extract was gifted by Voyageur Soap & Candle.
The hyaluronic acid was gifted by Pure Nature.
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