If your hands are anything like mine, they’re feeling the effects of multiple months of a whole lot of hand sanitizer use and intensive hand washing sessions. This lightweight hand lotion focusses on some great moisturizing and soothing ingredients to help breathe some life back into sore, dry hands without leaving them feeling greasy or sticky. Let’s dive in!

How to Make Oat & Shea Hand Lotion

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For soothing ingredients, we’ve got some lovely things; aloe vera juice, panthenol (Vitamin B5), colloidal oatmeal, allantoin. Not only are all of these ingredients soothing, but we’ve also got some anti-inflammatory, anti-irritation, moisturizing, and healing-boosting benefits as well. All great things for dry, irritated hands! Make sure you read up on these ingredients in the Humblebee & Me DIY Encyclopedia to learn more 😊


Our oil phase is a blend of vitamin-rich apricot kernel oil, creamy shea butter, and silky cetyl alcohol. A small amount of dimethicone 350 helps improve slip and reduce tackiness. If you don’t have it or don’t want to use it, you can replace the dimethicone 350 with a natural silicone alternative, or simply use more apricot kernel oil. I’ve used glyceryl stearate SE as our emulsifier. I’ve been experimenting with glyceryl stearate SE for the better part of a year, and shared my first formulation using it back in January of this year. I love it, but have discovered it needs a bit of some sort of gum or gelling agent to keep things stable. This time I’m using hydroxyethylcellulose to keep things all happy and emulsified, and it works beautifully!

Save 5% on hydroxyethylcellulose and everything else at Essential Wholesale & Labs with coupon code HUMBLEBEE

I’m using Optiphen™ Plus to preserve this lotion, which requires a pH of 6 or lower. As part of the development of this formulation, I incorporated an adequate amount of citric acid to get the pH of the finished lotion to fall in the 5–5.5 range without further adjustment. If you don’t have citric acid you can use a different acidic ingredient, like lactic acid, to adjust the pH, but I would replace the citric acid with more water and then test and adjust the pH of the lotion at the end of the making process.

The finished lotion is thin enough to dispense beautifully out of a pump-top bottle (and too thin to do well in a wide-mouthed jar or tub). I think a squeeze tube would work nicely as well! I’ve chosen to leave this lotion unscented, but if you’d like to add some sort of essential oil or fragrance oil, you totally can. Give this FAQ a read to learn how. Enjoy!

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Oat & Shea Hand Lotion

Heated water phase
15g | 15% vegetable glycerine (USA / Canada)
0.5g | 0.5% hydroxyethylcellulose

2g | 2% colloidal oatmeal (USA / Canada)
1g | 1% panthenol powder (vitamin B5) (USA / Canada)
0.2g | 0.2% citric acid (USA / Canada)

31.4g | 31.4% distilled water
30g | 30% aloe vera juice

Heated oil phase
4.5g | 4.5% glyceryl stearate SE (USA / Canada)
4g | 4% apricot kernel oil (USA / Canada)
3g | 3% cetyl alcohol (USA / Canada)
2g | 2% dimethicone 350 (USA / Canada)
5g | 5% unrefined shea butter (USA / Canada)

Cool down phase
1g | 1% Optiphen™ Plus (USA / Canada)
0.4g | 0.4% allantoin (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 glycerine and hydroxyethylcellulose into a small heat-resistant glass measuring cup and whisk thoroughly to combine. Once there are no more lumps, weigh in the colloidal oatmeal, panthenol, and citric acid, and stir to combine. Add the water and aloe vera juice, and then 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, 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.

Now it’s time to test the pH of the lotion! Weigh 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 your ingredients are all pretty similar to mine, it should fall between 5.0–5.5, and that’s great! If the pH is above 6 or lower than 4.5, you’ll need to adjust it. Please read this article if that’s the case.

Once that’s done, it’s time to package up the lotion! You’ll want to use a 100–120mL (~4 fl oz) pump-top bottle for this one. Use as you would any hand 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. 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 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 (colloidal oatmeal, panthenol, allantoin) please look up the ingredient in the encyclopedia before asking.
  • You could use propanediol 1,3 instead of vegetable glycerine.
  • Xanthan gum, guar gum, or Sepimax ZEN will work instead of hydroxyethylcellulose.
  • If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this page.
  • You can replace the aloe vera juice with more distilled water, a hydrosol of choice (this will obviously impact the scent of the end product), or even witch hazel.
  • I don’t recommend switching out the citric acid. If you do, you’ll need to test and adjust the pH of the final product to ensure it’s suitable.
  • If you don’t have a scale precise enough to reliably weigh out the citric acid, simply make a stock and use that instead. Weigh out equal weights distilled water and citric acid to create a 50% solution, and then you will use 0.4% of that solution instead of 0.2% pure citric acid (remove 0.2% from the distilled water).
  • You could try a different complete emulsifying wax instead of glyceryl stearate SE.
  • You can use a different lightweight liquid oil instead of apricot kernel oil—something like sweet almond oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, grapeseed oil, etc.
  • You could try a different combination of stearic acid, cetearyl alcohol, and/or cetyl alcohol instead of what I have used.
  • You could try replacing the dimethicone 350 with a natural dimethicone alternative, or more apricot kernel oil. This may make for a stickier end product.
  • You can replace the shea butter with a different rich, soft butter, like murumuru butter.
  • You can use refined or unrefined shea butter.
  • If you want to incorporate some essential oils, please read this.

Gifting Disclosure

The hydroxyethylcellulose was gifted by Essential Wholesale.