Today we’re blending up a rich, botanically blessed body cream that is perfect for cold, dry winter days. I developed this formulation with the help of my readers; t’s creamy, scoopable, skin-soothing, and positively decadent. Enjoy!

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Formulation mad libs

At the end of November I posted four different this-or-that polls on four different social networks. I didn’t explain what the polls were for, I just asked you to choose 😄

  • YouTube: Light or Rich?
  • Facebook: Thick or Thin?
  • Instagram: Hand or Body?
  • Patreon: Herbal or Vitamin?

Once those choices were made by all of you, the formulating began!

Rich

63% of people on YouTube choose “Rich”; this decision primarily guides the size of our oil phase because the larger the oil phase, the richer an emulsion is (and vice versa). I generally find anything in the 25% and up realm rich, though that can shift with personal preferences and what emollients are used in the oil phase.

I tried a couple different formulations and ended up settling on a 28.5%. The star emollients are shea butter and oat oil, which are both rich, sumptous, and slow-absorbing. To ensure the product still glides across the skin with a smooth transition from glidey to rich (but still slippy!), I’ve also included some lightweight isoamyl cocoate. This thin, slippy ester bridges the gap you can encounter with emulsions that contain nothing but rich emollients—where the emulsion goes from lotion > water > grippy butter on the skin when you rub it in.

Thick

Thick was the resounding winner on Facebook, which pairs very nicely with rich. Convenient! The larger oil phase already guaranteed some level of viscosity, but I wanted to boost it further in a way that would amplify the richness of the emulsion. I considered using cetearyl alcohol, but was really intrigued by the idea of using C10-18 Triglycerides (Butter Pearls) in an emulsion. I mean… “butter pearls” + cream sounds positively indulgent. And it is 😄

This ingredient gives the emulsion a rich, soft, scoopable, and dare I say… buttery!… thickness. It’s gorgeous.

I’ve also included a wee bit of soft xanthan gum; this boosts viscosity a bit and also improves slip.

Body

This question was about what part of the personage the emulsion would be for; body won over hand on Instagram, so this’ll be a body lotion.

Body lotions aren’t super different from hand lotions; I’d say the only difference is that we’re ok with body lotions being a bit heavier than hand lotions. The slip & glide is also extra important because we’re applying the emulsion over a larger surface area,

The ‘body’ decisions are overlap with “rich” and “thick”; the larger oil phase (and slower absorption speed) + the improved slip from the isoamyl cocoate and xanthan gum.

You definitely can use this product on your hands or face—you just might find it to be a bit heavy for those uses.

Herbal

And lastly, my patrons chose herbal over vitamin, so this formulation features some herbal, botanical goodies.

Knowing this cream was rich and thick, I opted for botanicals with skin-soothing and anti-inflammatory properties for a well-rounded winter skincare treat: aloe vera, chamomile, and calendula. I also incorporated some moisturizing Colloidal Oatmeal as I think it pairs brilliantly with oat oil + I can always use some of its skin-soothing goodness in the winter.

The last two actives are botanically derived: allantoin and bisabolol. Both are found in herbs (allantoin in comfrey and bisbolol in chamomile), but I’m using the pure versions here to get exactly the part of the botanical magic I want. Think of it like using sugar when baking vs. the entire sugar cane 😊

How is this different from an emulsified body butter?

Good question! I’d say the biggest difference is marketing. Basically, I’ve called this a cream and not a body butter.

Creams and emulsified body butters are both emulsions with larger oil phases, making them richer emulsions. They generally differ from lotions, which typically have smaller oil phases, but the distinctions between “lotions”, “creams”, and “emulsified body butters” are really fuzzy and can be quite personal.

An emulsified body butter feels like it should have some butters in it, while perhaps a cream doesn’t need to include a butter (though it can)… but yeah, that feels like I’m trying too hard to distinguish the two.

Relevant links & further reading

Rich Herbal Body Cream

Heated water phase
123.45g | 41.15% distilled water
15g | 5% sodium lactate (USA / Canada)
60g | 20% aloe vera juice

Heated oil phase
16.5g | 5.5% Ritamulse SCG (USA / Canada / UK / AU)
15g | 5% C10-18 Triglycerides [Butter Pearls] (USA / UK)
12g | 4% unrefined shea butter (USA / Canada)
15g | 5% oat oil
18g | 6% isoamyl cocoate (USA / Canada)
3g | 1% colloidal oatmeal (USA / Canada)
0.9g | 0.3% xanthan gum (soft) (USA)

Cool down phase
6g | 2% calendula extract
9g | 3% oil-soluble chamomile extract (USA)
3g | 1% Euxyl™ k 903 (USA / EU)
0.6g | 0.2% bisabolol (USA / Canada)
0.15g | 0.05% Christmas Spice fragrance oil
0.9g | 0.3% allantoin (USA / Canada)
1.5g | 0.5% Vitamin E MT-50 (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 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 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 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.

To test and adjust the pH: create a 10% dilution by weighing 2g product and 18g distilled water into a small bowl or beaker and whisk to combine (wondering why we create a dilution to check the pH?). Check the pH with your pH meter. 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. The pH should fall in the 5.1–5.5 range. If it is lower than 4.5 you’ll want to raise it; if it’s higher than 6, you’ll want to lower it. Please read this article from Skin Chakra to learn more about pH adjusting.

Once the cool down phase has been incorporated, all that’s left to do is package it up! I recommend a wide-mouthed jar or tub for this formulation. It’ll still be pourable when you fill your containers, but it thickens up a lot when left.

Use as you’d use any body lotion. You can also use it as a hand or face lotion, but you might find it a bit rich. 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. With good manufacturing practice and proper preservation, this formulation should last at least a year. 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 formulation, 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 formulation will make 300g.
  • 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, Allantoin, Bisabolol) please look up the ingredient in the encyclopedia before asking.
  • You can use Vegetable Glycerin or Propanediol 1,3 instead of sodium lactate, but this will make for a more acidic formulation. Make sure you test & adjust if needed.
  • You can replace the aloe vera juice with a hydrosol or more distilled water.
  • A different emulsifying wax will work instead of Ritamulse SCG (Emulsimulse, ECOMulse). Options include PolawaxEmulsifying Wax NFOlivem 1000, and Montanov 68.
    • I don’t recommend PolyAquol™-2W due to the electrolyte content of this formulation.
  • You can try Cetearyl Alcohol or a blend of Cetyl Alcohol and Stearic Acid (I’d start with 50/50) instead of C10-18 Triglycerides (Butter Pearls).
  • Refined or unrefined shea butter will work.
  • You could also use a different soft butter, like Mango Butter or Murumuru Butter.
  • You can replace the oat oil with a different rich oil; I think Avocado oil could be a nice choice. You can also use a lighter oil.
  • A different ester (Isoamyl laurateCoco-CaprylateNeossance® Hemisqualane) will work instead of isoamyl cocoate.
  • You can use a different gum instead of soft xanthan gum. Normal xanthan gum will also work, though I’d use half the amount (making up the other half with more water).
  • You can use different botanical extracts that appeal to you and your skincare needs. The calendula extract I used was water soluble, the chamomile was oil based.
  • If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this FAQ and this chart.
  • The fragrance is optional; I only used it in the earlier versions of this cream as I liked the soft oaty scent of the cream when left unfragranced. Replace it with more bisabolol if you don’t use it.
  • If you’d like to incorporate an essential oil, please read this.

Gifting Disclosure

The shea butter and plastic jars were gifted by YellowBee.
The Euxyl™ k 903 and soft xanthan gum were gifted by Formulator Sample Shop.
The Christmas Spice fragrance oil was gifted by Voyageur Soap & Candle.
The chamomile extract, sodium lactate, oat oil, and colloidal oatmeal were gifted by Bramble Berry.
The butter pearls were gifted by Simply Ingredients.
Links to Amazon are affiliate links.