Today’s recipe is for a rich, fragrant body cream designed to soothe, soften, and hydrate dry and irritated winter skin. It is super thick and creamy (definitely not pumpable!), making it incredibly decadent to use. You’ll scoop up a silky dollop of this Rose Aloe Body Cream with your fingers and massage it into your skin. You will instantly notice the rich rose scent and the rich-but-not greasy consistency. As it absorbs it leaves your skin is soft, velvety, and super hydrated. This cream is just the thing for a bit of post-bath pampering on a cold winter night—I hope you love it as much as I do!
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I originally developed this cream as part of my Formula Botanica coursework last year, and came back to tweak it a bit as the winter itchies set in. I didn’t change much, but one thing I did tweak was the emulsifying wax. I used Olivem 1000 for the Formula Botanica version, but I’ve been finding urea seems to amplify the soaping effect in lotions, so urea + an emulsifying wax that is famous for soaping made for a cream that soaped quite aggressively on application. Switching the Olivem 1000 out for some Polawax made a big difference.
Our water phase is full of super hydrating, soothing ingredients like anti-inflammatory and healing-boosting aloe vera and panthenol. We’ve also got some great humectants (glycerine and sodium lactate), and some soothing colloidal oatmeal. This medley of lovely ingredients helps soothe our skin, keep it hydrated, and improve barrier function so it is less susceptible to everything from harsh cleansers to frigid winter winds.
The oil phase features silky, lightweight olive squalane and sebum-like jojoba oil. Both are excellent emollients, helping soften and moisturize the skin. I’ve also included a bit of silky-smooth cetyl alcohol to give the cream some gorgeous body without weighing it down.
Our possibly-star-ingredient is urea—this stuff is amazeballs. Urea is part of the natural moisturizing factor (NMF) of your skin, meaning your body produces it to help keep your skin happy and hydrated. Not only is it an extremely potent moisturizer, but it is also keratolytic, meaning it is gently exfoliating. It not softens and hydrates skin, but it also helps with skin cell turn over so any super dry, leathery skin doesn’t stand a chance (seriously, try it on your elbows, knees, and feet!). Basically, urea is safe and crazy effective, and if you suffer from dry skin you should really have some urea in your life! For way more awesome information, give this post from Simple Skincare Science a read.
A slightly annoying thing about urea is that it can cause the pH of our products to drift upwards over time, and if the pH drifts high enough the urea can break down, giving off an ammonia-y smell. Ingredients with buffering properties work to prevent this sort of change. I’ve seen gluconolactone used in a formulation with urea for this reason, but haven’t seen that particular ingredient in any store-bought urea products I’ve looked at. From my reading this pH shift seems to be very formulation dependent; one person reported a jump with their formula from ~pH 4 to ~pH 8 in a matter of days. I have not noticed anything that dramatic with this cream; it has changed from approximately 5 to 6 over a period of three months. This is within the range of stability for urea. That said, I’d recommend keeping your batch size to 100g or less and using it within 4–6 months—especially if you want to use a preservative with a narrower effective pH range than liquid germall plus.
The finished cream has become one of my favourite things to apply before bed time. The wonderful rose scent is perfect for winding down, and I love how richly hydrated my skin feels after using it. Farewell, winter itchies!
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Rose Aloe Body Cream
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.
Once your cool down ingredients have been incorporated you can transfer your lotion to its container! I recommend a 120mL/4oz wide-mouthed jar for this lotion as it is quite thick.
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.
- 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!
- Watch the pH for rapid upwards drift if you make any changes, especially to water soluble ingredients.
- You can use a different hydrosol if you prefer, or simply use more distilled water. Keep in mind the scent of the lotion comes from the hydrosol.
- You can use water instead of the aloe vera juice if you don’t have it.
- Vegetable glycerin and sodium lactate are both humectants; if you don’t have one or both replace them with different humectants like propanediol. A hydrolyzed protein like hydrolyzed silk would also be a decent alternative.
- I’d really recommend keeping the panthenol, but if you have to swap it out I’d go with a different humectant or hydrolyzed protein, as above.
- You can replace the colloidal oats with more panthenol, a humectant, or a hydrolyzed protein. You could also use more water.
- You could use emulsifying wax NF instead of Polawax. I’ve tried this formula with Olivem 1000 and while it does work, it soaps quite a lot.
- You can use different lightweight carrier oils (like sweet almond, grapeseed, sunflower seed, etc.) in place of either of the ones I’ve used.
- Cetearyl alcohol will work in place of cetyl alcohol. You could also use more liquid oil for a thinner end product.
- I really don’t recommend replacing the urea. If you need to, please read the encyclopedia page for ideas.
- If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this page.