Today we’re going back to the basics with a Super Simple Moisturizing Lotion. I pared down the ingredients as much as I could, so this lotion just features five (5!) inexpensive ingredients that can be easily modified to suit what you have, or what you prefer. If you’ve never made lotion before, this is a fantastic place to start! In this post (and the partner video) I’ll be going over the essential components of lotions so you can easily and confidently make your own simple lotions at home. I’ll also be doing a follow-up live stream on this formulation this upcoming Sunday on YouTube where I’ll answer the questions I get + some of the more common DIY lotion questions I’ve heard over the years, so be sure to tune in for that as well!
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How did I end up with five ingredients? Well, we know this is going to be an emulsion, so there has to be oil and water—that’s two to start with. To bring them together, we’ll need an emulsifier—that’s three. To keep everything shelf-stable we need a preservative, and that makes four. While we could stop there, I wanted to include an inexpensive humectant to really amp up the moisturizing goodness of this lotion, and that’s where ingredient #5 comes in.
Let’s take a closer look at each ingredient!
This is a really simple lotion, and that’s the point. If you’re looking for something a bit fancier, you can find all my hand & body lotion formulations here, and all my face lotion formulations here. As of this writing, there are nearly 80 to choose from!
Oils help moisturize and soften the skin, slowing the loss of water (transepidermal water loss, or TEWL). They’re where the richness in a lotion comes from—without some fat, we’ve just got watery things!
For oil, you could choose any liquid oil, or even a butter, like mango butter or shea butter. I chose fractionated coconut oil as it’s lightweight and inexpensive, but safflower oil, grapeseed oil, apricot kernel oil, almond oil, and jojoba oil would all be good choices. If you want to get a bit more complex you could also blend a couple of different oils (or butters!)—just make sure the total weight stays the same. Learn more about choosing different oils with this post.
Water helps hydrate the skin and also dilutes the oil in the lotion, which is why lotions are lighter and faster absorbing than things like body butters and body oils that are 100% comprised of oils and/or butters.
This part is very simple; plain ol’ distilled water—the sort that you buy in big jugs at the grocery store. We prefer distilled water for making lotions and other DIYs as it’s one less variable in our formulation—it’s just water. Learn more here! If you don’t have distilled water, tap water is usually fine (assuming you have good tap water—if you have quite pongy well water or some other type of less-than-awesome water coming out of your tap, I’d recommend getting yourself some distilled water).
To fancy things up, you could swap out some of the water for something like a hydrosol (to add a lovely scent), aloe vera juice (for soothing goodness), or witch hazel (it’s astringent and anti-inflammatory).
Oil and water don’t mix without some help, and that’s where our emulsifier comes in!
For an emulsifier, you’ll need a complete emulsifying wax (I say “complete” because some companies sell products they call “emulsifying wax”, but upon closer reading of the description, something else is required to create a stable emulsion). I recommend Polawax, Emulsifying Wax NF, Olivem 1000, or Ritamulse SCG (those last 2 options are considered natural) for this project. You could also use BTMS-50, but it is typically more expensive than the first four options I listed, and it isn’t as widely available.
You absolutely cannot use beeswax, candelilla wax, carnauba wax, soy wax, etc. instead of an emulsifying wax! Please read this for more information, and watch this video to see what will happen if you do.
When water is present in a formulation, we need to include a broad spectrum preservative to keep it stable. There are a few exceptions to this (like when things are designed to be used immediately, or when a formulation is crafted to be self-preserving), but this lotion isn’t one of those exceptions.
To preserve this DIY I recommend using Liquid Germall Plus (INCI: Propylene Glycol, Diazolidinyl Urea, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate). It is very effective at low concentrations and works in a wide pH range, meaning we don’t have to test and adjust the pH of our end product (I felt like testing & adjusting started to stray away from “super simple”!). It is water-soluble, and only heat tolerant up to 50°C (122°F), so we’ll add it to the lotion after it has cooled below that point. If you’d like to learn more about preservatives, please read through the Preservatives section in the Humblebee & Me FAQ + check out this table.
Humectants hold onto water, keeping water on the skin for longer, helping prevent the product from drying out if you leave it uncovered, and drawing up moisture from the lower layers of the skin. Learn more here! They’re a wonderful thing to have in lotions and other skincare products. Examples include glycerin, propylene glycol, hyaluronic acid, propanediol 1,3, sodium lactate, and many, many more. We’re using glycerin today as it’s readily available (it can often be found at pharmacies sold as Glycerin USP), inexpensive, and effective. You could use propanediol 1,3 or propylene glycol as alternatives, but I think you’ll find glycerin is a lot easier to purchase.
And that’s it for the ingredients!
This lotion (and most lotions) have three phases: a heated water phase, a heated oil phase, and a cool down phase. The heated phases are ingredients that aren’t heat sensitive, while the cool down phase is where we incorporate ingredients that cannot be heated. The heated water phase is the water and glycern; the heated oil phase is the emulsifying wax and liquid oil; and the cool down phase is just our preservative.
We’ll talk about the procedure more in the video, so make sure you watch it.
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Super Simple Moisturizing Lotion
Heated water phase
76.5g | 76.5% distilled water
10g | 10% vegetable glycerine (USA / Canada)
Heated oil phase
3g | 3% Emulsifying Wax NF (USA / Canada / AU)
10g | 10% fractionated coconut oil
Cool down phase
0.5g | 0.5% Liquid Germall Plus™ (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. 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.
All that’s left at this point is to bottle up the lotion! This lotion is thin enough to package in a pump-top bottle or a soft squeeze tube. A 120mL (4 fl oz) package is a good choice. Use as you would any 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.
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! Please read the blog post (there’s a lot of information about substitutions in there!) and look up the ingredient in the encyclopedia before asking about further substitutions.
- If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this page.
- If you want to incorporate an essential oil, please read this.
- If you want to incorporate anything else, please read this.
Hi, great read! How would you create a large batch of this recipe? It is easy to use measuring cups over the water bath but, what if we wanted to make gallons of the recipe at once?
Please refer to point 1 of the substitutions list 😉
Hello, I would like to make this recipe but I would also like to add fragrance. At what percentage would you recommend?
Please watch this video for guidance: https://youtu.be/Cv4zR5pwR0g. Happy making!
Thank you Marie, for this simpler version of hand lotion! 🙂
I would like to add scent in the form of EO along with perhaps rose hydrosol added to the water phase? could you please advise as to amount of each to incorporate into this much appreciated simple formula? Thank you so much, and have a lovely day! 🙂
Hello Marie, could you explain about the different weight of oils? I heard it is optimal to combine three different weights in one formula, heavy, medium and light weight oils. What do you think about it? Do you know what oils belong to each category?
Thanks and many greetings to you,
Check out this post 🙂
There are times when blending 3 different weights of oils makes sense, but it’s not a thing I do regularly.
Thank you so much for your time, energy, patience and money in teaching us. May God bless you for your wonderful work done.
Thank you so much! ❤️
Hi,Marie. Thank you so much for this basic lotion recipe. As a beginner it’s easy to get confused and lost at all of the ingredients and information out there. I was wondering if you recommend a target temperature? Or is just until everything is melted? Thank you!
Hey Jennifer! I highly recommend watching the follow up live stream I did on this (it’s linked in the description box for the video)—temperature came up quite a lot there 🙂
Thank you! I will definitely watch it!
I made this up today and loved the simplicity of it. I was thinking at first that 10% glycerin would make it a bit sticky but was pleasantly surprised. I used a glycerite I made with hibiscus flower so I have a beautiful pink lotion, use some rose hydrosol as part of the water and put in some panthenol just because I love it!❤️ Nice to get back to the basics sometimes.
I am so thrilled to hear it! Your modifications sound divine, too ❤️ Thanks for DIYing with me, and happy making 🙂
I made this too, it’s lovely. I also used 0,5 % xanthan gum for stability. Great learning experience, thanks.
You’re so welcome! Thanks for DIYing with me, and happy making 🙂
I just made this. It was so easy and really fun. I do find the final product quite tacky (like that glycerin tack) and I’m wondering what I have done wrong. Maybe I didn’t hear the phases for long enough…. I’m not sure… I’ll try it again (I did watch the video before diy-ing)
Hey Ariel! I find that perceptions of stickiness/tackiness are really personal—it sounds like you are more sensitive to stickiness than I am. I would try reducing the glycerin to ~5% (replacing it with more water) and see what you think 🙂
Thank you for this post,
I am wondering if it is possible to add few drops of glycolic acid to make it a little bit exfoliating as well ?
Thank you in advance
Thanks so much for publishing this recipe! It gave me the confidence to finally move from anhydrous balms to lotions 🙂
I had a question which I hope you don’t mind helping me with please (have checked the FAQs but can’t see anything on it). My lotion doesn’t have much ‘slip’ – it’s kind of grippy as it absorbs. What would I need to add to help? From what I’ve read on other recipes would cetyl alcohol be the most useful addition? I did use a different emulsifier (Plantasens HE20).
Thanks for all your helpful information, it’s a lot of fun learning and trying new recipes 🙂
could i use cetyl alchohol and zinc oxide as emulsifier???
No; neither of those ingredients are emulsifiers. Please read up on them in the Humblebee & Me DIY Encyclopedia (https://www.humblebeeandme.com/diy-encyclopedia/) 🙂
Could you add aloe Vera juice and reduce the water? Or would that not stay blended?
Yup! I believe I talked about this in the partner live stream I did for this project—you should check that out, too!
Hi, I was wondering if Durosoft PG4-0 would be suitable substitution for an emulsifier?
Hi there. I love the basic lotion, but soo confused on the 1%.
So if I want to take out 1% of water phase to add essential oil instead how much in grams? What is 1%. 0.01? Sorry this sounds silly, but getting conflicting info. On line. Thank you.
Hi Lisa! 1% = 1/100th of everything. If I asked, “what is 1% of your income?”, that would depend entirely on how much your income is. The same applies here—1% is 1/100th of your batch size. If it’s a 100g batch, 1% = 1g. If it’s a 150g batch, 1% = 150g, and so on. Happy making!
This is the first lotion recipe I’ve used and OMG! I wish it wasn’t a pandemic cos I want everyone to touch my skin!!!!!
Congratulations on your first lotion! Hooray!
Hey Marie! Thank you for your recipe. One question. Why you didn’t put an antioxidant in the recipe for oils go rancid? Is it optional for all the recipes that contain oils? Thank you!
I didn’t include one because this is “super simple” and I was trying to keep the ingredient list as short as possible. You certainly can include an antioxidant if you like, and it will extend the shelf life of the oils, but it’s not an absolute must, especially if you’re just making 100g at a time—you should use it up well before rancidity becomes a concern 🙂 Happy making!
I really want to know the exact shelf life (eg. 1 year 2year)… Request…
Please read this 🙂
Hey Marie, I enjoyed your article. I have not made any lotion yet. Just wondering if you ever make a lotion for people with extra dry skin? Skin so dry that it cracks in the winter.
Hi Sharon! I would check out my “rescue” and “intense” cream + lotion formulations 🙂 Happy making!
I made this recipe for my son tonight, and it came out perfectly! Thank you so much for your super-clear instructions. We had a fun time working on it together. 🙂
I am so thrilled to hear it! Thanks for DIYing with me, and happy making 🙂
Thank you for the recipe! I am wondering if this emulsifying wax NF would cause any whitening/soaping effect when applying on skin?
I’ve found almost any emulsifying wax can soap, but the it’s more about the overall formulation than the specific emulsifying wax. I don’t find emulsifying wax NF to be particularly soaping prone, though. Happy making!
Hi Marie! Thank you for this diy lotion recipe!
I was wondering, is this also good for sensitive skin (toddler)?
Hi Cath! This could be good for sensitive skin, but Liquid Germall™ Plus (INCI: Propylene Glycol, Diazolidinyl Urea, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate) is not approved for use in humans under the age of 3 so you will likely want to use a different preservative 🙂 Happy making!
Hi Marie, in your Youtube video for the Basic DIY Lotion, you use a milk frother, and in this recipe, you use an immersion blender. Can I use a milk frother when following this recipe too? Thanks!
Hi Faria! You could, but an immersion blender is a far better tool for this 🙂 Happy making!
What does it mean when a lotion turns foamy instead of lotion-y? The oil & water don’t seem to have separated, but it is thin and so foamy that I actually double checked that I didn’t accidentally use SCI instead of my emulsifying wax (BTMS 50, which is what I had on hand because I mostly make conditioner bars).
Did I overheat it? Underheat it? Over mix?
Thank you for the recipe! I’m wondering if you know the PH of this recipe and if I could switch out the preservative for Euxyl K 903?
I think this formulation might be more up your alley 🙂
I finally got myself some polawax / emulsifying wax and made this lotion. I’m still a bit confused about INCI names but according to my supplier mine is cetearyl alcohol & polysorbate 60 (tradename was either ‘polawax’ or ‘cire emulsifiante n°1’). Anyhow, I love this lotion a lot. I’ve experimented with different emulsifiers and polawax is pretty amazing! This doesn’t soap practically at all, it glides on skin like a dream, feels refreshing during application but leaves my skin moisturized for a long time. It is thinner and more slippy than similar lotions made with olivem 1000, ecomulse scg and btms25 and btms50. It is more moisturizing than similar lotion emulsified with emulsifying wax bp. It ticks all the boxes. Ecomulse was amazing in your simple natural moisturizing lotion as well but since it is difficult to source here at this moment + anionic, I prefer this one at this moment. In short: this is very nice emulsifier and I highly recommend giving it ago!
Hi Marie, I made this lotion today and though I have made a couple before this…and thought they were quite good….they were rubbish compared to this. Thank you so much for making it so simple. This lotion doesn’t soap at all (my previous ones did) so I’m super happy.
Now I feel confident enough to play with it a bit and experiment a bit. What can it hurt?
I’m so thrilled to hear it! Thanks for DIYing with me 🙂 I think you might find this video helpful for some ideas on customizing/expermenting: https://youtu.be/Cv4zR5pwR0g. Happy making!
I made this today and it’s so nice! I replaced 25% of the water with honeysuckle floral water, and used equal amounts of jojoba and grapeseed oil instead of coconut oil.
That sounds so lovely! ❤️
Thank you for sharing this lovely recipe! I’ve searched the encyclopedia and the Preservatives page, but I couldn’t find Leucidal Liquid SF as a preservative. I purchased this for another DIY. Given it’s not on your list, do you recommend this as a preservative for your formulations?
I don’t have any personal experience with this preservative, so I can’t say either way. I haven’t read great things about it, but that’s not always a great indicator 🙂
Hi Marie, thank for this recipe! I love how it’s smooth and not super greasy. I wanted to thicken it up a bit. I watched your video ok thickening/thinning. Would it be fine to increase the emulsifying wax by a couple percentages and decrease the fractionated coconut oil to thicken it up some?
Hey Marie! I wanted to say thank you for making a formula that is actually simple. So many so-called “simple” beginner formulas out there, and they’re anything but! This is great. I switched up 10 g of the water for chamomile hydrosol, because I wanted to be fancy. Everything else is exactly as written. BTW it is furiously hot here in the Far East of our great Canadian continent. Stay cool ! 😉 Thanks, Willow.
Do we *need* a humectant? I want to make a tallow based lotion and really want to keep it as simple as possible (tallow, herb infused water, emulsifier (olivem 1000, preservative). Would it be okay to omit the glycerin?