Today’s gift-able holiday DIY is a powdery, silky, fragrant Winter Wonderland Hand & Body Lotion that I’m just obsessed with. I find hand and body lotion is quite a good gift as it’s a product many people already use (so it’s already part of their day-to-day life and will probably get used), but unlike facial skincare products, they’re usually more willing to try something new. And this lovely lotion is definitely worth trying 😄
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As this lotion is designed to be giftable, I was formulating for broad appeal. The goal was to create a lotion that people who are used to shop-bought lotions from brands like St. Ives and Bath & Body Works would like.
Shop-bought hand and body lotions are usually quite light and fast absorbing, with excellent slip and little in the way of a lingering on-skin feel.
Part of that lightness is thanks to a small-ish oil phase, so this emulsion has a 17% oil phase (including the emulsifier).
Humectants help the lotion feel moisturizing over an extended period of time, but lots of ’em can make a lotion feel like it is lingering on the skin, and not everyone likes that. For that reason I used less glycerin than I usually do when I’m formulating for myself. Allantoin and panthenol help soothe, soften, and moisturize dry winter skin without making the lotion feel like it sits on top of the skin.
And, of course, excellent slip! That comes from a variety of places in this formulation—a wee bit of xanthan gum, powdery cetyl alcohol, a lightweight primary emollient, and one of my favourite emulsifiers. But more on those changes later in the post.
Our starting point + formulation journey
I based this lotion on the Easy Non-Greasy Hand Lotion formulation I shared earlier this year to show how I evolve a simple formulation into something a bit more fancy. This ended up taking more tries than I expected, which really shouldn’t be unexpected, ha—it seems like if I think I’m going to nail it the first time I always certainly won’t.
My first version included some hyaluronic acid, kept the same emulsifier (Emulsifying Wax NF) & thickener (Cetearyl Alcohol), and included some mica for a bit of holiday shimmer. That version was surprisingly gooey and soaped really badly.
My next version dropped the hyaluronic acid and mica which helped with the gooey-ness and soaping, but the lotion still didn’t have the skin feel I wanted.
For version three I switched from cetearyl alcohol to cetyl alcohol, which helped, but it was still too thick, too soapy, and not slippy enough.
In version four I tried dropping the shea butter entirely, replacing it with more Medium Chain Triglycerides. This was the best one yet, but still not quite what I wanted.
And version five—the version I’m sharing today. I brought the shea butter back and swapped the Emulsifying Wax NF for Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate. Bingo—so much better. The soft, silky, powdery finish lotion of my dreams!
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Relevant links & further reading
- Distilled water in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Vegetable Glycerin in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Panthenol (Vitamin B5) in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Xanthan Gum in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Cetyl Alcohol in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Shea Butter in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Medium chain triglycerides in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Liquid Germall™ Plus in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Allantoin in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Tocopherol (Vitamin E) in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- in the Humblebee & Me FAQ
- in the Humblebee & Me FAQ
- How long will ______ last? What is its shelf life? in the Humblebee & Me FAQ
- Can I use a different preservative than the one you’ve used? in the Humblebee & Me FAQ
- More on lotions
- More wintery formulations:
Winter Wonderland Hand & Body Lotion
Heated oil phase
5g | 2% Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate (USA / Canada / UK & EU / Australia)
12.5g | 5% cetyl alcohol (USA / Canada)
5g | 2% refined shea butter (USA / Canada)
20g | 8% medium chain triglycerides (USA / Canada / UK / Aus / NZ)
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. I did three 10-second blends 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! I tried both pouring and piping; I’d recommend pouring (using a funnel if you need it) as piping was far more messy than it was worth.
Use as you’d use any hand or body 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. 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.
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 250g, which will fill four 60mL (2 fl oz) bottles.
- 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.
- You could use Propanediol 1,3 instead of glycerin.
- You could replace the Panthenol (Vitamin B5) with more glycerin.
- You can use regular xanthan gum instead of soft (or clear); I’d use half as much and increase the water to keep things adding up to 100%.
- Ritamulse SCG (Emulsimulse, ECOMulse), BTMS-50, or Emulsifying Wax NF will work instead of Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate, though they won’t feel quite as nice.
- You could try Cetearyl Alcohol instead of cetyl alcohol, but this will make the end lotion more creamy and less powdery/silky.
- You can use Mango Butter (or a different soft butter) instead of shea butter.
- Unrefined shea butter is fine.
- You can substitute another lightweight oil like sweet almond, grapeseed, or sunflower seed instead of Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT/Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride).
- If you’re like to use a different preservative, please review this FAQ and this chart.
- You can use a different wintery fragrance oil (or just any fragrance oil you like); just be sure it is approved for use at 0.6% in a leave-on body product.
- If you’d like to incorporate an essential oil, please read this.
- You can replace the allantoin with more distilled water.
The glycerin, panthenol, Medium Chain Triglycerides, soft xanthan gum, Liquid Germall™ Plus, and vitamin E were gifted by YellowBee.
The Glyceryl Stearate (and) PEG-100 Stearate was gifted by Mystic Moments.
The fragrance oil & shea butter were gifted by Bramble Berry.
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