There aren’t many things more luxurious than using a nice essential oil-based lotion on your skin. Why spend a fortune on commercial skin care products when there are all-natural products that have wonderful scents and are far gentler on the skin?
A lot of people are uneasy about trying to make their own essential oil blends because they don’t know where to start. In truth, it’s actually easy to make essential oil lotions, and once you get started with making them, you’ll find that it’s fun and exciting to experiment with different essential oils to make new scents or to make a cream for a specific purpose (such as for combination skin, acne, or to protect your skin during cold weather).
Getting Started with Lotions
All essential oil lotions, creams, and salves start with a carrier oil or a blend of carrier oils. For example, if you want a thick cream, you would start with coconut oil. This is solid at room temperature but melts in your hands. You can make it creamier by mixing one part coconut oil with two parts of another oil such as almond or jojoba oil to make a lighter, runnier lotion. Beeswax is a good starting point if you want to make a thick cream as well.
The purpose of the carrier oil is to dilute the other essential oils in the recipe so that they don’t irritate your skin.1 Contrary to popular belief, essential oils can cause allergic reactions if they are applied to the skin directly.2 Some can also cause photosensitivity. For this reason, it is important that you take care to limit your exposure to undiluted essential oils. Most oils will work well on your skin when diluted to a concentration as low as two percent. That’s just a couple of drops of oil per tablespoon of carrier oil.
When you are working with essential oils, handle them carefully, and keep the bottle sealed when it is not in use. If you spill essential oils on your skin, dilute them with vegetable oil and then wash the oil off with warm soapy water.
Another reason that carrier oils are so important is that essential oils are volatile. This means that they evaporate very quickly. Even if you would not have an adverse reaction to essential oils applied directly to the skin, the fact that the oils evaporate so quickly means that they would not penetrate the skin well enough to provide whatever benefit it is you expect from them. Using a carrier oil helps ensure that the other essential oils don’t evaporate so quickly, and are therefore better for your skin.
Making a Lotion
Now that you understand the use of carrier oils, you can get started. Combine your liquid oil with your beeswax and coconut oil. You may also want to add shea butter or coconut butter (just a couple of tablespoons will do) to improve the consistency of the finished product. Put these into a glass bowl and place it over a pan of warm water. The steam from the water will make the ingredients melt, and you can stir them together as that happens.
Once the oils have reached a nice liquid consistency, you can start adding the “active ingredients.” Vitamin E oil is a good choice for most skin care recipes because it is an antioxidant, so it can help protect the skin from damage from the sun and other elements.3
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Some good essential oils to add include lavender, chamomile, sandalwood, ylang-ylang, and tea tree. You don’t need to use a lot of each oil. Just a few drops are enough to give your lotion a nice scent and pleasant effects. The type of essential oils you use will depend on the purpose of the lotion:
- Peppermint and ginger for cooling massage lotions after exercise.
- Calendula and chamomile for sensitive skin.
- Argan oil and patchouli for anti-aging face creams.
Aqueous vs. Oil Lotions
The main difference between a lotion and body butter is how much water is in it. With most creams, more than half of the tub is water. When you’re making home-made lotions, the problem with water is that it provides a breeding ground for bacteria and mold. This means that to keep the lotion fresh, you need to add some sort of preservative. Some essential oils, such as tea tree, make good preservatives, so if you are planning on adding those to your blend, then that may be enough to preserve a small tub of lotion. If you don’t want to add preservatives, though, you’re going to struggle.
Body butter is less likely to go rancid quickly, but a lot of people don’t like them because of the texture. Water-based oils are a good choice for those people, and there are some active ingredients such as rose water, aloe juice, and witch hazel that are water soluble and work well in water-based lotions. Once you master working with this kind of recipe and making a lotion that emulsifies water with oils, you will be in a good position to make almost any kind of cosmetic product.
The beauty of carrier oils is that they contain nutrients and antioxidants, and they can offer a lot of benefits for the skin. You may have grown up being told that oil can make acne worse, but this isn’t always the case. Some oils are good for the skin. They can help reduce inflammation and actually balance the natural oils on the skin, preventing flare-ups. Other oils are good for people with eczema or dry skin. The trick is finding the best oil for your skin type.
To mix oils with water and essential oils, you will want to use an emulsifier. One good natural emulsifier is emulsifying wax, which is made from wheat straw. You will usually need to use no more than three to five percent emulsifying wax for a standard recipe. Another option is to use coconut oil and tapioca as an emulsifier.
There are a lot of other waxes, including carnauba and beeswax, that are not emulsifiers but are still worth adding to lotion to thicken it. You can also use those waxes to make lip balms and other cosmetics.
Preserving Your Lotion
Homemade lotions will not last long at all if you do not add a preservative to them. Even if you keep it in the fridge, you will find that mold and bacteria start to grow in a couple of weeks. You can extend the shelf life of your lotion to around three months if you add natural preservatives such as Rokonsal and Leucidal to the lotion.
The concentration fo the preservative does not need to be high: just one percent is enough for most lotions and creams. These preservatives are natural, mild, and well-tolerated by most skin types. This makes them ideal for making natural lotions last for as long as possible.
When it comes to getting started with making your own lotions with essential oils, start with a simple cream or body butter and play with a few different types of essential oil until you find something that you love. Once you get good at making lotions, why not try making them as gifts? Your friends will love this natural and luxurious treat.
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