A little over a week ago I bought a lotion-making kit from Branble Berry, a seller of soap making supplies. While the description of the kit did not say it was obligatory to have a digital scale – once I got the kit I realized that I wouldn’t be able to get too far without one. Alas, digital scales are quite expensive, specially those that can measure down to .1 oz (note when you buy one that many digital kitchen scales cannot). So, instead, I got this regular diet scale, which can count down to 1/4 oz. I figure, that was close enough for me, given that I’m just doing this as a hobby. The only big problem with using this type of scale is that I have to do the actual weighing, so it can be as exact as possible, I can’t let my 4 yo “assistant” do it. Of course, she doesn’t like that. But there was still a lot she could do, pouring the substances into the bowls and mixing them with a spoon.
The Branble Berry kit came with one recipe for lotion, using the ingredients in the kit, of course. I found it fairly easy to follow – though the process ended up being much more complicated (i.e. messy) than I foresaw when I started. Branble Berry and other lotion makers suggest that you use a stick blender (like this one) to mix the lotion. If you don’t have one, they recommend you use an electric mixer. Alas, using my handheld electric mixer did not work at all, the lotion was just not thickening and it was a little lumpy (perhaps I didn’t melt the wax pellets as thoroughly as I should have) – so I had to transfer the whole thing into my regular blender. That worked perfectly, making thick, smooth, lotion.
The second problem came in bottling the lotion. I used a disposable piping bag, and while that worked well, it was pretty messy (but that may have had to do with the flimsy piping bag we were using). I read a recommendation to use squeeze bottles instead, so I’ll look for them at Michael’s next time I go there.
Even though I got the scale, I still decided that it’d be easier to convert the weight measurements into volume measurements for the liquid ingredients (i.e. oils & phenonip). Of course, that meant that the measurements I ended up with were approximations, which means that the lotion I made wasn’t the exact lotion Branble Berry had in mind. Still, I did end up with lotion, so I can’t complain. This is the recipe I used
- 3 Tbsp. + 2 tsp. almond oil
- 2 Tbsp. + 1/3 tsp. avocado oil
- 1 oz stearic acid
- 1.2 oz emulsifying wax
- 1.2 oz shea butter
- 18 oz. distilled water
- 6 ml phenonip
- 2.5 ml Lavender fragrance
- 6 drops colorant
I will note that the recipe did not say anything about colorant, but as I was scenting the lotion with lavender essential oil, Kathy (my sister who was helping me) thought it’d be good if it was a little bit purple. Alas, I didn’t have enough purple colorant, so I substituted with a little blue and red food coloring. The color I ended up with was a very pale lilac
Now, as to how I made it (and how I was supposed to make it).
-The first step was sterilizing everything you use in the lotion making process. I did sterilize a couple of the bowls I used, as well as the mixer paddle in a solution of water and bleach. Alas, I didn’t sterilize the additional bowl and blender I ended up using, as well as the spoon I used to blend the lotion – because of a combination of forgetting about it, and using equipment I didn’t foresee when I started.
-The next step was combining the oils, the stearic acid and wax in a 32 oz container and microwaving it until everything melted. That was supposed to last 1-2 minutes, but it took me at least 3, probably because my microwave is so old. To that you add the shea butter and mix with a spoon until well blended. That, we did.
-Next you warm the water for one minute, and then slowly incorporate it into the oil mixture, mixing with a spoon. Pretty easy to do. Then it’s time to mix the lotion until it thickens. Use a stick blender or a regular electric blender for this.
-Once thickened, add the phenonip, essential oil and colorant. Mix with a spoon until all has been incorporated. What I plan to do next time, however, is to mix the lotion with the phenonip alone, and then divide it in batches – mixing in different scent/color for each bottle.
-You are done! Now it’s time to bottle it. Use a pastry bag or squeeze bottle.
-My kit didn’t come with any labels, so I used some I had left over from another set. It’d like to be able to find a source for pretty (and cheap) labels for future lotions.
-I wrapped the lotions with tissue paper, it’s cheap and I think looks pretty good.
-The kit I used was supposed to make 24oz of lotion, but I only got about 20 oz – probably because so much lotion was left behind in the different bowls I used, or lost through the bottling process. Still, I used very little of the material that came in the kit, and it’s clear that I’ll run out of bottles before I run out of lotion ingredients (but I’m planning to use them for things other than lotion).
And now, as to the results: Well, I did end up with a lotion with a medium thickness, perhaps a tiny bit heavier than what I’d prefer, but not by much. The lotion seems a bit heavy/oil to the touch when you first apply it, but it dried up quite quickly. Indeed, the main problem I find with it, is that my hands (but not my arms) feel pretty dry a few minutes after applying it. Is the lotion really moisturizing me? That said, all in all, for being my first home-made effort, I think it’s quite good.
I’ve been using the lotion now for over a month, and I have to say that I’ve fallen in love with it. I love how light and refreshing it is when I put it on, how smooth it is, how easy it’s to apply (there is barely any resistance) and how soft it makes my arms feel. I keep it now at my desk and I put it on whenever I want to feel a little bit refreshed. I’ve made several other lotions and creams since – but so far this is my favorite.