Over the past few years, I’ve shifted away from lotions and started using more oils and butters. The biggest difference between traditional lotions (even all-natural ones) and pure oils/butters is the absorption rate. Lotions contain alcohols to speed up the drying process so your skin is smooth and moisturized, but relatively dry to the touch within a few minutes. Oils and butters take time to soak into your skin, occasionally necessitating a pat dry to absorb excess. This takes some getting used to, but once you do, I bet you won’t want to return to lotions. I personally think the benefits of alcohol-free moisturizer is significant enough to warrant adjusting your routine to accommodate for extra absorption time. Especially if you have sensitive or extremely dry skin, oils and butters are often a good choice since they aren’t watered down with fillers or other ingredients.
You can combine multiple oils or you can just use them individually. I haven’t had time recently to remake my mixed body oil, so I’ve just been using straight coconut oil, shea butter, or almond oil as an after-shower moisturizer. It’s not as interesting as my blended oil, but it works just fine.
The oils and butters I tend to keep on hand for body oils include:
- Shea butter
- Cocoa butter
- Olive oil
- Avocado oil
- Coconut oil
- Apricot seed oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Sweet almond oil
You can also add specialty oils, listed in my face oil post, like argan oil, marula oil, rosehip seed oil, tamanu oil, and jojoba oil. These are more expensive, so I tend to reserve them for my facial oils only. I’m on the fence about jojoba oil though, because I used to consider it an all-purpose oil, but lately I’ve been saving it for my face only since the price has been rising so much in the last few years.
Liquid body oil, semi-solid body oil, and lotion bars use essentially the same ingredients, but with different amounts of beeswax and ratios of oils to butters. The liquid oil has no beeswax in it.
One note, to make these oil mixtures, you must melt all the ingredients together slowly either using a double boiler or a glass Pyrex measuring cup in a water bath.
Liquid body oil:
This is one of my favorite body oil recipes, which does occasionally solidify depending on how accurate I am with my measurements.
- Cocoa butter (2-3 tbsp)
- Coconut oil (2 tbsp)
- Almond oil (2 tbsp)
- Grapeseed oil (2 tbsp)
Sometimes I like to add shea butter as well. Some people dislike how heavy shea butter feels, so the combination of oils and butters really comes down to personal taste. I generally don’t use olive oil in this recipe, but if you’re trying to limit buying new ingredients, I think it would be fine. I’m singling out olive oil since most people already have that in the house for cooking. I like using almond oil, apricot seed oil, or grapeseed oil because they’re lighter, have lower melting points, and balance out the heaviness of the cocoa butter.
Semi-solid body oil:
There are two ways to create a firmer moisturizer: you can increase the proportion of solid
butters, like cocoa or shea, or you can add beeswax. Beeswax is more effective at simply increasing hardness, since it’s a wax with an extremely high melting temperature. However, adding solid butters will create a more salve-like product, as you can see in this image to the right.
One of my favorite semi-solid recipes is this:
- Beeswax (unrefined)
- Cocoa butter (raw, unrefined)
- Coconut oil (unrefined)
- Shea butter
- Almond oil or any other oil that is liquid at room temp
I like this one because it smells like honey and chocolate. Again, the ratios for this one are dependent upon personal taste. Less shea butter will feel less heavy, and less beeswax will raise the melting temperature so it will be softer. For a pretty soft and fast melt semi-solid oil, I recommend doing about 1 parts beeswax to about 5 parts liquids, and adjusting for how much cocoa butter you use since it’s hard at room temperature.
For lotion bars, you’re using the same ingredients, but you pour it into a mold to create a solid bar.. I recommend silicone molds, which you can find on Amazon or at any baking store. These are good for travel since it’s not a liquid that might leak, but you do have to be careful that they’re not exposed to really high temperatures as they will melt. So don’t leave one in your car when it’s 95°F out. For lotion bars, you want about 40% liquid oil, 35% solid oil (butter) and 25% wax. Or, a 1:3 or 1:4 ratio of beeswax to oils. It also depends on how hard you want the lotion bar.
This ylang-ylang cocoa butter lotion bar recipe is one I’ve made in the past:
- 4 tbsp. beeswax
- 3 tbsp. cocoa butter
- 2 tbsp. shea butter
- 1 tbsp. mango butter
- 1 tbsp. avocado oil
- 1 tbsp. sweet almond oil
- Add essential oil mix after cooling slightly: 30 drops ylang-ylang, 20 drops jasmine, 10 drops sweet orange
After looking at and trying recipes online I’ve found that creating your own lotion bars and body oils for use at home is very much dependent on personal taste. Some people like heavier feeling products, some like harder lotion bars. To create something you’ll really like, you do need to experiment a bit and make decisions based on the properties of the ingredients.
Properties of oils and butters:
To help you figure out which oils and butter you want to use, here’s some very brief information on common ones:
Additionally, you can download my document on DIY basics that has more information about all these oils.
Lastly, I have two tips:
- If you’re making something that will be solid at room temperature (like a lotion bar) cool the product in the freezer. Cooling too slowly can result in a gritty product sometimes.
- Use glass bottles for products that are supposed to be liquid at room temperature. That way, if it starts to solidify you can easy melt it in the microwave.