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Tinkering with Lotions

Make DIY lotion while exploring the science behind emulsions.

Background

Here we are focusing on an extremely popular emulsion type (lotions) where water droplets are dispersed in a continuous oil phase. Lotions are used to moisturize, and can be used as carriers to deliver important molecules into the body through our largest organ — skin. 

You can use any number of different oils to make lotion, even ones in your kitchen! You can also change the consistency and texture of the lotion by playing around with the amount of water you use in the lotion recipe. But, because water and oil do not easily mix, we have to add a special bridging molecule to make the water and oil “get along.” This bridging compound, the emulsifier, keeps water and oil mixed together.

Materials

Ingredients

  • Oils (here we will use a mix)
  • Beewax (optional in Recipe B)
  • Emulsifying Wax
  • Stearic Acid
  • Water
  • Glycerin
  • Essential oils of your choosing to “flavor” the moisturizer

Equipment

  • Container for mixing
  • utensils for scraping
  • thermometer
  • kitchen scale
  • measuring cups
  • stick blender
  • kettle
  • double boiler or water bath
  • containers for moisturizer
  • labels and pens
  • notebook for record keeping

Recipe A (Standard Version)

For a creamier, but slightly more difficult version, look in the Downloads section for Recipe B.

Recipe A Calculation

Recipe A Protocol

  1. Weigh out your hydrophobic components and add them to a labeled mason jar. 
    • The hydrophobic components are those that are not soluble in water — Grapeseed Oil, Sunflower Oil, Stearic Acid. 

  2. Weigh out emulsifying wax NF and add to the mason jar containing oils. Close up the mason jar and put it in a water bath that has been heated to ~60C.
  3. Start boiling the water you will need using a kettle. 
  4. As the water is boiling, weigh out the glycerin and add it to the beaker.
  5. Once the water is boiled, weigh the amount of water needed and add it to the beaker containing glycerin. 
  6. Prepare your station for creating the emulsion by gathering your emulsion blender. 
  7. Find the largest beaker and fill it about one third of the way with ice water (this will be used in a few minutes).
  8. When everything is ready, insert the blender into the water and glycerin mixture to create a vortex. 
  9. While keeping a vortex going, SLOWLY drizzle in the melted hydrophobic components. It should take at least 3-5 minutes to transfer all of the oils into the water. 
  10. After about ~5 minutes of blending, place your medium beaker into a larger beaker containing ice water to help cool the liquids and expedite the formation of the emulsion. 
  11. Mix well for about 15-30 minutes, turning off the stick blender every few minutes to scrape the sides of the container with a spatula.
    • Do not lift the stick blender above the mixture or else you will make a huge mess, and add too much air to the moisturizer.

  12. Once the mixture is efficiently combined, scoop into jars that have been labeled and dated. Add essential oils of your choosing.
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