The one constant ingredient in lotion is an emulsifier.
|Emulsifiers are used in creams and lotions to mix water with oils. Since water and oil do not mix but stay separated, an additional agent (emulsifier) is necessary to form a homogenous mixture keeping water and oil together. There are 2 types of emulsifiers. Oil-in-water emulsifiers keep oil drops packed in water, while water-in-oil emulsifiers keep water drops packed in oil. Water-in-oil emulsifiers are used for a more moisturizing or greasy feel, such as night creams or sun protection. Oil-in-water emulsifiers are used more in less greasy, moisturizing products such as body lotions and day creams.|
There are many different choices in both the oil-in-water and water-in-oil categories. Every lotion maker has their preference.
Once you have decided which oils, butters and emulsifier you want to use, there are still a couple of ingredients to consider. First, always use distilled water, never tap water.
Now, on to a very controversial ingredient; preservative. Any product which contains water, MUST have a preservative. Without a preservative, the shelf life of a product containing water is only about two weeks, even with refridgeration! Do not let anyone convince you otherwise. Natural substances that show antimicrobial activity are either not adequate for broad spectrum protection or they have undesirable qualities. Most natural substances are not active against the most threatening microbes, pseudomonas. Others, such as essential oils, require very high concentrations to be effective. Some have offensive odors or colors that would be unacceptable in skin care products. Many become inactivated by manufacturing procedures and other factors. So a natural preservative is not really an option. If using a preservative is really not something you want to do, you must formulate a product which does not incorporate water, which, in essence would not be a lotion or cream, but rather, a butter, and generally speaking has a much greasier feel than lotions ir creams.
So, back to preservatives. There has been much bad press about preservatives, but, as with anything these days, even foods, it doesn't take much looking to find an article proclaiming all of the potential negativity. Most studies involve using amounts many many times the generally used amount of a product. Overuse of ANYTHING has negative consequences. One of my favorite treats is M and M's with Peanuts. If I eat a handful, they are a delicious and enjoyable treat. If I ate the whole 2 pound bag, I would be as sick as a dog. That doesn't mean M and M's are bad. It means I should stick to a serving.
As with most any thing else, there are choices when it comes to preservatives. I personally use Parabens because they broad spectrum and are more tolerant of higher temperatures, meaning I don't have to wait until my lotion mixture has cooled to a specified temperature before adding the preservative. Some preservatives are very sensitive to temperatures and are rendeded ineffective if added to lotion that is too warm.
Now, for some tips pertaining to the consistency of lotions and creams. Believe it or not, just because you have the ingredients and have the general knowledge of how to make lotion, there are some secrets on how to end up with a smooth, creamy lotion versus just lotion, or, a whipped, airfilled lotion. It all has to do with the temperature of the water and oils at the time of mixture. Having the temperature too high, results in extended mix time and the incorporation of more air and a whipped, air filled lotion. Mixing with temperatures too low will cause the emulsifier to thicken and even partially solidify, preventing appropriate oil-in-water or water-in-oil emulsion, giving the lotion an almost tapioca pudding (much smaller "lumps") consistency. Reheating briefly and remixing will correct this problem. Mix when the temperatures are just right and you will have a bowl full of the most beautiful, smooth, glistening white, creamy lotion you ever did see! It's a beautiful thing. It takes practice to achieve this, but, so worth it!