I love watching DIY lotion videos. They say you can just throw some all natural ingredients into a pot, warm them up, blend it all together and *magic* you get a light non-greasy lotion that looks like whipped cream.
It does seem perfect at first, and so simple. You wouldn’t even have to worry about finding a natural lotion during your travels – just easily whip some up yourself every now and then. It’s like a dream. Let me explain how the reality actually goes.
Oil and Water – Rules of
First (if you’re anything like me) you will learn that you really did need that emulsifier to get the oil and water ingredients to blend together. No amount of whipping it or stirring will magically combine the two. Even if you do somehow get them to stay together long enough to put in the container, when you open it up an hour later to admire your homemade product it’s going to be a separated and unpleasant looking mass.
Image courtesy of Victor Blacus
Stirring and Whipping – Not the same
My first attempt was in the spirit of being all natural. I thought to myself, I don’t really need an electric mixer, I’ll just put my energy into it and stir a bunch with a whisk. Between that and the oil and water fiasco this is what my second or third attempt looked like:
Not very fluffy. Trust me. Watery and clumpy might be a better description.
No One Needs a Bowl that Large
It’s just an ego thing, I promise. You are not going to immediately start producing commercial sized amounts of lotion by your first, second, or even tenth try. Go small. It will encourage you to use less ingredients. This is a good thing. It means less ingredients will be thrown away when the entire batch goes wrong – which it will.
As my mixing bowl (okay, it’s really a pot) got smaller, my lotion attempts started to look more like lotion. Coincidence?
Throwing Good after Bad – Why this rarely works
I have discovered, on more occasions than I can count, that one of the ingredients was making my recipe too greasy, too odd feeling, too oily, too watery, etc. In some cases this can be fixed by adding more of an ingredient with the opposite effect. Sometimes it is just time to let the batch go before you end up with a very large amount of unusable lotion. Remember that some of those ingredients are expensive, especially when all added up together. Do you really want to throw them into a product that you think is unusable in its current form?
So many ingredients to waste (or not waste).
Citric Acid Burns – Why preservatives might not be great
It took four times before I realized that my batches were not working (and I was wasting ingredients by adding more to try to dull the skin burning effect) because the natural preservative that I chose to abundantly use was actually pretty strong and my skin – well – it isn’t quite that strong – it’s actually rather sensitive. It probably didn’t help that I was also using a citrus based essential oil to give the lotion a pleasant scent. Citric acid seems less harmful than long chemical names, but for the beginner lotion chef, it is probably best to be skipped. My honest advice would be to skip the preservatives completely while in the learning stages, make very small batches, and just keep them somewhere cool (i.e. the fridge) until they are used up.
Lotion is NOT a Meringue
I do not care what any of the DIY lotion experts claim. If you have been whipping your recipe for ten minutes straight with no results, then it is not going to whip. You’ve either gotten overexcited and tried before it was cooled down, or your recipe just wasn’t designed for whipping.
Hint: if it looks like this is will NEVER whip up.
There is always another day and another batch.
“I Have the Perfect Container for This!” – Phrases to avoid
They say to sterilize a container and have it set aside for your perfectly whipped lotion. In theory, this is a good idea. In real life, there’s just no point until you know what consistency the end result will be. Will it actually be light whipped heaven or will it end up (like most of mine) being so hard that it could be formed into a stick of lip balm, a thick cocoa butter type semi-rock, or a liquid best left in a bottle with a pump so it doesn’t all pour out at once? I have never actually – not even once – managed to create a truly light and fluffy whipped lotion. Creamy? Yes. Whipped? No.
The Chem Lab
In following various internet advice on “natural” and “safe” ingredients *cough*, I have ended up with several jars of ingredients that I would never actually put in my recipes even if they do promise a perfect result. Research before you buy. You would be amazed how many seemingly innocent sounding ingredients started their lives as a byproduct of the petrochemical industry.
Image courtesy of FEMA. Not my actual kitchen.
We learn by making mistakes. At this rate I shall soon be a genius.