DIY Lotion for Dry Winter Skin

Is your skin dry and chapped from the cold, winter weather? The solution is easy: make your own lotion! It’s really simple and only takes 15 minutes.

Here’s what you need:

2 tbsp. beeswax (cosmetic- or food-grade, not beeswax candles!)
1/2 cup sweet almond oil (or safflower oil or grapeseed oil)
1 cup aloe vera juice (or green tea or distilled water)

Optional: 1 tbsp. coconut oil or cocoa/shea butter, 1/2 tsp. vitamin e oil, essential oils
Equipment: grater/knife, 2 pots, metal spider thing (trivet), blender, funnel, spatula, lotion bottle
Makes: about 350 ml of lotion (just under 1 1/2 cups)

Here’s what you do:

  1. Grate or chop the beeswax into fine pieces.
  2. Fill the bigger pot with water, put the metal spider in, and put the smaller pot on top. You’re essentially making a little double boiler.
  3. Pour the sweet almond oil into the smaller pot. Add the grated beeswax.
  4. Heat on medium heat for 5 minutes until the beeswax is melted. Don’t let the oil boil!
  5. Let it cool slightly, and add the coconut oil, vitamin e oil, and a few drops of essential oil if you like. The mixture should look thick and almost opaque and be close to room temperature. A bit warmer is okay.
  6. Start blending the oil mixture with a hand blender or whisk, and slowly drizzle in a teaspoon or so of the aloe vera juice. Blend until all the juice is incorporated. Repeat. It will take about 2-4 minutes to get all the aloe vera juice blended in.  It’s important to add the juice a little bit at a time so that it emulsifies properly.
  7. When you have a nice white lotion, you’re done! Use the funnel to fill your pump bottle, and try it out! :’D

If your aloe vera juice isn’t blending into the oil and is floating on top instead, you may have to melt some more beeswax into fresh oil and drizzle that in, alternating the new oil with the aloe vera juice. If there’s only a little bit of juice floating on top, just blot it off with some paper towel before filling your lotion pump. To clean up your equipment, wipe off as much lotion as possible with paper towel, scrub everything with some dry baking soda to get rid of the waxy film, then wash everything with hot, soapy water.

This lotion will feel a bit greasier than regular, store-bought lotion and take longer to absorb, but that’s what makes it so good for the winter-time. It really keeps your skin moisturized. I find that with normal lotion, if I walk around outside in cold, windy weather, my face and legs will be really chapped when I come back inside. With this DIY lotion, I don’t get chapped at all. It’s by far the best stuff I’ve ever used — my skin has never been so soft and smooth.  And did I mention how yummy it smells? Like honey, mmmm!

Also, most store-bought stuff washes off easily with soap and water, leaving your hands dry and unprotected. This lotion won’t wash off as easily, which means you don’t have to keep reapplying it. The reason is because store-bought lotions are oil-in-water emulsions, which means that the oil is suspended in the water — this stuff is water-soluble and will wash off with soap and water. This DIY lotion is a water-in-oil emulsion, which means that the water is suspended in the oil — oil is not water-soluble, so it stays on your hands better when you wash! Don’t worry, it still washes off, it just takes a bit more soap and scrubbing.

Going back to the recipe above … here’s something neat: if you want to make a lighter lotion, say, for the summer-time, instead of drizzling the aloe vera juice into the oil mixture, just switch it around and drizzle the oil mixture into the aloe vera juice. This way, you’re making an oil-in-water lotion instead of a water-in-oil lotion. This version will feel much lighter and will wash off easily. You can also decrease the amount of oil to 1/3 or 1/4 cup instead of 1/2 cup.

The cost of making this lotion depends on what ingredients you use. I used hoity-toity natural food store ingredients at regular price, so it cost ~$13 for 700 ml (for a double recipe) — this is about how much Aveeno, Curel, Jergens, Nivea, Vaseline Intensive Care, and Lubriderm cost at the drugstore. If you buy your ingredients on sale and/or substitute grocery store safflower oil or grapeseed oil for the sweet almond oil and homemade green tea for the aloe vera juice, the cost goes down to $3-6 for 700 ml, but the consistency and shelf life will be a bit different.

You can easily buy all of the ingredients online or at your local health food store. I live in Toronto and bought all of the ingredients except for the beeswax from Essence of Life at 50 Kensington Ave. in Kensington Market. The beeswax is from a beekeeper’s stand at a farmer’s market.

The only downside to this DIY lotion is that it won’t last forever like the store-bought stuff because it has no chemical preservatives. The vitamin e oil will help to extend the shelf-life of the oils a bit, but it won’t kill bacteria or fungus. So, if you’re going to make this lotion, use sterilized equipment (use hot soapy water or the dishwater), make it in small 1-2 cup batches, and make a new batch every 1-2 months. Also, keep the lotion in a pump bottle and not in an open jar to help keep bacteria and fungus out. Or, if you don’t mind adding chemical preservatives, a couple of commonly used ones are Germall and Optiphen.

So are you going to make your own lotion now?! If you want to experiment without buying new ingredients, you can try making a simple vegetable oil and green/herbal tea lotion with stuff you already have in your kitchen (1 part vegetable oil, 2 parts tea). It will be kind of watery and greasy without the beeswax though, which helps the water and oil emulsify. If you want to start making lotion but want to use different oils, you can read about other oils here.

The nice thing about making your own lotion is that you know exactly what’s in it — no chemicals, no wacky preservatives, no hormone-disrupting thingies, no bizarro ingredients you can’t pronounce … because if you can’t eat it, you probably don’t want to be putting it on your skin!

Making lip balm is really easy too — hmm, maybe you’ll see a video about it soon! ;’)

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