A true lotion is a light, stable emulsion of water and oils that absorbs quickly into the skin. Sounds simple enough, right? Actually ... no. There are two issues when it comes to lotion.
First, oil and water don’t like to mix, so a special emulsifier has to be added to make a true lotion stable. Second, all emulsified lotions require a preservative to be safely kept at room temperature for any length of time. From a bacterium’s perspective, an emulsified lotion of water and oil isn’t much different from an emulsified mayonnaise of lemon juice and oil. You wouldn’t leave mayonnaise in your bathroom for a month and then rub it all over your skin, and homemade lotion is no different.
Luckily, there’s a solution for folks who want to DIY their moisturizer without investing in specialty ingredients and preservatives. Just skip water-and-oil emulsion lotions altogether, and use pure oils and oil blends for all your skin-hydration needs.
Vegetable oils and butters are shelf-stable for months at a time without preservatives, and the right weight of oil will rub in cleanly, leaving your skin smooth but not greasy.
The trick to a great oil-only moisturizer is to match the oils you use to your skin’s need for hydration and the season. Naturally dry skin in cold winter areas may benefit from a heavy-duty cream of thick, whipped Shea butter. Skin with only a light need for moisture might be best served by a few drops of apricot kernel oil.
Moisturizing Oils (Light to Heavy)
- Sunflower oil
- Apricot kernel oil
- Rosehip seed oil
- Macadamia nut oil
- Grapeseed oil
- Sweet almond oil
- Olive oil
- Light sesame oil
- Avocado oil
- Castor oil
- Jojoba oil
- Coconut oil
- Shea butter
- Cocoa butter
Essential Oil Combinations by Skin Type
- Every Skin: lavender, geranium, rose, and ylang ylang
- Dry Skin: jasmine, chamomile, rosewood, and myrrh
- Oily Skin: bergamot, patchouli, orange, and rosemary
- Acne-Prone Skin: cedarwood, tea tree, lemon, and frankincense
- Mature Skin: carrot seed, rose hip seed, clary sage, and neroli
2-Ingredient DIY Moisturizing Oils
- ½ cup moisturizing oil (see list above for your best fit)
- 20-30 drops essential oil (see list above for your best fit)
Using the list above, select a moisturizing oil based on your skin’s moisture needs, climate, and preference. Blend one or more oils to get the weight you want. If you are using a solid body butter like coconut, cocoa, or shea butter, consider whipping the butter in a stand mixer for a lighter, easier-to-apply texture.
Select one or more essential oils. Use the list above to determine what is best for your skin type. In a small bowl with a whisk, mix the essential oils into the moisturizing oil(s) well.
Transfer the moisturizer to a small mason jar or container with a tight-fitting lid. The moisturizer will keep for at least three months, or longer if kept refrigerated.
To use, smooth the moisturizer onto skin as needed, and rub until the oil is fully absorbed into the skin.
© 2015 by Erica Strauss. All rights reserved. Excerpted from The Hands-On Home: A Seasonal Guide to Cooking, Preserving, and Natural Homekeeping by permission of Sasquatch Books.
Photo Credit: Stocksy