DIY Cosmetics: Lotions and Creams


Hey, everyone! Today I'm going to talk about the basic ingredients and equipment you need to start making some DIY lotions and creams at home. This post is to accompany my unboxing/haul video of all of the equipment I bought from Amazon, Lotioncrafter, and Making Cosmetics! I was not sponsored by any of the vendors. 

The main reason why I bought the ingredients I did was so I could use them as teaching tools for my upcoming e-course. In addition, I want to create formulas using these common ingredients to help teach anyone just getting started with formulating o/w (oil-in-water) emulsions. If you have any specific questions about these ingredients, let me know in the comments below! Otherwise, I tried to categorize my purchases by where I bought them from and function.

diy cosmetics creams and lotions

My choices between the different vendors were purely by price. Be sure to double check on the supplier/manufacturer before you buy if you're looking for a specific trade name or grade!

So before we talk about the things I bought, if you're brand new to o/w emulsions, the most basic instructions are:

  1. Weigh out your different phases (water, oil, "goodies," fragrances, etc.)
  2. Thicken your water phase (techniques on doing this depend on your thickener).*
  3. Heat up your water phase and oil phases to 70-75˚.**
  4. Slowly add your oil phase to your water phase while mixing. This may take practice with a hand mixer. Alternatively, you can try adding your oil phase to water and then mix, but it's best practice to mix while adding at the same time to help break down the oil phase into smaller droplets and disperse it in your water. Try your best not to incorporate air.
  5. Gently cool down in a room temperature water bath while hand mixing. 
  6. If you have temperature sensitive ingredients, you can add them around 35-40˚C.
  7. Add your fragrance. May need to solubilize first in Tween 20 (not mentioned in my haul below since I don't really add fragrances to my recipes.)

*Order of addition can vary between your water soluble materials and your thickener
**Temperature may be even higher depending on raw materials


Borosilicate Beaker Set
I personally suggest getting a set of breakers to make your formulas with since they're made to withstand the high temperatures you'll need to emulsify your creams and lotions (which is typically 70 - 75*C or 158 - 167 F*). When you're deciding what size beakers to use for each phase and as your main vessel, it's best to err on the side of caution and use a beaker that's double your estimated volume of product. For example, for a 300 g batch I like to use a 600 mL beaker.

Escali Digital Thermometer DHT1

Any ol' needle probe thermometer will do. When I'm melting my oil phase of my emulsion, I like to use the thermometer to stir the waxes and oils. Not everyone agrees with this practice since some needle probe thermometers can break if you're not careful (e.g. mixing a lot of thick material like shea butter). This is my preference for two reasons: a) using less tools means less product loss and b) I'm lazy to clean more utensils 8)

Minipro Mixer and Ozeri Milk Frother (not featured in video)

As I stated in the YouTube video, I realized after speaking with a colleague that for making anything with colorants, I'll need a type of spring end for my mixer so it disperses the pigment better. The disc head of the Minipro Mixer should be fine for making o/w emulsions at a small scale. However, making color cosmetics using the disc head may be difficult since the pigments could just settle and stick to the surface of the disc. The nice thing about the Ozeri mixer is that it also comes with a mini propeller head (along with a whisk attachment I probably won't use).

Cream Jar and Lip Gloss Container

Just some standard packaging to store my experiments in! I personally like to keep my cream or lotion in the beaker overnight so I can see if there are any signs of separation. Then I'll transfer it to a jar for storage so I have my beakers available for experiments again.

Weigh boats

These are handy for sprinkling in powders into your mixes. You can buy many different sizes and shapes.

Transfer pipettes (not featured in video)

Nifty for adding your individual liquid ingredients!

Cooktop Countertop Burner

Love using these types of burners since I can place both my oil and water phase beakers on it at the same time. Some chemists prefer to utilize separate burners for their phases by keeping the burner under the water phase while it's mixing. However since we're utilizing hand mixers at home, I don't see the need of having two burners.

Digital Pocket Scale

Cute, cheap scale that can measure up to 1kg! Perfect for small scale batches. Please consider that the scale itself is a little small, but for my personal use I'm fine with it.

70% IPA

Always sanitize your equipment and work space before you make your products. This helps to keep your work area clean and free of anything that can cause microbial contamination or impurities from getting into your formulas.

Silicone spatula (not featured in video), Icing spatula (not featured in video)

Finally received the correct size spatulas I wanted to get. ;) As I said in the video, I like using these two types of spatulas while I'm making my creams and lotions. Some chemists only prefer the silicone spatula since it's pliable and can really hug the edge of the beaker. I personally like scraping the sides using the icing spatula and then cleaning it off with the silicone spatula. It was just how I was trained by my very first mentor, and it's stuck with me since. It's all preference!

Stainless Steel Micro Spatula

Great tool for accurately weighing out your solids! Pretty standard in any cosmetic chemistry laboratory.


Deionized water

This type of water is free from ions and other impurities that could react with our ingredients.

Water phase thickeners

So let's think about why cosmetic chemists use water phase thickeners. Let's take a look at the general shape of a micelle:

 (Keep in mind that this picture is  extremely  simplified, but it is the most common way to depict emulsion droplets. Note that the internal phase consists of many micelles, not just one like in this picture.)

(Keep in mind that this picture is extremely simplified, but it is the most common way to depict emulsion droplets. Note that the internal phase consists of many micelles, not just one like in this picture.)

Anyways, the pink circles and black lines represent your emulsifier molecules--pink circles are hydrophilic and will touch the water. The black squiggly lines are hydrophobic, so they tend to shield themselves from the water by grouping toward each other away from it. The yellow shapes in the middle of the micelle represent any other hydrophobic ingredients that also don't solubilize in water, like waxes, oils and esters.

Your oil phase in an o/w emulsion is known as your internal phase because it's internalized in the micelle. The water phase is known as your external phase because it's outside of the micelle.

The reason why you must use heat and strong mixing to create an emulsion is because, in simplest terms, you need to add enough energy to the system to allow the molecules to orient themselves like the picture above. Now due to physics, all emulsions will fall apart someday. Technically emulsions are unstable systems, but when cosmetic chemists speak about stability, we're really saying, "Can these molecules stay oriented like this long enough for the product to sit on store shelves and be used by a consumer?"

One way to stabilize emulsions is to thicken the water (external phase) so as to maintain the orientation of these molecules.

Let's think microscopically. Right after you finish emulsifying and adding the energy needed to form your cream or lotion, these molecules don't just freeze in place when you remove the mixer. They're still very much moving erratically thanks to the burst of energy you just added. This is why cosmetic chemists let creams or lotions "sit" before really evaluating aesthetics and stability closely.

Thickening your water phase by creating a gel matrix will help keep micelles separated. If these droplets come together (or coalesce), this will cause separation of your oil and water like salad dressing. Your cream or lotion will fall apart.

I won't go into specific details about water phase thickeners because I can go on and on, but I at least want you to grasp the reason why we have these ingredients in our o/w formula.


If you're using non-ionic emulsifiers, I suggest using a blend of high (water soluble) and low (more hydrophobic ) HLB emulsifiers to match your oil phase.

I have a nifty HLB calculator in the G+M+W Facebook Group to help you calculate your required HLB and HLB of your emulsifiers. (If you don't know what HLB is, stay tuned because I'll have a separate post on that soon!)

Now generally when deciding how much emulsifier to use, I'll start with around 2-4% total. Individual %'s are based on HLB calculations or whatever the supplier suggests.

Not all cosmetic chemists believe in the HLB system even for non-ioninc emulsifiers. Personally I like using it as a starting tool, but I've also departed from HLB logic altogether just to see what happens. Different chemists will give you different inputs.

The anionic emulsifier I bought is pretty neat in that you can make cold-process gel creams. Definitely check out the supplier's presentation to learn more about it!

These type of emulsifiers are really neat. They're a bit expensive, but I love the luxurious texture they add (when I say luxurious, I mean extra body to the cream). We've also been able to solve stability problems in the lab by just adding a little bit of these types of emulsifiers. Also worth noting that in the past, I've also had some finicky, fluctuating viscosity issues at high percentages (5%+). A lot of it was due to process. Frankly I'm surprised we even put that much because of again, cost.

Oil phase thickeners

I call these "oil phase thickeners" because they thicken your cream or lotion by increasing the size of your internal phase. Your emulsifiers do contribute somewhat to the viscosity of your emulsion, but you mainly should utilize thickeners like these ingredients to bump up viscosity. Trust me--it's not fun when you restrict yourself on using only emulsifiers to thicken your product. Just save yourself some unneeded heartache and throw in some cetyl alcohol.


More stuff to add to your oil phase! Chemists choose oils based on a number of factors--stability, smell, cost, marketing story, aesthetic... You want to look at the lipid profile to get a sense of some of these factors.

Emollients by definition help to soften your skin. Esters like isopropyl myristate are pretty neat in that they are hydrophobic ingredients with non-greasy aesthetic! Definitely have fun playing around with these.

pH adjusters

Typically chemists make a 10% solution to decrease the pH.

Chelating agents

Good ingredient to have to chelate any impurities in your product. They can also enhance your preservative system.


Good for skin feel! Some chemists like to include silicones in their oil phase or right after emulsification. I say it depends on the volatility of your particular silicone.


Please. Please use a broad spectrum preservative system. You don't want to grow bugs in your cream. If you make cream without preservative and don't see yeast or mold, you can still bet that the water content is inviting lots of fun bacteria into your emulsion. I'll save this for another post, but current research shows that preservatives utilized in cosmetics like parabens or phenoxyethanol are considered safe for use and won't harm you at the dose you apply to your skin. Protect yourself and anyone you share your beautiful formulations with by properly preserving them.

Film former/water resistance

Absolutely not necessary to incorporate into your formulations, but something fun to play around with if you want to make something more water resistant!

Hygroscopic agents

These attract water toward the cream. I say toward the cream and not the skin because it is entirely possible that these ingredients could draw up water from your skin as well as the environment. Also, it is this reason why hygroscopic agents are utilized with occlusive ingredients like waxes and oils since they help seal the moisture the hygroscopic agents are attracting.

Solvent/Penetration Enhancer

Commonly used as a solvent for different types of solids in more advanced formulations. Can also utilize for increased penetration into the skin.

Be forewarned that creating things with the intention of affecting the biology of your skin is no longer considered a cosmetic, but a drug. If you're a DIY'er hoping to sell cosmetics at home, be careful with how you market your product! Don't make drug claims!


Bought this to neutralize my carbomer 940. You can also utilize this to neutralize stearic acid for your emulsions.



Ooooooh the fun stuff. Be sure to utilize a spring head if you're working with pigments at home to better disperse the pigment.


Commonly used in lipsticks.


Helpful with preventing change to your colorants.


A note on flavors, fragrances and essential oils--these ingredients even at low percentages can cause color instability and also a decrease in viscosity in emulsions. Keep this in mind when adding it to your formula.


I hope you learned a thing or two from my video and from this post. I'll be posting some basic recipes using these ingredients soon.

Do you make cosmetics at home? What kind of equipment do you use?

I can't wait to make more content showcasing how I formulate in my kitchen. Stay tuned!