Making Lotion: Like baking a cake!
Skincare ingredients can often feel overwhelming and confusion. It’s hard to know where to begin when comparing two different skincare products. It helps to use a kitchen analogy- think of making a skincare product as baking a cake. Skincare companies work with scientific laboratories to develop formulations, which are nothing more than exact lists of ingredients and amounts used to create a certain cream or lotion. Formulations are similar to recipes, and different ingredients in a skincare product serve different functions, just as different ingredients in a cake do.
At its most basic, you can think of making a lotion as a combination of four simple ingredients: Water + Oil + Emulsifier+ Preservative = Lotion or Cream
- Water. It starts with water, the most common ingredient in all skincare products. If you want a thicker cream, use less water. If you want a thinner lotion, use more water.
- Oil. Then, add oil or butter to smooth and soften. There are many different types of oils- soybean oil, hemp oil, meadowfoam oil, argan oil, coconut oil, jojoba oil, sesame oil, almond oil. Oils are easily welcomed by the skin, and deliver vitamins, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids
- Emulsifier. As you know, water and oil don’t mix. However, adding an emulsifier will bind the water and oil through chemical properties and create a stable texture. In our cake analogy, these would be egg yolks, which act as natural emulsifiers. Most common emulsifiers in skincare include butylene glycol, polysorbates, glyceryl stearate, and cetearyl alcohol
- Preservatives. Since lotions and creams are primarily water-based, so preservatives are important (despite what the skincare industry tells you) for killing bacteria and preventing contamination. Common preservatives include tocopherol acetate, propylene and butylene glycols, parabens, benzoic acid, and benzyl alcohol
Then, if you want to get fancy, add humectants, occulsives, emollients, and anti-inflammatory agents for moisturizing and relieving skin. In our cake analogy, this would be the chocolate chips, vanilla flavoring, or frosting.
- Humectants. Humectant comes from the Latin umecto, or to moisten. Humectants have hydroxyl groups (-OH) that allow them to easily form hydrogen bonds and attract water either from lower cell layers or from water vapor in a humid environment. Common humectants include urea, allantoin, hyaluronic acid, honey, aloe vera, beta glucan, seaweed, honey, and alpha hydroxy acid
- Occulsives. Occulsives help retain water by maintaining a physical barrier that prevents evaporation. They are most effective when skin is already damp or when combined with a humectant. Occulsives are typically rich and oily ingredients such as lanolin, shea butter, mineral oil, and petroleum.
- Emollients. Emollients are fatty substances with lubricating properties that cause skin to feel softer and more pliable. They’re what gives lotions their distinct silky texture and smooth tactile experience. Occulsives such as lanolin, shea butter, and mineral oil are also emollients. In ingredient lists, you might come across emollients as triglycerides, benzoates, palmitates, and stearates.
- Anti-inflammatory agents. Anti inflammatory agents can help with acne, breakouts, and redness- all signs that your skin’s immune response has been triggered. These agents are intended to pacify, rebalance, and heal your skin. Common ingredients include niacinamide, colostrum, chamomile, witch hazel, green tea, licorice, and aloe.
And there you have it! You can actually make your own basic lotion at home (or try Atem’s Super Age Defense Cream). Click on our next article for in-depth profiles of some of these ingredients used by Atem.
- Poblete, Dana. “13 Powerful Anti-Inflammatory Skincare Ingredients to Rescue Problem Skin.” LEAFtv, 14 Mar. 2019, www.leaf.tv/13400129/13-powerful-anti-inflammatory-skincare-ingredients-to-rescue-problem-skin/.
- Brannon, Heather L. “Why Humectants Are Used in Skin Moisturizers.” Verywell Health 18 Nov. 2019, www.verywellhealth.com/skin-care-humectants-moisturizers-1069333.
- “Humectants, Emollients & Occlusives: Its Skincare Explained!” YouTube, Msbeautyphile, 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFwjpE6BVKg
By Theophila Lee