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The Ultimate Lotion Recipe!

Updated on February 18, 2016
Borage and Flaxseed Oil Lotion in half-gallon jar, ready for bottling. This recipe makes about 6 cups.
Borage and Flaxseed Oil Lotion in half-gallon jar, ready for bottling. This recipe makes about 6 cups.
Finished lotion in bottles!
Finished lotion in bottles!

My plan in formulating this lotion recipe really was to create the "ultimate" in a healing dry skin lotion for two of my daughters who suffer from dry, itchy skin, especially in winter. This lotion was planned for Christmas presents and was intended to be quite fancy--so it contains several rather expensive ingredients.

This lotion should be kept refrigerated, even though I have suggested using a preservative. The reason for this is the borage oil--perhaps the most beneficial ingredient--will not keep at room temperature.


Maybe it's not the absolute ultimate, since I felt I had to draw the line somewhere on the cost of ingredients--which, frankly, are pricey enough as is it. As with many of my other recipes--or anyone else's recipes for anything whatsoever--it can be used as a springboard. For example, this recipe contains one ounce each of "luxury" oils that I consider expensive: rose hip oil, jojoba oil, borage oil, and flaxseed oil. These "luxury" oils make up approximately 10% of the total recipe.

There are many other "luxury" oils--some of which are still more expensive--with their own special skin benefits--that may be substituted, such as argan oil, tamanu oil, moringa oil, monoi oil, meadowfoam seed oil, black cumin seed oil, castor oil, hemp seed oil, and probably many others. If you are interested in making a customized lotion--which you can do by making substitutions to this recipe--you may want to have a look at the special benefits of some of the more high-end oils to make a selection that is different from the ones I have used.

Your custom lotion could be even more ultimate!

Can you use as many fancy oils as you want? I don't see why not. Just bear in mind that if you add to the volume of oils in the recipe, you will also need to add to the volume of water or rosewater or other water-based liquid or hydrosol. (Obviously, substitutions can also be made to the water phase of this lotion.) Additional lecithin and Polysorbate 80 may also be needed if the total volume of the product is increased.

Borage oil, according to Summer Bee Meadow ( "is one of the richest sources of gamma linolenic acid [GLA] plus it contains important vitamins and minerals. It is often used in high-end cosmetic formulations to nourish and hydrate the skin. Said to be beneficial for maturing skin and for damaged skin where regeneration of new skin cells is needed." Informants of my own have told me that GLA is the key to healing many skin problems.

I chose a pretty darned expensive form of borage oil that was labeled 100% GLA (gamma-linoleic acid).

Rose hip oil is a natural souce of Vitamin E, beta-carotene, and the antioxidant lycopene. It is said to help scarring, sun-damage, and aging skin.

Jojoba oil is very much like the natural sebum produced by human skin, so it is thought to help acne by dissolving the sebum that clogs pores. It is also anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial and is believed to help many skin conditions.


Okay, base oils are rarely all that fancy.

Sunflower oil from Wal-Mart is a very inexpensive oil, but it was selected because of its very high percentage of skin-loving linoleic acid. I used the Wal-Mart oil because sunflower oil from the health-food store is invariably the high-oleic kind--better for cooking, but not as good for skin, as it is far lower in linoleic acid.

Cocoa butter was selected because it is an excellent protective moiturizer that also contains antioxidants. (Shea butter or mango butter could be substituted.) My cocoa butter comes from Soaper's Choice, but cocoa butter is available in one-ounce tubes at most dollar stores.

Avocado oil is high in vitamines A, D, and E and is an oil often chosen for cosmetic use for its moisturizing properties. I used organic avocado oil.

Coconut oil is an all-around good base oil to give hardness to a lotion (makes it thick), and many people enjoy moisturizing their skin with plain coconut oil. I used organic coconut oil, partly because I was going all-out on this lotion, and partly because I really prefer the fragrance and texture of organic coconut oil.

Coconut oil does not agree with everyone's skin. People who are allergic to nuts are likely allergic to coconut oil, plus coconut oil is said to be "comedogenic"--that is, pore-clogging and believed to contribute to acne outbreaks. My impression of research done to determine which oils are "comedogenic" is that it sounds pretty bogus. However, real-world people do seem to find that coconut oil can cause acne.

If coconut oil doesn't work well for you, you may want to substitute another oil for the coconut oil in this recipe, especially if you would like to use this lotion as a facial moisturizer or face cream. Some oils that would make good substitutes are sweet almond oil, olive oil, grapeseed oil, apricot kernel oil, or you could simply increase the avovado oil in the recipe. If you use these liquid oils, the lotion will not be as thick, but you might be able to remedy this by adding more cocoa butter, or by substituting equal parts liquid oil and mango butter for the coconut oil.


Magnesium is really good for you. It is involved in more than 300 enzymatic processes in the body--and most Americans are deficient in it. In the form of magnesium chloride (used in this recipe) it is readily absorbed through the skin. In fact, it is claimed that the body can ulitize magnesium much more efficiently when absorbed through the skin. Many sources indicate that magnesium deficiency may play a role in problems with dry skin and eczema, and magnesium supplementation (along with supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids in flaxseed and fish oil, and gamma-lineoleic acid, or GLA, found in borage oil, evening primrose oil, and black currant oil) is often suggested to help these problems.

Magnesium is also excellent for soothing muscle cramping and sore muscles, which is why Epsom Salts (magnesium sulfate) are a popular treatment for this. Magnesium is good for nerves, bone health--and skin health. Including magnesium chloride also makes this lotion useful as a rub for sore or cramping muscles.

Nevertheless, this will still be a great lotion without magnesium chloride. Leave this out if you prefer.


I chose the essential oils Ylang-Ylang and Palmarosa because they are very good for skin. There are many essential oils that have skin benefits. Here is a link showing the skin benefits of several essential oils:


Lotions that are mixtures of oil and water are emulsions, and they are held together by an emulsifier--in this case, liquid lecithin and Polysorbate 80. This recipe makes a great stable emulsion. But emulsions are in many ways mysterious, and they can sometimes be troublesome. One thing that can be troublesome about them is getting them to stay emulsified. However, their proneness to spoilage is usually the biggest concern.

Here are some thoughts about emulsions.

Use distilled water in lotions. Tap water has a lot of bacteria in it, and lotions that include water are natural breeding grounds for bacteria.

You should use a preservative in lotions. I have used Optiphen ND.

If you plan to sell lotions to the public, especially, you should both use a preservative and prepare your product in a scrupulously clean environment in which your utensils and work surfaces are clean and sterile.

This is fairly simple. It just means washing containers and utensils, and wiping down work surfaces, with a Chlorox solution of one part bleach to five parts water, and using only glass or metal utensils. (Plastic can harbor beasties.) Don't forget to give the business end of your stick blender the same treatment. One source suggests turning the stick blender on high in hot soapy water with bleach, to make sure that the nooks and crannies to the moving parts are clean.

Some people skip using a preservative if they make lotions for personal use only, and in small batches, keep them refrigerated, and use them up in two weeks or less. But a key thing to remember about lotions is that they grow bacteria easily and rapidly--and bacteria can be present in a lotion in horrendous numbers and still be undetectable to the naked eye. In other words, it's gone bad way before it looks or smells like it's gone bad.

Professionals suggest that you heat the water phase of your lotion to 167 degrees Fahrenheit (75 degrees Centigrade) and hold at that temperature for 20 minutes, to kill bacteria. The oil phase should be heated to the same temperature, but need not be held at that temperature.

I--along with many other lotion-makers--disagree with heating oils any more than necessary to melt them. I would suggest NOT heating most soft oils at all. That is, I would suggest not heating the sunflower, avocado, rose hip, jojoba--and especially the borage and flaxseed oils. Heating will cause these delicate oils to go rancid more quickly.. My procedure is to melt the hard oils, let them cool slightly, and then add the soft oils.

If at all possible, use a stick-blender to mix emulsions. A lotion needs high shear to get the particle size as small as possible for a more stable emulsion. "High shear" is provided by a stick blender, but not by an electric mixer. I have used electric mixers to make stable lotions successfully, but you should actually use a stick blender.

Water and oils emulsify best if they are about the same temperature when blended together.

There is no need to get OCD about mixing emulsions. Some people just put all the ingredients (except heat-sensitive ones, those being the fragrance and preservative) in a saucepan or microwave-safe container and heat till the hard oils are melted. (Obviously, if you are using magnesium chloride, you must dissolve it first, before adding to the pot.) Then stick-blend till emulsified. If the mixture is very warm, let it cool to at least lukewarm before adding the fragrance and preservative and mix these in thoroughly.

My actual preference is to melt only the hard oils (in this recipe, cocoa butter and coconut oil) and then add the liquid oils, which I always keep refrigerated. Because of adding oils straight from the refriferator, the oils (and water phase) may need to be warmed back up a little before emulsifying, to avoid having the hard oils re-solidify. The reason I like to do it this way is because I think it's best not to expose the more delicate oils to heat.

Everything I've said above is "known" stuff. What I'm going to talk about next are my observations, which may or may not be true.

I think oils and water emulsify best around room temperature, or at least no warmer than lukewarm.

I think that you can only create a successful emulsion if the water phase is at least equal in volume to the oil phase. Sometimes an emulsion can separate because there isn't enough water phase in it.

Here are Brambleberry's guidelines ( on proportions of ingredients for creating your own lotion, using emulsifying wax as an emulsifier.

70-80% Distilled Water
3-5% Stearic Acid
3-6% Emulsifying Wax
Add the rest in of your choice of Oils/Butters

To this add:
.5 – 1% Preservative
.5% Fragrance

Some emulsions can be made with equal parts oil phase and water phase, but for reasons that are a mystery to me, some, as in the example from Brambleberry, seem to require a lot more volume to the water phase than the oil phase. (I am speaking here of emulsions made using liquid lecithin as an emulsifier. I don't know if you can generalize my experience with lecithin to other emulsifiers.)

My experience is that it takes two tablespoons of liquid lecithin to emulsify one cup of finished lotion, but I have the impression from other sources that you may not really need this much. In the past, I have made lotions that stayed emulsified using lecithin alone, but I found that this recipe would not. It was necessary to use a co-emulsifier. Polysorbate 80 works well with lecithin as a co-emulsifier. The recommended usage rate (per Brambleberry) is 1%-5%, and in this recipe I used about 3%, which, combined with the lecithin, produced a stable "lotion" type emusion--that is a pourable lotion that could be used in either regular or pump bottles.



1/4 cup coconut oil (2 ounces)
1/4 cup avocado oil (2 ounces)
1/4 cup cocoa butter (2 ounces)
1/4 cup sunflower oil (2 ounces)

1/8 cup flaxseed oil (1 ounce)
1/8 cup borage oil (1 ounce) I used Nordic Borage Oil
1 ounce jojoba oil (1 ounce)
1 ounce rose hip oil (1 ounce)

2 tablespoons glycerin (1 ounce)
8 tablespoons liquid lecithin (4 ounces)

1.3 ounces Polysorbate 80


1 cup distilled water (8 ounces)
1 cup magnesium chloride (6 ounces)
1 8-ounce bottle rosewater (equals 1 cup)


0.3 ounces palmarosa
0.5 ounces ylang-ylang


0.4 ounces Optiphen ND

YIELD: Makes about 6 cups


Bring distilled water to a boil. Remove from heat. Dissolve magnesium chloride crystals in water. Cool. Add rosewater.

Melt coconut oil and cocoa butter. Allow to cool a little and add other oils, along with glycerin, lecithin, and Polysorbate 80.

Add the water phase to the oil phase gradually while stick-blending.

Mix till emulsified.

Mix in fragrance and preservative and blend well with the stick blender or electric mixer.

The end result should be a pale-yellow creamy opaque lotion.. It can be poured into sterilized bottles, jars, or pump bottles, and will fill 4-5 8-ounce containers. Keep refrigerated (mainly to preserve the borage oil, which spoils easily).

So How Well Does This Lotion Work

My feeling about this lotion is that it is "the bomb"! To me it feels silky and makes my skin feel silky. I use it mostly on hands, feet, face, shoulders (which are prone to developing a mysterious rash), and elbows. The rash on my shoulders is completely gone for the first time in years. (Other types of applications have helped, but did not get rid of it completely.)

Downsides: Because of the magnesium chloride (a salt) the lotion stings when applied to skin that is broken, raw, or the least bit abraded. For me, it stings when applied to my face. My daughter's hands are very prone to dryness, and she complained that the lotion stings her hands. This is because it is like applying a salt solution to broken or abraded skin. It does no harm, and there are claims that the magnesium is beneficial, but not everyone will appreciate this.

My daughter tells me that using this lotion has cured the dry, itchy skin on her legs. I have hopes it will eventually soften her hands too--though I suspect she would use it more often if it didn't sting, so I'll be making a magnesium-chloride-free version of this lotion for her.

One other thing I should mention: My daughter is also taking a dietary supplement that includes borage oil, fish oil, and flaxseed oil. (You can get this supplement at Wal-Mart.) For my own part, I've been taking the borage oil internally, along with flaxseed oil. If you really want soft, moist, glowing skin, it would be good to also take these key fatty acids as a dietary supplement.


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    • blueheron profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharon Vile 

      2 years ago from Odessa, MO

      Many soapmakers feel that soap can be made that helps acne, by including additives like activated charcoal, sea salt, tea tree oil, etc. I do think these can help, but the real deal is to stop using soap on your face altogether, especially with European-style facials (which can be DIY).

    • Mekenzie profile image

      Susan Ream 

      2 years ago from Michigan

      Thank you blueheron, I appreciate the extra time you took to answer mu question. I'll go look at your article on acne. Blessings!!

    • blueheron profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharon Vile 

      2 years ago from Odessa, MO

      This lotion was formulated with dry and sensitive skin in mind--and in hopes of helping eczema-prone skin. For acne, see This article tells how to clear up acne.

      People with acne, in my opinion (and experience), should not use soap on their faces, but cleanse the skin either with a oil-and-water based lotion or with oil alone. Google "oil cleansing" for information about this. The residue of lotion or oil should be removed with diluted apple cider vinegar--not alcohol-based toners.

      The article on acne has a somewhat simpler recipe for a cleansing lotion to use with acne. That cleansing lotion could be made with many different oils or combinations of oils. There are several essential oils that are said the benefit acne-prone skin. Here is a link on using essential oils for skin care:

    • Mekenzie profile image

      Susan Ream 

      2 years ago from Michigan

      blueheron, When you say problem skin does that include acne?

    • blueheron profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharon Vile 

      2 years ago from Odessa, MO

      I've made simple lotions in the past, just for personal and family use. In my case soapmaking opened up a world of information for me, through the many soapmakers' groups and forums. I began to think I might have picked up enough knowledge to make something quite special. And to tell you the truth, I had a long conversation with a woman whose knowledge of skin-care solutions was amazing, while shopping for ingredients at the health-food store. She told me that one of the key things for problem skin is GLAs, found in borage oil, evening primrose oil, or black currant oil.

    • blueheron profile imageAUTHOR

      Sharon Vile 

      2 years ago from Odessa, MO

      Thanks for your interest! My daughter who is especially bothered by dry skin in winter is trying this lotion, and I'm excited to hear whether it helps. I personally think she should take borage oil internally, as well as using the lotion externally. I may have to buy her a bottle!

    • Mekenzie profile image

      Susan Ream 

      2 years ago from Michigan

      This hub is very well laid out and so enticing. I love that you know the health benefit's of these oils too. I've made my own simple body butter using coconut oil, cocoa butter and lavender. Now I want to try this one.

      Thanks for sharing!

      Merry Christmas!!


    • RTalloni profile image


      2 years ago from the short journey

      Thanks for this interest and useful information. I've had difficulty using coconut oil topically and found this helpful. This is also a great springboard for me on borage oil.


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