How to Make a Homemade Moisturizer

By: Jennifer Cohen
natural oils
Herbs and essentials oils can make a skin-soothing moisturizer.

You've heard of DIY body scrubs and face masks, but did you know you can make your own homemade moisturizer? No matter what your skin-care regime, chances are you use a moisturizer daily -- and if you don't, you probably should, according to the American Academy of Dermatology [source: American Academy of Dermatology]. Natural skin-care experts say whipping up your own cream or lotion in your home kitchen can save money, cut down on wasteful packaging and protect you from harmful ingredients lurking in some conventional products.

"Moisturizers made at home -- from scratch -- are absolutely pure, containing no chemicals, fillers, preservatives or synthetic fragrances and colors," explains Stephanie Tourles, a licensed holistic esthetician and certified aromatherapist who has written eight books, including Organic Body Care Recipes. "Your skin actually absorbs up to 60 percent of what you apply to it, so why wouldn't you want to put pure, nourishing ingredients on your skin instead of synthetics that can have little if any long-lasting benefit or possibly do harm in the long run?"


Natural skin-care expert Susanna Miles notes that store-bought moisturizers commonly include ingredients derived from animals as well as preservatives like parabens, DHA (dihydroxyacetone), tricarbon and phenoxyethanol. "Most of these are toxic, often even in low doses," she says.

Going DIY also allows you to tailor your moisturizer to your skin type, Tourles and Miles point out. "You can customize them according to your skin's seasonal need, such as making a lighter lotion or cream for when the weather is warmer, a medium-textured cream in the cooler spring or fall season, and a heavier or more oil-rich cream for wintertime," Tourles says. "If you happen to be allergic to particular ingredients or have very sensitive skin, you can customize the moisturizer so that it is most beneficial for your personal needs."


Ingredients for Homemade Moisturizers

The list of possible ingredients is virtually endless, but at their most basic level homemade moisturizers consist of water and oils. "All moisturizers -- unless they are strictly oil-based -- contain a single base oil or blend of base oils, such as almond, grapeseed, coconut, olive, jojoba, sunflower, hazelnut, rosehip seed, apricot kernel or sesame," says Tourles. "This is combined with water-based ingredients such as purified water, herbal hydrosols, herbal extracts or aloe vera."

Other add-ons to explore include butters (cocoa, shea, kokum or mango), which provide heavier coverage for very dry skin, and vegetable glycerin, which lightly moisturizes, Tourles says. Beeswax, soybean lecithin or vegetable emulsifying wax can work to bind the cream together, while vitamin E oil, essential oils, grapefruit seed extract and rosemary antioxidant extract can act as natural preservatives, she notes.


Given the plethora of options, your first trip to your local health food store might be overwhelming. To get started, Miles recommends a few dependable basics:

  • Jojoba oil, which is easy to find and appropriate for all skin types
  • Macadamia nut oil for dry and aging skin
  • Sandalwood essential oil for all skin types and as a preservative
  • Hazelnut oil to balance the sebum in very dry skin
  • Coconut oil, which penetrates quickly and provides a small amount of sun protection
  • Vitamin E for its skin-helping benefits and to extend the moisturizer's shelf life
  • Rose water or lavender water in addition to or to replace regular water
  • Mango butter, shea butter or cocoa butter for ultra-dry skin
  • Grapefruit seed extract, which may have some preservative power and also works to maintain or draw in moisture


Creating Your Homemade Moisturizer

When it comes to actually concocting your perfectly customized moisturizer, the good news is that you don't need special gear. "You will need a blender, small saucepans, clean jars, spoons and labels," Tourles explains.

The bad news for experimental types is that unless you've received advanced training, you should really follow a recipe, Tourles advises. A good recipe will tell you exactly how to melt and blend your oils, waxes and butters with your water-based ingredients, she says.


And whatever you do, don't get distracted and leave your ingredients cooking for too long, Tourles cautions. "Never walk away from a pan of oils and waxes or butters that are melting, as they can overheat and be ruined," she says. "Never allow your watery ingredients to simmer or boil, or they will break down and the delicate beneficial ingredients will be destroyed."

Tourles adds an extra word of warning should you choose to incorporate unfamiliar essential oils into your homemade moisturizer. "You will need to perform a patch test prior to using them," she says. "To do this, dilute one or two drops of essential oil with one teaspoon of bland vegetable oil such as almond or olive oil, saturate a cotton ball with the mixture, and apply to cleansed skin on the inside of your elbow. Cover the cotton ball with an adhesive bandage and leave on for 12 to 24 hours. If a rash or redness appears, do not use this ingredient."

Once you've completed your cream or lotion, pour it into a small jar and store it in a dark, cool cabinet, Tourles recommends. Don't keep it any longer than your recipe instructs, and watch closely for signs of mold -- even if you've used natural preservatives, Miles says. "They haven't been tested to determine exactly how much is needed to make a product that would be useable forever," she explains. "It's possible that you'd need so much that they'd be harmful to the skin."

If you decide to go the DIY route, the tradeoff is that you'll need to make new batches on a frequent basis, Miles notes. "People don't want to create a product every few weeks, but for a totally safe, natural product that's what you have to do," she says.

Ready to experiment on your own? Try this simple facial moisturizer recipe from The Huffington Post.

For more information on making homemade moisturizers and natural skin care, check out the links on the next page.


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More Great Links

  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Saving face 101: How to customize your skin care routine with your skin type." November 10, 2009. (August 14, 2013)
  • Miles, Susanna. Personal correspondence. August 5, 2013.
  • Tourles, Stephanie. Personal correspondence. August 6, 2013.