This is a guest post by my friend-in-real-life, Laurie. She and I met and connected because we both had babes in slings at our sons’ Valentine’s Day Party one year, and we quickly discovered that real food, natural parenting, and Christianity were more than enough to form a strong bond. (I love it when God brings people into my life like that…)
Laurie often calls me from the grocery store to ask, “What was in that recipe you posted last week?” or “Which words do we look for on the label to find the proper such-and-such?” She also inspires me to keep vigilant on our family’s desserts as I watch their family continue to cut down on the sugars.
The very first day we met, she told me of their policy of desserts only happening after dinner, and I remember thinking, “Here I am, a healthy food blogger, and I let my preschooler have a dessert after every meal!” The Kimball family policy changed that day. Now Laurie’s family only has desserts on weekends, continuing to encourage and inspire.
I asked her if she was interested in trying MadeOn’s DIY homemade lotion kit from my affiliate partner one day when I noticed some homemaking goals written on a whiteboard in her kitchen. One of them was a brainstorm she and her husband had in an effort for her to contribute to the family income while staying at home. It said:
“Make more homemade gifts.”
She was kind of excited to get a product sample from MadeOn at first, although I think she has some mixed emotions now that she’s at the end of the process.
I kind of grinned and told her that there’s a reason I never had the desire to make homemade lotion…and that I got her back for all those grocery store help-line phone calls. Here’s her experience with the homemade lotion-making process, some rookie tips for success, and a happy ending:
Do you remember the assignment that teachers give to their students to teach them how to follow directions?
It’s the one where the directions say to read ALL the questions BEFORE you begin answering them.
Of course the last question reads, “Put your name on the top of the paper, skip ALL the other questions, congratulate yourself for following the directions, and turn in your paper.”
If you are like most people, you had already completed every question on the page before getting to that last and most important one. I couldn’t help but think of this assignment as I tried to make my hard lotion from MadeOn Skin Care.
I most certainly should have read through all the directions and steps, made sure I understood them, and possibly even visualized how things would go before beginning. However, as a mom of three who was attempting to accomplish this task at a very late hour, I jumped right in and ended up spending much more time on it than I otherwise might have.
Here is my experience step-by-step with lots of pictures and suggestions. I hope it helps!
Making DIY Homemade Natural Lotion
The DIY kit comes in a tidy little box complete with the following: Instructions, 5oz beeswax, 5.25oz coconut oil, 4.25oz shea butter, 4 lip balm tubes, and one dropper.
The first mistake I made was “browsing” the instructions while my 3-yr old distracted me, climbing on my back and digging through the contents of the box. I quickly assumed it was going to be an easy task and planned to do it that night.
I put the kids to bed, briefly read through the steps and realized I needed to freeze the shea butter and coconut oil BEFORE beginning… ugg! I know I could have scrapped them out of the plastic but figured I should try to follow the instructions fully in order to do a proper review.
A few weeks later (when I had another free night!) I tried again. The shea butter and coconut oil were certainly frozen now. The first step said, “Place the shea butter, coconut oil and beeswax in a double boiler.”
I pulled the first two ingredients out of the freezer and stuck them in the double boiler (freezing them did make it very easy to get it out!). I added the neat little balls of beeswax, turned the burner to medium heat (as per instructions) and walked away for a bit knowing it would take a while for all of it to melt.
The next step simply says, “Stir well and pour into molds.” I still couldn’t help but thinking this was going to be so quick and easy… but I was soon going to realize my second mistake and discover that I was making things harder than I needed to.
The instructions say that molds can be either plastic or metal and suggest that ice cube trays and cupcake pans work well. I had already pulled out my mini muffin pan because the size of the cups was exactly what I wanted.
I started thinking, “Hmmm, maybe I should see what it says about how much this is going to make.” It did not mention anywhere how much it would make. The directions listed the amounts of each ingredient but I am clueless as to how much space this will take up.
At this point I read that I should have kept some of the coconut oil out to add it in later when I make the lip balm – whoops! I had already put it all in, mixed it with the other melted ingredients and was ready to start pouring (insert forehead smack here).
At the top of the page it did mention that my kit contained extra coconut oil since the lip balms may need it. Another reason to read through things thoroughly! I decided to not worry about it and proceed with filling the molds.
As I poured the lotion into the molds I became concerned about three things:
- How was I ever going to get all this wax-coated stuff clean (including my stove top where I had spilled a bit and had left many drips to dry)?
- This was going to make much more than a few mini muffin-sized bars of lotion!
- I had no idea how much essential oil to add to each small bar.
To address my first concern, I filled a large bowl with hot, soapy water and left it in my sink. As I dripped and spilled I planned on quickly wiping it up with a rag.
To address the second concern I just thought, “Oh well, I will have a lot of lotion and make a few bigger ones if I have to (using a regular muffin pan).”
The third question was a bit more difficult to deal with. The instructions say to add 10-15 drops of essential oil for 2-3 ounces of lotion. The problem was I did not know what amount each little muffin cup would hold. So I guessed! I decided on 5-10 drops for each cup.
As you can see, the oils has to be added right away before the lotion melted. I forgot a few times and tried to add it in when the lotion was starting to get a bit thick. A little tip… it does not mix well! I used four different oils:
I also tried to use vanilla (actual pure vanilla extract) since it is my favorite smell and it did not mix well at all. I may have added it a bit late but I do wonder if it reacted with something in the lotion mix and wanted to separate. It is one I might have to try again to see what happens.
I kept wondering how I was going to get the lotion out of the muffin pan so I tried a few in a silicon mold. My son had just received a fish mold for ice cubes as a gift but I figured it would work out just fine for lotion and might be fun for the kids too.
This picture is also a great example of what happens when you add the oils in too late… it pooled on top and did not mix in.
I had just enough lotion left to fill the lip balm tubes. This was a bit tricky. Using the dropper made it easier than other methods I can imagine trying but it did drip everywhere and made a mess on my stove top. I would fill the dropper over the double boiler but on the way to the tubes in would drip and spill. Maybe holding the tubes over the double boiler might have been a better way to fill them but I was afraid of getting burnt!
The directions say to fill the tube halfway, wait a bit until the color starts to change (indicating hardening), and then fill to the top. I put the essential oils in right before filling the tubes to the top but might do that differently next time. I don’t think it mixed in with the lower half of the tube and made the upper half much too strong. Maybe 5 drops per tube was way too much to begin with… the peppermint oil made my lips tingle pretty fiercely!
How to Clean Up Homemade Hard Lotion
While the lotion cooled in the muffin pan and silicon tray I tried to start the clean-up process. After dumping the hot (but by now rather cool), soapy water from the bowl in my sink I saw that I was right – this clean-up was not going to be an easy task! Everything was covered in waxy lotion and smelled like essential oils.
This is where I discovered another big mistake. At the bottom of the instructions sheet, below the Hair Butter Instructions and Diaper Rash Cream Instructions (neither of which I read since I wasn’t going to make them) it says this:
“IMPORTANT!: Clean up by wiping all equipment out with paper towels while still hot. Then wash in hot soapy water.”
Number one, I do not keep paper towels in my house (we use rags instead) and number two, everything had already cooled.
Oh how I wish I had read this ahead of time!
I realize that the muffin pan and silicone tray would not have been washed while still hot since the lotion had to cool in them but I could have saved a lot of time and energy by wiping and washing everything else right away.
I quickly got my tea kettle going as well as another pan of water boiling. I also pulled out the rags that were in the worst condition as I knew they would need to be sacrificed (I wasn’t about to put a bunch of waxy rags in my washer!).
The above picture shows some of the mess and also my attempt at reheating the lotion in the silicone fish tray. I was hoping that if I reheated it a bit by putting it in a pan of boiling water, I could then mix in the oil better. I was too impatient though and gave up after 15 minutes and many swirls with a toothpick!
Finished Hard Lotion Bars – A Success?
By the time I cleaned all the tools I had used, as well as the stove top, the lotion was ready to pop out of the muffin pan.
Yes, a lot of time had passed while I was cleaning
I was pleasantly surprised to see that the homemade lotion came out of the muffin cups fairly easily. I did have to flex the pan while holding it upside down and bang it on the counter, but that was better than carving it out with a knife and making a huge mess (which is what I thought would happen!).
The lotion in the silicone fish molds came out very easily. If making lotion becomes a regular adventure, I will definitely invest in some silicone ice cube trays or muffin pans.
Here is the catch though… it seems to hold the smell from the essential oils. I have washed and boiled the silicone mold many times and it still smells like citronella. Along with the dropper (that I could not get clean if my life depended on it), the silicone fish mold might now be a permanent lotion/candle/crayon maker.
Lessons Learned (if I ever make homemade lotion again)
After repeated cleaning of the muffin pan and the silicone mold (and some much needed sleep!), I was finally done and ready to type up my suggestions and review.
Here are some of the biggest lessons I learned and a few suggestions that might help anyone else that tries the DIY hard lotion kit:
- Read through ALL of the instructions BEFORE beginning
- Create a step-by-step list of what to do
- Set everything up ahead of time
- Add the essential oils immediately after pouring the lotion into the molds
- Have boiling water and hot/soapy water ready
- Have paper towels on hand
- Use silicone molds
- Add the essential oils to the lip balm immediately after filling halfway, then add the rest of the lotion
- The kit makes about two dozen little bars in mini muffin cups, approximately 1/8 cup of lotion liquid each, plus 4 lip balms. (Katie here: guessing that 1/8 cup is just over a half ounce of lotion?)
Even though this was a long and messy process, I am glad I did it. I learned a lot about making homemade lotion and why I pay good money for natural, hand-made lotions!
UPDATE: Renee has already changed her instructions after listening to our feedback. Love that!
And Do I Like the Lotion?
I have had the chance to use the lotions for the last few weeks and have a few thoughts about it:
- The consistency is great! I was afraid that putting in the extra coconut oil (intended for the lip balm) would make it mushy and not hold its shape. I am glad I added it. I have been using pure coconut oil on my skin from head to toe for a year now and this was much easier. My house has been between 60 and 70 degrees and I have had no trouble with it getting too soft. We’ll see what happens when it gets up to 90 degrees…
- Warming the lotion a bit between your palms makes it much easier to rub on your skin.
- I actually like the intensity of the essential oils. I added 5-10 drops (usually 10) for each mini muffin-sized lotion bar and it was not too strong as I initially thought it might be.
- Five drops of peppermint essential oil per lip balm tube was way too much for me (Katie liked it though!). Maybe it would have been okay with a different oil but I did not like the sensation mine created.
- Overall, the lip balm seems really nice. It goes on smoothly and lasts well. I am not a huge fan of lip balm in general so I have to admit I have not used mine much ( I think the peppermint scared me away!).
- The lotion creates a great barrier. I noticed that just using coconut oil does not work well long-term. It rubs off on clothing and does not seem to keep my skin soft and moisturized for more than a few hours. Using the hard lotion made a big difference. I tried using just the bar and also using it after putting on the coconut oil and had great success both ways. I do prefer using both but I might have the driest skin on the planet so don’t feel that you would need to do the same. My skin stayed soft for a long time and helped to keep the coconut oil from rubbing off.
One thing I love about Laurie’s experience is that she and I are so much alike! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done something very similar with recipes, jumping in before reading all the directions. Sometimes I even mess them up when I’ve done them before, like when I didn’t PACK my almond flour last week when I was testing my OWN recipe for grain-free tortillas, which clearly said “packed almond flour.” Le sigh.
I also love that in spite of a number of snafus, the lotion bars still turned out. I am often encouraged in my distractedness by readers who comment on recipe posts like this: “I did this and this and this wrong and changed 5 ingredients plus baked them too long because I forgot to set a timer, and you know what? The recipe was still awesome!” I feel like that’s the sign of a great recipe – that you almost can’t screw it up royally, even if you try your darndest!
Lastly, I love working with small business owners rather than huge conglomerates. When I emailed Renee to tell her about the less-than-stellar (but rather humorous, in my opinion) experience that Laurie had, she wanted our help in rewriting the directions from the ground up. How great is that?
I can only imagine that if Johnson and Johnson was a sponsor, for example, that I’d get a form response email and a note a few days later saying, “I’ll pass along your comments to the appropriate department…”
Renee, on the other hand, already has made changes to the instructions, such as adding:
“IMPORTANT! Your DIY kit contains more coconut oil than shea butter. This is because the lip balms may require a tad more coconut oil. Your kit contains 4.5 oz beeswax, 4.5 oz coconut oil, 4 oz shea butter.”
She also describes how to eye up the quantities and includes a “warm weather recipe” for summertime.
Now that you have the benefit of this post, you can avoid all the distracted homemaker mistakes and enjoy the homemade lotion-making process.
The DIY kit is eligible for free shipping over $45, all the time.
Would You Ever Make Homemade Lotion?
Hearing Laurie talk about her experience has confirmed for me that I don’t want to try, and that’s okay! I told Laurie in email that our post would probably have one of three effects:
- We’ll scare away some people who were pondering trying to make their own lotion. They won’t want to do it now, and that’s okay!
- We’ll inspire people to try doing it, because they’ll think, “Hey, I can follow directions much better than that, I don’t mind a little mess, and I think I could probably even clean up faster than Laurie did. I want to save money on homemade gifts here, and I’m motivated to succeed!”
- People are going to be full of advice in the comments with uber-helpful ideas for how to avoid every single pitfall (and some others we haven’t thought of).
- I often learn more in the comments than the post or experience myself, since I typically am a bumbling idiot much worse than my poor friend Laurie! Bring it on!
My little photography “helper”…reason number 57 why I’m not trying this at home! Although I did make homemade tallow lotion this month, it’s much easier…
If you’re willing to jump into a messy situation – which will be much more tolerable now that you can learn from Laurie’s mistakes – you can get the DIY kit and make lotions in time for Mother’s Day, end-of-year teacher gifts, stocking stuffers for Christmas, or bridal and baby showers you have this summer.
There’s also a bonus free eBook with the DIY kit right now: My Buttered Life Summer Edition, including a recipe for homemade sunscreen (you can add 2 oz. of zinc oxide to your DIY kit and have everything you need to make it).
Thanks to Laurie for a great guest post and sharing her experience! Laurie is a mom of three who is also a doula in Grand Rapids, MI (and awesome at it!).