Making Moisturiser

In our family, we adopt a precautionary approach to chemicals and we therefore minimise our exposures wherever we can. My daughter also has a sensitivity to chemicals, likely as a result of her antibiotic exposure during the first 3 months of her life. She is very sensitive to products placed on her skin so this lead me to researching low-chemical options and ultimately to making our own moisturiser, conditioner, sunscreen and deodorant. Not only can you control what’s in it, it is so much cheaper than buying a product….it costs me somewhere in the order of two to three dollars to make about 300g of really good quality moisturiser.

This article is a guide to making moisturiser for yourself.

There was a bit of experimentation to get the ratios of ingredients right, and you might want to vary the ingredients to suit your skin type or different seasons e.g. more oil, less water, cocoa butter instead of shea butter etc.

From my research, it seems that an effective moisturiser should comprise the following:

  • A solvent – the primary ingredient in the moisturiser (water)
  • A moisturiser – this is what actually moisturises the skin (oils)
  • A barrier – prevents the skin from drying out due to climatic conditions (nut butter)
  • An emulsifier – allows water soluble and fat soluble ingredient to mix (emulsifying wax)
  • A humectant – attracts moisture to maintain hydrated skin (glycerine)
  • An antioxidant – prevents the oxidation of fats that would cause the moisturiser to go rancid (vitamin E)
  • A preservative – inhibits microbial growth

We don’t use a preservative BUT is at your discretion as to whether you choose to use a preservative or not. To inhibit microbial growth, we keep the moisturiser in the fridge, we don’t put our fingers into the jar and we use it all up in about 3 weeks. I assessed that the risk of adverse health outcomes from using a preservative to be greater than the risk of a dangerous microbial overgrowth in the moisturiser, for our family. You need to do your own risk assessment and act accordingly.

  • Jar/s (store moisturiser)
  • 2 x glass jugs (1 must be a measuring jug)
  • 1 x pocket scale
  • 2 x saucepans
  • Measuring container
  • Electric mixer
  • Digital thermometer

The following ingredients make about 300gms of moisturiser.

  • 260 ml/grams Filtered water (78%W)
  • 40 grams Olive oil, grapeseed oil, rice bran oil (equal parts) (13.5%F)
  • 9 grams Shea butter (3%F)
  • 7.5 grams Olive emulsifying wax (2.5%FW)
  • Glycerine (3%W)
  • 1000 mg Vitamin E oil (0.3%F)

Note: W = water-soluble; F = Fat-soluble


It is important to follow the methodology below correctly to ensure that the fat-soluble and water soluble ingredients are kept separate until it’s time to mix them together.

Firstly, wash all saucepans, jugs, jars and mixers clean and then rinse with boiling water to minimise the presence of microbes that could potentially contaminate the moisturiser. You could also use a sterilising agent here to sterilise the equipment.

Separately measure out the emulsifying wax, oil and butter and place into a glass jug. Place some water into the bottom of a saucepan and place the glass jug in the water and bring water to boil and then simmer.

Place the filtered water in a saucepan and bring to the boil and then simmer.

Measure out the glycerine and place in the other glass jug.

Both the water and fat-soluble ingredients need to be heated to above 75 degrees Celsius for at least 20 minutes to kill microbes.

Read this next bit really carefully before proceeding.

Remove both the water and fat-soluble ingredients from the heat and measure the temperature of each using a digital thermometer. The two need to be at a similar, not exact, temperature for them to mix together properly – this takes a bit of practice. It’s vitally important that the water is added to the oil and not the other way around. Adding oil to the water could cause the mixture to splatter and burn skin. I like the temperature of each to be between 60-70 degrees Celsius before mixing together. Firstly, pour the water from the saucepan into the glass jug containing the glycerine. Use the indicators on the jug to measure the correct amount of water (1mg of water equals approx. 1ml of water). Pour the water into the fat-soluble bowl and mix together using electric beaters, or similar. The solution needs to be mixed (every five minutes or so, then about every 10 minutes) as it cools to minimise the risk of separation.

To prevent the high temperatures from destroying the vitamin E, I add it to the mix when the temperature drops below 40 degrees Celsius. If you want to add essential oils, this is also the time to add them. Just be careful with essential oils as they are very strong and reactions are common. A few drops are probably enough, so start small and add more if needed.

Pour the moisturiser into a jar/s once it is close to room temperature. Don’t forget to keep it in the fridge if you haven’t added preservative and use it up within a few weeks to prevent microbial growth. Also, pouring the moisturiser out of the jar, instead of putting your fingers in the jar will further minimise the risk of contamination.

There are a lot of Making Moisturiser recipes out there in the blogosphere that claim to be amazing for your skin. Most contain far too much oil which is likely going to clog the pores in your skin and lead to dry skin because your own natural oil production switches off. At the end of the day you need to strike a balance between a non-chemical product and something that actually works and this requires more than just coconut oil!

About the Author

Nutritionist Rick Hallion is passionate about more than just food. He practices holistic health and offers practical solutions to common health issues using nutrition, lifestyle and environmental health interventions.

Making Moisturiser


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